The Ants Go Marching One by One

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Ant cookie from The bearfoot Baker.

This blog needs a good airing. Let me set aside all things books, open the window, and allow some fresh air and sunshine to come in. Yes, the sun is shining today. It will be raining and snowing again tomorrow, but for today, there is a glimpse of spring, and I’m pretending it’s much warmer than the 40 degrees on the thermometer.

So what shall we talk about?

I choose insects as the topic for today, because I seem to have a history with ants. It all started when I was a child, and a Saturday morning rolled around. My mother came into the room I shared with my older sister. She had called for us to wake up a few times, but we had ignored her, and by coming into the room, we knew she meant business. There were chores to be done before we could take off on our bikes for the day.

I remember Mom standing there staring at me with her mouth open and a deep frown on her face. What? What did I do now? I wasn’t even out of bed yet.

“What do you have all over you?” she asked.

I sat up, focused on my bed, and promptly bolted up into a standing position and started jumping and hopping on my bed, while screaming and writhing with the heebie-jeebies. My bed, and therefore me, too, was covered with ants!

The source was soon discovered. Before going to bed, I had tossed my sneakers into the nearby closet, and they had something sweet on them. Whether it was something I had stepped in, or something I had climbed into via a tree, there were a million ants in my closet, and they had come up onto and into my bed.

Thankfully, they were the garden variety ant and not the biting kind.

Moving on.

When I was nineteen, I moved into my first apartment. It was a basement apartment in a large complex, and it was basically one big room with one door leading into a small bathroom. There was very little counter space, so when I wanted to make sugar cookie cutouts at Christmas, there wasn’t room to cool the massive amount of cookies I was baking. I spread a clean tablecloth out on the living room floor, and as the cookies came out of the oven, I transferred them from the cookie sheets to the tablecloth.

Imagine my surprise when after a time, the cookies appeared to be decorating themselves.  Yep, an army of ants had invaded and covered nearly half of the cookies. It was winter for crying out loud!

Some of you know we homeschooled our son. Rather than to give in to the recommendations of Imageour local school and medicate the hyper boy, I quit my job to stay home and school him myself. I didn’t have a clue how to start, but I figured it out, and we had a blast. A lot of our studies were done by focusing on one thing at a time – unit studies.

One summer, we did a unit study on ants. We started by setting up an ant farm in the house. Those kits are actually very cool. We started a war in our ant farm by putting a couple of big black ants in with the smaller common ants. We didn’t know they weren’t compatible, and the little ants attacked the big ants, overtook them in quick order, and threw their dead bodies onto the garbage heap at the side of the farm. It was somewhat horrifying to me, but the boy loved it.

One day we went sugaring for ants. We made ant bait by mashing a banana and stirring in a good amount of sugar. We smeared the bait onto the base of a tree trunk, and then we settled into lawn chairs to watch and wait for the ants to come. It took an hour before we noticed a steady stream of ants marching to the banana mash and then back to their anthill. There appeared to be more than one colony coming from different directions, and they truly did march single file, one by one. It was amazing.

ImageSo, ants and I share a long history.

How about you? Tell me your best insect story? Have you ever had ants in your pants?

Please Remain Seated Until the Ride Comes to a Complete Stop

I hate roller coasters. They scare me like crazy, and I’m lucky I was never sick on one.Image

Many years ago, I went to Myrtle Beach with three of my girlfriends. We ended up at an amusement park. I didn’t want to ride the roller coaster, but I also didn’t want them to know I was afraid, so, of course, I hopped on.

The first turn was made at the top, and as we leveled out, all I could see was the ocean ahead of me. The feeling of flying down the first hill was that of plunging into the ocean. I don’t remember much else other than a sick feeling. I was so relieved to get off of that roller coaster.

I’ve said before that if I only ever wrote my books to entertain my mother and my sister, it would have been worth it. Although I’ve hoped for more, that statement has always been true. I’ve been wondering why I’ve had so much unease lately. Last Saturday night, I had a light bulb moment. I realized the unease was coming from the emotional roller coaster I was still riding – and I wanted off!

Downloads, no downloads. Sales, no sales. Reviews, no reviews. Up and down and up and down and up and down. Whether I realized it or not, the ride was constantly running in the back of my mind.

I allowed the car to pull into the station, come to a complete stop … and I got off.

Last July, when I realized I had made total royalties of $74.72, Rich said to me, “Honey, $74.72 is more than you ever thought you’d make. You’re way ahead of the game.” He was right then, and he’s still right now.

I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed I would when I sat down to write my first story. I’m happy with the success I’ve achieved, and I’m not getting back on that roller coaster.

We will soon be out riding the motorcycle again, and I’m relieved I’ll be riding without nagging worries riding along with me. I already feel lighter, and I’ll be sure to report all of the crazy things Rich and I get into this summer while we’re out. In the meantime, I’m going to set my mind to working harder on Maple Leaf Hunter. I have a few fans waiting for it.

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The Voices in My Head

The voices aren’t really in my head. They’re in the head of Marcus Matherne (pronounced ImageSmith).

Marcus is an author who has a blog here at WordPress, and in my effort to support WordPress authors this year, I recently read Marcus’ book, My Status Update Journey.

I wasn’t going to read it just yet. I’m in the middle of another book, and I’m chomping at the bit to get to the next one on my list. I wonder where Marcus’ book is on my list. Let me check and see.

Ok, I’m back. A lot of you have written books, you know. My list is quite long, and to be fair, I’ve already read Marcus’ picture book for children going to school for the first time, Big Yellow School Bus, so, hopefully, he won’t be offended when he reads this and finds out he was number fourteen on my list.

But then the power went out last Monday night. I finished reading a book on my Nook, and I played “Where’s My Water” until my Nook died. Now what?

My new Kindle Paperwhite was charged, but that meant starting a new book. I didn’t want to get Imageinto something deep, so I started flipping through my library and spotted Marcus’ book. Why not? I’d give it a shot.

Oh my gosh! This book is funny!

I rarely laugh out loud when I’m by myself, and I suppose I didn’t laugh out loud when reading this, but I did chuckle out loud quite a few times. COL!

Marcus downloaded his Facebook status comments from a span of about three years, and pulled out the best of them. His commentary around these “status update” comments is worthy of a stand-up comic with perfect timing. His stories are entertaining, and some are downright hilarious, with most revolving around his wife and two sons.

Can you imagine a grown man driving his two boys all around town so they could find every bench in town. The boys would hop out, sit on the bench, Marcus would take a picture of them sitting on the bench, and off they would go to the next bench where they would do it again. This still tickles my funny bone.

His blog post here was inspired by my telling my mother his story from the book about children needing their behinds wiped. She laughed as hard as if I had told her a great joke.

Then there was the clapping of hands. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. He writes: The next time I am in an important meeting or in a crowd of strangers, I’m going to start clapping like crazy. When people start to stare, I’ll just say, “I’m happy and I know it.”

I muffled a laugh so I wouldn’t wake Rich up when I read, “There was one time that I saw a half of a jelly doughnut lying there spilling its guts out. I felt like I was at a crime scene and almost called 911.”

There are even a few pictures in his book. I especially liked the one where his face was pressed against a flatbed scanner – and his eyes were open!

I enjoyed My Status Update Journey and a look into the life of Marcus and his family. The man Imagestill loves Froot Loops. What’s not to love!

This is a perfect read for when you want something to fill the gap. Read it on an airplane, or read it at the beach. Read it over a few lunches or while waiting for an appointment. It’s a great palate cleanser, so to speak, between other reads.

I hope you, too, will consider supporting WordPress authors this year, and add Marcus Matherne (pronounced Smith) to your list of authors to read. I know you will laugh.

In case anyone wonders … I purchased my copy of My Status Update Journey. Marcus did not ask for a review, and my review today is based solely on the fact that I enjoyed his book enough to recommend it to my friends. Check out his reviews at Amazon; I’m not the only one!

I spent the day with my mother and then picked Rich up at the airport. Did he have fun in Vegas? You bet he did … he ate bacon for dinner one evening! I came home this evening to find a wonderful review of Sunshine Hunter by my friend, DaydreamsinWonderland at CardCastlesInTheSky. I hope you’ll pop on over to read and say hello!

CardCastlesInTheSky

Sunshine Hunter opens up on the note of an interesting dramatic comedy. (It reminds me of some great movie or play rather than a book.) Although the core of this story is set in mystery, you’ll find a great deal of humor involved. Our main character, Susan is a fun-loving, independent, strong-willed, young woman all of which are part of her undeniable charm. After a fine taste of some back-story, you come to meet a colorful cast of characters. Each person in this neat little web has intriguing traits of their own. Most readers should find this lovely set of friends and neighbors lovable, relatable, and maybe even water cooler chat.

This book was largely enjoyable for me. I’m not normally a reader of many genres outside of horror but this was well worth the trip. To anyone that may be steered away, I highly recommend giving something…

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What is it with Men and Bacon?

I came downstairs last Sunday morning, and Rich was watching United States of Bacon on Discovery Channel. People were eating 5-ounce chunks of thick, hickory-smoked bacon-on-a-stick, and my husband was drooling.

“Honey,” he said. “I swear this is just like watching porn.”

Not that he watches porn.

I laughed, shook my head, and asked him what was the deal with men and bacon? Women like bacon, but they don’t turn into idiots when it’s on television, or when they’re cooking it, or even when they see it in the grocery store. Bacon awakens something deep inside of men.

He recently did some computer work for a friend. It took a couple of trips and several hours to complete the work. HE TOOK PAYMENT FOR HIS SERVICES IN BACON. Seven pounds to be exact.

We’ve joked about bacon here before, and some of you may remember his bacon poem. He wrote it for me to enter into another blogger’s poetry contest, but I refused:

Slice it, smoke it, fry it up quick.
Make sure it’s done, or it might make you sick.
Splattering grease burn, it looks like a freckle.
An apron protects you, especially your schmekel.

(Yes, we’re really twelve years old, and the poem still makes me laugh.)

When I make potato soup, he wants bacon in it. Fried cabbage? Only with bacon. Bacon on Imagepizza. Bacon-wrapped steaks. Bacon on baked chicken. Bacon on burgers. Bacon in baked beans. Bacon and eggs, of course. It never ends, and just the smell of it as it cooks reduces him to the grinning village idiot.

A 2009 study in Britain showed men to prefer the smell of bacon over babies. Why am I not surprised? When I told this to Rich, he replied, “Well, that makes sense.”

Bacon is addictive. Per wikipedia: bacon possesses six ingredient types of umami, which elicits an addictive neurochemical response.  … “the chain lards on bacon” create a one-of-a-kind product that has no taste substitute.

You can’t help it if you love bacon: “Bacon makes you feel happy, satisfied, blissful, which greatly reduces stress in our lives and effectively relieves the negative effects of frustration, self deprivation and sense of lack in ones existence.” Bacon is nature’s candy.

I’ll close with some final thoughts from my husband:

– Bacon is like fine wine, except you fry it.

– There is nothing better than bacon and eggs – minus the eggs.

– There is no proper way to prepare bacon.  Whether it’s almost burnt, or fried just enough, it’s perfect every time.

– Kevin is one of the luckiest guys on earth!

– Just because there are no bacon paintings by van Gogh doesn’t mean he didn’t paint one.

– Did you know that no matter what you type into Google Images after the word bacon, you will get legitimate results?  From bacon automobiles to bacon zombies, you’ll get real bacon results.  Try it.  ImageDo you love bacon? When was the last time you ate bacon? What’s your favorite way to eat bacon?

Is Your Book Cover A Stinker?

I know I’ve had a lot of posts lately about my books, but I promise I have a bacon post coming up.

*** BACON ***

If you are a man reading this, please comment as to if that word caused some type of reaction within you. I’d like to know for my research.

Today, I want to talk about book covers. I’m not an expert, and for as many times as I’ve Imagechanged my covers, I am definitely not the person to be giving you advice.

The look of a cover is not a deal breaker for me, but some definitely pull me in more than others. I do like when a cover gives me an idea about the book – at least the genre. I saw a lovely cover recently that gave the impression of being a memoir, both via the title and the soft abstract style of the design. I was surprised to read the blurb and discover it was a romantic comedy.

I know my covers don’t follow the rules of the experts. They wouldn’t like the font, the placement of my name, or the fact that they are on the “busy” side. They would be critical of my using a clichéd pink theme for chick lit. I don’t care. I wanted pink covers, and I was going to have them.

It was my idea to have Susan in gym clothes with a racquet in Florida. I thought racquetball would play a strong role in all of the books, but it doesn’t. It isn’t even the main theme of Sunshine Hunter.

After the fifth book was published, I knew it was time to make the first one free. Then it hit me – change the cover again! I sent this note to my niece: “You won’t believe this, but I want to go back to Sunshine Hunter. I think the sports theme is keeping people from giving the book a chance.”

The book is chick lit first. There is a mystery, a little romance, and some humor. Having a Imageracquet on the cover was definitely giving the wrong impression. I think I realized this several months back, but I didn’t act on the nagging feelings.

The book went free at Barnes & Noble on February 20. The cover change showed up the next morning. I saw later that the book was promptly listed by two Nook Facebook sites, and the downloads at Barnes & Noble started right away. I didn’t know it at the time, but sales of the other books in the series started the very next day.

I truly believe that changing the cover on Sunshine Hunter to a cuter, more girly cover representing Chick Lit made a huge difference in people choosing to download the book or not. To all of the over 20,000 people who have downloaded the book so far – thank you! Thank you to everyone who has read their download, and another big thank you if you have chosen to read more of Susan’s (mis)adventures. I’m grateful and appreciative.

bacon

Bacon post coming up. I promise!

Have you always loved your book cover? Have you had any nagging feelings about it? Have you changed your cover, and if so, how many times? I know I’m not alone in this.