A Trip to the Library

library

I’ve been looking for a change of scenery for writing.

I considered a few of the coffee shops in the area, but I can see an additional ten pounds in my future if I go that route, because, you know, they sell treats to go along with their highly sugared cold coffee drinks, and sometimes, resistance is futile.

Rich and I recently went to our county library to check it out. I thought it would be a good place to take my laptop and write for a few hours several times a week. There is a large room with a half dozen tables, a sofa, and two chairs. The magazines and newspapers are in this room. There are loads of windows, and the room is bright. It seemed perfect.

The following Monday, I packed up my things, and off to the library I went.

I arrived at 11:00. I dropped some notes to myself throughout my work. I thought I’d log some thoughts of my first day at the library. Here’s the first note:

Forgot the damn book.

Forgive my French. I was all set up and ready to write only to realize I forgot to grab the most current version of my book from my laptop upstairs and transfer it to my traveling laptop downstairs. I was soooo frustrated. I picked a future scene out of my mind and began writing.

Here’s the next note to myself:

11:30 – yawning, looking at clock, wondering if I can go home yet. Feel lost without book to look back on. 223 words so far – that’s 446 per hour  – 2 ½ hours to get to 1,000 words. That’s crap. Could use some M&M’s, but there’s no food allowed in library. Chair is really hard and cuts into the back of my legs.

Whine, whine, whine. And, for the record, it’s been FOR.EV.ER since I’ve grazed on M&M’s while writing.

I had my iPad with me. Fifteen minutes later, I sent this message to Rich:

45 minutes and I’m already ready to come home. I forgot to bring my current book with me. I’m struggling to remember where I left off and what to write next. Washed the car on the way down here – ha! – the trunk lid wasn’t latched. You thought it was wet in there before. And I forgot my mouse! I hate using this pad thingy. If there’s any good news, it’s that I have almost 500 words done so far. I’m making progress.

He ignores me. Several minutes later, I send this message to him:

If you whine in the forest and there’s no one to hear, is it audible?

Still no response. I buckle down and do some writing. At 12:30, this message goes his way:

1,131 words. I’m leaving at 1:00. I have to stop at the store and pick up a few things on the way home.

He still ignores me. I continue writing … and I’m on a roll.

Final note to myself:

1,857 words. The end of first day writing and two hours in the library.

Not great, but not bad. The drawbacks to writing at this library were that every time I coughed, it sounded three times as loud because of the echo effect. My clacking keyboard keys weren’t that loud, but they sure sounded loud in that room. And, I was surprised by how many people talked loudly on cell phones or just talked loudly to each other in the room. Using earbuds to listen to music on my iPad helped but didn’t quite drown everyone out. Even the library workers made a lot of noise using a microfiche machine.

I’m going to try a different library. There’s a library closer to us that isn’t quite as large. I won’t have to deal with an echo, and I think the workers are stricter when it comes to talking.

Do you have a favorite place to write? Have you tried writing outside your home? I’d love some new ideas.

Oh! And Rich wasn’t ignoring me. He was visiting with his brother-in-law and left his phone in the den. I guess my whining wasn’t audible after all.

Ah…Stanley Pearl. He’s Free.

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I don’t remember how Stanley’s story came to me or why I even started to write it, but I have an email I sent to my sister on April 8, 2015 where I made this comment: “When you have time, would you read this please.  It’s the first chapter of a completely new story – you know – that Stanley Pearl guy who showed up yesterday and demanded I write about him.”

Interestingly enough, April 7 is Rich’s and my wedding anniversary. Stanley showed up on that day and demanded I write his story. Hmmm.

The book was fun to write, and even though I kept putting it on the back burner in order to write in my current series, it was never too long before I was adding words to the story.

Stanley Pearl hit the market in June with little to no fanfare, and because I didn’t have a way to know how well the book would be received, I opted to apply for a Readers’ Favorite review.

That review came in today with a 5-star rating. Here’s the takeaway:

“Stanley Pearl is a fun and fast-paced darkly humorous story about an accountant and single dad’s sudden immersion into a life of intrigue, danger and even soul-shattering romance. Cochere’s plot is sly and masterful as she parallels her hero’s life with that of his fictional character. Stanley’s tale is part delayed coming of age, part mid-life crisis, and seeing him develop from an otherworldly and somewhat reclusive accountant into a suave man of action is entertaining indeed. The author’s characters are credible and real, and her story delivers on a number of levels. Stanley Pearl is most highly recommended.”

The review was given by a man! It was so nice to get feedback from a man that I wrote Stanley’s character as credible and real.

It’s been a while since I’ve given away any free books, so let’s give Stanley away!

Please note that Stanley Pearl is a bit racier than I usually write but would still garner a PG-13 rating at the movie theater.

Here is a code for a free ebook at Smashwords. This code is good through the end of the month and expires on August 1stYL58R. Simply go to the book page on Smashwords and enter the code at checkout.

If you would prefer to have a free ebook through Amazon, please let me know through the comments section below and I’ll email a redemption link from Amazon to you. You’ll then simply have to click the link to download your free copy.

If you choose to read the book, I hope you enjoy Stanley’s story!

A Publishing Update

Phew! It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I had hoped to get back to blogging on a regular basis, but that thing called LIFE got in the way (Rich sick for over a year, nearly died, made a full recovery … all is well).

I’ve been writing again, and I’ve recently published two of the three books I’ve been working on for over a year.

The first is number eight in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series – Murder Breaks the Bank. I’m still enjoying writing the antics of Jo and her family, and I don’t have plans to end the series.

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Two weeks before Thanksgiving, a man hires the investigative firm of Two Sisters and a Journalist to protect him. Jo Wheeler accompanies him to the bank with disastrous results. Jo, Pepper, and Jackie must now scramble to find out who murdered their client before Sergeant Rorski sends the wrong man to prison.

A rash of car vandalism and a Brussels sprouts caper also keep the three women on their toes, and it doesn’t help Jo’s mounting headache that Mama is preparing a comedy routine for open mic night at a favorite pub.

The second book, Stanley Pearl, is a standalone novel written from a male point of view. Before you ask how I could write from this perspective, let me assure you that Stanley was easily cobbled together from my three brothers, my husband, my son, and four male dogs that used to inhabit our home … but mostly my brother who is some type of corporate auditor and fits Stanley quite well. I enjoyed writing this book and have billed it as “romance, suspense and a splash of humor.”

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Stanley Pearl’s life has been turned upside down. His wife ran off with another man, leaving Stanley to raise his teenage son alone. He takes the summer off from his accounting position to stay home with his son and write the novel he always dreamed of writing.

When a wealthy client demands Stanley help her nephew with his less than legal accounting, he has no choice but to say yes. Before he can deliver the finished work, his client is abducted, and Stanley soon discovers he has something the captors want.

A waitress at the coffee shop where he has been writing offers to help Stanley by introducing him to her ex-CIA brother. There’s no denying the chemistry between Teresa and Stanley, but can he stay alive long enough to explore the possibility of a relationship?

The third book, Delicious Death, is in progress. It’s the first in a new cozy mystery series set in fictitious Appleseed, Ohio. I’d love to publish this book in July, but I suspect August is more realistic.

On a personal level, I’m still playing that silly Don’t Starve video game, but I corralled Rich into playing it with me, so we’re playing the Don’t Starve Together version – daily. It helped to distract him when he was sick, and we have fun together, so there you go. I can’t leave it alone, and Rich has become an enabler.

The motorcycle has been cleaned and prepped, and Rich took it out for a spin yesterday. I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to ride this year when I recently had a knee go on the fritz, but it has settled down nicely, and I think we’ll be meeting friends for ice cream at the horse manure stand soon.

Hope everyone who pops in here is well. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

On a Reading Binge

I signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge last year. Ha! That went well. I committed to reading fifty books. I read a whopping twelve.

I decided to give the challenge a go again this year. With a positive mindset, I set my number once again to fifty books. I can say with confidence that my goal won’t be a problem. I’ve already read twenty-two of the fifty.

I’ve definitely been on a reading binge. I read at night before bed, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, and I read for at least two hours every morning before I start my day. Even though I’d prefer to be able to sleep more, I’m enjoying reading.

I read many books in my own genre of writing, so my list has quite a few fun, light mysteries, but I’ve also picked up some other good reads.

unwanted

I got a big kick out of the western Unwanted Dead or Alive by Gene Shelton. Two ranch hands lose their jobs and decide to try their hand at being outlaws. A reviewer said they were like “Abbott and Costello go west,” and I have to agree.

groovin

Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes by Rich Israel was a hoot! He recounts his travels and travails in the sixties as he traveled around the country during the time of free love and drugs, all the while hoping he wouldn’t be drafted.

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One of my favorite reads so far was The Devil and Preston Black by Jason Jack Miller. The book is billed as Appalachian Noir fiction and “… is your ticket into a world where love can save your soul, where a song can change your destiny, and where evil still hides in the dark corners of the night.” I enjoyed the music references and the description of music as the characters played their instruments. Preston Black was a well-written character. It was easy to feel sympathy for him and to root for him.

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Summer at the Comfort Food Café is by British author Debbie Johnson and had a wonderful mix of humor, heartbreak, and family life. I like when I continue to think about a book days after I’ve finished reading. This book was like that for me.

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I’ve only recently become aware of Richard Branson and what a motivating person he is. I read Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. Having worked in the music industry for several years, I especially enjoyed the stories around Virgin Records, but the entire book was a good read.

Have you signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge this year? If you haven’t, it’s not too late. If you have, what have you read, and what has been your favorite book so far?

Sailing Bravely Into the Unknown

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I’ve been pretty quiet for well over a year now – not only with my blog but also with my writing. It’s hard to write humor when you feel like your world is falling apart.

I’ll spare you the details, but with my mother’s diminishing health, Rich’s allergic reactions to medications, and my own blood pressure problems, it’s been pretty rough at times.

It all came to a head last week when Rich had no other choice than to quit his job of thirteen years. It’ll be a few months before the adverse effects of the medications are gone, and then we’ll see how he feels.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. We are in unknown territory. It was terrifying to think of no more job security, but I’m calm about it – for now. With Rich finally making the decision to stay home and get well, my stress level has reduced greatly. That’s good for my blood pressure and my heart.

What’s also good for my blood pressure and my heart is that I’ve lost twenty-seven pounds since Thanksgiving. After a particularly rough day of heart palpitations, I went cold turkey off added salt, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. I’m eating mostly fruit, vegetables, nuts, and protein.

Do I miss pizza, Taco Bell, M&M’s, and junk food in general? You bet I do, but fear is a great motivator, and I’m too afraid to eat that crap. It’s a good thing I like to cook, because there’s a whole lotta cookin’ goin’ on here. I even make my own spice mixes and salad dressings. It would be nice to have a sous chef.

souschef

The stress reduction was so immediate after Rich quit his job that I’ve been able to work again – with joy. I’d almost forgotten that he was an audiophile, and he has music blaring from the den for a big part of the day. I actually enjoy this. It’s conducive to his healing and spurs my creativity. I’m happy to say, I finally banged out the ending of the seventh book in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series. I even have the main plot and the beginning of the next book mapped out. Onward and upward! This year can only be better than last year, and I’m expecting great things.

I’ll have the cover to Murder Wears a Veil soon. I’ll post it here with an approximate date of publication. And then I’ll get cracking on those Appleseed cozy mysteries.

In other news …

I think I have my Don’t Starve video game addiction under control. … I think I do. … Maybe I do.

And last but not least, or as Word wants me say, finally yet importantly, my friend Tim Dittmer published his second book this week. Five-Toed Tigress. I enjoyed his first book, The Valley Walker, and I’m looking forward to reading his new work. Take a look and grab a copy for yourself! (Click the cover to go to Amazon.)

five-toed-tigress

Bathroom Humor and a Free Book

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My mother is a good sport. I’ve used and abused her in my books but always with a loving heart and with her knowledge and support.

My mother and father were the inspiration behind Susan Hunter’s mother and father. When physically describing Susan’s father, and her close relationship with him, I may as well have been talking about my own late father. Susan’s mother doesn’t resemble my mother in appearance, but many of her characteristics and her love of laughter do. Mom loved reading my Susan Hunter books, and I know she enjoyed knowing so much of her personality went into Susan’s mother.

My mother is now eighty-five years old. A few years back, she proclaimed she didn’t care what people thought any longer. She said she’s lived long enough to say and do what she wants. That made it easy to base Mama in my “Two Sisters and a Journalist” series on my own mother in her later years.

I grew up with three brothers who thought they were comedians. I can’t tell you how many whoopee cushions, fart machines, farts recorded on cassettes, belching contests, and just about any other manner of PG-13-rated potty humor went on in our house. I won’t say which brother, but one of them had so much gas one summer, he kept a notebook and logged each one as it passed.

My mother laughed at those boys until she cried. We all did.

If you don’t know by now, my “Two Sisters and a Journalist” books have bathroom humor in them. With the popularity of Melissa McCarthy and over-the-top humor in movies, I decided to go this route with the series. Where Susan Hunter wouldn’t pass gas in front of herself, Jo Ravens and her family are less couth. There are a few incidences of minor swear words (four in my new book), but they are used as humor rather than as angry swearing.

In Murder Under Construction, Jo laments the fact that her mother passes gas while shopping and then walks away, allowing Jo to come around the corner and walk into the gas cloud. Anyone coming near Jo would assume she was the offender. True story. I told my mother if she didn’t quit doing that to me, I wasn’t taking her shopping any more.

My sister called one day to tell me she picked Mom up to take her to the grocery store, and as Mom walked across the back porch, every step produced a puff of smoke. Upon further inspection, she realized Mom had put foot powder in her sandals. She was laughing so hard, she could barely tell me about it. In Murder Welcomes You to Buxley, Mama has an incident with baby powder in her shoes at the bowling alley.

One of my nieces read Murder Under Construction and asked her mother, “Has Grandma read this? Does she know she’s in here?” The false teeth incident gave it away for her.

My mother has threatened my siblings on occasion. She’ll tell them not to tell me about something she did, because it will end up in one of my books. She’s right, but she always laughs when it does. I know she secretly loves it.

Just last week, I published book number six in the “Two Sisters and a Journalist” series: Murder – A Chummy Affair. Mama is her usual inappropriate and silly self, but her bowling crony Lucille, who was mentioned in a previous book, has a bigger role this time, and she has chronic flatulence.

My mother loved the book and thought Lucille was hilarious. Of course she did! My mother’s middle name is Lucille.

I’m in the mood to give books away today. If you would like a copy of Murder – A Chummy Affair, let me know in the comments section below, and I’ll send a book to you from Amazon. If you need a copy for a different format, I’ll send a code for a free book at Smashwords, and you can choose the file that’s right for your eReader. Just make sure you let me know which venue – Amazon or Smashwords. If you prefer to write and ask me personally, my email is on my About page.

Finally, I was going through old pictures for a family member last week, and I came across pictures of my mother and father. I forgot how attractive my dad was when he was young. He could have been in the movie Grease!

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A Few Reading Recommendations

policeAre there blog police?

If there are, they will be coming to my blog any day now to shut me down for dust, cobwebs, and lack of content.

I love blogging and reading blogs, but I’ve been on a tear writing. This past Wednesday, I published book number four in the Two Sisters and a Journalist series – Murder Wins the Game.

I’m also over fifty percent finished with book number five – Murder Between the Covers. I’m hoping to have the book published by Thanksgiving.

A new series snuck up on me, and I have three chapters finished of Delicious Death. I’m choosing to be optimistic and say the book will be published in time for Christmas. I’ll save the details of that series for later.

A character by the name of Stanley Pearl has been tormenting me since April. He’s not a priority for 2015, but he’s still managed to get me to write three chapters of his story. I expect to finish the book next year.

To top everything off, a reader recently convinced me to write another Susan Hunter book!

I’m sure I’ll be around a little here and there, but for now, let me clear out some of the dust and cobwebs and show you the new book.

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I also want to share some books by my friends and fellow bloggers.

Jackie Phillips at To Breathe is to Write has written and published two books! The Canine Caper is a short story introducing her main character, DeeDee Watson. A Case of Deceit is a full-length novel. The books are fun, cozy mysteries featuring a Papillion. A Case of Deceit was just released this week.

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Carrie Rubin has a new book – Eating Bull. I was honored to read the book ahead of publication, and it’s a great thriller. Not only does Carrie address topics pertinent to many people today – fat shaming, obesity, and bullying – but she writes about the topics in such a way that you will be thinking about the book long after you’ve finished reading. The paperback is available now; the eBook may be pre-ordered for release on November 12.

