Mom's Favorite Reads eMagazine February 2023

Page 34 All contents Copyright © the individual authors and used with their permission. All rights reserved.
MELANIE P. SMITH (Executive Editor / Graphic Design ) SYLVA FAE (Managing Editor / Art Director) WENDY H. JONES (Copy Editor) SHEENA MACLEOD (Copy Editor) Editorial Contributors Discover more about us through our video: Never miss an issue by subscribing to our FREE magazines: POPPY FLYNN (Content Editor) GRANT LEISHMAN (Marketing) Authors ALLISON SYMES (Story Editor)
Visit Rome on a Budget by Anne Treur .............................................................. 32 Joyce in February by Jenny Sanders .................................................................... 18 Bugs and Beasties by Marsali Taylor ................................................................... 38 House on a Cliff by Stan Phillips .........................................................................27 Winter Poem by Maressa Mortimer .....................................................................44 So Fly by Tracey Challis .........................................................................................59 Vonnie Winslow Crist Interviewed by Wendy H. Jones ............................................................................. 9 Rabbits and Languages by Zach ..........................................................................52 Winter Wildlife by Gez Robinson ....................................................................... 24 Spring Wilderness by Melanie P. Smith ............................................................ 54 Meet the Team .......................................................................................................... 28
Image of the Invisible by Amy Scott Robinson ................................................ 37 The Mismantle Chronicles by MI McAllister ................................................... 48 Around America in 50 Books by Wendy H. Jones ............................................ 16 Lacking Strength by Maressa Mortimer ............................................................. 22 Confronting My Fears by Chantal Bellehumeur .............................................. 34 Lighting in Your Home by Gerdie van Wingerder ........................................... 42 The High Priestess: Persephone’s Return by Val Tobin .................................. 45 Heating With Wood by Cherime MacFarlane ................................................... 50 Mom’s Health —The Winter Blues by Sheena Macleod ................................. 56 Birthstone Crystal Grids Imbolc by Lisa Shambrook ................................. 60 New Beginnings by Ruth Leigh ........................................................................... 61 Exploring Your Creativity by Wendy H. Jones .................................................. 63 The Year of the Rabbit by Allison Symes ........................................................... 66 What’s In a Name by Maressa Mortimer ............................................................ 71 Writing the Short Story by John Greeves............................................................ 72 Mom’s Intro to Choas by Maressa Mortimer ..................................................... 76 Connections eMagazine ......................................................................................... 77

Welcome to February 2023

in Chief, has stepped down from the role and will be leaving Mom’s Favorite Reads to explore new options. I would like to thank her for all the hard work she has put into the magazine and the way in which she has made it the success it is today. I am both delighted and deeply honoured to be taking over as both EditorIn Chief and Publisher of the magazine as it moves to

This month we are celebrating Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit. The rabbit is the luckiest of the Chinese Symbols and means we can expect a year of calm, tranquilly and peace. After the last few years that would certainly be nice. As we move into the new year, we will also be losing Sylva Fae and Melanie Smith from the core team. Sylva has done most jobs on the magazine and Melanie designed it from the beginning. We have new people joining us and you will find introductions to us all inside. We have our usual mix of stories, flash fiction, poetry and articles and also have some exciting new regular features starting in March. I am very much looking forward to being your Editor in Chief and to bringing you fresh and exciting content each month. I hope you enjoy the February edition as much as we have enjoyed bringing it together.

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Vonnie Winslow Crist

Vonnie, thank you agreeing to join me here at Mom’s Favorite Reads. It’s an honour and a pleasure to have you join us in the magazine. I know you are frightfully busy, in more ways than one, so I appreciate you taking time out.

Thank you for having me. Whether Mom's Favorite Reads readers read my books or not, I encourage them to pick up a book and read. It's the best way to visit other times and places without ever leaving your room.

By way of introduction tell us a bit about yourself and your books.

I am a wife, mom, granny, and gardener who loves to tell stories though her poetry, fiction, and illustrations. I earned a BS in Art and Education and a MS in Professional Writing from Towson University, and taught creative writing for over 10 years for the Maryland State Arts Council's Artists-inEducation Program. I've had a life-long interest in folktales, fairytales, legends, myths, art, and science-fiction. My books include: Dragon Rain, Beneath Raven's Wing (2022 Winner of the Visiter Award from the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival, Finalist 2022 Imadjinn Award), Owl Light (Winner of eFestival of Words Best Story Collection 2018), The Greener Forest (Winner of eFestival of Words Best Story Collection 2017), The Enchanted Dagger (Winner Maryland Writers Association Book Award, Finalist Compton Crook Award), Murder on Marawa Prime, and Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps. I have also co-edited 9 books (so far) for Pole to Pole Publishing. A strange fact about me, I am a cloverhand—which means I can find four-

leafed clovers easily, and (supposedly) see faeries. I have jars of pressed four-leafed clovers on my shelf, but I will neither confirm nor deny that I see Faerie Folk.

A nice easy one - can you tell us how you came to writing?

I have always been a storyteller. As the eldest of four daughters, I often told fantastical tales to my younger sisters and their friends. While I wrote a few stories down, I typically used art as a way to tell a story. My first published works were illustrations, and I now have over 1,000 published illustrations. I took a baby step into writing by scribbling poems and sending them off to various magazines and anthologies. As I grew braver (yes, it does take courage to put your writing out there), I tiptoed into flash fiction. Now, my stories are usually about 5,000-words. And I've had a 95,000-word fantasy novel published.

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Whilst most authors want to write novels, your focus is on short stories. Why short stories?

I love the freedom short stories give a writer. After creating a world filled with interesting characters and a small problem which needs to be solved, I can move on after it is completed to a whole new world and set of characters. My preference for writing short stories also reflects my short attention span. The time and attention needed for a novel are challenging for me. That said, I'm hoping to have my second novel published this year.

We always ask authors about their own books but never ask them about their reading habits. What do you read to relax and what books would you pack to go on holiday?

I love to read folktales, customs, and legends from all around the world. When I go on holiday, if it's just to relax, I'll often take a non-fiction book exploring some aspect of a new story I'm working on. When I'm travelling to visit another country, I'll have a travel guide with me. Of course, I'll always save room in my luggage to bring home books about that country's folkways.

What do you think it is about short stories that endears them to


I think many readers like short stories because they can read a tale from beginning to end in one sitting. If they like the story, then they will likely look for more of that writer's work. Also, our first introduction to fiction is usually children's books and collections of nursery rhymes, fables, and fairytales. Therefore, many of us remember fondly a loved one reading us short fiction when we were very young.

The ubiquitous Desert Island Discs Question –which three books would you take to a desert island?

I'll warn you from the get-go, I intend to cheat a bit by selecting “complete works.” I'd take The Bible, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and The Complete Works of JRR Tolkien (though I'm not sure such a tome exists). I suppose I'd want Christopher Tolkien's books included with his father's as well.

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Which author do you think has most influenced your writing?

I don't want to pick just one author. I think every story and book that I've ever read has influenced me even if it's to remind me of how I don't want to write! If I had to pick a few of my favorite authors, I'd list: JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, Andre Norton, and George RR Martin.

Goosebumps below. This is a book aimed at children and yet it does not pull the punches in terms of the fear factor. Why do you think this is important in children’s literature?

Do you have a favourite book on Writing and if so, what is it?

Again, I hate to pick one. I think the first book on writing which impressed me was One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty. It's not a “how-to” book. Rather, it's about a writer's journey.

Kids like to be scared, as long as they can laugh afterwards and return to the safety of their real world. Which explains the reason I included fun things like pointing at a listener or saying “Got you!” at the end of a tale. Some of these stories are based on folktales and traditional creepy creatures like vultures, ghosts, and goblins. I tried to add a smile to the scary with the illustrations. Children's literature has always had frightening people, places, and things in it. But after the adventure is done and book is closed, young readers can remind themselves it's pretend. Here's a quote on the subject from an author whose work I admire, Neil Gaiman: “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses.”

I have reviewed your book Shivers, Scares and

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When it comes to genre you are eclectic in your approach, yet your love seems to be myth and fairytales. Why these genres?

I fell in love with fairytales, folktales, legends, and myths when I was a child. At age 3, I taught myself to read using 8-page fairytale and folktale booklets published by Platt & Munk Co., Inc. in the 1930s. When my parents visited an older family friend, she would let me look at Cinderella, Dick Whittington and his Cat, Tom Thumb, The Gingerbread Man, The First Circus, Chicken Little, Jack and the Beanstalk, and so many more. If I was well-behaved, I got to take the booklet home. Each one had a story, wonderful illustrations, and a narrative poem on the back cover. So, it's easy to see from whence came my love of creating not only fantastical fiction, but also speculative poetry and illustrations.

aside modern scepticism, and embrace the mystical world which still surrounds us.

How important is setting in your books? I am curious as to how you provide a sense of setting within a medium where every word counts?

Setting is important in every book and story. The reader not only needs to know where your characters are interacting, they need to understand how the setting impacts the storyline. The way I provide a sense of setting is by using very specific details scattered throughout the narrative. Rather than describe a beach, I might write something like: “As she stared at the mermaid, a saltwater breeze tugged at Gillian's sun hat and pelted her legs with sand.”

Tell us a bit about your writing space?

Oh, dear. I typically write in a basement office which is cluttered with books, papers, folders, and strange odds and ends which I find inspiring. I promise myself every year to tidy up my writing space. Alas, even if I make a bit of progress toward being “neat,” I manage to make a hodgepodge out it within a few days.

Do you have an ideal reader in mind when writing your books? If so, who are they?

I suppose my ideal reader is one who is willing to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. In anthology bios, I often use the words: “Vonnie believes the world is still filled with mystery, miracles, and magic.” My ideal reader is a person who is willing to set

If you could go anywhere in the world to write, where would it be and why?

This one is tough! I'm inspired by the places I've visited over the years. While Scotland might be mundane for someone living in Aberdeenshire, for me it was filled with inspiration. I can say the same for Iceland, Ireland, Wales, England, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Austria, France, and Canada. I suppose, I'd choose somewhere I've never been, so I can experience new sights, new customs, and new people.

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Let’s get personal, what would be your perfect meal?

A crab cake, fresh salad, and asparagus followed by a piece of dark chocolate.

On holiday do you prefer beach, city, or wilderness? Why?

I'm a forest sort of woman. I enjoy the sounds of wind through trees, birds singing, and mountain streams tumbling over rocks. The forest sights, sounds, smells, and textures give me both peace and inspiration. Which is why I live where I see deer, fox, wild turkeys, raccoons, hawks, blue herons, and other wildlife from my windows.

favorite child. I suppose for adult and young-adult readers I'd pick my latest story collection, Dragon Rain. For kids, as long as they're brave, I'd pick Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps. Of course, as soon as new books are published, I would probably pick them instead. I keep my fingers crossed that I will continue to grow as a writer, and deliver my readers better books each time one is published.

Do you prefer warm weather or cold weather?

Neither! I like the moderate weather of spring and fall. I don't mind putting on a sweater, hat, and gloves, but I don't want to be so cold that I can't enjoy the outdoors. I don't mind warm weather, but I loathe the sweltering days of a Maryland summer.

My final question, which one of your books would you recommend Mom’s Favorite Reads readers, read? Now that’s a mouthful and I wouldn’t want to try saying it after a glass of wine.

Yikes! Selecting a favorite book is like picking a

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best-selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. As copy editor for Mom’s, she works hard to ensure content is appropriate and free of grammatical and spelling errors. You can learn more about Wendy on her website:

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Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps

With vivid illustrations by the author herself, plunge into a world of the mysterious, the strange, the weird, and the downright scary! Get your flashlight out and burrow under the covers. We know you'll giggle with fear at these fascinating scary tales!



Herein lie twenty-six stories.

Twenty-six stories originating from myths, folklore, fairytales, urban legends, and personal experiences.

Twenty-six stories that include strange animals, odd humans, holiday spooks, and classic monsters.

Twenty-six stories that will chill you to your bones!

This is a book aimed at pre-teens and I can guarantee they will definitely have shivers, scares, and goosebumps. It can either be read by the reader themselves our out loud during sleepovers or camping trips. The twenty-six stories are eclectic but what they have in common is they are all expertly written by an author who is a master wordsmith. Each story is illustrated by the author herself and these sketches bring the stories vividly to life. There is great attention to detail and each story is intense and chilling. I love the way some of the stories have actions at the end for those reading them out, which ups the chill factor even more, yet they do so knowing the child is in a safe environment in the real world. It allows them to explore fear, knowig that they are ultimately safe. If you know a pre-teen who likes scary stories, then this is perfect. I can assure you; they scared this adult.

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Beneath Raven’s Wing

genres, mythos and time. In 15 unnerving stories, lovers of modern fairy tales will find something to treasure and keep them up at night.

Under the eyes of the Ravens, the visions of fantasy spring. Discovery drives the Unkindness, and the stories cling fast to their wings.

