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You Choose How to Defeat Stress

Have you ever had to be hyper-focused on tasks and projects in your life even when events around you are chaotic and super stressful? Welcome to my last eight weeks.

First, I relocated to Connecticut in September. Anyone who has ever moved can tell you that moving is not fun, no matter how you make the move.

In the midst of chaos, I faced a personal family crisis which helped me determine that moving back had been the right choice. I was very productive on numerous projects.

I finished working on four ebooks and audiobooks. The first is about a new writing method called B2C Content Writing: How to Write Case Stories. B2C Content Writing: How to Write Case Stories is a comprehensive how-to manual that will teach you a new form of content writing for your B2C clients. This is an untapped market, so learn a new skill and launch a new career or side gig while helping your clients become more successful. Available on Amazon and Audible.



I next updated, expanded, edited, and published some of the material in my How Do I Move to… series. The first three guides have just been published:

The next three guides relating to Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama will be available by the end of the year.

I then decided to embrace TikTok and Instagram as video forums for promoting my books. I’ve created a short video for each book and posted the videos on both platforms. I’m still learning how it all works and, I must admit, have not yet found the secret sauce to turn a video viral, but I’ll get there. Determination!



Finally, I learned how to create and publish ambient videos on YouTube. I used my love for travel and the peaceful sound of rain to design and produce three 15-minute videos for my new channel, Ambient International Vibes (). The videos are great for a quick break and help to both refocus your mind and relieve stress. The three videos are:

During this hyper-focused, super-productive time, I also found and outfitted my new apartment and spent time reconnecting with friends. I’ve also just signed up for a course on SEO Content Writing to further develop my skills because you should never stop learning and trying to do and be better, whatever that means for you.

I could have chosen to let the stress to dictate what I did but instead decided to work through the feeling. It was definitely worthwhile as this was probably one of the most productive periods in my life. Choose how you will deal with stress and don’t ever let it stop you from achieving your goals!!!

The Trapdoor

As I mentioned in my last post, I started a new, online writing workshop called Empower Writers that is housed on Facebook. It’s a private group with a free lifetime membership for the first 50 members. I post weekly writing prompts to help writers practice their craft and members provide peer reviews that consist of positive feedback and gentle critiques. I encourage anyone with an interest in writing to join the community.

As post submissions are limited to approximately 500 words, I allow members to post links to their writing prompt submissions if they run longer. I don’t generally write a full story, but there are times I’d like to write more than 500 words so I thought I would start publishing my submissions here. I welcome your comments and maybe someday, these short writing posts might turn into an actual book idea.

Please enjoy The Trapdoor, and I look forward to reading your comments on this, and future stories. I also look forward to welcoming you as new members to Empower Writers. Click here to join.


The Trapdoor

Kaley opened the window and gazed down the long, gravel driveway. She was exhausted! She must have woken up at least ten times last night. Kaley hated the nighttime when Richard was away on business. On those nights, she always seemed to hear strange noises in the house that woke her from a sound sleep. She shuddered with the memory and then took a long, slow drink of coffee.

Today was the day. She was going to take advantage of Richard being away and start cleaning the basement. She had plans of eventually converting the basement into a man-cave on one side for Richard and a writing room on the other side for her. She often got too distracted to write when she sat at the island in the kitchen and this was a project she had been putting off for some time.

She descended the stairs and looked around. She contemplated the boxes and bins that had been stacked here since they moved in two years ago. The dumpster had been delivered yesterday and she was planning on just throwing all this stuff out. If they hadn’t used it in two years, there couldn’t be anything that important in there.

Kaley spent the next hour making numerous trips out to the dumpster. She had given each box and bin a cursory search just to be sure she wasn’t throwing out any of Richard’s cherished childhood memories. As expected, she wasn’t. She reached the last two large boxes and cursed because she knew she couldn’t carry them out on her own. She gritted her teeth and pushed them with all her strength to the side so that she could start cleaning.

