February 20, 2018

Top Ten Peeves of Writing Teachers

Photo by Mateusz Dach from Pexels

Top Ten Peeves of Writing Teachers (Including ‘Vegetables for Authors’)
By Melodie Campbell

It all started in 1992.  I’d won a couple of crime fiction awards, and the local college came calling.  Did I want to come on faculty and teach in the writing program?  Hell, yes!  (Pass the scotch.)

Over the years, I continued to teach fiction writing, but also picked up English Lit, Marketing (my degree) and a few odd ones, like Animation and Theatre.  Such is the life of an itinerant college prof.  (Pass the scotch.)

Twenty-four years later, I’m a full-time author.  Except for Wednesday nights, when I put on my mask, don a cape, and turn into SUPER TEACH!  (Okay, ‘Crazy Author Prof.’ Too much time alone at a keyboard can be scary.  Pass the scotch.)

Recently, a jovial colleague asked me if I was a good teacher or an evil one.  I’m definitely on the kind side of the equation.  The last thing I want is to be a Dream Killer.  But even the kindest, most dedicated writing teachers can get frustrated.  So when Anne suggested I rant on these pages, I gracefully accepted.  (With the sort of grace that might be associated with a herd of stampeding mastodons.)
So here are my top ten peeves as a writing teacher:
1.       “I don’t need no stinkin’ genre” aka Students who turn their noses up at the genres.

In addition to basic and advanced writing skills, I teach the genres in my course.  Meaning, we deconstruct each of the main genres of fiction (mystery, thriller, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, western, literary…etc.) to see what publishers expect.  This is particularly important when it comes to endings.  Mickey Spillane said those famous words:  Your first page sells this book.  Your last page sells the next one.

Most publishers categorize the books they accept into genres.  Most readers stick to a few genres they like best for their reading pleasure.  So it stands to reason that if you can slot your work into an already active genre, you have a better chance of getting published and read.

Many students refuse to classify their work.  They feel it is ‘selling out’ to do so. (Yes, I’ve heard this frequently.)   They don’t want to ‘conform’ or be associated with a genre that has a ‘formula.’  (One day I hope to discover that formula. I’ll be rich.)

So I often start out with half a class that claims to be writing literary fiction, even though not a single student can name a contemporary literary book they’ve actually read.  Pass the scotch.

2.      The memoir disguised as fiction.
These students have no interest in writing fiction.  They really only want to write one book ever, and that is their life story.  But they know that memoirs of unknown people don’t sell well, so they’re going to write it is a novel. Because then it will be a bestseller.
Here’s what I tell them:  What happens to you in real life – no matter how dramatic and emotional it is for you – usually doesn’t make a good novel.  Novels are stories.  Stories have endings, and readers expect satisfactory endings.  Real life rarely gives you those endings, and so you will have to make something up.
If you want to write your life story, go for it.  Take a memoir writing class.
3.       “My editor will fix this” - Students who think that grammar and punctuation are not important. 
Someone else will fix that.  They even expect me – the teacher – to copyedit their work.  Or at least to ignore all seventeen errors on the first page when I am marking. (*hits head against desk*)
I should really put this under the ‘baffling’ category.  If you are an artist or craftsman, you need to learn the tools of your trade.  Writers deal in words, and our main tools are grammar, punctuation and diction.  How could you expect to become a writer without mastering the tools of our trade?

4.      The Hunger Games clone. 
I can’t tell you how many times students in my classes have come determined to rewrite The Hunger Games with different character names on a different planet.  Yes, I’m picking on Hunger Games, because it seems to be an endemic obsession with my younger students.

What I’m really talking about here is the sheer number of people who want to be writers but really can’t come up with a new way to say things.  Yes, you can write a new spin on an old plot.  But it has to be something we haven’t seen before. 

There are just some plots we are absolutely sick of seeing.  For me, it’s the ‘harvesting organs’ plot.  Almost every class I’ve taught has someone in it who is writing a story about killing people to sell their organs.  It’s been done, I tell them.  I can’t think of a new angle that hasn’t already been done, and done well.  Enough, already.  Write something else.  Please. Leave the poor organs where they are.!

