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Announcing a new podcast!

How Reading Suspense Changes Your Brain

Tales from the Reject Pile

A new fiction podcast called “Tales from the Reject Pile” will release in January of 2019. This podcast will breathe new life into previously rejected short stories. Because every writer knows that a rejection doesn’t mean your story is bad. Maybe the editor had a bad taco that day. Maybe the moon wasn’t in the right phase. Either way, this podcast allows writers to showcase works from their reject pile, folder, drawer, or closet to a brand new audience— YOU!

We’ve already got some fascinating stories lined up for the show. Is yours next?

Our submissions are currently open. To apply, please send an email to with your story and a copy of your rejection letter if one is available. (Don’t worry, we won’t read the letters on the show— it’s for proof of qualification. This show ONLY accepts rejects.)

Once the show is live, episodes and show notes will be posted right here. They will also be distributed via popular podcasting channels.

Please note that not every episode will be suitable for children, and the show notes will contain a complete list of content warnings as required. Listeners are encouraged to use their discretion.

We look forward to sharing these stories with you.


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Quick and Free Way to Relax and Unwind

You’re a busy person. And, most likely, you’re an exhausted and stressed person, too. But what if I told you there was a way to change that? Because there is…

I receive a commission from links in this post. And I never recommend products I don’t believe in. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

It’s April, which means it’s still Stress Awareness Month. So let’s bust some of that stress together, okay?

I invite you to take a short journey with me.

First, release as much unnecessary tension as you can. Think the back of your neck, your shoulders, your face.


Now take a few slow, comfortable breaths.












Breathing is a powerful way to calm our bodies. And there’s something even MORE powerful, according to decades of scientific research. It can bring us peace, happiness, and a general sense of well-being. Even better? It’s 100% free.

So, what is it?


Think about it. You’re breathing. And you can read these words, which means you’re educated. You have access to electricity and technology. I’m willing to bet you have clothes, too. Most likely, you’re in control of your body as well as where you go and when.

You probably have food to eat. And access to exotic foods and quick, worldwide trade routes that bygone civilizations never even dreamed of.

There are health, and nature, family, and friends: so much to be grateful for.

NEWSFLASH: Thanksgiving isn't the only time you should be thankful. Click To Tweet

It’s easy to focus on all the negative and scary stuff in our lives. Because it’s usually really painful, loud, and annoying. But when we take the time to remember the parts of our lives that aren’t screaming like they’re on fire, something incredible happens.


You might be wondering what brought this post on. And the answer is honestly pretty strange.

I was researching Zazzle (by the way I’ve got tons of coupons for you at the end of this post), and I came across something I’d never heard of before: the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657). As a former resident of Georgia, this act never entered my corner of the world. But Georgia is no stranger to the reality the act attempts to address: inequality, trafficking, child labor, and slavery.

You might be thinking— no way. That stuff only happens in other countries.

Oh no, my friend. Slavery never really died out. It’s alive and thriving around the globe, right under our noses. In fact, right before I moved to Canada, a human trafficking ring had been exposed right in the middle of my hometown.

But instead of getting depressed about the horrors that still happen every day, I choose to be grateful for what I’ve been given. And I like to invest in companies that support equality and respect human dignity— big organizations that remember the forgotten and stand up for the “little” people.

If that’s something you’re interested in, too, here are the deals I promised you earlier:


40% Off Cards + 15% off sitewide – Use code: APRILDEALZAZ – Starts: 04/09/2018 Expires: 04/11/2018 11:59 PM PST

Mothers Day!

Up to 50% Off + 15% off sitewide – Use code: ZSPRINGDEALS Starts: 04/12/2018 Expires: 04/16/2018 11:59 PM PST

  • 50% off canvas prints, photo blocks, posters, serving trays, mugs (steins + travel mugs not included)
  • 40% off binders, bunting flags, totes, necklaces, photo cubes
  • 30% off aprons, gift bags, leggings, pillows, puzzles, watches, select wrapping paper

Disney Stuff!

20% Off Disney Store – Use code: ZAZZDISNEY20 – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

Wild Apple Stuff!

25% Off Wild Apple Store – Use code: WILDAPPLEZAZ – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

Rainbow Brite Stuff!

25% Off Rainbow Brite Store – Use code: 25RAINBOWZAZ – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

Other April Sales!

April Product Deals – Use code: ZAZAPR18DEAL – Starts: 04/01/2018 Expires: 04/30/2018 11:59 PM PST

  • 40% off sunglasses and temporary tattoos
  • 30% off scarves, OneUpBands headbands, bound journals, dog tags, and mason jars
  • 25% off Fuji notepads

****Sales and codes subject to change****

Please note: I am not a psychologist, counselor, or physician. If you fear that you or someone you know may harm someone, please contact 911.

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Relax, Don’t Stress. Here’s How:

Woman reading a book while seated on a dock.

Edit: NEW COUPON CODE! Valid until April 30, 2018. Applicable to first box, only. Code: OXFORD4

April is Stress Awareness Month. This is an excellent time to get off the old hamster wheel and review your life.