She stopped for a moment and peered at the wall. She thought she was hallucinating, but there appeared to be a trapdoor on the floor that had been hidden by the large boxes. Kaley pulled her phone out, turned on the flashlight app, and crouched on the floor to get a better look. Yup, it was definitely a trapdoor.

Kaley began to tremble. The memories of all the horror movies she had ever seen came flooding back to her, overwhelming her with their portents of doom. She shook her head and told herself not to be silly. She decided that she would open the trapdoor. Of course, she wouldn’t be stupid about it. She went to the tool bench that was fastened to the far wall and rooted around until she found a heavy wrench. She also grabbed a large flashlight that was usually stored upstairs.

Kaley made her way back to the previously-hidden door and hefted the wrench. She definitely felt much safer with a wrench in her hands. She crouched down and took hold of the ring that functioned as a handle. She was prepared for the door to stick, so she was surprised when it swung up at her easily and almost soundlessly, causing her to tumble backward.

As she regained her footing and dusted herself off, she aimed the bright flashlight beam down into the hole. She was stunned. She couldn’t see very far, but there appeared to be a tunnel leading away from the house.

Kaley sat back on her haunches and contemplated climbing down into the tunnel. Memories of the eerie sounds she had heard at night-and of all those horror movies-made her pause. She pulled out her cell phone and called her best friend, Mary Jane, whom everyone called MJ. MJ had grown up next door to Kaley and they had gone on a thousand adventures over the years. Plus, MJ was a combat veteran and nobody would think twice about messing with her, even in a creepy tunnel.

It must have been Kaley’s lucky day because MJ was not only home from work that day, but she was also excited to go on an adventure with Kaley. MJ didn’t like Richard so they didn’t hang out much when he was around. Secretly, Kaley thought MJ was a little jealous of her for finding such a great guy like Richard to marry. MJ had not been very lucky in the romance department.

MJ arrived about thirty minutes later and came storming down into the cellar where Kaley had sat watching the trapdoor. She had closed it and moved one of the large boxes on top of it for safety until MJ could join her. MJ strode over to the opening and peered at the closed door. “Is this our adventure for the day?” she asked, her voice resounding across the basement.

Kaley nodded meekly.

“Ok, let’s get going then!” MJ announced enthusiastically. She opened a messenger bag and pulled out two headlamps. “I thought these might come in handy,” she said, handing one to Kaley.

Kaley tried to smile bravely, but her nerves were stretched taut. As she pulled on her headlamp, she gasped to see that MJ was now strapping a holstered gun to her belt. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” Kaley squeaked out.

MJ shook her head. “It’s better to be prepared and safe than sorry.”

Kaley sighed and moved toward the box. MJ leaned in and helped her push it back to the side of the room, then leaned over and hauled the door open. She seemed surprised as well that it opened so easily. “That’s not a good sign,” was all she said as she began the descent down the stairs.

Kaley took a deep breath and followed MJ slowly. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she turned around next to MJ and was shocked to see that there was indeed a tunnel, or more precisely, three tunnels, each leading in different directions.

“Which one do we explore first?” Kaley asked timidly.

MJ shrugged her shoulders and pointed toward the tunnel on the right. “Let’s start there.” Kaley nodded and they moved toward the mouth of the tunnel. Kaley grudgingly trailed after MJ who seemed to be acting as if this was a party. Kaley thought she heard MJ humming the theme to Jaws, but she must be mistaken.

Suddenly, MJ stopped short and asked incredulously, “How did that get down here?”

After nearly colliding with MJ, Kaley peered around her. She was shocked to see that this tunnel ended in a small room that had been carved out of the rock. There was a massive fish tank against one wall along with a leather sofa, a small bar, a flatscreen television that must have been at least 60 inches, and a bright green shag rug. Kaley and MJ stared dumbfounded for what must have been five minutes before MJ walked over to the sofa and picked up a newspaper that was lying on top of it. Her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and she turned slowly to face Kaley.

