Music Monday: What‘s Your Favorite Christmas Song and Why?

By Christopher Ryan

I usually last until a little further into December before I lose myself in Christmas music, but this year The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special did me in. Such a fun soundtrack, it offers a bunch of my new favorite seasonal music. Which got me thinking…

There is a thing that happens during the holidays for most of us that “makes” our season. Sometimes it is a holiday movie or show, or wintry weather, or decorating, or … music that we need to hear for our season to really get going.

Mariah Carey hilariously announced “It’s time!” the day after Halloween, transforming her wardrobe from witch to a Santa outfit to signal the time of year when her holiday hit seems to dominate the airwaves, bringing her a yearly royalty boon. Good on ya, Mariah, but how about the rest of us? Which holiday song makes the season for you and why?

For me, the answers are almost too numerous to mention. I need The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrappings” because that was the new holiday hit when I was away at college (shut up about how old I am, ya thugs). The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” touches my spirit because their sound always lifts me up. The Trans Siberian Orchestra gets my whole family going because we used to play it while driving together to family Christmas celebrations. And so on.

But what about you? Which song makes the holiday for you and why? I included a playlist to help you. In this season of sharing, let’s share our favorites and why in the comment section. C’mon! It’ll be fun!

Posted in #U2, Christmas, Christmas Music, classic rock, Fountains if Wayne, GuardiansofTheGalaxy, holiday hits, JamesGunn, Julian Casablancas, Kevin Bacon, Music, pop culture, The Pogues, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Waitresses, The Wombats, TomPetty&TheHeartbreakers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Christine McVie’s Passing Hits Some of Us So Hard

By Christopher Ryan

I’m not what would be recognized as a Fleetwood Mac fanatic, hardcore fan, or, um, even official fan. I’m just a music fan who spent my teen years in the 70’s and 80’s.

And that means Christine McVie’s passing yesterday hit me hard. Because Ms.McVie, like the rest of the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup, have been woven into the lives of an entire generation of music lovers, whether they made our top ten of not.

Christine McVie

So much has changed in the world. These days, people stream whatever music they want into ear pods for a highly personal experience. When we were immersing ourselves in culture, it was communal. From plastic Panasonic radios when we were really young to “portable cassette/radios” that looked like small luggage, or even bulkier eight-track players, all of it played through speakers to whomever was in earshot.

That meant when we were just old enough to hang around near the older “cool” people, we heard whatever they were playing. CSNY. Elton John. Zeppelin. Dylan. And then the world changed because Fleetwood Mac Rumors came out.

It was everywhere. Everywhere. Playing throughout the playground, behind the ball field, near the beer, over where those two were making out, and definitely wherever more than three girls were in existence. It was as if those sounds floated around them.

And that album had staying power. We heard it every day, all summer, while we were doing homework that fall, in between holiday songs.

And we still hear those gems today. It is highly likely that a song from Fleetwood Mac Rumors is playing on multiple radio stations across this country, and the world, right now, approximately 45 years later.

Fleetwood Mac added to their presence with hit albums for years, and while many, especially pubescent boys, focused on the increasingly ethereal and alluring Stevie Nicks, as we got older, most of us realized two things: 1) Christine McVie wrote more hits, and 2) her songs resonated more deeply as we matured, ventured into relationships, and, if we got lucky, fell in love. While Nicks remained a mystical star attraction, McVie’s work came home with us, walked in our shoes, hung out, and was there when we least expected and most needed it. For decades.

Christine McVie’s passing is not only the end of the Fleetwood Mac Era, it signals the removal of an elegant part of our generation’s cultural foundation. Like Bowie and Prince and Tom Petty, among others, her loss takes with it a piece of our reliable reality. Our world has grown smaller.

Thank all the spirits who guide us that her, and their, music remains. Take solace in the simple grace of her compositions, the uncomplicated lyrics, the wondrously relaxed and relaxing tones in her singing.

And thank her for being so present in our lives without ever causing a fuss.

An accomplished musician, songwriter, and singer, Christine McVie was quietly a major force in the phenomena that was Fleetwood Mac.
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WTF Wednesday: How Did This Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Gem Stay Hidden So Long?