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And last but not least, Valerie Clarizio has a new release coming out next Tuesday, November 3 – Plan Interrupted. I’ve read other books by Valerie, and I enjoy her writing style. Her books are a mix of romance and suspense, and I’m always entertained.

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Happy reading!

Feel free to add your own new releases and recommendations in the comments below.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch …

But there is a free book!

I was thrilled to receive a notice from Amazon over the weekend that they have agreed to set Murder Under Construction to permanently free. They made the price change today.

Knowing I was ready to set this first-in-series book to free, I pondered the simple cover I had originally devised. With two more books in the series now, the first cover was too plain, and the title wasn’t in the same style as the others. I asked my cover artist to make some changes. With my bare bones idea, and her creative enhancements, I’m thrilled with the new cover.

Murder_Under_Construction_blog_4-2015I’ve mentioned before that my cover artist is my niece. She’s a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. It’s wonderful having an art major in the family, and I love working with her.

I’m busy with an editing project, and I continue to move forward with writing my new book. I may only write a few paragraphs each day, but I am writing!

If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of Murder Under Construction, a humorous mystery, you can find it free at all major online eBook retailers. Links are conveniently grouped at my website: Breezy Books

I now have two books that are permanently free. Tell your friends!

photo_substitute_4-2015Update 03/24/2015 – 8:30 p.m.Murder Under Construction has broken into the top 100 free books in the Kindle Store at #97. It’s also #5 in Cozy Mysteries and #6 in Women Sleuths. I’m excited!!

Info Dump

springflowersRich usually reads my blog posts before I submit them. He will occasionally talk me out of one – like the last one I wanted to post. He said it seemed more a mishmash of information rather than a cohesive post. He was right, and I nixed it.

However, that gave me the idea to do a post consisting of random thoughts, so here we go …

The first item is a tough one: My brother passed away unexpectedly last week. He was a kind man who loved to laugh and loved to make people laugh. I considered doing a post about him. There are many funny stories to tell, but you didn’t know him, and you sort of had to be there for the funny, so I just want to put it out into the universe that he was a good man, and he will be missed. He was only sixty-one.

Age: In April, I am going to be sixty. I haven’t been shy about saying our son is now twenty-eight, and I am a grandmother, but I never mentioned that I didn’t have him until I was thirty-one. I think using Susan Hunter for my avatar may have given the wrong impression about the person behind the image. It wasn’t intentional. I simply didn’t have a current photo when I first began blogging, and I didn’t want to have one taken. I still don’t. Besides, I like the overall branding that came about for my books by using “everything Susan” and everything pink.

A public service announcement: When you are self-employed, be sure to watch your taxes. (Sad story deleted here.) The bottom line – just make sure you hold enough money back – and stop blaming your accountant for missing the big picture even though you told him last fall what your totals for the year would be.

Weather: Can we be done with winter now? I nearly fell on ice again yesterday. I’m ready for spring flowers, and I’m ready to start writing out on our deck again.

Books: I can’t stop reading. I’m sort of out of control. I finally read Creativity For Sale by Jason Surfrapp. This is the book in which I sponsored page 105. Remember? “Two sassy women from Ohio. One finds criminals. One finds dead bodies. They should meet. Books by Maddie Cochere – www.breezybooks.com

I’m still satisfied with the wording I chose, and I’m especially pleased that I was able to write the books and have the two women meet, thereby giving the ad substance. If you’re an entrepreneur, or looking to launch a business or website, or simply want to be motivated to work harder within your business, this is a great book to read. Jason has an engaging writing style, and I appreciated his willingness to share what worked and what didn’t as he embarked on his own creative endeavors.

Creativity_For-Sale1_smYes, that is a pathetic excuse for a snowman, but that is what Ohio is right now. Sloppy and messy, and we need more sunshine. Most people take a picture of the book on the beach or some other lovely locale. I’ve got nothing but the poor snowman with dog biscuit eyes.

Miscellaneous: I haven’t won the lottery yet, I think I’ve turned the corner on a bout of bronchitis, and I’m making spaghetti for supper tonight. I’m going to start spring cleaning soon. The spring cleaning might be a post of its own. I have a feeling it could turn into an adventure.

End Info Dump

Feel free to dump some info of your own into the comments!

An Anniversary and Free Books

February8My anniversary is here again.

Three years ago today, I sat down and began writing my first book.

It’s been a wild ride. The ups are full of laughter, and I have a ball while I write. The downs have been rough, and I’ve wanted to quit several times. However, the downs fade away, and I always come back to writing with a renewed sense of joy and enthusiasm.

But enough about me. Here are some other things that also share the date of February 8:

Who can forget that “I’m Too Sexy (for my shirt)” by Right Said Fred peaked at #1 in 1992. (Oh, wait. We all can – and did.)

James Dean was born on this day in 1931. (I’ve never seen a James Dean movie.)

February 8 is National Laugh and Get Rich Day (Buy your lottery tickets!)

If you are an Aquarius, here is part of your horoscope for today. … aquarius“Just when you thought something was going your way, you realize it’s not going your way at all.” (Glad I’m not an Aquarius today.)

In 1994, Jack Nicholson used a golf club to attack a car. (The driver laughed and got rich to the tune of half a million dollars.)

On television tonight: The premier of Better Call Saul – a spinoff of Breaking Bad. Casablanca is on TCM. CBS has The Grammy Awards with host James Todd Smith. (I’ll be reading with The Grammys on in the background, because The Good Wife has been preempted – again.)

Finally, to celebrate my anniversary, let’s give away some books! There are ten books to choose from. You can see them all on my Breezy Books website. When you leave a comment here, tell me which one you’d like, and I’ll email a code to you from Smashwords. You can grab the book in the format of your choice for free! If you prefer to email your request to me, my email address is on my About page.

Have a great February 8. I am definitely going to do some writing!

BreezyBooks

Good Things Come in Threes

With little fanfare, I released my three new books into the wild yesterday. Within hours, they were in the premium catalog at Smashwords and available at Apple iBooks. Amazon was quick to review and make available the Two Sisters and a Journalist books, but Buckeye Hunter has been stuck in review for over twenty-seven hours now. Hopefully, they will release the book soon.

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Amateur private investigator, Jo Ravens, is the only common link in the murder of three people and the abduction of a cab driver. While police are busy building a case against her, Jo races to prove her innocence. Her sister Pepper and journalist friend Jackie are on hand to assist in catching the real killer. The antics of her ex-husband and eccentric Mama add to this humorous mystery.

 
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Jo Ravens is busy trying to locate a stolen car, find a missing teen, and catch a philandering husband in the act. She already has more work than she can handle when she finds a murdered girl leaning against a dumpster. Jo also meets Susan Hunter when Susan comes to town to assist in the opening of a Slimmers Weight Loss center.

 

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Susan travels to Southeast Ohio to assist in the grand opening of a Slimmers Weight Loss center. There she meets Jo, Pepper, and Jackie – local sleuths from Two Sisters and a Journalist . When a murder is committed on Susan’s doorstep, Jo is the one to find the body. Susan can’t believe the trouble swirling around her even though she is only two hours from home. She makes a life-changing decision in this final book of the Susan Hunter series.

 

That’s all for today. In my efforts to continue chronicling my writing efforts via my blog, I wanted to post the new releases.

I’m going to eat some chocolate now.

What Are You Reading in 2015?

readingchallengeAfter traipsing all over Northeast Ohio for sixteen years to attend library book sales, I assembled a nice collection of hardcover books for myself. Other than my Janet Evanovich books, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve actually read from my bookshelves.

Enter the era of the eReader.

Rich bought a Nook for me in 2011. Many of my blogging friends had books available only at Amazon, so I bought a Paperwhite in January of 2013. This past summer, I couldn’t pass up a great buy on a Kindle Fire.

The amount of free, public domain, and purchased books on those three devices would fill a small house. I’ve only read a few of them.

I used to be an avid reader. I always had two or three books going at one time, and I could usually read a book in a day.

I don’t know when I stopped reading. I’ve made a few attempts in the past to read again, but I simply couldn’t find the time.

When I recently logged into Goodreads, I saw the notice for the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. I set a goal of twenty-five books. I thought one every two weeks sounded just about right for me. I had no idea the challenge would light a fire under me to start reading with zeal again. As of this morning, I’ve read eight books this month. I suspect I’ll be increasing my goal soon. (Side bets may be taken now for how soon I’ll peter out.)

books2015I’m finding out some things about my reading habits …

I like reading in bed at night until I fall asleep, which could be after five minutes or after several hours. I read for at least half an hour before I get out of bed every morning.

I keep a hardcover book on my desk downstairs and one on my desk upstairs. Depending upon whether I am editing (downstairs) or writing (upstairs) determines which book I’m reading. For most of my day, I rotate around writing/editing for an hour and reading for twenty minutes.

I tend to drag my Kindle with me around the house. If I decide to take a longer break and land somewhere else for a bit, I have a book with me.

I have no problem whatsoever dumping out of a book and deleting it from my eReader simply because I don’t like it. I’ve tossed three so far this month. One was written in a style I didn’t enjoy. I was gone at the 8% mark. I settled down fully prepared to love the second book. I loved the writing style and the dialogue was great. However, the subject matter was dry and depressing. I managed 32% before giving up. This author has more books in the same series. I’ll probably try another one later. The third started great, but devolved into nothing more than descriptions of criminal acts and a pretty blatant attitude against women. I hit the delete button on this one at 11%.

The only books I’m listing on my Goodreads challenge are books I’m currently reading and confident I will finish. When finished, the book is going to get five stars. I read for enjoyment; I don’t read to critique. If someone is a good storyteller and has entertained me for the few hours it took to read the book, they get five stars from me. Thank you for the good read.

The next book to be added to my list? A fifty-cent book sale find – a 1964 Erle Stanley Gardner hardcover with a dustjacket, The Case of the Phantom Fortune. I love a good Perry Mason mystery.MasonPhantom1

How many books do you hope to read this year? Have you signed up for the Goodreads challenge? What are you presently reading? Do you read more than one book at a time? Do you give up on books that don’t entertain you? What are your reading habits like? Chime in!

 

On Hiatus

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A girl can dream.

Rather than to simply disappear for weeks on end, as I am wont to do, I thought I’d leave a note that I am taking a leave from blogging for a while.

The house needs a good spring cleaning, and I’m trying to write two books at once. April also brings our 25th wedding anniversary, my birthday, and Easter. It will be a busy month.

I may check in with your blogs now and then, but I hope to buckle down to writing and stop allowing myself to be so distracted.

Comments are closed. I’ll be starting today to sneak a few M&M’s, crank up the music, and write. See you in a few months!

Oh, Look! A Squirrel!

There are always fun lists around WordPress. A couple with irrationally-loved things caught my attention lately. I thought I’d share one thing I irrationally love:ImageEver since we bought our first computer nineteen years ago, I’ve been in love with fonts. When we homeschooled, we put out a monthly newsletter for the grandparents and spiced it up with fonts. I would peruse them for hours at a time, searching for just the right ones.

ImageImageImageLast evening, I was searching for a font, and I looked at all of them on Font Squirrel. I loved the test drive feature and took several of them out for a ride.

ImageImageImageThe font in my blog header is Parisian. I specifically chose it because of my French heritage, but I also liked the clean lines and couldn’t resist the curl on the Rs.

ImageImageImageI tend to like and use fonts that are on the frilly side, but I appreciate all types.

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What about you? Do you like fonts? Are you as obsessed with them as I am?

By the way, the samples I included – they make a list of ten simple things I love.

~ ~ ~

I caught up with a few blogs recently, but it will be a while before I’m on a regular blogging schedule again. If I haven’t been by to see you lately, I will soon. I’m still trying to rebuild my follow list. I had quite a few blogs disappear, and my reader is acting squirrelly lately and not showing all posts.

Creating Characters

ImageMany of the characters in my books were created from people I know or have known in real life. My mother recently commented that the characters in my new series remind her of our family. There’s a good reason for that, Mom.  Image

A few bloggers have made their way into my books in one fashion or another. The latest is my friend Jackie at To Breathe is to Write.

Last year, I was having a hard time completing Maple Leaf Hunter. I was afraid when it was finished, my writing days would be over. However, my blog post of May 15 tells how the idea for my new series came about. Here is part of Jackie’s comment that day:

“I TOLD YOU SO!!! I TOLD YOU YOU HAD MORE BOOKS IN YOU AND ONE DAY IT WOULD JUST POP OUT!!! … I am volunteering to be one of the sisters!!! or, one of the characters. hehehe. I just love the concept and can’t wait for the first book. Big hugs!!”

I responded:

“I can put you in the book as a character. A famous writer friend in the neighborhood!”

When I started writing the book, the new character was quick to surface. In the first chapter, Jackie rushed onto the scene as the town’s star journalist. A short time later, she muscled her way into the series title: Two Sisters and a Journalist. That wasn’t planned, but it works, and it still makes me laugh.

Real life Jackie portrays herself as a redhead in cartoons on her blog, she loves to cook, and Imageshe’s writing a novel. These same three things also describe the voluptuous Jackie character in my new series.

Here’s another snippet from my work in progress. This one highlights Jackie.

– – –

Before he could respond and defend Officer Collins further, Jackie rushed in like a whirlwind. She glanced around the room. I knew she was taking stock of our appearance and demeanor.

It was obvious she had dashed right over. Usually impeccably dressed, she was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, with a sweater thrown on for warmth. Blessed with boobs, curves, and flowing red hair, Jackie was a siren. Howard’s eyes were shining and bulging as he unabashedly looked her up and down before noticing the blue pie box in her hands.

She moved to the table to look the girl over, sidled up to the coroner, and said, “It’s been a while, Howard. I thought you might like an apple pie since you’ll be working late tonight.” Her voice was sexy. I bit my lip again. She knew exactly how to play the man.

“My favorite,” he said. His eyes returned to her chest. “I can’t believe you remembered.”

She looked over at me and winked. I was going to have a hole in my lip if I bit any harder. She pointed to the body and asked, “Was this you?”

I shook my head. “Not this time. She fell out of the trunk of her cab over by the railroad tracks on Maple.”

Image– – –

Jackie has interviewed me for her blog post today. I hope you’ll pop on over to say hello and read the interview. It was fun answering her questions.

Before you go, leave a comment and tell me how you come up with your characters.

Let’s Chat about Writing Dialogue

Not surprisingly, I’ve drifted away from blogs and social media lately. I’m determined to buckle down and finish Murder Is Where the Heart Is.

Because I wrote the book so quickly during National Novel Writing Month, over five thousand words have been tossed. There is a ton of rewriting yet to do. I’ll get there. I simply need to focus.

However, there is a special reason for posting to my blog today.

I originally started blogging to chronicle my writing experiences. For that reason, I want to mark another milestone. Today is my two-year anniversary of becoming a writer.

Woo-hoo! Break out the M&M’s!

I thought it fitting to pick a writing topic for this post.

I chose dialogue for two reasons. First, I enjoy writing dialogue. Second, my blog post of September 18, 2012 has page views every day. Is Your book Dialogue Heavy has been visited more times than any of my other posts.

In that post, I expressed my discontent with a book I had read that was packed full of dialogue. I wrote: I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it being told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made.

I still feel the same way, but I also still believe that enjoyment or dissatisfaction with the amount of dialogue in a book is ultimately the personal preference of the reader.

Let’s move on today to writing dialogue. I have a few things to share.

When I first began writing, I realized the story was playing in my mind like a movie. It was easy to write what I was seeing and hearing. It’s still like that for me most of the time.

I read several articles about dialogue, and two simple things helped me the most.
– People don’t use perfect grammar when they speak.
– People usually use contractions when they speak.

Reading my dialogue aloud helps tremendously to hear if it sounds realistic or not.

I often envision favorite television or movie actors playing out scenes. My Jo Ravens character isn’t blonde, but at times, I envision her facial expressions, manner of speaking, and even her laughter, as that of Katherine Heigl’s. It worked perfectly as I wrote the following short scene from my work in progress.

– – –

(Quick setup: Jo is at a wedding reception. The adults are avoiding her.)

I sat at a table where two young boys were playing with handheld video games. The boys were oblivious to my presence until I popped the second meatball into my mouth. One of them scowled at me.

“Hey, you got me in trouble.”

My eyes widened. I held back a smile. “I did not,” I said.

“Did too,” he said.

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

I leaned forward, stared the kid down, and asked, “How did I get you in trouble?”

“Geez, lady, once you started laughing, I started laughing, too.”

