thoughts

THANKSGIVING

Hello, my dear readers!

For a lot of you, Thanksgiving is probably a pretty foreign concept. What are those Americans doing, eating a lot of turkey and stuffing and deviled eggs? (Please, please try a deviled egg if you haven’t before.)

But here’s the truth: Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays of the year.

It’s a chance for families and friends to catch up, prepare a meal together, and enjoy delicious, homemade food while remembering that we have a lot for which to be thankful. It’s a tradition that stems from values of working hard and knowing the things that have the greatest importance in our lives should be our families and friends. Thanksgiving is about people, not just great food…

And to celebrate…  I thought it would be fitting to do a little “What I’m Thankful For” post. ❤

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Collierville, TN (November 2018) Tell me when you see it! There’s a special friend in this pic.

1. FAMILY

Though I am always pretty appreciate for my family, this year seems even more important than ever. Last year I did not get to spend Thanksgiving at home, as I was in Chile, but it is a different story this November. I get to be with them!!

To my Poppa Lawrence: Thank you for teaching me humility and a giving spirit. Thank you for being my sounding board, hiking companion, and example of what a man should be.

To my sweet Momma J: Thank you for putting up with my moodiness, showing me the example of who I want to be as a mother and a human going about life, and taking me on more “drives” than I can count.

To my beautiful sister, Gen: Thank you for being my best friend. You drive me crazy 98% of the time, but there is not a day that goes by when I am not thankful that you came into my life.

To my West Virginia family, thank you for contributing to my parents’ lives and taking care of them. Especially to Mamaw, I want to thank you for always reading this blog and being such a sweet example for me.


2. FRIENDS

If there is one thing I have learned through college, it’s that your friends can become like family.

To my hometown friends, thank you for being with me since Day 1. You knew me at my lowest points, and you were there when I made the choice to leave Tennessee (just for a little while). You guys helped me figure out who I am, and I am so thankful I’ve kept in contact with you over the years.

To my roaches, thank you for being a second family to me. I truly believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason, and you guys are no exception. You are ridiculous at times, but you match me in every way.

Miss Givenchy, I’m sure you are reading this, so I will make a special shoutout to you. Thank you for being my #1 supporter, both with this blog and everything I do. Thank you for being an incredible best friend, LNC devotee, and wing woman. ❤ (5’11”).


3. HOME

Thank you, my beautiful Tennessee, for being an incredible place to have grown up and to live in now. Thank you for shielding me from wildfires and gracing us with rain. You sure aren’t perfect, but at times you feel pretty close to it.


4. FLYING

Thank you, airplanes, for being invented. Thank you for being my outlet, my newfound passion, and the chance to feel like an angel, even for an hour or two in that big old sky. I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner, but sometimes it isn’t about timing. I’m just glad I found you.


5. FAITH

Thank you, God, for the opportunities that I have. Thank you for protecting my friends and me from the Woolsey Fire, for letting me be home during this Thanksgiving break when I wasn’t even supposed to be home in the first place, and for always being there, even when I’m a total idiot (which is the majority of the time).


6. FREEDOM

Thank you, my country, for allowing me to live here. Thank you for letting me have the freedoms I have, the opportunities I have, and the chance to see a better place for my own children in the future.


7. THIS BLOG

AND TO MY INCREDIBLE BLOGGING COMMUNITY!

Thank you guys so much for reading, commenting, liking, and following this blog. It makes me so happy to connect with you all, from so many different backgrounds and countries and ways of life. This has been a truly amazing experience, and it is something for which I’m very grateful. I love reading your posts and learning more about all of you.


THANKSGIVING.

What are you thankful for?

Maybe it feels like there isn’t much to be thankful for, but I’m sure there are things in your life that are absolute blessings, and you may not realize it until you really think about it. There are always going to be ups and downs, but it is up to us to harness the negative energy and convert it to positive energy. (This may sound ridiculous, but I hope it is a good analogy).

I heard something this past Sunday at church, and I believe it is wisdom:

Give thanks even in the worst of times. These times challenge us even more than the good times.

We must remember that we are put in situations for a reason, and that these moments can be the most constructive of them all. They remind us that things can get better, and we should remain committed to our thankful spirit in the meantime.

