April 2016 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: April 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

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The Difficulty of Simplicity

Brazilian Jewish writer Clarice Lispector once said, “I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.” Truer words were never spoken!

As writers, it’s our job to communicate with as much clarity as possible. This means using the best words to convey meaning. For example, a good writer knows that you NEVER say “He ran quickly”. Instead, you say “He sprinted” or “He darted”. You use fewer words and convey a meaning with greater clarity.

But boy is that hard to do!

I’m willing to bet that the hardest part of writing for most writers is trying to speak clearly and with brevity. I know that when I write, I can agonize over the right way to say something. It’s not about what I’m trying to say, but HOW to say it so that the reader understands what I’m trying to say, and with as few words as possible.

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Coming up with a story is the easy part, at least for me. I can paint detailed pictures in my head of settings, facial expression, character motivations, action scenes, and plot twists. But actually translating those mental pictures into written word is the struggle. As writers, we have to paint those pictures with words, and it’s incredibly challenging to do so in a way that the reader sees the same thing we do.

But that’s what separates the amateur writers from the professionals, and the good from the great. When you read about “cutting adverbs” and “limiting prepositions”, it’s not about following a specific formula for “good writing”. Instead, it’s about learning how to be clear and concise at the same time.

With verbal communication, more words are often a good thing. A conversation can only continue when two people continue to speak words to each other. But with written communication, less is more. Therein lies the challenge of writing. You have to communicate the thought or concept clearly, but without overwriting it. Your goal as a writer is to find ways to streamline your communication as much as possible. If you write like you speak, you’ll lose the reader’s interest. You have to write like you write, and eliminate EVERY unnecessary word from your prose/poetry. Economy of words is the key to holding your reader’s interest!

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Book Review: Queen of Bones by Greg Zimmerman

It’s Book Review Wednesday! Today, I’ve got a very unusual sort of book: a post-apocalyptic novel with a disabled person as the main character. How does that work? Read it and find out…

 Queen of Bones

A seventeen-year-old orphan, alone in the deadly post-apocalyptic world. She’s feisty, yet vulnerable; a woman, and yet a young girl. And with her discovery, she just might be Humanity’s savior. Meet Sara Hill…

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Queen of Bones is a the story of a young woman’s fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world where burning solar storms have reduced the human race to roving bands of murderous desperadoes. Sara Hill, young, beautiful, partially disabled, and alone, has made a discovery that could turn the tide of the coming extinction of the human race. But can she reach the fabled outpost where a few survivors are struggling to re-create civilization?

 

My Review: 4 Stars

I got a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review…

Overall, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic stories. Instead of a zombie apocalypse or a virus outbreak, the sun is the cause of all the world’s troubles. Solar flares have killed off billions of people, leaving just a lucky few.

But the main character is not so lucky. Her arthritis makes her vulnerable and weak in a world where the weak die first. I loved how this differently-abled person is able to survive BECAUSE of her disability, rather than despite it.

It’s an interesting story, though I must admit the first 25 to 40% of the book seemed somewhat unnecessary. While it’s important to establish the character’s survival instincts and determination, it felt like the author was torturing the character for the heck of it. I don’t mind grim or dark, but a lot of the suffering did little more than highlight the brutality of the post-apocalyptic world without actually contributing to real character development.

There were a few “iffy” mistakes–for example, the tense changed from present to past repeatedly, there are some punctuation and grammar problems, and so on. The concept of the book was great, but the execution fell just a tad short in my opinion. Still, a book definitely worth reading, if not for the novelty of a disabled heroine!

 

About the Author

A licensed professional engineer, G. ZIMMERMAN has been writing stories since he was ten years old. He has released five short stories in literary magazines and e-zines, and writes primarily supernatural fiction and psychological horror. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Zimmerman is married with three children, a dog, and three cats, and lives in the Seattle area.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DMPDXVM/

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorgzimmerman/

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Purdue’s Online Writing Lab

Creative writing is a never-ending learning process! No matter how good you think you are, you can always be better. It’s vital to learn and improve your writing as much as possible, and that’s where these writing resources come in handy…

Most universities offer complete creative writing programs, but when it comes to free resources, only a few have any of real value. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab is definitely one of the best to help you find a wide range of pretty awesome resources to improve your writing.

The OWL contains a lot of information pertaining to academic writing, personal correspondence, and community-engaged writing, but the creative writing-focused material is quite extensive.

