Do You Really Need a New Craft?

Over Christmas break, my day job closes for 10 days. Most years, that’s catch-up and family time, but this year, I was determined it would be a true rest for me. The pandemic has created a lot of mental overwhelm for me and I knew, going into the new year, that I needed to step back from everything and just hibernate for a while. Focus on me, sleep, and time with my family. For once, that’s actually what I did! (I know, all of my fellow achievers are just as shocked as I am…) I spent a lot of time planning (which is both helpful and crafty…I decorate spreads on my Passion Planner that I use to track goals throughout the year). Reading. Journaling. Cooking…and starting a new art journal. Wait…what? Collage of 4 pages of art journaling in process.Do Yes, if you are a craft person, you know how the lure of a new artistic expression can sneak up and overtake you. I happened to be playing around on YouTube and came across an artist’s channel called The Unexpected Gypsy. Lovely woman from Wales with the most soothing accent of all time! In addition to painting, sketching, etc, she does art journaling. Now, I’ve seen it before, and always thought it looked cool, but never actually tried doing it. Here’s what drew me:
  1. It can be as complicated or uncomplicated as you like.
  2. It can be about anything that interests you…important or unimportant.
  3. No measurable goals.
  4. Whatever you create can be added to, covered over, layered until it is transformed into whatever final vision you want.
I’m very goal driven, to the point that being off from my goals by even a small bit can make me feel like a total loser. Every craft I’ve ever tried has turned into an obligation in some way. But not this. I can’t sell it, measure it, or create it for someone else. So this would be pure artistic expression…something that excites me and allows me to return to the fundamentally creative person that I’ve always been. Sound like fun? What excites you at the moment? Dani Don't forget to grab your copy of HOLIDAY STORM before it goes off sale next week! Currently only 99 cents! Check it out HERE!

Dark Destiny Sneak Peek!

Dark Destiny releases Today!

Read Chapter One below!

Dark Destiny book cover with title and woman standing in front of an abandoned hospital.

 

Blurb:

She knew something incredible waited in the shadows of the abandoned mental institution, but she never imagined it would lead to love.

Jamie Dixon and her fellow video game developers set out to document the layout of the famed Harrington Institute for the Mentally Ill. Then an accident leaves her to explore the decaying buildings with only Ian, the one guy she’s crushed on since high school. Too bad he never seemed to notice she was a nerd of the girly variety.

But Ian Jameson has a secret agenda for coming to Harrington. As they uncover the ramblings of an abusive doctor, evidence of a secret prisoner and an obsession over an ancestral line, Jamie and Ian discover a passion that transcends their former workplace camaraderie.

Are ghosts leading them to the truth of Harrington’s haunted history…or to the promise of a future beyond friendship?

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Jamie Dixon braced herself as the pickup truck turned off the main highway onto the road leading to Harrington Institute for the Mentally Ill. The big vehicle shifted back and forth as the ruts in the little-used road grew unavoidable. She kept as stiff as possible, trying not to bump against Ian Jameson despite the lack of space.

The temptation to lean a little closer, to let her body brush his, had been a struggle the entire ride up from Covington. She told herself she was trying to maintain her self-sufficient façade, but the truth was the last thing she wanted was for him to think she was deliberately invading his space. Even if there wasn’t much she could do about it in the truck cab. But Ian had never shown any indication of noticing her as a girl—even after seven years none of the guys in their close-knit group had—and she had no desire to push herself on him.

Even if he did smell really good at the moment.

That might not be true after a weekend spent mapping out the abandoned institute with no showers or running water. Not that she should be focused on that part of being here.

Since their first video game had gone viral, three of their group of five were here to record the interiors of the institute in preparation for building their next big thing. She’d been excited about the trip for months. The surely haunted, spooky building was right up her alley.

The fact that they even got permission from the owner was a miracle. The institute was rumored to be haunted, but the owners had never allowed investigators in before now. Maybe she’d see a ghost along with the deteriorating walls and floors.

The truck jerked as one of the tires dipped into a deep hole in the cracked asphalt. Caught unawares, Olivia’s body pitched to the side, smacking her forehead against the window with a loud thud. Instantly pain exploded, causing her eyes to water, her vision blurring for a moment.

“Easy, Becker,” Ian said.

“Sorry, man. I’m just trying to get us there before the rain hits.”

Jamie understood his urgency. They had a huge amount of equipment in the back of the vehicle, which would’ve been safer in a van, but none of them had one. With just the three of them taking the trip, it made sense to use Becker’s truck. Only the last thing they wanted was to have rain pouring down on it, and the clouds had grown thicker and lower the farther north they’d driven into the mountains.

And that would ruin every last plan Jamie had meticulously laid out before coming here.

She was distracted from thoughts of her To Do list when Ian turned toward her, twisting as best he could in a tight space. “Are you okay?”

She looked up at him, blinking her eyes a little. “Yes,” she assured him even though her temple throbbed. Because that’s what she did. As the only girl in their group of gamers, she was not about to appear weak in front of any of them. Especially Ian. The rest of the guys were like brothers to her, but she’d never been able to see Ian that way.

Probably never would.

Instead of accepting her assurance that she was fine, Ian lifted his hand to brush his thumb over the sore spot on her temple. “It’s awfully red,” he said. “Are you sure you aren’t hurt?”

The truck shook again, and Ian cupped the side of her head as if to keep it steady. Jamie tried to tell herself it was his usual responsible self watching over her.

Under normal circumstances, Ian would have pulled back immediately. For that matter, he never would’ve touched her in the first place. Never had. But the diminishing warmth of the sun and the tingle from his skin against hers had her eyes widening, her gaze arrowing straight for his.

An almost confused expression crossed his handsome face. As if he wasn’t sure what he was feeling but his hand didn’t move. In fact, his fingers curled a little bit as if to burrow into her hair.

Jamie felt a sudden tightness around her lungs, making it hard to draw breath. She was familiar with her attraction to him. Something she’d always kept hidden from him, from the group, so she didn’t risk upsetting what they all had together. Only her close circle of girlfriends from Covington Corner knew.

But did his current expression mean…could he possibly be feeling it too? After all these years?

Slowly he pulled back, his hand curling in on itself. As he shifted back into place, what little light there was glinted off the diamond stud in his ear. Jamie blinked away a sheen of moisture from her eyes. Ian had started wearing the stud the year before. It was his mother’s, who had died in a car accident. Though it added an edge to his blue-eyed, blond boy-next-door look, every time she saw it she was reminded of his overwhelming grief when the only parent he’d ever known had been taken from him.