The second boy finally looked up from his game and said, “Me, too.”

The first boy finished his tale of woe. “My mom pinched me to make me stop laughing. It hurt like crazy.” He lifted his shirtsleeve to show a small bruise.

I gave him a look of sympathy and mouthed a silent, “Wow.”

“My mom gave me the death stare,” the second boy said. “That kept me from laughing.”

I pulled my lips in between my teeth and bit down, struggling to hold back laughter. I finally said, “Well, you have to admit, the helicopter was pretty funny. So was the preacher taking a dive.” I raised one eyebrow, smiled at the boys, and nodded my head to encourage them to agree with me.

The second boy laughed and said, “I know! I’ve never seen a preacher move so fast.”

The first boy put his hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle a laugh, but a sourpuss woman quickly extinguished it for him when she tugged his arm hard enough to lift him out of his chair and whisk him away. The second boy might as well have been tugged, too, because he was gone in a flash.

– – – Image

Dialogue. It’s my favorite part of writing.

Share your best tips. What helps you write dialogue?

140 Characters

I’ve chosen my 140 characters for my ad in Jason SurfrApp’s upcoming book, Creativity for Sale.

After mulling over all of your great suggestions, and then doing a bit of research on book and movie taglines, I came up with this for my submission:

Two sassy women from Ohio. One finds criminals. One finds dead bodies. They should meet. Books by Maddie Cochere – www.breezybooks.com

Want to know some of my thought process behind the line?

– I like the deadpan feel of the saying. I decided against using exclamation marks or trying to force the humor aspect.

– The word “sassy” gives the lighter feel I want to impart. The word fits both main characters – lively, bold, and full of spirit.

– Using “criminals” and “dead bodies” denotes the tone of the books. Granted, Susan unwittingly finds criminals, but that minor point isn’t important for the tag. If someone clicks through to the webpage, they are going to find pink and the words, “chick lit” and “humorous mysteries.” It will be obvious my books aren’t gritty, hardcore mysteries.

– I really do think the two main characters should meet…

ImageOh, wait. They will. My new book project for this year will have Susan Hunter traveling to Southeast Ohio to assist in the grand opening of a Slimmers Weight Loss. Jo Ravens and her sister are always trying new ways to lose weight, and they will be right there for the grand opening.

I can’t wait to see their reactions to each other.

A New Book for a New Year

I’m celebrating the New Year with a book!

I’m excited to announce Murder Under Construction, the first book in my new series, Two Sisters and a Journalist, is published and available at Smashwords and will be available in a few hours at Amazon. It will become available at other outlets as Smashwords distributes the book.

ImageThis is the book that came to me out of the blue one day. While my sister was in the doctor’s office, I waited for her in my car. I found a little notebook in my purse, and I started scribbling. By the time she came out, I had scribbled almost 1300 words.

You won’t find pink on the covers of the new series. The main character, Jo Ravens, isn’t a girly girl. In fact, at times, she doesn’t act very lady-like. She’s not a shopaholic, men don’t swoon over her, and she’s not a crier.

The new series will be more true mystery than the Susan Hunter books, but don’t worry – they’ll still have my own brand of silliness in them. I enjoy writing lighter fare, and the genre for this new series will be humorous mystery.

Four people have read the book so far.

My mother loved the book. She said she liked it better than my Susan Hunter books.

My sister enjoyed the book and said she couldn’t put it down until she finished it; however, she said she likes the Susan Hunter books more. Secretly, I think she loves Mick. That’s what’s going on there.

My dear friend over there in Australia, David Harding, read the book and gave me a wonderful surprise one day by sending this email to me:

Hi Maddie!
Sorry I took so long but I finished your lovely new book and it is great!!!!
I’m so torn – do I like this better than Susan H? I don’t know! It’s so amazing both of these worlds came out of your head! Wow!
And how in the world do you go about writing a mystery that makes sense and is exciting (and funny). I don’t know that either!
So good!
David

His email put me on top of the world. (Of course! Because he’s Down Under!)

And last but not least, my sweet friend, Jackie, wrote a review for the book for my post today. Oh, did I mention the journalist in the book is named Jackie?  Yep! Once again, a blogger provides inspiration for one of my characters.

“Maddie’s new book is a funny, feel good cozy mystery. Even though it has a dead body (I mean a good mystery has to have a dead body!), the dialog between the two sisters and the journalist (which is my favorite, but I am a bit prejudiced) is filled with laughter and love. The secondary characters are believable and round out the book in a great way! I found myself laughing out loud in places and cheering the ladies on! If you want a great read, go get this Imagebook and see what Maddie does so well – write good, fun books!” ~Jackie

I love my early readers!

And yes, I allowed the first line to stand. It was, after all, what started the series.  I swear that body was hard as a rock when my butt bounced off it.

So let’s give some books away to start the New Year!

If you would like an eBook copy of Murder Under Construction, leave a comment and tell me how you would like to receive the book – through Amazon or via a coupon code at Smashwords. I’m offering a limited number of books, but at least thirty, so don’t be shy about asking!

If you are shy (cough, cough, men who like my books but don’t want others to know), feel free to ask for the book through email. My email address is on my About page.         smiley

You can leave comments about other things, too.

Onward and upward! The second book in this new series is the book I wrote for National Novel Writing Month in November – Murder Is Where the Heart Is. Hopefully, I’ll get that book under control and publish it soon, too!

Guess Who I’m Talking About Today

ImageThe Cheeky Diva. Do you remember her? I miss Julie. Her blog was one crazy place to hang out. Her hilarious haiku was the best around. She hasn’t been blogging lately due to a move and a change in jobs – both good reasons, and I’m happy for her.

I bring her up today, because it’s her fault I met Adam Sendek. Yes, folks, we are still talking about Adam Sendek. In case you’ve been living under a rock, I lost a baseball bet to Adam. The loser had to highlight the other on their blog for a week. You know who lost.

Julie mentioned Adam to me a few times. She encouraged me to check him out. She was quite fond of him. I finally dragged myself over to his blog – only to find him Freshly Pressed! Art Blogging vs. Conversational Blogging. Here is our very first exchange: ImageAt that very moment, a friendship was born

His posts cover a variety of topics, and his blog seems to be evolving. It used to be called My Right to Bitch, but now it’s Chowderhead. Don’t let the name fool you; he is one smart guy.

You can thank me for boosting your stats today, Adam. I was digging around through some of your old posts. I looked at your very first post, 5 Creative Ways to Avoid Small Talk. There have been 58 likes (59 now – I pushed the button) and 96 comments on that post. Who gets that kind of mileage over time from a first post? You do!

One of my favorite posts was when we role-played on his blog. We had to address him as Drill Sergeant, Sir! He was going to instruct us in the ways of car buying. I showed up and reported for duty. ImageI came back later looking like this:ImageIt’s never a dull moment at Adam’s blog. His comments are always as much fun as his posts.

I recently listened to a podcast by Peter DeWolf. Adam was his guest, and they were Two Dudes Chatting about Chicks. The conversation confirmed my overall opinion of Adam. He’s caring, kind, and has a soft heart. He admits he’s a hothead, but I think that rounds out his personality in a good way.

He’s a good man, and I haven’t minded at all highlighting him on my blog this week.ImageBut I’m not placing any more baseball bets. And don’t even try to discuss the Super Bowl with me!

Leave a comment! If you know Adam, share something great about him.

Long Awkward Pause

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Christopher De Voss. Nice guy who writes some pretty cool stories and makes me laugh with his blog. I’m a fan since June of 2012.

Are you wondering why I’m mentioning him, when I’m supposed to be yammering about Adam Sendek? (Baseball bet. I lose. Talk about Adam for a week.)

Because Christopher started a new humor blog last July, and I want to highlight it today. It’s Long Awkward Pause, and it’s billed as a Humor Mag of Sorts…  “This is a humor magazine devoted to answering your questions or writing on the topics you, our dear readers would like to read.”

They have a very cool feature, TALK TO US HERE, where you can make requests (or leave comments or complaints or just say hi). Fill out the form, and voilà, one of their writers will cover your request in a post.

I was delighted to see that my favorite Imageadorable chimp who shaves his head, Monk Monkey, is also a contributor to the blog. He and I go way back to last year. We even send emails to each other. (Hello, you cute little primate!)

I know Mike Calahan a wee bit. He’s not a complete stranger to Imageme, but I must admit, I don’t know the other writers. I hope as I have more time in the coming year, I’ll be able to read their work and get to know them, too.

Oh wait.

I know one more person who contributes to Long Awkward Pause. Are you ready for this?

Adam Sendek. Yep! He’s a contributor, and Christopher recently mentioned he was instrumental in the new look of the website. Nice job, Adam!

I asked Adam to write a few words about Long Awkward Pause. So without further ado, here is Chowderhead himself:

ImageLAP is a collaborative comedy team put together by Chris “The Boss” De Voss.  If I were to create a simile for it, LAP is like a monster truck that is being recklessly driven around a mall parking lot on a busy shopping day, destroying mini vans and running over pedestrians walking small dogs.

It’s Chris’s brainchild. I only take orders.  After taking his orders, I usually request new ones, or else edit them until they barely resemble the original orders, and then I order Chris to carry out those orders.  In other words, Chris doesn’t really do much except take orders from me.

The Boss comes to me daily with these grandiose ideas, and then projectile spews them all over the place without really thinking about the cost and implementation end of any of it.  That’s where I come in.  I’m a staff writer first and foremost, but secondarily, I also serve as a consultant to the CEO.

To give you an idea of the typical dynamic, here’s an excerpt taken from a conversation we had last month:

Chris:  hey, I need to ask a favor.
Chowder:  Shoot.
Chris:  I just bought us a blimp, and I need you to call around town and find me a graphic artist that can draw our logo on it.
Chowder:  Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute…you bought a what?
Chris:  A blimp.  You know, like a hot air balloon, but with propellers.
Chowder:  I know what a blimp is.  How much exactly did you pay for this thing?

Chris:  I bought it off of some guy on Craigslist for $250k.
Chowder:  *spits out coffee*  What!!!
Chris:  Every other blimp I found online started off at $300k.
Chowder:  Would you mind opening up that window?  I’m feeling extremely lightheaded at the moment.
Chris:  Sure.  *opens window*
Chowder:  We have to be a little bit more frugal about our spending.  We’re now officially $250k over budget, and it’s only the 2nd of the month.

Chris:  I saved 50k on it.  It was a steal!

Chowder:  How did you even pay for this thing, and where exactly do you plan on storing it?
Chris:  I took out a business loan, and my mom said I could keep it in her backyard until we can afford a hangar for it.
Chowder:  Does your mom live on a football field?
Chris:  Condo.
Chowder:  Jesus Christ.  Ok look, I’m gonna need you to call around town and find out if anybody wants to buy a blimp.

Chris:  Right.  You want another coffee while I’m out?
Chowder:  No, but pick up some Rum and a couple of cokes.  I think there’s a few bucks left in the petty cash jar.  And don’t tell Calahan that we have a petty cash jar.
Chris:  Great.  I’ll report back at lunch.
Chowder:  *shakes head*

*****
Long Awkward Pause is constantly evolving and expanding its concept and brand.  This month we’re excited to welcome in our brand new podcast team – Joe Jewett and Jack De Voss – and our newest staff writer, Aussa Lorens of the website Hacker Ninja Hooker Spy.

Here’s the current lineup under the current format:
BrainRants:  Rantology 101 – Rant Column
Blogdramedy:  That’s Entertainment!  – A Satirical look inside the Entertainment Industry
Mike Calahan:  From the Moderately Cluttered Desks of Mike Calahan – Spoof Journalism
Aussa Loren:  Hacker Ninja Hooker Spy – Espionage Parody
Chris De Voss:  On a Side Note – Funny, Satirical Interviews
Chowderhead:  On this Day in Pop Culture History – Insignificant Pop Culture Events
Justin Gawel:  Confessions of an Adult Child – What it sounds like
Omawarisan:  So Anyways – Random Funny Thoughts
Monk Monkey:  The Comedic Scriptures of a Funky Monk Monkey – Anecdotes by a Religious Monkey
Cordelia:  Culinary Clutz-Ups – Food that belongs on the “Ban List”
John Atkinson:  Original Web Comics
****
For more Long Awkward Pause, visit us at www.longawkwardpause.wordpress.com

A Last-Minute Gift

ImageI’m delighted to have this post up before midnight on Christmas Day. I hope your holidays have been lovely so far.

But first things first … Baseball bet. Me loser. Mention Adam Sendek. Yada yada yada.

With that out of the way, I’m doubly delighted to show you the cover for my new Susan Hunter book. You will be happy to see I restrained myself – a Sasquatch does not appear on the cover.

ImageI’m triply delighted to tell you I have a holiday gift for you. Head on over to Smashwords, and use the following coupon code at checkout to grab the book for free. The coupon is good for at least 48 hours, so there’s plenty of time to get yours.

Coupon Code:

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And finally, lest you think I was unkind to Adam up above, the post about his Great-Grandmother was originally intended to be the Christmas Day post, but he requested it be shared on the 19th. If you haven’t yet read his tribute to his grandmother, it’s lovely. You can read it here.

Noir

Noir (nwär)
adj.

1. Of or relating to the film noir genre.
2. Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
3. Suggestive of danger or violence.

I love movies and books in the noir genre. They are often gritty, dark in their settings, and have Imagehardboiled detectives in leading roles. A femme fatale is also a mainstay in the movies/books.

The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity are two classic movies that fit the genre. The more recent Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a Steve Martin comedy-mystery that is both a parody of, and homage to, film noir and pulp detective movies of the forties.

I always love the part where the narrator tells us of the dame who walks into the gumshoe’s office. She has a tale to tell. There are cigarettes and alcohol involved. We see it in black and white, and the music sets the tone.

ImagePulp fiction magazines of the thirties and forties also fit the bill. Those writers sure knew how to turn a phrase, and some of them are classic (although many are now politically incorrect). I’ve recently read several of Robert Leslie Bellem’s stories. He was a master at using slang and impact words. Typical fare for him would be – “I spooned him a helping of knuckle tonic.” “She slapped me a stinger across the chops.” “Moon’s kisser sagged open and his optics bulged like oysters being squeezed.”

Isn’t that last line so much better than my standard, “Her mouth hung open, and her eyes went wide.”

Ahh, the joys of the genre.

So, all this is a lead up to that guy. You remember him. Adam Sendek. By losing a baseball bet, I must talk about him on my blog every day this week. And I’m happy to do so!

What you might not know is that Adam blogs interesting topics and humor, but he also writes stories. One of my favorites is one he wrote that fit the noir genre well. Here’s the beginning:

“…so I’m sitting in this cafe, slumped over a (bleep*)-warm cup of dark roast coffee, casually tossing ashes into the tray at the end of the table.  The lighting is inadequate where I’m seated, making it difficult to study the entrees on the menu.

I pick up on a one-sided conversation coming from the booth adjacent to me, involving a pig-headed suit and tieyammering into a phone about a stock deal gone sour.  The woman seated in front of the man appears emotionally detached, which is indicated by her body language.  She ignores the man and blankly stares off at a young female clearing the surrounding tables.

I’m overcome with remorse for the woman and her situation, finding myself privately analyzing the dysfunctional correlation between the two. Clearly, she’s numb inside; another wandering soul, financially bound to some corporate meat head

The murmur throughout the diner adds to the endless chatter taking place in my head, but the humming is abruptly halted when, without warning …” GO HERE to read the rest of the story. It’s short, and the comments are fun, too. Add yours to the list!

What about you? Do you like the noir genre, whether it be movies or books? What about pulp fiction? Did you ever read any? Tell me what you think!

(*bleep – It’s a Maddie bleep. My blog is rated PG-13, and even though I probably could have allowed the word to stand, I opted to apply the bleep. Hop on over to Adam’s blog for the more colorful phrasing.)

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It’s December. Let’s talk baseball!

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Yes, Susan Hunter is a Detroit Tigers fan – for one week!

Last March, I wrote a silly blog post about insects. Later that evening, Tim Dittmer and I were having a conversation in the comments section. Some of it went like this:

Me:  Btw, the Indians have a team this year, so methinks your team will not have another crack at the series this year. I’m just sayin’.

Tim:  Oh jeez. Everybody wants knock the Tigers. They sure did go down in flames last year, though.

Me:  I’m not knocking the Tigers. Just setting the stage for some friendly competition this year.

