Book is Live on Amazon

Happy to announce the book is now available! All Ways A Woman, a collection of inspirational poetry and art celebrating a woman’s journey by author Carol Mann and artist Lynn Centeno, is now live on Amazon. Below is the eblast announcement.


A Celebration in Watercolor and Word

Announcing the launch of

All Ways A Woman

a collection of original watercolors and poems in celebration of women

by Lynn Centeno and Carol Mann

For the woman who, in a quiet moment of reflection, looks into herself
for strength and understanding. She is in all ways a woman, always.
This is her book, her inspiration, her art, her poetry.

The book is the ideal gift to honor the women in your life.
It’s the perfect addition to your “coffee table” book collection.
It’s that special something just for you … from you.

Give the quintessential gift for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day,
Birthdays, Anniversaries, Girlfriends, and just because.

Now Available at

Published by
AquaZebra Book Publishing


Lynn Centeno is a juried watercolorist whose art can be found in galleries, art faires, museum exhibits, and personal collections.



Carol Mann is a published author whose short stories, essays, and poetry can be found in literary journals, anthologies, and magazines.


Lynn and Carol are available to groups and organizations for presentations and readings of
All Ways a Woman


Copyright 2017 All Ways a Woman. All rights reserved.


We just finished doing an event with the book – an English Tea. Great fun! Upcoming events include a “Coffee with Girlfriends” and “Champagne with Friends.” I’ll be posting about these.

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The book has arrived!

The book has arrived. Yes, All Ways a Woman, a collection of art and poetry created in collaboration with artist Lynn Centeno, is here. Within its pages, we invite you to walk with us as we depict a woman’s path, give voice to her life song, and honor her journey in watercolor and word. In hardcover and published by AquaZebra Press, the book will become available January 31 at

Through the course of developing the project, we were moved by not only the uniqueness of women’s experiences, but also their universality. How women inspire and encourage each other. Their strength, resolve, and grit. Their vulnerability, their ability to give. Their talents.

And so the book was born. At heart, it’s a portrait of a woman. We hope it will inspire. We hope it will bring reflection and peaceful moments. We hope you will enjoy. But mostly we hope you will find it a celebration.

Join us on the journey.

Join us on the journey.

How did All Ways a Woman come about? The collaboration on the book actually began in 2011 but we didn’t know it. The National League of American Pen Women Palm Springs Branch did a program called Ekphrasis (EHK-fra-sis) for writers and artists. And Lynn and I participated.

A quick aside about the word ekphrasis. It’s a noun from the Greek meaning description and is an old literary form in which a writer wrote a description of a painting or object of art or sculpture he admired. For example, Homer described the shield of Achilles in great detail in the Iliad. The literary form took a turn in the 1800’s. In 1820 John Keats published the classic “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which he not only described the urn but then in a departure from convention incorporated his feelings and thoughts. From that moment, an ekphrastic writing became something more. Today it’s defined as a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art.

But back to the Ekphrasis experience. Branch artists submitted pictures of their art which were posted on the local Pen Woman website. Writers in the branch then selected one to write about. I chose Lynn’s watercolor called “I Care Not.” (The watercolor and poem are in the book.) For the final program, as each artist’s work was displayed, the writer read her accompanying piece. By the end of the event, there was a calm in the room and the women in attendance, whether they knew each other or not, seemed to feel what can only be described as a palpable closeness of spirit. A fulfilling experience.


Watercolor by Lynn Centeno accompanying the poem “The Gift of the Gathering.”

Fast forward to 2013 when the branch repeated the event. Again I chose one of Lynn’s watercolors called “Girls’ Night Out.” The poem is a look into what girlfriends might like to dish about. It’s also in the book.

After those two collaborations, three years passed until the summer 0f 2016, when Lynn casually suggested we do more.

The idea percolated. We each went through our existing body of work for everything “woman.” Themes came to life about women’s thoughts, loves, and lives. We worked page by page or “bird by bird” as author Anne Lamott wrote and we gathered our collection. Some of the watercolors had been in juried shows. Some of the poetry had appeared in literary journals and magazines. We joined pictures with poems. And we created new work. Slowly, we had our book.

Now it’s January 2017. We’re ready to launch. An email promotion announcing All Ways a Woman will go out within days. The book will have its own Facebook and Goodreads pages. We’ll be doing readings, presentations, and book signings. Think about us for a program for your club or organization. A tea? A reading and champagne? We’ll welcome your reviews and comments.