For a moment, she thought he might speak to her. Instead he muttered in Becker’s direction, “Just be careful. We don’t want everything wet, but it doesn’t need to be broken either.”

And there was the Ian she knew. Always watching out for them. Always worried about safety. Between the two of them, they’d been dubbed the “parents” of the group. Always taking care of the business stuff and keeping everyone on track.

Even ten years after high school, the rest of the guys were still carefree and fun-loving. Though they were able to step up when necessary. Until this last year, they’d all held stable IT jobs that put food on the table.

They needed this to work to make those resignation letters a thing of the past.

She released a low, slow breath as they continued to navigate the obviously neglected drive. That had been a close call. Knowing her tendency to relive and worry over every interaction with Ian, she forced herself to think about something else.

Instead she studied the road. The concrete had cracked like a web through the original pavement, leaving it bumpy and full of holes. Better watch closely. She didn’t need to hit her head on the window again. Then her weekend would be over really quick.

That was the last thing she wanted—that any of them wanted. The chance to explore Harrington Institute had come after a long process of repeated requests and extensive paperwork, but they were determined to represent the building as authentically as possible to set their next video game apart.

They’d built their first one right out of high school, the five members of the video game club no one in the school had ever acknowledged. They’d met in the basement, talked over things no one else cared about or understood, and unknowingly built their futures. They’d released the game indie and thought nothing of it besides a few updates to keep their skills sharp. There were no illusions that it was going anywhere—they’d just been kids, after all.

But they continued to meet on a regular basis to play with computers and coding and their love of geek lore. They’d had the idea for a sequel for years but never really moved forward on it.

Then last year, a Big Name gaming influencer had plucked their game from the obscurity of the Internet and loved it. His raves over live play had pushed their game into the spotlight, and the orders had rolled in.

They were all making a fortune in a way they’d never dreamed possible—doing what they loved. Now was the time to release a huge game number two—before the spotlight disappeared.

And Harrington Institute for the Mentally Ill was just the place to set it. Jamie had spent many, many hours researching the history of one of the most famous mental institutions of the time period in the southern United States…and every page sent shivers down her spine. Current pictures had been hard to come by, but she had no doubt it wouldn’t disappoint.

The place had been vacant for almost twenty years. Before that it had housed hundreds of people seeking treatment for everything from mild depression to psychotic tendencies. A few murders had taken place. Even more suicides.

There had to be a mystery or two left inside.

The truck broke free of the trees that had crowded against the drive. Jamie sucked in a breath as the huge building came into view.

Patterned after the Kirkbride building tradition used during that time period in the United States, three stories of brick manor stared at them with empty eyes. Jamie almost expected to see a figure appear behind one of the cracked windows. The immediate area around the buildings still had a trim sloping lawn, but what she could see of the woods from behind seemed to creep ever closer. Another shiver shot down Jamie’s spine.

“The perfect Halloween attraction, right, Jamie?” Becker asked.

The other love all of them shared—haunted houses. The thrill of the scare had led to the building of their first horror action game. The ultimate haunted house adventure—escape if you can.

“You know it!” Jamie loved all things about the creepy season. Scary movies. Haunted houses. Spooky settings and decorating for Halloween. Though she’d let that go this year knowing she’d be gone on this trip.

They all had their hands full right now.

“You’ve got brass balls, girl,” Becker said.

Not really, Jamie thought as she stared up at the broken windows, wondering if the shifting shadows were just her imagination, the movement of the truck, or something...otherworldly. She did enjoy the adrenaline rush of a good scare, but Harrington Institute was a whole other ball game. There was no telling what they might run into inside, and Jamie was a firm believer that untethered souls still lived on in some version or another after they died. She’d had plenty of time to think about it when each of her girlfriends had lost family members over the last several years.

But she wasn’t about to let the guys see how unsettled she was.

“Dude,” Becker said, the way he drew out the word telling her she wasn’t the only one impressed.

Ian remained completely silent and still as the truck wound around the circular drive in front of the colossal, creepy building, coming to a stop before the main entry steps. Jamie stared up at the vine-covered brick walls, her excitement growing, but underneath a touch of trepidation lingered that had her heart beating a little harder in her throat.

Movement in the doorway caught her attention.

“Someone’s there,” she said.

“That should be the caretaker, Vincent,” Becker said.

“Time for the adventure to start,” Ian said from right over her shoulder. She glanced back at him, only to see his gaze shift from her to the building beyond.

She wanted to say something, to return to the intimacy of earlier, but couldn’t take the risk. Instead she opened the door and slid off the high seat to land both feet on the ground.

She moved forward with Becker to meet the caretaker at the bottom of the wide stairs, even as she was conscious of Ian behind her.

“Vincent, I presume,” Becker said, holding out his hand to shake.

The caretaker looked at his hand, then over at the truck, then spit to the side. Jamie noticed that he shifted a wad of what was probably tobacco behind his lip. It ruined the almost Santa-like appearance he had going on with his gray beard and overalls. He nodded toward the tarped bed of the pickup. “That’s a lot of equipment,” he said, his tone gruff and belligerent.

Becker cocked his head to the side, obviously picking up on the same vibe as Jamie. “Well, it takes a lot to do the job we’re here for. Cameras, lighting, plus safety equipment.” He nodded towards the house. “Don’t wanna take any chances out here, this far from town.”

Vincent seemed to calm a little at Becker’s professional approach. “At least it’s not the rocks and spray paint we found from other visitors.”

Ian stepped a little closer. “Do you get a lot of vandalism out this way?”

Vincent shook his head, relaxing a little more. “Not a huge amount, especially since they hired me on full-time as a caretaker about ten years ago. I worked as an orderly the better part of thirty years when the Institute was open for business. But trespassers aren’t common. We’re too far from town for that. Just teenagers on a dare, for the most part. We keep a close eye on everything, so that helps.” He looked back at Becker. “I’m still surprised the boss is letting you in. You’re lucky he agreed at all. I guess everything being torn down is making him soft. Bring the contract?”

Becker pulled an envelope out of his back pocket. “Here’s the signed copy. And there was an electronic copy sent to the lawyer. But don’t worry, I’ll take good care of her.”

Vincent shook his head. “I don’t understand why anyone would wanna roam around here for three days.”

Becker laughed. “We’re going to make it famous, dude,” he said, resorting to his overly laid-back manner.

