Life with Mazie~Part 3~by Joanne Jaytanie


Pssst…It’s me, Mazie. 
Mom said something about talking with you today, but I have so much to tell you that just I couldn’t wait for my turn! 
I need to be quiet, so she doesn’t know I’m here.






Last time I checked, Mom was upstairs doing something—without me! 
That’ll teach her to leave me.
I’ll get to talk to you before she does.








Remember I told you Mom started me in a training class? 
Well, I just graduated from my first obedience class! 

(Oh yeah, mom was there too.) 
I guess I can’t take the class without her, or so I was told.







I was taking two classes a week for the last two weeks! I just started a trick class and I can’t wait to show you my tricks. 

But what a way to tire a girl out.






I’m doing so well that the teacher, Miss Noel, uses me as her demo. 
Check out this short video of us. 
This was all brand new stuff for me so I was pretty proud of myself.





Anyway, when I’m not busy training, one of my favorite things to do is hang out in the back yard and watch the planes and birds fly over.








They’re really cool. 







Just telling you about all I’ve been doing is making me tired. 
I’m gonna take my blanket and go grab a nap. 
And Mom will never know I was talking with you. 

I’ll check in with you again soon.
Love,
Mazie 


Pirated ~ by Darlene Kuncytes

Pirates! 

photo courtesy of Pinterest



And…I’m not talking the smoldering, funny, sexy Captain Jack Sparrow kind of Pirates either!


I’m talking about those disgusting slime balls who steal an author's work and sell it on illegal sites. 

The kind of pirates who not only steal from authors, but also their valued readers!

When I published my first book, I had NO idea about book pirating. I was clueless. It wasn’t until I was finishing up book number four or five, that someone contacted me to tell me that they found my books on a pirate site. 

At first, I will admit, I was kind of honored. Lol I thought… Wow, someone actually thinks my books are good enough to steal. 

But then…reality hit. They ARE STEALING!

They are stealing money from the authors who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into their stories. They are stealing from the readers who may not only get a crappy copy of the ebook, but a virus or two in the deal as well! 

I have been pirated more times in my six years as an author than I can count. And these are just the times that I’ve been lucky enough to find out about it. Who knows how many other sites there are out there?

I immediately send them a cease and desist, and usually my books will disappear from the site. But, let’s face it. Like any good con, that isn’t going to stop them. All they do is move on once the jig is up and enough authors find out about them through this amazing community of ours, and they skulk away into the night - only to open up under another name and site. It may take a month, it may take a year, but like bad pennies, these pirates keep showing up.

Sigh. It’s a never-ending battle. I was just informed last week that I had been pirated once again. The funny thing is…these lowlifes were charging $4.74 for books that I charge 99 cents!
 
If it wasn’t so tragic, it would almost be funny. You think, WHY would anyone with two brain cells in their head to rub together buy from these sites? Not to mention pay WAY more than they should.

In their defense, I know a lot of readers don’t realize that these sites
photo courtesy of Me.Me
are bogus. So, I urge you to do some research. Look at Amazon first. See what the prices are supposed to be.
 
I promised myself when I published my first book, that I wouldn’t charge over $2.99 for an e-book. Well…not unless it was huge! Lol

It was a personal decision that I made because I want readers to be able to afford to read as much as they possibly can. Growing up, reading was my joy. It was my escape, and I love when people feel the same.

So, as an author who loves her characters and stories so much, you can imagine how upsetting it is to consistently be stolen from. Although, I am a firm believer in Karma! 
photo courtesy of iStock/Darlene Kuncytes
In closing, please remember one thing…if you see those red flags (or should I say Pirate flags? Lol) make sure to do your due diligence.  Check out other resources. And if you do come across a pirate site, tell people. Share it. Don’t end up buying stolen goods. 
It very rarely ever ends well for anyone. 

Thanks for reading! 
Peace and love!
Darlene






The Importance of Carbon Monoxide Detectors ~ by Jennifer Daniels

I didn’t plan on writing about this today, but I feel now that I must. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that is a killer. CO is a fume that is found in anything that is run by gas, oil, or coal.

As a nurse, only once did I witness first-hand what CO poisoning does to people. Luckily, the family had a second chance at life where many others do not.