Presenting a collection of fantasy and myth inspired tales that take readers on a flight of fancy through


If you had asked me before reading this book if one could write so many different stories about ravens, my answer would have been a categorical no. Since reading the book I am blown away by the sheer scale of the stories and the fear and beauty contained within them. I loved this book from beginning to end. There are only 15 stories in a lengthy book, so the stories are not a quick read, but I still found myself wanting to read just one more. Each story is fascinating, gripping, well written, and totally different to the previous one. The one common factor is ravens or at least one raven. I would say the genre is gothic fantasy; not one I usually read but I am a new convert. If you like short stories this collection will not disappoint. I am delighted to say that On Raven’s Wing was a finalist in the 2022 Imadjinn award and the winner of the International Edgar Alan Poe Festival 2022 Saturday Visitor Award. Very well deserved in my opinion.

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Around America in 50 Books


to transform the swamps of Jackson Park into the greatest show on Earth, Holmes built his own edifice just west of the fairground. He called it the World's Fair Hotel.

In reality it was a torture palace, a gas chamber, a crematorium.

These two disparate but driven men are brought to life in this mesmerizing, murderous tale of the legendary Fair that transformed America and set it on course for the twentieth century . . .

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

We’ve reached Illinois in our literary trip of the USA; there were so many books to choose from but this one intrigues me because it is a true account of two extraordinary events in North American History.


One was an architect. The other a serial killer. This is the incredible story of these two men and their realization of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and its amazing 'White City'; one of the wonders of the world.

The architect was Daniel H. Burnham, the driving force behind the White City, the massive, visionary landscape of white buildings set in a wonderland of canals and gardens.

The killer was H. H. Holmes, a handsome doctor with striking blue eyes. He used the attraction of the great fair - and his own devilish charms - to lure scores of young women to their deaths. While Burnham overcame politics, infighting, personality clashes and Chicago's infamous weather

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I was expecting great things of this book, I love history and I love a good mystery. I appreciate the mystery part of this book is true crime, but I was looking forward to reading about the stories of these two men – one doing good for the city, the other carrying out evil. It is a book of two parts both of which I enjoyed reading but, on balance, I thought the storyline concerning H. H. Holmes was more interesting. I loved reading about the World’s Fair and how it came to being in Chicago. That was fascinating. However, it went into a bit too much detail for my liking and that slowed things down. What of getting a feel of Illinois? Well, I certainly feel I know 18th Century Chicago well. In that aspect it ticked all the boxes. Would I recommend it, yes definitely. But there may be areas that you feel you want to skim rather than read in depth.

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best-selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. As copy editor for Mom’s, she works hard to ensure content is appropriate and free of grammatical and spelling errors. You can learn more about Wendy on her website:

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Joyce in February

Well, thank goodness all that is over!

Christmas seemed to go on forever this year; and as for new year – what a fuss about nothing. Honestly, everyone goes crazy for the sake of one night, and for what? A sore head and, just when you’re thinking about a fresh start, a day when you can’t think straight. Perhaps I’m just too old for it all.

Don’t get me wrong; I had a lovely time with my friend, Viv, on Christmas Day. Seems ages ago now; but I’m not one for a big fuss. Frankly, I’m always glad to reach February. Not just because I don’t know how many more of them I’ll see, what with age and health and what not. No, it’s just that January is so dark and dismal; but when February comes around, I always think spring can’t be far behind. It’s a much more hopeful month, don’t you think?

Mind you, we’ve been caught out a few times haven’t we? Plunging temperatures and a dump of snow that sees us all checking our larders for tinned goods. Soup, mostly I think. And hot chocolate. Those will get you through most crises, I’ve found.

Weeks like that remind me of the war. Really; I was still a toddler then. A child of The Blitz; that was me. I was born in January 1942 you see, right at the end of it, but somehow conceived during it. I say, ‘somehow’… I don’t think we need details, but suffice it to say my parents said I caused quite a stir when I arrived: created my own mini blitz in the

family, apparently. My big sister, Phyllis, and brother, Tom, were already making their mark; but I don’t remember them ever being unkind to me as a child. I think that’s something children learn as they get older.

Anyway, there it is. There was still rationing then, of course, so it can’t have been easy for my poor old Mum and Dad. Probably very inconvenient for them I suppose, having another mouth to feed. Well, I don’t know; it’s not like you choose, is it? No contraception in those days, of course. Truth to tell, I think there were a few miscarriages between us kids all arriving. Health care wasn’t what it is now, even with the strain everything’s under. You can bet your boots no-one had any counseling either. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, mind.

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Another sister came along after me: Joan. I think she brought a lot of joy into the house as the war came to an end. Mind you, Mum and Dad were always the cheerful sort; never made a fuss about anything as far as I can remember. That stood us all in good stead for the post-war years and some of the challenges we had. They worked so hard; always set us an example in that.

So, you’ve worked it out, I suppose. Yes, I’ve just had my 84th birthday. Can you believe it? Mum didn’t make it past 66. Born the year the first world war started. What a life, eh? You never know what’s around the corner, do you?

I never thought I’d make it this far. I’m not being pessimistic; I just couldn’t imagine this age. I suppose you can’t, can you? When you’re a young ‘un, you think anyone in their twenties is all grown up, and pretty past it once they’re in their thirties. You can’t imagine reaching fifty, let alone anything on the other side of that. You know nothing and think you know everything then. We believed we’d conquer the world somehow. I’m not sure what we thought we’d do.

Of course Terry, I’ve told you before, he just wanted to drive a bus; but he flourished when he opened his mechanics business.

‘You’ll never change the world doing that’, Phyllis used to say, disdainfully. Proper catty she could be. Terry wasn’t bothered. ‘I certainly changed it for that person,’ he’d say, as he looked her square in the eye and closed the bonnet on another successfully repaired car. That shook her. Bless him; he said his bit and she didn’t have a leg to stand on. He was the best of brothers to me. Until that lung cancer took him out, of course.

Phyllis? Well, she always had big ideas, but she was cautious. She could have thrown herself into the

swinging sixties, but she held back; bided her time. She was looking for a husband from the start, I think. Had her eye on young Joey who lived next door to us after we moved down from the moors. Shame; he never made the cut. Not ambitious enough for our Phyllis.

Joey became a bin man – dustmen we called them then. Did a sterling job all his life as far as I know –never missed a shift – but Phyllis thought that was beneath her. Silly girl. She eventually snagged herself some chap she met through a friend who worked in an office. Donald. I think she thought that was respectable; good, steady income and all that.

Useless piece of work, he was really. Had her running around like I don’t know what. She’d have left him if she’d had the courage, I think. He didn’t hit her or anything; don’t go thinking that. Just dull as ditch water. Trying to get blood out of a stone, it was talking to him. I couldn’t look at him without thinking of Donald Duck, so that didn’t help.

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Joan was a much better judge of character. She had ambitions to be a seamstress and open a couture shop of her own. Perhaps that was a bit too ambitious; but she worked at Selfridges for many years. She ended up managing on the shop floor and overseeing a load of staff. She could sell dresses like nobody’s business; always had an eye for it. The customers loved her. She had regulars in Selfridges like they do in the pub.

Extraordinary; some people must have had money to burn. I mean, how many dresses do you need? Anyway, by the time she got there, you could still get married and keep your job, but Joan wasn’t having it. She loved her independence. Kept up her own business on the side, mind you, altering garments for paying customers and did very well for herself until the day she died.

Poor love; knocked over by a taxi cab outside the store, she was. The rotter only served half his sentence, but what can you do? No point holding on to bitterness, is there? My grandmother used to say you could tell a bitter person just by looking at their face. She wasn’t wrong.

So, that leaves me. Last woman standing; who’d have thought it? Eighty-four. You have to chuckle. And me? Well, I won the lottery with Tom. We had a lovely life together; not an easy one, but full of laughter. I’ll never stop missing him.

Our Matthew and Corinne made us complete as a family. We were always proud of them and they both married lovely partners and gave us some grand-children too. I was always more interested in the type of people they were than what they did, but they’re both doing clever things now and still bring me a lot of joy.

How do you celebrate a birthday at eighty-four?

I’ve done everything I wanted to do in life; and if I haven’t, it’s too bad now. Of course, if I were

twenty- four, forty-four, or maybe even sixty-four, I wouldn’t have minded a trip to Paris.

Tom took me to Blackpool once and we looked at that tower and promised ourselves that one day we’d go off to France and see one that’s twice as tall and ten times more impressive. Never happened what with one thing and another; but it was a lovely thought. I wouldn’t be tackling all those stairs now, that’s for sure!

I don’t want to go that far from home these days anyway. Into town on the bus is beginning to get too much for me with this wretched hip. Never mind. I’ve much to be grateful for and moaning never helps anyone.

I had tea and cake with Viv on my birthday, and some lovely flowers sent through from the kids

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with a little message on the side. The grandchildren signed the card themselves this year too. I appreciate that. I treated myself to a small sherry (heaven only knows how long that bottle has been sitting in the cupboard), made myself a nice shepherd’s pie and watched a programme about traveling down the Rhine. Or was it the Danube? I forget now; but it was perfect. I’m quite content; just a bit chilly this time of year.

Keep your chin up, Joyce; just got February to plough through, then the evenings will start getting lighter again. A bit of warmth will filter through and spring will be along soon.

Thank goodness! I’m looking forward to it, aren’t you?

Jenny Sanders is a writer, speaker, encourager and mentor. She loves writing, reading and walking in nature whenever she can. For the past several years she’s lived between the beautiful cities of Bath, UK and Cape Town, S Africa. Her exciting and humorous new children’s book The Magnificent Moustache and Other Stories is now available published by The Conrad Press.

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Lacking Strength

Psalm 73:26, 2 Corinthians 12:9

February can be a tricky month, I find. January is full of new beginnings and I love starting things. People seem still full of the whole Christmas spirit, or maybe it’s chocolate fuelled energy? Greetings are enthusiastic, new classes started and bright ideas set up.

Then February hits and it shows up all the difficulties. That brilliant plan? Didn’t quite work out as there were no backers. The new class that seemed so promising was not quite what we expected. And keeping an exercise routine going is a lot harder than printing off a new schedule and doing the first few workouts.

Many things in life are harder than the label on the tin made us believe. The expression of your heart sinking is such an apt one, isn’t it? When disappointment hits, you can just feel your heart sliding down a little lower in your body and everything feels heavy.

A lot is said about rabbits this month. They seem so weak and maybe it’s the way they look at us, but we think of them as frail. They’re a lot stronger than we think though and can be very persistent. So many friends who kept rabbits complained about the time they managed to escape. Weak, yes. But persistent and gaining their freedom through that, even if for a short time.

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Compared to rabbits, we are much more able. But is lacking strength a bad thing? Yes, we like strength, and there are a lot of people who devote every free moment to building their strength, going to great lengths. It makes me cringe when I’m in the gym, lifting the four kg dumbbells out of the rack, only to see the next person reach down low and grab 20kg. Feeling definitely weak and embarrassed. But I tell myself it’s not about how much I lift. It’s not that kind of strength we

need, unless you need some building work done. It’s strength of character, strength of your soul and your relationship with God that matters. It’s realising that you’re a finite being, leaning on the arm of Almighty God. It’s knowing we are not alone in our struggles. I used to teach, and when working with the four and five year olds during training, I loved seeing the trust on their little faces when they handed me their beakers, to open the lids. There was no way they could do it themselves, but they trusted me to open the lid without fail.

It’s my prayer for you this month that you will not feel discouraged, but that you’ll be able to go out in God’s strength and experience a wonderful month.

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website,, Amazon or local bookshops.

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Winter Wildlife

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Photography by Gez Robinson, taken from his Facebook page: The Mouse Family that Live by the Brambles.
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These are just a few of Gez’s amazing photos, but if you want to see more, you can follow him on social media:

TikTok: mousefamilybythebrambles

Gez Robinson is a wildlife photographer from Yorkshire, England. Gez’s passion for wildlife photography started in 2010, and he won the National Geographic UK Traveller Wildlife Photographer of the year in 2013. Since then, his photographs and videos have been used by many national and local newspapers and media outlets. Gez’s wildlife-friendly garden is home to a mouse family that live by the brambles – they have been the inspiration for Gez’s social media accounts, and a story book, bringing joy to people all over the world.

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A House on a Cliff

I shall make us a house on the top of a cliff with a balcony overlooking the sea. And we will sit on floral covered chairs to watch the days unfold. See the morning clouds chase each other across the sky as they race away to reveal the blue, yellow, and sunbedecked glory before us. We will watch the gulls swooping and crying as they seem to skate upon the white crested water. And music plays soft in the background as our day in the house on the clifftop eases along. And the songs of birds serenade the passing hours.

And the waves on the sea hiss and whisper tales of love and wonder. And you and I, with gentle breezes wafting us through the hours, touch hands, drink our coffee, eat our food, and drift and dream our days away.