“That’s all we need,” Vincent said, spitting again.

Jamie got the feeling he was expressing a feeling rather than a true need. Vincent seemed to be getting himself worked up. He started waving his hands as he spoke. “People running around, ruining things.” He turned to walk back up the steps, his voice carrying through the silence of the valley. “Raving about stuff they don’t understand. Disturbing things that shouldn’t be messed with—”

His rant cut off as he walked through the front doors of Harington. Jamie exchanged a knowing look with the guys.

“Stuff they don’t understand?” Becker asked, keeping his voice quiet. “Guess this place is as haunted as it looks…”

They all grabbed a piece of equipment out of the back of the truck, then headed up the stairs themselves.

“There should be an open foyer in the very front of the house where we can set everything up,” Jamie said.

“Are you going to be a know-it-all this whole time, James?” Becker asked.

Jamie clenched her teeth. He knew she hated it when he called her that, and she wasn’t about to let him ruin this for her. But she couldn’t resist a little dig of her own. “At least somebody did some research, Becky. We needed to prepare somehow.”

Becker smirked back at her over his shoulder. “You know I prefer to wing it.”

Ian threw in his two cents. “Don’t you mean that you prefer to waste our time wandering around aimlessly? Because we’re only getting three days. Remember that.”

“And well you should.” Vincent’s voice echoed off the high ceiling of the spacious entryway. Jamie jumped even though she knew she shouldn’t. The last thing she wanted to show was fear.

“That contract says three days. So when I come back on Monday afternoon, you’d better be packed and ready to go. Mr. Harrington may have let you come out here, but I’m gonna make you stick to the letter of the law.”

Jamie tried to distract herself from Vincent’s unwelcoming demands by taking in the incredible view of the entryway itself. The very front of the building was anchored with a long, rectangular central square from which the wings fanned out along the back sides. Stepping through the front doors led to an entry the size of a ballroom. At least two stories tall with a huge crystal chandelier that made Jamie nervous despite the metal chain anchoring it. The side walls were lined with a series of stained-glass windows leading to a grand staircase at the far end. Though the light outside was weak with the incoming storm, it still created incredible patterns in the dust on the floor.

“Beautiful,” she breathed.

That seemed to soften Vincent up a bit. He glanced at one of the windows himself. “It is beautiful. Dr. Harrington was all about showing off to anyone who visited, but he also felt like a lot of patients came in here with fear. The patterns in the windows were meant to distract them, give them something to focus on other than the turmoil in their own brains.” He shrugged. “Don’t know if it worked or not, but this is one of the few serene spots in the entire building.”

Ian set down his box. “Then it’s definitely a good place to sleep.”

“I’ll leave you to it then,” Vincent said, turning toward the back of the room. “I’ll let myself out and see y’all on Monday. Watch your step around here.” He paused to throw out, “That storm brings a lot of rain, it may wash over the road. You won’t want to be driving anywhere tomorrow.”

They watched as he disappeared into the shadows on one side of the impressive staircase facing them. Then came the sound of a door closing in the distance. Becker glanced back at them. “Isn’t he a bowl of jolly?”

They shared a laugh, then headed back out to the truck to get the equipment. Luckily set-up was fairly quick as Ian assembled some cots and a base camp, while Becker and Jamie sorted the various sets of cameras and flashlights and computers needed to map out rooms for realistic rendering.

“The generator can run some lights tonight and charging stations. We just need to reserve it so we don’t run out of gas,” Ian said.

“There’s plenty, dude,” Becker insisted.

“Maybe, but you never know when you might need it for an emergency,”

Jamie said, backing Ian up. Then again, she usually did. Ian was the sensible one in the group. It was if he’d spent a lifetime with responsibilities, unlike most unmarried 28-year-olds. He’d always been the voice of reason when the other guys were being stupid over something. Plus they didn’t fuss as much when the orders came from a fellow man, so she could usually trust Ian to take care of any unsafe nonsense that was gonna break a bone or knock a noggin.

“You know what that means, Jamie,” Becker said.

She didn’t trust the mischievous note in his voice in the least little bit.

“No lights on to keep the bogey-man away!”

She pretended to shiver, though the atmosphere here did leave her a little shaken. “Oh, Becker, I’m scared!” Then she scoffed, “What do you think I am, ten?”

“You are a girl. Aren’t they all scaredy-cats?”

“Maybe,” Ian conceded before looking Jamie’s way with a wink. “But I have a feeling this one would whoop your ass before admitting to it.”

“Touché. You know me well, my friend,” she said, glowing a little inside at his acknowledgment.

“That I do.”

The look he threw her way made her breath catch in her throat. Jamie had better be careful or she’d be seeing stuff that wasn’t there… literally!

In less than an hour, they were loading up their packs to start exploring. Jamie stared down at the map spread out on their war table.

“Okay, everyone has a copy of the map on their phones,” Ian said. “Today we will orient ourselves with this center portion.”

He indicated the central body of the building with a long finger. “This should have some of the main administrative rooms, nurses’ stations, the cafeteria, and kitchens. Then we will split up to map out each floor in B wing. Those should all be the same, mirroring each other and C wing in the other side. Except for a few key spots, like the chapel in C wing. And the basement corridors.”

“What’s down there?” Becker asked.

Jamie answered. “Medical rooms. Some doctors’ offices. And the morgue.”

“Ooh! Don’t get scared now, Becker,” Ian joked.

They all laughed as Becker flipped Ian off.

As they stood in the center of the foyer, Jamie shifted her pack to a little more comfortable position. It was heavier than she’d thought. She’d probably be hurting each night. Good thing she’d brought ibuprofen.

Each room would be measured, videoed, and photographed so that they didn’t lose any details. Plus they all had body cams to record some of the sights while walking through the building. Jamie started with the close-up pictures for details, while Becker videoed and Ian measured. Later they would split up and do all the steps on their own.

“These windows will make a killer atmospheric entrance,” Jamie said as she snapped picture after picture. Each window had a different layout. Even though they all used the same color scheme, the colors resided in different places. Their pointed arch shape reminded her of church sanctuary windows.

“We can really do a lot with those,” Becker agreed.

Jamie also took close-ups of the floor tile patterns, wall textures, and what furniture remained, all while taking notes in her travel journal for reference when she downloaded everything.

“Let’s move then,” Ian said after a final look around.

They met at the base of the staircase. “Up or down?” he asked as they took in the dilapidated majesty of what had once been sparkling marble.

