Dinner and a Good Book: In My Father’s Footsteps by Diana Cranstoun

Every Friday I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Diana Cranstoun’s In My Father’s Footsteps. Have tissues at the ready. More than sixty year’s after her father’s WWII experience and decades after his death, Cranstoun retraces his steps to Dunkirk.

When I contacted the author about this post, I let her know I planned to run it on August 15, 2014. In a weird twist, this date would have been her parent’s 75th wedding anniversary. (If you read the book, you’ll note that Cranstoun is a firm believer in “signs”.)

Cranstoun also posts a blog wherein she does really cool things like spending four weeks on wartime rations. She details those posts with pics and recipes of her experience. In honor of her culinary trek through WWII, I’m going to recommend a couple of recipes from her blog: Sausage Casserole (doesn’t include an actual recipe, but a description and pic) and Bread Pudding.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …


Buy the book on Amazon
Diana Cranstoun’s  Website
On Twitter: @dianacranstoun

EXCERPT: In My Father’s Footsteps
CoverWe’re introduced to Noel and his wife. (He was a boy of eleven when my Dad was stationed in his village.) I show him the photo of Mum and Dad. “Ahhh.” He smacks the picture in that Gallic way. “Jacques Cranstoon.”

But I’m not totally sold. After all, I wrote Dad’s name in my letter to the mayor and perhaps Noël wants this connection to the past as much as I do.

And then he says something that sends a shiver up my spine. “Et vôtre mère, Marie.”


Nowhere – nowhere – had I written my mother’s name. This is very – very – real.

We talk, Anna interpreting as I catch only every fourth or fifth word. My dad was billeted in a house next to Noël’s family. Throughout that bitter winter, with no light or heating in their billet, Dad and another married soldier went next door to Noël’s warm house every Friday evening to write letters home to their wives.

Noël reaches into his pocket, pulls out a small, rather battered leather diary and offers it to me. “Your Dad gave it to him for Christmas 1939,” Anna translates. The hairs on my arms stand on end. It’s as though, to borrow a quote from Alan Bennett’s History Boys, a hand has reached out of the past and taken mine.

Once again, Dad’s in the room with us.

Random Facts About Diana Cranstoun
HeadshotA transplanted Scot, she’s lived more than half her life in Calgary. She had the great pleasure to meet Gregory Peck. She’s fired a machine gun – not in anger. She loves writing poems on her windows using coloured Sharpie pens. In 2009, she and a friend retraced her father’s footsteps from a village in France to the beaches of Dunkirk. 

Amazon vs. Hachette—and YOU!

A good, thoughtful look at the Amazon/Hachette dispute.


Book Prices

Amazon-Hachette Dispute

I won’t tell you what to think.

  • I will make some points for both sides.
  • I will mention ways that this may impact both authors and readers.
  • I will show you what you can do, no matter which side you favor.

The main point is that Amazon appears to be pushing for more e-books ordinarily priced above $10 to be priced at $9.99. Hachette (and other publishers) appears to want the freedom to price e-books as they see fit, including those in the $14.99 to $19.99 price range.

A little clarification:

  • Amazon openly acknowledged that some books, such as e-textbooks, should be priced $10 and up (see Reference 1 below). Amazon is NOT insisting that ALL e-books should be $9.99 or less.
  • Hachette is NOT asking to price ALL e-books $14.99 and up. The issue arose over specific e-books.

Whether YOU read books or write them, YOU  are…

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Indie Publishing: What’s Copyright?

Meriam-Webster defines copyright as “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).

Copyright protects your intellectual property (for our purposes, your book or ebook) as soon as it’s put into permanent form (again, for our purposes, your book or ebook).

While your de facto copyright exists from that moment, the length of time for which you will keep that copyright protection varies from country to country. In the United States and the European Union, protection lasts the life of the author plus 70 years. But in some countries – notably Canada and New Zealand – copyright protection lasts the life of the author plus 50 years. Additionally, you may want to formally register your copyright with your country’s copyright board, as that copyright certificate of registration can be used in court as evidence of ownership.

