Writing with a Cup of Tea

One of my favorite fantasy authors is C.S. Lewis. I can remember reading his book, The Last Battle, when I was still a child. I didn’t realize at the time that it was the final book in a series and I had only bought it from the Scholastic Book Fair ( An amazing thing we have in Canada, where they come to your school and set up with books, posters, bookmarks, stickers and erasers, and lots more, for students to spend their parents hard earned money), because there was a unicorn on the cover.

I have always loved Unicorns. I had to have that book. It wasn’t until years later that I read the read of the series, and quite out of order, I might add. The series wasn’t diminished by it at all. Needless to say, it became one of many seeds planted that helped me blossom into the fantasy lover I am today.

C.S. Lewis and I have a lot in common it turns out. I present this quote of his as exhibit A:
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” -C.S. Lewis

Now, I write a lot about the books I read and the things I write, but I haven’t written much about my love affair with tea. My favorite is your typical black tea, whether it’s Orange Pekoe, English or Irish Breakfast, or occasionally Earl Grey.

A few years ago, I discovered the Dollar Tea Club, which is a monthly subscription that sends you various types of loose tea to try. So, I have decided to “review” some of the different types of tea that I try on here every once in a while.

As I sit here this evening, trying desperately to focus on writing (clearly procrastinating as I write this post), I am enjoying a cup of Blueberry Blast Green Tea, and I have to say, I love it. As much as I know how good Green Tea is for me, I sometimes like to exchange the taste of grassy water for something with a fruity twist. This Blueberry Blast is precisely what I hoped it would be. If you like blueberries and green tea, this is the tea for you!

Let me know what your favorite thing to drink is and, if you love tea as much as C.S Lewis and I do, check out the Dollar Tea Club!

Writing Keeps Me Sane

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today. My husband is currently deployed with the military until December and there is about a week left of summer vacation before my children (the oldest 3) go back to school. I have been trying to find the time and focus to do some editing on the first draft of my novel and juggle my real-life job.

Life can be hard to balance sometimes.  Reading and writing have become an escape for me. I am so grateful for the authors who have poured their heart and soul into the books that give me an escape when the real world becomes too much. It wasn’t until I started writing in a serious way that I fully understood what goes into it.

I recently placed 7th out of 35 writers in my group ( there were approximately 4000+ writers in total)  in the first round of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction competition.

My genre was Fairytale, and my location was River Rapids, and I had to include A Scooter.

I decided to use my 4 boys as the main characters for my story titled, “Whisper Stones.” I have included the short story below. 

Writing and reading keep me grounded. What about you?

Whisper Stones by Alicia Doyle

Once upon a time, in a sleepy mountain town, there lived four brothers named Kade, Clay, Seth, and Finn. Each day after school, hungry for adventure, they would set off to explore the forest on the other side of town. And each day, their mother would say, “Have fun, be safe, and stay away from the river.” In all their adventures, they had never seen a river in the forest on the other side of town, so they thought their mother was silly to warn them.

One sunny afternoon, the brothers went to explore the forest, and their mother gave them the same warning she always did. They walked the same route through town, and followed the same path into the forest,  playing and laughing as they went.

“My legs are tired,” said Finn, the youngest of the four.

“I knew we should have left you home,” said Clay.

“Just a little further?” Seth pleaded.

“Just a little further,” Kade replied, “ Here Finn, I will carry you.”

The brothers continued down the path, passed the big rock and the tree that looked like a dragon. They walked and walked and just as they were about to turn around, Seth held a finger up to his lips.

“Shhh,” he said, “Do you hear that?”

“It sounds like a river!” Clay exclaimed.

“Follow me!” Kade whooped and took off with Finn on his back, barely hanging on.

The boys ran toward the sound, off the path, and up a hill through the tall trees. When they crested the hill, they stood, catching their breath, staring at the gushing water below. The river rapids were loud and rushed furiously over the smooth stones peeking up through the water.