Are you scheduling time in your day for self-care? Click To Tweet

According to The American Institute of Stress, there are actually four different kinds of stress that you can experience:

Acute: intense. Takes the body 90 minutes to recover. Chronic: slowly builds over time. Eustress: positive stress (promotions, graduation). Distress: negative stress (job loss, divorce).

I receive a commission from links in this post. And I never recommend products I don’t believe in. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Here are some quick statistics from 2017:

  • Job Pressure is the number one stressor in the U.S.
  • 77% of people regularly have stress symptoms
  • Over half of Americans experience fatigue as a result of stress

But chances are you’re nodding your head to a lot of this information. You can feel it in your bones. The unfocused fog-brain, the aching limbs, the pounding headaches that never seem to end. And if you’re a mother on top of that? Well, you’ve got a whole extra level of stressful inputs.

And that’s one reason why I’m so excited about the grand opening of Oxford Momma. You may have noticed it from the top of my new sidebar on this blog.

Oxford Momma delivers a self-care book box for moms like you! Get it at

How Oxford Momma Helps Reduce Stress

Oxford Momma is a monthly subscription self-care box. Each box contains one bestselling book for moms (either fiction or nonfiction), an aromatherapy candle, a postcard/print with inspirational art, and at least one more handmade item.

If surprises make you anxious or you’re worried you might get a book you already own, they release a sneak preview just before the box goes out. So instead of getting an extra copy of something you already have, you can email them for a substitute in your box.

You also don’t have to worry about shipping. Each box comes with a tracking number that you can check from your computer or phone.

And if expenses are tight one month, you have the option of skipping that month instead of having to cancel completely. They’ve thought of everything.

But What if I’m Not a Mom?

You absolutely do NOT have to be a mother to join Oxford Momma. It’s not like there’s an exam to join. As long as you don’t mind reading mother-themed books and feminine self-care items, you’re welcome to join.

Sign up by April 7, 2018, to get $4 off your first box!


Treat yourself to a little "me" time every month with

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A Backlist Fantasy That’s Still Timely

Most books from the ’90s can come across as rather, well, dated. But this book covers issues that are timely even today.

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Hello, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful and restful spring break. 🙂

Today I’m reviewing a book that’s been available for a couple of decades. And unlike most of my other reviews, this is a traditionally published book by a well-known author— Terry Pratchett.

So, which of his many books am I referring to? None other than Jingo.

Like other books in the vast Discworld Series, Jingo is packed with fabulous puns. And it features many of the Night Watch characters you may already know and love.

You might be thinking, okay… so what?

What makes this book so timely?

In a word? Islamomisia. (By the way, this post is a great primer on why to use -misia instead of -phobia.)

In this story, the British coded citizens of Ankh-Morpork are pitted against the Middle Eastern Islamic coded citizens of Klatch.

This book has mystery, murder, and politics with a big helping of humor. But it also points out the inherent inanity of racism. And it takes a healthy stab at sexism, too. Click To Tweet

If you have yet to read any books in the Discworld series, I can’t recommend them enough. Terry Pratchett was a brilliant author. And the world lost him much too soon.

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Family-friendly Book for a Good Cause

The Perfect Children's book for Easter.

Before I get to today’s book, let me tell you a little story.

This past St. Patrick’s day, U.S. vice president Mike Pence visited my old stomping grounds: Savannah, Georgia. You see, Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s day parade in the entire nation. However, residents were none too thrilled at having the anti-gay politician dampen their fun. Ordinary items and longtime staples of parade-watching like water bottles, backpacks, coolers, and folding chairs were all banned. Luckily, rainbow flags were not. Every single photograph taken of Pence during the significantly less festive festivities includes at least one rainbow flag in the background. And I’ve never been more proud.

Politics aside, Pence is debuting a new children’s book about his pet rabbit Marlon Bundo. But we’re not going to talk about that book. Because…

The Perfect Children's book for Easter.

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

John Oliver released a Marlon Bundo book that is even better.

Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is a beautiful, family-friendly love story about two bunnies who happen to be gay. It’s written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller. The illustrations are delightful, and the audiobook narrators are illustrious:

  • RuPaul
  • Jack McBrayer
  • John Lithgow
  • Ellie Kemper
  • Jeff Garlin
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson
  • Jim Parson

Plus, proceeds from the book sales support The Noah Project and AIDS United; both of these are charities which are dedicated to helping the gay community.

So, do your family a favor. Give the gift of love, knowledge, and acceptance. And, did I mention this would be a huge snub to Pence?

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Your Biggest, Most Annoying Punctuation Questions: Solved

Although seemingly banal, punctuation can be a contentious subject.

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Writing is something that comes easily to many of us here in the digital age. In fact, sometimes it feels like you know everything you need to know about it. I mean, you do it every day, right? A tweet here, a text there. We create a flood of text every day. And everyone knows that lists should be written like this, this, and this.

Or should lists be written like this, this and this?

Did you notice the difference? The first example has two commas in the list; the second one is called the Oxford comma. And some people have very strong opinions on whether or not the Oxford comma is “correct.”

Or should I have said ‘correct’?

