#ThorsdaySmile – #AmLaughing – #Humor

As we all know by now, the God of Thunder is persnickety as all get-out about the memes I share on Thorsday. What you may not have know is, he can go from picky, picky, picky to not giving a hoot in about three seconds flat. Today was one of those days, and left to my own devices, I decided to hunt down a few funny signs to share with you. Hope you find a snicker or two in the bunch!  😁

Some Signs of the Times to
brighten your day.
Hope you enjoyed them!

#WildlifeWednesday – #AmericanAlligatorPart1- #Introduction

Starting a new series today that I hope you folks will enjoy. Since I’m not able to give my local wildlife talks at the present time, I decided it would be fun to share some of the tidbits from them here on TWS. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing a couple of interesting slides from various presentations I’ve done, and learning a few new things about wildlife, particularly wildlife found in Central Florida. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my good friend and fellow wildlife lover, Dennis Burnette, will be joining us when he can to share some wildlife posts of his own. Our posts won’t follow a strict scheduled, but will always be shared on Wednesdays, and we both hope you’ll enjoy the information we pass along.

I figured I’d get the ball rolling with a post on Florida’s most famous (notorious?) critter, the American Alligator. I’ll mostly be using photos taken by my good friend, the late Doug Little, who spent years leading ecotours on the St. Johns River. Happily, Doug gave me several hundred of his pictures to share wherever I wanted, including this photo of “Ol’ Tick,” a large, ancient alligator who had reserved this very spot along the river for his own exclusive use. (Would you challenge this guy? I think not.) 

Photo by Doug Little

Now … Exactly What Is an Alligator?

I’ve noticed that folks from other parts of the world often refer to alligators as “crocs,” but alligators and crocodiles are different animals, honest. Yes, it’s true that all alligators are crocodilians, but  all crocodilians are definitely not alligators.

(Trust Me: The Only Croc in this Picture is the Shoe)

To help sort it all out … or perhaps confuse you even more …  consider this: There are 23 species of crocodilians, but only two of them are alligators. Yep. Just TWO. 

23 Species of Crocodilians (Partial List)

*Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) – native from Mexico to Northern Argentina

*Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger) – native to South America

*Australian saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)  – native to Australia
*Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus Johnstoni) – native to Australia
*Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) – native to Africa
*Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) – native to India
*Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) -native to  South America

*Gharial/Gavial – (Gavialis gangeticus) – native to Northern parts of India


Yep, you read right. Only TWO out of 23 crocodilians are alligators. The other 21 species fall under one of the three categories listed above.

I’m always amazed that out of the only two alligator species on earth, one lives in the southeastern part of the United States …

and the other one lives clear around the world in China! The Chinese alligator is restricted to the Yangtze River area, where the orange dot is in this illustration.

That seems pretty strange, but it’s true.  The Chinese alligator is also a critically endangered species, and is a much smaller reptile than our American one. See?

The American alligator is a whole ‘nuther animal, as we say around these parts, and grows to a much, much larger size than their 5’ long Chinese counterparts. Here are some numbers that might surprise you:


Average Sized Males: 11 feet, 780 lbs
Average Sized Females: 8.5 feet, 201 lbs
Verified Record Size: 13.9 feet
Unverified Record Sizes: 17 to 19 feet
Common Reports in the Late 1800s: 16 to 20 feet

Just think … this guy is nowhere near his potential full size!


*The American alligator is said to have the third strongest bite force of any living animal. (First and second place go to the saltwater crocodile and the Nile crocodile). 

*The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission considers alligators to be a “Keystone Species,” modifying wetlands during drought, and being vital to the health of their environment.

*Sometimes these predators eat wild grapes, elderberries, and citrus that grow alongside rivers and streams.

*The American alligator is the official state reptile for Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

*A Miocene era alligator skull was found in Marion County, Florida. (Age estimates vary from 5 million to 23 million years old!)

*The old theory was that alligators continue to grow throughout their lives. New data indicates  that growth stops at 25 to 30 years of age.

*The average lifespan of the American alligator is roughly the same as the average lifespan for humans.

Now that I’ve told you all about alligators and crocodiles being two different critters, let me add that we DO have a species of crocodile in south Florida, down in the Everglades area. The species there is the American salt water crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and is a completely different animal in both appearance and temperament than the American alligators we have throughout the entire state. You can tell them apart merely by looking at them, and here’s the scoop on that.

Check it out!

Picture 1: Alligator on the left, crocodile on the right;
Picture 2: Alligator in top photo, crocodile in bottom one.

Notice the bigger, wider, heavier-looking, U-shaped head on the gators,
and the darker gray to black coloring, as compared to the V-shaped head
and lighter grayish-tan color on the crocs.  It’s also of note that when the crocodile’s mouth is closed, you can see his top AND bottom teeth. Only the upper teeth are visible when an alligator’s mouth is closed. (It should go without saying if you are close enough to check their teeth, you should probably get the heck outta there!)  😁

One more comparison shot. Again, the alligator has a much more rounded, heavier looking head, compared to the croc, with its more slender, pointed snout. And, even though this croc is somewhat muddied up a bit, he is still lighter and more brownish in color than the gator. Crocs can range from light gray to a pale tan, but they are never the dark gray-to-black an adult alligator is.  Yes, they both look like giant, toothy lizards, but it’s really not that hard to tell them apart.