Therefore, I hope all of you can find something to be thankful for, and remind yourselves of this thing throughout the week. It can be a person, an activity, your passion, anything! And maybe treat yourself to some turkey in the meantime. 😉

That’s all I’ve got for now.

Until next time,

-K.

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Fayette County, TN (November 2018) Compare this to the photo in my last blog post (summertime versus late autumn). 🙂

 

updates

A WHIRLWIND OF A WEEK

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, and I almost (ALMOST!) forgot about my weekly blog post. That being said, I’m back in the game and ready to share some thoughts that have been nagging at me in the past week.

After escaping the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, I flew home to Tennessee this past Sunday afternoon. I am thankful to be home, to relax and regain peace in my life, and to take some days to recover from the stress of this gnarly November.

Though I am quite cryptic in nature, I want to be honest with you all and go over the things that are tearing me up right now, even though I know I am safe and loved and cared for.

So here we go… In chronological order.


ONE PERSON

Who knew one person could have such an effect on you?

Not to be too cryptic on this front, but if there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s that just one person can change how you really feel, both in the best of ways and the worst. While I try not to be too analytical, I can’t help but regret certain actions and revel in them at the same time.

Ugh.


BORDERLINE SHOOTING

On the evening of Wednesday, November 7, thirteen people lost their lives at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. One of these thirteen souls was Alaina Housley, an eighteen-year-old freshman from my university, Pepperdine. It was a senseless act of violence that shook the entire United States, and it destroyed the peaceful atmosphere of Pepperdine.

My freshman year, I went to Borderline countless times with friends, because it is primarily a line dancing club. It was a place to bond with friends, attempt to boot scooting’ boogie without the professionals stomping all over you, and get a little country music through your veins.

But now I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering of Alaina’s family and the other Pepperdine students who managed to flee with their lives intact. I cannot understand how a place like Borderline is not safe anymore, that college kids cannot even go enjoy dancing without the worry of violence seeping in.


WOOLSEY FIRE

On Friday, November 9, I received an evacuation alert from Pepperdine due to the Woolsey Fire wreaking havoc upon the Santa Monica Mountains. The fire that had started near Westlake Village, close to the already-reeling Thousand Oaks, had jumped into our neck of the woods.

Only thirty minutes after receiving this alert, I stumbled outside with a backpack and my flight bag to discover smoke rolling over the mountains. Terrified, I hurried to my car with two friends and fled to San Diego, while most of my friends remained on campus.

Fortunately, Pepperdine was the safest place to be in Malibu, and though the flames would make it onto campus that night, it was the miraculous effort of firefighters who saved the school and protected all those college kids in the process. Though the fire was nothing less than alarming, putrid smoke followed its path, leaving those who stayed in paper masks.

The following morning, Saturday, November 10, the rest of my friends got out as quickly as they could because the air quality was so poor. Eventually, I was reunited with some of them in the safety of my friend’s San Diego home.

On the morning of Sunday, November 11, we received another alert that school was canceled until November 26. Five minutes later I booked a flight and was home to Tennessee by midnight.

The status of the fire now is on the upswing. The last time I heard, the Woolsey Fire is 60% contained and will be fully extinguished soon. Though hundreds of homes burned down and two lives were lost to this specific fire, there is much to be thankful for, especially the way the community pulled together to save the thousands who lived in the areas affected by the fire.

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Woolsey Fire near Pepperdine University (November 9, 2018) This still feels unreal. 

SEPARATION ANXIETY

While most of my friends remained on Pepperdine’s campus that first day of the fire, I went to my friend’s house in San Diego, where we watched a special nature show, Earth’s Natural Wonders (not the typical college kid flick, that’s for sure), ate a lot of delicious food, went to church, and played cards. It was relaxing and a lasting memory. When we reconnected with our other friends, we felt even tighter as a group.

That being said, we received the phone call from school that Sunday, and suddenly we were all packed up and headed five directions. What was a moment of us being all together completely fractured.

Finding myself on a flight home in the middle of November was unexpected, and it affected my mood the first few days of being back, because my friends were all over the map. We are all over the map, and it felt so weird saying goodbye for two weeks when just days before we’d been going to concerts, playing video games, and gulping down horror movies. Luckily we have been able to call and do a group crossword or two. (Told you, we’re not normal college kids.)