Find the copyright detail for your country at these sites:

United States Copyright Office

Copyright Board of Canada

European Union

Australian Copyright Council

Copyright Council of New Zealand

Copyright recognizes that your fictional world/characters belong to you, but it’s not uncommon for writers to have similar plots. You can copyright your story, but you can’t copyright an idea.

You also can’t copyright a book title. My book, Sin Eater, lists along with at least a half dozen other books on Amazon of the same name. That’s not even taking into account the variations of that name: The Sin Eater, Sin Eating, etc.

What’s the difference between copyright and a trademark or patent? While copyright protects the original work of writers, a trademark protects words, designs, symbols or phrases (eg., KleenexTM)  and a patent protects inventions or discoveries.

We’ll explore more about copyright and its relationship to fair use in upcoming blogposts. For now, your take-away point should be that copyright automatically exists when an original work is created.


Family always comes first, unless we never have a family

My son and daughter-in-law struggle with infertility. Over the years, I’ve said every wrong thing that can be said; done every stupid thing that can be done in my reaction to their struggle.

I’ve had a small, bitter taste of their unhappiness when Tiana initially won the infertility lottery and became pregnant, only to miscarry a short time later. It remains one of the most despairing moments of *my* life; I can’t possibly imagine how horrific the rollercoaster of hope and dashed-hope is for an infertile couple.

I too, am worried about a house-full of my children, while they wait for their new homes to be ready. Whether it’s a couple of weeks or a couple of months that we’re all penned up together, there can’t help but be awkward and painful moments. And I don’t want those unfortunate moments to define our relationships going forward.

And I’m so thankful to Tiana for expressing herself so openly in the blogpost below. Tiana, you have a pass to skip family meals whenever things get overwhelming.

Life Less Fiction

We’ve started packing up for our big move at the end of the month.  But going through some of my stuff has turned me into a sobbing baby.  There are a lot of memories in there.

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Building a Killer Email List

Great idea!

David Gaughran

wanted-alt71-200x300There is a lot of upheaval in publishing today and I think that’s likely to increase rather than decrease. The best insurance policy any writer can have against the future is a targeted mailing list.

I’ve written before about how the author with the biggest mailing list wins, and I’ve invited Nick Stephenson along today because he’s got some great ideas on how to boost your list.

The cool thing about his approach is that it’s something anyone can do. And, as you will see, it really, really works. Here’s Nick with more:

Building a Killer Email List

As an author, I try to read as much as possible. I tend to get excited over 8 or 9 different authors across a few different genres, and I always buy their new releases as soon as I hear about them. Whenever I find out there’s a new book on the shelves, I go…

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Dinner and a Good Book: On the Way to a Wedding by Suzanne Stengl

Every week I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Suzanne Stengl’s On the Way to a Wedding. I adored this book and read it in one sitting.

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? Aunt Tizzy’s Brandied Peaches (scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe) fits the bill on the both counts. Aunt Tizzy, who figures prominently in the book, is the lovable relative everyone wishes they had. The aunt who loves to spike the wedding punch and gives the bride-to-be a racy shower gift. 😉

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …


Amazon.com:  On the Way to a Wedding

Suzanne Stengl’s  Website:  http://www.suzannestengl.com/ 

Ryder O’Callaghan finds Toria Whitney on the side of a forest road with a totaled car, a sprained ankle, and a wedding dress. Both Ryder and Toria are scheduled to be married in three weeks—but not to each other.

Ryder’s pride has him hell bent on proving a point to his father. He’s building an estate home and marrying a sophisticated society girl.

Toria is running scared. She’s called off her wedding to the man her parents approve, and she needs time and space to discover what she really wants. The last thing she needs is the overwhelming attraction she feels for Ryder.

And Ryder, confident in his conviction that love is overrated, denies his surprising fascination for his roadside damsel in distress.

But sometimes love arrives in the most unexpected places.

A 66,000 word novel – Coming of Age, Sweet Contemporary Romance – some Adult Language – features a lovable construction worker who occasionally curses when in the grip of powerful emotions, like when he duels with the heroine or hits his thumb with a hammer.