Yes, I shall make a house that overlooks the sea, where we will tell our stories, write our poems, and etch our love so intensely onto the echoes of time, that when we have long gone, passers by will pause, look at the view as once we did, and smile without quite knowing why.

Stan Phillips is a poet, musical podcast maker, part-time wannabe male model, and occasional stand up comedian. “I used to be a psychotherapist/ counsellor when I had an honest job. I was born into prewar London, and attended 17 schools (my father believed they couldn’t hit a moving target) and I eventually finished up here in Ireland. Still wondering what I will be when I grow up but enjoying writing my quirky poetry as I do so.” Discover more about Stan on Mom’s Favorite Reads website:

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In memory of my wife, Bernadette.

Mom’s Favorite Reads Author

Meet the Team

Mom’s Favorite Reads is brought to you each month due to the efforts and dedication of a core of volunteers who cheerfully give up their time each month to bring the magazine to completion. As some of the team members are changing, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce them. I asked them all the following questions.

1. What is your role in the Magazine?

2. Tell us about your writing life.

3. What do you do in your spare time?

When they had all stopped laughing at question 3

what writer has any spare time – they gave me some fascinating answers.

I joined the magazine 3 years ago as copy editor and proof reader and have very much enjoyed that role. I am now taking over as Editor in Chief and Publisher as well as continuing as a copy editor. I am very much looking forward to working with the new team to move the magazine forward. It is an exciting time for us all, as well as for the magazine. I also do a regular interview with an author, as well as a monthly literary tour of the USA.

I write crime thrillers (The DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries), humorous mysteries (Cass Claymore Investigates), young adult mysteries (The Fergus and Flora Mysteries), children’s picture books (The Bertie the Buffalo Series), and nonfiction for writers (Writing Matters Series).

I am currently writing a historical series based on the life of an 18th Century Naval Surgeon. In addition, I am the President of The Scottish Association of Writers and the co-founder and director of Auscot Publishing and Retreats. As an international public speaker I can often be found in far flung lands speaking at writing conferences and literary events.

My great loves are travelling, reading and eating out. Luckily, I can combine these as I travel the world at conferences and events. I love people and also history so travelling allows me to meet new people and find out about the history of new countries. It’s a win all round.

I joined Mom’s Editorial Team as one of the editors around two years ago. Prior to that time, I was a regular contributor of articles and short stories to the magazine. This year, I will be taking on more of the tasks involved in organising the content and production of the magazine. My main content contribution to Mom’s at the moment is in co-ordinating articles for the monthly health and well-being feature.

I mainly write historical fact and fiction. My working life was spent in mental health nursing, first as a practitioner and then as a specialist practitioner, my first degree is in psychology. I then moved into nurse teaching. After taking early retirement from the University of Dundee, following a diagnosis of lupus, I combined my love of history with my passion for research and set out to write a series

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Wendy H. Jones Sheena MacLeod

of historical fiction novels. ReignoftheMarionettes, a historical drama based in Restoration London, is the first of these books and was my first published novel. I have since published one factual book, SoYousayICan’tVote.Frances Connelly.TheWorkingWoman’sRouteToThe Voteand another historical novel TearsofStrathnaver, which is set at the time of the Highland Clearances. The ideas for my books come directly from history - I found that fact is indeed stranger than fiction. I enjoy including small details of the time period in my writing.

Although I grew up in the Scottish Borders, I now live in a small seaside town on the east coast of Scotland with my family and Dalmatian, Lola. I have always loved being near the sea and concluded a long time ago that I must be a ‘Water’ person. Having the fatigue associated with lupus means that I am often limited in what I can take on. Fortunately, I love to read and enjoy reading a wide range of genres including biographies, thriller, crime and historical. I also like doing anything writing related and am a member of a few local writing groups. I currently work voluntarily as the Affiliation and Development Officer for the Scottish Association of Writers, which I enjoy.

I write a monthly flash fiction column. I pick a topic to write on whether it is a theme to write to or ways of improving flash fiction skills. (These can usually be transferred easily enough to short story writing as well). It’s my belief if you can write short and to a tight word count, you can write to a longer spec and do so better. Why? Because in writing flash, you have to write for impact, and I’ve found that spills over into other work I do.

I edit MFR’s flash fiction/short story submissions and set the flash fiction challenge which is based on my topic of the month. Great fun to do and I’ve earned the title of “flasher queen” here too!

I'm a multi-published flash fiction/short story writer, blogger, and editor. My main focus is on short story/flash fiction collections for the independent press. I am one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition (based in the UK) where entrants wrote to the

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Allison Symes

same word count (1000 words) and theme. I won three years in a row. I ve contributed prompts to a number of books too.I run workshops on writing, especially for flash fiction (online and in person). I judge short story/flash fiction competitions too. I write weekly for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, on topics of interest to writers. I often interview writers here. My fiction has appeared in anthologies (CafeLit/Bridge House Publishing) over many years. I have two flash fiction collections out with Chapeltown Books. (From Light to Dark and Back Again – 2017. Tripping the Flash Fantastic – 2020). I have submitted my third collection and am beginning to work on a fourth. I’m a member of the Society of Authors, Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, and Association of Christian Writers. Basically, if I’m not “flashing”, I’m blogging and/or editing!

I also now have my own YouTube channel and regularly create flash fiction videos for it. Good fun to do and another way of showcasing what flash can do and be. Some of my festive flash fiction pieces have been broadcast too.

not at the same time. The pages would get soggy, and my dog would cause chaos in the pool. Suspect there might be a flash story in that scenario though! I help out at my local church and try not to do too much damage in my garden. (Mowing the lawn and raking leaves in the autumn is about the height of my gardening skills).

I am relatively new to writing and this wonderful magazine. I was introduced to Mom’s by Wendy H. Jones, who invited me to write an article on adoption. This brought me to the magazine, and since that first time, I have contributed stories, poems and articles.

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Maressa Mortimer

Lately, I have tried to join the Flash Fiction challenge each month, which has been great.

I was offered the role of Social Media manager, which was a great honour, and I enjoy posting highlighted pages on our Facebook page. It’s hard to choose as there are so many wonderful pages, so it’s tempting to get through them all in one week!

I write novels, usually fiction around questions of faith, as that’s important to me. To know what Christian living looks like on a difficult Tuesday morning. I accidentally drifted into dystopian type writing, even though I would never have expected that. I also write blogs on my website as well as book reviews.

When I’m not writing I’m most likely homeschooling my children, walking the puppy or teaching her not to eat everything that fits her mouth. I love to read as well and seeing the great reviews in Mom’s Favorite Reads helps my TBR list to grow. I read similar things to what I enjoy writing, but as I do a lot of reviews as well as follow Wendy’s Reading Challenge, I get to read a lot wider, which has been fabulous. My main hobby is drinking coffee and even my puppy knows to leave my coffee alone.

I am very pleased to be joining the team of Mom’s Favorite Reads and take on the responsibility for page layout of the magazine. In previous jobs, I have produced booklets, newsletters and the like, which I really enjoy so I’m looking forward to this new role.

Writing is something of a calling for me and much of what I write is uplifting, encouraging and supportive. The stories are fiction, but the message isn’t. As a former complementary therapist, I met many people who just needed to have someone tell them how amazing they were.

This became my motivation. My characters learn to tap into their inner resources to find their way forward and sometimes they have a little help from the angelic realms. I have had many ‘interesting’ experiences in my life. Like any good writer, I kept journals and I use these notes in my books.

When I’m not writing, I take part in Meditation and Qigong classes. Qigong is similar to Tai Chi, both of which I taught for many years. I also write articles on these subjects. I have grandchildren who keep me busy, in a good way, and I love spending time with family and friends.

Thank you everyone for your candid answers. It is good to get to know you better.

I would like to finish by saying a heartfelt thank you to Hannah Howe, Melanie Smith and Sylva Fae who are sadly leaving the team. You have left some big shoes to fill as well as a legacy of an outstanding magazine. You will be missed, and I wish you all the very best with your future writing and publishing journeys. I hope I, and the new team, do you proud.

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ATreur Rome

I always wondered why Rome is called the Eternal City. After all, Rome especially is a visible reminder how powers come and go. What used to be a world ruler is now just heaps of stone and ruins. But still, every now and then this beautiful city shows you a glimmer of her previous splendour.

Rome is a fantastic city. I have been four or five times but even when you have seen all the highlights, just hanging around the city is enjoyable. To wander along the narrow streets, to enjoy the climate, the atmosphere of the squares and outside terraces and the countless churches and cathedrals. One larger and more imposing than the next, with the St Peter at the top!

Rome is not an extremely expensive city. As long as you mostly avoid the outdoor cafes around Piazza Navano, you will be able to order delicious pasta or pizza for a reasonable price. But here are a few ideas to keep your holiday to Rome cheap for those travelling on a low budget.

Eat in Trastevere in the evenings

All through Rome you can find lovely, cheaper restaurants, but Trastevere is not just cheap, it’s also lively. This area is best avoided during the

day, as it’s quiet and deserted. But in the evening, the terraces fill up and the whole area is buzzing and humming with conversations and music! Again, avoid the large square in front of the Santa Maria de Trastevere Basilica if you want to pay reasonable prices for your food, but in the smaller side streets you can eat for acceptable money. For example at Carlo Menta in Via della Lungaretta, where you can get pizza and pasta for a few euros and their terrace has a lovely atmosphere!

Picnic in the Villa Borghese Park

Want to escape the crowds and you don’t want to have lunch in one of the expensive outdoor cafes? Pop into a local supermarket and collect some picnic items for a lovely lunch and walk up from the Piazza del Popolo, towards the Pincio hill and the Piazza Napoleone. Enjoy the brilliant views of the St Peter before walking into the park. Especially the area of the park near the Roma Zoo is beautiful. Huge trees grow along wide avenues and you can have a quiet moment to recover with a good book!

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Pick water instead of a terrace!

Rome’s warmth can make any tourist thirsty. It can get to the point where you constanly land on the next terrace for an ice cream or cold drink. I have to admit, we highly recommend the ice cream as their ice creams are amazing. But if you’re thirsty, one of the many fountains in Rome is great. They provide good drinking water. Use a bottle, and off you go!

For the full article with many more tips and ideas, visit or visit Anne’s Website, for more blogs.

Anne Treur is Dutch, living in the east of the Netherlands. She works as a PA, but spends her free time travelling, writing, taking photos and blogging about it all! Come and travl along with her, through her website, https://

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Confronting My Fears

The day before my eighteenth birthday, I went on a white-water rafting trip with a group of high school friends. The activity seemed fun and thrilling. I didn’t think twice about the possibility of getting seriously injured, or worse; not even when I signed the liability waiver.

Falling out of the raft as it went down the dangerous rapids was expected, and it happened to all of us. We were well instructed on what to do so laughed it off as we got back on and continued enjoying the risky ride in the fast-flowing river.

Being a lightweight at under ninety pounds, it didn’t take much for me to get bounced out and I often needed assistance getting back into the slippery raft.

During one of my epic falls, somebody accidentally pushed me in the head with their feet. Luckily, I was wearing a protective helmet, but went down further into the water and by the time I resurfaced I was far away from my raft.

I was at a great distance from all the rafting groups, and the strong current continued pushing me further away. I couldn’t swim to shore no matter how hard I tried.

A kayaker noticed me and was able to bring me to safety.

From what I’ve been told, had I not been rescued I would have fallen down a big waterfall. It made me feel like I had just avoided death.

That day, I developed a fear of drowning.

Although I had little issues swimming in pools, venturing in the ocean with its big waves or embarking on a small boat even in calm water made me nervous.

Exposure therapy changed my life.

The idea is to confront your fear by exposing yourself to it one small step at a time. In my case, I rented a double kayak with my husband in a safe canal.

Jeff did most of the work. My main tasks were to try relaxing, enjoy the scenery, and convince myself that everything was going to be okay.

Getting into that kayak was a bit stressful, but once settled in I was determined to continue with the therapeutic exercise.

Every time the kayak wobbled I became nervous, but kept reminding myself I was safe. I knew I’d be okay if ever I fell out. With a life jacket on, I could just leisurely float in the calm water if necessary. There were no dangers.

I managed to distract myself by looking at birds and tried to have fun. I even learned how to paddle.

I went kayaking with my husband a few other times afterwards; always in a double kayak. We moved to open water, and I eventually got to a

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point where I was able to take a single kayak out on a lake. Now we try to go kayaking or canoeing whenever we have the opportunity to do so. I’ve come to love it!

My inexplicable fear of heights was diminished in a similar fashion.

Once upon a time, I could not look over an edge without getting vertigo and feeling like I was going to fall. Admittedly, I still don’t always feel 100% safe but have become braver.

There is a glass panel on the floor of the CN tower in Toronto, at an impressive height of 1122 feet. Visitors can take a glass elevator up to the observation deck. Although it freaked me out, I made a point to glance at the shrinking city as the elevator rose up, and even sat on the glass panel even though I imagined it breaking. It was short lived, but I felt proud of myself.

