I Did It Again: I Watched the Emmys… And I Still Hate Award Shows

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Waiting to win

Not because I don’t think people deserve to win awards. Awards are lovely. I’ve won a few myself and they’re a wonderful acknowledgement of work well done, of community and/or peer approval; a fabulous reminder that people are actually paying attention to what exactly it is you do. But still…

I swore a while back that I was going to retire my tiara and not watch award shows anymore, and I meant it. But it was a slow night Sunday, I was feeling too lazy to work, and I was invested enough in a couple of shows and performers that I worked up a little curiosity. But not even minutes into the whole thing I was reminded of what remains the same for me: my resistance to the sheer cruelty of this entertainment tradition. 

When I sit and watch that moment, the one before the announcement is made, when the five (or whatever) amazingly talented people are all, still, of equal importance, waiting breathlessly to hear if they got the prize, their faces set in what is, no doubt, a considered non-expression that belies the anxiety they’re feeling, I get a little queasy, I can’t help but think to myself: why on earth are these accomplished, talented people who have all done stellar work being put in a position where they’re essentially pitted against each other like beauty contestants? All so just one of them gets to feel that “special acknowledgement” while the rest walk away as non-winners. Why do we do that to our most talented performers? Why?? 

I dunno. It seems crazy to me. I mean, I was delighted to see the wonderful Olive Kitteridge win a slew of awards, including one for Frances McDormand, whom I adore, but when I think about how stunning Maggie Gyllennhaal was in An Honorable Woman, I wonder why she has to feel passed over in any way, shape, or form, when she, too, did amazing, kudo-worthy work. Is it lesser work? NO!! Not even close. It’s just the work that did not get picked by a subjective bevy of voters who chose a “best.”

It would be one thing if there were actually some tangible, quantifiable criteria to winning these things—whoever hits the most targets with a bow & arrow, or whoever jumps the highest on a trampoline, or which one correctly answers the most trivia questions asked by Al Roker—then, maybe, the winner would be clear-cut and undeniable. As it is, once you’ve got five equally extraordinary actors and performances nominated, it’s about any number of arbitrary things: popularity, public relations success, who’s trending, which person has been nominated more and not won; which show is going off the air and deserves a nod; which person brings the highest level of good will or political approval, etc. That’s all it can be, because there’s no way you can look at the work Ben Mendelsohn did in Bloodline, or Alan Cummings in The Good Wife, and say either was not as worthy as Peter Dinklage’s wonderful work in Game of Thrones. Nor are Tatiana Maslany or Claire Danes any less worthy than Viola Davis. 

As thrilled as I am for those who won, as deserving as they each are, I can’t help but feel a pang of empathy for those who did not, as they are all, surely, as deserving of the win as the ones who actually won. Or something like that. 

But we love our awards shows and they will go on and on, with pomp and circumstance, winners and not winners (we don’t say “losers”), oddsmakers and party planners, a tradition built around arbitrary choices about who’s “the best.” And while many will watch with anticipation, surrounded by good friends, prodigious snacks, and the occasional cocktail, cheering whoever makes the cut with authentic enthusiasm, we all know that everyone up there is completely and equally deserving, equally appreciated, for giving us incredible performances while working at the top of their game. Cue the applause. For all

Related article: Why I’ve Retired The Tiara And Won’t Watch Award Shows Anymore

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Damn. I Was Supposed To Get Famous Before My Face Fell

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5. BIO_Little Lorraine

My favorite picture of me…at five-years-old.

I’m joking. My face was never supposed to fall. :)

I’m writing this today because, after a recent commenter accused me of being “too old” to grasp the finer points of whatever it was they were schooling me on, I got to thinking about the currency of age and aging as an insult. It is one strange sword.

Aging is a weird thing, though, no getting around that. Yes, it’s universal, it’s inevitable, and even your three-year-old is doing it, but the term seems only to apply to persons of a certain demographic…and is rarely offered as a compliment. A baby is “getting so big!” A toddler becomes “such a big girl!” A kid is “all grown up!”; a teen, well, let’s face it: a teen couldn’t be happier than when hearing, “you look so much older than your age!” Twenty-, thirty- and even forty-somethings are “coming into their own.”