And think about the book as a thoughtful gift for a special woman in your life. Mother, sister, wife.  Mentor, colleague, girlfriend. Honor and celebrate her on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, an anniversary, a birthday, or just because. And, ladies, it makes an extra-special gift to you, from you. We look forward to your joining the journey.

Come …
walk with us

For together …
we grow
we discover
we become

from All Ways a Woman

A closing thought. Reflection is taking a look at ourselves in the mirror of our mind. We hope you will enjoy the watercolors and words as you reflect and become inspired by your own journey. And from writer Anais Nin these words:

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

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Letters, Words, and Resolutions

Okay. It is what it is – another blog on writing New Year’s resolutions. But, no matter how you fight the urge, it is the time of year when we often resolve to do things differently. We look at what went well in the previous year, what didn’t, and what we want to change in the new. It is the moment to pen the elusive Resolutions, things you intend to do like diet, exercise, and spend time with your mother-in-law.

What will be on your list? Are you working on a relationship? Are you adding to a Bucket List? Have you discovered a new passion? Will you take better care of yourself? Will you provide a better life for your family?

Sometimes our resolutions reach inward, sometimes outward. My attempt for 2017 is below. First is my personal list. Then I added another list – what I’d like to see for the world. I know, I know, but I can dream and sometimes dreams come true.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

This is what I want to remember and what I want to do in 2017, keeping baby steps in mind:

Reflect on life and relationships to improve the quality of each. 
Enjoy the moment. 
Simplify the clutter.
Open myself to the world around me.
Learn and never stop learning. 
Understand life is complicated and deal with it.
Try to live my best life.
Invest in others by giving.
Organize time in productive ways.
Nourish my inner self. 

reflection is mine
a mirror into myself
wisdom lies within

untried roads abound
paths to discover and test
insights will inspire

compassion is mine
sensitivity is free
the new year awaits

Courtesy of Spirituality and Practice

Courtesy of Spirituality and Practice

This is my list for the leaders and peoples of the world who are dealing with ideologies of hate and destruction:

Rejoice in diversity.
Empathize with the plight of others.
See the realities of the world.
Offer solutions.
Lead people toward peace.
Unite for human rights.
Temper radicalism and terrorism.
Innovate new peace strategies.
Open debate to new ideas and listen.
Negotiate to achieve results.

Soldier of valor
Your dreams keep you from slumber
Peacefully we sleep

Soldier of valor
You fight in war zones afar
We walk in freedom

Soldier of valor
We pray for your safe return
We do not forget

And so, our New Year is here. Much to think about. I toast your good health, your family, your dreams! Happy 2017! I like this from T.S. Eliot:

… to make an end is to make a beginning

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Money, Diamonds, Wreaths, and News – Real or Fake?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the real thing from the fake. Like money. On a vacation in Oregon, I broke out into a sweat when the hundred dollar bill I tendered for a purchase went through extended scrutiny at a local retailer. Had I in my travels somehow gotten a fake bill? Fortunately, after the clerk called in the manager who held the bill up to the light and other ministrations, it passed muster. (You can check out ways to detect counterfeit bills at

Ah, and then there are fake diamonds. At one time I owned a dinner ring with a one karat faker in the middle surrounded by real sapphires, all set in white gold. The stone never had the sparkle of the real thing. Or else it never had the sparkle for me because I knew it wasn’t real. (Ways to test a diamond can be found at

And to carry the analogy further and to be in the holiday spirit, it’s hard to tell a fake wreath from a real one. In the photographs below and from a distance, you may not notice one wreath isn’t real. It’s not until you look closer that you see and feel the difference.


Real or fake?


Real or fake?










The phony is, well, lifeless. The pine needles are slippery, prickly, and plastic. It creates an illusion of vibrant greenery, but misses one vital component. It has no aroma, no smell of the outdoors, no vibrancy. The real thing has pliable sprigs and cuttings. The needles are soft. The aroma takes you to clean air, wooded mountain sides, the outdoors. It takes you into nature. You’ve probably decided which one of the above is real. Just in case, I’ll let you know later.

Like the wreaths, it’s also becoming increasingly hard to tell real news from fake news. We have a history of being lured into reading the fake, the sensational. Yellow journalism of the 1890’s and 1900’s loved the scandalous, the overly dramatic, and the use of  hyperbole. Today we have the tabloids which are always placed at the market checkout stand for that last minute impulse buy. They scream falsehoods. Colt Born With Two Heads. Queen Of England Divorces Consort. Dr. Phil Cheats On Wife Robin. You get the idea.

