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Hello friends! I hope this newest post finds you all well and enjoying the fall season (at least where I live, fall has most definitely arrived). A nip in the air requires me to put on a coat to take the dogs for a walk. Along our way, we see front porches and yards in the neighborhood adorned with pumpkins, pots of colorful chrysanthemums, and some cute, some creepy Halloween decorations. My silly pups find all the decor disturbing and must bark their fool heads off at every skeleton, ghost, witch, and inflatable fire-breathing dragon they encounter. They're quite ridiculous about it. I hope you'll take the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. But please, don't bark at dragons.

Thanks to a very dear friend of mine (yes, it's you, Rusty), I had the opportunity to attend an author visit and book signing at the Champaign Public Library this past Thursday. With my own novel coming out next spring, I was excited by the invitation and eager to see what these author visits were all about.

Brendan Slocumb, author of "The Violin Conspiracy" and "Symphony of Secrets" spoke for over an hour to the large crowd assembled. He shared his life story - from a military kid making poor choices to a budding musician to a music educator to a best-selling author. He was a dynamic speaker who held the audience of avid readers in the palm of his hand. He was warm, funny, humble, and often self-deprecating. He'd appeared on stage wearing jeans, a gray hoodie over a t-shirt, sneakers, and a baseball cap. No flash. No pretense. This guy was real.

I caught myself thinking, "If I ever have the opportunity to stand on a stage in front of a crowd like this, I want to be like him."

As I listened to Mr. Slocumb speak, I realized there were many similarities between us. Both of us are musicians. He plays the violin (beautifully I've been told), and I play the piano. We both had careers as educators, helping our students become the best versions of themselves. And we're both writers. As he shared sad and funny, tragic yet poignant stories from his life well-lived, I felt a real connection with him. It felt like he was speaking directly to me.

As kids are known to say, "I hope I can be just like him when I grow up." (Of course, I say this tongue-in-cheek since I'm several years older than him.)

After Mr. Slocumb finished speaking, he opened the floor to questions. Never known for being shy, I wasn't about to let this opportunity pass me by. My hand shot into the air. "What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the publishing world?" A big smile spread across his face, as he congratulated me on my upcoming novel. He even led the audience in a round of applause. Looking directly at me and grinning, he said, "Buckle up. Your life is about to change in so many ways." Many more sage words of advice followed which I will hold onto for those times I need encouragement and inspiration. But I was most profoundly touched by his kindness, sincerity, and support. Again, I aspire to be like him.

After the Q & A session, we adjourned downstairs to wait in line for our books to be signed. This was my first author book signing and had no idea what to expect. While we waited, I met and chatted with many lovely people who were genuinely interested in my upcoming novel. They asked insightful questions about the genre, plot, and characters. They all expressed a desire to read it as soon as it releases in the spring. One lovely older gentleman even wrote down my name and the title so he and his wife could be watching for it. "We love to read books written by local authors,"

Readers truly are the nicest people.

This evening with Mr. Slocumb also gave me the opportunity to reconnect with a former student. Seated in the row behind me, a young lady asked a question, and as I turned to see the speaker, I laid eyes on a face, more mature now, but one I'd known well years ago. I was pleased to discover she was now an educator herself sharing her love of music with her students. A proud moment for this retired teacher.

As I'm sure you noticed, opportunity was my theme today. I've learned in these past six months that it's all about the opportunities placed in your path and what you choose to do with them. I am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way. I'm also thankful for and feel blessed by the people who've been placed in my path.

Rusty, thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend this author visit with you. You're one of the best, Boo. To Mr. Slocumb, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to come to my hometown and share your story. You are an inspiration. Thank you to my fabulous critique partners, Cheryl and Paula. My writing is so much better because of you. To Deb, Cristal and Peggy at Elk Lake Publishing. Thank you for taking a chance on this new author. And to all of you who keep returning to read my posts, THANK YOU. Your support means everything.

Please check out Brendan Slocumb's incredible books, The Violin Conspiracy and Symphony of Secrets. I promise you won't be sorry.

I hope you all have a wonderful fall season, and may many opportunities come your way.

Until next time,


~~~~There is no better place to be than between the pages of a book.~~~~

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