Giving up on Normal

If you’re like me you might be waiting for normal to be restored. I keep telling myself that I’ll get back into a proper writing schedule when life gets back to normal, but I really can’t remember what normal is anymore.

I used to have a lovely office with a huge desk and views overlooking the front garden. In summer the sun shone brightly making it a very jolly place to work, and in winter my heater made it warm and cozy. I had space to spin around on my chair, if I felt the urge. At last I had my very own writing space, and I could bang out five hundred words before breakfast every day. Then my normal was interrupted. My son moved back home. My lovely office became his bedroom and I was relegated to the other spare room. No sun and, if I put on one any more weight, no way I can get into the chair which is squished against my desk.  My desire to get up and write was sorely dented. I’ve never wanted to use the new cold dark room. However I soldiered on, writing with the netbook balanced on my lap as I sat up in bed, pretending to listen to my husband as he mumbled on about airline frequent flyer point schemes and credit card deals that had flooded his inbox overnight.

I might have lost my comfy space at home, but I still had my office at work and could write in my lunch break, or I did until we moved to a new premises. Open plan ruined my peace. I moved my writing cave to my car in the underground car park and struggled to write with my laptop balanced on one knee and my lunchbox on the other. My work colleagues wave as they walk past, and word has got around that the weird woman eating in her car isn’t hiding she’s writing a novel.

Everything was working fine, and I still had loads of time to write on the weekends, until my son had exams and needed me to help him study. My weekends were swallowed up as I became the patient enduring all kinds of pulling, pushing and bending in the name of physiotherapy. Once exams were over my other son decided to buy a house and needed my help with all manner of things an adult should be able to do without his mother. Finally, he was all settled in, normal was about to be restored and then my dog decided it was her turn.

elfenEvery morning she runs around the side of the house to bark at the neighbor’s dog. She leaps at the fence until he barks back, and then she walks away, her job done. However, the other morning things went horribly wrong. She jumped at the fence and landed badly, screwing up her knee. So, off to the vets we go for a knee reconstruction. Now she’s home and demanding all of my time. She hates having to be confined in a playpen and only getting to go outside on her lead. When we let her out she has to sit on your lap because she thinks a new knee means she can, once again, base jump off the sofa without a parachute. The vet says it will be a few weeks before she can be left to her own devices. Until then, I’m her jailer, physio, masseuse, waitress, dog walker, and general entertainment director.

Don’t even begin to imagine that once this crisis is over I’ll get some sort of normal back. Did I mention that I quit my day job and leave in two weeks? I wish it was to take up full-time writing, but alas I have bills to pay, including the vet.  I’ve accepted a new accounting manager’s job. The role will be challenging, but I think my efforts will be appreciated a whole lot more than they are by current employer. Will it affect my new normal? I guess I won’t know until I get there and see what else I need to adjust in my life to find time to write.

So, I’ve finally given up on normal. Normal doesn’t exist and life is all about rolling with the punches. And writing is all about grabbing what spare time you can where you can and ignoring the inconvenience and the discomfort.


Turning Success into Failure

28444168_sThis blog post probably sounds a bit back to front. Most people give you the big wind up, the ra ra ra about how to turn failure into success…but that doesn’t work for me.

My eldest son is of the view that if you can’t be the best at something don’t bother. This sees him flitting from activity to activity, as he tries a new challenge, realizes he will never be the gold medal winner, and then moves on to something new.  This philosophy sees him do some amazing stuff, but it is never enough.  His exam results are amazing because he over studies to be the best. The constant striving brings stress, disappointment, and misery.

I’m not of quite the same view as my son. I love to succeed at something, but when I do I lose interest. Now I have proved I can do it what is the fun? Where is the challenge?  This could be one of the reasons why I have moved from job to job, always looking for a new skill to learn and success to be won.  My philosophy also sees me flitting between activities, but not because I can’t succeed, but because I have and I’m bored.