When I first stumbled onto today’s topic in the morning, my plans for this particular blog were completely different. Then I hit play. After a startling 72 tracks shimmying across more than four hours (including banter) I am convinced that the best rock record of the year arrived on November 25 (according to Apple Music).

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live at the Fillmore, 1997 ( Deluxe) sounds like the most fun this band has ever had onstage, and they had tons in their career.

The record’s joy will fill your heart, enliven your soul, and get aging bodies moving. This one ain’t for the kiddies, folks, this here’s for us.

Reportedly recorded during a 20-night residency at the venerable theatre way back in the last century, this album is stuffed with fresh live performances of classic hits, a treasure chest of cover gems, and a handful of guest stars who add to the incredible amount of fun delivered on this collection.

A must-have for classic rock fans. Destined to be a treasured favorite of Petty heads. Live at the Fillmore 1997 is that good.

The late Tom Petty is caught here at a performing peak. He is upbeat throughout, explaining, “We’re the house band here at the Fillmore, and we’ve tried over this run, we’ve tried to play a line of songs by people we admired or we have admired over the years, or liked one song and then didn’t like the band anymore. This is a little tribute to Little Richard by way of the Everly Brothers. it’s called “Lucille! You don’t do your sister’s will!”

And away they go, doing honor to the 50’s classic. And it is like that throughout the album. Gem after gem after jam after gem. And, yeah, there are cool guest stars, but each of them are just coming for a quick visit to the party that Petty and the Heartbreakers are throwing here. Such good fun it should be all over the radio, if radio still had the kind of free-wheeling programming this collection celebrates.

The performances are consistently both vibrant and funky, whether they are performing one of their hits, dipping into ancient history and delivering it with an energy that feel brand new. Additionally, they enthusiastically cover other Southern boys (Skynyrd!), break out beach party tunes, or dive into classic instrumentals. Nothing falls flat. Even the banter incites cheers. This album is so close to the best live show you missed it should be required listening.

The marketing info boasts 4K sound and if that is what makes this record’s audio quality so good, then our entire collection is going to need updating, because it all works, for these four hours! This record is so great I may not need Christmas presents this year.

If classic rock was your era, if you miss Tom Petty like I do, download Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live at the Fillmore 1997 as a holiday treat for yourself. And God bless us everyone!

Posted in #community, book recommendations, Music, partying, pop culture, self-publishing, The Waitresses, TomPetty&TheHeartbreakers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Music Monday – The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special Soundtrack Should be Part of Your Christmas Party Playlist

by Christopher Ryan

Christmas revelers have been listening to holiday music for decades. Bing. The Rat Pack. Elvis. Motown. Philly Soul. The Ramones. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Mariah. The list is endless.

And many out there may know the songs below, but, for me, James Gunn just added another fun collection of rare gems (and one perennial must-hear) that is worth shouting about.

“I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (But Christmas Is Here) – Old 97’s This song is woven into the plot in the Disney+ Marvel Special Presentation and works well as part of that light-hearted action comedy, but I suspect this song might become a classic. Full of hilarious misinformation about Christmas traditions, the song is fun and should become a bar sing-along right now.

“Dead By X-Mas” – Hanoi Rocks I’ll admit I cannot tell whether this band was a serious venture or a genius comedic sendup of glitter/hair bands, but the song is as madcap as the one used as the theme for director James Gunn’s Peacemaker series on HBO Max. The lyrics are deliciously goofy, and every hook and riff is text book hair metal. The jaunty chorus of “I’ll be dead by Christmas ho-hoho-o-ho” kind of says it all.

“Christmas Treat” – Julian Casablancas is a song you might know more from the Jimmy Fallen era of SNL. Catchy and ridiculously danceable, I am amazed it hasn’t become a bigger holiday staple. We get another chance to fix that here.

“Just Like Christmas” – Low What a cool tune. The music has a muted wall of sound feel but the vocals sit on top, crisp and clear and mesmerizing. A great car song for traveling to relatives’ or holiday parties, this is a gem.