I moved on to simple aerial rope courses suited

for children. The lifeline kept me secure as I tackled one obstacle course after another. Although I completely froze at the mini zipline, I finally managed to take the leap and allow myself to zoom across to the other end. Unfortunately, I was unable to go on the higher courses like my husband.

A few years later though, I challenged myself to go on a bigger zipline in the Old Port of Montreal. I nervously walked up an 85 feet tower and did not chicken out as I thought I might. It took about 45 seconds to rapidly cross the 1200 feet over the water, and it was exhilarating. I screamed the entire time, but more out of excitement than fear. The adrenaline rush made me feel ready for a bigger adventure.

Believe it or not, I ended up purchasing a ticket for the highest and longest zipline in Canada. Located in Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts, the starting

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point is at a height of 377 feet and required a mountain hike to get there. I actually volunteered to go first, and barely thought about how high I was as I zoomed over the forest. I simply admired the view.

I didn’t panic when my trolley stopped midair before reaching the end of the second zip line. I patiently dangled there until a guide came to get me, not being high enough to require a helicopter rescue.

I love travelling and trying new experiences. I’m always seeking new adventures but some of my fears were holding me back so I’m happy to have conquered them.

Now I just have to continue working on my arachnophobia.

I’ve gone a long way with exposure therapy, but don’t have the extra motivation to stop fearing spiders like I did with my fears of drowning and heights.

There has been major progress though, and that’s what matters. I don’t go into complete hysterics every time I see an eight-legged critter anymore, so that’s something.

Whether you have a rational reason to fear something or not, it can be overcome.

Chantal Bellehumeur is a Canadian author born in 1981. She has several published novels of various genres as well as numerous short stories, poems and articles featured in compilation books, magazines, plus a local newspaper. For a complete list of publications, including free reads, visit the following website:

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Image of the Invisible

A beautiful and profound collection of readings from the Old and New Testaments, and reflections both personal and theological for Advent and for the 12 Days of Christmas, which offers several earthly metaphors for the Divine. I loved this book, especially the author’s use of the images of art and craft workers: the processes followed by poet, musician, weaver, potter, clothier, architect, metalworker – it is deeply moving to consider how ingenious and appropriate these metaphors are.

The author also offers imaginative reflections which draw upon her own experiences of daily life, and these were exceptional. I feel she has made me see aspects of the Bible in a new way. One of these, which may seem quite small, is when she writes about epiphany: the visit of the Magi, and their gifts. She mentions that myrrh was not only used to anoint the bodies of the dead but would also have been used as an antiseptic ointment and maybe Mary would have used it to soothe baby Jesus’ nappy rash. This really struck me. In fact, I responded with, ‘How wonderful. What an amazing thought.’ Then she asks whether this shocks us, because that is good: the gifts of the Magi represent God in all his aspects, in the holy, in kingship, in sacrifice and also in the ‘physicality, vulnerability and mortality of the Word made flesh’.

It also beautifully countermands the meme that has gone round the internet, suggesting that if the Magi had been women, they would have brought practical gifts. I have two answers to that:

1) The Bible doesn’t tell us there were three of them and doesn’t tell us they were men. We are simply told they were ‘Magi from the East’. They may have been women, or women may have been among them.

2) Yes, the gifts given were both symbolic AND practical.

A fantastic book and I was also very taken with some of the ideas the author puts forward for group work on the themes of each day. I didn’t follow it through with a group but I will be suggesting some of these ideas to my group for use with other themes in the year.

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Bugs and Beasties

Marsali Taylor’s Shetland sailing heroine Cass Lynch solves the case of the murdered moth-expert for her friend DI Gavin Macrae.

‘It was Peterson’s sister who rang Lerwick,’ DI Gavin Macrae said, helping himself to Khalida’s rapidly shrinking emergency whisky rations. ‘I must bring you a decent bottle of whisky, Cass. This Bell’s is dreadful stuff.’

‘If you were on the high seas getting a tooth out without an injection you wouldn’t care,’ I said.

‘I’m glad I’m not a crew of yours; that would add insult to injury.’ He settled back in his usual corner of Khalida’s cabin, where the hanging candlelantern cast a warm glow across his face and over the wooden shelves behind him. ‘Where was I?’

‘A dead man up in the hill above Gonfirth,’ I prompted. Khalida was berthed with her stern southwards, and from the hatch at my shoulder I could just see the green point of the Sneugie of Grobsness above the heather-dark back of Linga. We’d seen the coastguard chopper out there earlier, hovering above where the body had been found.

‘Yes. Peterson was apparently getting a bit unsteady on his feet, and when he wasn’t home in the morning his sister thought he might have fallen, but when the coastguard got there they spotted blue lips, a flushed face and a spilled flask-mug beside him. Cyanide poisoning.’

‘What was he doing roaming the hills at night? It’s not lambing season.’

‘He was looking,’ Gavin said resignedly, ‘for eggs of

a lesser-spotted crest-backed moth, to prove an argument with a fellow moth-ologist.’

‘Moth?’ we chorused.

Outside, the terns chittered to themselves as they settled on the shore, and there was that green smell of newly-mown grass. Gavin’s grey eyes considered my crew, Anders, leaning back in one corner, with his pet rat perched on his shoulder like a benevolently-whiskered black-and-white gargoyle, then moved to me. I was sitting sideways on to the chart table, my dark hair still curling wildly around my face after an unscheduled swim from one of the dinghies during that evening’s sailing class.

‘Nobody whose lifestyle includes regular doses of externally-applied cold salt water,’ he said in his soft, Highland drawl, ‘has the right to be critical of a peaceful bug-collector.’

We ignored that. ‘Was the cyanide in the flask?’ I asked.

‘Yes. He liked his coffee strong and black. Even then I’d have thought he’d have tasted it, but the sister

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said he had a poor sense of smell these days.’

‘Did she make the coffee?’ Anders asked.

Gavin shook his head. ‘She said he did, and there’s no reason why not. He’d been going off into the hills at night ever since he retired up here – he’d been a science teacher, hence the interest in bugs, beasties and particularly moths. He’d written a pamphlet about the moths of Shetland, and there are several of those Victorian cabinets in the house filled with impaled insects. They’re left to your Shetland museum, who didn’t seem grateful.’ He sighed. ‘And one of the suspects is a fellow bugologist, who disagreed violently with him about whether the lesser spotted whatsit did breed here. He’s up from England too, this bloke, and a big candle in the moth world.’

‘Staying at Peterson’s house?’

‘Creator Lord, no, there would have been bloodshed. They had one of those academically vitriolic relationships, you know, letters in The Times beginning

‘While I hesitate to disagree with a scientist of X’s emminence ...’ But, he visited him today, and the empty flask was, according to the sister, rinsed out and standing ready on the work surface. All he had to do was pour the cyanide into the bottom, ready for the coffee to go in on top.’

I considered my well-worn flask, which had saved my life on many a graveyard watch. ‘You police have canteens, don’t you, with tea in polystyrene cups? I said.

‘What passes for tea,’ Gavin agreed. He gave me a suspicious look. ‘Is this some odd Shetland flask custom I’ve never heard of, ready to trip me up?’

‘Oh, no,’ I said sweetly. ‘So is your theory that the rival bug-man brought the cyanide up with him to Shetland on the off-chance of being proved wrong about the lesser spotted whatsit?’

Gavin made a face that indicated his opinion of that one.

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‘Then I’d just rule him out,’ I said. ‘He couldn’t have doctored the coffee anyway, and it’s a lousy motive.’

‘Why couldn’t he have doctored the coffee?’ Gavin demanded.

‘Because it was in the flask,’ I said, and left it there, annoyingly.

‘What about the sister?’ Anders said. ‘You have only her word that he made the coffee.’

‘A down-trodden yes-brother dreep,’ Gavin said.

‘She and her husband came up here when the husband retired too, and according to the neighbours he fitted in well here, but she had to move in with her brother when her husband died a couple of months ago, because she couldn’t manage alone. She’s from Birmingham,’ he added, with the countryman’s faint pity for anyone who took up the yellow pages at the first blocked sink or fused light.

‘According to the neighbours, she couldn’t even get a bumblebee out of the house without a panic.’

‘What about the cyanide?’ I asked. ‘Where did that come from? Presumably you can’t just buy it over the counter.’

‘Not now. You used to be able to, some years ago, tins of it, for poisoning wasps’ nests.’

‘Wasps’ nests,’ I repeated. ‘What else is it good – or bad – for?’

Gavin gave me another curious look. ‘Nothing, as far as I know. Anyway, it just so happens we found a nice clean shining tin in the neighbour’s byre, neatly stowed among the paint.’

‘Oh, yes?’ I said.

‘Yes,’ Gavin agreed. ‘Fingerprints, an unknown male’s, with glove smudges around the rin. The prints were neither the bug man nor the neighbour, nor the dead man.’

‘How did the neighbour get on with the dead man?’ Anders asked.

‘Coincidentally, he’s quarrelled with him too, about disturbing the lambs with his bug-chasing.’

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‘Was he naturally quarrelsome,’ I asked, ‘or just recently?’

‘Just recently,’ Gavin said. ‘Age. Forgetfulness, querulousness, that kind of thing. ‘A bit particular’ the sister called it.’

‘Well, well,’ I said. ‘Bad balance, forgetfulness, ill temper. He can’t have been much fun to live with, especially when you throw in the lack of city lights and yellow pages plumbers. If it was incipient Alzheimer’s she’d have been stuck with him getting worse for years, if he’d not died so conveniently. Is she about to head off back to Birmingham?’

‘She was too busy crying to say.’

‘Well, before she does,’ I suggested, ‘why not see if she’s got anything of her husband’s you could try for prints. They might match the ones on the tin, the nice shiny tin which certainly hadn’t lain in a byre since last summer – it’d have been rusted solid. Which means it had been under the stairs in her council house, along with the rest of her husband’s stuff. When she took it with her to her brother’s she must have handled it with gloves, which means she’d already thought of a use for it.’

‘Wasp killing,’ Anders said.

‘There aren’t any wasps out here in the country,’ I said. Gavin raised his head, eyes narrowing. ‘Only in Lerwick, and you said it wasn’t any good for anything else, so it wouldn’t have belonged to the neighbour. The sister and her husband must have brought it up from Birmingham when they moved

here, expecting wasps. And you’re not telling me a woman who couldn’t shift a bumblebee would tackle a wasps’ nest. And as for the coffee‘

‘Go on,’ Gavin said, ‘what have we polystyrene cupusers missed?’

‘You warm a flask with hot water first,’ I said, ‘before you fill it. So, if the rival bug-man had put cyanide in it, then it would have been rinsed out. The yes-brother dreep made the coffee, and laced it with her late husband’s wasp poison.’

‘It’s a good theory,’ Gavin agreed. ‘Her husband’s prints on the tin and a doctor’s report on the brother might convince the Fiscal.’ He pushed his glass away with a grimace. ‘Are you sure you haven’t laced this whisky with something?’

‘My teeth are very healthy, and will not need extracted,’ Anders said, reaching for the glass. Rat’s whiskers whiffled disapprovingly. ‘I will finish it for you.’


1. Inside Khalida’s cabin.

2. Autumn colour in the Shetland islands.

3. Spring colour in the Shetland islands.

Marsali Taylor grew up in Edinburgh, and studied English at Dundee University before teacher training college. She moved to the Shetland Isles for her first teaching post, and loved it so much that she’s stayed there ever since. She’s now the author of ten Shetland-set detective stories starring liveaboard sleuth Cass Lynch and her partner DI Gavin Macrae. She’s also published a history of women’s fight for the vote and articles for a local magazine Shetland Life . She has a monthly column in Practical Boat Owner. Apart from writing, she spends her summer messing around on the water in her 8m yacht Karima S, and her winters involved in the village pantomime.

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Lighting In Your Home

There is a huge selection of lights and lamps. They can be literally found in every style, size and material. You can even make your own lamp. Pinterest for example has lots of ideas to try at home. In DIY shops you can choose from different colour cables and you need a light fitting.

Often you see a large hanging lamp over the dinner table, a tall standing lamp next to your favourite chairs and a small table lamp next to the TV or on a small side table. But what to hang over the coffee table? Do you actually want a lamp over the coffee table?

In my photograph, you can see my candle chandelier. This one is more decoration than a functional lamp. At Christmas I use it. I twist a large green garland around the chandelier and hang beautiful baubles from the lamp as well. You also have the option of mounting lamps on the walls for a little extra, supporting light. And if you can’t manage because there is no wiring in place, you can work with little lights, like in the photo.

(If you have no sockets in reach, you can use lovely battery-powered lights, that give just enough light to brighten up that dark corner. You will be able to find them in various shops.)