“Mama said to stay away from the river,” Finn whispered.

“We won’t go in,” Kade said, “We are just going to look.”

The boys made their way down the hill toward the rapids. Stepping out of the trees, they spotted a bright red scooter sitting alone near the riverbank.

They looked for the owner of the scooter, but there were no tracks or footprints near the river, as though it had appeared there on its own.

“Well, if no one owns it, I think I should have it,” Kade said.

“Why should you have it?” asked Clay.

“Well, I’m the oldest, that’s why.”

“That’s not a good reason,” said Seth, “It’s my favorite color. I should have it.”

“But I want it,” cried Finn.

The brothers argued, each with their own reasons why it should be theirs. The more they argued, the louder they got, until they were screaming and shoving each other.

They didn’t notice the water sprite until she splashed them and hollered, “ENOUGH!”

The brothers were stunned to silence. She continued,” Who dares disturb my peaceful sleep from ‘neath the raging river deep?”

With her hands on her tiny hips, she glared at the brothers.

“We are very sorry Miss,” Clay said, “My brothers and I heard the river and wanted a closer look. We found the scooter, but we couldn’t decide who should get to keep it.”

“I see,” said the sprite, twirling a strand of her blue hair between her tiny fingers. “With this decision, I shall give aid, but first a task you must complete. If you agree, then three days hence beside this river once more we’ll meet!”

The brothers quietly discussed their options. When they had made their decision, they approached the riverbank.

“We agree. What do we have to do?” Kade said.

“Four brothers, all with eyes of blue, a choice I’ll give to each of you.” She gestured toward the river rapids, “Retrieve a stone from waters swift, and speak to it your heart’s desire, then place the stone upon a hearth, three days that it might feel the fire. When three days pass, return the stone, and stand upon the river’s edge, and once I have thy heart’s desire, I will fulfill my sacred pledge.”

One by one the brothers pulled a stone from the water. When the final stone was chosen, the sprite vanished.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Finn said.

Stones in hand, the four brothers climbed back up and over the hill, through the tall trees, to the path that led them home.

That night, each whispered to their stones and placed them on the hearth as the water sprite instructed. For the next three days, they did not travel to the forest on the other side of town, and they did not go on any adventures.

On the fourth day, they each grabbed their stone and anxiously made their way back to the forest following the familiar path passed the big rock and the tree that looked like a dragon. Finding the river was much easier. Each brother placed their stone on the river’s edge and stepped back.

“Well, well, well,” said the sprite, rising from the water, “ I see you have returned. Did you do as I asked?”

The brothers nodded, and the sprite approached the first stone. With a single, delicate touch, she cracked open each rock and each time, a small gust of wind tousled her hair. She giggled, inclining her head like she was listening to a voice the brothers could not hear.

“Well,” said Kade, “Did it work? Who gets the scooter?”

“One boy wished an end to pain, for family, friends, and all he meets. Another asked for those in need to always have enough to eat. A third desired happiness and fun that comes without a cost. The last,” she said wiping away a tear, “requested one more day for all to spend with one they’ve lost.”

The sprite continued, “No greed or selfishness displayed, you thought of others, not yourselves. You have earned a just reward. Such goodness deep within you dwells.”

She snapped her fingers and disappeared, leaving four brightly colored scooters, one for each brother. And they scooted home happily with joy in their hearts.

The End.

A Random Philosophical Rant

I apologize in advance because my thoughts are long and complicated today…but if you decide to read this sort of philosophical rant I have written, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Humans seem naturally drawn into communities, to belong, to identify as part of a particular group. In fact, it is common knowledge that most humans abhor being truly “alone” and those that exist or create a reality for themselves where they are in fact alone, seem to possess some deficit or a least seem not to thrive compared to those who are not alone. Harvard University began a study in 1938 during the Great Depression on 268 Sophomores, tracking their health, hoping that longitudinal data would shed light on what was involved in living a happy, healthy life. To make a long story short, they realized that relationships greatly influence our happiness, and our health also improves as a by-product. Now, this is only one study, but it does give me a place to begin my idea from.