As for temperament, in general crocodiles tend to be a good bit more aggressive than alligators, though I would not recommend going swimming with either one. (More on that  topic later.)

I think this is probably a good place to stop for today, and I
hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the
American alligator.

Please join me next time for:

#GuestDayTuesday – #D.L.Finn – #BlogTour – In the Tree’s Shadow

It’s time for #GuestDayTuesday again, and perfect timing for a new release from author D. L. Finn. Denise has been touring with her latest collection of short stories, and I’m very happy to help her get the word out, too. I know you’ll enjoy her post today, so let’s get started. Denise, the floor’s all yours! 😊

Thank you for having me here today, Marcia, to share my short story collection, In a Tree’s Shadow.

“Alone” was written during a massive snowstorm last year that left my husband and me isolated for several days without power. My husband ventured out once to get gas for the generator after clearing the snow at the end of our driveway. This machine powers our well, so we have water and outlets in the bedroom so my husband’s CPAP machine can run while keeping our fridge running and use the microwave if needed.

I stayed home to keep the fire going. I wrote some poetry, and then my mind turned to the pure aloneness I felt at that moment. This story came from those thoughts while I waited for my husband to return home safely. He commented that it was the worse conditions he’s driven in, which is saying a lot. Most of the town was shut down except for a few gas stations and grocery stores—if they had enough employees.

In this story, Lydia’s husband collapses while cleaning snow off their driveway. An ambulance can make it there, and they offer her to go with them, but she decides to drive there. That one decision changed how things went for this couple.


A collection of short stories where dreams and nightmares coexist.

Nestled inside these pages, you’ll meet a couple in their golden years who take a trip with an unexpected detour, a boy desperate to give his brother the Christmas gift he asked for, a girl with a small glass dragon who is at the mercy of her cruel uncles, and a young mother who has a recurring dream about murder. You’ll be introduced to worlds where people get second chances and monsters might be allowed their desires, while angels and dragons try to help. Happy endings occur, but perspective can blur the line between good and evil in these twenty-seven tales. Since the stories vary between 99 and 12,000 words, whether you have only five minutes or an entire evening to settle into reading, there is something that will suit your time and taste.


The drought had left them all lazy. No one was prepared for a big storm as the heavy rains turned into snow the night before. Lydia had never minded being snowed in, even without power. But this time, with no power, internet, or communication, there was no joy, only anxiety. It was the first time in her life that she was entirely alone. The emptiness echoed loudly around her, bouncing off the carefully framed photos of happier times when living in a forest had been fun. There was only fear today when she went to leave the house and spotted an intruder. She quickly stepped back inside, slammed the door shut, and locked it. Wiping the frost from the front window, she peered through. They were still there. She tried waving, hoping they needed help, but there was no response except her goosebumps and sweaty palms. Without Bill she had to survive what Mother Nature brought her and a trespasser.

She squinted, but the face was hidden in the shadows. She was convinced it was a man under forty from his brawny warrior stance. He wore faded blue jeans, a red plaid shirt, a black vest, and a black stocking cap, much like many of the men in their small community, including Bill. The snow boots were dated and reminded her of the ones they used to own. Moon boots, Bill called them. Misery coursed through her, thinking of her husband fighting for his life at the hospital while she couldn’t get to him.

This person had to know she was alone and no one could help her. He must have watched the ambulance come and was aware there would be no 9-1-1 calls coming from her house—the power and phones had gone out right after. There was only the silence of a massive storm. She had not bothered to start the generator because she was planning to leave.



  1. I saw a pod of humpback whales from a plane as it was circling to land on Kauai.
  2. Sometimes, I won’t walk in the forest when I feel a bad vibe.

Author D. L. Finn

D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include children’s books, adult fiction, a unique autobiography, and poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

 D.L. Finn Links:

D.L. Finn blog
Amazon Page

#TenThingsYouMayNotKnowAbout #PeteSpringer

Good Morning, Everyone! Today’s special guest is author and retired teacher, Pete Springer. I’m very happy to have Pete join us, and I know that you are going to enjoy his post, so without further ado, let’s get started. Pete? You’re on!

Thanks for the pleasure of visiting The Write Stuff, Marcia. While I loved my career as an elementary teacher, my wife and I have embraced retirement and the opportunity to try new things. As you probably know by now, I’m following your path by writing later in life. While teaching, I knew I wanted to write middle-grade novels for children after I retired. I’ve spent the last few years learning how to write fiction by taking classes, reading books, joining a critique group, starting a blog, and writing most days. I love the creative challenge of building a fictional story from scratch. It’s what gets me excited to get up in the morning.

Before diving into that, I wanted to pay back a profession that had been so good to me. I wrote a book (They Call Me Mom) about my 31-year teaching career to pay it forward to the next generation of teachers. I call it a combination memoir/advice book. After serving as a master teacher to four student teachers during my career, I wanted to share my experiences and some of the moving and funny moments.

Now, I’m following through with my original goal and writing novels for the age I know best—middle grades. I’ve got two manuscripts going, one about to go to my editor any day. From the start, I wanted to write entertaining contemporary novels for kids in grades 5-8 about problems that today’s children face. Don’t let anyone tell you we had it much more challenging than kids do in 2023 because that’s not true.