5.       The Preachers: Students who really want to teach other people a lesson. 
And that’s all they want to do.  Akin to the memoir, these students come to class with a cause, often an environmental one.  They want to write a novel that teaches the rest of us the importance of reuse and recycling.   Or the evils of eating meat.
Recently, I had a woman join my fiction class for the express purpose of teaching people how to manage their finances better.  She thought if she wrote novels about people going down the tubes financially, and then being bailed out by lessons from a friendly banker (like herself ) it would get her message across. 
All noble.  But the problem is: people read fiction to be entertained.  They don’t want to be lectured.   If your entire goal is to teach people a lesson, probably you should take a nonfiction course.  Or here’s a novel <sic> idea: become a teacher.

6.      Literary Snowflakes - Students who ignore publisher guidelines. 
“A typical publisher guideline for novels is 70,000-80,000 words?  Well, mine is 150,000, and I don’t need to worry about that because they will love it.  Too bad if it doesn’t fit their print run and genre guidelines. They’ll make an exception for me.”

I don’t want to make this a generational thing.  Okay, hell yes – maybe I should come clean.  I came from a generation that was booted out of the house at 18 and told to make a living. ‘Special’ wasn’t a concept back when we used slide rules instead of calculators. 

Thing is, these students don’t believe me.  They simply don’t believe they can’t write exactly what they want and not get published.  And I’m breaking their hearts when I tell them this:  Publishers buy what readers want to read.  Not what writers want to write.

7.      Students who set out to deliberately break the rules to become famous. 
There are many ways to tell a story.  We have some rules on viewpoint, and we discuss what they are, the reasons for them, and why you don’t want to break them.  Then we discuss why you might WANT to break them.  Apparently, this isn’t enough.  (*sobs into sleeve*)
 I have some students who set out to break every rule they can think of because they want to be different.  “To hell with the readers.  I’ll head-hop if I want.  And if Gone Girl has two first person viewpoints, my book is going to have seventeen!  No one will have seen anything like it before.  They’ll think I’m brilliant.”

Never mind that the prose is unreadable.  Or that we don’t have a clear protagonist, and thus don’t know whom to root for.  e.e.cummings did it.  Why can’t they?

8.      Students who come to class every week but don’t write anything. 
They love the class.  Never miss a week.  But struggle to complete one chapter by the end of term.  Not only that, this isn’t the first fiction writing class they’ve taken.  They specialize in writers’ workshops and retreats.

It seems baffling, but some people like to hobby as aspiring writers.  They learn all about writing but never actually write.  Of course, we veterans can get that part.  Writing is work – hard work.  Writing is done alone in a room.  In contrast, learning about writing can be fun.  That’s done in a social environment with other people.

9.      Other writing teachers who take our classes to steal our material for their own classes and workshops. (*removes gun from stocking*)
Not kidding.  I actually had an adult student come clean about this.  By class seven, he hadn’t done any of the assignments, and admitted he was collecting material to use for the high school creative writing class he taught.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

10.  Students who don’t read. 
This is the one that gets me the most.  Last term I did a survey.  I asked each student to write the number of books they had read last year on a small piece of paper and hand it in.  I begged them to be honest.  They didn’t have to write their names on the paper, so I would never know who had written what total.  Here’s the tally of number of books read;
Highest number by one person:  26
Lowest number by one person:  0-1
Average:  7
Yup, I’m still shaking my head over that low.  He couldn’t remember whether he’d actually read a book.  (How can you not KNOW?)
And these people want to be writers.  *collective groan* Why – will someone please tell me why anyone would want to be a writer if they don’t read books?
To be clear here:  I read 101 novels last year.  I read for one hour every night before I go to bed, and have done so for years.  That’s seven hours a week, assuming I don’t sneak other time to read.  Two books a week.  And that doesn’t include the hours I spend reading students manuscripts over three terms.
If reading isn’t your hobby, how can you possibly think you can write?  Why would you want to?
By this point, you are probably asking:
Hey Teach!  Why do you do it?