If we then look at humanity through the scope of culture, we see countless examples of humans forming various “communities” everywhere. Think of people who like the same sport, or more specifically, the same sports team. Think about religions. Think about groups of individuals who share a similar skill set. Think about the camaraderie in military groups or even people’s political associations. We, as individuals seek out others, who share some common ideology or identity and we attach ourselves to it, sometimes as if our life depended on it.

We are a species drawn to community.

Now, on a very primal and instinctive level, I’m sure most would argue that it serves as a method to preserve and perpetuate our species. Safety in numbers and all that. We see that concept in many prey animals. Herds, flocks, schools…all are groups meant to protect the weakest members of the group by sheer volume alone.

So, keeping that in mind, let’s change gears for a minute and think about how one person or group can influence another to do something, or agree to something that they wouldn’t normally do.

There are two general ways to influence. Love and Fear.

Now sure, we could get really specific about what motivates people, but I would argue that nearly everything falls into one of those two categories. So, if you are still with me, think about this…

How would you motivate an individual or group? With Love or Fear? And which is more effective?

Most people have something or someone they would sacrifice anything…everything for. As a parent, I would die to protect my children. Most parents probably would say the same. Regardless of your personal feelings about law enforcement, most emergency services: police, firefighters, and EMTs risk their lives regularly for the vulnerable of society.

Now if we move back to the idea of influencing an individual or group to do something you want, do you think that threatening the vulnerable, or using our natural instinct to protect the vulnerable would be an effective way to influence someone to do something they might not ordinarily do?

And before you assume I am talking about COVID or something else that perhaps hits close to home for you, let me say that this is not about anything as specific as that.

Take a minute to reflect on everything going on around the world. Really look at what you see, hear, and feel on a daily basis.

Would you say that generally, you are optimistic about the way the world or humanity currently functions, or would you say that you are fearful or concerned about some aspect of what you see, hear, and feel?

Where did you get your information or the evidence to base that optimism or fear from?

We are drawn to community. We thrive best and feel safest when we feel as though we belong somewhere.

Now, think about the most effective way to move a herd of animals. Is it more effective for the sheepdog to move one sheep at a time? Or is it more effective to move the entire herd using tried and tested methods, exploiting that instinct to bunch together for safety?

And when a predator seeks to capture its prey, does it try to capture the whole group, or does it try and isolate a few from the safety of the group?

In a military scenario, if you want to disrupt a group, is it more effective to slowly pick off random individuals, or will killing the commander or platoon leader cause enough chaos to sow doubt and disarray, therefore rendering the group useless?

There is a reason why these tactics are used. There is a reason why they work. They take instinct and exploit it by exerting pressure in the right area in the most effective way.

Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoic Philosopher said that “Man is a reasoning animal.” Of course, he meant human when he used the term “man,” but his point was that we are capable of more than just instinct. We are capable of thinking, observing, and analyzing the world around us. And it is important to do so. We are not sheep despite the fact that we place ourselves into “herds” or communities. We are sovereign, autonomous beings with inherent worth and dignity. But the individual is dangerous to the collective as the individual is unpredictable and difficult to control.

It benefits the influencer to keep the individual preoccupied with their sense of belonging. About where they fit, or how they identify. Divide and conquer is as old as time itself. Pay attention to what people say to try to divide you from your communities but also, pay attention to any threat to your individuality. It is possible to both belong and be unique. But those who seek to control others will always try to undermine it using fear or what we love against us if we fail to be that “reasoning animal” that Seneca recognized the human to be.

Writing Competition News!

I am procrastinating today. So, I thought I would share the second 100-Word Micro Fiction story that I wrote for the second round of NYC Midnight’s Challenge.