Ten Things You May Not Know About Me 

I’ve visited each of the 50 states, though I don’t remember some because I was too little to recall much. Right before Covid started, my wife and I made it to the last one. (Alaska)

People tell me I’ve got a good voice for the radio, and I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t mind public speaking. I used to read our local newspaper over the airwaves once a week for the blind and those with limited vision. I spent my career as an elementary school teacher, but my backup plan was to become a sports broadcaster if I didn’t like teaching.

While happily retired, I miss reading aloud to children as I love literature and am a big ham. It was my chance to be an actor, imagining how the author wanted the characters to sound. I now read to seniors at assisted living twice a week as part of my community service work.

Several of my previous students have become teachers. I taught the last five years of my career with one of my former 4th-grade students.

I love almost all sports. Though not a star athlete, I won some local racquetball tournaments (spelled racketball in the UK). Now, I enjoy going to sporting events. I’ve attended the Super Bowl and the Final Four College Basketball Championships. Our son is a college football coach.

I try to stay in touch with my former elementary students as much as possible to see what direction their lives took them. One of my past students became a nanny to Jennifer Lopez (J. Lo—the singer and actress) and later to one of the Kardashian sisters. I recently connected with a student from my first year of teaching. (He’s now 49—yes, I feel old.) He is now a Hollywood film producer, director, and writer. He has a film coming out later this year starring Lindsay Wagner (from The Bionic Woman).

I met my wife in the teaching program in college. We started and finished our 31-year education careers in the same years. I taught elementary school (grades 2-6), and she was a preschool teacher and then director at the same site.

Last year I fulfilled a Bucket List item by flying across the country and spending time with each of my three older brothers. The four Springer brothers ended up in the four continental time zones, so I got my miles in. I went to New Jersey, Minnesota, and Colorado, before returning to my home in California.

On the same trip, I met two blogging friends in person. I spent part of the day in the classroom of the brilliant teacher, Jennie Fitzkee, and read a story to her preschoolers in Massachusetts. I then traveled to Pennsylvania and met Villanova University professor Jim Borden. I spent a glorious day with him in Philadelphia and visited many historical parts of the city. Jim filmed me running up the famed Rocky steps. Meeting them was one of the highlights of my trip.

We live within a couple of miles of the Pacific Ocean and our famed redwoods, the tallest trees in the world. Coast redwoods reach 370 feet tall, while giant sequoias are seldom more than 300 feet tall. Temperatures are mild year-round, ranging from 30-80 degrees Fahrenheit.



Who Will You Inspire Today? Teachers face this challenge and responsibility each day, but in the process, the author discovers that his students can also have a profound influence on him. Pete Springer takes you on his memorable thirty-one-year journey in education as an elementary school teacher and offers the many valuable life and teaching lessons he learned along the way. Get ready to laugh out loud at some of the humorous and memorable experiences that all teachers face, feel inspired by the inherent goodness of children, and appreciate the importance of developing a sense of teamwork among the staff. Learn valuable tips for working with children, parents, fellow staff members, and administrators. This book is ideal for young teachers, but also a reminder to all educators of the importance and responsibility of being a role model.

Author Pete Springer
(Photo was taken by my former sixth-grade student, Breanne Egbert.)

My name is Pete Springer. I taught elementary school for thirty-one years (grades 2-6) at Pine Hill School in Eureka, CA. Even though I retired over three years ago, my passion will always be supporting education, kids, and teachers.

When I came out of the teaching program many years ago, I realized how unprepared I was for what was in store for me in the classroom. My college education mainly focused on learning theory rather than the practical day-to-day challenges that all teachers face. Thankfully, I had some great mentors to lean on to help support me in the early part of my career.

I have made it my mission to pay it forward to the next generation of teachers. I was a master teacher to four student teachers, and I have several former students who are now teachers, including one who teaches at my former elementary school. That is pretty cool!

While teaching, I decided to write books for children one day. That ship is now in the harbor. I took some writing workshops, found a writing critique group, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and recently finished writing my first middle-grade novel. I’ve always connected with kids, and this is my new way of teaching.

You can Buy They Call Me Mom HERE
You Can Reach Pete on Social Media HERE:




Fantastic YouTube Video


#Bold&BlatantSelfPromo – #Excerpt – #ThatDarkestPlace – #RiverbendBook3


Here it is May already, and I hope everyone is ready for summer, as it’s it’s just around the corner, unless you live in Florida, in which case, it’s pretty much here already! While the rest of you are awaiting those muggier days, I thought I’d share another Bold & Blatant Self-Promo post with you. This time, I’m featuring the third (and possibly final) book in my Riverbend Series, That Darkest Place.  I had a plethora of things to decide between for my excerpt this time, from funny to anger-inducing to downright heartbreaking. It was definitely a tough decision, but I hope you enjoy what I landed on. Happy reading! 

“There are dark places in every heart, in every head. Some you turn away from. Some you light a candle within. But there is one place so black, it consumes all light. It will pull you in and swallow you whole. You don’t leave your brother stranded in that darkest place.”
~Hunter Painter~


The new year is a chance for new beginnings—usually hopeful, positive ones. But when Jackson Painter plows his car into a tree shortly after midnight on January 1, his new beginnings are tragic. His brothers, Forrest and Hunter, take up a grim bedside vigil at the hospital, waiting for Jackson to regain consciousness and anxious over how he’ll take the news that he’s lost a leg and his fiancée is dead. After all, the accident was all his fault.

