No Growth Without Change

We recently moved again. On one hand, we were just about settled in our new home on the island of Matlacha when we made the decision to move. On the other hand, the move affords us the opportunity to do some other things we had hoped to do in our retirement.

It was a really tough decision that had to be made quickly and it was deeply shocking to leave what we had just finished making our own. The thing is, we got an offer we couldn’t refuse on our Matlacha house and we didn’t even have the house on the market. Sadly, we were feeling settled as if we were finally able to call it home being there two good years after having been in Orlando for decades.

On the up-side, we have made some good friends here, which initially seemed might be a great challenge as, on first glance, there didn’t seem to be a lot of like-minded folks here. That was an illusion based on the highly visible unlike-minded folks. Most like-minded folks are a bit quieter about their business, but there are plenty of them around here.

We looked at waterfront properties north of Tampa where the water quality is better. There was nothing affordable there and then we got wind of the fact that all waterfront property, which requires flood insurance, was getting a HUGE cost increase beginning last Friday. People with $1200.00 policies are now expected to come up with $8500.00 per year for flood insurance. Climate change and years of waterfront people not paying risk-based premiums resulted in this outrageous hike. While we don’t like it, we also know it’s best for the environment that there is limited ability to develop waterfront in the future. Unfortunately, it prices out some people who have lived it all of their lives. Such a sad situation.

In the end, we made the decision to stay on Pine Island in a flood X zone that doesn’t require flood insurance. There was literally one house available and we grabbed it. Pine Island is the main island that Matlacha bridge was built for. Settled in the late 1800s, it was once home to a large tribe of Calusa Indigenous Peoples who met their demise along with many in the 1700s-early 1800s. It is said that Ponce De Leon was wounded here and the wound resulted in his death. There are mounds, canals, and villages they built on the islands that the Randell Research Center Maintains today.

When I am out kayaking, I often think of the indigenous people who called the coastal areas their home.

I am particularly fond of mangroves as they buffer our coasts and have a profound and most important ecosystem. Many miles and acres of them have been removed/destroyed for development and that complicates the abilities to deal with hurricanes and other large storms. The limited mangroves remaining are teaming with crabs, red fish, snook, and other species and provide habitat for our beautiful water birds who are dependent on the shellfish they harbor.

The three “Small Treasures” done in alcohol ink and acrylics with silicone were added to my website a while back. I’d like to see them framed as a gallery collection. It’s hard to tell here in these photos, but the canvases are highly textured with impressions. BTW…if you like my art, do visit my website and sign up for my newsletter. I am planning a major clearance sale for the holidays and things will be drastically reduced in price.

Until next time, peace and be well!

Things Don’t Always go as Planned in the Art World.

Hi, friends,
The past couple of months are been filled with professional frustrations for me. These are the sort of things that take the fun out of the creative process.

First, for the past couple of months, I have spent a great deal of time trying to make coconut fish. I don’t like to admit defeat, but I truly got myself frustrated with these bad boys and girls. The coconuts and wooden pieces all had to be primed first, then required two or three coats of acrylic paint. The fine detail was painted on the tails and fins. Then, it became time to attempt to insert the fins into the coconut fish husks. I cut into the husks. The fins scraped off more of the delicate paint which required more touch up.

Abandoned coconut fish

This all sounds so simple, and that’s what I thought, too, before I tried. Too much frustration for too long of a period of time resulted in me deciding to abandon that project, at least for a while.

Second, website woes are ongoing. I can’t say I wasn’t warned, but it’s another frustration. Anytime there is a new plugin update, theme update, or WordPress update, there are kinks in the system that have to be worked out. Sometimes they work themselves out with the next updates and sometimes they linger a while. At any rate, such things make me feel like the site appears unprofessional, so that’s another frustration.

Finally, I have had people offer $30-$40 for canvas originals worth at least $400.00 posted on the website and I simply refuse to set prices that low. I have more than that vested in the smallest canvases in supplies, paints, canvas, and brush wear & tear. Never mind the artist’s time and creativity that deserve compensation. Not going to do that.

I didn’t really want to do prints for my artwork and I’ll tell you why.

  1. I like to think about how something as detailed and time-consuming as my art belongs only to one person in the world and no one else, (not even me). When you put that much love into something, I think it becomes infused with luck and good fortune. Making prints waters that down. Everything original sold gets a letter of authenticity.