Signs and symptoms can mimic the flu: headache, weakness, vomiting, upset stomach, confusion, and chest pain. But the long-term effects are much worse if not caught right away: seizures, organ failure, coma, and death to name a few.

Everyone should have a battery-operated CO detector installed in their homes. An easy way to remember to change the batteries is during daylight savings time. When you adjust your clocks change your detectors’ batteries. Test them every so often to see if they are still working. If you need help remembering, write it on your calendar or set a reminder on your computer or phone.

Have your furnace inspected yearly. If you have a generator, never run them inside of your home or garage, and keep it at a safe distance from your home.

I live in a very small town where everyone is related or knows one another. This past weekend our community lost two of our own from CO poisoning along with their dog and bird. Often we take life for granted but then something like this happens. Not only is it a shock but it’s also unthinkable and preventable.

For more information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning go to www.cdc.gov


Ruminations on Meditation REPEAT from 2/8/2018 by Cynthia Land, LMT, RYT



I think the first time I tried to meditate I was on a Metro bus in Seattle.  It was the 1990's, I was working at the ABC radio affiliate KOMO AM 1000 and was exhausted.  Rain outside caused heavy condensation on the inside of the bus windows.  I was warm and cozy in my seat but my mind was agitated by the stress of working in radio news.  Somewhere along the way I'd picked up that meditating would quiet my mind.  I closed my weary eyes and imagined I was sitting among fog enshrouded Douglas Fir trees.  I slowed my breath and visualized the limbs of trees, the individual needles and the smell they produced.  I was amazed at how quickly I calmed down. 

     That was just one experience in hundreds perhaps thousands of days of stress and spaziness where I would, instead of meditating, turn to overeating, over-drinking and eventually smoking cigarettes. Slowing down enough to meditate was not yet in my vocabulary.  It was something I aspired to but couldn't quite slow down enough to attain. I began a practice of yoga well before I was able to settle into meditation.  In the 90's, I lived in a world where self-care still wasn't part of my routine. The notion of self-care is still something I'm defining for myself.  

     Nearly a decade would have to go by before I came to a more steady meditation practice and even then I would have stretches where my A-D-D mind would take over with something way more “important”. Meditation takes a level of discipline many in our culture aren’t willing to settle into. The odd catch is that when you do commit and start to feel the effects of meditation, you can’t see your life without it. 

     There are many styles of meditation. I tried Zen, Insight, Kriya and probably several others I can't remember right now but finally settled on Transcendental Meditation.  I really just stumbled into it because my boyfriend did it and knew a teacher.  A group of us committed to go through the training which made it a lot easier.  Meditation alone is great but meditating with a group can be even more powerful, especially if there are experienced meditators with you. Now your mobile phone can be your meditation teacher.  Meditation apps abound.  They’re a great place to start and play around with different techniques. 


     What does it mean to meditate? For me it's how I get grounded, get centered, get focused and get in contact with my higher power. When I'm going through my day my mind comes across all kinds of negative emotions and thoughts from others, from myself and situations where I find myself. I can then become sidetracked into things that aren't important.  Meditation allows me to ask, "What is it I really need to be doing today? Where will I focus my energy?" Along my travels I've heard that, "Praying is asking God for what you want and meditating is listening for his/her answer." Just recently I've really started to adhere to this notion.  I get quiet so I can listen.  I then take note of what messages am I getting and how can I put them into play.  When I do this consistently my life just runs better.  

     What's happening while I'm "in there?"  Getting the mind to settle down takes time.  It never truly disengages. I believe we just learn to direct our awareness in other ways.  We pay more attention to our breath or how we're feeling in our bodies.  Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield has a seminal book on meditation (A Path with Heart) where he likens the mind to a puppy we're training to "go on the paper." We must constantly be vigilant to direct it back to where we want.  But be vigilant in a kind and not punishing way.  I watch my mind go astray dozens of times in a meditation session and gently bring my awareness back to my breath.  When I'm successful, I arrive at a sort of "no-place" neither here nor there, a place of no time passing.  My mind and body relax deeply but more impressively, my mind seemingly disengages from chasing thoughts hither and thither. 

     To be clear, this doesn't happen instantly for me.  I probably sit for a good ten minutes before my mind is finally able to release itself from spin mode.  This is probably why I have such a tough time meditating in the afternoons.  I am so fully engaged in the day that getting my mind to let go for 20 minutes seems insurmountable.  It's my next big hurdle.  