The headlights gleamed over the wet gravel. Rain pelted the truck. And the temperature had dropped. The way his luck was going, this would turn to hail. A chunk of gravel loosened from the edge of the road and dropped into the stream of water flowing through the ditch. At least they were moving to higher ground.

The cabin was supposed to be at the end of this road. But how much farther? And why did it have to rain now? Sure, they needed rain. But why now, for Chrissake?

He gripped the steering wheel and downshifted, scanning the roadside, looking for the lane. They had to be close. Pro had told him?

Good. There it was. The headlights lit up the crooked sign, nailed to a tree. Road’s Inn, it said. This road’s end. The sign was flapping in the wind.

He drove into a short lane and reached a narrow parking area sprinkled with gravel. According to Pro, the cabin was about a hundred feet ahead at the end of a curving dirt path.

Rain hammered over the truck, like it was trying to get inside.

They could just stay put. Stay in the truck. Because if they tried to make it to the cabin, they were going to get wet. Never mind wet. They were going to get soaked.

But—he turned to look at her—she wasn’t getting any warmer. Even with the heater on full, her teeth were still chattering. If they could get to the cabin, he could build a fire. And there would be food in the cabin. He could make her something hot to drink.

“Why are we stopped?”

“We’re here.”

“Where is here?”

“There’s a cabin here.”

“There is?” She stared out the windshield, trying to see.

So they’d get wet, and cold. But they couldn’t stay in the truck all night. He turned off the ignition, darkness closed over them, and he reached under his seat.

For his flashlight.

Except it wasn’t his flashlight. One of his framers had borrowed his mag light, again, and left this piece of crap. He pulled out the small replacement light and clicked it on. A pale orange glow.


“What’s the matter?”

Everything. The rain. The road. This unexpected passenger. The wedding, his business. His life.

“Slide over here.”


He took her running shoe out of her hands and set it on the dash.

“You can’t c-carry me. Not far.”

“You can’t walk.”

She picked up her shoe. “I c-can sort of w-walk,” she said, teeth chattering. She reached in her shoe, pulled the sock out and shoved it into the pocket of his jacket. Then she started to ease the running shoe over her bandaged foot.

With eyes squeezed shut, she tugged the shoe on. Then she loosely tied the lace. Her hands were shaking and her fingers looked stiff.

“Okay, I—I’m ready.”

Stamina, if nothing else. No brains, but stamina. He felt for the key in his pocket. Pro had given him the key. This was one of Pro’s stupider ideas.

“Do you want your c-coat?”

“No. I’ll get wet anyway.”


“Come on.” He opened the door and stepped into the cold dark rain. The icy wet stung his face and neck. In a few seconds his clothes were drenched.

She slid down next to him, standing on her right foot. Her arm, tentative at first, slipped around his waist. Her hair blew over his throat and her body trembled against his.

He shoved the truck door and heard it latch. Then he put his right arm around her and aimed the dying flashlight at the cabin. He could barely see the path.

With the rain and the wind slamming into his skin, the mud sucked at his boots. She kept her arm around his waist, trying to put weight on her damaged foot.

At least she tried for about three steps. With each step, her whole body tensed. She let herself lean on him more and hopped with her good foot. The mud was slippery. She’d have fallen if he hadn’t been holding her.

They were halfway up the path, when he noticed the mud wasn’t sucking him down anymore. He pointed the flashlight onto the path where the dim light showed interlocking bricks, covered in puddles. Rain peppered the bricks and the wind blasted waves over the water.

And then the flashlight oozed out.

“This way,” she said.

They stumbled forward, in the direction of the cabin. At least he could tell he was walking on bricks. All he had to do was follow the bricks, because he couldn’t see a damn thing.

He could hear though. The wind, the trees swinging and creaking, and . . . water flowing, like they were near a stream?

The eaves troughs. He could hear them, overflowing, splashing down.

“Here,” she said, pausing.

He felt with his boot until he touched the first step of the porch directly in front of him.

He pulled her tighter against his side and lifted her up the step, and then up a second step. And then they were on the porch and out of the rain.

A loud clap of thunder boomed overhead at the same time as a wavering flash of lightning illuminated the door in front of him. Then all was dark again.