“Christmastime“ – The Smashing Pumpkins As soon as you hear this, it clicks that, yeah, The Pumpkins had the perfect sound for a Christmas song. They deliver here. A beautiful track.

“Fairytale of New York (featuring Kristy McColl)- The Pogues Reportedly a huge holiday hit in Europe, The Pogues didn’t quite get the acclaim they deserved over here (beyond legendary cult status). The lyrics depict a couple singing in an NYPD drunk tank, trading insults, until the cops eventually join the singing to ring in the holiday. Only The Pogues could make this work. And they do. Classic.

“Christmas Wrappings” – The Waitresses The only indisputable holiday hit on the album, this Christmas classic serves as a bridge for the entire soundtrack, bringing the pop crowd over for a listen – and everyone will be better for it. A great way to introduce Top Ten fans to all these other great songs.

“Is This Christmas?” (Radio edit)- The Wombats Another song that should be on everyone’s holiday playlist. Great party shout along song. There’s even a middle part for the really drunk partiers to go “dododododo” before exploding into the chorus again. Down the shots, here we go!

“I Want an Alien for Christmas” – Fountains of Wayne For those who have everything, this song explains the perfect item for your Christmas wish list. Smile-inducing and goofy, this can be perfect as you shop for presents or as a catch-your-breath song after the rowdier party tunes on this album.

“Here It Is Christmastime” – Kevin Bacon & Old 97’s A great slow song, a dance-with-your-date-before-an-argument-starts gem, a get-all-them-feels-about-the-holiday tune, Kevin Bacon and Old 97’s bring this collection to an admirable close, one that kinda makes you wanna press play all over again.

Gunn gave us a fun holiday special to watch, and like everyone’s favorite uncle, backed it up with a second gift in this collection. Give it a try, and by the third listen, you’ll feel like these songs have always been part of your holiday tradition.


Posted in Christmas, Christmas Music, Fountains if Wayne, GuardiansofTheGalaxy, Hanoi Rocks, holiday hits, JamesGunn, Julian Casablancas, Kevin Bacon, Low, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Music, Old 97’s, partying, pop culture, The Pogues, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Waitresses, The Wombats, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTF Wednesday: How to Survive Thanksgiving

So this is Thanksgiving, And what have we learned? Another year older, And Charlie’s ego just got burned…

While we welcome the idea of annually getting together to celebrate our gratitude, in theory anyway, negotiating the potential minefield of actually being with family can be tricky. Try as we might to avoid awkward conversations and toxic topics, not everyone plays by the same rules. So here’s a few suggestions for what to do if toxicity comes your way this holiday.

The Sadie Hartman (Mother Horror) – The elegant Ambassador of Horror has given us a perfect technique for avoiding the unwanted inquiry. Out of respect, we go to the source:

The Joey Tribianni – When toxic relatives lumber your way, a great move comes directly from Friends’ best feaster. Just head for the food and stuff your face. If an ugly question is asked, crunch that celery!

The Toast – Can’t avoid that toxic relative? Toast them. Instead of engaging in an offensive discussion or answering a horrid question, lift up your glass and give a pleasant, slightly loud, tribute. “Here’s to Aunt Mabel, everyone! HappyThanksgiving!”

The Tryptophan Maneuver – Used by holiday veterans around the nation, this move may only be applicable post-meal, but it never fails. As the awkward commentary begins, slid down at the table or on the couch, so when the repugnant rejoinder gets verbalized, you are already “snoring” lightly. You can even stir, and say, “Must be the tryptophan. I’m need to go splash me face.” Boom. Out of there. If the bathroom is near the coats, you might even be able to execute an Irish Goodbye.

The Classic Saved by the Dog Move – When all else fails and the holiday is starting to take a dark turn, give your traveling companions the nod, rise, and announce, “We have to go feed the dog.” No one can really argue with you on this because they’ll sound like animal haters, and once you release the escape pods, who cares whether those remaining grumble because you’re safe.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. I’d stay and chat but this handsome fella needs to, uh, go for a walk. Yeah, can’t be avoided. Well, see ya next holiday….