     I’ve meditated in; cars, airports and on airplanes, on ferries and on beaches. Today I often sit in a comfy living room chair, light a stick of incense and meditate while the sun is coming up. I focus on my breathing for a couple of minutes and then consciously make myself available to “hear” my higher power. My mind will attempt to hijack me into something momentarily fascinating and as soon as I notice it, I come back to my breath, maybe visualize one of my chakras, say my mantra and get quiet again.  This repeats and you kind of get used to it once you understand how the mind works. 

     Here’s what I know, meditation helps me slow down in a world that’s going ever faster with no intentions of slowing down.  I have no need to go that fast and when I do I inevitably hurt myself either physically or emotionally or both. When I slow down, I see the world more clearly and make better, more elegant decisions in alignment with my deeper desires and needs. 

New Series--Birthstones ~ by Grace Augustine

With so much of the red/pink festivities going on around us, I thought I'd do something completely different. A special shout out to RIDDLE'S JEWELRY in Coralville, Iowa for allowing the use of their photos.

Today begins a new series. Each month I will post information on  birthstones...their meanings, origins, and colors. I'm excited because there are 3 of us in our Originality by Design founding members whose birthdays are in February. So, get ready to know all there is to know about the beautiful February birthstone...

AMETHYST
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Polished or carved amethyst has been part of history as far back as 4000BC in Egypt. It was Catherine the Great’s favorite gem. The Greeks were known to wear amethyst to ward of becoming drunk when at a party and went so far as to believe if they drank from an amethyst cup they wouldn’t be inebriated at all. Hebrews believed if they wore the stone, they would be protected.

Small amounts of amethyst have been found throughout the world, but the most significant mines can be found in Brazil, Uruguay, Morocco, South Africa, as well as in the United States. 
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The only mine (commercial) in the US is the FOUR PEAKS MINE in Arizona. Amethyst arrowheads have been found nearby this location, proving that the Native Americans knew about this gemstone. It’s thought that some of the gems in the Spanish crown jewels may be from this mine.

Amethyst, a form of quart, is among the most popular gemstones in the world. Its variance in color ranges from the lightest of lavenders to the deepest, richest royal purple. This beautiful stone when cut and tumbled is fashioned into one of a kind pendants, rings, earrings and lapel pins.

It is a very affordable gemstone. It’s durability and price make it
courtesy of Riddle Jewelers
one of the hot commodities to crafters and jewelry makers world-wide. Amethyst scores a 7 on the Mohs scale (hardness of gemstones) and does not break by cleavage (meaning cleavage is the break of a crystal face where a new face (resulting in a smooth plane) is formed.) 

According to geology.com, “Amethyst crystals grow slowly, and the composition of the waters from which they grow can change over time. As the composition of the water changes, varying amounts of iron are incorporated into the surface of the crystal. Later, radiation emitted by minerals in the surrounding rock modify the iron to produce the purple color. This can cause the crystal to have zones of different color intensity. Each of these zones records a time interval in the growth of the crystal similar to the growth rings of a tree. Although this is geologically interesting, the most preferred amethyst gems have a rich, uniform color.”
courtesy of Riddle Jewelers

While there is not scientific proof that gemstones hold healing properties, the amethyst is one of the leading gemstones today that are used in healing rituals. It is equated to the “crown” chakra, the seventh chakra said to connect us to the Universe.

Amethyst is a Greek word meaning “awake”. It symbolizes honesty, kindness, peace, good-fortune, peace of mind, and purity. It has long been associated with royalty and is now the favored gem to give as a token of first love. 

In today’s society, many are looking to alternative medicine. Amethyst could be part of that regimen. While amethyst are thought to be the chief stone in protection, they also have many other properties: purifying and cleansing the mind, cleansing the darkness of stress and anxiety, emanating prosperity, facilitating intuition and communication, and an overall state of well-being.

Do not wear your amethysts while cleaning because they could be
courtesy of Riddle Jewelers
damaged by the solvents you are using. To keep the sparkle in your amethysts, clean them with a mild solution of soap and warm water and use a soft cloth to wipe them dry. If you have amethyst crystals, they can be set out in the sun for a cleansing and infusion of new energy.