Holding the dead flashlight in his hand, he reached for the door and touched it, tapping, metal against wood. Then, still holding the useless light, he felt with the backs of his fingers for the door knob, and the key hole.

She had both her arms around him, like she was trying to press against his warmth. She was shivering, a lot, and she wasn’t letting go.

“I have to get the key,” he said.

She seemed to realize what she was doing, let go of him and moved away. He heard her, hopping toward the door.

Carefully, he took the key out of his jeans pocket and found the lock again. This key had better work.

It did. The wind swung the door open, crashing it inside. He reached out to find her, touched her shoulder, and waited for her to hop into the entrance. Then he followed her inside and closed the door, pushing against the wind. The latch snicked shut and they were out of the storm, standing in complete darkness. His clothes were soaked, and he was cold, and tired, and hungry.

He could hear her, close by, her teeth chattering. Outside, the wind howled and the trees shrieked, but in here, the cabin was quiet and still. Except for the sound of her teeth chattering, and his heart pounding in his ears.

He leaned his forehead against the door, took a deep breath and slowly let it out.

She must have found a chair near the door. He could hear it scraping over the floor as she moved it.

“Is there a table beside you?” Maybe she could feel it. She couldn’t see any better than he could.

She didn’t say anything. Then he heard the rasp of a match and saw the sudden flare of its light. She’d found the matches that Pro had said would be on the table by the door. There was a lantern too. But her hand was shaking so badly the match flickered out.

Maybe he should have left her in the truck until he’d got the fire started.

“I’ll do it,” he said. He felt her ice cold hand take his as she pressed the match box into his palm.

“This way,” she said, setting the box so it was right side up. He felt for a match, lit it, and saw her taking the globe off the lantern. She slid the lantern toward him, he lit the wick, and then took the globe out of her hands and replaced it.

Soft light filled the cold room. Outside, the storm raged, emphasizing the quiet of the cabin. But the lantern’s light made it seem—somehow—warmer.

And maybe if he’d left her in the truck, she wouldn’t have stayed.

She was sitting on the chair beside the table. Her hair was dripping and the jacket she was wearing, his jacket, was plastered to her shivering body. She bent down, and with fumbling fingers she started untying her running shoe. The one on her injured foot. She carefully pulled off the muddy shoe and dropped it on the floor. Then she started plucking at the laces on her other shoe.

Good idea. He got out of his own boots. They were covered in mud but his feet were dry—the only part of him that was dry.

He picked up the matches from the table and walked across the room to the stove, a pot-bellied black stove with a glass door. Next to it, a brass bin held wood and kindling and old, yellowed newspapers. Kneeling in front of the stove, he clinked the door open and—thank you Pro—wood and kindling were laid inside. He lit a match, held it to the kindling, and watched as the fire caught and leapt and spread over the logs. Then he creaked the stove door shut, stood up, and turned around.

She was still sitting on the chair by the door. Her teeth were still chattering and her hair was still dripping.

“Take off your clothes.”


“When I was a child, I shared a bedroom with three of my younger sisters. I used to tell them stories to help them fall asleep. Sometimes, they fell asleep before the stories ended and, unaware, I would keep telling the story, until my mother called up the stairs. “Sue? They’ve gone to sleep.” And then I would quietly finish the story in my head.

I didn’t start writing down my stories until much later. In my last year of university, I collected all the reports from my Marketing Group and wrote up our study like a novel. My classmates liked it, and so did the prof.

Eventually, I found a little two-line invitation to a romance writers organization in the back of the Writers Guild magazine, and I showed up. I had found my people.”

Suzanne Stengl writes Sweet Contemporary Romance. Her other title include, ANGEL WINGS and GHOSTLY TREASURE.

Aunt Tizzy’s Brandied Peaches


4 pounds ripe peaches

4 pounds white sugar

3 cups water

1 pint brandy or more, your favourite flavour.

Have about 4 pint jars, lids, rings ready – clean and sterilized. You might need more depending on the size of your peaches.

Blanch your peaches.

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.

Score each peach with a little “x” and carefully add it to the boiling water.

