A to Z Challenge 2020: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: D is for DisneyWorld

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.

Next up in the A to Z Challenge:

D is for – DisneyWorld!

One thing I had always wanted to do was take my kids to DisneyWorld. I grew up on Disney movies, both the live action and the animated classics. Even as an adult, I still love them. One of my all-time favorite movies is Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast.

In April 2012, we took an extended school spring break vacation and hit the road to DisneyWorld. We drove from our home in Vermont to Orlando, FL, over the course of four days. On the way down, we stopped at Grounds for Sculpture, an amazing outdoor sculpture park, museum, and arboretum in Hamilton, New Jersey. Some of the sculptures scattered over the 42 acre park were incredibly detailed and lifelike.

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Contact by Seward Johnson

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Eye of the Beholder by Seward Johnson

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Were You Invited? by Seward Johnson, based on the painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir

Others were more abstract, but just as interesting.

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Henry Moore in a Sheep Meadow by Red Grooms

At DisneyWorld, we stayed at the Coronado Springs resort. It had a lovely swimming pool, which we enjoyed very much.

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Mayan Ruins themed Lost City of Cibola pool at Coronado Springs

My daughter was a huge fan of the Disney princesses, so we visited as many as we could find.

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A conversation with Snow White

The rides were a blast. Well, all but one. No one will ever get me on Everest again. After zipping around at high speed forward and backward, and over stomach-lurching drops in the pitch dark, it was all I could do not to lose my lunch. The kids liked it, though.

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The dreaded Everest ride

One of my favorite spots at Disneyworld was the Lego Store in the Marketplace. Right in front of the store stands a towering, jaw-dropping, Lego-brick version of the black dragon Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty blasting fire at Lego Prince Phillip. I have always loved building with Legos and I love dragons, particularly that one. All I could do was stand there and say, “Wow, that is so cool!”

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LEGO dragon from Sleeping Beauty in the Disney Marketplace

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After we left DisneyWorld, we went to the real LegoLand in Winter Haven, FL, about 45 minutes south of Disney. Talk about mind-boggling creations! I can’t imagine how much fun it must have been to build all those skyscrapers and landmarks and animals and dinosaurs and people — a fantastic collection of Lego masterpieces, though I have to say that, to me, none was as awe-inspiring as that dragon.

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New York City skyscrapers, LEGOLAND, FL

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Washington, DC, LEGOLAND, FL

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Tower Cathedral, LEGOLAND, FL

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LEGO Ford Explorer, LEGOLAND, FL

Giraffes

LEGO Giraffes! LEGOLAND, FL

Dinosaur

LEGOLAND, FL

Knight

LEGOLAND, FL

BlueLady

LEGOLAND, FL

DarthVader

LEGOLAND, FL

R2D2

LEGOLAND, FL

On the way home, we stopped at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. My son’s dream is to be a NASCAR driver, so this was the highlight of the trip for him. He got to see the racecars of some of his favorite drivers and actually sit in a racecar and “drive” in simulated races. He would have kept on driving until the cows came home, as they say, if I’d have let him. But unfortunately, we did have to get back on the road.

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My son driving the #16 Racing Sim car.

We all had so much fun on the trip. It was by far the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever!

 

And now for the Writing Update:

The last couple of weeks have been a little crazy, so I didn’t get much writing time, but I did add another 600 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three. I’m happy to still be moving forward despite everything. And there’s a three-day weekend coming up. Can’t wait to get back at it!

Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with D?

 

 

 

 

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IWSG and A to Z Challenge: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: C is for Caribbean Cruise

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

I don’t really have any new insecurities at the moment, just the usual ones, so I’m going to move on to the IWSG question for this month: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE?

The things that help me to be the most productive are a good night’s sleep and a quiet house. It’s impossible for me to concentrate and think creatively if I have a tired brain or too many distractions that disrupt my focus. Sometimes going outside and either taking a walk or just getting some fresh air helps clear my head if the words aren’t coming as easily as I’d like. Another thing I find helpful is to go back and re-read the last several pages I’ve written or even the previous chapter. Many times, when I get back to where I left off, the way forward becomes clear, and I’m back on track and ready to dive into my characters’ next adventure.

And speaking of adventures, it’s now on to the A to Z Challenge!

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.

C is for – Caribbean Cruise

I went on my first and only cruise way back in September of 1988. I always thought it would be a fun thing to do — to sail on the ocean and visit tropical locales like you see in the movies. The first things that struck me when I landed in Miami (besides the heat) were the palm trees. I had never seen real palm trees before, only pictures. That may sound kind of silly, but I found them really interesting.