As this term draws to an end, I decided to ask myself that question.  And give a completely honest answer.  Here goes:

It’s not the Money.
Hey buddy, can you spare a dime?  Part time profs in Canada are poorly paid.  I’m top rate, at $47 an hour.  I’m only paid for my time in the classroom (3 hours a week).  For every hour in the classroom, I spend at least two hours prepping and marking.  We don’t get paid for that.  At end of term, I spend several days evaluating manuscripts.  We don’t get paid for that either.  This means I am getting paid less than minimum wage.  So I’m not doing it for the money.

It’s not all those Book Sales.
When I first started teaching, an author gal more published than I was at the time said a peculiar thing to me:   “Be sure you enjoy teaching because aspiring writers don’t buy books.”  At first I was puzzled, but then I started to understand what she meant.  Students are here to learn how to make their fiction better.  That’s their focus.  They really don’t care about what their teacher has written.

So why the heck do you do it, Mel?  That’s time you could invest in writing your own books…

It’s Vegetables for Authors.  Let me explain:

It takes me back to first principles.
I teach all three terms.  Every four months, I am reminded about goal/motivation/conflict.  Three act structure.  Viewpoint rules.  Creating compelling characters.  Teaching Crafting a Novel forces me to constantly evaluate my own work, as I do my students.  In other words, it’s ‘vegetables for authors’ - good for me.

It’s the People.
By far, the most valuable thing about teaching a night course year after year is it allows me to mix with people who would not normally be part of my crowd.  Adult students of all ages and backgrounds meet up in my classrooms, and many are delightful.  I’ve treasured the varied people I’ve met through the years, and keep in touch with many of them. 

Getting to know people other than your own crowd (in my case, other writers) is extremely valuable for an author.  You’re not merely guessing how others different from you may think…you actually *know* people who are different.  This helps you create diverse characters in your fiction who come alive. 

As well, you meet people from different professions…doctors, lawyers, salespeople, bank officers, government workers, labourers, grad students, Starbucks baristas, roofers, police, firefighters, chefs, paramedics.  I have my own list of people to call on, when I need to do research.

It’s good for my Soul
I'm paying it forward.  Believe it or not, I didn't become an author in a vacuum.  I had two mentors along the way who believed in me.  Michael Crawley and Lou Allin - I hope you are having a fab time in the afterlife.  Hugs all around, when I get there.

Students take writing courses for all sorts of reasons.  Some take it for college course credit.  Some take it for interest, as they might take photography or cooking classes.  Some need an escape from dreary jobs, and a writing class can provide that escape, if only temporarily.  But many actually do hope to become authors like I am.  When I connect with one of them, and can help them on their way, it is magic.  There is no greater high.

No question, my life is richer through teaching fiction writing, even if my bank account is not.

You can help Melodie’s bank account by buying her humorous books, like The Bootlegger’s Goddaughter.  This will keep her from writing dreary novels that will depress us all.  Pass the scotch.

About Melodie Campbell
The Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  Melodie Campbell has won the Derringer, the Arthur Ellis Award, and eight more awards for crime fiction. In 2015, Melodie made the Top 50 Amazon Bestseller list, sandwiched between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts.  She is the former Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. www.melodiecampbell.com

The B-Team!
They do wrong for all the right reasons...and sometimes it even works.
Perhaps you've heard of The A-Team?  Vietnam vets turned vigilantes? They had a television show a while back.  We're not them.
But if you've been the victim of a scam, give us a call.  We deal in justice, not the law.
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October 6, 2017

October Newsletter - Check Out What's New This Month

The most commonly asked question I'm asked is where I get my ideas.
For me, the answer is simple: LIFE

A few months ago while I wrapped up the Jungle Island series, I wondered where to go next. What would everyone be excited to read? 

After a trip to the feed store, and listening to a group of local ranchers talk about hard times during the California drought, I found my inspiration. Within minutes I was reaching for my notebook and scribbling like mad.
I spent the next few days outlining the books in my upcoming
contemporary western romance series!