I love old chandeliers! Especially in a rustic, sober and calm interior is one eye-catching detail wonderful! Because of its small lights and light-

catching crystals, a living room gets a lovely atmosphere even when the lamp isn’t lit. You can decorate the chandelier as well, especially for Christmas, but use lighter greens for Spring. Such a centre point! I have an old, antique chandelier, as you can see in the photograph. I desperately wanted one in our new house, so before we even moved in, I started searching online. There are various sites where you can find second-hand chandeliers. If you’re looking for something specific, start searching early as you can’t guarantee a quick find. By starting early, you allow yourself to find that one special lamp.

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Another place to look for those antique chandeliers is car boot sales, charity shops and house clearance shops. Maybe your gran or an old aunt has a beautiful specimen hanging, and you can strike a deal... they can have a beautiful new lamp and you get the chandelier. As I said already, the right combination of a brilliant chandelier in a rustic interior can brighten the room and gives a playful twist as well as warm lighting. A rustic interior can quickly become dark and foreboding and a bit cold. Lighting can make or break a room so make sure to

take out time to think about it and to look around for what you want in your home. Once the lighting is up, it tends to stay there, so choose wisely. And enjoy the dark winter evenings in your warmly lit room!

Gerdie van Wingerden is a Dutch blogger and mother of four children. She loves to share her passion for homemaking and interior design. Gerdie works in a Home and Giftshop as a stylist, as well offering her services as advisor on her website,, where her blogs are regularly posted as well.

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Winter Poem

Wintertime calls for snow.

Why else would you watch the snowbells grow?

The rain seems here to stay but is that sleet?

Much more appropriate than the water gushing down our street

Where is the council when you need them most, Aren’t they to run their village like a gracious host?

Never mind, this isn’t a poem, I sigh.

snow cold dripping on the floor.

Muddy puddles shine on my old, inherited tiles.

How many winters have they felt, gone through, accepted?

Did they remember the mop, the cleaning spray, the elbow grease of ages long gone?

The rain has stopped; a gorgeous rainbow shines on black clouds

I stare at the black soil, clay-like

Are those soft green tips?

Budding leaves?




I want wintertime to be like winter, cold

I tut as I iron my shirts, sleeves and all, then fold.

Winter should mean skating, scarves hats and gloves,

Snowball fights, sledging, hot chocolate with our loves.

Never mind, it is winter, snow or no.

And this really isn’t a poem, just me having a go.

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England, with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website,, Amazon or local bookshops.

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The High Priestess: Persephone’s Return

TheHighPriestess:Persephone’sReturnhit virtual bookshelves on January 7, 2023. It is book three of the urban fantasy series Talesfromthe UnmasquedWorldby Val Tobin. TheHighPriestessfocuses on student mage Jaycie Nevil, whose life took an unexpected turn in the previous novel when her boyfriend, Chase Spenser, accidentally trapped her in Hades. Back on the physical plane, Kelsey Davis continues to struggle with her situation as she, Philip, and Josh remain in hiding. These characters’ lives have imploded and death’s shadow looms over them constantly.


Each story in the series takes inspiration from a different card in the tarot’s major arcana. Each book’s title reveals the relevant reference, which plays up the symbolism and meaning of the card. Readers can have fun puzzling out who or what represents the card in the story. Often, more than one character or object signifies the card or its meaning.

In an additional twist, a non-traditional tarot deck influences the crafting of the stories. Rather than simply using the popular Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the stories use a combination of the Rider-Waite deck and Ellen Dugan’s Witches Tarot While all the cards in Dugan’s major arcana correspond in meaning with the Rider-Waite deck (Dugan based her cards on the classic Rider-WaiteSmith deck), the archetypes used differ on one or two of the cards. For example, Dugan’s deck has the Shadow Side instead of the Devil since Satan isn’t part of a witch’s belief system.

Blurbfor The High Priestess

Someone wants Jaycie Nevil to remain in Hades. Could it be the god of the underworld?

A student mage who doubts her abilities, Jaycie strives to achieve success in her program. When she receives life-changing news, and the boyfriend she relies on accidentally traps her on the wrong side of the veil, her entire existence is jeopardized.

Meanwhile, hiding from a criminal organization and the authorities, human Kelsey Davis has reached the end of her tether. When her downward spiral hits rock bottom, a vampire finally takes action to force her recovery. While their two nights at a spa are close to heavenly, their return to the cabin they share brings a fresh hell.

With tragedy and horror invading their lives, will anyone survive this fool's journey?

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Managing editor Tahlia Newland reviewed The HighPriestesson her blog, and the following is an excerpt from it:

“… Tobin’s world building is impeccable. Her characters are three dimensional, well-developed and relatable, and they grow as their stories deepen in complexity as the series progresses.

“Clearly an accomplished writer, Tobin’s prose is confident and her stories tight and well-paced. She skilfully weaves the Tarot cards and their associated themes into each story in a way that is never heavy handed. This series stands with the best of urban fantasy …” Tahlia Newland, Managing Editor, AIA Publishing

Excerptfrom The High Priestess

To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from TheHighPriestess:Persephone’sReturn. Cora, Chase’s mother, has convinced a pregnant Jaycie to follow her out of Hecate’s quarters within Hades. Jaycie distrusts Cora but wants to believe she’d do the right thing:

“This way.” Cora kept her grip on Jaycie’s arm and towed her down the hall, but instead of going to the front entrance, they made their way to a nearby door. Behind the door, a set of stairs led down into darkness.

Jaycie froze.

Cora tugged on the arm she still held. “Come.”

Jaycie planted her feet on the stone floor and refused to budge. “Where are you taking me?”


“Not until you tell me where we’re going.” Both women whispered, but as the argument continued, their voices grew louder.

“Trust me. There’s no time for explanations.”

Jaycie shook her head and wrenched her arm free. “In the time we took arguing about it, you could’ve just told me.”

“I’m hiding you with a friend.”

Silence blanketed them for a protracted pause, but when Cora grabbed Jaycie’s arm again, the young mage balked.

“I want to find Chase.” As she said the words, she recognized them as true. She had to find her boyfriend, the father of her unborn child not only because he’d help protect them, but because he too was in danger. “I won’t leave without him.”

“Listen to me,” Cora hissed. “You little fool. You’re putting him more at risk with your presence. Come on. We’re out of time. If they’re not already searching for you, they will soon, and then what’ll happen? I’ll get you to safety and

She sounded so certain, so confident, but hadn’t Hecate said the same thing? Everyone promised safety, but no one made Jaycie feel safe. Still, what could she do? She had to trust someone, s mother. Wouldn’t she s best interests at heart? Hadn’t she given him up to protect him? That had to be a s greatest sacrifice. At least Jaycie didn’t have to give up her daughter.

She held out her hand, and Cora accept-

s mother illuminated the stairs before them and guided Jaycie downward, one uneasy step at a time


Book four, TheEmpress:APromiseofRain, revolves around Dakota, Philip’s half-vampire daughter. The fallout from Dakota’s kidnapping continues as Josh decides he wants one more attempt to convince her to leave the faerie prince she’s engaged to despite Dakota’s declaration of love for him.

Does she really want to spend the rest of her life with the prince? Would a change in Josh’s status from human to vampire bring her back to him? How long or short will the rest of her life even be? If Josh is caught with her, both their lives would be forfeit, but it’s a risk he can’t seem to help taking


The first three books are on Amazon, and you can purchase the eBooks and paperbacks or

download the eBooks to read for free with your Kindle Unlimited account.

TheFool:NewBeginningsstarts a fool’s journey for human Kelsey Davis and vampire Philip Belanger when Philip’s daughter goes missing and Kelsey’s son drags her into the search for the half-vampire teen.

InTheMagician:Infinity’sEnd, magick influences the characters’ lives, not always for the best. While Chase deals with his major issues, Kelsey struggles with the repercussions of the new beginning forced on her.

TheHighPriestess:Persephone’sReturnopens with Jaycie’s trek through the underworld and Chase’s search for her. Kelsey and Philip’s story continues as their life on the run comes to a catastrophic end

Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading. Discover more about Val on Mom’s Favorite Reads website:

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The Mistmantle Chronicles


This is the first book of the Mistmantle series, and it is a wonderful start to any series! Urchin, the main character is a red squirrel with unusual fur. That’s not the only unusual thing about him, though. His arrival on the island of Mistmantle is special as well, but this is kept quiet.

The story starts when Mistmantle is going through a hard time. The animals on Mistmantle are struggling, although some of the older animals are heard saying that it never used to be like this: work parties, long hours, no time to play and have fun, and worst of all, the culling of sickly animals. Is the king to blame? He is griefstricken after all, and doesn’t seem to be himself. The animals are loyal, and wouldn’t think of rising up against their king, but will the king have to abdicate?

M McAllister, the author has done a great job in choosing the animals and their distinct traits. Urchin the squirrel was supposed to be working on one of the timber ships, but he is chosen by Crispin, one of the Captains, to be his page. Urchin is thrilled, but before he has started work as a page properly, disaster strikes the island. What is Urchin to do? Go with Crispin or stay on this island?

In the end, Urchin is attached to Pado, one of the other Captains. Urchin’s life is full, he works hard, but his best friend, Needle, a lovely hedgehog girl, is having a difficult time. The animals in the sewing room are made to work very hard, and when her sweet little brother is targeted for culling can Urchin keep his promise to save Needle’s brother?

The book is written well, and moves fast, without rushing you. There is time to get to know the other animals, otters, rabbits and hedgehogs, but I must admit, I loved the red squirrels the most. Urchin is special, not just because of his arrival or the colour of his fur, but his courage and trust is so heartwarming! His loyalty is special and I loved how he shone throughout the book without sticking out, or becoming surreal.

There are a lot of characters in the book, but even though there is a list with them all at the beginning of the book, the story flows so well, I didn’t need to look at the list, as their characters are all different, making them memorable. The descriptions throughout the book of the animals, the king’s palace, the island, all are well-written, drawing you in, making you see the story come to life.

The story is exciting and beautiful, not glossing over grief and hurt, but bringing good out of it. There is sadness in the book, but the writer, M. McAllister, has dealt with it well. All through the book, there is the prophesy attached to Urchin, and I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled, although a few times, I wondered how he was going to survive long enough to see it happen!

The book is written for preteens, but I couldn’t wait to read it, and I’m so glad I did. Knowing the sad parts in the book will help me as well when reading this with my children. The book has been around for a while, but has recently been reprinted, and I am so glad! This is definitely a mustread, and I can’t wait to read book 2!

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Heating with Wood, Again

The furnace died in November, shortly before Thanksgiving. The company I called did everything they could to resurrect the old thing. No go. That meant I needed a new one. Since this is a homebuilt cabin, not any old furnace will do. Then there is the age of the owner, 80, and the age of the cabin, 40.

First on the to-do list was locating a furnace and getting it shipped up here. Along came the snow apocalypse and a series of weird things happening all at once. It became apparent I wouldn’t have any heat for all of December other than two small radiant electric heaters and my tiny wood stove.

This is where we come to the meat of the story. I had some wood but not enough to make it to furnace delivery time. After rounding up what looked as if it might do the job, I set about getting the stove ready for a month of hard labor.

I usually use the small stove with a glass insert in the door to help ease the heating situation when the temperature drops below -15. The electric heaters, with both going full blast, will keep the downstairs at about 45 degrees. With a nice wool blanket, the loft stays warm enough for sleeping. But that’s too cold for comfort downstairs where everything else is located.

The wood stove had to work properly. I’d installed a draft inducer years ago. Best move I’ve made in a while. If it’s very cold and the wind is howling, that blower makes all the difference in getting and keeping a fire going until the bed of coals is hot enough to light every split you toss in.

The glass needed a new seal. When you know if you break that glass, you are flat out of luck, removing

it and installing the new seal is a hold your breath operation. Since the woven stuff is tubular, it needs to be compressed ever so gently while you try to get the nuts back on the studs.

A few prayers and patience got me through that one. Now I had to remember a lot of things I learned out in the Copper Basin the first nine years I lived in Alaska. Heating with wood is a science. You don’t just throw a hunk of wood on the stove and expect it to heat you. What kind of wood are you using to start the fire? What do you use to build the bed of coals that will radiate the heat you need?

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It all came back quickly. I hope to have the furnace in the first week of January. If it isn’t, it will be time to buy more wood. I want a mix of birch and spruce. The spruce gets it started and the birch burns slow and steady. Once I have the dampers set right, that little stove that barely holds three splits sixteen inches long will heat the entire house. I keep glancing at the glass in the door so I can gauge when the next log should go in. And it burns efficiently. I need to clean out the excess ash about every two days.

It's messy. True. But I have and will always maintain, nothing heats like wood. Nothing. I will be glad to get the oil-fired furnace going. I do hate getting up to a cold house. As my husband used to say.

“Needs must when the devil drives.” If I find it necessary to buy more wood, I have a phone number and will call. It’s been a lot of years since I had to depend on a wood stove, but it can be done, and I will if I must. Time to throw in another log. Stay warm, y’all.

Cherime MacFarlane is an award-wining, bestselling, prolific multigenre author. She has a broad range of interests that reflect her been there– done that life. Discover more about Cherime on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website:

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Rabbits and Languages

2023 is the Chinese year of the 兔子!