What does any of this have to do with turning success into failure? We have an expression over here, usually used by sport’s commentators. They have been known to say that a team ‘has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.’ At the risk of losing the few people still reading, I have an illustration.  In cricket (the funny English game and I am not talking about the matches that go on for days that no one ever seems to win) a team can need only one run from the last over (6 balls being bowled) to win and yet fall short. Or, the bowling team have it seemingly in the bag when the batsmen need 12 runs off the last 6 balls and yet they fail to stop the runs.  They have taken what should have been a great success and turned into a crushing failure.

I write because I love to write. I write because I’m not the best in the world at it. But I do have successes along the 38146369_sway. How do I stop being in the top 100 giverawayers on Amazon from crushing my interest in writing? How do I stop the positive reviews from driving me away from the laptop? By knowing I have, in the scheme of things, achieved nothing. I look at what is still out there to be done.  Had I made it big with book one, book two may never have been written. And when my husband tells me to keep going because I might actually sell some books one day it makes me more determined to write.

So, do I want you all to stop buying and reading my books? Hell no. There is still the top 100 selling lists on Amazon, and the New York Times’ best sellers lists to conquer.  I have motivation in spades.

Never mind big brother, little brother is scary enough!

If you have ever wondered if big brother is really watching, and I’m not talking about the TV show, then you need to be an accountant in Australia. Our tax office data matches with just about every organisation known to man. If you don’t include some income in your return they’ll tell you about it.  Scary? Not really. Not if you don’t mind paying your share of tax.

37448794_sI was at a conference the other day and one of the speakers was raving about all these great websites like Airbnb and Uber. What did all of the websites have in common?  Reviews. This is hardly a revelation. People were reviewing things long before the internet was invented. But times have changed. Theater critics, book critics, food critics had it all there own way.  No one had the right of reply.

Now the tables have turned. If you’ve stayed at a place you booked through Airbnb you can leave a review in much the same way you can on Trip Adviser but, the person you rented the room from also leaves a review about you. Are you likely to trash the joint if you’re going to get a bad review? Will it make you a better guest? Probably.

Having the right of reply works in some situations. If you’re a crap guest then the world has a right to know before they let you stay in their pristine holiday home.  If you vomit all over the car why should you be allowed to take a ride with another Uber driver. This of course relies on people being honest because without honesty the whole process falls apart.

When wouldn’t it be such a good idea?  I worked for a firm that did 360 degree staff reviews. The bosses got to review us, and we got to review them back. The problem was I knew they would read what I said about them before I had my review. Was I going to be honest if the boss was doing a less than stellar job? Actually I was. He was doing a rubbish job, but I wasn’t planning on staying so I had nothing to lose. If I wanted the job I might have answered the questions differently.

Now imagine if before you go to dinner at a restaurant the chef could check out your reviews as a diner? Do you talk too loudly? Spend ages photographing your food, holding up the meal, meaning the restaurant can’t flip the table as often?  Some people might have trouble getting a table. What about if authors could review readers? We could discuss how slowly you read. How you flit form genre to genre. I could go on, but I won’t.

Online reviews give independent authors a boost like nothing else can. We have become a generation who love to 10232323_sknow what others think about something we are considering buying. If lots of other people have enjoyed a book there is less danger that you’re spending some of your hard earned money on a pile of crap.

I have no desire to have a right of reply when someone reviews my book. This whole reviewing mania is a very scary thing. One mistake, one slip and you might never be able to get a cab, a meal out, a place to stay etc etc. And don’t even get me started on what would happen if someone stole your ID and ruined your online reputation.

Now the trend has begun it will only spread and become the norm.  I guess I’ll have to accept it, whether I want to or not, but in the meantime people can review my books without any fear or retribution from me. Love it or hate it just say it how it is.

So, how do you feel about the review mania flooding the internet?


Three Award-winning Authors—Giveaway and First-in-Series Sale

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Enjoy a touch of the mystical and an innovative take on mystery in three colorful settings. An international trio of authors — Australian Virginia King, American Amber Foxx and British Marion Eaton—all B.R.A.G. Medallion winners—have teamed up for a giveaway and over a week of discounts from April 21 – 30. Buy each e-book for only $1.99 US. Enter the drawing to win a paperback copy of the first book in each author’s series.

The Calling

The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions— access to secrets she could regret uncovering.