If you missed it...

* Free For A Limited Time Only *

My version of Tarzan and Jane
swinging through the jungle
is a whole lot hotter than the original.

Find other great books to enjoy too!


Meet New Authors

There's a new online magazine called BP that's filled with author interviews, in-depth articles, and links to FREE books!

Check it out!


Thought I would share a few new releases and great deals by my friends!

Happy Reading!

Meet Man Of The Night, Sexy Rex...



She’s my best friend’s daughter…
Naive. Sweet. Innocent and hot as hell.




I’ve been a bad girl. A very, very bad girl, and I’ve got a wish or more like a demand.                                                                  BUY


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September 14, 2017

Ancient Love - by Liza O'Connor

Ancient Love
A Dark Suspenseful Ghost Thriller
With a Romantic Ending

When telling a story in a different country than the one you live in, the famous advice: ‘Write what you know’ sent me researching what I did and didn’t know.  I needed armed police officers to swarm the basement of the museum. Clearly these couldn’t be the nice friendly policeman who will help tourist find their way back to their hotel. Nope, I needed armed officers.

Fortunately, I found them. They are called AFOs: Authorized Firearm Officers. And if you have a sadist killing a woman in the basement of the museum then that is exactly who you need to call.While the largest quantity of AFO’s protect London, I was impressed with how few AFO’s there are in England and how few deaths occur compared to New York City, or Newark New Jersey. The AFO had seven incidents for the entire year of 2016 in which police discharged firearms. The New York City Police officers could exceed that in a single weekend.


Alice has no idea that a deadly danger follows her through every life she lives. All she knows is for the first time in this life, she is happy and with purpose in a quaint museum located in an ancient castle. Only Rainier, a ghost from the past, knows the complete truth, and a curse prevents him from warning her of the dangers that will end her life, as it has ended all her lives before. But this time, a man of his bloodline has entered the battle, so Rainier is not alone in his fight to keep Alice alive and well from the demon of their past.

An intriguing tale that pits everlasting love against a deadly curse that has followed the heroine through all her lives. A ghost from her past and a good man in her current life risk everything to keep her alive.


While a part of him wanted to rush immediately to Alice, if Edward had a gun, such foolishness would only get him killed.

He needed to think and be logical.

He hurried to the first floor. Upon spotting a security guard, he yelled, “Call 999 and ask for Scotland Yard. Tell them we have an armed man in the basement, holding a woman hostage and I believe she’s been harmed. Tell them we need an ambulance”

The security guard’s eyes widened for a brief second before he pulled out his cell phone.

Rein didn’t dare wait for the Scotland Yard to arrive. By then Alice could be dead. He needed to rescue her now. Carl stood before the basement door, blocking his way. Without a second thought, he slammed his fist into the side of Carl’s head. The bastard went down like a sack of potatoes.

Discovering the door to the basement locked, he knelt and secured Carl’s set of keys. He then pulled Carl’s unconscious body away from the door. Noticing the security guard had frozen in stunned disbelief, he yelled, “Make the calls!”

The guard approached. “I’ve made the calls sir, anything else you want me to do?”

“Yes. Lock this piece of shit up somewhere secure.”

After unlocking the basement door, Rein hurried down the steps to the main aisle. A rack of dresses had been pulled out into the aisle blocking his way. Slowly, he pushed open a space and attempted to push his way through. Only something hit him hard in the chest burning like hot embers. Then everything went black.



About the Author

Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.

Click here For ALL Novels by Liza
(There’s over 30 now)

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August 9, 2017

Indulge with Sheri

Everyone who joins my Facebook group

Indulge With Sheri

by 8/31/17
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two $5 Amazon gift cards.

(I say two, but handing out prezzies is so much fun!
I bet there'll be more.)

Click on here to join now! 

July 7, 2017

Quest of a Warrior by Mary Morgan #ParanormalRomance

Legends of the Fenian Warriors, Book 1
spinoff from the Order of the Dragon Knights series
by Mary Morgan

June 23, 2017

Krystal Shannan - Podcast style!