GROWING UP

This little unplanned break has been, well, wild. I went from a wildfire to rain that shifted to snow. 80 degree temperatures in California dropped to the thirties in Tennessee, and I was shocked to see colorful trees from the autumn here in the South. Neutral accents melted into my particular lilt of Southern, and things seemed so strange…

I think I am able to understand my feelings of confusion and stress now that I’ve been home five days: I am growing up, and it hurts just as much as it excites me. I will be graduating college in a year, and then the real world’s going to knock on the door. My friends will be split up around the country, permanently, even though I know they will always be a phone call away. College will become a distant memory, and I’ll be responsible for my future. Who knows what will come then, but the worry has been sinking its teeth into my brain for a little while now. I haven’t been writing as much, considering the circumstances, and therefore this post feels long overdue.

This is a sentiment everyone goes through, if you get the fortunate chance. It’s not something we should complain about, since so many don’t get to walk in our shoes, but there are still ups and downs with this thing called life. Sometimes we can’t control our emotions, our feelings, what drives our souls, and that can be overwhelming.

That’s when I take a step back, pray to God, and try my hardest to clear my head. It doesn’t always work, so I’ve been doing all sorts of things: Exercise, working on a new book, listening to music (check out “Freelance” by Toro y Moi).

And I know that it will be hard to leave home when it’s time to go.

That’s where I’m at now: Torn between two worlds, one of which will inevitably win over the other.

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Mammoth Lakes (October 2018) I can’t believe this was already a month ago. On my trip to Yosemite National Park.

SPLIT.

I think this describes my mood right about now: I’m split over my future, split over my present, split right down the middle. There’s so much going on in this world that my days are slipping like sand through my fingers, and this can be terrifying, not having a way to stop what’s coming.

Though this may seem like a melodramatic post, I know things are looking up. From being home I am reunited with my one-of-a-kind family, hometown best friends, and overweight guinea pig. I get amazing work done here, including 800 questions for my written pilot exam and thousands of words for a new romance novel. Being home reminds me of who I am, truly, deeply in my core; it reminds me of what I was and how far I’ve come. It inspires me to stay true to my values, and not to wrap myself in the what-ifs of my life in California.

Home. A place some never get the chance to see again.

I pray for the family of Alaina Housley and the countless people who were displaced, injured, and lost their homes due to the Woolsey Fire. I cannot begin to imagine the severity of the Camp Fire in Northern California, where so many have lost their lives and livelihoods.

Therefore, it is times like these that should remind us all of the good things that we take for granted. I need to do a better job of remembering, because memory lasts with us much longer than the present.

Hopefully my next post will be a little more light-hearted. 🙂

Until next time,

-K.

 

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HOME! Fayette County, TN (Summer 2018) At this time of the year, the leaves are in full-blown glory: Crimson, vermillion, butter yellow, the whole nine yards. 

 

writing

BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH (first chapter)

 

BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH

A NOVEL BY KATIE GEORGE

 

Dear Abigail,

            You must learn to let people go. You must learn to do this so that you will live, so that you will have the opportunities I desperately wished for you.

            I love you, Abigail, but I’m afraid it’s too late.

                       Love, Dad

 

PROLOGUE

 

GREEN, GREEN, GREEN, the color all around me. For an endless pop of seconds, I can’t see anything but green, and my eyes are desperate for anything—anybody—else, and I’m wailing, screaming, howling at the moon, and when I realize it’s a stupid idea to do that, I bite on my knuckle, as hard as I can, silencing my cries.

My brain’s on fire, my body flailing like the husk of a snake. Tears are streaming down my face. Some people feel resolute, ready, when they are called to die, when life slips through them and heads into the next soul, but I’m not that kind of person. I’m selfish. I want my time on Earth, and I want as much of it as possible.

“Not yet!” I scream, and though I want to furl into myself, I spread out, and I’m scared senseless, but I can think of nothing less than escape. Than saying one last I love you before it’s too late, before I never get the chance again. And I know—trust me, I know—that being left behind is even more excruciating than the act of dying itself.