Headlines like these start rumors, hurt feelings, stir emotions, encourage us to be non- thinkers, and appeal to the lure of sensationalism. I’m amazed at the stories tabloid writers are able to create. I’m even more amazed there’s a market for this stuff. When I read those screaming headlines while waiting to check out my groceries, I feel they must be written with tongue in cheek. I read these headlines for the humor.

But now we are into a more serious news phenomenon – fake news made to appear real. It’s no longer weaving tales about show biz celebrities, sports celebrities, and nature’s anomalies, but about people in many walks of life who have been put into situations that scrape at the basic values and core behaviors of our society. Currently, with the presidential election fresh and bleeding, it’s about political leaders, political parties, and political schemes and conspiracies – fake news that can incite violence and mob mentality.

Take the recent Pizzagate. BBC news gives an account of how the story began involving high ranking members of the democratic party and the operation of a pedophilia ring out of the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in Washington D.C., and how it snowballed, even affecting news in Turkey. Most alarming, a 28 year old armed man appeared at the pizzeria to investigate for himself the “news” of a child porn ring operating out of the premises – and fired three shots. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

We know people can post anything. This freedom gives people a great deal of license.  Reddit, for example, labels itself as “the front page of the internet” with “User-generated news links. Votes promote stories to the front page.” If someone reads a piece of news on this site which turns out to be fake and tweets about it, this so-called news can spread quickly. Facebook and Google are looking for ways to battle this phenomena and label the “news” as fake.

What’s with this new trend? First of all, it seems to be here to stay. It’s emerged as another technique to undermine a rival or manipulate a situation. It’s a technique that could produce real difficulties and reactions in segments of our population and among leaders and countries.

What do we do to get the real news? One remedy is to know your source. Another is to stick with established news sites, evaluate as you read, and read the same story from several different sources. Another is to use a fact checker site such as those listed on Be a thinking reader. Look closer. Truth and trust can be sketchy commodities.

Remember the wreaths? From a distance they both look real, but upon closer scrutiny the difference emerges.  The wreath on the door is made of fake, look-alike “evergreens.” The wreath on the gate is made of real evergreen cuttings. Beyond the look-alike wreaths, fake diamonds, and counterfeit money, we now live in a reader, media, and internet marketplace where we need to beware of fake news. It’s up to us to read for the real deal and discern the facts.


The real deal.

I want to end this post on a real note and not a fake one. I wish you all the merriest of holidays and the best in the new year. May you have success, happiness, and good health.

When I connect with each of you from around the world and read your blogs and comments, I’m reminded of how much more we are alike than different. And that we value truth.

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Eek! Black Friday!

Being of unsound mind and questionable judgment, I ventured into the world of holiday shopping on Black Friday, lured by its enticing name. My shopping quest continued  into the following and equally enticingly named days of Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. I believe in doing my part, after all, to support the economy.

And I suppose these shopping day names are better than days named Charge Your Card to the Max Day, People Gone Mad Day, or Test Your Mob Mentality Day. (Just saw a news clip of a fight that broke out among mall shoppers trying to get through a retailer’s door ahead of each other.)

So, not wanting to miss a beat, my Black Friday adventure began at the Verizon store. I’d been given now dubious advice that most people would be out at the big box retailers buying gifty gifts – clothes, toys, jewelry, tools. The telephone store would be slow, with morning or around noon being best. (And then there’s P.T. Barnum’s famous, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”)

The place was popping. The security guard opened the door for me and I approached the check-in person. An hour and a half wait, I was told. Are you kidding? I thought about fleeing. Okay, I signed in. I needed to get the gifting started. But I decided not to hang out at the Verizon Store. I’d multi-task.


courtesy of

courtesy of


I’d have time to run to my local market and get two dishwasher items – Cascade and Lemi Shine (the stuff that makes dishes washed in the dishwasher gleam.) Stuff I can’t buy at my favorite store – Trader Joe’s.

However, I knew something was amok when I couldn’t find a place to park in the market lot. Why? The market was booming. Wait a minute. Shouldn’t everyone have had a frig full of food from the previous day’s Thanksgiving celebration? You know, all those tasty leftovers?

People were in a festive mood. Liquor, wine, beer, sushi, ice cream, chips, premade salads and sandwiches were flying out the door. Game days, tourism, snowbirds, and invading families were the motivators. Finally, I made it through the checkout line, tossed the box of Cascade, etc., in my purse (forgot my bag), and headed back to Verizon.