Things didn’t go quite as planned in the beginning of this adventure. Someone was supposed to meet me at the airport and give me a ride to the ship, the Caribe, where I would then meet up with the tour group I would be traveling with. No one was there, however, so I ended up hopping a bus that took me to the port where the cruise ship was docked. Of course, there were several ships docked there, and, not being able to see the names, I had no idea which was the Caribe, but after stopping and asking a few people for directions, I did find the right ship.

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After I made it onboard and got settled in my cabin, I discovered a not-so-fun thing about cruises: ships rocking in the ocean make me seasick. And we hadn’t even left the dock. That prompted a visit to the ship’s doctor who gave me a shot and some motion sickness pills that solved that problem.

Things went much more smoothly after that. Our first stop was in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. It was my first time visiting a developing country. I remember bartering with one of the natives for an amber necklace and bracelet. The differences in the way of life between the people there and where I live were both eye-opening and sobering and made me think about how many things in my world I took for granted. We visited a market place, took a scenic drive past sugar cane fields, and spent some time on a lovely beach.

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Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Our second stop was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We took a tour through the city and saw the capitol building and some other places. Some of the city’s streets have the unique feature of being paved with blue cobblestones. Apparently, when the Spanish sailed across the Atlantic to the West Indies looking for gold in the 1700s, they brought the blue cobblestones with them as ballast in their ships. They left the cobblestones behind when they took the gold back to Spain, and the people of San Juan used the cobblestones to pave their streets. A few of the original cobblestones still exist. There’s a legend that says if you stop to listen, you can hear the footsteps of the Spanish soldiers who once walked the streets.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Capitol Building, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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If you look really closely, you can see the blue cobblestones through the bus window on the right.

We also visited Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, a citadel built by the Spanish between the 16th and 18th centuries to protect the entrance to San Juan Bay against seafaring enemies. The citadel was used as a military base by the US during World War I and II.

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San Felipe Del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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San Felipe Del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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San Felipe Del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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View from San Felipe Del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

From there, it was on to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, the land of amazing beaches. We took another scenic tour, shopped in the shopping district, and enjoyed the white sands and gorgeous turquoise water.

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Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. My ship, the Caribe, is the little ship behind the huge Sovereign of the Seas in the bay on the left. The Norway is the ship farther out to sea.

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Megan’s Bay, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

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Bolongo Bay, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

The flight home was uneventful, thankfully. The Caribbean cruise was quite an experience, but I have to say that once was enough for me. I have no desire for any more ocean excursions.

 
And now for the Writing Update:

I added another 1,000 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three, since my last A to Z post. Feels like a turtle pace, but at least it’s moving forward.

Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with C?

 

 

 

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge 2020: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: B is for Balloons

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.

Next up in the A to Z Challenge:

B is for – Balloons! — The Hot Air variety

Riding in a hot air balloon has been on my bucket list for a long time. Floating through the sky at a tranquil pace, breathing in the fresh air of early morning as we slip over the landscape at the whim of a light breeze, high above the troubles of the world, seeing only the beauty — just the thought of it is relaxing to me.

HotAirBalloon_Rainbow

I love going to balloon festivals and watching the balloons fill with hot air and then slowly rise up into the sky and float away. These are some photos from past festivals over the years.

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HotAirBalloon_BalloonsTakingOff_1

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The first manned hot air balloon flight launched in 1783 in France, piloted by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis François d’Arlandes. Their balloon was made of paper and linen and filled with smoke and heated air. They flew about 5 ½ miles (9 km), from the middle of Paris to the suburbs, in about 25 minutes. Click HERE to see a photo and read more about this amazing feat.

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HotAirBalloon_RWB_RibbonStripe

Most modern balloons are made of nylon, and propane is used to heat the air that makes the balloon rise.

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On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania launched from Bombay, India, and set the world altitude record for highest hot-air-balloon flight, reaching 69,850 feet (21,290 m). He landed 150 miles (240 km) south in Panchale.

HotAirBalloon_TulipStripe

Steve Fossett was the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a hot air balloon. In just under 15 days in 2002, he flew his balloon, the Spirit of Freedom, from Australia, across the Pacific Ocean, over the southern tip of South America, across the Atlantic, over South Africa, and across the Indian Ocean back to Australia. Click HERE to learn more.

HotAirBalloon_Seagulls

In 2016, Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov broke the circumnavigation record by piloting his 10-stories-tall hot air balloon approximately 21,000 miles around the world in 11 days. Click HERE to read more about this and his other adventures.

HotAirBalloon_CheckeredRainbow

To this day, I still remember an early encounter with a balloonist, who was drifting over the rural area in Vermont near where I grew up. My family and I, along with my neighbors, ran out to see this huge, low-flying balloon skimming not far above the trees, propane fire roaring intermittently to keep it from descending — a real novelty for us. We waved at the pilot; I wondered where he had come from and how he had gotten way out here. The pilot waved back and yelled, “Where am I?”