Gift or curse? When an extraordinary ability intrudes on an ordinary life, nothing can be the same again.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Sales links:


When the Clocks Stopped

The Mysterious Marsh Series, Book One

When lawyer Hazel Dawkins decides to write some wills while she waits for the birth of her first child, she unwittingly triggers dramatic consequences. Mysteriously, she encounters Annie, a woman whose tempestuous life took place more than two centuries earlier when Romney Marsh was a violent place, dominated by smugglers. Soon that past collides with the present, and Hazel finds herself pitted against an evil that has stalked the marsh for centuries. As her destiny intertwines with Annie’s in the shifting time-scape, Hazel confronts a terrifying challenge that parallels history—and could even change it. If she survives.

Sales links:

The First Lie

Selkie Moon Mysteries Book One

Selkie Moon is a woman on the run. In a mad dash for freedom she’s escaped her life in Sydney to start over again in Hawaii. But her refuge begins to unravel and she’s running from something else entirely. A voice in a dream says that someone is trying to kill her. Not that she’s psychic, no way. But the messages and threats escalate until she’s locked in a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious stalker. Entangled in Celtic and Hawaiian mythologies, the events become so bizarre and terrifying that her instinct is to keep running. But is she running from her past? Or her future?

Sales link:

Enter the drawing to win paperback copies of all three books.

The raffle runs from 12:00 midnight Eastern U.S. time on April 21 and ends 12:00 midnight Eastern U.S. time April 26, 2015. When you click on the Rafflecopter link you’ll be able to choose which series you would like to learn more about. After that, you’ll be entered in the drawing. To get an additional entry, click on the option to tweet the give-away. A random winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter. The winner will be announced on April 27.

To enter, click here:


To learn more about the authors and their series:

I Would Never Hurt a Poodle – or Happy Release Day

I thought I could just drop by and post that book 2 in my Daisy Dunlop series has just been published on Amazon, but that’s not exactly mind blowing news…unless you’re a big fan. Hi Mum :)

Anyway, why the weird topic heading?  Good question!

The tagline for Lost & Found makes mention of Daisy’s career going to the dogs…

Daisy Dunlop’s heir hunting career has gone to the dogs, and only one man can bring it to heel.

Yes, this book has a dog or two in it. Funnily enough, my critique partners, editor, and beta readers were all very cool about me killing, maiming, abusing and generally being mean to people, but the minute a poodle stuck it’s head above the parapet it was a whole new story.  I am currently owned by a miniature poodle and a moodle, and would never harm them in real life, nor in a fictional life. I hope everyone is now feeling reassured that whilst you may find death and destruction in amongst the ninety thousand odd words of Lost & Found absolutely no animals were harmed during the writing, editing, publication, or indeed reading of this novel.

So, without further ado….here is my new release.

Lost & Found

A Daisy Dunlop Mystery ~ Book Two


Now Available at Amazon

Daisy Dunlop’s heir hunting career has gone to the dogs, and only one man can bring it to heel.

Hot on the success of her first case, Daisy Dunlop can count the offers of work on one finger. An empty bank account and the need to prove to her business partner, PI Solomon Liffey, that she is an asset not a liability, calls for drastic measures.  Terror has to be overcome as she answers a plea to find the one thing that gives her night sweats and flashbacks. A dog. A missing stud poodle to be exact.

Solomon’s amusement at Daisy’s new case is short lived when the arrest of his former girlfriend, Lisa, leaves him with the fulltime care of his young daughter, Molly. A body is discovered in Lisa’s bed. Now he  needs to help find the murderer before Molly’s safety is compromised.

When Daisy realises the dead man is linked to her current case, and the body count rises, Solomon and Daisy are forced to work together to find the killer. Would the sexual prowess of a poodle really incite someone to murder, or is the real motive hidden somewhere in Solomon’s secret past?

Trend Lagging

Now that I am finally back from my world travels it’s time to crank up the laptop, clean up the mess, and get back to blogging and writing.

This week, as I drove up and down to work in a heatwave that would make hell look like Siberia, fighting my way through traffic jams  I swore I would never complain about ever again after recently driving in the UK, (I lied. I still complain, but only because no one should endure traffic chaos caused by the closure of roads to allow, what my son calls, a glorified taxi race) I turned my mind to my continual adoption of a craze after everyone has moved on to something new.