“This doesn’t look like the most practical choice for a hospital,” Becker pointed out as he rested his boot on the first step.

“No,” Jamie agreed, “but from what I read, Dr. Harrington was wealthy and wanted people to be impressed. He had regular visitors from the political realm to support his work and research, along with notable scientists. I have a feeling this was as much a showpiece as anything.”

The once-white marble with gray veins rose to a first-floor landing, flanked on both sides by dust-coated, intricate iron railings. Whatever color the wide runner had once been was now darkened with age and dirt, leaving it to look like a threadbare rust stain.

“Makes sense. But one good fall and you’d crack your skull on this thing,” Becker joked. “Voila. New patients.”

“There’s actually another stairwell behind it for nurses and patients at the back of A wing,” Jamie said. “This one only goes from here to the second-floor waiting area, which is probably as opulent as the décor down here. Then you have to use the other staircases to move up and down...or the antiquated elevator system that was installed in each wing.”

“Hell, no,” Becker said with a sharp shake of his head. “I am not about getting stuck in no antique elevator.”

“For once I agree,” Ian said. “Let’s head up here, map that room, then move to the other stair system.”

Their steps echoed into empty space as they climbed.

“The second-floor waiting area was for visitors and for families of first-time admits,” Jamie explained.

For a moment they stood at the top of the stairs to take in the tattered surroundings. “Here they waited on plush sofas and were served tea while they filled out their paperwork to set them at ease. It was obviously a different environment from what their family members would be enduring.”

Thick curtains that must have reeked of affluence fifty years ago now hung in shreds from the tall windows. Only a couple of settees remained and not in any condition Jamie would have sat on. A few broken chairs and small tables were scattered around. But she could feel the echo of the elegance that had once been used to made families feel better about leaving their loved ones in this place.

Ian huffed. “He definitely knew how to make an impression, which feels strange considering these people were probably incarcerating a family member that would never be able to leave this place.”

Becker waved his hand at the room. “But wouldn’t you rather leave your family member here than in a hospital ward? He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Though it unsettled her, Jamie knew he was right. All the literature that she’d read on Dr. Harrington had been a mix of brilliant science and the ego of a man who’d always had everything go his way. But seeing it here, the difference between this room and what she knew probably lay on each side, made her feel for the people who made up the human element of this scenario.

They mapped this room quickly too, and were able to find the entry to the other stairwell. “Let’s do the upstairs rooms while there’s still light,” Jamie said.

The atmosphere in this stairwell felt really close even though it was probably twice as wide as a residential one. More space to get more people through. But the lack of windows and years of dust left it feeling claustrophobic.

They reached the next landing, which was cluttered with stacks of chairs to one side. Jamie went first, as there was only enough room for single file. Then Becker stepped in behind her, only to catch his foot somehow and fall forward. She turned back toward him when she heard him cry out, but as his body slammed down, the floor gave out beneath them.

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Jump Off The Hamster Wheel

I am addicted to productivity. There. I admitted it. I’m either making a list of things I need to accomplish. Actually doing things I need to accomplish. Checking off things I’ve accomplished…or feeling guilty over not doing the very things I should accomplish.  😊 My therapist told me I needed to work on letting go of all this. Anyone else there with me? So when I planned my writing retreat for this month, I though it would be just like all the other writing retreats I’ve been on. The goal has always been to get as many words as humanly possible during the period of time while I’m gone. After all, how else can I justify spending that time away from my family and using my precious PTO from the day job? Titled retreat time with pictures of a house, a fountain, and seating area for writing But that’s not how it actually worked out this time. I did get writing done…but this time I actually spent time doing, well, nothing. And I’m not a nothing kind of girl!!! But my brain simply wouldn’t focus on the story. Or at least, not the writing of it. I did some planning. I did some plotting. But none of it was measured by productivity. And that was a little weird, to be honest. Usually my brain is going 90 to nothing. So I found this disconcerting but possibly a step in the right direction. A chance to let my brain work out whatever it needed to. And it helped me come home with a better perspective on some things. A determination to enjoy the small things (which isn’t easy for me, but I’m trying). I guess all of that quiet, thinking time just reinforced some of the things I’ve been trying to come to grips with over the last few months. white hamster on a hamster wheel I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with mental health this year, hoping that others will realize they aren’t alone and we can all help each other. How do you help quiet your mind? What’s your favorite fun thing that gets your brain off the hamster wheel?   Take care, Dani Don't forget to check out my Secrets of Covington Corner series! HAUNTED HERITAGE is out this month! Amazon B&N Kobo Apple books Goodreads--Add To Your TBR List!

What is the house hiding?

New Release: Haunted Heritage

LIVE TODAY! Read Chapter One below.

Cover of Haunted Heritage, blond girl in front of haunted antebellum house.

Haunted Heritage, A Secrets of Covington Corner Novella

She’d prepared to be flooded in during the storm, alone…she didn’t plan on being stranded in a haunted house with him.

With an antebellum home to protect, Olivia doesn’t waste any time in her preparations. She’d promised her employer she would take care of the place while she was in the hospital. No power and no exit route is par for the course this far from town.

But her plans didn’t include a sexy PI who seems intent on digging into her employer’s every secret. Isolated by rising flood waters, Olivia can’t get away from his questions or the heated attraction he evokes. Still she can’t shake the feeling he’s hiding something.

Will the old trunk in the attic reveal a new kind of storm? Will his investigation into a long lost heir destroy the very love they’ve both been longing for?

Chapter One

Everything’s ready.

Olivia Lanford glanced around the empty room, cataloguing her efforts.

Flashlights—check.

Lanterns—two.

Generator—gassed up.

Firewood—in the boxes to dry out.

Miss Della had taught her to be self-sufficient and prepared. Olivia wouldn’t let her down, even if her employer couldn’t be here right now. Thunder boomed outside, shaking the hundred-year-old house around her. Olivia breathed deep. Everything would be fine. She’d stayed in Miss Della’s house plenty of times during storms. The fact that this was her first time doing it alone shouldn’t make any difference.

The lights blinked; then the room went dark.

“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” she asked aloud.

It was as if the house itself heard her thoughts and was determined to prove her wrong. Or maybe it had been Mr. Mason—Miss Della’s long-dead husband. The elderly woman was convinced her husband still inhabited the house, stroking her hair as she went to sleep most nights. The idea kind of freaked Olivia out, but she’d only had to deal with some unexplained slamming doors herself. That she could handle.