The Writing Process — This section contains information on the pre-writing and development process, including outlines and questions, and themes. You can also find details on dealing with writer’s block, proofreading, and more about the nitty gritty details that go into sitting down and writing.

Common Writing Assignments — This section has information on book reports, reviews, academic papers, research papers, and other types of writing assignment. They may not be creative writing types, but it’s a good refresher course for ghostwriters and copywriters.

Mechanics — This section gets into the actual mechanics of writing: sentence structure, spelling, numbering, the parts of speech, sentence clarity, and other nitty gritty details. Definitely worth looking over if you’re not 100% certain that you’re writing every sentence perfectly. (I know I don’t have that total confidence…)

Grammar — This section looks at grammar, including adjectives, adverbs, spelling, prepositions, pronouns, and the list goes on. All writers struggle with some grammar elements, and this page has resources to help you learn the proper way to create beautiful sentences.

Punctuation — This section looks at commas, colons, apostrophes, semi-colons, hyphens, and all the rest. If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled with proper punctuation on more than one occasion. Not the most enjoyable lesson, but very important to learn.

The OWL is definitely worth checking out if you want to sharpen your writing skills!

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Zen Friday: Quotes to Make You Wiser

Today I’m feeling particularly “zen”. Despite an intense week (sickness, work, writing, kids, and life), I survived! Here are a few quotes that helped get me through the week:

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. — George Bernard Shaw

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. — John Wooden

If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. — Michael Jordan

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity. — Calvin Coolidge

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. —  Jim Rohn

Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. — Dr. Seuss

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Be as you wish to seem. — Socrates

We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started. — Henry Ward Beecher

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. — Henry Van Dyke

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice. — Anton Chekhov

Quotes taken from Brainy Quotes
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Guest Post: Reflections on the Imagination

Today, instead of a book review, I have a guest post from an awesome Irish author…

Reflections on the Imagination

By David Jordan

When I think of the imagination, two things come to mind: the poem, Adam’s Curse, by WB Yeats with its lines about creating poetry:

Better go down on your marrow bones

And scrub a kitchen pavement or break stones

Like an old pauper in all sorts of weather

For to articulate sweet sounds together

Is to work harder than all these.

And the ancient myth about the birth of the goddess Athena which tells us that she popped out of Zeus’ mind suddenly.

Both can be applied to the imagination.

For this writer the hardest part of creating is coming up with ideas. Imaginative ideas. It takes up so much mental energy that I have little left for the writing part. But when my energy is restored I find that putting words on paper and giving shape to my thoughts and ideas is a lot easier than that initial imagining. I usually lie down on bed for the initial imagining stage and it is by far the hardest work you can do whilst lying down on your back. Another line from Adam’s Curse comes to mind:

…and yet

Be thought an idler by the noisey set

Of bankers, school masters and clergy men.

The myth about the birth of Athena is typical Greek brilliance, an insight into the nature of the imagination. It comes, seemingly, from out of nowhere and therefore it is a mystery on a par with music and wine. That the myth refers to the imagination is perhaps confirmed by the role given to Athena in Homer’s Odyssey. She gives Odysseus ideas for getting out of trouble and getting back to his home on Ithaca. She is like a personification of the imagination. In the poem she is often referred to as ‘the goddess of the flashing eyes’. What could be a better metaphor for the imagination, for the third eye?

So the imagination is hard work and it is mysterious. All I can add to this is that it is stressful. It seems to come about by mental chafing in the same way that fire is started by rubbing wood against wood. We can bring in another myth here. The myth of Prometheus, who gave the gift of fire to man and was punished for it. Is fire another metaphor for the imagination? For the imagination in all its power and mystery must be the greatest gift that man possesses. All original thought comes from the initial spark of the imagination. Every invention, every great work of art is the offspring of the imagination. All civilisation and progress owes a debt to the imagination.

So the next time you are dreaming with your eyes open remember that you are not an idler. Or if you are an idler then it is an important idleness. You are partaking in an activity which has lifted humanity to its very summits. You are partaking in something divine. For the writer who must come up with an original idea it is hard work but once it happens and the words begin to cascade and flow no writer will deny that it is worth it.

 

About the Author

David Jordan is a writer from Cork, Ireland. He has an MA in English from University College Cork. He writes poetry and prose.