As the shocking truth emerges, one thing becomes obvious—Jackson will need unconditional love and support from both of his brothers if he is to survive.

Just as he begins the long road to recovery, danger, in the form of a sinister, unsigned note, plunges him back into bleak despair. Scrawled in blood red letters, the accusation—and the threat—is clear. “MURDERER!”

Will the long, harrowing ordeal that lies ahead draw the Painter brothers closer together, or drive them apart forever?

Suspenseful and often heartbreaking, this small-town tale is a testimonial to the redemptive power of love and paints a story filled with humor, romance, and fierce family loyalty.


4:00 AM, Thursday,
January 2, 2014


(NOTE: After a long night of waiting for his older brother, Jackson Painter, to regain consciousness after his out of control drinking had caused a horrific car accident, Forrest was desperate to get out of that hospital room. He left his younger brother, Hunter, and his sister-in-law, Willow, keeping watch while he went to fetch them all coffee from the café downstairs.)


THOUGH HE’D ASKED Hunter and Willow to join him, he was relieved they’d opted to remain in the room. Someone should be there, in case Jackson woke up, but Forrest needed to get away. He’d been at the hospital all afternoon the day before, unable to reach Hunter while Jackson had been in surgery, and terrified that his big brother would die and he’d have to face it alone. Then, after Hunter and Willow had come home to find him sitting on their cottage steps, they’d all trekked back together to wait. And wait. And wait.

It was unreasonable to be mad that Hunter and Willow had gone out on the river for the day, unaware he’d been trying to reach them, but he couldn’t help it. Why was he having to deal with so much grief lately, with no one to lean on? Where were the warm, sheltering arms for him, comforting him in his misery?

He watched the light tick off each floor as the elevator descended to the cafeteria level, and he couldn’t help comparing this downward journey to the last year of his life. He was so immersed in his despairing thoughts, he didn’t even notice the elevator come to a stop. The doors opened, then slid closed again, and he looked up in surprise as the car began to climb. When it stopped again, he was back where he started.

Well, hell. How damn stupid was that? He figured there was probably a message in there, though. All this crap he felt was what Willow would call wallowing in self-pity, as though he was the only one suffering. He needed to stop it. She’d be ashamed of him, and that was reason enough to get a grip.

He valued Willow’s steadfast friendship above all else, except the love of his brothers, and he was determined not to behave in a way that would make any of them ashamed of him. He’d suck it up, do what needed to be done, and in the doing, maybe he’d get past his anger and grief, as well.

For the umpteenth time, Forrest wondered what the hell his brother had been doing, driving around so drunk he couldn’t control his car. Had Jackson still been pissed off at Hunter and him? Or was LeeAnn on the receiving end of his temper this time? Well, whatever had been causing Jackson’s out of control rants lately, he’d certainly paid a price for it, hadn’t he? And now it was time to put it all aside, and pull together.

Willow’d like that he was listening to her, and trying to do things better. Maybe she was right, and he really wasn’t the same man he used to be, when all he wanted to do was chase women and have a good time. He knew she cared about him, even if it wasn’t the same way she cared about Hunter, and by damn, he wasn’t gonna act like an ass and make her change her mind.

Fifteen minutes later, Forrest stepped off the elevator, juggling a cardboard tray with three large coffees and a bag of doughnuts balanced on it. He’d planned to eat in the cafeteria, and just take coffee back for Hunter and Willow, but he’d realized that even though he hated being trapped in Jackson’s room waiting for something to happen, he hated being alone even more.

Leaving the elevator behind, he turned down the first corridor on the left, and came to an abrupt halt, surprised to see Hunter and Willow standing in the hallway outside Jackson’s door. Panic gripped his heart, and his feet refused to move. What the hell was wrong, now? Oh, my God! Wasn’t losing their parents enough? He didn’t think he could stand it, if Jackson was gone, too.

Hunter waved him forward, offering a reassuring smile. “Nurse came.”

“It’s okay.” Willow patted Forrest’s arm. “She asked us to leave while she’s changing bandages and taking care of the catheter.  It’s probably all right for us to go back in.”

She peeked inside. “Yep. The curtain’s open. She’s just rearranging his blankets and pillows, now.”

They trooped into the room, took their seats, and Forrest passed out the Styrofoam cups. In near-unison, they sipped the tepid coffee as they watched the efficient movements of the nurse.

When she finished, she gave them a painfully cheerful smile. “There. That’s better! He’s resting comfortably now, and all cleaned up for company.”

Forrest fought the urge to smack that perky grin right off her face. It seemed obscene in light of his brother’s condition. While he was contemplating telling her where she could stuff her syrupy sweet attitude, Hunter was contemplating something completely different.

“Where are the police?”

The nurse’s smile faltered. “I’m sorry? The police?”

Hunter cocked his head. “Shouldn’t they have been here by now? To talk to us?”

“I have no idea what you mean. Why on earth would the police be here?”

Hunter’s mouth tightened. “To press charges? Or make arrangements to do so.”

She still looked blank.