She reached out in the dark to turn on one of the lanterns. No sooner did the eerie white-gray light ignite, than the phone on the counter rang. The jangling noise made Olivia jump. As her heart beat in the base of her throat, she gave a little laugh. At least there was no one to witness her jitters.

“Hello?” she said after clearing her throat.

“Hey, girl!” It was her friend, Piper. “I wanted to check on you.”

“I should have known you’d be the one to call.” In truth, Olivia relaxed a little at hearing her friend’s voice. Anyone would be rattled in this big old house, alone in a thunderstorm. Right?

“It’s my day,” Piper said with a laugh. “We didn’t want to overwhelm you.”

Olivia smiled, though her friend couldn’t see it. Her close group of girlfriends had been “checking on her” since Miss Della had gone to the hospital and she’d been staying here. “I appreciate it, though.”

“Well, we all know what it’s like to be alone.”

Olivia swallowed back a surprising surge of emotion. They did. All of them but Cara had lost their families. They’d supported each other through the losses and continued to watch out for each other, including an in-person coffee every Saturday at Covington Corner. The oldest corner to grace the downtown square had seen many changes, but now housed a cute coffee shop and outdoor seating area with a fountain. Perfect for them!

“I know the phone can go out at any minute,” Piper said, “so I’ll keep it short. Since you probably don’t have reception right now, the weatherman is saying the worst of the storm will be overnight and tomorrow early, then steady rain for several days. Watch that bridge. If the phone goes, you could be flooded in without contact for several days. Check in when you can, okay?”

“I will—”

Before Olivia could finish her sentence, the line went dead.

She stared at the receiver for a moment before putting it back on the old rotary base. That was probably her last conversation for days, as it would take a while after the storm was over for repair crews to make it this far from town. The silence settled around her for a short moment before the sounds of the storm crowded in.

Instead of letting her earlier nerves press forward, Olivia went to light the fire in the sitting room and secure the house for the night. The sound of the rain beating against the sides of the antebellum house and tin roof reverberated in her ears even though she was on the ground floor. The lantern created moving shadows on the walls as she went from room to room, never quite reaching the corners.

Olivia had loaded the woodbox earlier, here near the fireplace and on the back porch. Because she’d prepped starter in the fireplace, all she had to do was set a match to it. The days weren’t too cool this far into spring, but the nights could be, especially with the old heating system cut off. Besides, a fire would help her feel warmer…less alone…more settled, maybe?

Twenty minutes later she had a growing fire, warm pajamas, no bra, and her own comfy nest on the sofa. The flickering flames created points of light that shimmered off the fireplace bricks, golden picture frames on the walls, and the edges of the antique furniture. Olivia smiled over her fluffy blanket, hot chocolate, romance novel…everything inside of her relaxed.

She’d only read a couple of paragraphs, just enough to commiserate with the heroine’s bad first impression of the hero when an odd noise caught her attention.

Olivia cocked her head to the side. Was that more thunder? A tree falling?

No.

The repetitiveness of the thud negated her previous thoughts. What was that? She stood, staring back into the darkness of the house, the heat from the fire kissing her neck.

But she wasn’t soothed. All her senses jumped to high alert.

The next recurrence had her grabbing the flashlight from the side table. Her very special flashlight. Because that was a knock—at the front door.

Who in the world would be out here at this time of night? In this kind of storm?

For just a moment, a brief hope surged that maybe one of her brothers had taken it on himself to check on her. Maybe they cared enough— She quickly pushed it away. They wouldn’t even know where to look for her if they were even so inclined.

Which they wouldn’t be.

She edged toward the door with caution. Checking her cell was useless. It wouldn’t work in the house. But she doubted her girlfriends could reach her if she needed them, anyway. Another knock had her jumping. Then the knock turned to pounding.

“I hear you…” she murmured.

Finally she stepped into the foyer and let the beam from the flashlight hit the glass insert on the front door. A shadow shifted on the other side. A tall shadow. What the hell?

She gripped the little flashlight tight in her hand and made her way to the door. The glass insert was beveled, leaving it wavy with no clear picture of who was on the other side. Her breath sped up, sounding loud in her ears.

Olivia forced herself to think quick. Moving forward, she attached the rarely used safety chain across the door. Only then did she release the lock and pull the door open—but just a couple of inches.

“Yes?” she said to the dark figure on the other side, hating her need to clear the tightness from her throat. “May I help you?”

A man stepped into the beam of light. His dark, encompassing hoodie and faded jeans and boots that looked like he’d been wading through the mud gave a criminal first impression. Olivia couldn’t see many details of his face, except for a blondish-brown beard and abundant drops of water dripping from his clothes to the ground.

Behind him, rain washed through the air in heavy sheets that did not bode well for anyone stepping off this porch.

Not that she’d be giving him any other choice.

Fact was, she was a young woman here alone. She didn’t know this man, but she had a feeling he wasn’t supposed to be here. She kept a firm grip on the flashlight despite the door chain.

“Yes?” she asked again.

“I’m here to see Mrs. Mason.” The voice was deep, confirming he was male, and not someone she recognized.

Her stomach tightened. “She can’t come to the door right now.”

Olivia resorted to the standard southern reply. She didn’t want him knowing she was here alone. Let him make of it what he would.

“I was told this is where Mrs. Della Mason lived,” he said again. “It’s urgent that I see her.”

“Well, she can’t see you. And the power is out, so now’s not a good time. You’ll have to come back.”

“Look, it’s important.” He stepped closer to the door, blocking out sight of the rain with his broad shoulders. “It’s about her family.”

His urgency made her uneasy enough to shift on her feet. “Well, it can wait until morning. Good night.”

As she tried to shut the door, he stuck a muddy boot inside. “Look, lady. I will see her now.”

Excuse me?

Olivia's heart raced. She gripped the handle, wondering if she’d actually have to defend herself. She kept her tone firm. “You’ll do no such thing. Get back in your car and go home.”

“I haven’t come all this way just to come back tomorrow.”

Wow. This guy’s aggressiveness had all her alarm bells going off at once. Even this close, she could barely make out long lashes, a straight nose, and full lips. Surprisingly sexy lips. Every nerve ending stood on end as she glanced down at his boot, trying to determine her options.

“You don’t have any choice,” she said, not sure how she would back that up.

“Why?”

His persistence pushed her from uneasy to angry. “Go away!” she yelled as she stepped back, glancing around for something to defend herself.