兔子 means rabbit in Chinese Mandarin. Rabbit, or coney as it is in Middle English, is one of the most remarkable homologues found in languages today. A homologue is a word in one language which sounds very similar to corresponding words in other languages.

We can see that “rabbit” in many languages is a word starting with a “c” (k) sound often followed by an “o,” “oo,” “a” or another similar vowel and then very often continued by a “n” or “l” sound.

Others start the word with a “l” but the rest of the word remains similar.

However, in Chinese Mandarin and other languages instead of a “c” (k) sound it is a “t” or “d”. Amharic, however, when the “t” is turned to a “c” is very similar to the “c” sound homologues.

Mandarin: 兔子 (tùzǐ).

Lithuanian: triušis.

Turkman: towşan.

Amharic: ጥንቸል (t’inicheli).

Azerbaijani: dovşan ~~~~~~~~~~~~

English: coney.

German: kaninchen.

Welsh: cwningen.

Breton: c’honikl.

Sudanese: kalinci.

Corsican: cunigliu.

Nepali: खरायो (kharāyō).

Nyanja: kalulu.

Galician: coello.

Georgian: კურდღელი (k’urdgheli).

Vietnamese: con thỏ.

Finnish: kani.

Yiddish: קיניגל(kinigl).

Latin: cuniculus.

Slovak: králik.

Czech: králičí.

Telegu: కుందేలు (kundēlu).

Greek: κουνέλι (kounéli).

Punjabi: ਖ਼ਰਗੋਸ਼ (Ḵẖaragōśa).

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Hindi: खरगोश (kharagosh).

Russian: Кролик (krolik).

Icelandic: kanína.


Hawaiian: lapi.

Hmong: luav.

French: lapin.


Hungarian: nyúl.

Hebrew: ארנב (arnaav or ancient pronounciation arnaab).

Malay: arnab.

Notice the Hebrew and Malay word for rabbit. The “arn” sound could easily change into just a “n” sound in languages like Hungarian.

Linguistic studies suggest links between the groups I have listed above which provides a fascinating way to study the history and travel of people groups.

I hope this taste of homologues has wetted your appetite for this interesting field of research.

Check out my book at:

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Spring Wilderness

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The Winter Blues

Mom’s Health

February has arrived and, with Christmas and New Year now firmly behind us, we move into the last stages of winter without having the seasonal festivities to look forward to. While some people relish a cold winter season and thrive on it, for many others, including myself, the dark nights and harsh weather make us want to stock up with food, batten down the hatches and just hibernate until it is all over.

In Scotland, where I live, the shorter days of winter can bring darkness as early as 4 p.m., less sunlight and colder weather including snow, frost, and ice.

During the winter months, many people who work inside arrive at their jobs in the dark and then come out into darkness. A problem arising from such a lack of exposure to natural sunlight is that the body may not be producing enough of the vitamin D it needs for optimal functioning. If the body cannot produce the vitamin D it requires then this can lead to increased tiredness and a feeling of generally having less energy. We often refer to this as the ‘winter blues’. The more severe form of ‘winter blues’ is recognised as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and this requires medical guidance and treatment. If you believe you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder consult a doctor.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate levels of calcium and phosphate in the body to maintain healthy bones and muscle as well as the brain and nervous system. It also supports immunity, helps prevent infections, reduces inflammation, and performs other vital bodily functions like promoting healthy teeth. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D varies with age, so check this out.

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Diet and Vitamin D

During the summer months, most people can get the vitamin D they need from sunlight falling directly on to their skin and by eating a healthy, balanced diet. However, during autumn and winter, a lack of strong sunshine can mean that your body isn’t making enough vitamin D and you will need to get this mainly through your diet. Some people take vitamin D supplements to help them over the dark winter months. A diet rich in vitamin D, whether from natural or fortified sources, can help most people to compensate for the lack of vitamin D obtained from a regular exposure to sunlight.

Some foods that can provide a rich source of Vitamin D

Yoghurt - Is fortified with Vitamin D. Both dairy and non-dairy yoghurts have high levels of this vitamin.

Cheese - Can provide a good source of Vitamin D, particularly cottage and cheddar cheese.

Fish - Oily fish like mackerel, sardines and some types of salmon can be a great source of Vitamin D.

Eggs - The yolk from eggs are high in vitamin D. Have yours poached, boiled or scrambled.

Orange Juice - If you cannot include dairy products in your diet, fortified orange juice can provide an alternative source of this vitamin.

non-dairy milk like almond or rice milk) which is fortified with vitamin D.

Mushroom - Some types of mushroom, those that have been exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light, can provide a good natural source of this essential vitamin.

Breakfast cereals - Most cereals are fortified with vitamins, including vitamin D. Have your breakfast cereal with milk (whether dairy cows milk, or

Winter food cravings

Some people see a change in their appetite over the winter months, in particular, an increased craving for carbohydrates. When the weather is chilling outside, warming winter meals become more appealing.

Not all of these foods have to be starchy and weight gaining. There are plenty of filling winter soup and stew recipes available to help fight the winter chill without putting weight on.

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Mood and Energy

With darker days and colder weather, it is often less easy to get out and about, leading us to be less active and stuck indoors. Despite the weather, bundle up against the elements and take that walk when you can during daylight hours. Also, keep in contact with family or friends and maintain your hobbies and interests. Take advantage of whatever sunshine there is around. If you can’t venture outdoors, sit by a window and enjoy the feeling of sunshine on your skin.


During the winter months, you may find that you feel unusually tired, less mentally alert and are craving a nap, particularly in the afternoon. A lack of vitamin D may reduce serotonin production and release - a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, appetite and energy levels - which can lead to lowered mood and energy as well as sleep problems. A lack of sunlight can also disrupt your circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle that is your internal body clock.) Darkness sends signals to your brain to release a hormone which makes you feel sleepy and tired. Managing your sleep-wake cycle can help reduce these feelings. Establish a healthy sleep routine, such as going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time and try to avoid napping during the day to help regulate your internal body clock.

The Changing Seasons

Remember that after every winter there comes a period of renewal. With March approaching, so too is springtime and longer daylight hours to help rejuvenate your mind and body. I always look forward to the arrival of spring and to catching a glimpse of the first snowdrops and crocuses of the year.

This article is for general information only and does not replace the advice given by health professionals. Consult a doctor before making any health -related decisions.

Sheena Macleod gained a PhD in Mental Health Nursing and an MSc inAdvanced Mental Health Practice from the University of Dundee where she lectured in Mental Health Nursing. She is trained in CBT. When she was diagnosed with lupus, Sheena retired from teaching.

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So Fly

Oh my You so fly

Would you like to share Some cake with I

Hi I’m Tracey from The Copper Mouse. I am a creator of bespoke cards, gifts and whimsical characters. I started out making gifts for friends then developed this into a business. I have illustrated 2 books for an author and would love to write/illustrate my own. Examples of my work can be found on social media pages by searching for @thecoppermouse.

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Birthstone Crystal Grids

February – Imbolc brings us the first festival in the Wheel of the Year, the eight pagan Sabbats, which are festivals to celebrate the changing seasons.

Imbolc (pronounced ‘ee-molc’) is the first fire festival and takes place on 1st and 2nd days of February in the Northern Hemisphere. It indicates the passing of winter and the beginning of spring. Look out for snowdrops bringing us beginnings and hope.

Imbolc, Winter Healing is a crystal grid for Healing and Peace, and the regeneration after winter. Acorn cups, pine cones, chestnut, rosebuds, and petals signify growth and regeneration. Alongside the gentle healer, Apophyllite, are the strongest healing stones of Clear Quartz, Golden Healer, Tourmalated Quartz, and Peridot. Thrown in are Idocrase, Rubellite Tourmaline, and Red Garnet teardrops for love, balance, and emotional harmony.

You can find out more about the sensory author and artist, who will lift your spirit, steal your heart, and ignite your imagination at:

Crystal Grids made by Lisa Shambrook for mindfulness, meditation, and art. Prints of some grids are available at:

She also loves dragons and squirrels.

Lisa Shambrook is an author, artist, and dreamer who loves dragons. Born and raised in vibrant Brighton, England, living by the ocean heavily influenced her lyrical and emotional writing. She now lives in Carmarthen, West Wales, another town rich in legend and lore. A sensory writer, Lisa delves into sensitive subject matters that will lift your spirit and steal your heart.

Find out more at her website and her Etsy shop

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New Beginnings

It’s January, the month of good intentions, muffin tops, spare tyres and awful weather. It is also the time when self-employed people like me think, “Heck, time’s running out. I’d better do my tax return.” Gentle reader, I am halfway through entering data in my interminable spreadsheet as we speak, but it’s boring and horrible and I hate it and I’d much rather be chatting to you.

I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions this morning and feeling good about the fact that I haven’t made any. However, it’s an interesting concept, so I thought I’d do a bit of research.

For 2023, the Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions are as follow:

1. Exercise more

2. Eat healthier

3. Lose weight

4. Save more money

5. Spend more time with family/friends

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those articles where I share my annoying tips on detoxing and getting that youthful glow back. Far from it. The first four are all bang on for me. For quite some time now, and especially since I went full-time as a writer last January, I’ve been fairly sedentary. We writers do spend an awful lot of time sitting on our derrieres waiting for inspiration to strike. There may be people out there who go for an invigorating five mile run first thing and return to their writing studio with their next bestseller all planned out. If you are such a person, do tell us your secret.

I would like to eat healthier. Since I went back to work on 4th January, porridge has been my breakfast of choice, so filling that I can last until teatime without snacking. We still have a mountain of satsumas in the fruit bowl and I believe they contain virtually no calories, so that’s good. The Bailey’s is nearly all gone (thank goodness) and there is no chocolate in

the house. But while I don’t smoke or do recreational drugs (such a drain on the household budget) and I could easily live without alcohol, food is the one thing I simply can’t resist.

Losing weight goes hand in hand with eating healthier and, like many of us, I’ve been toying with the idea of joining a gym. Again. But this is not the time to do it. March maybe. Or April. (Note to self. Resolution number 6. Try to stop procrastinating).

Only the richest and most privileged of us aren’t worrying about money in 2023. As bills soar, my tips are the same as they’ve always been. Turn the lights off when you’re not in the room. Wear lots of layers and turn the heating down. Buy food in bulk and add cheap nutritious fillers like lentils and peas. Buy your stuff in the charity shop. This year, this advice is a bit like trying to empty Lake Windermere with a teaspoon, but it’s a start.

As for the family, I’m self-employed. I work in the Palace of Creativity, my writing studio situated twenty feet from the house. I do the school run every day and my children would probably like to see a bit less of me. I’m never not around. But friends – that’s a different matter. I was a bit of a hermit in 2022, working my ample rear end off and I miss my friends. So this year, if I have a resolution, it’s this.

Do more of what makes me happy.

That includes seeing my friends on a regular basis. Four of us are meeting for breakfast at our local café tomorrow morning. There will be cackling, guffawing and fun to be had, and I simply can’t wait.

Because we all need some more laughter in our lives.

Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer, the author of “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” and “The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge”. She writes for a number of businesses and charities and blogs at She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter at ruthleighwrites and at her website,

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Exploring Your Creativity

There are numerous different types of creativity and to name them all would take up a large chunk of space in the magazine. The more well-known ones include

• Art

• Writing

• Photography

• Pottery

• Baking

• Dance

• Gardening

• Woodcarving

• Playing Music

Many of us will have at least dabbled in some or all of these. However, as I am a writer, I thought I would concentrate on creative writing in this article. Trust me, no one would want to take my advice on art, although I am rather fabulous at adult colouring books. I never lost my childhood delight in colouring inside the lines and creating works of art from an already sketched out drawing.

When it comes to creative writing you need little in the way of resources. A pen and paper or a computer and keyboard are pretty much all you need to get started. You may want to invest in a nice notebook – most writers have hundreds of these all of which are too nice to write in – but a sheet of

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paper from your printer will suffice. There are two different types of creative writing – fiction and non-fiction – but there are numerous genres and sub genres within these. You do not need to get too bogged down in this to get started. If you have an idea for a story, write a story. If you have a passion for a topic such as stamp collecting, or country rambles then write about those. Don’t worry about what you are writing, just start writing. Why would you want to write or, indeed, do any type of creative activity. It has been proven time and time again that creative pursuits make us happier and are good for both mental and physical health. Writing down our thoughts and feelings helps us to deal with them and sort them into areas which are more easily managed. Many people want to try writing fiction but have no idea where to start. One way is to write down some random words and write a story from there. You could try the words from the example below.

Bells – Frightened – smell – superb – stitch

There are numerous free apps which generate writing prompts such as one called simply Writing Prompts.

Another way to generate ideas is to think of wacky scenarios such as

Write about a three-legged dog who is best friends with a duck.