Leave it there for about a minute or until the skin splits.

Remove the peach and drop it in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes.

When the peaches are cool enough to handle, peel, pit and quarter them.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the peaches. Simmer until soft, about 5 minutes.

Carefully layer peaches into each jar. Use a knife to release any air bubbles.

Boil the remaining syrup until it slightly thickens, then add the brandy. Remove from heat.

Spoon over the peaches, until there is ¼ inch of headroom. Add seals and lids.

Process in a boiling water bath. In Calgary, I do it for 20 minutes. Consult your canning guide for the appropriate time for your altitude.

When the appropriate processing time is done, turn off the heat, remove the cover, and after about 5 minutes remove the jars. Line them up on the counter to cool and do not move them for at least 6 hours. Listen for the pop.

Then after 6 hours, check each seal. Store for up to a year, and hide from Toria.


Death Row Meals: Victor Feguer Prisoner # 28105

It used to be my party ice-breaker question: If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you choose as your final meal?

As you might imagine, the question quickly thinned the crowd of people who wanted to hang around me for the evening. But it’s a question that death row inmates have had to consider time and again as an execution date draws closer.

This set of blog posts takes a look at their fascinating choices and speculates about the reasons surrounding those choices.
Victor FeguerFirst up is Victor Feguer. Executed by hanging on March 15, 1963 in Iowa, Feguer’s last meal request was a single olive. With the pit. He tucked the pit into the pocket of his suit the morning of his execution. I could find no information on the significance of the olive to Feguer.

Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Feguer had a long history of mental illness culminating in the kidnapping and murder of Dr Edward Bartels. The motive for the murder is unclear; it seems Feguer randomly selected Bartels name and number from a phone book. He lured Bartels to his apartment on a house call with a story about a wife in pain after a recent surgery. In fact, Feguer had no wife.

There are theories that Feguer simply wanted to get morphine or Demerol from the doctor, but whatever his motivation, it ended in the death of Bartels, a father of three and with his wife expecting a fourth child.

Captured when trying to sell Bartel’s 1959 Rambler, Feguel revealed the location of the doctor’s body but pinned the crime on a fictional “Alex Dupree”.

After Feguel’s death it would be 38 years before the next federal execution in Iowa – Timothy McVeigh.

Indie Publishing – Is it For You?

I’ve been fortunate to have published across a diverse spectrum – fiction, non-fiction, travel, business, food, education, relationships. Until this year, my writing has been published the traditional way (editor, publishing house), but this year I opted to try out self-publishing.

And it’s been a blast.

I started by publishing one of my out-of-print books (my publishing house, like so many, has gone under), a piece of non-fiction on conspiracy theories. There was comfort in knowing the material was solid, especially as I navigated the uncharted channels of self-publishing. I’d considered self-publishing years ago, when indie publishing online was in its infancy, but was put off by all the layers legwork.

There are a lot of hoops to jump through in indie publishing. Viewed at once, it can be overwhelming, but broken down into single tasks the job becomes do-able. Get an EIN, an ISBN, a CIP. Decide on a single source aggregate distributor (simpler, but lower royalties), handle distribution yourself, or some hybrid of the two. Social networking platforms. Goodreads, Books In Print. Beta readers, cover artists, editing.

Have you toyed with the idea of self-publishing? I’m not gonna lie. It’s a lot of work. It’s also a lot of fun. If you like control of your projects and love to learn, indie publishing might be for you.

This set of blog posts will be a breakdown of the steps you’ll need to take to get from I’ve-Written-A-Book to I’ve-Published-A-Book. I’m Canadian, so my experiences will have that flavo(u)r, but many of the steps will be common to anyone looking to publish. Example: In Canada, ISBN numbers are free; in the U.S., ISBN numbers must be purchased. Where possible, I’ll include country specific information.

Welcome to my world of indie publishing and I hope I can make your journey to publication less complicated than mine was.