Suddenly the door jerked from her hand. His grunt made her think he’d pulled it away, but then the door slammed hard against his foot. He stumbled back with a cry. Eyes wide, Olivia watched in shock as the door then banged shut…and the deadbolt clicked.

It took her a minute. She stared, trying to comprehend. Then she murmured, “Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

Serves you right, asshole…

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Mending the Broken Pieces

Green plant growing from top of broken clay pot   My daughter made this for me…she created it from a pot she painted for her succulent, so it could travel to college with her. Except, when we arrived, I knocked the pot off the seat of the car and broke it. I feel so much like this little pot sometimes. A mistake that just can’t be fixed, no matter how much effort I put into it. The cracks will always show. My struggle with depression is ongoing—but I use the term “struggle” in a positive way. I’m not giving in! I see a therapist, practice yoga and recently downloaded the Calm app to help me with mindfulness and overactive brain. Then my daughter gave me this gift and it helped me to see things in a new light. Yes, this pot was broken, but she created something beautiful from it. New life is being nurtured. Continued growth. A precious creation…no matter how small. I think I have a new goal.  😊 How about you?   Take care of yourself, Dani Cover of Shadow Manor, Title, young woman in ball gown with lights behind her Download my newest release, SHADOW MANOR, a contemporary gothic novella for only 99 cents today! Amazon Barnes & Noble Apple Books Kobo ADD TO YOUR GOODREADS TBR SHELF!

What’s He Hiding Up There?

New Release: Shadow Manor

Secrets of Covington Corner Novella

LIVE TODAY! Read Chapter One below!

Cover of Shadow Manor, Title, young woman in ball gown with lights behind her

She’d watched him from afar for years…now he’s up close and personal.

Shy librarian Cara spent her life overshadowed by her three older brothers, while secretly crushing on their best friend. After a family tragedy, he cut himself out of their lives, but she still watches his house on the hill from the darkness of her bedroom every night.

Then she gets a second chance to reveal the man behind the mask. A night of revelry leads to passion and high hopes, until her tortured hero’s troubled past rises from the shadows.

Will he retreat into the darkness once more or let obsession lead him to her love?

CHAPTER ONE

Cara Gatlin strode down the hillside path in the dark, intimately familiar with every twist, turn, and buried root that might trip her up.

Despite her mother’s many admonishments to not walk on the land that was no longer theirs, Cara couldn’t keep herself away. It called to her on long nights when her restlessness grew until she couldn’t sit still. Tonight that restlessness mixed with an overwhelming anxiety that came with the bombshells from work this week.

Besides, walking here was also her quiet form of rebellion against its new owner…under the guise of giving her parent’s new puppy a good workout before bed. Bernard might still be a baby, but his long legs and gangly body didn’t understand that.

Tonight, of all nights, Cara needed to be out in the crisp autumn air—moving, breathing, living in more than just the history books she worked with every day.

The well-worn path across the wooded hill bordering her parents’ Tennessee farm provided just enough incline to challenge her, just enough familiarity to comfort her. And hopefully the puppy would sleep all the better for running around her on the trails.

As if on cue, she found herself standing in a tiny clearing about three quarters of the way up the hill. The mature trees closed around her, providing protection. But years had taught her that standing in just the right spot gave her a clear view straight to the top… and the tall antebellum-era mansion that had stood like a monument there for so long. She could hear Bernard rustling in fallen leaves, then give a sharp bark before running off into the woods.

The two-story, boxy structure gave it a looming appearance from this angle, where the intricate wrought-iron work on the balconies blended with the darkness. Now that only one person lived there, the upper floor often remained still and inky-black. Cara was ashamed to acknowledge that she often tracked its inhabitant’s presence through the lights on the lower floor.

“What are you doing here?”

Startled, Cara spun around.

His voice was the last thing she’d expected to hear. Not the boy’s voice that she remembered as scraggly and newly deepened. No, this was the man’s voice, deep and smooth as fine bourbon, with the same amount of burn. The voice she’d heard on the news throughout the years speaking about responsibility to community and his goals of helping their fellow citizens through providing good jobs in his family’s factories.

A voice that she woke in the night thinking about, dreaming about.

Though he lived within sight of her apartment above her parents’ garage, she hadn’t actually seen him in person or spoken to him since the funeral when he had been eighteen. Ten years ago now.

Realizing that several moments of silence had passed, she pushed away her quick flash of embarrassment and answered, “I’m walking…I could ask you the same.”

“I’m not a woman in the woods, alone in the dark. That doesn’t seem to be the most prudent of decisions.” He stood several feet away, in the deepest of the darkness surrounding them. But she’d know him anywhere. The fact that he was actually present, not too far from her, sent an illicit thrill down her spine.

She tried to immerse herself in anger instead. “I’ve walked these woods all my life. I’m perfectly safe.”

“And trespassing.”

She didn’t have a justified stand against his accusation, but the quick flare in her internal fire was welcome. “I’m not hurting anything by walking here.” The strict rule-following part of her personality said her excuse was weak, but it was true, nonetheless. Just like with her brothers, she felt the sudden need to defend her choices. “I can assure you, I know how to protect myself,” she insisted.

Silence fell. Her anger faded into a sense of uneasiness that made her shift, crunching brush beneath her boots. In all the years she’d walked the trail up the hill, she’d never run into another soul. What was he doing here?

The successful businessman who lived in the house at the top of the hill. Cara’s mortal enemy.

Jacob Montgomery was a man she should never let occupy a single thought in her brain. After all, he’d walked away from her and her family despite all they’d done for him. Oh, they hadn’t had the riches or influence his family had flaunted, but when he was a child, they’d given him love and acceptance and a welcoming home away from his parents’ indifference.

As much as Cara resented it, resented him, Jacob was never far from her thoughts. An obsession she hoped her family never found out about. They would surely see it as a betrayal.

Jacob took a few steps closer, giving her a glimpse of the boyhood half smile she remembered—and never saw on TV—before the moon moved behind a bank of clouds.

Those appearances on the news only showed the super serious side of him. Never smiling or laughing. Always with a deeply contemplative expression, as if everything in life were to be pondered and picked apart. Which made her wonder just how hard his parents’ deaths had been on him.

As if on cue, she heard a rustling to her left, a low growl, then a dark shape sprang from the bushes to crowd the space between her and Jacob.