Ever wondered about the personalities behind your favorite books? Victoria Danann's new podcast with Riley J. Ford has an incredible lineup of authors booked through the spring. No question is out of bounds. Check it out!


Krystal Shannan, also known as Emma Roman, lives in a sprawling ranch style home with her husband, daughter, and a pack of rescue Basset Hounds. She is an advocate for Autism Awareness and shares the experiences and adventures she’s been through with her daughter whenever she can.

Needless to say, life is never boring when you have an elementary-aged special needs child you are homeschooling and half a dozen 4-legged friends roaming the house. They keep her and her husband busy, smiling, and laughing.

Krystal writes magick and Emma doesn’t. If you are looking for leisurely-paced sweet romance, her books are probably not for you. However, for those looking for a story filled with adventure, passion, and just enough humor to make you laugh out loud. Welcome home!

June 15, 2017

Liza O'Connor - Proud Mary (The Fury of an Angry Wife)

The Fury of an Angry Wife

While Charles' wife, Elizabeth, has no issue with the way he acquires children, (just as long as she doesn’t have to deal with them), Theresa Spadoni does care. She has been trying to give her husband a baby for years, but nothing happens. Then one night with a coworker and Mary Mason has not just one baby, but two!

Her anger has escalated to murder. It was her idea to set the pit bull on to Mary. It was also her idea to kill Mary’s newborn son. If she can’t give her unfaithful husband a child, then she would at least make certain his child by Mary wouldn’t survive either.

Proud Mary


Liza O’Connor

Book 3 of the

Requires Rescue Series

Contemporary Suspense

Sometimes even the strong

requires a helping hand.


Mary Mason may have lost her job and reputation, but she has too much pride to allow vengeful women and their manipulative husbands to destroy her life and steal her new born babies. Unfortunately, pride alone isn’t going to save her. When Captain Chad Danton answers a call about a prostitute soliciting at the local library, he discovers a determined woman in desperate need of medical care. Upon hearing Mary’s story, he resolves to help her, not realizing her enemies will join those who wish to destroy his career.


Chad’s eyes narrowed. “I was in the room when the father of the boy insisted his wife had accidentally cut off the oxygen. When Mary said she’d get a restraining order, he assured her he’d had already told the hospital to keep his wife away.”

Sanders sighed. “Well, they have no record of that request, if he made it. Last night, the baby’s IV was removed. And there’s no way that can be considered accidental. Those incubators are not easy to open, and an alarm should have gone off when it happened.”

Chad shook his head. “That sounds like something a nurse would know how to do.”

Sanders grimaced. “Not if she plans to keep her license.”

“Check out Nurse Hadley. She seems to have some vested interest in this.” He then told Sanders everything he knew about Mary Mason and her tormentors.

Sanders scratched his head when Chad stopped talking. “You might want to let Captain Wiggens know. When I asked him for police protection on the baby boy and Mary this morning, he…”

“He what?”

Sanders grimaced. “He turned me down and yelled at me for wasting time on this case.”

Chad’s brow rose. “And did you tell him I personally assigned you to the case?”

Sanders nodded. “I did mention that. He assured me you’d be gone in a week and then he’d be chief of police.” Sanders sighed. “I sure hope he’s wrong about that. I have to tell you, sir. Most of your force is very happy to have a real cop in charge. We’d like to keep you for a long time.”





Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.


Investigate these sites:

June 3, 2017

NYT Bestseller Jennifer Lowery & Not Without Risk

Hi Sheri - and all you fabulous readers out there! *waves*

Thank you so much for having me today. I’m super excited to be here! The second book in my Wolff Securities series is now available for pre-order—Woot!! It’s been a long time coming, but I’m hoping it’s worth the wait. Nate and Macy were particularly tight-lipped during the writing of this book but I finally managed to get them talking, lol.

I’ve included a little taste of what’s to come when the book releases on July 6th!