I’m not big on following the crowd, and no matter how long something has been out of fashion there is no guarantee I will suddenly decide it’s the new thing for me. However, I hear the talk about things and wonder, is that a TV show I would like? A book I could read?

When something becomes a fad I am immediately turned off by it. If a song is the top of the charts I am probably not listening to it, although I may decide to buy it later on because it’s a great tune. Is a band big right now? Then I’m not interested. Is their popularity waning? Then I’m probably buying up everything they’ve ever recorded.

The same with books. If everyone is buying it then I’m not, and there are some I will never read no matter how many movies, TV shows, etc they make about it, just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good, or worth reading. Running with the crowd is not my thing.  I am anti fashion, but I don’t mean to be. I live life at my own pace. New technology is only any good if it makes my life easier at a price I will pay. I don’t have an ianything, and I have no desire to have an ianything. My mobile phone is not the latest generation, neither is my tablet PC or my netbook.  My car doesn’t do bluetooth, and the colour and style show it to be from another decade, but it carries me from A to B in relative comfort.  It does what is required of it.

People at work blather on about the latest episodes of I’m  A Celebrity Get Me out of Here, or The X Factor, or Big Brother (I can’t believe they are still making that) and I have nothing to add to the conversation. They are not shows I watch, or have ever watched. I can’t imagine I will ever become a big fan of reality TV, but there are some things out there that have come and gone and are now showing as re-runs that I have started watching.

There is some joy in waiting and being a late adopter to cultural phenomenon. Why watch one episode a week of a TV show, and then after the series ends wait months and months to find out what happens, when you can wait a few years to begin watching it and see every episode that has ever been made back to back for hour after hour? The same with books. If you read book one in a series and love it then you have to wait, sometimes for a year or more, to get your hands on book two.

So, what have I started watching and reading that has me lagging behind the crowd?  Downton Abbey. I love all things English history. A great holiday involves moldering ruins, old houses with servants quarters and reading headstones in ancient churchyards. Easy to see why Downton appeals then. I watched the first episode a few weeks ago, fell in love with Maggie Smith, and was hooked.

My latest book series was discovered purely by accident. My husband loves a bargain so he bought a book on super sale at the local book store some months ago. He read the first few pages and told me it made no sense.  In our quest to rearrange our home to accommodate a returning wayward child to the family fold, the book came to light. An email discussion with a critique partner, after I had beta read her latest time travel novel, included mention of the author of the mystery book. Further investigation revealed that my husband had bought book seven in the series.  No wonder he was confused.  So, now I had book seven, and knew it was a time travel series, I was intrigued and bought book one. Currently I am devouring book two.   So what am I reading? The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Not only do I love the series but I love the fact that my husband is my very own Jamie Fraser, a true Scotsman whose family name shows him to be a member of clan Fraser.

Are you an early or late adopter of technology and cultural phenomenon?

And for those who are early adopters of everything and have read book one in my Daisy Dunlop Series, brace yourselves, book two is not far away. My editor is polishing it up ready to be formatted and unleashed on the unsuspecting reading public in late March or early April.

Three Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes

Today  my guest is Lourdes Venard. Take it away Lourdes.

profilepicA Facebook posting the other day made me chuckle: “I do my best proofreading right after I hit send.” Funny—and true. How many of us have hit that send button on an email only to realize that we misspelled something, or forgot to send an attachment, or otherwise goofed up?

Now imagine that happening to a book. I had uploaded my book to Amazon, after it was proofread by five people and looked at by dozens of others. I had read it countless times (I’m an editor with 29 years of experience working in newspapers and freelance editing other books). Literally minutes after hitting the button for it to go live, I noticed a major error: the preface had the book’s title wrong! I had changed the title midway through writing my book, but I had never changed it in the preface.

Typos and mistakes are only human. Studies have shown our minds naturally read over missing words in a sentence. And using the wrong word (“too” instead of “to”) can also go unnoticed by the eye. I know because the too/to mistake almost got into my final book.