I don’t recall who answered him or what they said, I was just a kid then. The balloon floated up over the ridge and continued on its way, and I never did know where it finally ended up. But I’ll never forget the enchantment of seeing that beautiful balloon, and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to ride in one.

Someday soon, I plan to find out.

HotAirBalloon_MickeyMouse

And now for the Writing Update:

I added another 1,000 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three, over the last two weeks. Not as much as I’d hoped, but still progress!

Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with B?

 

Sources:

https://www.space.com/16595-montgolfiers-first-balloon-flight.html

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10216056/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/away-indian-tycoon-soars-record/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_altitude_record

https://www.balloonsoverbritain.co.uk/around-the-world-flights-first-successful-solo

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/502451/remembering-steve-fossetts-2002-solo-round-world-balloon-flight

https://www.businessinsider.com/fedor-konyukhov-hot-air-balloon-world-record-2016-7

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_air_balloon

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.

 

IWSG and A to Z Challenge: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: A is for Ancestral Castles

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first insecure-writers-support-group-badge Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

For me, insecurities come and go, but the one that seems to be hanging around the most right now, as I work on the third book in the Trouble series, is: What if this book doesn’t live up to the first two books in the series? I’ve had people tell me they love the series so far (which I love hearing!), and sometimes I worry that maybe future stories won’t be as successful. But I keep telling myself there’s no way to answer that question until I get the book done, so I need to push those worries aside and keep on writing.

 

Now on to the A to Z Challenge!

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.

2020_A2Z_Badge

A is for – Ancestral Castles

I had always wanted to go to Scotland. My heritage, and that of my late husband, both lie in that beautiful isle. Her wild, purple-heathered moors, centuries-old castles, and rugged Highlands still call to me, and the sound of bagpipes is music to my soul. Twenty-five years ago this summer, we visited Scotland and went in search of our ancestral castles.

Clan MacLachlan hails from the lands of Strathlachlan on Loch Fyne in the county of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland. It’s one of the oldest Scottish Highland clans. According to clan history, the clan is descended from Lachlan Mor, who lived on Loch Fyne in the late 13th century. Old Castle Lachlan dates back to that time. The MacLachlans were Jacobites, whose goal was to restore the Stuart line to the throne of England and Scotland. According to the Old Lachlan Castle website (http://www.oldcastlelachlan.com/about/clan-maclachlan):

“Lachlan, the seventeenth chief of Clan Maclachlan, supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and died leading the clan at the battle of Culloden in 1746. Following the defeat a Government ship is believed to have sailed up Loch Fyne and shelled Castle Lachlan, forcing the chief’s family to abandon it.”

When we visited, the castle was a pensive ruin, overgrown with grass, trees, and vines. I loved imagining what it must have looked like in its heyday, the stories it could tell.

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My family traces back to Robert the Bruce, seventh lord of Annandale, who was crowned King Robert I of Scotland in 1306. In the war for Scottish independence, he and his forces defeated the English at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Clan Bruce lands lie in the Lowlands of Scotland in the county of Dumfries and Galloway. One of the seats of the lords of Annandale was Lochmaben Castle, originally built in the mid-twelfth century by the first Robert Bruce as an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. Scottish history describes the castle this way (http://www.castlesfortsbattles.co.uk/dumfries_galloway/lochmaben_castle.html):

“Once a mighty Royal fortress at the forefront of the Wars for Independence, Lochmaben Castle changed hands between English and Scottish forces over a dozen times as the fortunes of each side ebbed and flowed.”

The castle ultimately fell after being bombarded by the English in a two-day siege in 1588. A few of the walls still stood when we were there, a tribute to the stubbornness and indomitable spirit of the Scots.

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Our trip around Scotland was amazing, full of adventure, discovery, laughter, and love. Scotland is a truly magical place, so it’s not surprising that her National Animal is the Unicorn. Alas, I didn’t see any while I was there, but maybe next time…

 

And now for the Writing Update:

I added almost 6,000 words to my WIP, Trouble Times Three, during the month of March. That’s way more than I’ve been accomplishing, so I’m excited about my progress! Crossing my fingers I can keep it up!

 

Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with A?

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge 2020, Modified Version, and Writing Updates

Spring is my favorite time of year. I love to see new growth poking up through the dirt, flowers blossoming, and the leaves budding on the trees. The smell of the air on cool, crisp mornings is rejuvenating. Spring brings with it the promise of renewal after the raw, relentless days of winter. Spring brings hope, which is something we can all use right now, in the midst of the pandemic currently plaguing the world. 2020_A2Z_Badge

In the blogging world, Spring brings the April A to Z Challenge. I haven’t participated for a few years due to time constraints. It’s been a while since I’ve done any blogging at all for the same reasons. But I’ve been wanting to get back into it, and the A to Z Challenge seems like the perfect time to jump back in. This will have to be a modified version, though, since time is still a precious commodity. My plan is to post every two or three weeks and spread it out over the year, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.