Not Without Risk (Book #2, Wolff Securities)
Romantic Suspense

He always keeps his promises…
Private security specialist, Nate Wolff promised to rescue humanitarian aid worker, Macy Gibbs, not harbor a fugitive. Determined to keep his promise and not make the same mistakes his brother made, he risks his life to protect her from the terrorist group hunting her.

Keeping this one will be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do…

With a bounty on her head for the murder of a man who bought her in an illegal human trafficking ring, Macy Gibbs puts both her life, and the life of the tall, handsome stranger who’s vowed to rescue her, in danger. Emotionally scarred from her ordeal, she trusts no one. But, can the biggest danger she’s about to face be the impact this former SEAL has on her heart?

Content Warning: Sexual content.

Copyright ©2017 by Jennifer Lowery

Blood. Everywhere.

Macy Gibbs looked down at her shaking hands, stained red, still clutching the bloody knife. Her gaze dropped to the man lying on the floor at her feet. His eyes stared empty into space. Fluid oozed from the wound in his chest where his heart should beat.

Her ears began to ring, her vision dimming. They would execute her for this. In this country, she wouldn’t get a trial. Women had very few rights here. An American woman had none. Especially one married to an Azbak man.

Revulsion turned her stomach. Married. What she’d been in was anything but a marriage.
The sound of the door handle turning snapped her out of her stupor. One thought ran through her head as she dropped the knife. Run.

Panicked, she spun in a circle, searching the small bedroom for an escape she knew she wouldn’t find. She’d been locked inside this room for weeks. Had there been a way out she would have found it.

Her eyes trapped on the door. Only one way out. One choice.

To keep fighting.

Forcing her legs to move she slipped behind the door just as it opened. A tall figure moved stealthily into the darkened room, lit only by a dim lamp in the corner. On auto-pilot, Macy struck, aiming for his jugular.

He ducked her blow, his hand coming up to capture her wrist. With a forceful tug, he had her arm pinned behind her, her back pressed to the wall and a forearm against her throat. Not enough to hurt her, but it felt like an iron bar across her neck. Afraid to breathe, she looked up into a pair of stunningly beautiful green eyes. The way he stared back at her made her blood race. Direct, lethal.
Her vision narrowed. Warmth slid down her leg but she didn’t feel the pain of her injury. Memories of what her bastard husband had tried to do to her filled her head. If she hadn’t fought back…

“Hey, breathe.”

Her attacker’s voice, low and smooth, broke through her thoughts. Macy blinked. Why did he sound so far away when she could feel every hard inch of him?

The arm on her throat loosened. She drew in a breath that made her head spin. “American,” she whispered, fighting to remain upright. He wasn’t one of Aziz’s men. Where were the guards? Surely, they must have heard her tussle with their leader. Then again, they were fully aware of what went on in this room and had not once intervened.

A hand gripped her chin, warm despite the chill in her bones. Gave her a shake. Her eyes snapped open.

“Come on, we’re getting out of here.”

Pre-order Your Copy Now!!
(Kindle Unlimited Subscribers Read for Free!)

Meet Jennifer:

NY Times & USA Today bestselling author, Jennifer Lowery grew up reading romance novels in the back of her math book and on the bus to school, and never wanted to be anything but a writer.  Her summers were spent sitting at the kitchen table with her sisters spinning tales of romance and intrigue and always with a tall glass of ice tea at their side.

Today, Jennifer is living that dream and she couldn’t be happier to share her passion with her readers.  She loves everything there is about romance.  Her stories feature alpha heroes who meet their match with strong, independent heroines.  She believes that happily ever after is only the beginning of her stories. And the road to that happy ending is paved with action, adventure, and romance. As her characters find out when they face danger, overcome fears, and are forced to look deep within themselves to discover love.  

Jennifer lives in Michigan with her husband and two children.  When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading and spending time with her family. 

Connect with Jennifer:

Read more about her books on her website: http://jenniferloweryauthor.com/

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Thank you for having me today, Sheri!! I just want to send out a big THANK YOU to all my readers out there! Without you I wouldn’t be here. My wish is to one-day meet each and every one of you so I can personally thank you for your generosity and support!

All my best,