For me, amethyst is my favorite gemstone--more than diamonds, more than sapphires, more than emeralds, more than pearls. 

Those born in February tend to be lovers of all things purple…and I certainly fall into that category. 
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Jigsaw Zen: Life Skills & Coping by Ruth Ross Saucier


I do jigsaw puzzles.* Here’s why you should, too: creativity, love, patience, calm, and observation.

Writing block. When I need to solve my latest writing challenge, I play Jigsaw World.* My brain free associates when I work on a jigsaw; as a result, I have outlined and written entire blogs while assembling jigsaws. The visual comparisons necessary to complete a jigsaw don’t impinge on my writing brain. I’m free to drift and create without pressure, solving plots and creating characters freely.   And several studies have suggested that doing jigsaws can help enhance cognitive function as you age.




                Aunt Mildred.  She calls every week to share a play-by-play of her latest pinochle triumph and you love her, so you listen and make appropriate noises and ask questions through the hour or so it takes her to run down. But you need to listen, so you can’t just play a wild and wooly shoot-‘em-up arcade game, you might get asked a question and you need to respond. Playing an electronic jigsaw puzzle doesn’t require you use the same part of your brain as listening…so when she tells you something that requires a coherent response, you can drop the game instantly and you’ll still remember she just told you her seventy-six-year-old next door neighbor just got busted for running down the street nekkid. Although that one might understandably warrant a “say that again?” response.



Life on Hold.  Cable techs. Repair techs. Whether it’s for your adjustable bed, your robot vacuum, or your Skynet refrigerator, you don’t love these people, but you do need to listen anyway—when they are on the line, at least. The third set of recorded messages encouraging you to just leave a message or hearing the sixth iteration of that annoying, scratchy music will drive you nuts. Sure you probably have various things you do while on hold, but jigsaws don’t distract you, don’t cause you to forget why you’re waiting. I think it’s because they are solely engaging your visual brain, but that’s just my crackpot theory. 
 
Zen. Peace. Composure. There’s something very zen-like about reconstructing a picture, putting things to rights, making the broken whole again. The calm induced by this low-key activity is seductive. And the marketers of videogames have recognized that players of certain games want that tranquility. Some advertisements for games like Merge Dragons feature taglines like, “Goodbye Anxiety.” I have even read comments from players of Jigsaw World who credit it with helping to suppress their chronic pain.

                Training your eye.  Jigsaw puzzles sharpen my identification and awareness of color and pattern.  I think they help train you to see—something that is a fundamental concept in art appreciation and creation. If the puzzle is a painting, it can also provide you with a close study of technique.  If this is something you’re interested in, though, you really want monster-sized monitors like mine…not the mobile  versions that run on phones or laptops.

*I play a wonderful electronic version of jigsaw puzzles called Jigsaw World (the version on Facebook, because I don’t like the mobile version; I’d rather play on my two monster screens attached to my desktop). And no, they aren’t paying me a thin dime to plug their product.

Valentine's Day, Always ~by Lexa Fisher


Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

Yes, Valentine's Day has passed, but love goes on, doesn't it? 



Valentine's Day is a special day for love. I send only a few Valentine's day cards and I love to make my own. Red, pink, and even purple are favorite colors for cards this month, as are flowers and, of course hearts.


A couple of years ago my favorite card supply store started featuring a once-monthly noon class to make lunch love notes. Now, I not only put them in my husband's lunch, but tuck them around the things he takes to work as a surprise that he very much enjoys finding. 

Hubby also gets into the act with my hobby by making me stencils on his 3D printer. He bought me the Glaminator for Christmas--a laminator specially for adding foil to cards as seen here.



A few special cards this year started like this.

And from all of these pieces, these cards resulted.










For me, love is trust and integrity, and I emphasize this in my books. Love may be finding a missing piece of yourself in someone else. When you're a romance writer, love is special every day of the year.

As I finish up this post, I've just spent half of one day in urgent care with my husband, most of the next day in the ER where he had emergency surgery, and all of the next day in the hospital with him. 

Yes, love is EVERYDAY, 24x7. And hubby is on the road to recovery.