The security guard opened the door for me again and I asked the check-in person where I was on the list. I was next. Wow! If I’d missed the call-out of my name, it would have gone to the bottom of said list. I made my purchase (not a fast process) and left for DSW shoes and the mall and more fun and games.

Buying locally means supporting Small Business Saturday which found me in Old Town La Quinta the next day for a double treat – the Art on Main Street show plus the lure of the small boutiques. I had a list and I charged into the fray. First I found the artist’s stall I wanted where I checked out an art book I’d heard about, the type of book to bask on your coffee table. Whoops. $375 dollars. Hm-m-m-m. I don’t think so.

From there I was ready for the stores, but not before getting a coffee and muffin at the Old Town coffee shop. Of course, there was a line, but it moved. I went into the stores from there. I picked up a few baubles and checked off names on my list.


USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple with Christmas shopping

In the swing. (Courtesy of


In the small shops it was nice to have a salesperson there to help, who knew the merchandise, who was personable as opposed to a big box store where you are more or less a number and a wallet, preferably an open wallet.

Of course, Cyber Monday beats it all – sitting in your pajamas, cup of coffee in hand, typing names like Chico’s, J. Jill, Amazon, and Macy’s into the browser. It’s such a casual and relaxing routine: browse, click on an item, drop the item into your shopping cart, and check out.

But the special day and the real message of this season of named shopping days is #Giving Tuesday – established in 2012 as a day of generosity and philanthropy. I don’t give on this exact Tuesday, but do so closer to Christmas when my friends and I, instead of buying each other gifts, give to a local charity.

The tradition goes like this: we meet at a local restaurant. We each drop the name of a local charity into a small box and have our server draw a name. After the charity name is drawn, we write our checks and the luncheon organizer sends them on to the organization that won the draw.

In the same spirit, my book club members each bring a new, unwrapped book for a particular age range to the December meeting. These books are then donated to a local school library or a charity that has outreach to children.

Giving and volunteering are year long endeavors, but it’s nice to add a little holiday fun to the mix.


Santa Carrying Shopping Bags --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Giving, ’tis the season!  (Image courtesy of © Royalty-Free/Corbis)


And about Black Friday shopping. When all is said and done, I must say, I enjoyed the excitement: making it back to the Verizon store just before my name was called, winding my way through people to find an artist’s stall with its special book, tasting olive oils at the boutique food store.

And feeling the excitement in the air.

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And so I ask, “Now what?”

My candidate didn’t win. This is a democracy. We held an election. I voted. I lost. I ranted and raved and pouted. I commiserated with others. Both candidates were far from perfect. They made mistakes, had some questionable behaviors, and had policies you had to look at and balance with your own values and beliefs.

We survived  over a year of an atypical political campaign. It was exhausting, but it had upticks. More citizen discussion. Heavy voter participation. More airing of issues needing to be addressed in our society. Good political technique and finesse weren’t always strong points. Careless, inflammatory rhetoric was used, which unveiled some unsettling behavior and beliefs. Old political campaign techniques from polling to internal organization got a surprise. New techniques appeared. The insider and the outsider were put to the test.


We vote and keep voting. (Image courtesy of

We vote and keep voting. (Image courtesy of


The media and its use in all forms inundated us. I switched among the news channels trying to get a reading. From CNN to MSNBC to FoxNews to C-Span. I can’t remember the pundit who said this on one of the programs but I found it timely: FDR used the radio, JFK used TV, Barak Obama used the internet, and Donald Trump used Twitter.

So now what do I do? I will hope. I will hope for wisdom within the new administration and a smooth transition of power. I also will be alert as to how that power is used. I’ll follow who becomes a staffer and a Cabinet member. Going forward, I hope the two parties can work toward beneficial solutions in policy and diplomacy.

I know some things probably won’t change. Popular versus electoral college vote raises its head. It would be nice to see objective and nonpartisan appointments to the Supreme Court. Campaigns begin lofty but always seem to end up the opposite.

So I ask again. Now what? Hopefully, there will be wise negotiations in trade and in our country’s interaction with other countries of the world. There will be a strong economy with jobs and affordable health insurance. I’m looking for fair immigration policies. (Both my husband and I are the children of immigrants.) I’m looking for tax reform and taking care of our planet, its natural resources, and its climate changes. I’m looking for ways to honor and care for our veterans. I’m looking for inclusion and for measures to improve the lives of families, women, and minorities. Who wouldn’t? The thing to watch now is how it is done, if it is done. The two parties offered different strategies and promises. The winner now has to deliver.