The next day, Adam Sendek showed up and added this comment below our conversation:

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Did I read that correctly? The Indians taking the Central over the Tigers??? Hang on a second, I’m laughing so hard right now that I just might hurl! I’ll be back!
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

And just like that, a bet was born. Please take note: I have an 81-year-old mother who is a diehard Cleveland Indians fan. She had been telling me for weeks how excited she was for the new baseball season. Terry Francona was the new manager of the Indians (and was named AL Manager of the Year for 2013, I might add), and the team had some bats. If they could pull the pitching together, they would be contenders. It wasn’t until after I made the bet with Adam that she told me the Indians wouldn’t win the AL Central over Detroit. Thanks a lot, Mom.

Through emails to Adam, I tried to guide the bet. I offered Imagethese options for the loser to pony up:
$100
$50
$20
A blog post extolling the wonderfulness of the winner.
Mailing something wonderful from the loser’s city to the winner.

Somewhere along the line, Adam suggested a week of blog posts highlighting the winner. I accepted those terms, and alas and alack, here we are today – on my blog, not his.

ImageSo without further ado, I present to you Adam Sendek. Chowderhead himself.  We’ll find out more about him as the week goes on, but for now, let’s ask him about baseball!

What sports did you play as a kid?

Oh the irony…

Well, I always wanted to play baseball as a kid, but I ended up a soccer snob instead.  It ended up being a pretty great experience, however – one with a lot of traveling throughout the state of Michigan, and as far south as North Carolina to play in tournaments.  I still got mad skills too, Maddie.

Don’t make me bust out the YouTube camera to prove it.

At what position would you excel in baseball?

I don’t mean to boast (yes I do), but I was a pretty exceptional softball outfielder for a couple of summers.  I’m talkin’ like, go grab your pom-poms Kevin Griffey Junior while the big boys play some ball.  I did also have a brief stint at Short Stop but didn’t last long at the position.  I quickly realized that my teeth were more valuable to me than making an out.

If you played for the Tigers, what would your nickname be?

“Snarky Anderson”

Only a Tiger’s fan will understand that one.

Have you ever done the wave?

Yes!  \m/  It happened often at the old Tiger Stadium, and occasionally at Comerica Park too.  It’s one of those events that promote a certain kinship among a lot of other really drunk people.

Do you sing along when they play Take Me Out to the Ballgame? Image

Yes.  It’s one of the only two songs that I will sing outside of my vehicle or the shower.  The Birthday Song is the other one.  In both cases, I’m glad there are plenty of people around to prop me up and help drown out the illusion that I can carry a tune.

What do you do during the 7th Inning Stretch?

Whiz.
Grab a beer.
Grab another beer.
In that order.

What are your top five baseball movies?

Well, I would have to say:

The Sandlot is my all-time favorite because Squints wears the same glasses as me and Calahan.

Moneyball is a close second, and an extremely well-done piece of cinema work.

Major League because Charlie Sheen is a goof ball, and I need goofballs to keep me inspired.

Rookie of the Year, because that was the flick responsible for coining the phrase, “funky butt-loving.”

And anything but A League of Their Own for number five.  Even Field of Dreams.

Share with us one memory from the ballpark.

My all-time favorite memory from any ballpark experience was Imagewatching the 2003 Tigers win the last game of the season, keeping them out of the history books as the worst team in MLB history.  They were the worst team in American League history that year, but ended up being one win better than the ’62 Mets.

I can still remember it:  the entire stadium was packed with suburbanites ready to witness another inglorious piece of Detroit history.  It was the only meaningful game played all season.  After the last out you would have thought they just won the World Series…

I’m glad I got to experience it firsthand.  High five!

How many games did you watch this past season, while I was watching the Cleveland Indians play and sweating over our bet?

Sweating over our bet, she says!  Thank you, by the way.  It was the easiest money I made all year.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I saw more than 2 games this year.  My cable package sucks, and I’m still waiting on the maintenance guy from the front office to stop by (at his convenience) to drill a hole in my wall so that I can proceed with my upgrade.

Normally I watch about half the season on TV.  Comerica Park is an insanely cool venue too, and I try to get down there at least a couple of times every summer for a live game.  I start getting burned out with all of it by about July though.  It’s a grind to have to sit there every night and watch baseball unless I’m at bar or playing fantasy baseball.

Yes, I play sometimes.  And yes, I know.    

ImageGreat answers, Adam! See you tomorrow!

A Christmas Gift

ImageChristmas is a wonderful time of year for most people. There are parties, festivities, gifts, and treats. Christmas is also a time of remembrance.

At Christmastime, it’s only natural to think of loved ones who are no longer with us. The holiday is an especially poignant time of year for my family. My father passed away one week before Christmas. My grandmother passed two weeks later. Grandma didn’t know Dad had died, and I always thought she must have been so surprised to get to Heaven and find him waiting there to greet her.

My friend, Adam Sendek (Chowderhead to many of you), has a special remembrance of his Great Grandmother. I’m honored that he has agreed to share his story here with you today:

A Christmas Gift

It was three years ago on this date that I received a Christmas gift that I’ll never forget.  The present was a collection of memories wrapped in modest paper with neatly tucked edges – the box obscuring the contents inside.

My Great Grandmother was the matriarch of our family.  She was the glue that held together a dispersed group of people that were reunited each and every holiday because of her.

She was a Romanian born immigrant, relocated to Austria, and the mother of four small children during the Second World War.  My Great Grandfather served for the German Army during that time, and she was left behind to find a way to keep her unit alive and fed.

I was fascinated by the stories that she told about her time in Austria during the war; the anxiety of having to hide out in a basement with the lights off, sitting quietly with her young family, without her husband, and waiting for the American Bombers to pass over.  The instructions were very simple: don’t turn on the lights.  If the lights were on, that was the signal for the American planes to drop their payloads.

At any moment, life could have ceased at the mere flick of a switch.

They didn’t have the luxury then of indoor plumbing either.  Some of the people in that communal living space would become so terrified during the raids that they’d have to run to the outhouse during the flyovers.

She told me about the times when she would sneak bread through the POW camp fences to my Great Grandfather after he was captured.  She described how all of the grass around and inside the fencing was missing – the captives using it for sustenance by making soup out of it.  Apparently anything feeds a stomach that’s hungry enough.

She told me stories about her peasant upbringing, and about the modest food that they would make out of virtually nothing more than cornmeal, milk, eggs, flour, cabbage, and if fortunate enough, a chicken.  They made and repaired their own clothing, and walked wherever they needed to go, because they didn’t own a car or any other means of transportation.

Christmas was a modest tradition as well, but a very important one.  Homemade gifts and oranges were about all that was ever to be had on the morning of the holiday.  It was a religious holiday – a time for thanks and prayer.

She never went to college, never drove a car, and never had a ‘real’ job per se; but she was a nurturer, a protector, and a provider of so many things to so many people.  Despite her lack of experience in many life categories, she was as sharp as a tack – even at the age of 96.

She spoke four languages, memorized all of her recipes, she was knitter, and surprisingly hip to the American culture, even if she didn’t practice much of it herself.  She was up on politics and current pop culture happenings of the day, yet one would never assume it at a mere glance.  To any outsider she was probably just some little old immigrant lady that needed to assimilate better and work on her English-speaking skills.

She always made something for me to eat whenever she knew I was coming by to visit, and we’d sit together over a half shell of beer and talk.  She was tickled by the little bit of German that I picked up from listening in on the adult conversations over the years.  It was effortless to make her laugh, and she adored me in every way possible – always commenting on how handsome, smart, and charming she found me, and always making a note of our height differential.

She would always tell the same stories about us from when we were little kids.  I knew the stories by heart, and I knew when they were about to happen, because they were always told in the same tone with the same delivery every time.  Even after hearing them so many times before, it never got old because I knew that they were memories that she very much cherished.  Her family was her life.

It was after the War had ended, when she and her family made the long boat trek to the States to start a new life.  They’d been sponsored by family friends that had already moved here – friends from the old country.  She regularly sent care packages consisting of canned food, clothing, and money to friends still living overseas who were surviving on much less.

Life was different now, and the abundance was never taken for granted.  There was so much, and at times it overwhelmed her.  She cried often about the simplest things – the simplest gifts or experiences – and she was grateful for everything she had: a car, a home, a place to earn a living and modest pension, and personal safety.  It was just a simple life built around food, family gatherings, and God.

As I watched her lying there quietly in her hospital bed three years ago today, I remembered all these things.  I recalled the stories and the sacrifices that were made, and all the times that she sent me packing with a hug, a lot of kisses, and some kind of German dish or canned item to have later.  I remembered how much unconditional love she gave to me and the rest of her family throughout her time spent here.

Spending the holiday in the hospital with her wasn’t ideal, but I’m glad I was there with her as she quietly passed away.  It was a time for me to remember her life and the impact that she had on mine.  I didn’t recognize it as a gift at the time, but it turned out to be a gift that was far more important than anything I’d ever gotten any Christmas prior.

On this day a candle is lit to remind us of the place she holds in our hearts.

Thank you, Oma.  You’re a gift never forgotten.
~Adam

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Family Game Night

ImageOne sister + three brothers + two parents + me = game night every night.

Growing up in a household of game lovers was a blast. There was always someone to play with, and we had everything going from board games to card games to ping pong and shooting pool in the basement.

Mom and Dad loved to play games. I have warm, fuzzy memories of my dad laughing like Muttley the dog as we played games around the kitchen table. My brothers thought they were comedians, so there was no expectation of calm or lack of nonsense when we played. In our house, we rushed to finish homework – not to watch television – but to play games.

One of the best parts of Christmas Day was playing the new games. Mom always ordered a few from Christmas catalogs. Thanks to eBay, I was able to buy many of my old favorites to play with our son when he was a little guy – Camp Granada, Park and Shop, Lie Detector, Go For Broke, Careers, and many more. I recently bought a vintage Barbie Queen of the Prom to play with our granddaughter.

That brings me to a new game I’m excited to get my hands on.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know I think David Harding is a great guy – Imagea super great guy! It was his fault we were calling pizza shops last December and asking the employees to draw pictures of gorillas throwing dice under the box lids.

I knew David was working on an actual gorilla dice game, but then this happened:ImageA new idea fell out of his head and onto a little piece of paper.

David Harding has devised a wonderful card game. Elevenses – The Card Game of Morning Tea. In case you’re wondering, elevenses is a real event. “In the United Kingdom and Ireland, elevenses is a snack that is similar to afternoon tea, but eaten in the morning.”

I’m impressed David knew this. I’m more impressed that his game has come to fruition and will be coming to market soon. The game has been fully funded on Kickstarter and is in the last few days of raising money for “overfunding” goals.ImageI’m proud to have had the opportunity to help fund David’s game, and I can’t wait to play Elevenses. Congratulations, my friend. I wish you many more successes in the future! xoxoxo

There is still time to support the game: KICKSTARTER

The gorgeous artwork is done by the lovely T. J. Lubrano.

This is a fun video review of the game by a man who enjoyed pretending he was a lady while playing the game: UNDEAD VIKING

Another video review of the game from a charming couple: COUPLE vs CARDBOARD

DAVID HARDING ♥

Are you a game player? Do you have a favorite board game? Do you like morning tea? I actually like tea quite a bit!

Chasing Caviar with a Double Shot of Gin Killed My Stomach

National Novel Writing Month last year was a hoot.

I remember the experience being frustrating, but I had a blast. I wrote Christopher De Voss into my book as zombie actor, Chris De Floss. When Susan and Darby ordered a pizza, they asked for the toppings from one of David Harding’s real-life pizzas. Two photographs of a fellow blogger were described as paintings in the book. They are hanging in a fictional gallery on Rush Street in Chicago. I used elements from a pulp fiction story in the book, and the cover is fabulously cheesy with a man in a gorilla head mask. I think it all turned out great. Image

National Novel Writing Month this year? Blech.

Before I could start my new book, I simply had to finish Maple Leaf Hunter. I wrote over 27,000 words from the first of the month to the tenth. After that, I did a little editing, suffered distractions from family members, and finally started writing for NaNo on the 18th.

The new book is a humorous murder mystery. I love my opening line:
Chasing caviar with a double shot of gin killed my stomach.

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You can’t beat a murder in the first sentence, and I was off and running. I raced the clock for the next thirteen days and finished with only a few hours to spare at 52,677 words.

For the first time ever, I wrote without editing, and the book is a mess! There are a ton of crossed out words and sentences that need rewritten. I didn’t research as I wrote, and there are numerous details to look up and fill in.

I generally do most of my writing after 7:00 at night. In the morning, I read what I wrote the night before and clean it up. By the time I’m writing again, I know my book is in pretty good shape, and I’m in the right mindset for going forward.

I took the time to edit the first chapter of my new NaNo book. The word count went down by 735 words! Yikes!

So how are things in your neck of the woods?

Shopping for Houses When You Write

Spanish_HomeMy father and my uncles worked together to help each other build their houses. It’s too long ago to remember the details, but I recall each of them being skilled at one particular thing, and all of them able to do a little bit of everything.

I was three years old when Dad built our house, so I don’t have memories of the construction, but I do remember years later when my uncle built a duplex next door to us. The framework was up, and there were planks over cement block footers until the stoops were poured.

One day I angered my brother, and the chase was on. I was running to find Dad to save me, and I jumped onto the boards over one of the holes. The next thing I knew, I was bleeding in the basement. Once Dad knew I hadn’t broken anything in the fall, I got a whippin’ for the disruption to the work process. Ahhh … good memories.

But the best thing about those men building houses was the books. The books with drawings of houses and their floor plans. I spent hours poring over those books and dreaming about the house I would one day live in.

I still love floor plans, and I use them when I write.

When writing Windy City Hunter, I looked at condo floor plans before settling on one from a building I stayed in when visiting the city.

For my new book, Murder Under Construction, I chose a simple two-story home for my main character. I copied the floor plan and added my own information. It was a big help when I needed to reference direction, and it also helped me to remember what I had already written about the house.

Floor_Plan_MUCFor the book I’m writing now, I’ve been searching for Spanish-style homes. Floor plans are certainly more attractive than they were years ago.

color_plan

I find it helps quite a bit to have actual houses and floor plans when I’m writing. It’s easier to envision my characters moving around in their homes. I’ve even printed hotel room layouts when my characters have stayed in hotels.

I’ve always used calendars, timelines, and maps when planning my books, but until I was searching for floor plans again, I didn’t realize how much I rely on them.

What about you? Do you make up your houses and floor plans in your head? Or do you go shopping for houses as I do?

Just do it.

ImageIt feels good to dive back into writing full time, and I recently completed the first book of my new series.

As I quickly moved on toward completion of the next Susan Hunter book, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a few months ago but never published. It is the advice I give to myself all the time when I think I can’t do it, when I have a hard time keeping at it, or even when I feel like quitting. It’s good for me to read this again today as I forge ahead with the hopes of writing two books in two months. I’ll share it with you, too.

~ ~ ~

Just do it.

Everyone is familiar with the famous Nike slogan. It has seeped into many aspects of our lives. I think of the saying when I have chores to do, when I don’t want to exercise or eat healthy, and most definitely with writing.

I wasn’t a writer. I was a wife, a mother, a seller of used children’s books. I love books, but other than a couple of ideas for children’s picture books, the thought never entered my mind to write a fiction novel.

Until it did.

Just do it.

Late in the day, on a cold evening in February of 2012, it popped into my mind that I should write a story. It popped into my mind because I was surfing the Smashwords site, and I was amazed that people were writing stories and books and publishing them on their own. That’s when I thought I would try, too.

I didn’t do any preliminary outlining or give any serious thought to who the characters would be or where they would go. I simply started typing and kept at it for a couple of hours. It was fun, and the story made me smile. I went to bed laughing at myself that I might actually be writing a book.

I added to the story the next day, but I was already waning. I am sometimes my own worst enemy. I can be flighty. I talk myself out of things. Writing a book would be a lot of work, and I was already busy enough. I set the writing aside and went about my normal business for a few days.

But now that the story was started, it kept calling to me. I didn’t really want to, but I found myself adding to the story late at night after everyone was in bed. My book was finished within the month.
I wrote a second book. I wrote a third. I was too afraid to publish them.

Until I wasn’t.

Just do it.

In May of 2012, I published all three books at Smashwords and Amazon. I freaked out shortly after over the fact that I had put my work up at Amazon, but it was done, and I let it be.

Now I couldn’t stop writing. I started a fourth book, and then a blog. I didn’t want to start a blog, but the thought wouldn’t leave me alone Imageuntil I did. It seemed a good idea to keep a chronicle of my writing and self-publishing journey. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know any of the finer points of writing or marketing. I was doing everything wrong, but I was oblivious, and there was no one to tell me otherwise, so I simply kept going forward.