I was given Historical Fiction as my genre, the action I had to include was Getting a Bug Bite and I had to include the word Brief. Here is what I wrote, title Dream of the West:

John traveled the Oregon Trail for 8 weeks before tragedy struck. Two covered wagons from his caravan met their doom in the mire and the muck: wooden skeletons and broken dreams. Early summer rains supplied perfect conditions for insects to thrive, leaving John bitten to pieces by mosquitoes. Fever followed, raging, and burning within him. When the physician told him to make his peace with God, he penned his final words in a brief letter to his sweetheart.

My Darling Emma,

Don’t give up on our dream of the West. I’ll be in your heart.

All My Love, John

I wasn’t successful in moving on to the third and final round, but the experience was definitely worth it! Trying to cram an entire story or something that resembles one into 100 words is an interesting and difficult task.  Even the judges seem to find it a challenge because some of the feedback I received included a list of questions or pieces of the story the judges wished I had included. Alas, 100 words are limiting. Still, I think I will enter the competition again next year!

On another note, I entered the first 10 pages of my novel into a competition based in the UK. Called the Page Turner Awards, I entered the Writing Mentorship Category in hopes of winning the opportunity to work with someone in the writing world as a mentor.

The finalists for the competition were announced yesterday, I am thrilled to say that I was chosen as a finalist!

Now, I wait to see if my piece is chosen by one of the mentors!  I’m not sure how long the wait will be to find out, but I am honored to be among the authors who are being considered. I have attached a link to the finalist announcement if you want to take a peek!

2022 Writing Mentorship Award Finalists | Page Turner Awards

Have a wonderful day!

Book Review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas


One of my favorite experiences as a reader is when I get to the point in my book or series when all the characters and storylines converge into those epic scenes, that for me, are the cherry on top of a great piece of writing. Think, The Battle of Helm’s Deep, or better yet, the Battle for Gondor. Or maybe it’s the Battle of the Bastards or the Battle of Winterfell against the Night King. There is something magical about seeing everyone together, despite their individual struggles and subplots.
Sarah J. Maas killed it (in a good way) in Kingdom of Ash. So much has happened to the characters throughout the Throne of Glass series. Many obstacles, heartbreak, despair, and desperation have been overcome. Sweet revenge, vindication, and the slow journey to healing have occurred. Although as a reader, I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters I have grown to love, I felt a sense of closure at the end of this book and series, and not my usual grief when the end arrives.
The series was worth any of the minor issues I might have had at one point. Sometimes, though many may disagree with me, the slow spots are vital in making the good parts great.
I was really impressed with the series, and I fully intend on reading any other series that Sarah J. Mass writes because her style of writing flows and stimulates my mind’s eye so that her stories become more than words on a page but a familiar place, with old friends that I can escape to when reality is too much to bear.
Read this series. Seriously.

Book Review: Norse Paganism for Beginners by History Brought Alive


I received a copy of Norse Paganism for Beginners by History Brought Alive from BookSirens.
I have now had the opportunity and pleasure of reading several of History Brought Alive’s books on various topics. This one, Norse Paganism for Beginners is my favorite.
This book does a great job of providing historical context and addressing the issues that come along when a cultural tradition is mostly oral and not written down.
History Brought Alive does great research and provides accurate and authentic information for the reader that allows one to dip their toes into a topic and get a taste for it without information overload. For someone who has a passing interest in a topic, books like this are perfect.
If you are like me, a lover of history and hungry for as much information as possible, these books are also a great place to start. The section on references at the end makes finding more information easy for the reader. I just love these little bite-size chunks of history and you will too!

Status Update on My First Novel

Summer of 2021, I made the decision to start writing my first novel. When I started on that journey all I had was my love of the written word. I’ve had no formal writing training. I want to create something that makes others feel the same way I do when I read something fantastic, and it changes my life.