The rest of us? We’re aging.

The Aging Demographic (or “AD”) is loosely comprised of those past their “prime” years, the years when most people look the best they’re ever likely to look, when sex drives every conversation (consciously or unconsciously), when everything seems possible, and when people admire you without the addendum of “for your age.” I knew I was in the demographic when a record producer commented (as he was rejecting me in lieu of a much younger singer), “you’re just not current anymore…though I bet you were hot in the 80s.” Really. He said that. To my face. My old, sagging, AD face.

Fuck ‘im… I was hot in the 80s!

But despite the raggedy edge of age’s cutting tool, I think I’ve surrendered to the process rather graciously, with humor, acceptance, and a certain appreciation for its cloak of invisibility (there is freedom in knowing hardly anyone’s looking at you anymore!). Then again, what are the options?

Being ungracious, for one thing. Fearing it, denying it, defying it in ways that reek of desperation: silly clothes from Forever 21, surgery from the “best of Beverly Hills,” inordinate obsession with all things trendy. Many of our demographic have undergone the microscope and knife, leaving us with peers whose gently aging faces now have jawlines so sharp they could cut paper, cheeks that give Alvin a run for his money, or, God save us all, those duck lips that turn even the finest face into something oddly inhuman. It seems we’ll soon have whole generations of aging men and women who resemble Katherine Helmond in Brazil and I don’t mean the country. This, apparently, is our culture’s misguided answer to the conundrum of aging.

Katherine Helmond in Brazil

But I get it, too. It’s tough to stay relevant in our overcrowded and viciously, vacuously viral world. It’s work, it’s effort, and it can be soul-crushing. As the old saying goes: “If you wanna dance, you gotta pay the piper,” and those who dance in the world of business, media, music, movies, TV, or even literature (if you can’t look hot you better write hot!) have been forewarned: payment is the currency of youth and beauty… even for those who are still young, particularly women. As controversial hip-hop artist, Iggy Azalea, all of twenty-five, explains:

“It’s hard to be a woman in 2015 with social media. There’s so much more emphasis on taking pictures of ourselves and the ‘likes’ or people commenting on them. There’s a lot more pressure to look beautiful. Some days I just want to look like s**t and feel okay with that.”

I hear ya, Iggy! When the front pages of even the most esteemed news sources lede with stories about who lost their baby weight the quickest, whose butt is breaking the Internet, or “can you believe these stars are in their 50s??” (when we all know they have seen Dr. Beverly Hills!), it’s clear we’ve lost our way on this topic.

But even everyday people are more pressured than ever to stay uber-competitive in jobs where management’s bleats about “fresh and cutting edge” are most often code for “watch your step…your old ass can be replaced any time.” I have friends in their fifties and sixties who are smart, vibrant, and rife with expertise and know-how, but worry daily about when the “aging axe” will fall.

Ice floe, anyone?

ice floe r

But, on the flip side, there’s an interesting thing that happens once you get past the indignity of no longer being seen as “hot,” whether sexually, creatively, or commercially, perks to aging that no one tells you much about. There’s little emphasis on the fact that (forgive the cliche), much as it does with fine wine, artisanal cheese, or expert haircuts, time can season and perfect a thing, evolve it into its finest incarnation, its best version of itself. Things like a mind, a heart, a worldview, a sense of self… a person.

They don’t tell you how much calmer and less frantic you’ll feel, or mention the well-spring of patience you might discover within yourself. They forget to make clear just how philosophical and accepting you may become; how circumspect and objective about the minutia of life that tends to drive younger people crazy (that drove you crazy). Infrequently mentioned is how you’ll feel less apologetic, less beholden; more independent, and certainly more irreverent. You’ll care less about what other people think and more about what feels right to you, what resonates in your gut… even if your gut is bigger than it used to be!