I would like to think the poem The Owl and The Pussycat came from Edward Lear playing around with silly ideas. In fact, he himself calls it a nonsense poem and what a beautiful example it is. This brings me beautifully on to poetry. Poetry is another method of creative expression and writing. Whilst I am not a poet, I can admire its beauty and the sheer scale of what poems can portray. I have listened to some fabulous performance poetry which was powerful and dealt with issues in the world today. Now, I say I am not a poet, but I do dabble in trying to write poetry; this will never be for publication but for my own enjoyment.

Which leads me to publication. Everyone assumes if you write then at some point you need to be published. That is not the case; you can write purely for your own enjoyment. If you do want to be published, then submit your edited work to publishers and publications. The choice is completely up to you; if you so choose, no one ever needs to see the words you write.

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If you would like to explore this further, Scott and Lawson, the publishing house which is now publishing this magazine, has a book called Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing, which will help you on your journey.


Have you always thought about writing a book but don't know where to start? Are you an experienced author and want to spread your wings? Are you looking for inspiration for every step in your writing journey? This is a book for everyone who wants to write, whether history or contemporary, science fiction or humour, local fiction or set in a made-up world, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, there’s something here for you. Join thirteen authors as they share their passion for why you should write in their genre and find your own passion as you read. It's time for you to spread your wings, follow your dreams and find your passion for writing.

I would encourage you to give creative writing a try; it really is the most fabulous activity in the world.

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best-selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. As copy editor for Mom’s, she works hard to ensure content is appropriate and free of grammatical and spelling errors. You can learn more about Wendy on her website:

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The Year of the Rabbit

This year is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Some of the characteristics of rabbits are silliness, shyness, and curiosity. They can also be high spirited. I don’t think that just applies to rabbits though! Certainly, the high spirited aspect could definitely apply to Bugs Bunny, a childhood favorite of mine. I always did love his wisecracks.

So I wondered for this month’s flash fiction column, how could I set a story theme around this?

Usually when I’m working out themes, I go back to basics and look at characteristics. There is usually something you can use here and that is the case for this month’s challenge.

I often use characteristics to bring a character to life and that in turn helps me work out the kind of trouble they would end up facing. Naturally then my story shows how they deal with that trouble.

So characteristics are a great starting point for any story because you also work out why your characters have the ones they do. If you have a character who is a miser, what drove them to become that way? There is a story there - and not just the one by Dickens. So for this month’s challenge, I thought I would bring in one or two of the above rabbit characteristics in a story and show how these affect my characters. A curious and high spirited character is bound to end up in trouble you could write about, for example. There is good potential for comic stories here.

Then I discovered rabbits are up for challenges, which was news to me I must admit. They can do agility courses (presumably low level!), but can jump hurdles, go through tunnels and up and down ramps. This was also news to me but I love the idea of this.

So my thought for a story theme was to write a tale which involved a shy character responding well to a challenge. It is an interesting mix that rabbits can both be shy and up to a challenge! So this will be your theme to write to this time.

What your character sees as a challenge is up to you but by the end of your story, your character should have been challenged and responded in some way. But you will need to show your character is shy, one of the rabbit traits, and how they overcome it enough to meet that challenge head on. Usual word count of 300 words applies. Hope you enjoy my challenge story below and I look forward to reading your tales.

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At Some Time

‘At some time you must do it. Do this now, Miranda.’

‘Whenever I think today is the day I get nervous and cry off. So much could go wrong, Cheryl.’

‘You insisted on coming to this school for new challenges and here you are hiding.’

‘Cheryl, don’t ever be a counselor, will you? You need to be sympathetic.’

‘You gave me a hard time when I deferred my driving test. Now it’s your turn. Out with that wand. You can do this.’

The sound of crashing from the ceiling reverberated for minutes.

‘You okay, Miranda?’

‘Yes, Cheryl. I didn’t aim my wand near the ceiling. Why on earth has it collapsed?’

There was silence broken by the sound of people running.

‘You’ve got ten seconds to invent an excuse, Miranda.’

‘Much help you are, Cheryl.’

To the girls’ surprise, the running continued past their classroom.

‘Let’s find out what’s happening, Miranda.’

Reluctantly, Miranda followed Cheryl into the long hall. At the far end there was a group of teachers, wands outstretched. The dragon they aimed at had its fire extinguished thanks to being brained by a collapsing ceiling.

‘This could be okay, Cheryl,’ Miranda whispered. ‘The school force field should repel dragons. How did it get through?’

‘Not our problem,’ Cheryl whispered back. ‘But don’t be smug. Yes, you’ve met the challenge of using your wand in combat for the first time. You’ve killed a dragon. Do you want to be sent on every dragon mission?’

‘It’s not where I saw my career going, I must admit. Fireproof underwear is so not fetching! Do you think we can tiptoe out without anyone noticing?’

‘It’ll be a challenge to get past that lot. Worth trying though!’

The girls tiptoed as fast as they dared. Nobody appeared to notice.

Allison Symes, who loves reading and writing quirky fiction, is published by Chapeltown Books, CafeLit, and Bridge House Publishing. Her flash fiction collections, Tripping The Flash Fantastic and From Light to Dark and Back Again are out in Kindle and paperback. She has been a winner of the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition three years in a row where the brief was to write to a set theme to a 1000 words maximum.


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Year of the Rabbit

The fog lasted three days and when it lifted, she had gone.

It had been unexpected and harder than it should have been. Maybe if she had tried earlier in their marriage. Possibly before his ‘Honey’ had turned to ‘Bunny’; her assertiveness had drizzled onto the floor with the words.

He had been protective and kind; for example not wanting to burden her with banking hassle. “They can be awkward and even when going into the bank, there are so many forms to fill in. I will take it on for you, if you want.”

So sweet, and it wasn’t the only way he had hedged her in, until the hedge had turned into her iron curtain.

But she has broken free. The damp, dark mist matched her mood, somehow hiding her feelings at the same time. The bright sunshine doing its best to dry the glistening cobwebs warmed her soul, and she could feel her heart beating.

Part of her wanted to hide in the long grass, eyes closed, panting like their pet rabbit did when hearing people come into the back garden. She blinked. Her soft pet had never hidden from her, never feared life in her arms. Maybe she should imagine herself being held, and step out bravely.

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Not to be Bunny, or even Honey, but herself. She took a deep breath, pushing the trembling rabbit from her mind, thinking back to who she used to be as a young qualified nurse. She could do this.

She looked up at the fresh, soft blue sky. The air smelled cleansed, just refurbished for her.

Turning her back on the misty remains near the trees, she ordered tea without sugar, just to remind herself of her new start without honey.

Caught in the Headlights By Jenny Sanders

flushed face, and disheveled hair. Clearly, she was late.

She jostled her way apologetically through the crowd, past the old clock, and hopped on the 8.36 as the doors clunked closed behind her.

Relieved, she paused to catch her breath. Should she turn left or right? Listening carefully, she edged forward.

No; from the right-hand carriage she heard a group of men loudly discussing football results. A woman was raising her voice on her mobile.

Averse to loud noises, Edith turned left and crept into a seat by the window, alert for other passengers. They were all busy with newspapers, phones, or taking the opportunity for forty winks. Following suit, Edith, having arranged her bags, hid behind her book. Reticent to be observed herself, she felt safer there while periodically peering around it to check that all was well.

The city was always a challenge for someone who preferred her small house in the countryside. Clapier Cottage was Edith’s sanctuary; her vegetable garden her pride and joy, where carrots and lettuces flourished.

Her nose twitched as the train pulled into Gare de Lyon; Paris smelt so different from home. Gathering her belongings, she jumped up and tripped along to le Café Bleu to meet her friend at the fancy restaurant she’d chosen.

Edith Lapine scurried down the steps of the train station, breathless and encumbered by bags. Careful observers would have noted her red eyes,

Greetings were made, cheeks pressed together, smiles exchanged, places taken, and menus opened. Edith’s equilibrium was upended as she read with mounting horror. Flustered, she abandoned her bags, sprang to her feet, turned tail and vanished, leaving her friend baffled before, glancing down at her own menu, she saw plat du jour: Lapin. Rabbit.

How could she have been so insensitive?

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“Mum, I can’t find Rambo,” Layla shrieked from the garden. About thirty seconds later she came careening through the door and screeched to a halt at her mother’s feet.

Abigail wiped her forehead with the back of her hand leaving a streak of passata behind; hot as Hades and she had to cook dinner for eleven hungry mouths. Having nine kids sounded like a good idea to her husband who wanted his own football team. What Abigail wanted was a cook and chief bottle washer, but her husband didn’t care about that. “Why did you go and call it Rambo? It’s a rabbit not a flaming lion.”

A pout appeared on her daughter’s face and she scuffed her shoe on the floor.

“Watch out for those sandals. We’re not made of money.” Abigail’s tone brooked no argument.

Layla took one look and paused halfway to kicking the cupboard door. “He’s brave. That’s why he’s Rambo.”

“He’s the shyest creature on the planet. Couldn’t get timider if he tried. You live in cloud cuckoo land.”

“I live in Bunny Street. You know that.” Layla stopped and then thought she’d educate her stupid mother even more. “That’s why we got rabbits.” They stood in silence for several seconds before the child asked. “What’s for tea?”

“You really don’t want to know. Surprise stew I’m calling it.” Her mother popped some more onions and carrots in the huge pot, which already contained meat simmering in a delicious tomato and garlic sauce. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll turn up by dinner time.”

“I hope so.”

Abigail muttered under her breath, “Oh, I know so.”

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What’s In a Name?

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear “rabbit” is to wonder why there are so many English words for this hopping fur ball?

middle ages compared to hares. This surprised me because the reverse is true today. I can count hare sightings from our small Gloucestershire farm over the past 15 years on one hand, while rabbits are a daily sight if you get up early enough.

There is bunny, rabbit, coney and even hare for its long legged cousin. Where do all these names come from? So I did a little research for this Year of the Rabbit.

I expected to find an Anglo-Saxon heritage and was greatly surprised to find that research suggests there were no rabbits in England when the northern raiders arrived and that they were almost certainly introduced by the Normans in the 11th century. There is not even an Anglo Saxon word for rabbit.

Hare, on the other hand, is clearly of Germanic origin and came to us through Old English or Anglo Saxon.

Following their introduction to the British Isles, it seems rabbits were not common throughout the

However, in medieval times they were not called rabbits. Rabbit entered the English language in the 14th century and only referred to babies. The word is believed to have come from Northern French or Flemish. The adult animal was a “coney” which has clear links to Norman French.

Rabbit began to be used for the adult animal in the 18th century which is why in the King James Bible of 1611, Leviticus refers to the coney and the hare.

Baby rabbits today are called kittens. My older sisters kept rabbits when we were young and I’ll never forget seeing their blind, naked “kittens” squirming in the burrow. In my research I was interested to discover that hares give birth to fully furred and sighted young called leverets.

So what of bunny? The most favoured theory is that it comes from the Scottish Gaelic “bun” meaning bottom, stump or stub. This makes sense to me as my abiding memory of seeing rabbits in the countryside is their flashing white, stumpy tail as they hop away.

Beverley Haagensen lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK, where she is currently home educating the youngest of her six children. She also runs a small farm with horticulture, poultry and sheep and spins and plant dyes her sheep's wool.

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Writing a Short Story

Jonathan Carroll, an American fiction writer once said: “A short story is a sprint, a novel is a marathon. Sprinters have seconds to get from here to there and then they are finished. Marathoners have to carefully pace themselves so that they don't run out of energy (or in the case of the novelist ideas) because they have so far to run. To mix the metaphor, writing a short story is like having a short intense affair, whereas writing a novel is like a long rich marriage.” It’s a genre many writers embrace, especially earlier on, often thinking it an easier form than the actual novel. This is far from true, as mastery of a short story writing creates its own inherent challenges, where all the elements of characterization, setting, plot, conflict, action, point of view, not forgetting beginning and ending need to be carefully mapped out in a rich narrative from A to Z to engender credibility and belief to ultimately satisfy and transform the reader into the writer’s world.

Freytag Pyramid, and variants are often used as a model to show the structure of a short story.

In the classic story structure of the Freytag Pyramid, exposition is listed as the very first stage of the plot. Exposition is the necessary background to convey the key information to the reader early on and even later so that they can follow the plot. Within the initial exposition characters, setting, time, might appear as the ground work laid down to enable the action to follow. A simple story like Cinderella shows how this structure works. The early exposition creates a background to the recent marriage of her Cinderella’s father after her mothers death and the appearance of a new step mother and step sisters, which leads to Cinderella’s ill treatment.