New doors and new paths. Artwork by Leonid Afremov "Light Through the Rain

We have new doors and new paths. “Light Through the Rain” by Leonid Afremov


What will I do? I will continue to live by my values and ideals. I won’t condone bigotry. I won’t support exclusion within our society. I won’t support  proposed legislations limiting or discriminating against women. I will support the right to peaceful protest to draw attention to a cause, to make sure government is aware of people’s thoughts and needs. Flag burning, violence, and vandalism I don’t support. They disturb me.

I will be watchful for separation of church and state. Uniform laws of the land supersede religious laws which vary from belief system to belief system. Constitutional law protects all of us and all of our religious beliefs. We coexist under that umbrella. I hope the character values of honesty, integrity, and empathy are at a person’s forefront, whatever the religious belief.

I will look to the arts – to our playwrights, artists, writers, songwriters, and musicians – to capture and record, to reflect and peer into the future, to reach into the heart, to explore the darkness, and to lift us up.

I will stay involved and work through my knee-jerk reactions and emotionalism to try to think and evaluate. I’ll read. I’ll watch the news channels and vote in local, state, and federal elections. I won’t be complacent or lose my sense of humor. I will remain uninterested in being mean or unkind. I’ll look for what’s best for the country I love and for its people, of which I am one.


Voting isn't a one time thing. (Image courtesy of Associated Press)

Voting isn’t a one time thing. (Image courtesy of Associated Press)

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Finding the “just right” character name

I don’t have a magic potion for selecting a character name. Sometimes the name just arrives. Other times, it’s a hard search. I may have to give the character a temporary name for a while as I push ahead in the story. It takes time to get to know a protagonist or villain or sidekick character. No exact science here, just patience and pondering.


Courtesy of

Courtesy of


Some writers have found truly effective names. During a luncheon a few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing author Vince Flynn explore this quandary of finding a good name for a strong protagonist.

He decided the first and last name would be one syllable each. He wanted the name to hit like a punch and, to illustrate, he twice struck his fist in his palm. He found the impact he wanted in the character name Mitch Rapp. Punch. Punch. Mitch Rapp. Perfect for an undercover CIA counter-terrorism agent who pushes the limits.



I just received this. Looking forward to reading it.


Another character name I like is in author Andy Weir’s book The Martian. Astronaut Mark Watney finds himself injured and stranded on Mars. The name Mark is one syllable and strong. Again and again he finds ways to beat the odds to survive and make his mark.

The name Watney reminds me of someone saying, “What? What the heck just happened? I’m stranded on Mars.” As in, What-ney? (I know, perhaps a bit of a stretch.) The name Watney also reminds me of kids taunting one another and chanting “Wat-ney, Wat-ney.” However, in this case, the taunter is Mars.

A good read.

A good read.


Yet another character name I like comes from author Michael Connelly. His protagonist carries the name Harry Bosch. The character’s birth name is Hieronymus Bosch and he’s a Los Angeles Police Department detective. Hieronymus is quite a moniker to carry around. Harry is an obvious derivation. The name Harry is close and accessible. Bosch is hard and distant.

In history, Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch painter who portrayed humanity’s fears and desires. A famous work is The Garden of Earthly Delights. Another is called Hell. I find this name is a nice touch for a talented, brooding detective who must analyze motive and intent and descend into a hellish, criminal world.



Comes out on November 1 in USA


In my own work I found a name I had fun with. I chose the name Jingo Sparks for the protagonist in the short story “Not Even Gloria” which was published in The Sun Runner Magazine. The name illustrates his personality.

Jingo is kind of a ne’er do well, kind of “jingo-ing” about town in need of money to support a high maintenance girlfriend. Impulsive, he sparks activity when he hangs out in a local bar and instigates a high stakes game of pool.


Scan 5_2_2

Jingo Sparks likes his pool hall.


A character name may be fluid for a period of time. But taking a cue from the authors above, there are various ways to approach the name game. We can look to

  • symbolism
  • history
  • art
  • literature
  • mythology
  • rhythm
  • sound
  • syllable count
  • a name to create an effect
  • a name that enforces character traits and personality
  • lists of names on the internet
  • I also like the ideas of Andre Cruz on this website, The Write Life. (See number two on his list.)

And can you tell that when I read to relax, I choose mystery, action, adventure, and, once in a while, science fiction? Happy name hunting!

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