You might even find yourself feeling sorry for those with the burden of youth: the pressures to be trendy and hip, the intensity of expectation for success and wealth; the confusions around how to be caring and compassionate in a culture built on snark, smartphones, and mindless “feuds” amongst privileged pop stars. I watch younger women work so damn hard to meet every beauty standard demanded of them — from managing body hair and high heels, to posting the appropriate number of selfies — and it all looks so exhausting. Clearly I’d have never made it as young person today…too damn culturally lazy!


As for young men, I observe many struggling to find the exact right balance between affecting cool and competence, romantic and non-committal, devil-may-care and well-employed, and I know how delicate that youthful branding exercise can be. It all matters when you’re young, self-obsessed, and certain all eyes are upon you. Which they often are.

Then you’re aging and nobody’s eyes are upon you. How freeing!!

Well, sorta. I mean, it is freeing in all the aforementioned ways, but occasionally I walk into a room where I would’ve caught glances in the past and notice how few look up these days. That’s OK, I say to myself, you’ve got other things to offer. Then I see the woman in the mirror and wonder, when did that happen to my neck and where did my jawline go? Or wince at candid shots that don’t involve the elegant lighting required by an aging face. I find I’m uninterested in posting TBT pictures, because, at this point, I prefer to focus less on what I was, and more on my ongoing journey of embracing and accepting what I am. That’s the journey we are all obligated to: the present… with its not-so-distant cousin, the future.

Sure, it would have been swell if my lifetime of creative effort (so far) had led to my fullest vision of success while I still held the flush of youthful exuberance; it would’ve been fun to take that ride while still so eager and inexperienced. But should those big-picture goals be met in years to come, I hope to be gracious and graceful about openly sharing my AD self — lines, wrinkles, sags, and all — without apology, without self-consciousnes, and with the newly-acquired exuberance of age and its many gifts.

Because damn if we ADers didn’t work hard to get where we are, a place replete with wisdom, experience, and, yes, our aging, fabulous selves. It’s a good mix, I’ve discovered, one that every lucky person, even Iggy Azalea and that bouncing three-year-old, will, hopefully, one day discover.

forever young Little Lorrie @ LDW family archive
Katherine Helmond from Brazil @ IMDB.com
Ice Floe @ credit unknown
Selfie pic @ credit unknown
Forever Young by Francesco Romoli

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Flag Waving and Other American Pastimes

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4th of July, 1888, by Neil Boyle

4th of July, 1888, by Neil Boyle

We clearly hadn’t thought it out…

We were headed to a 4th of July parade with an enthusiastic youngster riding high on holiday excitement. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we were all looking forward to the revelry of red, white, and blue. As said youngster took note of the countless American flags flapping in doorways, waving from passing cars, or clutched in the hands of other like-minded kids, his eyes lit up. It was the 4th of July and he had to have a flag.

Why we hadn’t anticipated that probability, or at least thought of it earlier, say, before every store within a 50-mile radius was all out, was inexplicable. I hate to say we’re bad parents, but come ON! Still, foresight be damned, it was Independence Day and that bubbling little patriot was getting’ a flag!

We must have hit every party, grocery, and CVS store in Claremont, CA, the town hosting the events of the day, and there was not a single star or strip to be found. And just as we were about to endure a full-blown “I don’t have a flaaaag!” meltdown, the friends we joined at the parade miraculously snagged an unclaimed (albeit small and plastic) flag, and fireworks of the not pretty, popping kind were preempted.

Tread Flag 2My point is: people love their flags. They love ’em. They love to hang them in doorways, march with them down streets; wave them as symbols of pride, alliance, and attachment. America has, in fact, been cranking out some version of the American flag since 1775 and, in looking over some of the earlier contenders, it’s good we didn’t settle too quickly on a design: this one here with the stripes and snake on which we were not to tread lacked, I think, artistic gravitas. But surely our current flag is a worthy choice, a stately symbol redolent of so much history and national passion.

Which brings to mind certain cultural events of late, brouhahas centered around the topic of flags. Interesting that, shortly before our most patriotic and all-American holiday, we’d be widely, and wildly, debating other flags that hold great meaning—good and bad—for our eclectic and often polarized citizenry.