The lanky gray pup wouldn’t harm a fly, she knew, but he talked a good game with his whiny teenage growl. One day his ferocity would grow into his body and become truly intimidating. But just like her brothers, his personality was all protector with no aggressor.

She stepped forward to lay her palm on the puppy’s head, his height giving her the gift of not having to bend over. Bernard instantly sat back on his haunches and waited, but she could feel an alert tension beneath her fingers as she pet his neck.

“I guess I wasn’t alone after all,” she boasted.

Jacob braced his legs, his all-masculine stance enhanced by the arms folded over his chest. Had his shoulders really gotten that wide or was it a trick of the full moon that had her heart beating fast for all the wrong reasons?

“So that’s where all those soulful howls are coming from at night?”

She guessed the sound probably traveled up the hill to his place, if he was ever there to hear it…

“My parents got him recently. He sleeps better at night after a little walk.” Which wasn’t the only reason she was out here tonight, but it was the only one she was willing to share with him.

Her long-lost friend. Fantasy lover. Voted most out of reach for a lowly librarian.

“You didn’t say what you were doing out here.” She didn’t want to know, shouldn’t want to know, but she pressed for an answer anyway. Though he’d bought the land when her parents had been forced to sell it to pay for her brother’s medical bills, Jacob’s presence was highly unusual after all these years.

“Walking off the demons.”

Too honest. Too raw. Cara’s body went on alert, as did Bernard’s, rising to his feet as if in preparation to defend or run, she wasn’t sure which.

“I apologize for questioning you, Cara,” Jacob said, though his tone didn’t indicate any such thing. “I forgot I was dealing with a grown woman.” He moved a few steps closer, not intimidated by the big animal between them. “One old enough, and smart enough, to receive the state wide smarty pants commendation. Or should I say, the Jenkins Memorial Librarian Excellence Award?”

A jolt of surprise shot through her. Yes, the announcement from earlier in the week that she’d been chosen for a state wide award for preserving the special collections in the district library had made the news, but not the front page, like he usually did. Why would he have paid attention to that?

Only a moment later did she register the smarty pants remark, which was a phrase he and her brothers had teased her with many a time growing up. The reference was disconcerting, as was him bringing up the very thing that had left her anxious tonight.

For just a single hour, Cara wished for someone to hold her, encourage her, and tell her how the hell to get through the special event she now had to attend to represent her district at the state capital in a few weeks.

Didn’t the Powers That Be realize librarians preferred books to people?

Desperate to focus on something besides herself, she blurted out, “Special collections is nothing compared to running a company that keeps half the county employed.”

Why, oh why, did she say that? The last thing she wanted was for him to think she’d been keeping tabs on him. Even if she was…

He cocked his head to the side in a move she’d seen so many times when he was younger. But the night was too dark for her to read his expression this time. She stroked Bernard, anxious for his comforting warmth in this awkward situation.

“Well, considering your most recent collection is on my family and my father’s art, in particular, I’m grateful to know it’s in good hands.”

His words did not match his tone. Instead irritation seemed to ooze from beneath the surface of his words. Cara had forgotten that little tidbit…and the many times her requests to his lawyer for additional information and materials had been met with utter silence.

Before she could gather her courage to ask about that, he said, “Well, grown-up Cara, I believe I’ll let you get back to the house.”

The tension in her dropped a degree as he turned away, only to rebound as he paused to look back at her over his broad shoulder. “But I believe I’ll be seeing you again soon.”

Breath suspended in her lungs as he disappeared beyond the tree line. His final words circled in her mind.

“Why?” she called out, confused by the encounter after ten years of silence. Ten years of only seeing him on the screen. Knowing him only through her research on his family.

Her only answer was the whine of Bernard beside her, and the rustle of crisp autumn leaves in the night breeze.

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What’s Your Story?

It’s July 2020…if your life was a literal story, what would you make of it?

I’ll admit, we all have some scary scenarios right now. It might be boring, lonely, anxiety-inducing, a struggle…but in 6 months, where do you want to be?

 "We all have a story to tell, whether we whisper or yell" ~He is We

This is the question I’m trying to ask myself.

We’re halfway through 2020, and its been a rough one. I don’t need to go into details for all of us to know that. But I do find myself re-examining, re-evaluating in a similar way to what I do every January. Taking stock of where I am, and where I want to be. I’m sure part of it has to do with my birthday being in June. Plus, I’m a natural overthinker—that doesn’t help!

This could be a good thing, though. It helps me center myself and zero in on where I’m going, despite whatever chaos is happening in my life at the moment. And let’s just say chaos has been abundant this year…am I right?

But often that chaos makes me feel like life is happening to me. And every so often I need the reminder that life is what I make it. What I dream it can be—if I will just stop and think about how to get there despite whatever roadblocks are in the way.

It might not even be something big. That step in the right direction may be a little thing that grows with time. It’s just up to me to take a step in the right direction.

For me, right now, that means focusing down on something small that will bring me a boost in motivation and focus. At the moment, that’s my health. My exercise routine got seriously disrupted when I started working from home. So I’m working toward exercising in some way 5 days a week. My other big priority is my writing. My gothic novella series is coming along! The first two are done, and I’m writing the third. These start releasing in August. Each day I’m just trying to either plot or write or dictate, even if its only for half an hour. Every bit of progress helps me feel productive and boosts my creativity.

It feels good. And that helps me feel happy in the midst of chaos.

What small steps are you writing into your life to make the last half of 2020 worth reading? What are you writing out of your life to bring back your joy?

I’d love to talk about it! Comment below or connect with me on Facebook!

Take care,

Dani

Are You Done?

I have a really bad habit. It’s one that encourages exactly the opposite behaviors of the prolific, productive writer/human I want to be. I focus on what I haven’t gotten done, instead of focusing on what’s on my schedule, what I have time for, or what I’ve already accomplished. The spotlight only shines on What I Haven’t Done… That’s so sad. How often do we do this to ourselves? I’ll never build energy to move forward by beating myself up over the unfinished items in my wake. And that’s what I need—energy and momentum to go forth and conquer. (one of my life mottos!) This year I’ve begun working with a Kanban board, which has seriously helped my productivity and attitude. In January, when I was taking the items down to start on February’s tasks, I automatically carried all the old sticky notes to the trash can. After all, I didn’t need them anymore, right? Wrong! At the last minute, I paused. In my hand were over a dozen things I had done in January. I HAD ACCOMPLISHED these things. And let me tell ya, over the last year, I’ve been pretty paralyzed, especially in the marketing arena. Getting these things done was a huge step for me and something I should acknowledge. Hell, celebrate even! Rather than throw them away like trash, I took these precious reminders of my forward momentum and put them in this simple basket. Then I marked them as DONE. To others, this might not be important or necessary, but for me its becoming more important on a daily basis to STOP beating myself up over what I didn’t do, ant START acknowledging the things I did do, did make time for, did accomplish. Because those things are damn hard in my busy world, and that makes me a kick-ass author and person! How do you celebrate your DONE?   Dani

Reading Goals, Anyone?