“I think we need to go and get reinforcements,” she whispered. “Let’s go.” Without waiting for Kaley’s agreement, MJ drew her pistol and moved stealthily back down the tunnel. They covered the distance quickly and clamered up the stairs, back into Kaley’s cellar.

“What was it?” What scared you, MJ?” Kaley asked breathlessly.

MJ took a few deep breaths, holding up a finger as she frantically looked around. She grabbed a metal crowbar that was on Richard’s tool bench and threw the newspaper to Kaley.

Kaley looked at it curiously. “What? I still don’t get why you’re so freaked out.”

MJ stared at her for a few seconds as she slid the crowbar between the circular handle, crossing it over the floor. “Look at the date, Kaley.” MJ pushed the heavy boxes on top of the trapdoor and murmured, “That should keep it closed for now.”

Kaley was looking at the newspaper incomprehensively. “That’s yesterday’s date. I don’t even get this newspaper…” she trailed off as a fresh wave of terror washed over her. “That means –“

“That means that someone has been down there since yesterday, Kaley.” She looked around quickly. “I’m not sure how they get in and out of your house without you noticing, but it’s not safe. He’ll know we found the tunnel, or should I say tunnels. Damn it, Kaley! Let’s go! Grab an overnight bag and spend a few days at my place.”

They climbed the stairs to the kitchen and MJ glanced back down as she shut the door. She moved a chair over and wedged it beneath the doorknob in place of a lock. “I don’t know if we locked someone down there or out of there, but whoever has been going there will not be happy to have their access denied.” She pushed Kaley. “Go get that bag.”

Kaley went upstairs to her room and started throwing random clothes in her overnight bag. She heard MJ yell upstairs, “I’m going to call the Sheriff. We can get a group together tomorrow and explore the whole network of tunnels down there.”

“Ok,” Kaley yelled back down as she contemplated whether she should bring the blue or black sweatshirt then decided to bring both. She heard the creak of a floorboard in the hallway and thought MJ had come to rush her.

She zipped her bag and turned around, words dying on her lips as the tall, muscular man with a jagged scar running down the left side of his face sneered at her and then whispered, “Hello, Kaley. It’s so nice to finally meet you. You’re usually asleep when I’m in your room.”

He may have said more, but Kaley’s body could not stand any more of the tension and she promptly passed out.

“Vineyards Can Be Murder” Photo Contest

Announcing the August 2021 Vineyards Can Be Murder Photo Contest on Facebook.

Read below for details on how to enter.

Vineyards Can Be Murder Photo Contest

Remember, you must use both hashtags – #vineyardscanbemurder and #katsnow along with a photo of yourself (and friends!) at a vineyard.

Spread the love and go ahead and tag the vineyard or check in as well.

Stay tuned for information on an upcoming book launch event. Bring your books to get signed and books will be available for purchase. Details coming soon!

35 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for 2021

Eco-travel seeks to benefit local communities and cultures while minimizing the impact on the environment. Eco-travelers try to minimize the carbon footprint of their travel by making wise and conscientious choices. Eco-tourism can educate tourists, protect natural habitats, and boost the employment and financial opportunities for local people.

Follow the following tips to become an eco-friendly traveler!

Transportation and Packing:

  1. A large portion of a plane’s carbon emissions occur during takeoff and landing, so try to book non-stop flights.
  2. Consider flying with one of the 30+ International Air Transport Association (IATA) member airlines that offer carbon offset programs.
  3. After arriving at your international destination, avoid taking domestic flights and travel by bus, train, or bike instead.
  4. If you must rent a car, choose the smallest or hybrid vehicle that will meet your needs.
  5. Pack lightly because the more that a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces.
  6. Bring shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars. They do not come in plastic packaging and are generally made from natural materials. They also take up less room in your suitcase.
  7. If you cannot drink a beverage without a straw, bring a reusable straw. Plastic straws are destructive to the environment and often end up in the ocean, causing harm to wildlife.