Here we are now, Summer of 2022, and I have learned so much about the intricacies of writing. There is far more involved than I ever thought possible, and I have such profound respect and admiration for all authors.

I have had the opportunity to join a community of writers via The Write Practice and while I still have so much to learn and many skills that need honing, I am well on my way.

And now, my update…

I have officially completed the first draft of my first novel!! I feel so incredibly accomplished and proud!

I still have several steps between a finished first draft and a published book, but I have finally reached the top of this first mountain and the view from here looks great!

My next step is going to be a break from the keyboard, and a headlong dive into some books I have been meaning to read.

Once my brain has a well-deserved break, I will start my initial self-editing with a read-through from start to finish followed by the nit-picking and painstaking process that is editing 😜

When the initial editing is done, I hope to be left with a solid second draft and I will be looking for Beta readers to read the manuscript, answer some questions and provide invaluable feedback! My guess is that will be sometime in early 2023!

Stay tuned if you are interested in being a Beta reader when the time comes and thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for taking this journey with me ❤

Book Review: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas


Now that I’ve finished this book, it pains me to say that I did NOT want to read this when I first learned that Celaena aka Aelin Ashryver Whitethorn Galathynius was not in it. I really believed that I didn’t want to read Chaol’s point of view, especially given the way the previous book, Empire of Storms ended, but WOW was I silly to think that way.

Tower of Dawn is fantastic, and the newly introduced characters are wonderful! The introduction of a whole new world that we hadn’t yet been exposed to as well as the cultural differences added layer after layer of greatness to an already epic series.
This book created more depth to the story and also made the stakes that much higher. If I could give anyone reading this some advice, read it. Even if they’re debating whether or not they should bother with this book because, like me, they are initially opposed to such a drastic point of view change, read it.

With excellent character development, this side quest for Chaol Westfall is spectacular and the perfect addition to this series.

Book Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas


One of my favorite things about being a voracious reader is finding an amazing series to get lost in. You know the type. You end up dreaming about the characters, the places, and even some of the events, and because you have become so immersed in the story because you have pictured it all so vividly, your subconscious doesn’t realize that it isn’t your reality. You miss the characters when the series ends because they are as real as anyone else in your life, even if you sound crazy for admitting it.
That is what the Throne of Glass series has been like for me, so reading Empire of Storms was an emotional rollercoaster ride. Wow.

We see that despite her youth, the brutality and ruthlessness of her experiences have made her formidable in many ways. One thing Sarah J Maas does exceptionally well is to weave inconspicuous details throughout the story that eventually culminate into epic scenes later on. Empire of Storms was the perfect culmination of several seeds that Celaena planted in the earlier books and as readers, we get to enjoy another book where Celaena shows us exactly why she is a fantastic protagonist and badass.
I also appreciated the opportunities in Empire of Storms to get to know some of the supporting cast that up until this book did not get enough exposure in my humble opinion.
If you have made it this far in the series, or if you are just reading reviews to decide if it’s worth the time and effort to dive in, Do it. Start the series. Read the books. I’m glad I did.

Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas


I am thoroughly enjoying this series and Queen of Shadows was full of epic moments, as predicted in my review of Heir of Fire.
Maas has introduced some new and very intriguing characters in this story that I hope we continue to learn more about, and our familiar and well-loved characters face some harrowing and heartbreaking moments that leave the reader feeling utterly gutted.
Magic, friendship, love, danger, loss, grief, anger, revenge, closure…this book has it all.
Maas also masterfully ties up a few loose ends whose stories have spanned the first few books of the series which is why I was able to forgive much of the heartache she caused me.
That is one thing I like about epic stories and characters like those in the Throne of Glass series, the way in which I become so emotionally invested in it. I want to read things that make me feel something, that make me think and question. I want a book that moves me and leaves me a changed person from who I was before I started it. I think Maas has accomplished that for me, and I am grateful for it.

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