Both versions are right in separate contexts. And this is part of what makes grammar so enticing— and frustrating. In the writing world, there is no single standard that applies to all situations. Some factors that can influence your punctuation include: which continent you’re writing for, which type of content you’re producing (news, academic, or fiction), and whichever style preferences you may have. For example, I love the Oxford comma.

In a world where rules are so fluid, it can be difficult to make sense of it all. But today’s book does a beautiful job of answering some of the most difficult punctuation questions. Where do commas go? Where do quotation marks go? And what does a semicolon do?

Punctuation Book to the Rescue!

This brings me to The Best Punctuation Book, Period. Written by editor and grammar columnist, June Casagrande, this book delves into complex punctuation issues in a clear, and easy to understand manner. Each chapter focuses on a different type of punctuation with sections devoted to common questions. Each section has an example of what to expect in each of the three styles (news, book, and academic). And she also put together a panel of grammar experts who answer tricky punctuation questions that aren’t addressed in grammar stylebooks like CMOS and AP. There’s also a thorough index in the back so you can jump to exactly what you’re looking for.

I can’t recommend this book enough. As someone who was never fond of grammar in school, this book lays everything out in clean, simple language. If you want to improve your writing or editing skills, this punctuation book is a must-have.

PS: Do you have a tough time writing business letters or cover letters? Read this post for a breakdown of formal letter-writing format as well as links to additional resources.

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Meet These American Literary Figures in a Way You Never Have Before

Person walking up an old wooden staircase.

Well-dressed person walking up an old wooden staircase.

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

The United States in the 19th century was a very different place than it is today. Though we still experience divides along class and gender lines, expected societal behaviors were far more prescripted, restrictive, and, well, stoic back then. There was a strong sense of things that were and were not done (unlike today’s modern U.S. political arena *cough* *cough*).

Today’s book is historical fiction that takes a peek into the lives of some of the well-to-do, the American elite, and important figures in literary history. So, let’s dive in.

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Dearest David, by Glen Ebisch, is a delightful read. The characters use modernized language that flows nicely without, in my opinion, becoming a distraction. The story follows a young, working-class woman who becomes a servant in the Emerson household. Along the way, several other notable American literary figures are inserted into the mix. At its heart, the novel is a love story. However, this book doesn’t follow the standard romance formula. If you’re fond of historical romances, you should really know this before reading because you may otherwise be disappointed.

If you’re an American literary history buff, don’t expect everything in this narrative to be 100% accurate. The main character doesn’t have a real-life counterpart, although most of the other characters in the book were real people. Also, several aspects of the timeline were shuffled around to fit the narrative tension. All of this is clearly explained in the backmatter, though, along with how and when events really transpired.

PS: Want to read a queer historical romance set in America after World War II? Click here.

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A Book that Tamed the Ultimate Bad Boy

Bride holding a bouquet

Bride holding a bouquet

Photo by Orio Nguyen on Unsplash

Today’s book contains graphic language and several sex scenes and sexual references. If this is something you’d rather avoid in a book, absolutely no judgment here. Thank you for stopping by, and I’ll catch you next week. 🙂

Marriage isn't Always All it's Cracked Up to Be: a book review.

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

When I Let You Go, by Lily Foster is the sixth book in her Let Me series. If you’ve read this blog any amount of time, you probably already know that I rarely read a series in order. But this series focuses on a small group of upper-class families through at least a couple of generations, so there is a rich history that unfolds from one book to the next. However, for people who read out of order, like me, this novel is fairly easy to follow— although the shift from the prologue to the first chapter was a bit disorienting (to me) at first.

This is THE book to read if you want to follow a character that you’ll love to hate. Dylan is a middle-aged husband with a frat-boy soul. The outright misogyny that leaks off the page from his point of view is horrifying, but (unfortunately) realistic. His character arc, alone, is worth the read. But the book also features a romance between two characters with a huge age gap between them. And this brings up a lot of super weird and uncomfortable moments in the book that are simply beautifully written. Though you may not quite care for the characters at first, you will probably find yourself rooting for them in the end. The pacing and interleaving of points of view are so masterfully done, that I swallowed this whole book in a night. That is incredibly rare for me and goes to show just how skilled Lily Foster’s writing ability really is.

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A Quick Read with a Big Concept

solar eclipse

Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

Today’s book does a great job of packing a lot of story into a small package. If you enjoy Sci-Fi, you’ll want to stick around for this:

If you buy something through these links, I get paid. I never recommend anything that I don’t believe is an interesting and high-quality product. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

Lonely Phoenix, by Stephen L. Thompson, is a philosophical exploration of life in space. But rather than focus on well-worn tropes like intergalactic wars, alien viruses, and hostile living conditions, this story does something completely different— vampires. Or one vampire. But before you run away with images of blood-drenched teeth and lustful teenagers, this is nothing like Twilight. Instead, the characters tackle the burden of long life and the loneliness inherent in being one of a kind (at least on the ship).

Though some scenes (especially with women) feel a little stiff, the concept is intriguing. In fact, by the time I reached the end of the book, I found myself wishing there were more. This is a book that could easily be stretched into a series, trilogy, or simply lengthened. A great read when you’re looking for something quick to top up your Goodreads Reading Challenge.