He has just released a book titled The Chronicles of Dan Lee O’Brien:

Steeped in Irish mythology, these stories bristle with singular imagination and exude style and narrative prowess. Playful and ingenious, they are a fresh new voice in Irish literature – one that captivates and enthralls with ease. So watch out. The gods are back…

Here’s a Taste:

One day Dan Lee came home to discover a stranger in his house.

He had parked his bicycle in the hall way and brought his bag of groceries into the kitchen when he sensed a presence, a strong presence. He opened the door to his living room and found that the curtains had been drawn. He could make out a vague shape sitting on the armchair. His armchair. His first instinct was to tell the stranger to get up but he resisted it. Instead he said, ‘who’s there?’

There was a silence before the person answered in a low, intense voice, ‘I am a friend of Balor. I come here to ask a favour of you, old man.’

‘That didn’t answer my question,’ said Dan Lee.

The stranger laughed. ‘I was told you were cute. To answer your question, I am Elatha, the Fomorian. Perhaps you have heard of me?’

‘No. Sorry.’

‘That’s quite alright, old man. But you’ve heard of my friend, Balor?’

‘Balor of the Evil Eye,’ Dan Lee affirmed.

‘Apologies for the darkness. Us Fomorians, we don’t like daylight too much.’

‘Then how did you get here?’

‘O, a pair of sunglasses helps. We don’t like daylight but we can tolerate it. We’re not vampyres.’

As Dan Lee’s eyes became accustomed to the gloom he could make out a handsome young man with long, tawny hair and beard.

‘So what does Balor of the Evil Eye want with me? I have never had dealings with the Fomorians.’

‘No doubt you’ve heard about our reputation, though? That we’re barbarians? Uncivilised? Given to the dark arts? Masters of chaos and destruction?’

‘Yes, I’ve heard those things,’ said Dan Lee.

‘Well it’s a tad unjustified. We’re not all that bad. But the perception lingers. My friend, Balor, needs you to do him a favour. A big favour. The thing is I can’t tell you what it is while we are here. Too many ears about. But rest assured you will be rewarded handsomely.’

‘And if I refuse?’

‘Well let’s just say you won’t be Balor’s friend and if you’re not his friend you’re his enemy.’

‘That’s coercion,’ said Dan Lee. ‘But I have to admit I’m curious. What the big secret is. It is big, isn’t it?’

‘Huge,’ replied Elatha. ‘And you have a huge part to play in it, old man. So let’s stop yapping and get a move on.’

Chronicles of Dan Lee O'Brien Cover

Find the book on Amazon: http://amzn.com/B01CLSDM58

   

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Stock Photography Sites

On today’s Awesome Resources for Creative Writing post, we’ll look at a few great sites to find stock photos for free…

For people who write blog posts, there’s nothing more boring visually than large chunks of text. Images help to break up the monotony and add color to the content. But who has the time to take photos to post? Unless you want to be slapped with a hefty fine, you can’t randomly “gank” images from Google. You have to search for photos that are “Free to Use for commercial purposes”. Stock photos can be very handy for all of your blog posts and website content, but it can be hard to find free images.

Well, I’ve compiled a list of a few sites where you can find free-to-use stock photos. Most of the photos on these free stock photo sites are simple, but there are a few sites with A LOT of good images. Though it can take a bit of work to search through these sites, it’s worth it to get good quality photos.

 

Here are the sites to visit:

Unsplash adds new free photos every few days, and you’ll find that this is a great website to check for landscapes: mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, deserts, and so on.

IM Creator has a small selection of top-quality images that easily rival those found on paid stock photography sites. It’s worth searching the site on the off chance you can find what you’re looking for!

Superfamous has a lot of images generated by graphic designers and artists. All are high resolution and beautiful, but there’s a limited selection to choose from.

Gratisography has “evocative” images, some of which are highly creative and imaginative. For more abstract concepts and even awesome ideas, it’s a site worth checking out.

Picjumbo is an excellent site to check out for food photos. The site is easily navigable and simple to search, though it doesn’t have as wide a selection of non-food-related images.

Want more sites to look for pictures? Entrepreneur has a list of 14 of the best free stock photo sites on the web…

Featured Image Source: Alex Wong

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In With the New!

Welcome to my brand new website!

It’s been over two years since my first post, and it felt like the right time for an upgrade. Don’t worry: the content is still the same. The only thing that has changed is the look and feel of the site.