 

CHAPTER ONE

ABIGAIL ROSS

 

THE FIRST THING my mother said to me when I moved back into my childhood home at the age of twenty-seven was simple: “How long before your next job?”

I smiled, but my heart was heavy, and my wallet was not. “A few weeks, tops.” And I said it smugly, with gusto, pride.

“Are you sure about that?” she asked, her eyes narrowed like slits, lifting a mug of hot coffee to her lips. She always had the uncanny ability to see right through me.

“Trust me,” I said, because I want out of here as much as you do.

She nodded in approval, which somehow caused her to drop the mug. It shattered and sliced her foot open. It was her favorite one, the one I bought in Uruguay when I was nineteen and studying abroad. Now it was blasted to smithereens.

But the weeks started to vanish by, each moment like an unseen ghost, and there was nothing for me to do in our town. No copy editor positions open, not since the decade before; no need for journalists, because the news always seemed to be the same. I’m not even a journalist, but I know how to report on the things I see, the things I feel, and there was nothing for me. I applied for everything, including a cash register position at a nearby Hobby Lobby store.

After days and days of sluggish non-activity, I grew more and more frustrated. Writers don’t have much option in life, except to find an agent and publish a novel. And if you’re really serious, maybe you can go get a job as a librarian, try out slam poetry, be the next Sylvia Plath. Grab a guitar and write some songs, wait for a label to pick your name out of a hat. But that’s not what I’m about. I’m not your normal writer who gets high off manuscripts and coffee and the buzz of an unseen world and strong, admirable heroes. In fact, I don’t even like writing. It’s just something I happened to get good grades in when I went to school, which doesn’t really help post-college. And, if we’re being honest, the real reason I was a writer—back then, at least—was because it allowed me to go places.

One night, about two months into my stay at my mother’s home, which certainly wasn’t my childhood home anymore, I opened my laptop and dragged the cursor over countless photo albums.

NORWAY 2017.

THAILAND 2015.

ETHIOPIA 2018.

SOUTH AFRICA 2016.

FLORIDA KEYS (round 2) 2014.

SAN ANTONIO 2018.

CALIFORNIA 2014.

DAD.

Since I had hours to kill and nothing better to do, I pushed myself through every album on that computer, the files like sudden snaps of memory. My fingers traced outlines of Scandinavian fjords and English crags, Caribbean islands and flat mesas across the American heartland. My mind was on fire, my eyes ripe with tears. There were photos of South American cuisine and my attempt at riding the hump of a camel in the Jordanian desert to Petra. I stood on Swiss cliffs and Hawaiian volcanoes. It was another woman I saw on the computer. An unrecognizable woman. Certainly not me.

But as soon as I came across the album dedicated to him, I slammed the computer shut and threw the expensive piece of technology against the wall. I had to cover the hole it left with a poster of cats I bought for ten bucks at Walmart. At least my mother would appreciate it if she ever stumbled into my childhood room again. She’d think it similar to his favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, but I don’t get to escape like the clever Andy Dufresne.

It isn’t easy, losing your passion at twenty-seven, when you’re one of the top travel writers in the United States. It isn’t easy getting fired for losing your brain, for losing your love of adventure, when you suddenly have the desire to hole yourself up in your room for hours at a time and cover the windows with black curtains. It sure isn’t easy when you lose who you are, what makes you tick and survive off a bone-crunching salary, but hey, you get a lot of airline miles stored up. You could always surprise your coffee-addled mother and take her to Montego Bay. But that’s only if your mother likes you and can leave the house. Not if she hates you, which my mother does.

The day after throwing my computer at the wall, I snagged a job at a gift shop in the country, where I became a sort of therapist for my customers. I learned about rich Southern aristocrats who’d been in the area for centuries, and I found myself in political discussions where I hid my ideologies. I made about the same amount I did in high school, barely over Tennessee’s minimum wage. But it made me feel safe and comfortable, working there, wrapping little pottery dishes in pink tissue paper, handing presents to the very few souls who chanced upon the store.

“What’s a girl like you doing here?” asked one brave woman, whose name I have since forgotten. It’s not important. They loved to tell me their names, and I forgot them just as quickly as I’ve forgotten the files on my computer.