My theme for the A to Z Challenge: My Bucket List! — Past, Present, and Future. I’ll be blogging about items on my bucket list that I’ve accomplished and those that are still adventures-in-waiting.

I’m also planning to use these posts to give writing updates on my current WIP, Trouble Times Three, to help keep me moving forward with it. The one benefit of being ordered to stay home due to the corona virus is that I have more writing time, a silver lining around a very dark cloud.

So in the meantime, until the Challenge officially starts, please check out the book trailer video I made for my WIP and the book cover animations by morganwrightbooks.com on my new animations page. For the best view, try full screen mode. See everyone on April 1st!

 

 

 

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.

League of VT Writers Meeting Recap and Barnes & Noble Prep

I really enjoyed the League of VT Writers “Into the Words” Retreat and Member Showcase I attended last Saturday. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont was just lovely, and the rain held off until right after the close of the meeting.

VT poet Jerry Johnson's restored schoolhouse home in Albany, VT Photo Credit: Jerry Johnson

VT poet Jerry Johnson’s restored schoolhouse home in Albany, VT
Photo Credit: Jerry Johnson

By the time I arrived and got my table set up with my book display, the meeting was already in full swing. Unfortunately, I missed the first round of seminars/workshops, but I still had three more sessions with four or five workshops each from which to choose. I brought my teen son with me, and he did a great job manning the table, so I could lose myself in a wonderful literary summer camp.

In “Blogging Boot Camp,” VT author J.P. (Joy) Choquette went over the basics of blogging, the various platforms, and how important social media is to a good marketing strategy. I learned there is a tool called a Website grader that will analyze your site and tell you what’s up to snuff and what needs work. Here are a couple of links that list several graders: https://blog.bufferapp.com/website-graders-content-scores and http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29274/HubSpot-Launches-Free-Marketing-Grader-Tool-to-Replace-Website-Grader.aspx. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I plan to at some point.

“Performance Techniques for Writers” with retired theater arts and public speaking teacher J.S. Grant was chock full of tips and tricks on how to prepare yourself for a public reading of your work. J.S. showed us muscle relaxation techniques, such as shoulder rolls and gentle neck stretches, and deep breathing techniques to help with nervousness and projecting your voice. Saying “me mo me mo…” and “fa-da-da-da” repeatedly is an old actors’ trick that helps loosen your lips and tongue.

J.S. was engaging and funny as she led us through these preparations and then had us practicing our articulation with tongue-twisters. I discovered that I am incapable of saying, “The sea ceaseth us and sufficeth us.” And spitting is good. It means you’re enunciating your “t’s” and “p’s” properly. One other great tip — if you are doing your reading in front of a microphone, always inhale through your mouth. If you inhale through your nose, everyone in the audience will hear it.

In the last workshop I attended, author M. Larose read from her YA fantasy novel, The Flower Eater. Keeping in mind what I had just learned, I thought she did a great job. Later, she and I swapped books with promises to read and review. I sold four books, in addition to the swap, and I also picked up a copy of Stella Rose, by Tammy Flanders Hetrick. She was the author I had observed at her Barnes & Noble book signing in May and later blogged about it HERE. It was fun meeting her (she had found my blog and commented on it), and we shared a laugh over it.

And speaking of Barnes & Noble, I’ve been contacting area newspapers and other media outlets and submitting press release info for my book signing event Friday evening. I wrote the release info with the who/what/where/etc. in three formats: bullet form, paragraph form, and as an ad, to fit each media’s requirements. I put up fliers around town. Don’t be afraid to ask about putting up fliers. You never know who will say yes. Besides the library, the local Hannaford grocery store put one up on their bulletin board right where everyone leaving the store can see it. Even the dentist I’ve been going to for years said they’d put one up for me.

I’ve also been getting my swag together. I have book cards, personalized pens (with book title and author name) from PenFactory.com, and I’m in the process of making cord necklaces with gold and silver sword charms, which I love. What’s really neat is that the swords fit into the hands of my Lego book characters. (I made Lego people that look like my three main characters.) Now if I could just figure out what I’m going to wear, I’ll be all set. 🙂

 LegoBookCharacters

BookCards

PensInBox

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SwordCharms

 

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

Guest Interview on Celine Jeanjean’s Blog

Today I’m being interviewed by the fabulous Celine Jeanjean on her blog, Down the Rabbit Hole. The interview is part of her “What interesting things did you find while researching your book?” series. Hop on over to read about spooky swamps and having fun with swords. 🙂

Here’s the link:

https://celinejeanjean.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/an-interview-with-lori-maclaughlin/

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.