It's a New Year ~ by CJ Baty

The holidays have come and gone. We’ve celebrated the new year and a new decade. What do we do now? I had a few friends on social media who decided they were going to find a word to tag the new year with. There were a lot of examples and most of them were pretty good but didn’t seem to fit what I was looking for. Finally, I landed on a word that was right for me. ‘Focus’.



I’ve been a published author going on seven years. Novels, novellas, short stories, blog posts, and book signings have been part of what I’ve done during the last decade. Not to mention traveling more than I ever have, working part time here and there since I retired, and learning more than I ever did when I was in school. But, there were still things I wanted to do. Getting a website up and running was one goal I hadn’t reached yet. Also, trying my hand at a subgenre with my MM writing was a goal. Being more active on social media is a must for any Indie author and I also added that to my list of things. In my personal life, I want to see my parents moved closer to me. Driving from Ohio to Florida is getting tough on this old bird. I’d love to see both my children find happy relationship of their own. And most of all, I would like to see my husband be able to finally retire. Sure, these are all good things, some of which aren’t going to happen in a year, but what would it take to get some of that accomplished in 2020. ‘FOCUS’.

Yes, that’s what I need. It’s so hard for an author to juggle the many

hats most of us wear. Spouse, partner, parent, employee, child to aging parents, and let us not forget our friendships to people that we have connected to. Some of us are the soul bread winner in our family. Some of us spend time helping our parents adjust to their aging bodies and illnesses. Not to mention those of us who have children and grandchildren, whether still at home, under foot, or grown; they need us. Some of us even try to do laundry and cook meals on an everyday basis. (That doesn’t happen every day around my house.) And, then there’s all the things you do to get your stories out there. Marketing, social media, book signings, sharing your peers work, being a presence online, and let us not forget… writing those stories!

So, how can focus help me in 2020? Well, focus might help me prioritize the things that I need to do. Keeping in mind that there has to be a balance between all those hats I need to wear. Use programs, apps, planners, calendars, and good advice, to help me get to the end of 2020 with the feeling that I accomplished what I sat out to do. Also, acknowledging that I’m only human and stuff will happen to set me back. That’s just life! Focus will help me be able to take care of business and family and know when I need to shuffle things to make room for what’s important. It will also help me take care of me.

When I need a break, I should take it. If that means, staying off

social media for a day or two, to refocus myself; then I should do that. If I don’t get the rest I need and feel good about me, how can I be the best I can be for my family and my business. In my calendar for 2020, I’ve penciled in time for me. Going out with friends, getting a cup of coffee and reading a book, long walks in the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains are all things that refresh and renew me as a person. I’ll focus on that in 2020.

I’m happy to say that even with barely a week into the new year, I’ve already accomplished two of the things I wanted to do this year. My website is up and looking wonderful and I’m releasing my first paranormal MM story on January 27 with another to follow in March and May. The year is off to a good start. Oh, there will be bumps, there always is, but for now I’m focused on making 2020 the very best year I can. How about you?

CJ Baty
C.J. loves a good mystery, hot sexy guys, the mountains, and a happily ever after. When she decided to try her hand in the book world, it only made sense to combine those things. She firmly believes that love is love in all of it’s shapes and forms. Her books contain broken spirits that need to be mended and a mystery, often a murder, which needs to be solved, so those spirits can find love. She calls southwest Ohio home, but her heart lives in the hills of Tennessee.

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Meet our Members ~ Lexa Fisher

  Lexa Fisher
Romance Writer and Greeting Card Creator

Lexa is from the Seattle area and when she isn't writing romance, she is creating beautiful greeting cards. To find out more about Lexa and read her prior blog posts, please click on the link below.

Persistence ~ by Jacquolyn McMurrray

Ever since Grace shared her word for the year, I've been thinking about choosing a word of my own.


Photo by Jacquolyn McMurray
After many hikes on Hawai'i island, I've settled on the word PERSISTENCE.  It  astounds me how many examples of persistence are in our natural environment. 


Photo by Len Pestana
Take, for example, the ʻōhiʻa lehua tree that is one of the first plants to establish itself in the Hawaiian lava fields. With precious few nutrients to sustain growth, the seed settles itself in water that has collected in a small depression or crack in the lava and grows into a flowering tree. 