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Music Monday: Roger Waters’ Comfortably Numb Video Makes Me Wish He’d Pull a Taylor Swift

I wandered onto YouTube last night and amid the “new releases” there was a video of “Comfortably Numb” by Roger Waters. Liking both the artist and the song, I innocently hit play.

Mind blown.

Not because it was part of his live show, as other videos indicate. This seems effective for a concert performance and I would have loved to have experienced it.

Not because of the chilling apocalyptic visuals, though they are worth seeing, so go to YouTube and search “Roger Waters Comfortably Numb 2022” to enjoy more than these screen grabs.

What awes me is the music. We have known this song for 42 years, yet here it gets a rebirth. From the dramatic opening thunder to the sparse and spooky production (mostly keyboards, soft bass and drums, voice overs, Waters’ near whisper, an “oohing” chorus, and a female vocalist whose plaintive power and range replaces guitar leads), this recording is gripping and feels incredibly current.

This iteration of “Comfortably Numb” also inspires the irrational fan in me, one I thought I had long outgrown. The thought rose by mid-song, and only strengthened in the face of all logic with each repeat viewing.

“I want Roger Waters to release a version of The Wall done like this, right now!”

My allegedly mature side argued the impossibility of this request. But as I found myself inside the music, the fan in me ridiculously argued, “He can do it like Taylor Swift re-recorded her first albums!”

That is not going to happen (he only released it as a single and I’ve heard zero about any further plans, sadly), though, my inner fanboy voice screams, it is a great dream to have, and, based on this recording, the possibilities would be astounding. At least we can enjoy this amazing version. Wear headphones. The mix is so worth experiencing.

Give it a few plays, especially on Thanksgiving morning before the relatives arrive.

Posted in 2022, Music, pop culture, Roger Waters, Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb, The Wall, classic rock, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTF Wednesday: He’s Back, Uninvited

By Christopher Ryan

I agree with the often expressed notion that it shouldn’t be this hard to talk about things. But it is. Let’s talk anyway.

Somebody declared his intention to run for the office of the President of these United States last night despite his party basically saying, “No! No! Please! No!”

And despite two impeachments and a staggering number of state and federal investigations focusing on his alleged criminal offenses.

And despite the fact that, on Election Day, America rejected all of his top candidates.

None of that seemed to matter to him.

At least the Once And Future Candidate didn’t seem that thrilled. Gone was the swagger and sarcasm. Instead, he stood there, a bizarrely face-painted grouch in an ill-fitting suit, seeming to be baffled that he didn’t already have what he had pissed away because he couldn’t help himself.

Just being honest, folks. If this guy hadn’t been so extreme he probably would have been re-elected. But it just isn’t in him to care about anything but himself for deeply embedded reasons best examined in Confidence Man by Maggie Haberman.

To give grudging credit to The Grump Who Stole America, he did attempt to use his “I’m a serious world leader” voice for as long as he could.

It didn’t last.

The I’m-being-forced-to-behave chastened boy part of him gave way to his complainer-in-chief persona and the “third time’s the charm” announcement devolved into the tired schtick of an unfunny stand-up.

Incredibly, the suspected chief architect of the January 6th insurrection stood before America and said, “I’m a victim.”


This happened after an Election Day that, if we’re being honest, surprised Republicans, Democrats, journalists, pundits, and voters alike.

The Red Tsunami turned out to be a trickle, at least in part because Gen Z got out of bed in impressive numbers, lowered their phones, and voted. Nobody saw that coming.

Now that’s a response to WTF.

And it seems that non-radicalized Americans of both parties also deserve credit for coming out and voting to calm the country down.

Maybe a majority of us realize we want to move on from “Accusation America”. As the saying goes, we don’t have to agree on all things as long as we agree on one thing – that America is worth the debate.

That is another great answer to WTF.

Meanwhile, the 24-hour news outlets covered the Least Desired Political News of The Decade as they have for the last seven years. They analyzed it, discussed it, debated it, detested or celebrated it, doing whatever they thought would bring in ratings because they are a huge part of the problem.