To Forrest’s surprise, Hunter, the gentlest of the three of them, lost his temper. “I could be wrong,” he snapped, “but isn’t killing a passenger while driving under the influence a crime? Negligent homicide, maybe?”

The nurse—Millie, according to her nametag—frowned and reached for Jackson’s chart. They waited in silence as she flipped through several pages, scanning back to his admission, then turned to them, puzzled.

“May I ask what your relationship with Mr. Painter is?”

“I’m Hunter Painter, Jackson’s brother. I’ve been here for hours. This is my other brother, Forrest. He’s been here even longer. We need answers. Now.”

To her credit, the nurse’s expression softened a bit. “I’m sorry, Mr. Painter. It’s just that I don’t understand why you think the police should be here at this point. My records don’t indicate anything about a DUI.”

As one, both brothers and Willow rose, all gaping.

Forrest spoke first. “What the hell are you talkin’ about? What do you mean?”

“I mean just what I said. At the time of the accident, your brother wasn’t drunk.”


Download on Kindle for Just $3.99
Available in Print for  $13.99

 Author Marcia Meara

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years and four big cats.

When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. She enjoys nature. Really, really enjoys it. All of it! Well, almost all of it, anyway. From birds, to furry critters, to her very favorites, snakes. The exception would be spiders, which she truly loathes, convinced that anything with eight hairy legs is surely up to no good. She does not, however, kill spiders anymore, since she knows they have their place in the world. Besides, her husband now handles her Arachnid Catch and Release Program, and she’s good with that.

Spiders aside, the one thing Marcia would like to tell each of her readers is that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. If, at the age of 69, she could write and publish a book (and thus fulfill 64 years of longing to do that very thing), you can make your own dreams a reality, too. Go for it! What have you got to lose?

Buy Marcia’s Books Here

Wake-Robin Ridge: Book 1
A Boy Named Rabbit: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 2
Harbinger: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3
The Light: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 4

Swamp Ghosts: Riverbend Book 1
Finding Hunter: Riverbend Book 2
That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3

Riverbend Spinoff Novellas
The Emissary 1
The Emissary 2 – To Love Somebody
The Emissary 3 – Love Hurts

Summer Magic: Poems of Life and Love

Reach Marcia on Social Media Here:

Blog: The Write Stuff
Email: marciameara16@gmail.com

#ThorsDaySmile – #AmLaughing – #Humor

Last time around, Thor was in the mood for April Showers, so it only seems appropriate that today, he’s looking for May flowers. And by “he’s looking,” I mean he sent ME to find them. NOT easy, but I did come up with a few that might make you grin. Here’s hoping! 😀 )

And there you have a veritable garden of May flowers!
Hope you enjoyed them!

#BonusGuestDay – Author #SueColetta – #NewRelease – #RestlessMayhem

Woohoo! Today is Bonus Guest Day, and today’s surprise visitor is author, Sue Coletta. Sue has a very interesting post to share, as she announces the release of her latest book in her very popular Mayhem series. I know you’re going to find this a lot of fun, so I’m gonna turn things over to Sue without further delay. Sue … take it away, my friend!

Thanks, Marcia

Birth Animals & Restless Mayhem

 Native American Spirit Animals and Zodiac are two different things. Spirit Animals refer to animals that you share a connection with, whereas the Native American Zodiac is your birth animal. It may come as no surprise to those who know me that my Spirit Animal is a crow. It’s also my birth animal. Is it any wonder I’m drawn to these magnificent black beauties?

Though I can’t tell you your Spirit Animal—only you can determine that—I thought it’d be fun to share our birth animals in the comments below.

Jan 20-Feb 18: Otter
Otters are proud, offbeat, and original individuals, who use unconventional methods to complete their goals. They may come across as unusual characters but their ability to approach things differently make them ideal problem-solvers. They’re also sensitive, attentive, honest, and reliable—perfect traits for a friend. Otters do require solitude, however. When they’re left alone too long, they can get rebellious and lash out. So, give them space, but not too much space.

Feb 19-March 20: Wolf
The Wolf is a walking contradiction. Loving and emotional, they also need freedom and don’t like taking orders. Folks born under the Wolf sign possess a deep longing to help others. Because of their generous nature, they freely give love. Driven by their need to also receive love, they’re fiercely protective of their independence and don’t like being too tied down in a relationship, often resulting in conflict.

March 21-April 19: Falcon
The falcon is a born leader, always ready to take the initiative. Not impulsive at all. Blessed with a natural judgment, the falcon steps forward when a crisis arises. Their natural ability to lead might make them appear arrogant at first, though their opinions are usually spot-on. Falcons are also deeply passionate, supportive, and excels in maintaining lifelong relationships.

April 20-May 20: Beaver
The beaver has a cunning and sharp mind. Quick thinkers and excellent problem-solvers, the beaver can adapt and overcome any situation. This trait makes them a powerhouse force in business. These individuals can get held back with their “my way or the highway” attitude, but their compassionate and loyal nature balances them out.

May 21-June 20: Deer
Lively and energetic, the deer has a sparkling personality and quick wit. Most are hilarious. Deer shine at any gathering, as they’re quite entertaining. People are drawn to the deer because of their charisma, warmth, and humor. Though they prefer being the center of attention, their friendly nature supersedes any self-involved characteristics. In a crisis, they may not be your first choice. Deer avoids conflict and often run from a fight or tragic situation.