Photo by Roberto Reposo on Unsplash
Or consider the five inch long Hawaiian o'opu ‘alamo‘o stream fish that climbs up all 442 feet of 'Akaka Falls in order to reach the stream that feeds the falls. This persistent creature travels up the slick rocks, against the flow of the falls, with the help of suction disks on its underbelly and its extraordinary fins. The trip is long and arduous, but the instinct to reach the stream overshadows the struggle.



In the front of our house, smothered by a pile of lava rocks, a day lily plant finds her way through the rock fortress to display her brilliant orange petals. 





When was the last time you pushed through a project to display your talents?





Last year it was persistence that helped me complete my first historical romance for Barbour Publishing. This year I'll need to persist even more as I work on my first full length historical fiction. 

Here’s to a year filled with the persistence needed to create your best work! 

Aloha until next time.

   

Life with Mazie~Part 2~by Joanne Jaytanie


 



Hi everybody! 
It’s me, Mazie. I had such a fun time visiting with you the first time I thought I’d stop by again. 













Don’t tell mom. 
She thinks I’m taking a nap.








I was looking through my baby pictures and decided to share some of my early days with you. You know, when I was only a young pup.







My people say I'm a pretty quick learner. 
Dad has been practicing Tai Chi for years. 
I picked it up in less than a week. 














I guess he’s not a quick learner. 










I'm the one that makes sure that everything is in its place. If it's not, I point it out to my people.









And I can already multi-task. I'm not only enjoying
my newest snake, but I am also making sure that Mom is fixing my dinner.









Here I am trying to catch the wet stuff falling from the sky. Mom told me it’s called snow. I love it. But I can’t figure out how to get it to come down again.


And of course, one of my most important duties is keeping track of who's coming and going. Visiting with people is one of my most favorite things to do.




I gotta go. Mom is calling me. 
I'm not supposed to play with her stuff. 
At least that's what she keeps telling me. 
I'll see you around the water bowl.


Love,
Mazie

The Role of Radio in Music ~ by Brian Player

Is there a role for radio in promoting music today? Well, I might
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claim there is but maybe not in the way we have come to expect from past history.

Never has there been such a choice of media to entertain as there is today. We all know about streaming services giving free or near free access to new music and the hundreds of radio services all competing for our attention.

So, how is the radio scene evolving? Who are the winners and how are listeners making their choices?

Firstly, national broadcasters continue to dominate the world of popular music. In the UK we are very much habit driven and still tune to the stations we know will deliver a balance of the tunes and chat we enjoy. Specialist shows also tend to be of a quality and content that can be relied upon for an enjoyable listen.

Where does that leave local and community services? We have over 400 in the UK alone.

Perhaps... All enjoying international reach through the internet and a massive choice for listeners.

The local element, news, interviews, and bands from
Acoustic Cafe
the area can be relied upon to provide a small increase in listener numbers when featured, which can also lead to a more loyal following for the station if the shows are enjoyed.

But I emphasize the word small, and this is where local and specialist shows can score against their bigger national competitors.

It takes work, but by clever manipulation of social media alongside digital broadcast any particular show or presenter can build a following of loyal supporters that will benefit his/her show, station, and those taking part.

The numbers will never be huge, but the reputation can be built to the extent that musicians and artists will see that show as giving real benefit in promoting their music.

Take the world of Indie and Folk Music. A popular radio show can draw a regular listening population of around 200, equivalent to a reasonably large gig but with the advantage of featuring lots of artists. And listeners can comment, chat and ask questions while the music is being played, without distraction.

This creates a social element where like-minded people come together over the topic they love... MUSIC. They are also sure to come back.


That could not be easily achieved in the bigger arena. The numbers would be too great. But via the local network, friendships develop that often span continents, and musicians come together with those who love their music on a personal level not possible in other areas.

Yes, a specific role for community and local radio not achievable elsewhere and helping musicians promote their music, the numbers will never be big but by offering a two-way interactive experience that will not matter.

In a recent survey carried in the UK the most important feature recognised by listeners to local radio was companionship.

What better example of that being achieved than in the enjoyment and promotion of independent music.

Brian Player, Host 
Acoustic Cafe
Wey Valley Radio, Alton UK
 

Being Independent ~ by Bruno Skibbild

Forgive me for my spelling and grammar. English is not my first language reading is fine, talking better - and singing in English is almost ...