I don’t think anyone could deny that the Confederate flag incites tremendous emotion, both from those who believe it’s a symbol of racism and national disdain, and others who insist, “it’s heritage and not hate,” as Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd remarked recently. And while that sentiment may be true for some southerners, it’s getting harder to accept the assessment, particularly since the “flag of Dixie” has been held high by some of the most heinous characters in history, as recently as the tragedy in Charleston, S.C.

In fact, even Patterson Hood, founder of another proud southern band, The Drive-By Truckers, asserted this about the flag known as the “Stainless Banner”:

“I’m from Alabama,” says Patterson Hood, “I lived in the South my entire life. I have ancestors who fought in that ill-begotten war, but it’s way, way past time to move on … That [Civil] War was what, 150 years ago? It’s time to move on. It should have been a moot point years ago. The flag represents an act of war against the United States.

“The flag was put there to antagonize and intimidate,” he says, about its initial erection over the Capital. “During the Civil Rights era, Southern states started flying those flags and putting the logo on their state flags to remind black people what they thought their place was. It was just that simple…

“People say ‘The South will rise again,’ Hood says. “The South will never rise again as long as we keep our heads up our asses. I feel very strongly about it. I’m from Alabama. I lived in the South my entire life. I have ancestors who fought in that ill-begotten war, but it’s way, way past time to move on.”

Which makes sense to me. When some in this country talk about “taking back America,” demanding a “national language,” or bemoaning the “denigration” of the country by illegal immigration, how illogical is it, then, to defend a flag representative of so much pain and national antipathy? Particularly at a time when Americans of all stripes are (or should be) looking to bridge chasms, not create them.

reb_gay flags

There’s another flag that’s been waving around lately as well, one held high by those in our country fighting for equal rights for all: the Rainbow flag. Surely you’ve seen it. It’s the colorful symbol of gender and orientation diversity. No one near any kind of media these past weeks could have missed the wildly polar response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on constitutionally protected marriage equality. It was telling to watch the viral sharing of images showing the Confederate flag coming down as the Rainbow flag rose high. Wherever one stands on these issues, it can’t be denied that, yet again, it’s a flag that holds the symbology of so much passion and belief.

Which gets us back to the 4th of July: kids and flags; mom, dad, and apple pie; stalwart patriotism, and all things American. Each of these iconic concepts stirs warmth and nostalgia; optimism and hope, particularly as we look to strike a balance as individuals, stalwart in our beliefs, who also allow others to experience their own lives with dignity and respect. When I think of true American ideals, that’s where my mind goes.

Flag Waver

“Flag Waver” by LDW

Our 4th of July will be spent with family in the bucolic surrounds of Ferndale (whose downtown looks very much like the iconic Neil Boyle illustration at top!). Our daughter, who hasn’t been able to get up here in recent years, is visiting with her two children. They’re excited to partake of of the many Humboldtian wonders, particularly highpoints we’ve identified in and around Ferndale (i.e., feeding grass to kindly horses and getting rides on a local fire engine). We’ll gather at our beloved home, raise a glass to family and community, raise eyes to the wonder of sparklers and fireworks, and hold hope that we can continue to raise awareness in the evolving country we all celebrate on this holiday.

I think the American flag has the spirit, the history, and the heart to be a proud standard for everyone moving toward that noble goal.

“Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.” — Supreme Court Justice Robert J. Jackson, 1943

* * * * * * * * * *

Original version published July 2, 2015 @ the Ferndale Enterprise

The illustration at the top, “4th of July, 1888” by Neil Boyle, is one of the many iconic and incredibly beautiful pieces of Boyle’s illustrating the book, Notes From Abe Brown’s Diary by Tom E. Knowlton. I was delighted to be gifted five limited prints from that collection by Boyle’s daughter, Kay Jackson, who has become a friend since we connected over an article of mine called Neil Boyle, Molly Malone’s and Pretty in Pink. I am honored to have both her friendship and her father’s prints, all of which now beautifully hang in our Ferndale home.