There were moments when I suddenly clung back to the woman I was. When I saw a little teacup and it reminded me of India; when I found myself in a field of sunflowers and remembered London streets in the springtime. And moments when somebody would say, expecting a true, honest, distinct Southern answer: “What’s a girl like you doing here?”

The one brave woman meant the question about my career choice. But it hit me in the head, the fact that I was in a small, Podunk town. A town five miles from my mother’s house, when I’d spent the past decade traveling around the world, never settling down, never ever wanting to. Never needing to, either, because I was one of the lucky ones. Somebody who got to do what she loved and was paid to do it.

“I don’t know,” I said, though it came out like a squeak, like a mouse. I’m not a mouse. You need to know that now.

The woman who asked me the question did not have a response for me. She could see the faraway look in my eye, and she took her gift and her receipt and jetted out of the store in her periwinkle blue flats. She was beautiful, married, and a mother. She had her creed, and I had mine.

I cried for an hour after she left. Luckily no one came by the store in that hour, but I—who had never been a crier before in my life—suddenly felt like a well had broken loose in my soul. It was like my organs had burst and drained me in their juices. I couldn’t stop crying until I crammed my stomach full of cold pizza that tasted like the bottom of my shoe.

As I reapplied my mascara (I had to look presentable for my older clientele), the bell above the door tinkled, and I was alone no longer.

Though I preferred the solitude of the store, when the hours slugged by and there was nothing but me and the sound of the broken radio speakers, this was something different altogether. My boredom was sucked dry, and in its place was a sort of abysmal fear, a sort of primal awareness that I cannot even begin to describe. My intuition is sharp, or at least I pretend it is, and I felt like a cat ripped from its pride. I was suddenly damaged by a pain that crushed my skull, and it all happened so fast that I was certain I would pass out. There was the sudden awareness that I was alone, and no one would be there to help me if I needed it.

The woman was strange. She walked in, and her shoulders were severely slumped, like she had been mashed to an utmost insecurity. Her hair was strawberry colored and was tucked away in a ratty ponytail. Wisps of the strawberry strands puffed out all around, the baby hairs like flagella. Her lips were pursed so tightly that I could not imagine her ever smiling, not once in her life. Her eyes were a light green, like fading grass, and the whites around them were yellowing with age. Crow feet striated the skin around her eyelids, and I was struck by the realization that this woman was actually beautiful, even though I was noticing her flaws first and foremost. Despite this, she was gorgeous, and it was so strange, because beautiful people are normally confident, right? But this woman… It was as if she had been used to so many bricks on her shoulders that she’d physically shrunken and coiled into herself for protection.

I was so struck by her, so awed and fearing her so deeply, that I said nothing. It was my job to welcome people into this store, and since people were few and far between, this was my second probable sale of the day, and I needed to woo her, charm her to gain her credit card numbers, but I couldn’t say anything. I was too struck.

She didn’t look at me at first. She glided around, pushing her fingers against silver wind chimes, so that the spookiness was even more surreal, this time in the form of music. It was as if the sun had fallen away, and there was a gathering of gray clouds outside. I wondered if I would have to drag in the outdoor embellishments in case of rain.

Eventually, the woman curled around toward me. It was sharp, as if I was nothing, and then I was everything. Her eyes pierced into my own, flailing me open like I was a burning fish, hot on the frying pan. She stared at me with a beaming curiosity that seemed impossible from such a shrunken figure as she, and when a little grin stretched across her cracked, peeling lips, I felt like she could kill me, right here and right now, and I wouldn’t even scream.

“What is your name, dear?” she asked, her voice clear and professional. It was a melodic tune, as if she’d had years and years of training, and how would I be able to tell this fact if I’d just heard her ask one question?

“Abigail,” I said in return, though I knew I looked like one in defeat, one in submission. But what battle had I just fought? Was it internal, my keeping quiet, a steady defense against the woman in my store? Maybe my boredom had churned itself so deeply into my brain, that I couldn’t resist creating this elaborate fear toward the woman.

“Abigail,” she said, and it flared my skin. I glanced down and saw red splotches all up and down my arms. “Abigail is a classical name. A traditional name.”