Take a few minutes to click on the various buttons, scroll down, and get acquainted with the new site. Drop a comment below and tell me what you think of the fresh look…

 

Featured Image Source: Flickr

Book Review: Shadows of Atlantis by Mara Powers

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’m finally back with a new book review (I’ve been reading much more slowly these days). This week, we’ll look at a high fantasy novel set in a fascinating version of Atlantis…

 

Shadows of Atlantis

Atlantis is an idyllic paradise where citizens are meant to live in alignment with nature and reach their highest potential. They have thrived for thousands of years, powering their cities by feeding mindlight donations to the Crystal Grid, which connects the people psychically. But the Grid has been infiltrated by shadows-terrifying parasite creatures that stimulate and feed off the negative emotions of humans. They have caused an epidemic called the madness.

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There are those, however, who have been born with a gene, that when awakened, have been able to unlock mystical powers once believed to be the birthright of all humans. D’Vinid, a dejected musician, has better things to think about, and yet he is accused of being one of them. When he meets Brigitte, who has come to Atlantis from the dreamclans, a chain of events is set in motion that reveals he has a much larger role to play. He is soon forced to face his own awakening with the shocking realization that Atlantis could be experiencing the end of its days.

 

My Review: 4 Stars

I LOVED this version of Atlantis. It’s definitely a very high fantasy concept, with its futuristic technology that goes far beyond basic medieval devices. The “hoverboard-like” devices in this story immediately brought to mind Back to the Future, but with a touch of Tony Hawk thrown in. A whole lot of fun!

The character of D’Vinid was well-written, as were most of the supporting characters. I found Brigitte to be just a tad too “feminine” (the clichéd femininity, rather than a real human woman) for my tastes. While she never actually simpered or fluttered her eyelashes, it came close. I also HATED the “lovers destined to be reunited despite forbidden love” concept, but that’s just me. I tend to take a much more pragmatic view toward romance and love.

The world in which the story is set was highly detailed and vivid, and I could see most of Atlantis in my mind’s eye as I read. Well done to the author for painting a graphic picture of this fantastical world.

There were a lot of complex elements, some of which bordered on over-complicated. The “grids” and “crystals” were interesting, but there was a lot of over-explaining of some elements and not enough detail on others. I had to drop a star mainly because of this.

The book’s ending had no climax to it. I was waiting for a big build-up and dramatic scene at the end, but it just sort of slipped into the end with more of a whimper than a bang.

However, all in all, the book was a work of art, one definitely worth reading! If you want a fresh take on the Atlantis myth, this is a solid choice.

 

Here’s a Taste:

Music began. Atlantean classical music was designed to weave the delicate harmonies of nature and emulate frequencies from the universal spheres. It had evolved in modern times to a more primal reminder of human existence, with multi-layered rhythmic pulses as its basis. It had become popular at revelries to feature the dark, grooving textures of percussive instruments run through resonance amplifiers. The dance style to this tribal heartbeat music was an individualized expression of character and personal power.

D’Vinid, like all dabrina players, studied classical music. His unique musical contribution in his day was to run his instrument through the same resonance amplifiers to modulate universal frequencies. The ensuing melodic textures created a juxtaposition over the fierce pulsing rhythms. His legendary ingenuity had started a trend, and he was well known as the inventor of the fusion.

He struggled with his vow to avoid the Watchers as he fiddled with the dabrina peg he now wore around his neck. They knew him all too well. His thirst to play for the gathering courtiers tugged at his every step. But if he played, he would willingly offer himself to Pan’s plan. The last thing he wanted was to be in King Kyliron’s sights. His desire for this not to occur far outshone his desire to play music.

The garden had been set up with swirling lights and long, draping streamers to disorient revelers and give the feeling of walking in dreamsight. Revelries were a cultural mainstay all through Atlantean history. They believed it to be their birthright as humans to enjoy the pleasures of sensory perception, while reaching for the bliss of higher consciousness. They had found the best way to do this was through revelries.

D’Vinid wandered aimlessly, pacing through the gardens in unsettled thought. He lowered his head to avoid laughing courtiers as they chased through the garden pathways. He thought perhaps an elixir would soothe his torment. Just as he had the thought, the path emptied into a small patio where a mixologist had set up a portable case of tiny glass vials.

Some of the courtiers were relaxing on cushions around the woman’s tiny costumed form. She had a painted face which glowed in the twinkling lights, and an intricate, feathered head-dress. Her eyes landed directly on D’Vinid as he appeared on the patio. She gestured a delicate hand toward an empty cushion. The other courtiers gazed up at him with eager eyes and mimicked her gesture, urging him to join in their intoxication.