June 21-July 21: Woodpecker
The most nurturing in the zodiac, the woodpecker is super supportive, empathetic, and caring—great listeners who never judge—but also can be extremely jealous and possessive. Though the woodpecker is a reliable partner and friend, they’re a bit frugal and thrifty, with supreme organizational skills. Need help creating a budget? Call a woodpecker friend.

July 22-August 21: Salmon
The salmon has an infectious energy that’s impossible to ignore. Inherently goal-orientated, salmon need to find their purpose in life and believe in chasing their dreams. Salmon are stable, calm, and enthusiastic, resulting in a sensual and passionate partner.

August 22-September 21: Bear
The bear is practical, hard-working, selfless, and has a generous spirit. These individuals are exceptional judges of character and can find the truth behind lies. Their calm and patient temperament is only unmatched by their mediative nature in tense situations. Modest and somewhat shy, bear prefer to work in a supportive role or quietly work in the background. You’ll never hear a bear brag or boast (try saying that three times fast).

September 22-October 22: Crow
The crow is an energetic, natural charmer, attractive, and mysterious. Both idealistic and diplomatic, crow portray balance and can often provoke their friends to think deeper. Crows are easygoing, patient, intuitive, and natural-born romantics. Rarely, if ever, will you see a crow freak out. Instead, they prefer to talk things through in a caring manner.

October 23-November 22: Snake
The snake might be the most spiritual of all the birth animals. Those born under this animal possess a unique tether to the spirit world. Because of this deep connection, they may give off an air of mystery, mystique, and secrecy. At other times, they may appear dark and frightening. In truth, the snake is sensitive, caring, and passionate.

November 23-December 21: Owl
Not surprisingly, the owl is wide-eyed and eager to experience new things. Difficult to sanction into one box, their views and life goals may change from moment to moment. They’re spontaneous, easy-going, adventurous, and ideal travel companions. A friend to everyone—at least on the surface—they adapt well to any environment.

December 22-January 19: Goose
The goose will achieve anything it sets its mind to, and they’ll often excel at it, too. Competitive but not motivated by the approval of others. They’re innate desire to achieve success makes them determined and a tad obsessive. Because of these traits, the goose is more prone to addiction. The goose is also passionate, humorous, and outgoing.

What’s your birth animal? Does it match your personality? Do you know your Spirit Animal? If so, do they differ?

I’d planned to share an excerpt that dealt with Spirit Animals, but I couldn’t find one that didn’t ruin the ending. Instead, I’ll share the opener. Hope you enjoy it!

Restless Mayhem Opener

As I faded into a peaceful slumber in the back bedroom of Mr. Mayhem’s log cabin in Jackson, New Hampshire, a hair-raising shriek startled me awake. I jolted upright. In the window, burning red eyes peered through a deluge of blackness, the background silenced by an eerie stillness, the stench of death seeping through the screen.

Oh. My. God. An icy tongue licked up my spine. Shicheii’s right. We woke the beast.

I leaped out of bed. Sprinted down the hall, my bare feet slapping the wide-pine floor. Up the stairs, I clamored. Braked at the top. Who should I wake? For days, my grandfather, a Diné Medicine Man with unlimited spiritual power, warned me and Mr. Mayhem that our so-called “mistakes” could reanimate an ancient beast from its dormancy. So, waking Shicheii probably wasn’t the best idea. But the last time I woke Mr. Mayhem, a cunning warrior steeped in mystery and mystique… Well, let’s just say it didn’t go well.

If he and I hadn’t left two dead poachers in the forest surrounding the property, I wouldn’t have to make this decision. But those burning red eyes weren’t going away on their own. I had to do something, tell someone about the creature lurking outside my window. Those eyes didn’t belong to a normal animal.

With no other alternative, I padded into Mr. Mayhem’s dark and quiet bedroom. Even though this felt wrong on so many levels, I crept closer.

Steps away from the bed, Poe—his freakishly human crow companion—cracked open one eye, and I swear that bird chuckled under his breath, no doubt thinking, Good luck, asshole. Spirit Crow slept next to him, her brilliant white plumage glistening in the moonlight, delicate feet tucked under her body on the tribal blanket. Almost scentless, a slight hint of citrus surfed the air.

Moonbeams cascaded over Mr. Mayhem’s face and bare chest. Out cold, a deep sleep like last time. Uh-oh. From several feet away, I cleared my throat.

He didn’t budge.

A little louder—not too loud or I might wake Shicheii in the bedroom next door—I cleared my throat a second time, my insides screaming for me to leave.

Nothing. Not even a twitch of the eyelids.

Shit. I couldn’t call out without alerting my grandfather, but approaching Mr. Mayhem without fair warning could turn deadly fast. If touched, his first reaction was to attack, so nudging him was out of the question. Learned that little tidbit the hard way, and I certainly wasn’t in a hurry to do it again.

 Amidst a rising tide of poachers, three unlikely eco-warriors take a stand
to save endangered Eastern Gray Wolves—even if it means
the slow slaughter of their captors.

It’s release day! Grab your copy of Restless Mayhem for 99c on Amazon before the price rises to full retail.