“Abigail Ross,” I said back, and I cursed myself for giving out more information, but I knew she was going to ask anyway.

“Very Americana,” she whispered back, turning away, stroking a slip of baby blue pottery. There was dust on her finger, and she blew it away with paper-thin lips. “Well, Miss Abigail Ross, what is a girl like you doing in a place like this?”

Ageism does exist, just like racism and sexism and discrimination. It always will, when hearts are rotten by the germs of our culture. But here I found myself speculating as to how old this mystery woman was in the shop, out of my own curiosity. I couldn’t tell if she was spectacularly old, or younger than myself. I wondered if this would change my opinion of her, knowing whether she was old or young, and I bit my tongue as I remembered the question she’d just speared at me.

She glanced up and waited.

“What?”

“Why are you here, Miss Ross?” The woman suddenly slammed her palms against the countertop, and a deep red bloomed across her angered skin. She was staring into my soul with intention, and it threw me for a loop. I stumbled back and my back brushed against the wall. Noting my terror, she moved away and started chuckling to herself.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” I sputtered, wishing I had 9-1-1 already plugged into my phone. It was possible she’d lunge across the counter and grab me by the jugular. “Why am I here?”

“Yes. Why are you here?”

“I needed a job,” I said, and I prayed somebody else would enter the store, anybody who could save me from this. I still couldn’t tell if I was making up the fear, or if it was real, and that is more terrifying than the act of fear itself.

“You need a job?” she asked, and another haunting smile lit up her face, like a bolt of lightning on Halloween. So much for assuming she couldn’t smile. She cocked her head at me, and I wondered how I’d analyzed her slumped, insecure posture, and now she seemed nothing but the most confident, self-assured woman on the planet. Her teeth flashed in my direction, butter yellow like corn, and she continued: “You’re a writer, aren’t you? Writers always have a look to them. It’s their eyes, maybe. It’s what’s in their eyes.”

“Really?” I asked in disbelief.

“No,” she said with a cocksure wink. She slid her finger against the pottery again, enjoying the feel of the dust on the skin. “The truth is that I heard some ladies talking about you at the restaurant next door. Now don’t grow mad, please. Every woman participates in the gossip wheel at some point, and since it’s a wheel, you’re bound to get caught in it sometimes.”

“And… What were they saying?” I knew I was red with shame, wondering what I did wrong.

The woman had me in her snare. “That you’re not like the women from these parts. That you don’t have the refined accent from years of practice. But they say the same thing about me, and I’ve lived here for ages.”

“Why do they say that?”

“About you? Because they’re jealous. About me? Because they’re scared.”

I had no idea what to say. I was growing more relaxed, but there was still the underlying rush of adrenaline flowing through my veins, and the woman was chuckling to herself again. She shook her head, and I caught a glimpse of a star-shaped freckle on her jawline.

“You can do better, Abigail Ross,” she said to herself, and I could tell she had places to be, other thoughts to think. “Much better.”

And with that, she turned on her heel, and the gray clouds seemed to lift, and the hot, draining sunlight was bursting through the windows again. I hurried to the window, watching as she disappeared into the nothingness, because there was no car around, and she was gone, gone, gone, and I wanted nothing but to leave too, and I thought back to my mother:

“How long before your next job?”


AN EXPLANATION.

By the Skin of My Teeth is a project I worked on this past summer, and it was incredibly fun to write, because it challenged my writing skills. This was my first attempt at a psychological thriller (and Southern Gothic as well), and it showed me the value in trying new things. (As you guys know, I primarily write romance and magical realism.)

To give you guys a little backstory, Abigail Ross is a talented travel writer who experiences a dramatic loss. When she loses the will to write, she takes a mysterious job from a woman named Josephine Ashley, the owner of a dilapidated Antebellum mansion.   Nothing is as it seems…

Therefore, I thought it would be a little fun to preview the first chapter of the book while I query to agents and attempt to get this bad boy published. Of course, who knows what will happen with that, but why not try? If I can’t get it agented, I will publish the book online within the next six months.

I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but maybe I will offer snippets of the next chapters in following blog posts. Leave your feedback and comments, please!

-K.

 

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Abandoned House (Somewhere in Fayette County, TN)