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To Those Who Post Animal Videos On Social Media…Thank You!

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Say Hello To My Little Friend_sm

“Say hello to my little friend…”

I’m not being facetious; I mean it. Because I LOVE animal videos. They make me happy. They make me laugh. Sometimes they make my day. I’m not shallow, I’m not a crazy cat lady; I’m just an appreciator of our great animal kingdom. And science now proves I’m on the right track.

Since I no longer subscribe to the local paper (too many ads, too much wasted paper, and we travel too much), I typically start my workday with a cup of chai (lately my thing) and a scroll through various online new sources. And when I get to Facebook, I find myself smiling, grinning, even laughing out loud at the predictably present videos of animals doing those things animals do: being cute, tugging heartstrings, interacting nicely with various species, listening to or dancing to music, or just generally being incredibly entertaining.

It used to be standard operating procedure to poke fun at not only those who posted such pictures and videos, but those who enjoyed them, but there’s been a recent cultural shift, inspired by some actual stats that prove the value of such postings.

From "Cats Standing Up"... hilarious!

From “Cats Standing Up”… hilarious!

A Japanese research paper entitled “The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus,” posits that taking breaks to indulge in a little animal viewing can actually be helpful to one’s work flow:

Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images. This is interpreted as the result of a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing.

Animal videos have also helped raise awareness of the plight of poaching; promoted greater human-to-animal understanding; aided humans as a form of meditation, and even contribute to scientific understanding of animal behaviors:

“They’re not substitutes for good, hardcore research, but they’re very valuable for people who aren’t going to see certain things,” Marc Bekoff, a former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told LiveScience this week. “From a pedagogical point of view, I wish I had had more access to YouTube videos. I would have probably used them in my classes.”

Others have even extrapolated that the pleasure derived from watching cute animal videos helps in bone growth (that seems a stretch, but, hey, who am I to argue?). Even Super Bowl 2015’s most successful commercial was a compilation of some of the best inter-species videos around (maybe my favorite commercial ever!).

From "Friends Furever" Android commercial

Friends Furever Android commercial

Personally, and with kudos to all those many benefits, I am simply entertained. I love breaking up my work to occasionally enjoy cockatoos with decidely different attitudes about Elvis (hilarious!!), a montage of cats who rule the roost, or an elephant finding delight in a big blue ribbon. Of course, baby goats are always delightful, but baby goats in pajamas will leave you speechless. And if you think only furry animals are worth a watch, get a kick of out this octopus determined to hold onto coconut shells he/she found!

These glimpses into the lives, emotions, activities, and predilections of our animal brethren can only help make clear just how alike we creatures are. They not only entertain us, they connect us; they let us know we’re all in this together, living, loving, and banging on pots.

So thanks, everyone, for making my days a little brighter. And now I’ll leave you with Husky Sings With Baby. Go build some bone! :)

Dog with Reindeer @ LDW photgraphy
Cat @ Cats Standing Up

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Follow LDW via links at sidebar or visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com. Find her books at Amazon and Smashwords, and be sure to stay current with her adventures in publishing at AfterTheSuckerPunch.com. Don’t forget to FOLLOW THE BLOG (box above/left)!

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Art of the Book Cover: Pictures Tell the Story

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"Walking the Cambria Shore" — original photo for back cover of AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

“Walking the Cambria Shore” — original photo used for back cover of AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

Someone asked me the other day what was the singlemost reason I chose to self-publish my books. Actually, I have two reasons, which, I suppose, makes this a “doublemost” situation.

First: while I would’ve loved (I mean, seriously loved) the help of an enthusiastic literary agent and the support and heft of a publisher with name value and cultural prestige, procuring those collaborators in our ever-changing industry has become an increasingly elusive event; it certainly was for me. I gave it my all over several years then decided I had no more all to give; since I truly believed what I was doing merited further advancement, and I’d gotten to the point where I just wanted to move forward, I leapt off the indie cliff.

Think I’m still in mid-fall!