“What is your pleasure?” she asked in a sing-song voice. “Are you sad and lonely?” She waved her hand over the vials, pushing their tops gently to make a fragile chiming sound as their various glass shapes clinked together. “Do you need me to slip you a feeling of sexual arousal? Are you longing to see the other side? Or perhaps you need some excitement and adrenalin!”

D’Vinid carefully thought of his answer. Pan had the best elixir mixologists, and any feeling he wished to have, she would deliver. “I need to not care.”

Her expression darkened. “This is a specific feeling you ask for. You have many things haunting your thoughts. Do you wish to forget? I can give you temporary amnesia.”

One of the courtesans rubbed his thigh and leaned in to whisper in his ear. “Go for arousal. I will help you forget.” She giggled and fell back, landing in the arms of the man behind her, who caught her up in a greedy kiss.

 

About the Author:

MARA POWERS is an American Gen X’er who discovered the mystery of Atlantis at sixteen, and has researched it avidly ever since. Hailing from a literary family, she has always been a free spirit, living a life of adventure in pursuit of her many creative talents. Her travels have enhanced her love of words, and gifted her with experiences, life observations and characters to weave into her stories. She regularly migrates between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, Northern Colorado, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Austin, Texas.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Atlantis-Awakening-Mara-Powers/dp/0996765204/

Watch the YouTube Video Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fN2cKadiuI

Check out her Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/ShadowsOfAtlantis?fref=ts

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kamander.dazzle

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/ShadowsAtlantis

Check out her Instagram: https://instagram.com/shadowsofatlantis/

Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/111828008678249344717/posts

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Amazon Sales Rank Explained

On today’s “Awesome Resources for Creative Writing” post, I want to share with you a gold nugget I found: an article that explains Amazon’s Sales Rank.

If you’re anything like me, you may regularly check your book/s to see its sales rank. You may have no idea what it means when you see numbers like this:

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But thankfully, someone takes the time to explain all about Sales Rank and what those (potentially confusing) numbers mean.

An article on the site “Self Publishing Advice” gives you a detailed look at the Sales Rank and what it means. (By the way, the site itself is packed with awesome advice for writers and writing. It’s definitely worth checking out!)

The article, titled “Amazon Sales Rank: Taming the Algorithm” explains the secret behind the algorithm that controls Amazon’s Sales Rank.

Taken from the article:

1. Each sale or download of a product counts as one point toward a hypothetical “rank score”.
2. Each day, the preceding day’s score decreases by half, and is added to today’s points.
3. For each category on Amazon, books are ranked based on their current scores.

Example:
Monday, a book sells 32 copies. That’s 32 points towards its ranking.
Tuesday, the book sells 36 copies. Those 36 points are added to half of Monday’s total (32 / 2 = 16 points), for a total of 52 points.
Wednesday, the book sells 16 copies. Those 16 points are added to half of Tuesday’s total (52 / 2 = 26 points), for a total of 42 points.

Of course, there’s a lot more to know, such as:

More recent sales = higher sales rank

Sales rank rises or falls as other books sell more or less

Higher sales rank doesn’t necessarily mean better search result placement

and so on…

The article basically de-mystifies Amazon’s Sales Rank, making it easy for you to understand exactly how well your book is performing.

For those who want to understand the Sales Rank a bit better, it’s definitely worth checking out!

Bonus: Amazon Sales Rank Calculator is a tool provided by Kindlepreneur that will tell you exactly how many books have been sold to earn you your current sales rank.

 

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A Few Funny Quotes to Brighten Up Your Day

Today, I find myself in need of something to make me smile. It’s been a rough week, so it’s time to laugh a bit. Thankfully, the internet is filled with funny quotes to drive away my Friday Blues (not really a thing, so sue me!).

Here are a few that made me chuckle:

We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know. — W. H. Auden

I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade… And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party. — Ron White

People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. — Isaac Asimov

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. — Don Marquis

My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them. — Mitch Hedberg

Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I. — Oscar Levant

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity. — Albert Einstein

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing. — Robert Benchley

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone. — Anthony Burgess

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. — Terry Pratchett

Children are smarter than any of us. Know how I know that? I don’t know one child with a full time job and children. — Bill Hicks

If women ran the world we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days. — Robin Williams

Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it. — Sam Levenson

I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio. — Joan Rivers

Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter. — James A. Garfield
The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun. — P. G. Wodehouse

 

Courtesy of Brainy Quote

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