Just do it.

I’ve made wonderful friends through blogging, and I’ve learned a lot about writing, self-publishing, and marketing from other bloggers. If I would have had all of this “new” information before I started writing, I probably would have never written my first book. It would have been too daunting.

I didn’t have money for professional editing or expensive marketing, but that didn’t stop me. I’ve kept my sense of humor throughout most of my trials and tribulations. There have been times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and quit, but those feelings passed fairly quickly, and, for the most part, I continue to have fun writing and self-publishing. I’ve made corrections, republished a couple of my titles (numerous times), and I believe my writing has become stronger. There is still a lot to learn.

Will I ever write the great American novel? No. I enjoy my silly fare too much. But I’m happy I followed my instincts and the little voice inside my head that continually says …

Just do it.

Today, I want to encourage you, too – especially new writers. Whether you are toying with the idea of writing a book, or finally on your way and writing, don’t listen to the naysayers, not even the ones in your own mind. Learn what you can when you can, but don’t be afraid to go forward with what you know now and the tools you have on hand. I was as green as they come when I first started.

Just do it.

~ ~ ~

Write. Write for fun. Write to entertain yourself. Write because you can. Then publish. It’s a wonderful world that has opened up to us because we can publish our own works.

What about you? What do you tell yourself to keep going forward?

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Back at the keyboard when the rain passes.

 

A Banner Day

Rich is on vacation this week, so we went to the dump today. If you’ve never been to the dump, it’s liberating and even kind of fun.

We have a spare room upstairs that has been a catch-all for many years. Today was the day to get rid of the junk. Rich backed the truck up below the window, and we threw stuff out and into the bed of the truck. The sound of breaking glass was exhilarating. Legal destruction. Computers, monitors, a television … these were the fun things to pitch. Bags of superfluous junk, boxes, old business records? Throw them out the window! I asked Rich if he felt like David Letterman.

I think we’ll go again tomorrow.

The dump (or the landfill if you are more refined) wasn’t the best thing about today. Take a good look at this picture:

ImageAhhh … the perfect set up for a perfect evening. Today was not a day for the new way of eating. I’ve lost 52 pounds since the beginning of June, and I feel great, but this was a treat day. Yes, that’s a fortune cookie from the Hunan Chicken for dinner. And that’s a high-powered Cola-Cola. Oh my gosh! Caffeine and chemicals taste sooo good! The vintage ashtray filled with peanut butter M&M’s? That’s a gift from hubby. You bet I won’t hold back on those.

So here I sit … on my new deck … happy as a clam and ready to write for the evening. The locust noise has reached about 150 decibels, but I can live with that. It’s a beautiful evening with the temperature at 70 degrees. Justin Timberlake is singing Mirrors on the iPhone, Rich is in a chaise next to me, and the dog is hunkered down beside him. All is right with the world.

I’ve been writing quite a bit lately. I’ve had a hard time not feeling guilty because Susan Hunter has taken a back seat, but I have to write what has been filling my mind – and that is my new series, Two Sisters and a Journalist. … Synopsis: Jo Ravens stumbles across (well, actually she crashes a bicycle on) a murdered girl. It’s the fifth body she’s found in two years. She solved two of the previous murders with the help of her sister, Pepper, and her friend, Jackie (the journalist). Jo enlists them once again to help solve the murder of Peaches, a prostitute from Pittsburgh. Things get a little creepy for Jo when the dead girl comes to her in dreams.

Of course, there is some humor, because I’m simply not that serious. The first few chapters have been run by my mother and my sister, and both have given the book two thumbs up. I’m to the halfway mark at about 25,000 words. I’d like to finish this book within two weeks and then go right to finishing my Susan Hunter book. My goal is to have both ready to publish by the end of October. After that, I’m considering something I said I would never do again – National Novel Writing Month. I can write book number two in the new series in November. I think that sounds like a plan.

I’m taking time this weekend to read blogs, so I’ll be by to see you soon. What’s the number one thing I’ve missed with you while I’ve been gone? If you’re writing, how are things going? Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you had any M&M’s lately?

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Almost done! We still need skirting around the bottom, handrails on the steps, and the two boulders to the right need to be hauled away – to a dump! The gate at the top of the stairs keeps the dog in and strangers out.

Princess Pancake

This is Princess Pancake. She is not only a princess, she is our granddaughter. She lives Imagenearly 1200 miles from us, and it’s really hard not being able to see her on a regular basis.

Princess Pancake will be here next week and will be staying with us for a month. I’m so excited, I can barely sleep. Her room is the large living room of our house, and every year we add something new. This year we have a puppet theater. I can see some good times ahead – especially with the chef puppet.

The reason for sharing this good news is simply to further explain why I continue to fall behind with blogging and reading blogs. I value the friendships I’ve made through blogging, and it bothers me when I can’t keep up and show support to fellow bloggers.  Between writing and planning for her visit, I’ve had very little extra time.

So, you may not see much of me in August. I should simply declare I’m on vacation and will see you in the fall, but you never know. Once the deck is finished, Princess Pancake and I may spend our mornings out there. She can eat pancakes and play games on my Nook while I try to check in with blogs. We shall see.

ImageIn other news, does this board look straight? Do most men run to Lowe’s (or other home building stores) and return the wrong item(s) multiple times? Do most men forget to measure twice and cut once, thereby swearing loud enough for the neighbors to hear? I’m not sure if everything is going according to plan out there. 

Maple Leaf Hunter will not be finished in August. I’m so sorry Susan Hunter fans. I am writing, but I suspect the writing will slow dramatically when the princess arrives.

The new series with the two sisters? Fifteen thousand words so far. Rich doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to read it aloud to him on our way to Boston next week. It’s not like he can get out of the car or anything, right? In case you’re wondering, he has only ever read my first book – and only because I begged him to help look for typos.

Curious about the weight loss? I’ve lost thirty-three pounds so far. Rich is down twenty-five. We’re basically following a low-carb, food-combining way of eating. I spend a lot more time in the kitchen cooking fresh foods, but we are both really happy with what we are eating and how we are feeling.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this miracle we recently had in our lives. A round of wicked weather came through here two weeks ago. I was standing at the kitchen sink draining sauerkraut for a reuben casserole (it was yummy!). Thunder, lightning, the wind was really strong, and I saw a tall tree in the block behind us snap in two and over it went across the road onto the neighbor’s porch. Of course, it took the power lines down with it. Our lights flickered, some went dim, others went out. I raced around the house to unplug computers, televisions, etc. before we had another surge. When it was all over, our 220 line had been ripped from the house. Our 110 line was hanging by a thread. We had no power with the exception of at my desk (computer and tv), at Rich’s desk (computer and tv), the refrigerator, and the light above the kitchen sink. Every other light and outlet in the house was dead. That can only be a miracle that our creature comforts were left intact. It still makes me shake my head and laugh – and be grateful when others in the community were nearly a week without any power. 

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I hope you are all taking care of the M&M’s, because they have not been allowed in my house – even when they bang on the door in the middle of the night.

Are any of you struggling to keep up with blogging? Have you seen your grandchildren lately? Do your menfolk build without complications? Any good miracles come your way lately? Tell me a story!

Charm Me

Saturday
June 22, 2013
2:30 p.m.

It’s 86° in the shade, and 81° in the house. The central air isn’t working.

Rich brings the motorcycle up to the house, and we get ready to go. I further insulate an Imageinsulated cup filled with ice water, grab my mp3 player and my sunglasses, and we’re out the door.

“Where to?” Rich asks.

“Take me to Charm,” I tell him. “I’ve never been to Charm.”

Charm is a small Amish town, and as this is my first time out on the motorcycle this year, I want to ride through some of my favorite country.

It feels wonderful to have the hot sun on my face and the wind whipping through my hair again. Traffic isn’t heavy, and we take our time enjoying the beautiful scenery.

After riding for about an hour and fifteen minutes, we arrive in Charm. We stop and get off the bike at Guggisberg Cheese. We don’t go in to see if there are cheese samples, but we do take a couple of pictures. Rich is armed with an iPhone. I have a little Bloggie in my hand.

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Enter here for cheese!

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The mailbox for the cheese plant.

My hair isn’t terribly tangled, and I silently thank my cream rinse for doing its job.

A group of motorcycle riders passes us. Not a single person is wearing a helmet. We’ve probably seen over one hundred riders today, and maybe six people were wearing helmets. If we ever have an accident and die because we weren’t wearing ours, you must write in your blogs, “Well, at least they died doing something they loved.”

The Amish are friendly. When we drive through the area in a car, they never look at us or wave. However, when we are on the motorcycle, men nod, boys wave, little girls smile, and even women relaxing in chairs under the shade of a tree will wave and smile as we go by. I wonder why that is? I find it incredibly enjoyable.

ImageThere are no ice cream cones or sundaes today, but that doesn’t keep us from having to watch where we step. Horse manure is plentiful in parking lots and along roadways.

By the time we get home, my bum is numb. Maybe we stayed out a little too long on my first day, but it was worth it.

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How’s your summer going so far? We’ve had rain, rain, and more rain. Some of it has been in the kitchen and in the basement. A nice man sledgehammered our old cement porch at the back door and hauled it away. Rich is now building a deck for me. A new place to write! I’m woefully behind with reading blogs, but I have been productive by trying to write two books at once: Susan Hunter and her misadventures in Canada – as well as the two sisters and their efforts to solve a murder. Despite the rain, I think summer is coming along just fine.

Kicking the M&M’s to the Curb

yellow_m&mIt was way back last September when I sat down with a one-egg, portobello omelet and proclaimed I was going on a diet.

Yeah right.

I was motivated, but it didn’t last long. I blame NaNo and M&M’s. Things didn’t get any better over the winter, and even though I never weighed myself, I knew I gained more weight.

When I posted my expectation to lose weight last September, I wrote this as a reason for my motivation: “I know I’m going to need headshots next spring when my books are flying off the eReader New_Sunshine_Hunter_386shelf and into eReaders, so I better start now so I can put out the best possible picture. How’s that for motivation?”

Who knew part of that statement would end up being true? I was just being silly when I wrote it, but over 51,000 copies of Sunshine Hunter have been downloaded to date.

However, I had an epiphany recently. I realized I didn’t feel good. My health was starting to suffer, and I was pretty sure I could attribute it to weight. The feeling was overwhelming, and I knew if didn’t do something now, there might be no turning back. Ahh, the things that come to you in the middle of a sleepless night.

So … I had to come up with something that would work for me. I didn’t want to follow a specific diet as I have in the past – even if it worked. I wanted to eat in a way that wouldn’t make me feel as if I was depriving myself.

strawberry_smoothie

The smoothies at this site are only three ingredients each and sooo good!

I’m delighted to say, I’ve come up with something that makes me happy, and it’s working for me. Here’s the simple version: I have a fresh fruit smoothie for breakfast, the dreaded egg omelet for lunch, and then a protein and vegetable for dinner. That’s it. I don’t eat after 7:00 at night. I drink a ton of water all day long, and I’m not hungry. Because of the protein dinner, I have no cravings in the evening. I don’t add salt to anything, I avoid sugar (other than natural in fruit), and I’ve had no caffeine other than what’s in cocoa powder for a particular smoothie every now and then.

I’m eating healthier than I have in ages, and none of it is processed food. I weighed myself Tuesday morning. In eight days, I lost 15 pounds. I’m happy with that. I’m on a mission. I’ll feel better, and I’ll have an author headshot soon.

By the way, when I came up with the idea of writing a new series about a couple of weight-challenged sisters, it was because it would be easy to write – I know how they feel!

Wish me luck. I can do this, even though the M&M guys are sad to see me go.

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Oblivious in Ohio

It’s early evening, and I’ve been sitting at my desk pondering what to do. Watch television? Write? Go over to the den and torture Rich? Go to the grocery store for eggs and pumpkin?

As I sat here twiddling my thumbs, trying to make a decision, a strange little icon popped up in my notifications box. Cool. I probably reached some new WordPress milestone. I clicked the box and found a congratulations notice. Ha! Today is my one-year blogging anniversary. Image

I was oblivious.

So much for a special post.

 

 

What was your post about on your one-year anniversary?  See you in a bit. I’m going to the grocery store.

In Search of Quelques Fleurs

ImageMy niece is pregnant with her first child. Rich recently chauffeured me and several family members to Columbus to attend her baby shower. Before dashing out of the house, I took a moment to dab a bit of perfume at the hollow of my neck. The lovely scent brought a smile to my face.

After I started working from home, I stopped wearing perfume on a daily basis. When Rich and I go out, I almost always forget to put it on. But I love perfume! I used to wear it to suit my mood or to suit the season. I like lighter scents for spring and summer, a bit heavier for fall and winter.

Many years ago, before the internet age, I was relaxing and reading a Glamour magazine. Inside was a Neiman-Marcus advertisement for a French perfume, Quelques Fleurs. In those days, the samples were all scratch and sniff – and so I did. I absolutely loved the perfume. LOVED IT. I tore the page out of the magazine and smelled it often until the odor dissipated .

Rich and I were dating at the time, and I showed the advertisement to him. I told him I would love to have a bottle. He took the page, cut out a small section with the name of the perfume, and he slipped it into his wallet.

We checked all of the major stores at the mall, and we called a few stores in other nearby cities, but no one had ever heard of the perfume. If I recall, there were only a few Neiman-Marcus stores (still hyphenated in those days) outside of Texas, and none of them were in Ohio.

Over the years, I occasionally thought about the perfume and askedImage for it in stores, but the French perfume I sought was not to be found.

Ten years later, a package arrived in the mail for me. I was surprised to open it and find an entire box of samples of Quelques Fleurs perfume. The internet was open for business by now, and Rich had found a listing for the perfume at eBay. There were no bottles available for purchase; there were only a few listings for samples. I was beyond delighted with the glass tubes of perfume attached to their pretty cards.

The scent was as wonderful as I remembered, and to this day, no matter how many perfumes I try and like, this is the one that does something to my heart. It takes me away to a beautiful place. Maybe it’s the multitude of notes that remind me of my childhood – the rose garden where we caught bees in our hands, my mother’s lilacs, the lily-of-the-valley growing wild in the nearby fields, and even the scent my grandmother’s powder. Yet it’s not a childish scent. It’s mature and classic.

I asked Rich how he managed to remember the name of the perfume to buy. He pulled an old worn-out slip of paper from his wallet. He had kept it all those years and continued to search for Quelques Fleurs on his own.

~sigh~

I adore my husband.

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Quelques Fleurs Perfume – One of the most renowned and admired fragrances of all time.  Quelques Fleurs L’Original forever changed floral fragrances when it became the first true multi-floral bouquet 90 years ago. A classic that has endured the test of time, the fragrance is wrapped in a theme of sculptured petals in a frosted and clear French glass.

The true Quelques Fleurs formula has never been published. An ancient formula still kept in the family archives, this fragrance will never be duplicated. The blend of soft, sensual florals uses over 250 different raw materials and more than 15,000 flowers to create just one ounce of Quelques Fleurs eau de parfum. To this day it is still produced in Grasse, France, where Jean Francois Houbigant first created his perfumes in 1775.

http://www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Houbigant/Quelques-Fleurs-l-Original-5356.html

Do you have a favorite perfume? A favorite cologne? Do you have a favorite scent story?

Avoiding the Circus -and- A Breakthrough

ImageDo you have a mundane daily routine? Does every day seem like the previous one? Do things never change?

That’s certainly not my life, but I sometimes pine for that level of “normal” – if only for a week or two. How in the world do you ever write with consistency when you have no routine?

When there were four dogs, a son, and a husband in the house with me, it was a three-ring circus every day. With three of the dogs and the son now gone (I kept one beagle and the husband), we are still having at least two-ring circuses.

Where is the time to write?

Yesterday was “the day.” I was determined to get down to it, and nothing was going to get in my way of writing.

Then my sister called. She needed a ride to the hospital for a CT scan. No problem. ImageThe trip to the hospital turned into two trips to the hospital, an Arby’s lunch run for a Reuben sandwich for me, one trip to her surgeon’s office, and then a third trip back to the hospital where she was admitted for emergency surgery. I arrived home late in the evening. She had her surgery today, and she came through it just fine. She’ll soon be as good as new. Yay for great surgeons!

But something happened while I was waiting for her at the doctor’s office. I thought he would see her right away, so I opted to wait in the truck and listen to the radio. Earlier in the day, in an effort to keep her distracted and make her laugh, I told her I was going to write my next series of books about a couple of weight-challenged sisters who solve crimes in their community. We laughed, but the idea intrigued me, and I thought about it again while I waited for her.

I found a little notebook in my purse. I started jotting down ideas for characters. Names, ages, married or not, kids, jobs, community, etc., and a first line that will never stand: I swear that body was hard as a rock when my butt bounced off it.

I began scribbling as fast as I could. I managed just under 1300 words before my sister Imagecame out. At home, I hurried to type the words before I would forget and could no longer read what I had scribbled.  The last line on this page is: “Sorry, Sergeant. She’s got a knife in her.”

This was huge for me! I’ve been afraid to complete the Susan Hunter series for fear there wouldn’t be anything else. I kept thinking Susan was a fluke, a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder. Ha! No longer! Make way for a couple of fun sisters.

I’m not going to finish this first chapter just yet. I’m going to get back to Maple Leaf Hunter and enjoy writing the story. I’m going to keep an open mind that Susan just might show up again in the future – somewhere deep in a new series where she meets a couple of sisters via a Slimmers Weight Loss center.

Oh my gosh! Writing is crazy fun, and I continue to be amazed at how ideas pop up, rush in, and come together. Now, if I could just get my daily routine under control to make it all happen.

ImageEdited to add: Chinese was for dinner again tonight. I opened my fortune cookie a few minutes ago, and this one popped out!!  🙂

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When Blogging Takes a Back Seat

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Just kidding!

It was a big job to pack and ship over 1,000 books, but they were finally shipped last week. I am officially out of the used book business.

I know I’ve missed a ton of great posts, and I know I can’t catch up with all of them, but I have started to read blogs again and will try to go forward with some regularity of stopping by to see what you all are up to. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks:

~ We finally have new neighbors. I’ve been keeping an eye onImage the Stairway to Nowhere to see what they do with it, but there is nothing to report yet. The family has a well-behaved dog who looks like Carl, so I’m assuming (based on the dog) that they will be good neighbors.

~ I’ve rediscovered glass in our house. I’ve enjoyed reading Dianne Gray’s adventures as her family has moved a rugby club onto their property and is now restoring it into a beautiful home. It has been lovingly dubbed The RUC, and it has some wonderful features including some vintage windows. Rich finally convinced me that the window in the upstairs bathroom is an oldie but goodie, and there is not a plastic laminate over it; it’s 100% glass:

ImageAnd this window hides behind a shade in a spare room that is only accessible through the bathroom, so I rarely remember the window is even there:

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It’s double-paned glass with glass slats running up and down between the panes.

Image~ I read Carrie Rubin’s book, The Seneca Scourge. I enjoyed it very much. I stayed up until after 3:30 a.m. to finish it one night. I haven’t read a medical thriller in ages, and I had a hard time putting it down. Carrie, you made me cry in chapter six, and I had to grab a tissue while reading a few subsequent chapters, too. The funny thing was that no matter how many times the main character’s blonde hair was mentioned, I could only picture Sydney as Carrie! And Sydney/Carrie, you rock!

Image~ I read Matthew Iden’s book, A Reason to Live. I read it in two days, and thoroughly enjoyed this one, too. This style of book (murder, crime, suspense) is probably my number one genre to read, and Matthew didn’t disappoint. His main character of Marty Singer is likeable and easy to root for. A couple of events at the end of the book took me by surprise. I’m definitely reading the next two books in this series.

~ I’ve been cleaning and throwing things out. The room I work/write in has an echo now. I kind of like that. Most of the shipping boxes are gone from the house, but I still have to deal with packing peanuts and a few other packing materials.

ImageImage~ My hardcover books are finally on my bookshelves. The plastic shelving on the right holds the overflow. I’ve started reading A Decadent Way to Die by G. A. McKevett. She’s not a WordPress author, but I couldn’t resist the cheesecake on the cover of this one, and I want to hold a hardcover in my hands for a change. This book is in the Savannah Reid series of books. I’m only two chapters in, but so far so good.

Image~ I watched a marathon of Bar Rescue on Spike TV. It’s a bit like a train wreck, but I couldn’t look away.

~ I found a blog I must tell you about. Mr P’s Adventures. Mr P is a potato head! He has some Imagetype of adventure every day. The first time I saw one of his blog posts – happily orchestrated by Ohiophotogrl – I laughed out loud. I took the time to go back through the archives and look at every post from the beginning of the year. I was wonderfully entertained. The posts are usually short, and you can click an archived month and simply scroll down to see all the pictures and posts. You don’t have to click through to the actual post unless you want to leave a like or comment (which you will want to do as something will likely tickle your funny bone). The blog is family friendly, and your kids will enjoy seeing what each day holds for Mr P as well as to read his final daily comment: “Wonder what we are going to do tomorrow?” Please check it out!

~ I caught up with all of my business paperwork.

~ I’m nearly finished with an editing pass on Big Apple Hunter. I wanted to do this before Imagerepublishing with the new cover, and I’m happy that some small errors will now be fixed. But most of all, I’m finally ready to buckle down to continue writing Maple Leaf Hunter. My family is giving me pointers on Bigfoot creatures. Yes, that’s right. My two brothers believe in Bigfoot, and I’m putting one (or more) in my new book. Ghosts, a gorilla head, zombies, and now a Bigfoot. I’m still out of control!

Do you believe in Bigfoot? What do you do when your blogging takes a back seat?

Putting My Best Face Forward

Have you ever heard of Ford Models? No, not the cars. The modeling agency. There was a ImageFord Modeling Agency about a mile from our home, and I signed up for classes when I was nineteen. I had no illusions of being a model in New York City; I was simply tired of being gawky.

For me, it was like acting. I loved learning about hair, fashion, and how to walk a runway, but most of all, I loved learning how to apply makeup.

I was reminded of this fun time in my life yesterday as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror applying full makeup. I wanted more coverage than that of the mineral powders everyone is pushing right now, so I went full-spackle with a foundation, followed by a light dusting of loose powder. Blush, three shades of brown shadow, false lash mascara, eyebrow pencil, lip liner, and an all day lipstick. I removed the hot rollers that were curling my hair, and I picked out a pretty maroon shirt with a nice detail and gold buttons.

Twenty minutes later I was having my picture taken as I renewed my driver’s license.

That’s right. I put on all that make-up for my driver’s license photo. For four years, I’ve had the driver’s license from hell. The lighting is terrible in the BMV, and my last picture had yellow hair. Not blonde, but bright yellow! Last week I chose to do my hair in a light auburn shade simply Imagebecause of the upcoming picture. There was no way they could turn auburn into yellow. Four years ago, I had chopped off most of my hair, and I don’t know if I tumbled out of bed just before I had the picture taken, but my hair looked like something styled by Moe of the Three Stooges. Every time I had to hand that license to someone (I still write a lot of checks), I wanted to die, or at least melt into the floor.

Yesterday, I was determined to get a good picture worthy of the next four years.

It was windy as I walked into the BMV. I was aware of my hair blowing around. Before I could even take a number and sit down, I was called to the counter. What are the odds of that happening? There wasn’t a spare second to run a brush through my hair before the woman wanted to take my picture. I told myself it would be ok; my windblown hair would give the picture a sexy look.

I looked down into the camera, because it wasn’t at eye level. I expected a “1-2-3” or at least a “ready?” from the woman, but the next thing I knew, she was telling me to have a seat. Five minutes later, I was walking out with my new license.

The picture is on the dark side. My makeup doesn’t show up whatsoever, and my hair is blonde, not auburn. It doesn’t look windblown and sexy; it looks like someone flattened it. There is no expression on my face, no smile, and as the picture was taken at an angle from under my chin, I look like a criminal.

The only good thing about the license – IT’S PINK! Image

I cry false advertising!!  Her picture is well lit. You can see the highlighting under her eyebrows, and her lipstick even shows. She has a smile, and the picture was taken straight on. I’m hating on our BMV today.

I’m finally going to make the move to a debit card so I never have to hand my license over to anyone ever again. Well, other than the policeman who is surely going to stop me one of these days as I blow up and down the Interstate to and from my mother’s house. He’ll think I look like a criminal and run a background check on me.

Do you try to look your best for your driver’s license? Are you happy with your picture? Do you look like a criminal?

Help Me Pick My Summer Music

We’ve had a couple of days in the 70s. Warm weather is on the way.

This is our motorcycle that I keep talking about.  It isn’t pink, and it isn’t pretty right now. It’s presently torn apart in my mother’s garage. ImageThe seats are off, the covers are off, and I listen patiently as Rich tells me about nuts and bolts and pulleys and something about the alternator, but I daydream about blogging or chocolate while nodding my head and pretending to listen, so I really don’t know what he’s doing.

But I do know it’s almost time to hit the open road, and it’s definitely time to update my mp3 player.

I like to listen to loud music on the bike. Not just volume loud, but upbeat and make me happy loud. No heavy metal though, because I’m not going to bang my head on Rich’s back. I like music that makes me feel good with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.

So today I’m asking for song recommendations to add to my mp3 player for the upcoming year. To give you a better idea of what I like, here are some of the songs on my player right now:

American Boy by Estelle
Blackout by Breathe Carolina
Club Can’t Handle Me by Flo Rida
Dangerous by Kardinal Offishall
Daylight by Kelly Rowland
DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love by Usher
Dynamite by Taio Cruz
Feel So Close by Calvin Harris
Give It To Me by Timbaland
Hey Baby by Pitbull
How We Do by Rita Ora
Memories by David Guetta
Rocketeer by Far East Movement
Secrets by One Republic
Shake That by Eminem
Shattered by O.A.R.
So Good by B.o.B.
Uprising by Muse
Wild Ones by Flo Rida

As you can see, it’s been a while since I’ve updated my pink mp3 player. (I also have a black mp3 player. It’s full of softer sounds from Van Morrison, Robert Plant, Frank Sinatra, James Last, Bob Dylan, Sting, Harry Connick, Jr.,  etc., but none of that works on the motorcycle.)

Now it’s your turn. What do you think would fit in with the songs I already have? Feel free to link to a YouTube video, so I can see/hear your recommendation(s).

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The End of an Era

When I look back on my life, I see blocks of years.

There was the silly, somewhat gawky girl in school who was everybody’s buddy. School was fun and not taken nearly as seriously as it should have been.

Later came a block of years where working for a large music distributor brought about a more confident young woman who met musicians and was on the receiving end of some very cool swag and a ton of fun.

That lifestyle was set aside, and an athlete appeared in the new block of years. Racquetball, Imagesoftball, and bowling filled the spaces between work and sleep.

Climbing the corporate ladder eventually replaced sports, and the fast-paced world of decision-making, advertising, brainstorming, and training filled nearly every waking minute of every day.

Marriage and a little boy who needed his mommy brought it all to a screeching halt, and a new block emerged.

Deciding to homeschool our son was a big decision, and I went from the boardroom to the schoolroom. A five-year-old became the person I conversed with most. I traded suits and heels for jeans and tennis shoes. I became a kid again.

A few years later, we bought a computer. We were on the internet. We found eBay! Our home business was born.

We started traveling all over NE Ohio to library book sales where we purchased used children’s books for resale on our own website and on eBay. eBay was in its infancy, and you could see all of the books for sale, in all genres, on just a page or two. Today, there are over one million books for sale on eBay.

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Our living room when it was full of industrial shelves and books.

For sixteen years, we’ve shopped, we’ve sold, we’ve packed, and we’ve hauled heavy boxes of books to the post office. It has been worth it, but it’s been harder work than you might think. I’ve often thought I needed to quit because the heavy lifting is taking such a toll on my back and arms.

Two weeks ago, I was working on an update to our site by adding another 400 books to the pages. I was looking forward to the income an update would generate, but I was not looking forward to pulling orders and packing boxes.

Before I was finished with the typing, an email arrived from a family who was placing an order for 135 books already listed on the site. Rich came home from work the next day while I was pulling the order. When I told him about it, he asked, “Why don’t you make her an offer to buy all of your inventory, and then you can finally be done with book selling?”

Really? Was he serious?

We estimated the number of boxes and the weight to ship everything at once, and then he checked shipping quotes. I sent an email back to her with an offer she couldn’t refuse, and she didn’t!

So now we are in the process of packing for the last time. We’ll take all of the boxes to Rich’s work where they will be put on a pallet, wrapped, and shipped across the country.

I am so excited to rid my house of boxes, styrofoam peanuts, packing material, tape, and paperwork! My bookshelves will once again hold my hardcover books. The kitchen table won’t be stacked sky high with books. We will no longer be walking around stacks of books on the floor. Our house will be a home again.

Now that our son is moved out and on his own, and now that my used book business will soon be shipped out of my life, and with only one Susan Hunter book left to write … I can’t help but wonder what the next block of years will bring.

Maybe I should buy a Harley.

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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!

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.

OH MY GOSH!

Hello, my lovely blogging friends!

It is very hard for me to step out of the blogosphere, but I have been on a self-imposed two-week blog hiatus, because I simply must take care of my work-from-home business and a few other important things. I’ll be taking time this weekend to park myself at your blogs to see what I’ve missed … but I do know that Zen is giving up chocolate. 🙂Image

However, I had to drop everything and pop in today, because I’m squealing, and excited, and if I don’t share this with someone other than my dog, I will burst!

Amazon was fantastic to work with when I asked to have the price of Sunshine Hunter set to free. I wrote directly to KDP and pleaded my case. We had a short series of emails back and forth, and the price was lowered to permanently free this past Monday night – only four days after my initial inquiry.

Sometimes it takes me a little while to figure things out. I looked at my Amazon sales figures yesterday and a few sales for Sunshine Hunter trickled in. I checked this morning, and the numbers were the same. I wondered if I would see any bump due to free downloads. Well, silly me! About an hour ago, I finally realized if I scrolled to the right while looking at my sales report, I would see the free downloads in the very last column. LOL! They are already in the thousands!

The next thought bubble above my head was, “I wonder if this affects my ranking?”

Oh my gosh!! It does! ImageBut I had to look at it a couple of times. Was that my book? #1 under Women Sleuths? Susan isn’t a very good sleuth, but until chick-lit/mystery is a first choice, she ends up where the book sites want her.  And #45 under romance!

Here, I’ll click the link and show you what you’ll see (at least as of noon today):

ImageSquee!! Next to J.D. Robb!!  LOL!!

Thanks for letting me gush. I have no idea what will ever happen with these crazy Susan Hunter books, but today is a day that makes me want to run outside and yell as loud as I can to anyone who will listen, “I’m number one on Amazon!”

When a Comment Becomes a Review

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Sometimes a comment comes along, and it’s just too good to let it slide off into the sunset. That happened last Friday night in the wee hours of the morning.

Piper George’s blog Talk About Cheesecake is noted as “Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.” I enjoy Piper and her variety of blog topics. She’s married with two young children, three chickens, one cat, one puppy, and a varying number of fish. She has a lot of material to work with, and she’s writing.

It was nearly 3:30 a.m. when I was closing things up for night before heading on up to bed. I checked my notifications one last time and saw a comment from Piper on my post about the new cover for Sunshine Hunter. I’m pretty sure I squealed when I finished reading it:

“I finally got around to reading your books. Yes, all of them. I downloaded one to read last week and went on to buy them all.

This is not my usual style of book, there were no vampires or werewolves and I don’t do mystery. I would never have picked them up if I had not read your blog and been nosy.

But, I have to say thank you. Brilliant, funny light hearted reading – perfect for a weekend chill. I really enjoyed them.

I also like your character. Susan is girly, again, not my usual read. But also kick arse. Good to know that you can be both – I think more girls out there should learn that. I like that she is a normal human, she makes mistakes, she gets moody, she is funny. One of the things that struck me the most was that she had fallings out with people. You know, like normal people do and book heroines normally don’t. Shouting at the nosy old lady in the supermarket for spreading rumours of an orgy – very funny.

Thanks for the great read. I’m sorry you are only doing 6 books, but start working your next theme please because I want to read them all. Expectations are high now.

I am so appreciative Piper took the time to tell me what she thought about the books, and why she liked them. I had no idea she was reading even one book, let alone all five. It is a writer’s dream – that a reader will read the first book and keep on going until they’ve read them all. I’m still smiling a big smile over her comment/review. Thank you again, Piper.

There are a few more ladies here at WordPress who have read all of my books, and a couple who are in the process of reading all. A huge thank you to them as well.

I’ve been cleaning up, tweaking, and adding to my website for my books. I’m pretty tickled here, too. Take a look! Breezy Books

It’s All Good News!