Second: I wanted control over the work I put out. Frankly, if you’re not getting the perks of industry collaboration, there has to be some kind of trade-off; one of the most phenomenal trade-offs of “doing it yourself” is controlling exactly how your work comes to fruition. For the uninitiated, this is a big thing because, with traditional publishers, items like final edit, title, and book cover are typically taken out of the hands of the author. Certainly an unknown author. Which would be me. And since I was one of the brave souls striking out independently—for better or for worse—one of the “betterest” reasons was the ability to create and produce EXACTLY the books I wanted.

"Bene Bene" - original photo used for HYSTERICAL LOVE cover

“Bene Bene” – original photo used for HYSTERICAL LOVE cover

Now, if you’re like me, a creative perfectionist who’s driven many a musician, producer, co-writer, actor, director, sound mixer, editor, or wildly opinionated drummer crazy with detailed, nuanced, and very specific standards and opinions, you’ll understand that the perk of creative control for someone like me is a boon. I’ve always believed that, if you’ve put in the time to truly learn your craft, gain your experience, hone your expertise, and bring to life a beautifully imagined story and set of characters, you deserve the power to render the final edit, pick the title, and decide on your cover art. Certainly working with professionals in the arena of editing is essential, input on titles is always illuminating, and a cover designer is a must-have, but ultimately it all comes down to YOU.

"Street Memorial" — Original photo used for cover of "She Tumbled Down"

“Street Memorial” — Original photo used for cover of “She Tumbled Down”

Which is lovely.

And a book cover, to my mind, is one of the most important elements of the final product. Why wouldn’t it be? Books truly are judged by their covers and too often the covers of self-published books are artistically lacking, poorly designed, and amateurishly rendered. Those covers then become litmus tests to the perusing and reading public, signaling to many that this writer may not have a firm grasp on professional market standards and, therefore, likely hasn’t delivered a professionally excellent book. I’m sure that’s not true in every case, but from all reports: most.

So given my bona fides as a photographer with a deep catalogue of images from which to choose—convenient, considering my preference for photographic cover art—my design process was both financially beneficial and extremely simple. Add in the fact that my cover designer is a brilliant graphic artist from Chicago, Grace Amandes, who just happens to be my sister, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d get exactly the covers I wanted. And I did.

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCHwith its story of a woman who discovers on the night of her father’s funeral that he thought she was a failure, needed a female face in the background, one that reflected the mood and emotional tone of the piece. After pulling an image from my gallery—as well as finding a back cover image that illustrated another story point that takes place in Cambria, CA— I handed the images to Grace, who ultimately came back with a cover I loved: 

ATSP final cover

With HYSTERICAL LOVE, a more whimsical story about a thirty-something guy struggling to find the meaning of true love and his father’s long-lost soul mate, a through-line involving an ice cream truck became the inspiration. There was no doubt I’d be using a favorite photograph taken in my neighborhood and processed with a “selective color” concept (see original above). Grace found the exact right font and color for the title, and it has become a cover that people literally smile over. I do too!

HystericalLove_full cover

For “She Tumbled Down,” a short story about a tragic hit-and-run, published only in e-book, I decided to design the cover myself, trusting that, since ebooks don’t require quite the specifications of a print cover, I could pull it off. Inspired by Grace’s work, I came up with another “selective color” version of an image also taken in my neighborhood (see original above). It makes the very poignant point.

Final cover - "She Tumbled Down"

Final cover – “She Tumbled Down”

Working in both literary and photographic mediums, I’ve discovered my general thrust as an artist is, quite simply, storytelling. Whether visual, literal, or musical, the narrative I see and feel impels the work forward, and so it has been a natural marriage between words and images in bringing my books to happily imagined life…a result that makes all the challenges and occasional indignities of self-publishing all the more easy to forgive!

To view my photography galleries at Fine Art America click HERE.

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Follow LDW via links at sidebar or visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com. Find her books at Amazon and Smashwords, and be sure to stay current with her adventures in publishing at AfterTheSuckerPunch.com. Don’t forget to FOLLOW THE BLOG (box above/left)!

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