Their justification seems to be that everyone else is “reporting” it, so they must as well. That thinking contributed to national madness, and deep in their hearts they know it. Spending no more than one minute an hour on The Mouth That Roared would suffice, unless advertising dollars and ratings mean more than the well-being of a nation.

Please understand, I love Journalism. But it has become a cancer second only to our uncaring government.

Having news everywhere all the time is like your Aunt Constance, who lives for gossip and picks at it and picks at it throughout Thanksgiving dinner until your cousins are brawling and Uncle Charlie mushes Aunt Beatrice in the face with the cranberry sauce.

None of us need this. There must be a better way.

And I’ll admit I don’t have concrete answers. Just dreams. But that’s the Idea of America, isn’t it? That anyone, from anywhere, of any color, ethnicity, religion, or gender, can come here, dream big, work hard, and contribute to this grand tapestry on their own terms.

That’s the Idea of America, anyway.

In that spirit, let’s dream. Let’s dream big. (Here’s where you get to say, “WTF?”)

Imagine a focused bipartisan effort to: -rebuild the economy for the long term -figure out how to handle immigrants without betraying professed American Ideals (if not reality) -create tax incentives to help make climate protection profitable for anyone willing to invest in the future, including older energy barons -create jobs in jobless area (looking at you, energy businesses) -and recreate a strong middle class that can help America forge a stable future.

Of course, we need to do this without bankrupting the rich, forgetting the poor, or exploiting people of color or alternate lifestyles.

Easy right?

Of course not, but nothing worth doing is ever easy, and I’m saying America is worth saving, WTFs and all. And the party that achieves these things owns the future, but we would be a much stronger nation if we could do it together.

The sooner we wave goodbye to clown cars full of distractors and detractors, give up on the politics of blame and shame, and embrace the American Ideal of hard work and cooperation, the sooner things will get just a tiny bit better. And then maybe a tiny bit better than that.

Hate and deficits and finger wagging and BS have had their day. We The People want something more. We want the American Dream.

Sounds good on paper, any way.

Christopher Ryan is such a believer in the Idea of America he wrote a horror novel about what might happen if we keep this country divided. He recently rewrote and expanded it. Check it out here:

Posted in #community, #election, #inspiration, #POTUS, #voting, #WeThePeople, America, healing, horror fiction, Oil, POC,, politics, racism, America, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Music Mondays: Bright Harmonies Defeat Politics

By Christopher Ryan

We have an ongoing relationship with music. Sometimes old friends come back to visit. Other times, new sounds energize us wonderfully. This Monday series is about all of that.

Like most of the country, I was just sick of all the political divisiveness in this country, especially leading up to the recent elections. I found myself avoiding TV so I wouldn’t be berated by attack ads. Discussion among those with different opinions continued to grow disturbing.

To my pleasant surprise, relief came from an unexpected source- The Traveling Wilburys.

A not-so-secret supergroup gave us two uplifting albums, Vols. I and III.

In 1988 and 1990, undisputed, hit-making superstars George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne released a pair of bright, fun, harmony-filled albums that featured numerous hits including “Handle With Care”, “Not Alone Any More”, “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”, and “End of the Line” as well as “She’s My Baby”, “Inside Out”, and “Wilbur Twist”.

But that was then. What do the Wilburys have to do with 2022?


Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison.
The Traveling Wilburys.

And that is the joy of it. There are. no political overtones in this music, no fury, anxiety, or anger. No hate. The harmonies are gorgeous. The music and lyrics range from fun to uplifting, with a moment of breathtaking heartache from the late, legendary Roy Orbison. Taken together, the albums offer a great vacation from the headlines.

Sadly, we’ve since lost Orbison, Harrison, and Petty, and the Wilburys are relegated to history.

But they remain a quick search away in your favorite music streaming service, and they are so worth the visit.


The harmonies of The Traveling Wilburys are not to be missed.
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Satanic Panic Novel Feels Timely in Our Divisive Times

by Christopher Ryan

Clay McLeod Chapman is currently on what looks like a fun book tour for Ghost Eaters and more power to him. While that intriguing book is on the ever-growing TBR list, his 2021 novel Whisper Down the Lane leapt off the shelf this weekend. The experience was fast, fun, and rewarding.