  2. People make prints to either make more money off the same design or to please the masses. Money and pleasing the masses is not more important to me than art itself or the making of it.

That being said, I have to make my art available to an all-inclusive price range and I can do that in these two ways: A) Making prints, and B) selling functional art made from originals. So, there you have it.

Now there is a “Prints” page on the website and it includes some fantastic medium and frame selections. A few functional items are mentioned and there is so much more. I’m going to purchase some functional items to sell at shows next season locally so I have them on hand for such. We, my husband and I, are hoping to do more shows once the tourist season starts and I have more original artwork to sell. He sells his pens and I sell more prints than originals from the website, but it is what it is, and I’m good with that.

I’ve just got to see if I can find more ways to store canvas in my tiny studio. OR, reprice originals to move them, like it or not.

I also need to get back to filing the art process and getting videos up on YouTube and Instagram. Ah, no matter what we do, marketing raises its ugly head to interfere.

BTW, I am considering getting my art blog onto my self-hosted website for SEO reasons. If and when I do that, I will let you know here. Likewise, I would get my writer blog onto my self-hosted author website. This WordPress blog would be archived and you could follow me in either of those two places or both.

You see that I don’t spam people with daily material. I get to do that with Instagram…lol

Please do check out both sites and get subscribed if you haven’t already. And if there is something wonky on my website, just know it will likely get sorted out soon. 😊

Business on the Homefront

You may or may not have noticed that I added a new item to my menu. I have not painted much in the past few months. I’ve been incredibly busy building a new commerce website for my artwork. I hope to one day be able to sell prints directly from the site, but was not willing to compromise quality to get a print-on-demand service. I have done a couple of pours.

The issue is that Prinitify, Printly, iCanvas and others do not have a very good reputation with either customer service or product quality. Canvases are poorly constructed and true color and image detail are not good. So, I’ve partnered with another print company out of California that offers exceptional quality and customer service. However, they do not offer print-on-demand.

Instead, their clients upload a file of high-fidelity images that are then printed on canvas and framed, if desired. They also offer float frames and prints on other items such as coasters, cards, mouse pads, etc..

Another feature of their service is that they will print on a variety of mediums including canvas, thin board canvas wraps, acrylic, metal, wood and a variety of other options. I think giving customers options is paramount to success when it comes to artwork for their walls. None of the print-on-demand services offer options like these.

The company primarily deals with photographers but they also fare well with artists who can upload high fidelity prints. So, that gave me a wonderful opportunity to ask the RS for a new camera. Win! Win! Right?

I don’t know much about photography but I have spoken with people who do and they helped me select a camera, a Nikon D3300, that’s supposed to be fairly simple to use for high quality prints and I have been assured by the print company that these photos should be fine for resizing. A photographer friend of ours is coming to spend the week with us in April. I hope to learn all I can from him, and get a file uploaded with the print company so I’ll be ready for new customers.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding more exclusive and inspired art products to the website, as well as new categories.

As far as writing goes. I have not given up on the Naked Eye Series. Sad to have to report that the Parliament House, an Orange Blossom Trail icon, had to close its doors d/t hard times with the pandemic. They are hoping to reopen somewhere else, but I’m certain things will never be the same. It was time for Brandi to move on.

Meanwhile, I have updated some of the photos on my author website to better indicate settings of future stories.

The RS retrieved some once lost files for me, so when the weather becomes intolerably hot, I’ll likely be back at the keyboard in between painting. I do have new art projects under way, but even those are put on hold for a while.

Finally, we both got our shots and the grandkids will be visiting this week. We can have company again. Whoo-hoo!!!

If you visit my new website, Art Way Place, where paradise dreams come true, make sure to SUBSCRIBE to follow my art journey and receive discount codes. Currently, there is a discount code for subscribers through spring for 20% off on the “Inspired Art” category. Other subscriber discounts, gifts and deals will be announced in the monthly newsletter, along with more insider information.

I’ll be glad when we can get out and do art shows again. Maybe next year’s snowbird season.

How have you been keeping busy?

Mountains to the Sea

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

John Muir

Where the mountains meet the sky is undiscernible in the Great Smokey Mountains at certain times of the year. White mist crawls through the trees like a playful kitten, slinking around hill and dale. As you walk along the trails, it wets your face until the drops form tears rolling down your face. They are cooler than the ones you cry. As you look toward the heavens all you can see are shadows of trees and swirls of smokey gray. Always keep your chin up and watch the dips and peaks of the crown, else you’ll be lost.

I had a deep love for trees in my youth. I have a cousin who promised to build me a treehouse when he returned from military service, but that didn’t happen. We would walk and climb over treefalls as we tromped Grandmother’s woods, exploring for insects in amber, colorful mushrooms, or other fungi. Chided by the other cousins and siblings for being alone together at dusk, we shrugged it off and made plans for the next day.

Another cousin and I would climb to the tip-top of white pines, 30-40 feet off the ground, and lean deeply in order to make the treetops sway until we could reach out and grab branches from each other’s tree and switch trees in mid-air. If my grandparents or uncle had seen us do that, we would still be doing time. I’ve probably climbed more trees than I have walked trails.

When I saw Feliks’s foggy forest painting, I knew I had to give it a go. Painting fog and mist is tricky. The difficulty is not so much painting the various light and dark shades that go in the background as it is getting the lighter shades for things that are in the mist and darker shades for things out of the mist. It was a fun tutorial that brought back fond memories. I haven’t varnished this one yet because I still have some detail work to finish.

Misty Mountain Forest 16X20 acrylics on gallery wrapped canvas Inspired by ColorByFeliks

“The most amazing thing to me about the sea is the tide.”

John Dyer

Next is one of my first (actually #6) originals. This one is painted from a reference photo. The photograph, Biscayne Bay, was taken by my friend, Armando Colls, who is a professional photographer in Miami. His gorgeous seascapes hang in high-end hotels in the area. This image is unlike most of his works. He often shows a vast sky over a thin beach with a special feature, a piece of driftwood, the underside of a pier, an odd lone tree, a shell. Maybe that’s what caught my eye on this one. It’s different. I love the natural mix of ununiform clouds. It moved me emotionally, committing me to paint. It’s an image of genuine beauty found in the shabbiness of the shoreline at low tide.

Tidal pools are rich with small sea life captured in the arms of the earth. Approached with wonder, beautiful shells lay bare. Tiny crustaceans scurry around when you step into the water. Little fiddler crabs dance across your barefoot toes, tickling sensations up your legs. Mollusks only big enough to be on a bird’s diet burrow deeper. As a small child, some of my most glorious moments were spent in the panhandle of Florida during our vacations, where these water pockets are found all along the back bays. We could rarely afford the beachier hotel suites on the sands, but found a world of joy in exploring these tidal pools that know every secret of the sea. On a breezy day, you can enjoy them without the biting bugs.

There seems to be a part of all creatives that is trapped in the tidal pool only to possibly be freed when the waters rise. For me, that time is when I am alone for extended periods that allow for introspection and deep thought in solitude. For others, the waters rise when they are around jovial friends and loved ones in celebration. Either way, creativity ebbs and flows. Nothing is constant.

Tidal Pool 11X14 acrylics on gallery wrapped canvas Original

Aside from painting pictures, I have been creating flower pots out of hypertufa slurry soaked fabrics. I drape the fabrics over an old, cheap, plastic pot used as a mold. I’ve unmolded them, but they remain to be painted. I’m about halfway through that project but I’ve made much progress this year. Last year, I had to stop working on them because it simply got too hot to continue working outside. My hope is to create some pots that appear as columns of coral in my little fantasy ocean-themed garden xeriscape.

I’ve been updating my website, also.

Since we moved from Orlando to the islands, I decided it was fitting to include more island images so I put out a call to local photographers. Jon Hunt, Ron Mayhew, and Martha Huard stepped up and offered some gorgeous pics. I only have one-time use though, so you’ll have to view them here.

Upon attempting this, I discovered just how outdated the technical aspects of my website were so that that sent me off down the pathway to cyber hell, but, as usual, the RS came to the rescue, and now I am set up with a coaching service to establish an artist site in addition to my author site. I’m hoping to get that acomplished within the next month, or so.

I’ve also begun working with Berthold Gambrel, Mark Paxson, and Audrey Driscoll at Writers Supporting Writers. In addition to our posts, we have video chats about writing. So, you can see more of me than I ever thought I would want you to. Ha! Seriously, if we can offer any morsel of helpful information to struggling writers, every second is worth it. So far, I have only participated in one chat, but the next is scheduled for the 20th, or shortly thereafter. We might even bring up some mistakes we’ve made.

How about you? When are you feeling your creativity most?

Are you affected by weather or tides? I am. The high tide makes me feel more alive. Rainy weather moves me to write. Sunny weather moves me to paint.

Are you living in a place where you can work outdoors in winter? I can’t in summers here.

Seascapes and Transitions

Things have been a bit strange on my island paradise for the past few months. There are numerous transitions to pass through in changing locations. We’ve been here since June and the first two months were spent painting a few pictures and unpacking. I had enormous difficulty in becoming grounded here.

Not only because this is an island surrounded by water, but I had no friends here, except my husband. We’re slowly but surely acclimating to island life and beginning to get acquainted. I’ve been devouring root vegetables, walking barefoot, and practicing yoga while sitting on our one-ton rock overlooking the sunset (that my husband hauled all the way from Orlando) and doing all that I know to do to get grounded and tuned into my dharma. Some of the things I love most about island life are the absence of clocks and calendars (for the most part), the sound of silence in the night (except for the fish jumping), and the gorgeous skies (constantly evolving). The stars are nice, too. I can’t say much about the people here, because we’re just getting introduced. There is a huge amount of community spirit, but we haven’t had much chance to be social. We joined the Matlacha Civic Association because we are trying to stop the City of Cape Coral from illegally annexing property on our island.

Feeling myself slipping into depression, I decided to throw myself into a big project that allowed me to focus on something beautiful. Eva Volf is an artist that paints fantastic seascapes in oils and I received permission from her to attempt to recreate one of her paintings in acrylics. I fell in love with the composition but knew that I do not possess the skills to paint such realistic impressions in acrylics. I was determined to give it my best shot. I don’t usually post reference photos with my paintings, but I want to give Eva full credit for the original. Isn’t this gorgeous? Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to copy her, but to use her painting as inspiration to create one in my own style with acrylics.

“Awakening” 48X60 oils on canvas by Eva Volf

 

Unlike oils that are easily blended, acrylics take layers and layers to achieve results. They dry super-fast, like within minutes, instead of hours into days. And this was the largest canvas I have ever worked on at three feet by four feet. This presented many challenges. Acrylics dry much darker than they appear as applied. It’s difficult for me to color mix keeping this fact in mind. With experience, I know I will learn better how to judge. The project took me 2 ½ months working 4-16 hours a day. Many times I had to repaint, or even gesso over dark areas with white and start anew. I worked in distinct sections for days into weeks until I was comfortable enough to move onto a new section. In the end, I was quite satisfied with the results. I am having it framed for Christmas. Eva’s is much lighter, softer, and less dramatic. I don’t really like comparing my work to someone else’s, because we are all doing our own thing. Suffice it to say, her beautiful pieces are such an inspiration to me.

“Light on a New Day” 36X48 acrylics on canvas Susan K. Nicholls

I have always wanted a seascape to hang in my living room. Now I have one. I tried fluffier clouds surrounding the sunrise, but good ones are not in my skill-set as of yet, so I opted for a fog bank burning off. I can always go back and update the painting if I improve and feel so inclined.

Hung in the living room

The frame I picked out is to be made from whitewashed sea-weathered wood. I think it will look very nice. The painting has been curing since mid-November. Today I will put on the first two coats of varnish, one more coat tomorrow, and then after a few days of drying time, it will be ready to take to be framed.

on the wall

Finishing this monster project was bittersweet. I’m feeling accomplished, yet I know I have so much more to learn. I started this project exactly one year from the day that I picked up a brush and decided to paint.

First painting-Kate Jobling tutorial, last painting-Eva Volk inspired

I am painting a cup for the local breakfast diner, “The Perfect Cup”. That should only take a day, or so. Then I have a train to paint for my step-son’s Christmas present. Beyond that, I am hoping to commence with painting more original artwork inspired by the island life. I will still be doing a few tutorials because I learn so much from every little one. My favorite instructor has been in school in Italy for the past two months. I am looking forward to his return.

Abbey-The Water Dog

We attended the local tree-lighting get-together on Friday, with Abbey, the water dog, where we met many locals, snowbirds, and other doggies. I’m beginning to feel like I belong here, despite the fact that there is a tRump flag flying in front of every other house. (Okay, I won’t make this a political post, but sheesh…suffice it to say, I share the world view of this man with those beyond our borders and at least half of the world within them.)

If I don’t get back to you before Christmas, have a Merry one, Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year filled with love and light and joy! Peace be with you and yours.

I almost forgot! Here’s a quick boat tour around the tip of the island if you need something to warm you up today. It’s 85 degrees here today.

Island Bound

Hi, all! May is upon us already and it’s hard to believe nearly half the year has passed already. Time surely speeds up as you grow older.

I have only been able to Paint a few pictures this year as we have been cleaning and packing up to move. We finally found the house of our dreams on Matlacha Island and we close in two weeks. Greg retires on May May 31st. We are Island bound very soon!

In the past few days, I have been writing since most everything except my laptop is packed away and in storage. So there is hope Book Two of the Naked Eye Series gets written after all.

Here are the few paintings I’ve completed this year:

 

Acrylics on 16X20- Monarchs on Paintbrush Flowers

Textured gel and acrylics with gold leaf on 16X20 hardboard- Japan Alps Spring Thaw with Cherry Blossoms

Hummingbird

Gel medium on music sheets with acrylics on hardboard 11X14- Song of Romance

And my favorite of all times: acrylics on 11X14 hardboard- Still life Turkish Coffee Pot with Tangerines

We are truly excited beyond belief to finally be moving to the island and getting out of the city and back to “Old World” Florida. Away from the traffic, the chaos, and the noise. Here’s a look at the back of our new home on the water. It is a double lot with 100 feet of backyard seawall facing west for premium sunset views. Ahhh…….Dreams really can come true.

Keeping a Creative Outlet

Sorry about the construction going on here. I am searching for a new header photo, but haven’t found one I like, yet.

Last time I touched base with you all, I was gearing up to start a new business with my husband. We were pretty sure we could make it work. It was basically selling business education, which is ironic, coz we got educated. We went through a three-month training course and were ready to fork over a $60,000 investment which would have covered more training in Fiji, Costa Rica and Malaysia. The company was run by an Aussie and many have had much success. We were in communication with top earners around the globe. We had some grandiose ideas.

Two days before we were to hand over the money, the Federal Trade Commission shut them down and flagged them as an MLM scam. Now, we did purchase products from them, which I liken to tuition for business school. And we’ve gotten our money back for everything except a $3500.00 payment to a loan originator. My husband says he learned more in those three months than he did getting his MBA. (He did that while we were dating in 2006.)

There are literally thousands who are out their investments and can’t turn a dime now, coz all their websites, back offices, front offices, online products pages, sales funnels…everything, gone. The owner, who is now worth $153 million, is paying his fines and retributions and cutting his losses. He’s moving into resort development now that he owns an island in Fiji. Everybody else depending on the company lost everything in the blink of an eye.

We still have retirement dreams that include travel, but we’ve found a rather unconventional way to afford it with International Pet Sitting. We connected with several house-sit platforms and an academy that helps you get set up and offers tips and tricks for sitting and travel. Again, we are in communication with people around the globe who are doing this and we’re pretty excited about it. We both love animals and lost our two doggies last year, but didn’t want to replace them coz when Greg retires we want to be free to travel. Many are doing this exclusively and don’t even own a home.

House sitting for two weeks to several months, caring for other people’s beloved pets, we’ll be able to fully immerse ourselves in other cultures, while getting our animal love fix. Greg speaks a few languages and looks forward to learning more. We have a website. It’s not fully completed, but it’s live now. (You can check it out HERE.)

I still have my writing. It’s slower than molasses though. I get a creative spurt and make it through a chapter. Put it down for a couple of months. Go back to it and trash another chapter. Writing has always been a hobby for me and I certainly never expected to make a career out of it, but it’s more than disappointing to spend so much time creating a good story, investing in good editing and cover art, then not even being able to break even. Have no earthly idea if or when I will finish book two in the Naked Eye series. I’d like to say by next summer, but I know we just finished home renovations and we have to install entirely new landscape in the backyard this winter. We are constructing a xeriscape with a couple of pergolas and a nice water feature made from a large blue temple jar. We have purchased a few colorful boulders as sitting stones for the meditation garden. It has rained heavy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. this summer. So we can’t start that project until things dry out.

My daughter, the professional student, has started back to school, so we are watching after the grandkids quite a bit more than usual. They will be with us for a whole week in October. That’s going to be interesting. Me getting kids off to school and playing “soccer mom” again.

I don’t get onto WordPress like I used to, but I still read a lot of your posts and try to keep up to date on who is involved with what, even if I can’t always comment. There are a ton of old-timers no longer blogging. These are people who were online when I started back in 2013.  I miss the way things were. A few are FB friends, so we keep in touch. Life changes.

I have thrown myself into painting this last month. I have to keep up a creative outlet or I’ll go stark raving mad. I painted in oils and did ceramics in my teens and twenties. Oils are expensive and messy. My back won’t let me throw on a pottery wheel like I once did. There is a place to paint bisque in Winter Park, but they want a small fortune for little pieces. Britt-David Park in Columbus, GA used to provide all of the clay you needed for free, and you paid a very small fee to use their space, wheels, and kilns. They taught raku and other forms. I sold pieces at local art festivals back then. Smashed seventy-five pieces of pottery when I was going thru my divorce…but that’s another story.

I dabbled a tiny bit in watercolors when Greg and I first married, but they didn’t like me. I was heavy handed with my paints and they seemed to have a mind of their own. It was fun and relaxing, but about all I accomplished was a parrot, some Bird-of-Paradise flowers, Native Americans in a canoe, and a tree. So far, I have completed eleven paintings in acrylics using mostly YouTube tutorials. A couple are my own designs or inspired by something I’ve seen. I’m using the tutorials to build technique so I can paint my own stuff better. Much cleaner than oils, but it has its issues. Paints dry super-fast, so there is little, if any, time for blending. Using paint retarders just makes them tarry and sticky, or else I haven’t learned to use them, yet. It’s progress, not perfection. Here’s a little gallery of what I have painted this past month.

Enjoy

 

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New Release! THE BONE CURSE, A Genre-Bending, Supernatural Medical Thriller

Was waiting eagerly for this one. Glad to see it has arrived. 🙂

Carrie Rubin

Do you believe in the paranormal?

I wish I did. Life would be more fun. But in reality, a ghost could hit me upside the head with a copy of War and Peace and I’d still find a way to explain it. Thanks to my left-brain skepticism and years of science education, a believer in the paranormal I am not.

BUT…

That doesn’t mean I don’t find it fascinating, and it doesn’t mean I don’t want to write about it.

The Bone Curse, available today, takes a rational-minded man of science and tosses him into an otherworldly situation, one with curses, dark priests, and Haitian Vodou.

The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin After getting cut by an old bone in the Paris catacombs, a skeptical med student must use the occult to stop a deadly curse and a vengeful priest.

The Hero:

Ben, the main character, is not a perfect guy. He’s a med student…

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It’s Been a Long Time Coming!!

blindoggbooks

Once again I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you…

Like the last time I’ll give you the bad news first;

There will be no FREE book this week.

After a month of giveaways, and well over 500 FREE books downloaded – I’m pulling the plug on it (at least for the foreseeable future).

That’s the bad news.

Now for the good news;

If you remember when I started giving books away back on Valentine’s Day, I said I was going to do it until my next novel, 24 Minutes, was released.

Well, strike up the band and let loose the doves!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the release of my tenth novel – 24 Minutes!!

It has been about 15 months since the release of my last book, Blood in the Water and I had every intention of releasing 24…

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A Very Short Story

Over at the Disappointed Housewife today reporting on a local water crisis. Drop by for a “fiction” read. Stick around and peruse the site for some interesting and off the wall poetry and fiction.   https://thedisappointedhousewife.com/2018/03/14/rain-reign-go-away-fiction-by-s-k-nicholls/

If you would like to contribute to the Disappointed Housewife, please contact Kevin Brennan. Submission guidelines can be found on the site. It is sort of an “anything goes” site and the more esoteric, the better. Short stories are highly sought after: 1500-2300 words preferred.