  1. If possible, stay at a working farm that also functions as a hotel or inn. Travelers can stay connected with the area’s agricultural heritage and save money as they generally cost less than hotels.
  2. Check if your chosen hotel is affiliated with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, EarthCheck, Green Globe, or Rainforest Alliance. They may also be certified by the Center or Responsible Travel, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, or the U.S. Green Building Council which proves they have met minimum standards of sustainability.
  3. Responsible eco-travel businesses will have the details concerning their sustainability and corporate social responsibility clearly explained on their websites.
  4. Take a shower – uses only 10-25 gallons of water – rather than a bath that can use up to 70 gallons of water.
  5. For short stays, re-use your towels and ask housekeeping not to clean your room. This will reduce the amount of chemical cleaning supplies used, electricity consumed during vacuuming, and laundering the bed linens.
  6. If you absolutely need your room cleaned, hang your towels – it’s the universal signal for the staff to not take them for washing.
  7. Take all the free amenities like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. home with you. Unused portions are often disposed of without recycling.
  8. Ask the hotel about their recycling program and sort your trash. If the hotel does not recycle, consider finding somewhere local to recycle empty bottles or take them home.
  9. Be sure to turn off all the lights, heat, air conditioning, and television before leaving your room.
  10. Close the curtains when you leave the room – this helps keep the heat out during the summer and the heat in during the winter.


Tours and Local Culture:

  1. Research your tour company to determine how they give back to the local community. Be aware of “greenwashing” – where a company tries to sound “green” but actually does not practice any sustainable policies. Use companies that hire local guides and contribute to preserving the area’s natural resources. If possible, find a tour company that is both run and operated by the local community.
  2. Smaller tour groups have less of an environmental impact so seek out small group tours.
  3. Immerse yourself in the local culture and honor local customs. Research before you go and learn a little about the local cultural traditions and some key vocabulary words and phrases in the local language.
  4. Buy local products when possible rather than products that have been shipped in from overseas.
  5. Buy souvenirs directly from local, indigenous artisans. This helps them feed their family and preserve their culture.
  6. Always ask for permission before taking a photo of someone – it’s common courtesy.
  7. Do not buy souvenirs or products made from endangered plants or animals or souvenir photos that exploit wildlife.
  8. Don’t take any tours that promote hands-on encounters with wild animals. These animals are often illegally captured, drugged, abused, and slaughtered.


  1. Bring your own, reusable, cloth bag for shopping. Plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade and are banned in many places.
  2. Use refillable water bottles and avoid contributing to the plastic bottle waste that litters the ocean. Most tourist areas have potable water that is safe to drink.
  3. Eat local foods and help support the community. Shop at farmers’ markets and eat at restaurants with locally-sourced ingredients.
  4. Drink locally-brewed beers and other beverages. This reduces the carbon emissions of shipping non-local beverages and is carbon-friendly.

Hiking and Water Sports

  1. Always stay on marked trails when hiking. Going off of the marked trail could lead to destruction of endangered plants or encounters with dangerous species.
  2. Deposit your trash in trash receptacles or take it with you when you are done hiking. You can even pick up other, less eco-friendly tourists’ trash and dispose of it properly.
  3. Do not feed or touch wildlife as this makes them reliant on humans and can lead to attacks.
  4. Don’t touch or step on the coral reefs when snorkeling or scuba diving. This can stir up sediment and damage the reef’s ecosystem.
  5. Don’t forget the sunscreen when snorkeling and scuba diving, but make sure the sunscreen you use is reef-safe for marine life and coral.

After Travel:

  1. When your travel or tour is completed, look into ways to help offset your travel carbon footprint:
  • Donate to an organization that plants trees
  • Volunteer to plant trees
  • Pay into a carbon offset organization

The world is ours to improve or ruin – let’s make it a better world for those who inherit it from us



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