Chapman’s horror novel about the 1980’s satanic panic features a dual timeline, weaving its tale in 1982/1983 and 2013, but the themes ring loudly and impressively true in 2022.

The overwhelming belief in what is demonstrably untrue by people who want and need it to be true devastates entire communities in 1983 and 2013 in the novel. Much to our national detriment, such insidiousness is even more prevalent in 2022. In all three eras, people suffer for succumbing to a variation on the evils of lying.

Chapman is a superb writer, a compelling storyteller, and a master of subtext. This novel never telegraphs, moralizes, or preachers. Instead, the author offers the story with such strength that the characters expertly run through the plot via action and dialogue while subtext and social commentary pulse just below, like a killer bass line and funky drum beat driving a hit song.

Having lived through the 1980’s satanic panic era when so many came to a judgment having already decided which conclusion should be reached no matter the facts, this novel intrigued. What was not expected was how powerfully the ruinous depictions of agenda-driven “investigations” and too easily accepted smears would resonate in today’s accusatory climate. The result is an impressive tale unencumbered by politics but offering powerful social food for thought.

The only thing better than a quick, satisfying read is one that also leaves the reader with something to reflect on long after closing the book. Chapman’s Whisper Down The Lane delivers all of that in captivating fashion.

Highly recommended.

Posted in #community, #reading, #WeThePeople, America, Book lovers, book recommendations, fiction, horror fiction, lying, pop culture, satanic panic, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bono and The Idea of America

by Christopher Ryan

U2’s Bono spoke at the 23rd annual New Yorker Festival last night. Well, first he riled up the crowd, and sang, and recited new poetry, and sang some more.

And then he ignited my soul.

Bono performing at the New Yorker Festival, Oct. 7.

During his performance he noted that in this country, we can take a DNA test and discover we are 40% Polish, 12% Korean, 23% Argentine, “but it will never describe you as American.” That, he suggested, is something we become ourselves.

The legendary Irish rock band’s front man and global activist then put forth the notion that “America is a song that is still writing itself.” He is correct. And the latest verses have grown dark, more yelling at each other than creating harmony utilizing our different voices.

Bono then discussed this country being built on “The Idea of America” murmuring, “Lucky you. Lucky us. Lucky me,” before kneeling to the audience and, I thought, that very precious concept.

Bono banters with crowd outside before the event held at The New York Society for Ethical Culture.

The Idea of America is the belief that anyone, from any country, any religion, any political leaning, any race, any gender identity, any sexual orientation, with any dream, can come here and they’ll get the chance to work hard to create the life they envision.

This promise is central to my love for this country. It is what sustains my faith in the possibilities and potential of this nation even amid all the divisiveness tearing at our collective soul these days.

It is so important to me that I wrote an entire novel in defense of both The Idea of America and reigniting the potential of this country. And then Jan. 6th happened, compelling me to rewrite it, expanding, editing, and improving it into the best it can possibly be. The Idea of America is at work on every page of what one reader described as “a love letter to America.”

The Idea of America is very much alive in this “love letter to America.”

A Simple Rebellion is the story of a widowed, depressed former comedy icon tricked into appearing remotely on a late night talk show. His response to the host is misunderstood, and triggers a shocking and increasing g number of Americans to passive protest, with explosive results. And somewhere in that tumult, the American Spirit is rekindled.

I love and believe in America, scars and all. To hear Bono’s belief in this nation of infinite potential energized me to share what I am doing to try to help this great experiment continue, to do what I can to protect The Idea of America and nurture the American Spirit. And, yes, I secretly dream that it might ignite a few souls like Bono ignited mine, again.

Thanks, Bono. I needed that.

Posted in #amwriting, #community, #reading, #U2, #WeThePeople, America, Bono, Book lovers, digital publishing, ebook publishing, Faith, fiction, horror fiction, Music, New Yorker Festival, politics, pop culture, self-publishing, Spirituality, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment