About Me

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A writer by predilection, an aunt by blessing and a friend by choice, Shelley has spent many years journaling before sitting down to draft her first novel. She has a B.A. in English discourse and is currently working on her third romantic-suspense, the title of which will be announced soon pending publication. Shelley is a member of the Romance Writers of America as well as her RWA state chapter of the Maryland Romance Writers.
"I love story-telling. It's a way to live an experience through the eyes of a character." - Shelley N. Greene

Sunday, March 19, 2017

JULIE, JULIA & SHELLEY


Hello and welcome back!

March is rapidly drawing to a close and the first of April is upon us, which means warmer weather, and for me, a month of daily blogging which is sure to put a jumpstart to my spring.

          I’d announced last post that I’ll be participating in this year’s A-Z BlogChallenge. This is where a group of courageous bloggers commit to posting every day in April (except Sundays), each date corresponding to the 26 letters in the alphabet. There’s an overall theme, and by the end of April, the A-Z of that subject will have been blogged.

          I’d participated in the challenge for the first time in 2012, my theme was writing, and it was a great way to sharpen my blogging skills and to give readers an inside look at an author’s toolbox.

          This year's topic is Scrapbooking, and the month-long endeavor is a challenge.

          I’ve been mentally preparing for weeks now, drafting an outline, and gathering my thoughts. When I’m embarking on a journey (of the mind, body, or spirit), I like to ask for guidance. I believe that there’s connection between all things, and every time I’ve felt lost the Universe always sends me a signal, an omen that points me in the right direction. I call them “Road Signs.”

          My current Road Sign came in the form of a movie. It’s not the first time the Universe has spoken to me this way. One of the basic cable channels has been playing the film JULIE & JULIA on repeat, and I catch myself stopping to watch it often.

          The story is of Julie Powell, a newly relocated resident of New York, in search of an outlet during a gray time in her life. Julie decides to channel her energy into cooking, specifically every recipe in Julia Child’s book MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING over the course of one year.

          Julie’s cooking crusade became the THE JULIE/JULIA PROJECT blog, which grew into a renown internet publication, and later the movie that chronicled both Julie Powell’s and Julia Child’s lives.

          The movie’s themes spoke to me as they parallel my life right now.

          Every person hits a point in their life where they question their existence. “What am I here to do? Am I living that purpose?”

          Julia Child moved to France with her husband in 1948, and in a post-WWII time, she defined herself. Julia went on to become a master in her field and a mass-media instructor, on TV and in her books. Julia Child broke the mold.



          But all of that discovery began with one question:



I think of the expression, “The answer is simple, not EASY.”

          It begins in a deep recesses of your heart and personality.

It asks the infinite question, “What are you passionate about?”

Because if you are to master something, you must be passionate about it.
Julia Child appreciated the taste of finely prepared food. That was the spark for her. It led her to want to learn how those delicacies were prepared.
Julie Powell followed the same route. She got restless, and felt the need to take action.


I’ve got the same attitude- sans the knife wielding.
I’m passionate about writing and scrapbooking, although it does take a bit more than just love for a hobby to be a blogger. Another phrase that the Universe keeps throwing at me is “It takes 10 years to master a skill.”
From what I understand, Julie Powell had cooked prior to starting her year-long blog challenge, but not the decade prior. Julia Child began her education in France, and soon excelled in her field.
By comparison, I’m pretty oblivious to my skillset. I have ten years in the writing department (English degree, a compilation of short stories, and a self-published novel). I have studied formally in a classroom, informally with skilled online groups, and have attended workshops with national writing organizations.
I’ve scrapbooked since 2004, and that is where I think I’m like Julie.
No formal training but real world experimentation has given me a style.
To Rich – if you are reading this. Thank you for the gift of my first album. You saw a talent in me that I did not see myself. The book is where my hobby began. Thank you.

And it’s not so much fear of writing as much as it’s the process. My blog challenge is only 30 days long. Julie Powell’s was 365 days and 524 complicated French recipes. (I honestly don’t want to know how much the ingredients cost, but I shouldn't talk – scrapbooking isn’t cheap either K ). 
            
  I empathized with the struggles Julie went through. After participating in my first A-Z blog challenge, I'll never forget how much energy it took to pull off. Its funny - there are distinct stages, like of acceptance. The first post you’re all gung-ho, raring to go, and nothing is going to stop you. It’s mid-way through that you encounter those exhausted, “Oh God, what did I get myself into?” moments.




I remember the post I isfor Imagery was one that truly drained me. I was past the point where I’d had the posts pre-fabricated, and I’d worked a 10-hour work day at the day job. The whole thing is essentially a 612 word love letter to my bed, which admittedly, is not my literary best, but educational nonetheless.


Then, enviably, you’ll have one post that unexpectedly wins the popular vote. For my writing theme that was O for Onomatopoeia. I was equally tired for this post, but in a more honed mindset. It turned out to be concise, funny, and easy to read. To this day it’s my most read post for all of my blog. It was the point that I'd hit my stride with the daily writing.


The support of other bloggers really plays into the challenge, too. The event is huge with many participants, where all the posts can get overwhelming, but you still have people reading your stuff. Bloggers endorse one another – and even though we’ve been reading and writing and social media-ing all day, we still take time out to read others’ work.


That was another facet that the movie illustrated. Julia Child (according to her biography) had a beloved pen pal named Avis. The two women wrote to one another frequently, and when they finally met in person, it was like kindred spirits.





My critique partner, Sarah, is like my Avis. We actually just celebrated our 7 year friendaversary. A fellow writer, blogger, and confidante, Sarah and I connected through an online writing forum and to this day she is my sounding board for so much.


When we first met in person, it really was like how Julia greeted Avis in the movie. Silence and staring until someone speaks and then that wave of recognition. “My darling friend – it’s you. It’s really YOU.”


The online experience is vast, but not as cold as it seems. We live in a digital age, but that culture has much to offer. Using technology, a person can be a teacher, a student or both.





So, please mark your calendars, and check your Facebook, because starting April 1st, I’m going to be talking scrapbooks and how to tell your story using pictures, words, and paper. You're welcome to come watch my peaks and valleys as I embark on this 30-day, crazy blog-a-thon.
I promise no harm will come to any lobsters.


Hope to see you there! <3
-         Shelley




Monday, February 20, 2017

HEARTS, CARDS & PAGES


Do you remember when you were a kid and you happened upon a new hobby?

Maybe it was a TV show, a book, an idea—something new that got you to imagine the plot, dress up as the characters, or draw the themes.

Psychologically the human mind needs exposure to new things, activities that enthralls and encourages you to grow creatively.

I stumbled upon a new something like this recently.

As you know, I’ve been a scrapbooker for decades. I love it, the hobby allows me express myself and my skill of creatively documenting life using paper, words and ink.

However, like any endeavor, when you perform the same process over and over again, it can start to become stale. A review of my scrapbooks for this blog showed me how my style has evolved, but in the same token, it illustrated how little my pattern has changed over the years.

As a strong believer in the power of the Universe, my break from scrapbooking monotony came in the form of a journey. For years I’d go to the same mainstream craft stores, offering the same brands.

The thought finally occurred to me, “If you want your pattern to change, then you need to take a different action.” So, I did. I went in search of new supply stores.

Funny enough, I approached this process the same way I do for finding good coffee places: word of mouth and good online feedback. If you’re tired of Starbucks, you need to research the local small businesses, and I found a gem as a result.

I discovered a fabulous one-location wonder of a scrapbook supply store in Eldersburg, MD. It’s a bit of hike from where I live, but so worth it. They carry unique paper brands, and are very customer service friendly.

As I began visiting the store more frequently, I noticed that they supported all paper crafts, including card making, art coloring, and stamping, and even offered classes.

I’d dabbled in stamping when I was a young teenager, but felt that I wasn’t good at it. But as I watched the ladies at the store classes work on their projects, the technique stirred something in me.

Scrapbooking alone is expensive, and like any good fiscally-minded person, I wasn’t about to delve into a new, costly hobby without some proof of quality results.

Months passed, and the frequency of my store visits increased, and I continued to observe. The cards the store offered contained cool-looking paper cut outs made from metal dies. The stamps and inks were colorful and could be embellished, the result a little work of art.

My curiosity piqued, I went home and took to the internet to learn more. That was the moment when the new hobby enthusiasm was born. My search led me to the good ol’ University of YouTube, and there I found a channel that captured my attention – Jennifer McGuire Ink.

For the record, this woman is a card-making genius. I watched one episode and immediately became captivated. The host was soft-spoken, to the point, and helpful. The pace of the instruction was PERFECT, and all of her ideas were crazy-creative. One 9-minute post became a marathon as I soaked up all the information like a college student going for their PhD. I loved it.

I watched and watched, and soon got the wild idea that I could use the same steps to make pretty cards, too. And the great part about it was that the paper craft technique could easily bridge over to my scrapbooks.

I’ve stated before that Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love LOVE in all its forms, and what better day is there to debut my fledgling card-making talents?



I went for it, purchasing some cute clear stamps and paper. I also took the bold step of investing in a compact die-cut machine. I was super excited about having the machine in time to make my cards, however I hit one snag. The retailer had sold out of new machines, so I dared to purchase a refurbished one. Which was a monumental mistake.

The initial machine was faulty and I wasn’t able to use it. The return process took forever, tied up my bank account, and the replacement (new) machine arrived the day before Valentine’s Day.

I rolled with the punches (no pun intended), and made as many non-die cut cards as I could with the materials I had on hand, the result of which was quite adorable:




I made a shaker card (heart confetti) and little, stamped love bird cards.



The outcome wasn’t bad, and the replacement machine came in time to make my immediate family members' cards (the ones that I could hand deliver on the day).

And man, let me tell you – die cuts are FUN.

I felt like that kid, trying out something new and amazing and exciting. I wanted to learn everything – all the techniques, all the ways I could use the dies differently.

The result was phenomenal – to this moment, I’m proud on how they turned out.



My sister’s card especially. (Love this one.)



The practice allowed me to make a honeybee valentine card for my Grandmother (which will be received late, but lovingly so)…

…which I also translated into a scrapbook page.


I acknowledged my new obsession with my die cut machine (we will have to hold a contest to name my new baby), and began to look around for more card and scrapbook page ideas.


I found inspiration for another project in a Valentine’s Day decoration. Years ago, my sister got an adorable 3-deminional “Love Sushi” card that she later had framed.

I fired up my die cut machine, turned on some educational TV programming, and went to work.

My replica of the Love Sushi came out well. The salmon sushi hearts are velvet, (better than glitter paper, I decided), and a fair comparison. My chopsticks aren’t as cute as the original, but not bad.

And, as predicted, the project also became a scrapbook page. J


Note: The red velvet paper is way awesome. I bought some heart dies and put them to good use making card stock. Next year, look out! If you know me, you’re getting maaaiiilll. *evil grin*



So, last year I went all out with love quotes. This year, I discovered a way to build upon my existing skills with paper craft, and I’m so excited to see where this leads.

I’m grateful that there are small businesses like my local scrapbooking store, and people like the web channel personality, who generously send this knowledge out into the world without payment.

Paper crafting is a huge business, but it’s an education, too, and that carries so much value.

In April I’ll be participating in the A-Z Blog challenge, and with these new skills, and their application to scrapbooking, I’m gearing up to make this blog sprint awesome.

I will be posting throughout the rest of February and March with more, but I’m looking forward to sharing all of this creative technique with you in April.

I hope everyone is having a month filled with love, and I’ll see you again soon!


-         SNG


Monday, January 16, 2017

SCRAP SESSIONS - REVISED


Hello again! I hope everyone is having a relaxing and reflective holiday.

I’m posting to follow-up on a cancelled event.

In the last post I’d invited everyone to a public meet-up for a paper craft group I’ve formed called SCRAP SESSIONS.

After some thought, I’ve decided to postpone the first meeting until a time when the purpose of the group is more established and more people are able to attend.

The reservation of the library room requires at least 10 members to join, and it would be a shame to fall short of the minimum requirement for use the space.


In short, I got ahead of myself a little. Which happens with any big idea. It’s better to give it some time to get the concept off the ground.
I’d gotten excited, which is a good thing, but I’m an advocate for many things (writing, photography, Astrology, Feng Shui, and scrapbooking), and each subject takes times to study.

I thank you for letting me explore my New Age fascination in a public forum. I wear the friendly, neighborhood weirdo label with pride. 


“The only concept or experience or core belief that I can attribute my other-ness to is that I just started out a weirdo and I stayed a weirdo. And it took me a long time to embrace my outsidership and see it as a strength rather than a weakness.”
-       Aisha Tyler

So, instead of jumping prematurely into a public event, let’s start here in the good ol’ digital world. I’ll post the same content as I would at the meetings, with some fun extras.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and as the day of love is one of my favorite holidays, I’ve got big activities planned.

Just like the Cherry Blossoms, it’s been a loooong time (2004) since I held a group event to make homemade Valentine’s cards, and I think this year is the perfect time to revisit the craft.



And what better way to use paper and words to express your feelings?

I'll post the results here. It’ll be a good time.

And to sweeten the pot, and to sharpen my dormant blogging skills, in April I will be participating in the A-Z Blog Challenge.

This event is where bloggers post on a theme everyday (except Sundays) throughout April. The daily posts correspond with a letter (i.e. A is for Album, B is for Buttons, Brads & Borders, etc.) for all 26 days.

I last joined this challenge in 2012 with writing as my subject. This year, Scrapbooking will be my theme.

I’m excited about this topic, because although Scrapbooks involve photos, creative paper craft, and journaling, like a magazine to which you are the Editor-in-Chief, the books chronicle your story.

Scrapbooks are sentimental, but they are also powerful.

A hundred years ago, people had newspaper print, the typed pages of published books, memorabilia, handwritten letters, and post cards. These scraps, pieced together created a patchwork tale.

The other day I found a wonderful example of this - an article that touched on the purpose of written correspondence: a post card collection handed down to a Great Grand-Daughter.

The way the descendants could look at the post cards, and relive the adventures, is what Scrapbooking is all about.

Today we have texts, Facebook posts, SnapChats, and blogs, but the sentiment is the same. The photos, words, and meaning is unchanged – like a patchwork quilt, these conversations make up the squares of our lives.

Preserving those stories, mine and others, is what I’m passionate about, and I hope to share that experience with you here on this blog.

So, please check out the Narrative in the weeks ahead – I can’t wait to get started!



-         SNG J

Saturday, January 7, 2017

SCRAP SESSIONS

Hello!
It’s been a long time. Too long. I'm sorry.

It feels surreal typing these words. Life has become busy, and my writing has taken a backseat to other pursuits.

I'm still carving out time to work on my fiction, albeit less often than I’d like sometimes. 

I read a statistic that the average American devotes 28 minutes to reading each day (online, books, news articles), and I'm thankful to anyone who would devote a few minutes of that coveted time to check out my blog.

As 2017 begins, I am taking my writing and creative endeavors in a whole new direction, and it is my hope that you will join me on this new adventure.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that one of my side talents is scrapbooking. A positive use of all of my favorite hobbies, I find the process of arranging photos, short journal entries, embellishments and mementos therapeutic.

I look forward to sharing this interest with you by posting scrapbook techniques, with some projects that you can practice at home with your family.

Throughout 2017 I look forward to sharing paper craft projects that pertain to life and writing, to show the different ways in which you can hone your journaling craft. J

I understand that to the outside observer, Scrapbooking can seem a little cheesy. A glue, glitter hodgepodge of sappy sentimentalism that garners millions in revenue for craft supply corporations.



The sales statistics do ring true, but terse numbers don’t express the human truism:
The creation of art is representative of life.

People use art to express their emotions, observations, knowledge and experiences.

The order or structure given to the expression is just as important as the art itself. In writing, the telling of a story using letters is called epistolary narrative. The outline in which the documents presented almost act as a narrative voice.
It may be writer-bias speaking, but I’ve always been amazed at the power of the written word. Paper is a powerful thing. Centuries ago, (if you’ve ever conducted a genealogy search of your ancestors, you can attest to this), the only way you could find out if a person lived was through physical records.  If you didn’t have a birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate, last will and testament, or were never listed on a population census, it was as if you never existed.

Oh, the pride that’s still felt when you see your name in the newspaper, or on the cover of a book ( J ). Even in this age of universal digital correspondence, it’s a testament that the printed word still reigns.

Words, pictures, and captions are influential. More than just media, they tell a story.

When historians want to chronicle the life events of a public figure, they first turn to the personal letters written from that person to those closest to them. Centuries after the Revolutionary War, the thoughts and motivations of George Washington are discerned by the hand-written letters sent between him and his generals.

Gaps in the biography emerge when there are letters missing. Take the famous English romance author, Jane Austen, for example. Although Jane never married, it had been speculated that she’d had more than one big love in her life. This fact can never be confirmed because the personal letters that contained this information, sent to her beloved sister, Cassandra, were burned following the acclaimed author’s passing, (seemingly at Jane’s request).



What is interesting is that these were casual letters. An informal document of everyday events. A timeline of the person’s ordinary existence. Jane Austen didn’t pen the words for public view, they were her private thoughts and feelings. In essence, her life, preserved on paper.

Scrapbooks work the same way.

The books stimulate memory, and from a psychological standpoint, memory is instrumental to health. My nieces love to go through my old books, and when I flip through them I get a renewed since of purpose.

I see where I’ve been and that gives me an idea of where I want to go next.

It’s said that you want to collect memories, not things. It’s good to purge, anything that is not serving you, let go, so that new experiences can take their place.

It’s a new year and we have new goals.

And the fun thing is that you can outline a Scrapbook any way you choose.

Here’s a few scrapbook themes that I’ve seen:

·        Travel Books

o   Trip to other countries, National Parks, the 50 States, the Northeast or special sabbaticals.

o   Many of my fellow authors perform extensive research for the plots and settings of their books, and venture to those locales to soak up inspiration.

o   Readers, too, get inspired after getting a ‘glimpse’ of a place they’ve been introduced to in a good book. Sometimes conventions are held at the location to celebrate the theme.


·        Yearbooks – Annual Timeline of personal events

·        Fashion Books

o   Collection of images that speak to you (like a multipage dream board)

o   Catalog of designs that make up your personal style

o   Hair and Make-up techniques


·        Faith Books – A documentation of a spiritual journey

·        Health Books

o   I’ve seen people journal their path through severe illness

·        Baby Books

o   If you have more than one child, even volumes

·        Sports Books

·        Weddings and Honeymoons

·       Ancestry Albums / Archive of Family Photos

Scrapbooks have long since been used a way to catalog, document, and preserve your own story. Historically, scrapbooks have been used by rebels to fight prejudicial propaganda, by doctors and scientists to journal and compare their findings, and by everyday people to save keepsakes that contain a special story.

My scrapbooking began in 2004 with a beautiful book given to me by a friend.



When I open the cover I see a bracelet and picture my older niece made for me when she was little, and it warms my heart. The pages are far from perfect, but they don’t have to be.



It’s not about the finished product, it’s about the love that goes into it.

My style has evolved since then but I still have much to learn.



And in that endeavor, I hope that I can share ideas and grow with other creative individuals, like you.

So, with that lengthy introduction – I will working with a Scrapbook theme this year and hope that you will join me as I explore this fun area of story-telling.

Happy New Year to all and I hope to see you here on the Narrative!


-         Shelley


















Sunday, April 10, 2016

TURTLES AND HARES


Happy April to all.

This time of year is complex for me in many ways, as a writer, an astrologer, and a photographer.

To start, the current astrological sky is full of Aries planets, the first sign of the zodiac, it shows the beginning, the herald of spring. As a Libra sun-sign, it’s a mid-point zone, kind of like the halfway marker in the sprint of a person’s astrological year. It’s a time for me to stop and evaluate how far I’ve come, and how far I have yet to travel to reach my annual goals.

Personally, it’s a bit of a low-energy time as well. Aries represents the self – the “me” – while Libra is all about relationships and the support of others. When a person is by themself, they are perfect because everything is done their way (Aries theme). Relationships are mirrors, they show parts of yourself that you can’t see when alone. And like all opposites, the parallel acts as a see-saw, where balance (ß the scales, a Libra symbol) is required.


My astro-chart shows a signature of this being a partnership lifetime, where collaboration is my soul mission.
One of my books defines it as, “In any area of their life where [Librans] are ‘winning,’ there is a strong partnership behind them. In areas where they are ‘losing’ – whether professionally or in terms of personal happiness – they have not yet learned the lessons they must pass through in order to build successful relationships.”

-         ASTROLOGY FOR THE SOUL by Jan Spiller


But true of all polarities, an insurgence of the opposite energy can be a good thing. Too much cooperation and outward concern (Libra) can cause burn out, where the Aries influence of independence, and drive, provides some much needed self-love.   

And with other planets in the sky transitioning into Taurus, the sign on the cusp of my 7th house of relationships, my April will be a teeter-totter of “me, thee, and we.”

As a writer, this preoccupation with relationships gives me a wonderful understanding of inter-personal dynamics. In romance, human connection is the center of everything, and the pull between autonomy and sharing with others is the core conflict in any relationship.
Which is an Aries/Libra thang any way you look at it.

I got to think about this a few weeks ago while preparing to visit D.C. to photograph the Cherry Blossoms. An annual, springtime celebration on the Tidal Basin, it’d been a decade since I’d last performed a formal photo shoot of the trees, and I figured the anniversary made it a perfect time to go. I was excited but a little rushed as the peak bloom fell a week early, and made for a scramble with preparation. Add in the fact that I dislike large crowds, which are a given for a national downtown event, so I was feeling less than eager to get started. And despite the aversion of being surrounded by people, I didn’t want to go alone.

One observation I have often when I’m out in public is:
There are TOO MANY people in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, when out-and-about I respect the space of others– i.e. strollers, the elderly, etc. However, I am selfish in the fact that, as a singleton, and thus unencumbered, I reserve the right to not be detained behind the clusters of those who’ve committed themselves.

In a word: Do not block the “fast lane.”

That sounds terrible, but it's an Aries–Libra principle, big time.

It brings to mind the fable of the Turtle and the Hare. The two animals end up in a race against one another. The hare is like an Aries, with his speed he believes that his victory is in the bag. The turtle, the Libra of this tale, moves slow but steady, and wins due in part to his own diligence, and to the hare’s overconfidence.


If you are the Libra-Turtle and you invest in others, expect to be bogged down. Cooperation is not swift. Time is spent checking in with the people, listening, and performing tasks for them that are a slow-down with no self-benefit. The reward comes from the sharing - you partake in the joy you give to others, and you gain from the connection of their added happiness.

Next, we can pan to a day in the life of the Aries-Hare:
They big-foot hop to the coffee shop, place a speedy, articulated-to-the-letter order, with money in hand (exact change). When their cup of joe is delivered, they sit at a table with time to spare… a lot of time. They stare out the window, seeing the groups they whizzed past upon entry finally catching up with them. The people walk, talk and laugh, in no rush to get where they are going.

The point is that there are pros and cons to each way of life.

I find that I often fall into the Hare-mentality. I run around, rushing from point A to point B, only to find myself a little bored after I arrive. Then I see others happily enjoying down time with their spouses, friends, their family… and the slow-growing grass seems greener.

My excursion to photograph the Cherry Blossoms brought these thoughts to the forefront. I anticipated a bee-line trip to my destination, a deliberate and sharp navigation around the hordes of sight-seers, and a quick snap of pictures.

I was lucky when my childhood friend from elementary school agreed to accompany me, but I was still a little uneasy.

What if I made her feel rushed? What if after the experience she thought I was restless nutcase?
I then turned to Libra lesson #537 – Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt
(A refresher of Libra lesson #1 – Include OTHERS.)  


And my friend turned out (as expected) to be a lovely city-trip companion. We talked on the train ride downtown, catching up on each other’s lives. She provided us with an expert sense of direction (she works in the area) while I took the pictures, and never once did she complain about the brisk pace as we weaved in-and-out of the mob of tourists.

By lunch time we arrived to our chosen restaurant exhausted but ready to eat. We talked some more and tried interesting varieties of Mexican food. I’d gotten great photographs, the trip much more enjoyable with the company.



The following weekend, I was a happy hare again, editing my photos in the solace of my quiet den. The peace of the indoors was nice, but for once, not as fun as the memories of my duo-adventure out into the world.

The lesson became clear: trekking through life alone has its merit, but having a partner in crime gives you the collaborative experience.  

And I came across a quote that summed it all up—Libra and Aries, Turtles and Hares:

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

                                  -         African Proverb


Take it from a Libra in training - if one is grand, two is better.  J

                                                                                                   -         SNG