Author Sue Coletta

 Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers”) and Writers Helping Writers.

Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and writes two psychological thriller series, the Mayhem Series and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Sue teaches a virtual course about serial killers for EdAdvance in CT and a condensed version for her fellow Sisters In Crime. She’s appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery (airs: summer, 2023).

Buy Link for All of Sue’s Books

You can reach Sue on Social Media here:

Thank you so much for being our guest today, Sue!
Here’s wishing you much success with Restless Mayhem.

#GuestDayTuesday – Featuring #AuthorSallyCronin – #BloggerExtraordinaire

Today, it is my great pleasure to introduce someone who actually needs no introduction at all … but I’m giving her one, anyway. 😁Please help me welcome Author and Blogger Extraordinaire, Sally Cronin. Most of you are very familiar with Sally and her fabulous Smorgasbord blog, but I’m guessing you may not be quite as familiar with the romantic story she’s sharing here today. I know you’re gonna love it, so let’s get to it!  Sally, my friend, the floor is yours! 😀

So delighted to be back as a guest on my always ROCKIN’ friend’s blog.
A fantastic place to be showcased!
Thanks so much Marcia

Life Changing Moments -The Rocky Road to True Romance

Have you ever wondered why the classic fairy stories that involve a beautiful farmer’s daughter, scullery maid or even a princess, who are swept off their feet by a handsome and rich stranger on a white horse; end with the words ‘And they lived happily ever after’.

Because most were written by men at a time when a woman was a chattel who cooked, cleaned and bore children. The men however went about their business as usual; of course living happily ever after.

That may sound a bit cynical, but I can remember as a child being fed the propaganda. Most commonly via bedtime stories and the ‘Happy Ever After’ films that we were allowed to watch in our teen years. Disney had the whole thing down to a fine art.

By the time I was sixteen, I was convinced that at some point, a rich and handsome stranger was going to gallop into my life and sweep me off into a fairy tale future in a palace with a new generation of princes and princesses, and a life of love and contentment.

By the time I was 19 years old I had kissed a few frogs, and thought that Prince Charming had ridden in a few times, but discovered that in reality they just as quickly rode off into the sunset. Still that is all part of growing up, but because of the indoctrination of childhood, I mistook one particular prince for the real thing.

Oh the joy in the royal family that the princess had been chosen by a prince of such standing from the neighbouring county. A large and lavish wedding was orchestrated by the two queens with the kings simply opening the doors to their treasure houses. The invitation lists in both palaces grew by the hour as dignitaries were invited from far and wide. Many of whom the princess and prince had never met! The reception was a masterpiece of just the right location and the food suitably divine. A vaulted arch of the prince’s entourage lined the drive from the grand cathedral; carriages awaited to take the jubilant bridal party to the festivities.

A few glasses of champagne, elegant speeches and a thrown bouquet that was caught by the next lucky bride, and the prince swept the princess off on his charger into the sunset to the awaiting bridal chamber.

They call it a day to remember, and certainly as I thought about the celebrations in the weeks, months and years that followed, I knew it would be etched on my mind forever. Such an auspicious beginning, and at first it seemed that the dream would continue. However, pretty quickly, what I had believed to be the epitome of true romance had vanished. As tragedy, a controlling environment and betrayal came to light, I found myself trapped by the web that had been spun around me; I felt it would be impossible to break free without angering so many.

But one morning I woke up to find the spell had lost its power, and despite the threat of banishment to a far off land where my shame would not be witnessed by family and friends; I packed up a small bundle of clothes and hit the road. I spent the next three years concealing my whereabouts and keeping well away from anyone who knew me. I ended up in the depths of the Welsh mountains where I worked hard to make my own way, and drifted in and out of a few half-hearted relationships. I was not going to be caught up in the fairy tale again. I was very happy to be alone and to spend my life making my own decisions and being loved by cats.

Then, would you believe it… a prince arrived in disguise. Quiet and bespectacled and riding an ancient nag that had seen better days. There were no grand or extravagant gestures, just a gentle wearing down of my defences. But there was magic involved, of that I am certain. I felt myself being drawn in despite the walls I had built around me. A different kind of spell was being woven that enchanted me, and after only one dinner date, I found myself saying yes to spending a lifetime together with this softly spoken handsome suitor..

The Queen and King back at the castle where I was born were aghast on hearing that I was betrothed again. And to a foreign prince from afar with as yet unknown credentials, who had the audacity to propose on our first date; the Queen announced that she was about to faint.

My prince was not about to let the grass grow under his steed however and he approached the King and asked for his daughter’s hand. With the memory of the extravagance of the previous match, the king offered him £5 and a step ladder in the hopes there would be an elopement.

Which there was, and within six weeks, very quietly and without undue ceremony, we were married. This time just both sets of Kings and Queens and one lady in waiting attended! Drenching rain blessed the union in a small registry office in Wales.

After a festive lunch we set off on the prince’s ancient steed to a rather dark castle in the mountains where the bridal suite, decked in red flock wallpaper, vibrated to the noise emanating from the public bar beneath.

Then it was off to the damp and musty rooms that we managed to find whilst we worked and built up enough savings to buy our first modest home. This was followed by 42 years of travelling the world, living in wonderful countries and working together, with the promise we hope of many more years to come. Despite what had gone before; compelling me to seek sanctuary in that isolated spot in the mountains, it was clearly meant to be, and without doubt led to a life changing moment.