The cover for Sunshine Hunter has been updated. Hurray for no more gym clothes! Image

We’ve come a long way from the first cover:

ImageMy niece has done a wonderful job for me. I was delighted with my first Susan Hunter cover, and I’ve been delighted with every cover in between. I think we’re both getting better at what we do. 🙂

My next big news is that I’ve decided to make Sunshine Hunter a FREE book – permanently.  Now that there are five books, with a sixth on the way, I think having the first book in the series for free is a good move. I’m finding that many people who have read the first book have gone on to read more (if not all) of the books in the series.

ImageI’ve already made the cover change and the price change at Smashwords. You can go there and download the book for any eReader (to be sideloaded) – or to read on your PC. When the book is approved for their premium catalog in a few days, it will be distributed with the new cover and pricing to all of their outlets – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Diesel Books.

Amazon doesn’t allow me to list the price as free, but they will match the price when the other outlets have updated to free. When the changes have been made everywhere, I hope to do some fun marketing.

I’m looking forward to a good year!

Edited to add: A few minutes before 6:00 p.m. today (15th), the changes to Sunshine Hunter were approved for the premium catalog at Smashwords. Less than 24 hours! That was so fast! It will be going out to major outlets soon.

I Adore My Husband (Part Three)

smoochesHappy Valentine’s Day!

This is the perfect day for the next installment of I Adore My Husband.

In Part One, I told how my husband is usually the adult in this relationship, and in Part Two, I shared how fantastic he is as a person. However, when it comes to our banter back and forth via email and text, there is little maturity from either of us, and we are many times out of control. He makes me laugh every day.

Without further ado, here are the sweet and loving comments that have come to me via email or text from my husband over the past few months. Notes in parenthesis are mine.

The morning greeting is always tender:

Good morning, sweetie pie. Happy November!

What time did you roll out of bed?

I hope you slept well last night.  You were making noises like a caged gorilla.

Sometimes there are comments about our Dr. Mario marathons:

I hope you got some good rest last night.  You should be sleeping quite well lately since you are going to bed the victor every night.

Christmas brought some fun notes:

I’m bringing home an imported bottle of gin and some chocolate.

I had a bite of chocolate today that cost $250k per pound.

There’s a box of meat on our porch!

Of course, there are food related notes:

I just had some pizza, chicken and jo jo’s, a coke, and a lap dance from a midget stripper.  What an awesome Friday.

No more Healthy Choice Chicken Florence and the Machine for me!  Yech.

I’ll make something special for us to snack on tonight.  Pickled heart, tongue, jerky… something.

I’m telling you, that darn stuffed cabbage and taters are the cat’s ass for lunches.  250 calories, 50 fat calories, protein AND carbs all in a lovely little package.  I darn near licked the dish out.

I put two piles of M&M’s on my desk; a pile for you and a pile for me.green_m&ms1  I’d eat some out of my pile, then eat some out of your pile then wash it down with a slug of coffee and a slug of Coke. You should have no cravings now.

He gets bored on the way home from work:

Who’s your daddy? That’s right, I AM you boiling cauldron of passion you!
(Followed immediately by):  Oops, wrong number. So sorry.

There’s an accident on 77 North, north of Rt 62, which has traffic backed up to the hospital. There’s one accident on the West side of 62 right at the 77 on ramp, and also an accident on the West side around the 30th street area.  What.The.Hell.  Roads are dry; no black ice, no nothing.  People are just insane!  Like how I used the word “just” there?

When we up in the club, all eyes on us.  (♫ ♪ ♫)

Texts from the den to my office – in the same house:

Wanna watch some Family Guy?
Wanna go upstairs and play Family Guy?
Wanna play Dr?
Wanna play any Nintendo?

You ready to vote and then come home and have a nice romantic Cheerios supper?

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Johnny Depp doesn’t always go to the Grammys, but when he does, he drinks Dos Equis.

Our son drives a 1984 Chevy Caprice. It needed new tires. Rich traded cars with him in anticipation of a snow storm:

I survived another ride in the pimp mobile this morning.  We thought he had girls hanging all over him because he’s a young and good-looking kid.  Boy have we been wrong!  There are still ladies outside around the car waiting to see if the driver is going to come back out any time soon.

Of course, I never tell you the things I say to him, but I’ve received these responses to a few of my texts:

I’m filing harassment charges. You’re making me uncomfortable.

You need to straighten up or I’ll be forced to put you in a home.

We were trying to determine my next hair color:

ImageHow about a really dark red?  In a French maid’s uniform with a skirt that just stops one inch below your butt.

I’m thinking you should try coal black. That would be very sexy against your fair skin.

There are random thoughts:

I bit my cheek yesterday. Bit it two more times today. Ouch.

Now that I know my vacation is officially official, I’m excited.  I think we need to fix the shower.

I used acetone to remove lines off of my white board in my office and I feel like I’ve had a beer or two.  It’s an early Super Bowl Celebration!

He still gives me a hard time about my perceived boyfriends:

Oh, I see how it is.  All your boyfriends on your blog must be busy, so now you have time for me.  Well sissy, I suggest going elsewhere.  — (I waited until very late in the day to respond to his morning email.)

Well, well, well, if you aren’t super talkative today.  Must be lip-locked with the neighbor again. — (I never responded to any of his emails on this day.)

I didn’t get cigars today and haven’t had any since this morning.  I’m ready to kill somebody.  As soon as I get home, I’m walking over to Bill’s house and punching him in the face.

Of course, his closings are always sweet:Image

I love you sweetie pah-tootie.  I hope you have a good day.

I love you, and I know you look beautiful today!

Huggs ‘n smooches!

Hugs and smooches to all of my blogger friends, too!! Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Oh, My Aching Back!

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Here’s something different today. Let’s talk about PAIN.

I’ve mentioned it a few times. I have two depleted disks in my lower back and nerve damage in my right shoulder. Playing sports hard for more than a decade can do a lot of damage to your body.

When I go over to the den to sit and read, I can’t stay in the chair for more than an hour at a time. A recliner naturally puts your weight on your tailbone, and the pain builds. We have to take frequent breaks when we’re out on the motorcycle to give my tailbone some relief. After playing a few hours of Dr. Mario, my right arm feels like it wants to fall off. Lying in bed at night is when I feel all of the pain everywhere at one time. Sometimes I can’t sleep because of pain and turning over is a killer.

What to do?

I don’t take anything for pain during the day. My aches and pains are bearable, and because I sit in an office chair at my desk, I can lean forward a bit and stay off of my tailbone. However, every night before bed, I take four ibuprofen. Without them, it’s nearly impossible to sleep.

An article on pain caught my eye last year. It extolled the benefits of Imagecurcumin, which is the major component of the spice tumeric. Curcumin is supposed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties. I didn’t really care about anything but the pain claims.

I read quite a bit of information about curcumin before I ordered a bottle. It was being touted as a miracle cure for all manner of ailments, and I’m sure some of it was hype, but if it could give me any relief from pain, I was in.

At first, I took it as recommended, but gradually upped my pills to take two in the morning and two at night – four grams per day. I had no side effects whatsoever.

One night it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken any ibuprofen for a few days. I hadn’t been having any pain that would send me to the IB bottle, and I was sleeping through the night. I realized my pain level had gone down dramatically. By month’s end, my arm wasn’t bothering me, and I was comfortable in bed at night. Riding the motorcycle this past summer was much easier, and I could ride for an hour before wanting to take a short break.

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The Longaberger Basket building. An hour and fifteen minutes from our home, and we made the trip down without stopping for my back.

The day-to-day pain associated with my arms and back was completely gone!

I thought about this today, because in my complacency, I haven’t ordered any curcumin for several months, and I’ve become a miserable wreck with pain again. After I took four ibuprofen last night before bed, I knew I needed to order another bottle, and I did that first thing this morning.

For me, it works for pain, and it works great.

If you’re curious, I take Doctor’s Best Curcumin C3 Complex with Bioperine (1000 mg tablets). I order it from Amazon. I am not a paid or unpaid spokesperson.

Disclaimer: If you take blood thinners, this isn’t for you. As with any supplement, check with your doctor before taking.

Have any of you tried curcumin for pain? What do you take for pain?

Happy Anniversary!

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Today is my one year anniversary of becoming a writer. On February 8, 2012, at 11:00 p.m., I used Microsoft Word for the first time in my life and decided to write a story. Susan Hunter and M&M’s showed up.

To this day, I still wonder where all of this came from. I had no burning desire to write a book, and I wasn’t even reading very much at the time. I’m sure I was quite bored – in addition to having the winter blues. I suppose most of it came from Rich giving me a Nook Tablet for Christmas. It opened my eyes to the number of indie works out there, and I simply thought, “I’ll give it a go, too.”

And go I did.

Five books in one year. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around this. Maple Leaf Hunter is the sixth book, and the story is underway. I think I have a solid first line this time:

The hot, sweaty man lying on top of me was dead.

Pretty good, eh? (Eh? I’m already practicing my Canadian for the book.) Here’s the rough draft of the first paragraph:

The hot, sweaty man lying on top of me was dead. At least I think he was dead. He didn’t appear to be breathing, while I, on the other hand, was gasping for air from his dead weight on my chest.

We’re off to a good start! And no, for all you pervy types, this isn’t something tawdry. Susan is with Samantha at the food court in the mall.

I’m having fun writing again. I keep reading that we should write to entertain ourselves, and I have that down pat. Already events are taking unexpected twists, and I can’t wait to start writing every day to see what’s going to happen next.

I want to do more marketing this year. With six books in the series, I think I’ll be able to find more creative ways to get Susan Hunter out there than I have in the past. Before I go gung-ho though … please control the shocked look on your face when I tell you …  I’m messing with covers again.

I know!!

We’re supposed to leave the covers alone, but I can’t. Not yet. As much I love the cover of ImageSunshine Hunter, I’m taking Susan’s racquet and gym clothes away from her, and putting her in a sundress. She’ll be walking barefoot on the beach with shoes in hand. I think the look will be more cohesive with the other covers, and it won’t impart such a strong sports theme, which is not the main theme of the book in the first place.

The cover for Big Apple Hunter is then going to be polished and given a more realistic, detailed skyline in the background. I’m one hundred percent happy with the remaining covers. Once the covers are completed and distributed to all sales outlets, I’m going to do my best to try some different avenues for marketing. I’ll keep you posted.Image

 

But for now, champagne for everyone!

Reclaiming My Life

ImageMy mother has been under the weather quite a bit lately, and I spent a chunk of the day on Saturday helping/visiting with her. When I came home, I was simply too tired to read blogs.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day in the den with Rich. I ignored him for the most part as I finished reading Gordon Kessler’s Knight’s Big Easy. I’m liking my new Kindle Paperwhite quite a bit and appreciate that it is four ounces lighter than my Nook Tablet. That lousy quarter of a pound on the Nook definitely starts to feel heavy after a few hours.

Monday morning, I slipped out to grab a new notebook. Blogs were calling to me, but I refused to allow myself to be sucked into the blogosphere. I started filling my new notebook with ideas and Imageinformation for Maple Leaf Hunter. This book will take place three years after Windy City Hunter, so there are some big changes. I had to double check the ages and hair color of everyone in the book, and when I wasn’t looking, some of the characters changed their residence. Mick’s son, Alex, will, for the first time, play a prominent role, and Nate will be back. There are no ghosts to torment Nate in this book, but I think the Sasquatch could have a bit of fun with him.

It truly is enjoyable to write lighthearted fare, and I found myself smiling quite a bit as I worked on my notes.

The next thing I want to do is set a loose schedule for my day. There have been days when I started my day by reading blogs, and I kept reading all day long! It’s hard to tear yourself away when everyone you enjoy has a new post up on the same day. And just when you think you’re caught up, your WP Reader informs you there are nineteen new posts. Crikey! The entire Imageblogging experience – reading, writing, commenting – was nearing full-time job status for me.

I’m going to work with blocks of time. I know I would never adhere to a strict schedule, but I can work with blocks of time. Two hours at a time to mess with blogs. Three to four hours to write. An hour at a time to do whatever needs done around the house. I want to take the time to start cooking again. We are not doing the Chinese/fast food thing this year just because I want to write and blog. Instead of reading blogs late into the night, I want to read books.

Finally, I think Rich would appreciate it if I would start carrying my weight around here and get back to my work-from-home business.

So, I’m reclaiming my life and am going to attempt to find a balance.Image I still intend to read all the blogs I am currently following, but I may not see or be able to read every post. I’ll probably leave more likes than I used to – as opposed to like then comment on every blog, but if I leave a like somewhere, I will have definitely read the post.

I intend to do a some catching up with blogs today, but I’m going to start writing tomorrow. I am really, really tempted to start my new book with dialogue. I have my own drum, you know.

Susan Hunter and Pearson Sharp

ImageHockey is on again. Rich is a big hockey fan, and I recently asked him what type of symbol or nickname is synonymous with Canada. His first response was “the maple leaf.” Duh. Of course.

Maple Leaf Hunter

The cover will most likely have a wilderness setting – complete with moose, bear, and/or beaver – and the Canadian flag with maple leaf will have prominence. I’m ready to start writing this sixth book in the series, but something is holding me back.

I think it’s loose ends. I want to have most of my research completed before I start writing, but before I do that, I want my office to be organized. It’s hard to write with clutter around me, and how did this big room get so messy anyway? I also want to have the sugar monster tamed, because I am not eating four pounds of M&M’s this go-round. I blame NaNoWriMo for driving me to that with the last book.

Maple Leaf Hunter is likely to be the last Susan Hunter book, and I can’t help but wonder what I will do after that. It might not be writing. Maybe I’m hesitant to start writing, because it will signal the end. I suppose I will have all of my answers soon enough.

~~~~~

Pearson Sharp. Isn’t that a great name! It’s the perfect name for a main character in a book, but it’s already taken. Pearson Sharp is a WordPress blogger. He’s writing a novel, and he shares hisImage experiences and thoughts as he hones his craft. He quotes Hemingway and Frank Herbert on his blog.

I once quoted Tim Allen as Commander Jason Nesmith in Galaxy Quest.

Pearson and I talked recently about the possibility of him writing something for my blog, and in return, I would write something for his. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he is too mature and cerebral for the pink nonsense that goes on here, and I truly doubted that I had anything to add to his exceptional and more serious blog.

However, I wanted to mention him today, because many of my followers are writers, and I know you will enjoy Pearson’s posts. He’s very welcoming. When you visit his blog, don’t leave until you read his poem, A River Fay. You may want to listen to “My Jolly Sailor Bold” as you read. Pearson recommends the song, and it’s perfect.

(He could play the part of Mick in the movie version of my Susan Hunter books. Too bad he is not an actor.)

Hop on over to Pearson’s blog and say hello. Be sure to follow if you’re interested in his excellent posts as he writes his novel.

Computer? eReader? Hardcover Book?

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I’ve set my reading goals for 2013.

This year, I’m going to try to read more WordPress authors. I presently have twenty-four books on my computer that have been written by WP bloggers. I haven’t read sixteen of them.

Do you fine folks know that I have a Nook Tablet? I’m not the only one. Over five million Nooks Imagehave been sold now. I get pretty frustrated with the fact that many titles are only available through Amazon and their Kindle. Even after some authors go through a 90-day exclusivity with Amazon, their books are only at Barnes & Noble via paperback or hardcover – or not at all. My Susan Hunter books are only in eBook format, but they are everywhere, and twenty-five percent of my sales are occurring outside of Amazon. I’m just sayin’.

Not one to be thwarted, I downloaded Kindle for PC, so I could read Kindle books on my computer. In all fairness to Carrie Rubin, it became such a habit to run to Amazon to purchase WP-authored books, I forgot to look at Barnes & Noble first when buying The Seneca ImageScourge, and it was available for the Nook.

I can read blogs all day long. Truly. But reading blogs is interactive. Read, comment, follow links, watch videos, etc.  Reading a book on the computer is not conducive to my personality, and I find it more difficult to “get lost in a book” on the computer.

When I read Tim Dittmer’s The Valley Walker on my computer, I felt terrible that it took me a couple of months to read it. His book is unique in that it has 93 short chapters, and I admit to reading only a few at a time before my hyper personality would send me somewhere else. His book is no longer exclusive to Amazon and is now available for Nook, too.

I just finished Valerie Clarizio’s Cookies for Santa this weekend. I started it at Christmas, and what should have taken me a day or two took a month. The delay in reading was mostly because I was reading it on my computer (where the blogs live and clamor for attention).

You may be wondering by now how I’m going to read sixteen books this year if it takes me Imageso long to read just one. Well, my new Kindle Paperwhite (no ads, thank you) has been ordered and will be here this coming Friday, that’s how. And I’m excited!

What am I going to read first? I’m going to finish two books I started far too long ago. The first is Gordon Kessler’s Knight’s Big Easy. I was enjoying this book, but for some reason, I stopped reading on the computer and never went back to it. The same with Anne Mitchell’s Happy Hour.

Saturday night, I sat down in the easy chair in Rich’s den, threw a blanket over my lap, and started reading Janet Evanovich’s most Imagerecent book, Notorious Nineteen. A hardcover book with a dustjacket, a new book smell, and pages to turn … it was heaven!

I LOVE HARDCOVER BOOKS.

Reading in the easy chair, or even in bed, with an eReader is just fine, and that is what I’ll be doing for most of my reading this year. I’ll be ecstatic to say good-bye to Kindle for PC, and I’ll grab a hardcover book to read when I need a “real book” fix every now and then.

What about you? Any thoughts on who or what you will be reading this year? How many formats do you use for reading? If you read on your computer, does it bother you as much as it bothers me?

Miracles and Clean Underwear

We had a lovely awards ceremony here at the end of the year, and a good time was had by all.

At that time, I skipped answering the questions for the awards and threatened promised to answer them in a later post. That later post is today.

I’ll start with the standard “seven things” about me, but I’ll share seven things I’ve never done before:
1. I’ve never broken a bone.
2. I’ve never snow skied.Image
3. I’ve never traveled overseas.
4. I’ve never bungee jumped.
5. I’ve never acted in a play.
6. I’ve never eaten sushi.
7. I’ve never used power tools.