Conspiracy Theories: Malaysian Flight MH17

In the week following the crash of Malaysian Flight MH17 over  the Eastern Ukraine, conspiracy theorists have lost no time in speculating about the possibilities. The Washington Posts lists several such conspiracy theories surrounding the crash:

  1. The crash was part of an HIV/AIDS cover up – the idea being that the plane carried prominent HIV/AIDS researchers. Was the plane targetted by a force wanting to silence the researchers, or to prevent a cure for AIDS?
  2. The plane was bombed in an attempt to initiate WWIII.
  3. It was an attempt of Vladmir Putin’s life. Theorists say that Putin was aboard his private jet on the same general trajectory, at approximately the same time.
  4. The jet was diverted into the crash zone and onboard explosives detonated to provide a reason for an invasion.
  5. The MH17 is actually MH370, which disappeared months ago.
  6. Passenger were dead before the flight departed. Pro-Russian rebel commander Igor Girkin was quoted as saying that “a significant number of the bodies (at the crash site) weren’t fresh”.
  7. My personal favorite: The Illuminati are behind the crash.  You can find Illuminati math here at the Conspiracy Zone.

Dinner and a Good Book: Devin’s Second Chance by Lorraine Paton

Every week I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This weekend curl up with Lorraine Paton’s Devin’s Second Chance. Everyone deserves a second chance. Does Devin? His mom thinks so, but does Claire?

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? This blog post is going live during the peak of grilling season. We grilled steaks last night and had a couple leftover that will work just perfectly in this Steak Tortilla recipe.  And the leftover mangos we had for dessert would re-purpose well in a Mango Smoothie.   Sometimes the second time around is even better. 😉

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …


Get your copy of Devin’s Second Chance

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DevinsSecondChance_LorrainePaton_KindleCowboy Devin Trent can’t believe his matchmaking mom is trying to set him up with Claire Best, the photographer at the local art gallery.  She should know better than anyone why he doesn’t deserve a second chance at love. What surprises him even more is that he is drawn to Claire and she seems interested in him, too. Their mutual attraction grows every time they see one another, but when he suspects Claire is keeping a secret he becomes wary. After all, his first marriage was ruined by secrets and lies. Can Devin earn Claire’s trust? Or, will Claire’s secret end their relationship before it begins?


Devin stared at Claire and cursed. Why the hell was she here? No, he could figure that out well enough. His mother and her schemes were going to kill him. Tonight, the minute he got home, he’d be sitting down with his darling meddling mother and they’d have a long chat about how she was going to quit interfering.

Claire had cringed when she saw him, then she glanced away. Her reaction was exactly what he would have expected. She’d told him clearly enough he was an ass the last time they’d been together. He’d had his hand in her pants, and she’d told him to get lost. That was pretty damn clear.

When she looked at him a second time, he motioned for her to come down. He probably should go up there and explain things, but she was sitting in front of Hanna May, the busiest busybody on the circuit. That woman didn’t miss many rodeos and she certainly never missed any gossip. His mother had probably planned that, too.

Claire took a deep breath, then nodded. When she stood, Devin had to drag his gaze away. She was wearing a snug T-shirt and jeans, displaying her tight little body. Making him think about things he really shouldn’t…couldn’t. He was not going to gawk at her breasts pressing against the thin material.

He wasn’t.


LorrainePatonI’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of wonderful things in my life… and plan to do a lot more!

During my adventures, I’ve learned about:

  • patience when searching for Nessie from Urquhart Castle,
  • exhilaration when landing a Cessna during my one flying lesson,
  • curiosity of the exotic while wilting on a trip down the Belize River,
  • discovery during an archaeological dig in Italy,
  • stage fright while being interviewed for an article on writing romance,
  • nature while sailing in the Gulf Islands with marine biologists,
  • leisure when soaking in the hot springs in Banff National Park,
  • team work as President of the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association,
  • seizing the opportunity when climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa,
  • opulence when celebrating New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas,
  • history when going on a ghost tour in Edinburgh, and
  • sex when visiting the brothel paintings that were preserved in Pompeii. 😉


I’ve loved writing since I was a little girl, and, over the last decade or so, I’ve been making writing a priority in my life.

So I figured that if I could let go of an airplane wing with only a parachute on my back and a one-way radio strapped to my front, I should be able to let go of my stories and send them out into the world.