As an editor, I know there are larger issues, of course: bad grammar, large plot holes, and stiff dialogue. Those big-picture issues are important, but I want to give you three tips for avoiding the smaller errors, which can also be embarrassing.

Here are three ways that professional editors catch errors. You can do the same.

  1. Most editors keep a style sheet with each book they edit. At the minimum, this includes character names and place names, as well as any other words that an author wants spelled a certain way (perhaps the author wants to use “grey” instead of “gray,” for example). You can also make your own list of names, and add these to Word’s spell check dictionary (see instructions at This way, when you run spell check, a name that has been misspelled or changed—not an uncommon occurrence—will come up, but not the correct names.
  2. Read your manuscript out loud. Just the act of slowing down and reading word for word will help you catch missing words, repeated words, homophones (to/too/two), and clunky or awkward language. It also helps with dialogue.
  3. Take a look at your dialogue beats. Almost all writers have a phrase they really like to use, and often it is found in dialogue beats. For example, one writer liked to use “He stared at her” or “she stared at him” or some combination of that before or after dialogue. Readers do notice repeated phrases, so go through your manuscript and highlight the repetitions.

The best way to avoid errors, of course, is to have others look at your work. And the more eyes, the better!

BIO: Lourdes Venard is a freelance editor for fiction and nonfiction. Her recently released book, “Publishing for Beginners: What First-Time Authors Need to Know,” is available on She is a member of Sisters in Crime, and is the editor of the Guppy chapter’s newsletter, First Draft.




You can purchase Lourdes’s book at AMAZON

And find out more about Lourdes’ at her WEBSITE

Adventures in Travel Land

At my day job there are four of us going overseas on holidays in the next couple of months, and at lunch our conversation turned to previous travel adventures. Some people have stories about great trips, fantastic sights, wonderful hotels, beautiful restaurants and things you can only dream of. Me, I have lots of disaster stories.

If anyone on a plane is going to get covered in food it will be me, and I don’t even need turbulence. On a trip from LA to Auckland the passenger behind me stood up and hit the air hostess’ arm as she collected the breakfast dishes and I had baked beans and bacon all down my back. The staff were lovely and cleaned me up as best they could. Their horror was complete when they realised I was in the seat that got the random survey. I have also had a passenger sitting next to me drop a full bottle of beer in my lap and someone else douse me with a cup of water.

I caught a plane that no longer connect and ended up stranded in Auckland airport for eleven hours with two small kids. I could have swum to Sydney in less time. No offence to my Kiwi friends, but their is not a lot to do in Auckland airport. I kept nodding off and my kids would shake me and tell me they would be kidnapped if I slept. Towards the end I was thinking of offering them to the next passing stranger.

No matter how bad my flights have been I never had anything as horrible as what

happened to my husband. I should start by saying when the dude at the airport asks if you packed your own hand luggage or watched the person who did the right answer would be yes.  My husband lets me pack his bags and rarely pays attention. On this occasion he was travelling alone back to Australia from the UK and he was bringing a food processor with him. This was back in the 1990’s when security wasn’t so strict but even back then putting the blades for a food processor in your hand luggage was a bad idea. They screened his bag and asked if he knew what was in there and he said no, and no to ‘did he watch me pack the bag.’

They grabbed his bag and two men walked him off to a security room to question him. After he explained what the blades were for, and why he had them, he was allowed to go through to the plane and fly home with his bags. I got a very irate phone call from a grumpy man when he got home. We look back and laugh now, actually I laughed then. Travel certainly broadens the mind and every disaster gives me great ideas for stories. So do you have any disasters you’d like to see in a book one day?


Dear Blog – I’m Sorry I Cheated

Dear Blog

I know you are feeling neglected and disrespected. We started out with such passion and desire and you have never once let me down. Whenever I checked in with you I was never locked out. You didn’t disappear or refuse to let me in. You took me back time after time and trusted me with your deepest darkest secrets and your whole being, but the relationship was failing because I had forgotten the joy and love having you had given me. The hours we spent together as we created a life together choosing wallpapers and colour schemes and setting out our plans to grow old together were forgotten. I could make excuses and say I was too busy at work, but that would be a lie.