The inciting incident in the story happens with the arrival of the invitation to the Prince’s ball and the events which follow gradually build to a climax as the action rises. Conflict exists in all stories and Cinderella is no different as she encounters and overcomes a number of obstacles that lie in her path. From the outset (first obstacle) she’s not dressed to go to the ball like her step sisters. This is resolved by the fairy god mother who provides her with a glamorous new ballgown and glass slippers. Then there’s problem of transport (second major obstacle and crisis) to attend the ball. This problem seems insurmountable until the pumpkin and mice are found and then transformed into a majestic horse and carriage. The story continues, but Cinderella is warned by her fairy godmother, that she must leave the palace before the clock strikes twelve. Putting a clock over events

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heightens tension. It’s a device used in films like Towering Inferno directed by John Guillermin or the submarine epic Das Boot that lies marooned at the bottom of the seabed while time passes. For Cinderella the climax of the story comes when the clock chimes twelve and she flees from the palace losing one of her glass shoes. How will she be found by the prince? (third obstacle) Falling action follows as the story starts to unwind towards the denouement (ending) and where resolution finally occurs when Cinders tries on the glass shoe...a perfect match in many senses, and one which leaves her free now to marry the handsome prince!

In theory, the Freytag’s structure sounds straight forward but many pitfalls do exist. You have to establish fully fleshed out characters (not too many), then something has to happen that will cause the status quo to change and create conflict (the plot) for instance in another story you might imagine a husband wanting to leave Britain for Australia with

the family for a more prosper life, while his wife and grand parents don’t want to be separated from their loved ones. What obstacles will lie in wait for this family, what choices will be made and can a resolution really be found? For a story to be believable, the characters have to feel genuine and realistic. They need flaws as well as insecurities, problems and a hotchpotch of full-blooded emotions to be truly human and believable. Even the virtuous Cinderella might be accused of being too docile and too accepting of her down trodden role.

In developing an idea, real life experience or “writing about what you know,” can give authenticity to what you seek. I remember attending a cremation service in Bathampton with a work colleague. We checked out the chapel number before we entered, but it turned out to be the wrong service. We had to stay, and see Queenie, a Lancashire lass on her way to her heavenly maker. After shaking hands and muttering our condolences we ran

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round the building and just had time to join the proper funeral party, who were now entering the same chapel. The organist gave me a wry smile and the basis for a short story. Short stories don’t have to be dramatic incidents like robbing the local bank (if they haven’t closed yours already), often the mundane can be made just as compelling. Setting is important just as other components are to a short story. However, a setting full of over populated adjectives and adjectives can kill your story dead. The reader needs to be drawn into the action, otherwise he or she will not read on. Kurt Vonnegut even suggests writers should aim to start their stories “as close to the end as possible.” Each scene should heighten the tension and the protagonist must face a series of obstacles to overcome. Try to show and not tell. In Hemingway's six word story he wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” there was no necessity for sub text or to spell it out. Writers often create the perfect beginning but give scant regard to the ending, which appears as an unconvincing after thought. Countless ways exist in ending your story and it doesn’t have to comply to a neat resolution. Life as we know is a messy business and not all problems are overcome. Think too about the way the events you relate in the story and the impact its made on the protagonist and other characters. Have they changed for the better or the worse and what difference has it made to the way in which they perceive their lives? In the short story The Last Leaf by American author O. Henry, a poor young woman called Johnsy is seriously ill with pneumonia. She believes that when the ivy vine on the wall outside her window loses all its leaves, she will also die. Her neighbour Behrman, an artist, tricks her by painting a leaf on the wall. Johnsy recovers, but (in a twist typical of O. Henry) Behrman, catches pneumonia while painting the leaf and dies.

Through the events Johnsy’s life-changing perceptions alter from utter defeat to hope and deliverance because of Behrman’s intervention.

Short Story Writing Tips

• Have a Story to tell.

• Begin with an arresting first paragraph. Work on your opening line.

• Don’t over-populate your story with characters. Develop your characters as if you know every thing about their life.

• Put your more lyrical language into the descriptive setting. Stories don’t take place in a void. Be careful of description and especially of adjectives and adverbs as these can kill the pace and make your writing appear to be too purple or clichéd.

• There is room for figurative language: personification, metaphors and similes, but use these forms carefully.

• Introduce the story line quickly to catch the reader’s interest. Avoid the long preamble into a story where the reader’s interest wanes.

• Ensure something happens in the story.

• Select your point of view.

Avoid cliché driven plots or wafer thin story lines. In most stories there is an obstacle for the central character to overcome. Sometimes the main character must pick from a number of choices. This causes conflict and arouses interest in the reader in the way the characters deal with these difficult choices or overcome their difficulties.

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• At some point there is a resolution to the conflict of the story. Something must happen because of a series of actions or inactions by the characters in the story and there must be a resultant outcome.

• Ensure a balance of structure. The story may be too heavy with too much time spent on the build up so the climax or denouement is relegated to one sentence, leaving the reader bothered and bemused but sadly not bewitched. Often beginnings are well written but endings can be slight or inconsequential if they aren’t given enough thought.

• Your successful story whether crime, romance, science fiction – whatever its genre, must have one other ingredient. It must satisfy the readers, who must be left with its resonance, the feeling that they long to know what happened to the characters after you wrote the last words.

• If you’re telling a fast-moving story, say crime, then keep your paragraphs and sentences short. It’s a trick that sets pace and adds to the atmosphere you are conveying to the reader.

• Present your story well. Readers can be put off by bad formatting, lack of punctuation and poor spelling.

• Use dialogue, possible dialect and keep the characters moving. Some writers suggest this may be as much as a third.

• Make use of the vivid senses

• Sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. Too much focus is given to what we see.

• What about the sound scape around you, or the cold wind on your cheek?

• Avoid telling and try to show through your writing.

• Have a consistency of voice.

• Consider how the conflict is resolved (resolution). What is the climax/ turning point? Does the story follow a logical sequence of events?

• From whose point of view is the story written, first, second, third person? Is this consistent through out the story?

• Theme- What is the controlling or main idea in the study?

• Setting- Stories take place in a particular place, setting or time. This provides a backdrop to the story and provides a context in which the story can take place.

• Structure- Stories don’t have to be linear. Most how ever at a very basic level have a beginning, middle and an ending.

John Greeves originally hails from Lincolnshire. He believes in the power of poetry and writing to change people’s lives and the need for language to move and connect people to the modern world. Since retiring from Cardiff University, Greeves works as a freelance journalist who's interested in an eclectic range of topics.

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I sat up in bed, clutching the duvet. There is something different this morning, and just as I am about to get up and go downstairs to make myself a coffee to bring back up, I remember. I’m a mum. There are three little ones, hopefully still fast asleep and I’m their mum!

Adoption has been such a rollercoaster and bringing them home has been the most wonderful, mad, sweet and chaotic thing to do. I need that coffee. But I know, from the last few mornings, that as soon as I stick my head out of our bedroom door, chaos will descend, and it will be many hours before I will find my by-then frappe back.

I need a plan, a strategy. Coffee first, then other priorities will be clearer. I suddenly remember my collection of travel mugs and thermos flasks. The best one for my plan is the special flask that allows you to drink directly from the flask. I don’t want to risk pouring coffee into the tiny lids. Not without having had coffee. Chicken and egg kind of situation. The special pink flask will do. You simply undo the lid and drink.

The next morning, I find out how perfect my plan was. The coffee is still warm enough to be perfect, the house is quiet, and my mind is soon quiet as well.

I sigh with contentment, feeling more ready to face the chaos. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive on chaos, but I need that quiet moment at the start of the day to gather my thoughts, take a deep breath, spend quiet time with God and get ready for life.

I breathe deeply, savouring the coffee and the quiet, as well as the thrill of being a mother. So many options for the day. Playdough, walks, lego, or snuggling up with a book. Although, we might do them all. Maybe we could sit down with a book and another coffee. I can feel another life hack coming up. Chill moments. Moments where I get to regroup, recollect my scattered thoughts and take a deep breath before life slips away from me and my little children are all grown up. Time flies, even this morning, hugging my fancy flask, plotting the day, and time slips away. My plotting has already reached this evening’s bath time and bedtime hugs. In just a few hours, another day as New Mother will have gone. I sigh, feeling a tiny bit less content and more eager to start the day for real.

I would love to hear your life hacks!

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website,, Amazon or local bookshops.

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Marketing seems to be one of those areas that every author struggles with. It’s the same struggle companies world-wide have been dealing with for decades. How do I get my product in front of my target audience? Connections eMagazine can help. The publication is free to readers, bloggers and to authors looking for a little extra exposure. Visit our website for details.

Connections eMagazine is a FREE quarterly publication founded by authors Melanie P. Smith and Rhoda D’Ettore. It is currently produced entirely by Editor, Melanie P. Smith. Over the years, the magazine has evolved and it now features promos, freebies, blog articles, and short stories in every issue.

Discover more about Connections eMagazine on their website here:


EditorInChief WendyH.Jones

WendyH.JonesisalsoourFeatureEditorandworkshardtoprovidecontentthatisinteresting,informativeandprofessional. She’stheawardwinning,internationalbest-sellingauthoroftheDIShonaMcKenzieMysteries,CassClaymore InvestigatesMysteries,FergusandFloraMysteries,BertietheBuffalochildren’sbooksandtheWritingMattersbooksfor writers.SheisalsoawritingandmarketingcoachandthePresidentoftheScottishAssociationofWriters. Youcanlearn moreaboutWendyonherwebsite:

ExecutiveEditor|GraphicDesigner MelanieP.Smith

TheExecutiveEditor/GraphicDesignerisresponsiblefordevelopingthelayoutanddesignofMFReMagazine. She alsoworkshardtocreatenewcoverseachmonththatcapturestheessenceofeachpublication. InadditiontotheeditorialstaffofMom’sFavoriteReads,MelanieP.SmithalsoproducesConnectionseMagazine. Sheisamulti-genreauthorof CriminalSuspense,PoliceProcedural,FantasyandRomancenovels. GettoknowmoreaboutMelanie,herprojects, andherworkonMom’sFavoriteReadswebsitehere:

ManagingEditor,ArtDirector& Proofreader SylvaFae

OurManagingEditoroverseesthephysicalcontentofthemagazineandcoordinatestheproductionschedule. Sheadministerstheday-to-dayoperationsofthepublication,managessubmissions,setsrealisticschedulesandorganizeseach editionofthemagazine.Sylvaisisresponsiblefortheamazinggraphicsthatappearthroughoutthepublicationeach month. Sheworkshardtoensuretheimagescapturethespiritandmessageourauthor'sconveyintheirarticlesandstories. Inaddition,AsCopyEditor,Sylvaworkshardbehindthescenestocorrectanygrammatical,typosandspellingerrorsthroughoutthemagazine. SylvaFae Mumof three,fairywoodlandowner,andauthorofchildren’sbooks.

CopyEditors/Proofreaders WendyH.JonesandSheena MacLead


SheenaMacleodlecturedattheUniversityofDundee,whereshegainedherPhD.Shenowlivesinaseasidetownin Scotland.ReignoftheMarionettesisherfirstnovel.Shecurrentlyhastwoadditionalbooks:TearsofStrathnaverand WomenofCourage AForgottenFigure FrancesConnolly.YoucanlearnmoreaboutSheenaonherwebsite:

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Allison Symes works diligently each month togenerate flash fiction writing promptsthat will stimulate creativity in our authors and entertain our readers. As Story Editor, she also ensures each entry is professional and polished. Allison Symes is an award winning, published flash fiction and short story writer. She also writes a weekly column on topics of interest for writers for online magazine, Chandler's Ford Today. Allison's fiction has appeared in anthologies (CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing) over many years. Allison judges competitions, runs workshops, and is always happy to talk/write about flash fiction writing.

MarketingDirectorandContentWriter MaressaMortimer

OurMarketingDirectoroverseesmarketingcampaignsandsocialmediaengagementforourmagazine. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. Discover Maressa’s books on her website:

OurContentWritersarefreelanceauthorswhocontributearticles,shortstories,etc.totheeMagazineonaregularbasis. Theyworkhardtomakeourmagazineinterestingandprofessional.GettoknowourContentWritershere:








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Articles inside

Writing a Short Story

pages 72-75

What’s In a Name?

page 71

Year of the Rabbit

pages 68-70

The Year of the Rabbit

pages 66-67

Exploring Your Creativity

pages 63-65

New Beginnings

pages 61-62

Birthstone Crystal Grids

page 60

The Winter Blues

pages 56-58

Heating with Wood, Again

pages 50-51

The Mistmantle Chronicles

pages 48-49

The High Priestess: Persephone’s Return

pages 45-47

Winter Poem

page 44

Lighting In Your Home

pages 42-43

Bugs and Beasties

pages 38-41

Image of the Invisible

page 37

Confronting My Fears

pages 34-36

ATreur Rome

pages 32-33

Mom’s Favorite Reads Author

pages 28-31

A House on a Cliff

page 27

Winter Wildlife

pages 24-26

Lacking Strength

pages 22-23

Joyce in February

pages 18-21

Around America in 50 Books

pages 16-17

Beneath Raven’s Wing

page 15

Title Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps

page 14

Vonnie Winslow Crist

pages 9-13

Welcome to February 2023

page 8
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