The End

(A Happily Ever After Ending if Ever I Read One, Sally!)

Author Sally Cronin

After a career in customer facing roles in the hospitality, retail, advertising and telecommunications industry, I wrote and published my first book in 1999 called Size Matters, about my weight loss journey, losing 150lbs in 18 months. This was followed by 13 further fiction and non-fiction books, including a number of short story collections. 

My aim was to create a watering hole on my blog to provide a wide number of topics to chat about…..This year in September 2020, Smorgasbord in its current format, celebrated its 7th anniversary. 

As important as my own promotion is, I believe it’s important to support others within our community. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog, linked to my social media 

Having lived a nomadic existence most of my life, I am now settled on the coast of Wexford in Southern Ireland with my husband of 40 years, enjoying the odd sunny day and the rain that puts the Emerald in the Isles.

You can find Sally’s book, and Sally, herself HERE:

Amazon US
Amazon UK 

#MondayMusings – Life Is Full of HAPPY Surprises, Too!

Given the way things have played out for many of us over the last three years or so, it’s easy to forget that not all surprises are unhappy ones. With Covid and other health issues, my husband’s job being eliminated forcing an early retirement, the rapidly rising cost of living, and being told I have to cut back on some of my very favorite activities, I began to wonder if it all added up to a preview of how bad everything in my life was going to be from here on out. Then I realized I had to stop focusing on the crummy stuff and think about the good things, like the many blessings I’ve had and am still having every day. They’d gotten a bit lost in all the grim headlines and brain fog going on, but upon reflection, I remembered there were still many, many things for me to be grateful for.

First and foremost of those is my family. My son and daughter are both doing very well, and their spouses and children are, too, as is my healthy and active husband. When I shoved the bad things off to one corner and focused my attention on the people I love most, both family and friends, I realized once again how lucky I am to have each one of them in my life. After all, it’s those folks we love who make all the difference.

Once I began shifting my point of view to the things in my life that I love (and those I am still able and allowed to do), everything began to look brighter. I’m laughing more and fretting less. I’m enjoying our four beautiful, funny cats, and spending more time watching all the activity at the birdfeeder. I notice hawks and the occasional bald eagle flying overhead again, and yes, I’m taking time to smell the roses, which are in bloom even as I type. In other words, life is far better than it was when I let the unpleasant stuff drag me down.

Also, you never know when something totally unexpected, but great fun, can happen out of the blue, impacting your life for the better, too. Case in point: Not too long ago, I got an email that surprised and delighted me. A boy I knew in high school was trying to reconnect with friends he’d known back in those ancient days (more than 60 years ago). He found me online, and emailed to ask if I was the Marcia he’d been friends with way back then. I am! And I promptly wrote him back.

Over the last few months, we’ve communicated regularly, catching up with each other, and sharing info about our spouses and children, and grandchildren. It has been wonderfully uplifting, but the most fun of all has been discovering that we are both (in his words) Bird Nerds. Wildlife enthusiasts. Nature lovers to the nth degree! Neither of us was all that into birding or hiking or canoeing when we knew each other in the 60s, but now, we are regularly updating each other on birds and wildlife we’re spotting, here in Florida for me, or up in North Carolina for him.

I’m telling you all of this for two reasons. First, as a reminder that mindset is everything. If you’ve been down lately because of health issues, or being trapped at home for months on end, or reading too many ghastly headlines, just remember that you can choose to look beyond those things and focus on the good stuff in your lives. Whether it’s family and friends, or the security of having a good job, or simply being able to enjoy an afternoon in your own backyard, there ARE good things around you. I hope you’ll give this some thought when those evil partners, Gloom and Doom, show up trying to body slam you to the canvas and tromp all over you. If I can do it, so can you. 😊 Honest.

The second reason I’m sharing all this is because after reconnecting with my friend, Dennis Burnette, I’ve had so much fun talking about wildlife again that I decided if I can’t give in-person talks locally these days, I’m going to revive an old series I ran here once or twice called “Wildlife Wednesdays.”

I’ll be posting some cool things I’ve learned about Florida birds, wildlife, and habitats, and I’ve invited Dennis to be a guest poster for the series, too, when he has time. His life is much busier than mine of late, but he has agreed to give it a try when he can, and I really think you’ll enjoy what he shares.

Dennis has a great deal more “professional” experience with presenting wildlife lectures and so forth than I. He also has some pretty amazing academic credentials, too. I suspect we will have very different approaches to our posts, but I hope you’ll enjoy both.

I’m going to start the ball rolling fairly soon with an inaugural post on alligators, since they are one of the more infamous critters that reside in Florida, and one I’m pretty familiar with.

Photo by Doug Little

I’ll wait until closer to time for Dennis’s inaugural post to let you know what he’ll be sharing with you. (Hint: I’ve seen his notes and they are terrific.) Both of us will do our best to make these posts informative, interesting, fun, and filled with beautiful pictures, as well. Hope you’ll check out “Wildlife Wednesday” when it gets underway. 

Thanks for reading this long post, and here’s to days filled with happy thoughts and loving friends and families. 

Remember: Keep Smiling!
(It makes people wonder what you’re up to.)