I have a confession to make: I’m not a reader. Let me clarify: I used to be a reader. But between the day job, struggling to get words, and overwhelming stress, I lost my love of it somewhere. Every time I thought about picking up a book, I just turned away. Reading Then I took a class called Write Better Faster by Becca Syme in an attempt to break through my writer’s block. There I learned about my top 5 Strengths (Clifton Strengths testing). Lo and behold—all of them had to do with INPUT. Basically, my brain runs off of learning things. I have a craving for knowledge and am rejuvenated by the learning process. Except I’d stopped that process in its tracks by not reading much at all. The occasional non-fiction book or magazine was the only exception. No wonder my brain has basically stopped working! Books, Reader goal After taking Becca’s class, I started making an effort to read more, but it was haphazard. I would start fiction books, but not be able to finish them, no matter how interesting they were. I had better luck with non-fiction, which I could let sit for a few days, then come back to them and eventually finish. I’m not entirely sure why this was so hard, but I have a few suspicions.
  1. The issues going on in my brain related to the writer’s block made it extremely difficult to focus. What little “focus power” I had went to my day job and writing tasks, so there wasn’t much left for something I viewed as less important: the reading (boy, did I have that backwards).
  2. There is an idea I’ve been dedicated to for years: refilling the well. But until this very stressful time, I didn’t put it into practice with as much dedication as I should have. Then again, I didn’t know that part of what I needed to fill that well was knowledge! We often think of refilling our wells, or “self-care”, as things like taking baths and having our nails done. But our strengths give us certain needs that, when fulfilled, renew our energy and our enthusiasm far faster than anything else could. I’ve experienced this first hand!
Slowly working on this issue has helped, and I can feel that as I “input” information through reading, my brain actually loosens up and works better, ideas flow more freely. This is me working with my strengths and giving my brain the type of “food” it wants. But I’ve decided for this year to dedicate myself to this process even more. I’ve given myself a reading goal for this year. One non-fiction book and one fiction story every month. Compared to the several books a week I used to read just a couple of years ago, it doesn’t seem like much, but I’m working within a much busier life than I was then. And lingering issues from my struggles with writer’s block. Mostly, I know myself. If I don’t give myself some kind of goal, it will never happen. Productivity, Reading I’ve started my non-fiction goal with Paused to Prolific by K Webster. This is a new release that dovetails nicely with my own focus issues. It is designed to help you “write faster, stay focused, and avoid burnout”. I found it very easy to digest because the chapters are short and tightly focused, with a “coffee break” at the end to help brainstorm ideas for taking the information and putting it into practice. Webster has a conversational, humorous style that helped me relate well to the information, and I’ll never look at a squirrel the same again! What kind of reading goals do you set for yourself? Are they formal goals, or just lists of books you’d like to read? Dani

Planning My Life Away

#PlannerAddict #authorcats #planneraddict I didn’t realize until recently that this was a thing… I’ve been a planner, a creator of To Do, lists my entire life. I’ve enjoyed videos by Sara Cannon on Heart Breathings (check out her YouTube channel!) about her planners and use of the Kanban board, which I’ve recently adopted in a modified form. I also look through Passion Planner videos, as that is the type of planner I use. I think planning people have a compulsion to write things down. I used to think this was because I was a writer. Now I know that it’s three-fold: both the writing aspect and the control aspect and the brain-dump aspect. Shocking! (not for anyone who knows me personally…) I’m never without a pen and paper; this is always the first thing I reach for when I need to remember something. Typing doesn’t do it for me. Physically writing things down seems to cement them in my brain for some reason. Instead of reaching for that ephemeral thought, it’s like being able to easily find the place I stored it and revisit it (anyone seen the movie Dreamcatcher?). So using a computer or electronic calendar doesn’t really help me as much as creating a physical plan. I only use the calendar in my phone so that it will send me alerts for appointments…shameful in this day and age, I know! Kanban board, Planner My husband will attest to the fact that I’m a control freak…with a little more enthusiasm than I am comfortable with.  😊  Just like the compulsion to plan out my books to ensure I don’t forget something, I need to plan out my life to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. It still happens, but I feel much more comfortable knowing that I at least tried. Which leads to the next part: I’m juggling a full-time day job, a husband on a retail schedule for his job, two teenagers with their own activities, and a writing career (and extended family, friends, chores… it never ends). That’s an overwhelming amount of minutiae to keep up with. And while some might say that’s not completely my job, my personality won’t let me delegate it to someone else. I’m a control-freak, as I established above…but I simply can’t keep it all stuffed in my brain. The busier we are and the older I get, the more things that fall by the wayside. I do my best to simplify and oust unnecessary time wasters so we can meet our obligations and still have down time, but frankly, my brain has more important things to do than keeping up with when my next doctor’s appointment is. I’d rather write it down and forget about it until it shows up on my planner. Most recently, I discovered something new about planning: it can be pretty and fun! Before I was a writer, and no longer had time for many hobbies, I used to scrapbook. I really enjoyed it, but was overwhelmed by the years of pictures that I couldn’t keep up with. But I’ve found that I can use my planner to do something similar. I can decorate it with pretty and inspirational stickers. Instead of writing down a doctor’s appointment, I can put a pretty tag there. I can indulge my pen obsession by trying out different colors and types. But I can also fill in gratitude lists…memories from special days…photos of special events…and quotes that inspire me. On days when I’m discouraged over my word count, I can look back over my progress the last few months. I mark down each marketing task I complete so I remember that I’ve done something towards connecting with my readers. I go back and notate sick days so I don’t think all those blank hours were because I was just flaky…no, I had a reason I couldn’t do anything today (it’s easy to forget and blame ourselves, right?). #planneraddict So, even though being a #PlannerAddict might seem like a trendy thing, I’m finding it essential to not just productivity and planning, but for my own positive mental health. What about you? Do you use a planner? Apps? How do you keep up with life? Dani