I ‘m the one at fault. I never set out to hurt you but my head was turned.  I had a shiny new book to promote and you weren’t very interested. Yes, you managed to encourage a trickle of readers most days, and you even enticed a few great guests who turned the trickle into a deluge, but I was disappointed that you couldn’t encourage click throughs and so I sought a new love.

I threw myself into a new relationship with the next book in the series. This one would be all I wanted it to be and would fulfil my wildest fantasies. My heart raced anew with passion and I woke up anticipating seeing that manuscript again. Fondling the laptop keys, stroking the mouse, and swapping flirty banter with my characters. That was just the start of the spiral that led us to where we are today.

When the manuscript refused to co-operate, and the characters demanded I spend more time plotting, I decided to slow the relationship down. Book one, Lost Cause, still loved me. The characters were cheerful and funny and all they wanted was to be heard. Determined to find the one thing that could give them, and me, what we wanted, I threw myself at Twitter, Facebook, Author Loops, Goodreads and any other passing fancy that caught my eye. I flirted and teased and all but prostituted myself for the sake of rankings. It was never about the money, it was never fame, it was about people reading the book and enjoying it.

Night after night I went out flaunting my wares whilst you stayed home, alone, unloved and uncared for. Updates came and went. Your

comments section became dusty, and spiders and mice made their home in your spam folder, and yet you stoically soldiered on greeting guests from India, Brazil, Russia and other far flung places. You did all you could to entertain them whilst I was out on the raz with my new found marketing toys.

I am sorry. Can you ever forgive me? I could promise never to neglect and take you for granted again but we both know that is not a promise I could actually keep. Something new and shiny will wiz by, or someone will dangle a book under my nose or a new blog promising the secret to being a number one best seller, and I will disappear again. It might not even be a blog or book it could be a new social media site….Oh Ello!

Sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, please take me back. I can’t promise to be perfect but I can promise to try and update you on a more regular basis. Surely we can rebuild what we once had and move forward together. I await your reply.

Your loving friend.

JL Simpson

Today’s Writers Have it Easy – Marilyn Meredith

Today my guest is the lovely Marilyn Meredith who tells it like it was. Take it away Marilyn!

My first book was published in 1982. I used a manual typewriter (a portable) to write it. In order to have a copy, I used a piece of carbon paper between two sheets of paper. It was important to type carefully in order to not make any mistakes.

When the book was ready, in my estimation, I put all the pages of the manuscript together topped with a letter of explanation about the book and myself, put it in a manuscript box with my name and address on it, plus return postage. Then the box was inserted into a slightly bigger box, sealed and addressed to the first publisher on my list of those who might be interested in this particular novel. (All researched through the big Writer’s Digest Market book.) This package was taken to the post office and sent off.

This first book was sent off to nearly thirty publishers before it was accepted. Each time it came back to me, I carefully read the rejection letter in case there might be a tip on how to make the book better. It was imperative that I go through the pages of the manuscript to make sure it was all there and that it was presentable enough to send off again. Sometimes I had to retype some pages. Often I found coffee or wine stains. Sometimes the manuscript smelled so much of cigarette smoke it had to be retyped.

When I retyped the manuscript, I often made changes—so of course I used the carbon paper again so I’d have a new copy.

Just think of the cost of paper, carbon paper, the manuscript boxes which seldom could be reused, and the postage. And what about the time taken to retype the manuscript?

No one was more excited than I was when the computer was invented. I began on a Kaypro with two floppy discs, one to write the manuscript and the other for the program used to write it. The first one was called Word Star. Along with many new computers, I advanced to Word Perfect which I loved, and now Word since that’s what my publishers use.

Murder in the Worst Degree

Murder in the Worst Degree
by F.M. Meredith

Dark Oak Mysteries
Order from Amazon

The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.


River Spirits




Marilyn Meredith is an award winning author of mysteries, psychological and Christian horror. She is a popular speaker and instructor for writing conferences, mystery conventions and festivals, book fairs, and other similar venues, including the Maui Writers Retreat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Public Safety Writers Association, California Writers Club and Mystery Writers of America.

You can find out more about Meredith at here website Fiction For You

and at her blog Marilyn’s Musings