~~~~~

Here are seven more to go with the other awards. There are life lessons included:

1) I met my husband on a blind date. At the end of the evening, I told him I didn’t want to see him again. The next day, he told his friends at work that he had met his future wife the night before. Don’t automatically count out the blinding white, cute, blonde guy because he wore white shoes and a white tie.

2) With influentially bad friends, I sneaked into Everglades National Park at midnight, walked out onto a boardwalk, and threw pennies at the alligators.  I found out later we were lucky we weren’t eaten by them. Don’t let your friends try to lead you to your death.

3) I lost control of a car on an icy bridge once. Thankfully, I was in the third lane and the car went left onto the berm instead of right and under the semi next to me. Don’t brake on an icy bridge – even if you don’t know it’s icy.

4) I currently drive a navy blue Ford F150 truck. I never thought I would enjoy driving a truck so much.  Don’t tell your husband “no” when he wants you to drive a truck.

5) I locked myself out of my truck once with only a t-shirt and thin jacket on (and pants for all you wisenheimers). It was during a brutal winter storm, and I had to wait an hour for the tow truck. Don’t wear lightweight clothing in winter, even if you think you are going to be warm in your vehicle.

6) I once lost control of my car (yes, I know!) and ended up in a Imagesnow bank very late at night. I walked two miles home in the snow. My neighbor was a State Highway Patrolman, and I knocked at his door for help. He had the car towed home for me. My brothers saw my tracks in the snow the next day and laughed their butts off. They refused to believe it was me and not some drunk. Don’t drive in bad snow conditions late at night when you’re tired.

7) I once made a grand entrance into a company Christmas party. I was the last person to arrive, and I had to walk down a long staircase into the room. I used my best staircase walk to try to be elegant as I made my way down. My heel caught in the back of my dress and I pitched down several steps on my knees before I could catch myself. When you fall down in front of 300 people, just remember, they can’t help it that they laugh; it’s instinctive.

~~~~~

Moving on to the Super Sweet Blog Award, here are my answers. (I was awarded this again last week by Card Castles in the Sky; thank you so much!)
Cookies or Cake?  Cake
Chocolate or Vanilla?  What is this thing you call vanilla?
What is your favorite sweet treat? Chocolate brownies – hold the nuts.
When do you crave sweet things the most?  Evenings
If you had a sweet nickname what would it be? Sweetie Pie

~~~~~

The Liebster Award was recently awarded to me by Card Castles in the Sky; thank you again! I have questions to answer from Malinka of Malinka’s Studio, and also from Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right???  This would be a lot of questions, so I’ve narrowed it down to several from each list:

What is the exact time and date that you were born?  I was born at 8:00 p.m. on April 20.

What do you believe in?  I believe in miracles and clean underwear.

If someone would write a book upon your life, it would be named?  Sunshine Hunter

Tell us a dear childhood memory that you still cherish.  Playing kick-the-can late at night with siblings, neighbors, and my aunt. Image

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?  Starbuck’s Java Chip

If you could meet anyone in the whole of time and space, who would it be?  I know most people would be philosophical here, but I want to meet Frank Sinatra. I’d tell Frank that I think we would have had a good time cruising around Las Vegas together, and please sing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to me.

Why did chicken cross the street? Because Susan Hunter was over there with chicken feed. 🙂

What got you into blogging? I wanted to chronicle the writing of my books.

When you aren’t blogging what do you do? I don’t remember what I used to do in my spare time. Image

What’s your greatest vice? Playing the lottery.

What was your favorite moment of 2012?  Seeing my first book published on Amazon.

Your next dream travel destination?  The grocery store. Our refrigerator is empty.

A few simple things you love in life?  Listening to sappy, romantic music. Standing outside late at night and listening to the quiet.

What musical instrument have you tried to learn to play? I tried to teach myself to play piano. My left hand refused to cooperate.

Do you like shopping? I like grocery shopping. I hate shopping for clothes. I really, really, hate having to slog through a Gander Mountain or some other manly store.

A wish for this year? To win the blasted lottery! (and world peace)

Phew! But you probably already knew all of these things.

~~~~~

ImageTo tie up some loose ends, I want to thank Pam Tanzey for giving me my sixth Blog of the Year 2012 star to fill my card. Thank you, Pam! I also received a bonus star this week from Jae at Scatterbrain. Thank you, Jae!

~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

I also want to acknowledge Piper George at Talk About Cheesecake and Chelsea Brown at The Jenny Mac Book Blog for recent nominations for The Versatile Blogger Award. I nominate these versatile folks for this award:

Amber at The Smile Scavenger
Pauline at Gypsy Life
Julie Browning – The Cheeky Diva
Connie at The Sunny Side
Brooke at Wrecking Routine

~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

Passing on the Super Sweet Blog Award, I choose these super sweet people:

Paula at stuff i tell my sister
Becca at 25ToFly
Kenny
Dianne – Dianne Gray author
Janice a.k.a Café at Your Daily Dose
Carolyn at ABC of Spirit Talk

~~~~~

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Click on the award for the rules for this award.

For The Liebster Award, I choose these dear people:

Brother Jon
So I Went Undercover
The Hook
Crazy Train to Tinky Town
Browsing the Atlas
Lovin the Trip

I hope you will check out some of the people who are linked. As I add and subtract people from my follow list, these fine folks are here to stay.

Meatmobile I and Meatmobile II

This is Meatmobile II. It’s supposed to be in the garage, but Rich parked it on the street last night, so it’s the first thing I saw today when I opened the back door.

ImageThis is the kitchen table. As I came back through the door, it was the first thing I saw.

ImageThe connection between these two objects is one word: GENEROSITY

Rich’s parents haven’t been with us for several years now, and not a day goes by that they aren’t thought of in some way. They were two of the most generous people I have ever known. Mom would give you the coat off of her back if you needed it, and dad would probably give you everything down to his underwear, and maybe even that if you truly needed it.

Our house was a lot of space to fill when we were first married. Over the years, Rich’s mom and dad helped us fill the empty spaces. They gave us their sofa, coffee table, and end tables when they purchased new. A refrigerator, an upright freezer, dressers, and book shelves came our way – even a furnace when they bought a new one.

We had a scary, behemoth of a furnace in the basement, and it was very cool having a “spare furnace” on hand when it finally died.

They gave us a beautiful, pecan wood dining table with matching chairs. We used it for many years, but we gave it away to a family of ten when Dad gave us the smaller kitchen table and chairs you see in the picture.

Vehicles were another story. After Mom passed, Dad eventually dated another woman and Imagespent several years with her. When our son needed a car, Dad bought this woman’s car and gave it to our son. It always had a faint smell of meat. I don’t know what kind of meat. It was as though an old salami had gone under the back seat to die at some time. I nicknamed the car the Meatmobile, and it stuck.

After Dad passed, he left his car to us. It’s the car in the picture above. I don’t know if it came to us with a missing hubcap or if Rich lost it somewhere along the way. It vaguely smelled like meat, too, and I can’t help but wonder what perfume Dad’s friend wore, or if she made it herself from essence of salami. I deemed the car Meatmobile II.

My mother used to love going on one day bus trips. It had been quite a while since she had been on one, so Rich and I made up a flyer for Meatmobile Tours, and we planned our own day trip using Meat Mobile II. It was a Saturday in December a few years ago, and we took my Imagemother to the A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, followed by a late lunch at a café/pub in Peninsula. We shopped at several of the town’s small shops, and finished our day trip at Blossom Music Center for their drive-thru Christmas light display. It was a fantastic day.

I haven’t participated in the WordPress Daily Challenges for a while, but when I saw this one, I knew I wanted to tell this story. Mom and Dad were wonderful people, and their generosity knew no bounds.

Before I close, I want to share one more story of generosity that happened just a few hours ago. Rita Kay at Teaching David to Cook gives helpful cooking and gardening tips on her blog. She has been reading my books, and she delights me so much as she finishes one and tells me how much she enjoyed the story. She has generously taken time from her usual blogging topics to devote a post to my books and my blog. I am truly honored, and I’m still smiling. If you would drop by her blog, read what she wrote, and leave a like, I would be appreciative, and I’m sure she would, too. Please consider following Rita Kay while you are there. She is one of the kindest people I have met since blogging, she is generous, and her comments always make me smile.

Leave a comment before you go! Share a generosity story of your own – or a meatmobile story.

(WordPress Daily Prompt: Take Two – Run outside. Take a picture of the first thing you see. Run inside. Take a picture of the second thing you see. Write about the connection between these two random objects, people, or scenes.)

Comments, Embarrassment, and Free Books

ImageI’ve been blogging for seven months now, and on most days, it no longer freaks me out. I’m more comfortable with people coming to my blog, and I’m more comfortable visiting blogs.

When I was Freshly Pressed in October, I only mentioned it as an afterthought about a week Imagelater. It was a fun post (Stairway to Heaven), but I tried to fly under the radar with it. I love how my friends have celebrated and enjoyed their Freshly Pressed fame, but my heart sank when I received the notification email. I wasn’t ready for that many people to see my blog.

The notice and the link on the Freshly Pressed site came on the same day – the day my new post was titled Blogging Freaks Me Out (Part Three). Being Freshly Pressed was overwhelming and time consuming, but it ended up being a good experience, and I made some pretty great new friends because of it – but I still hyperventilated through the entire thing.

Now that blogging in itself is more comfortable, I have certainly been getting around and leaving comments and unintentional typos all over the place.

Some of my comments are pithy; a couple have been mini-blog posts of their own. I’ve somewhat regretted a few comments I’ve left.

When I find myself being early to a new post, and I have something to say, I don’t want to be the first person to leave a comment for fear of looking too eager, yet when I put a new post up, I hold my breath and worry that it’s a dud until someone pushes the like button and leaves a comment.

When someone replies to my comment on their blog, and then they finish with “thanks for stopping by” or “have a good day,” is that a dismissal? Were they done with me, and I shouldn’t say anything more? It feels like it, but I do this on my own blog all the time! I thank a lot of people for stopping by, but I don’t mean for them to leave. They can stay and chat if they want.

I’ve read a few articles giving advice on commenting. One said you should visit only three blogs per day for commenting. Read more blogs, but only leave comments on three. It has something to do with saturating the blogosphere with your voice. A couple of things come to mind:Image– Hello! Susan Hunter and Maddie Cochere. I’m definitely trying to saturate the blogosphere with a couple of names.
– I’m following 183 blogs at the present time, and if they all post something interesting on the same day, I want to comment on all of them. I hate it when I fall behind like I have lately (because of taxes!).

I’ve been telling myself that I don’t have to comment on everything. I’ve typed out comments, and just before hitting the post button, I tell myself that this person isn’t really interested in what I have to say, and I delete.  

I forget to Imageleave a like at times. I want to push the like button to help with stats, so I try not to forget. But then, it becomes a habit, and when someone posts about an illness in their family, I sometimes accidentally push the like button. Arrgh!

I’ve read where some people delete “simple” comments. One man deletes all one-liners. If all you are going to say is, “I really like your thoughts on this, Johnny,” he’s going to delete your comment. That’s ok; it’s his blog and his rules. Sometimes, I just want to tell someone that even though I have nothing to add, I really like what they wrote. I know that’s what the like button is for, but sometimes I want to say it.

Have you ever followed and commented on someone’s brand new blog only to have them never post again, and you feel like you scared them away?

Have you ever had someone respond to every comment on their post but yours?

Have you ever been lead down the wrong path when someone invited you to a “really fun” pity Imageparty, so you go there and leave a stupid humorous comment about your childhood only to find out it was a serious party, and you are an idiot?

Have you ever read blogs in the middle of the night, when you’re kind of punchy, and some of your comments are just too silly, but you can’t make yourself stop?

Have you ever proofread your comment, deemed it just fine, and then saw the typo wave at you the second you pushed the post reply button? I’ve even quickly closed a browser to stop it, but once that button is pushed, the typo refuses to die.

I like it when there are a lot of comments on a post. My comment will likely be at the bottom of the page, so if I say something goofy, it’s buried down there. Then I hit the post reply button and it sails to the top of the comments.

Your turn! Leave a comment! Tell me some of your fun (or not so fun) experiences when leaving comments.

I feel like giving away more books. I’ll choose five people from the comments section to receive a Susan Hunter book – winner’s choice, and the winners will be chosen next week.

Susan_Hunter_Group_12014

Drink Up!

ImageThere is always a glass of something to drink at my desk.

I usually work or write late into the night. On hot summer nights, a Tanqueray and Tonic is refreshing, while cold winter nights lend themselves to Drambuie over cracked ice. Bloody Marys work any time. However, most of the time, I don’t think about an alcoholic drink, and I’m in the refrigerator grabbing another Coke.Image

What I drink has become a problem this past year, and although I’m not a resolution maker, this is one area where I intend to make some big changes.

Not too long ago, I saw a post about writers and their drinking habits. After reading several online articles, I was left with the impression that writers have a reputation for imbibing. Some say alcohol lubes and liberates the mind for writing. Others say it breaks down inhibitions which enhances creativity. My one little drink every now and then neither adds nor detracts from my writing.

Then there are the caffeine drinkers. Some of these writers say caffeine helps them meet deadlines and that it extends times of productivity

I don’t need to drink anything to be able to write, but I do think having something to drink while writing is a crutch for me (much like grazing on M&M’s).

That brings me to The Coffee Quiz. This is a new quiz brainstormed by BTW – Ben Trube, Writer.  Paula Acton tagged me to answer the questions, and I think my answers will clearly show my drinking problem.

The Coffee Quiz!

1) How many cups of coffee per day? 
None. I’m not a coffee drinker. At least that’s what I tell people; otherwise, I suppose I have one cup a day.

2) What is your favorite caffeine delivery system? Image
Starbucks Frappuccino
Homemade frappuccino
Gas station cappuccino
Coca Cola
(in that order)

3) What was your best cup of coffee?
The one that I made/make myself.  About 6 oz. of cold coffee go into a tall glass, followed by too much sugar or sweetener, a squirt of chocolate syrup, followed by 2% milk to fill the glass. Throw in ice cubes, and it almost like having the Starbuck’s Frappuccino. … What? That’s not a cup of coffee?

4) What was your worst cup of coffee?
Every sip of coffee I ever took from a cup of coffee was the worst.

5) What does your favorite mug say?
My favorite mug is a large Sakura mug with a flag on it. I bought it at a garage sale for fifty cents, and even though I chipped it, I refuse to give it up because it holds two packages of hot Imagecocoa at a time. I make it on cold mornings, and I put a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals in with the cocoa – and some caramel creamer. It sits on my desk for several hours, and I just keep drinking it even after it’s cold.  Oh, the mug I do have with a saying on it reads, “Friends of Main Library.” Yep, that’s me – one of the friends.

6) How do you take your coffee?
With all of the crap listed in #3.

7) When was your first cup?
I don’t have a clue. I may have sipped Mom or Dad’s coffee at one time and declared it the most vile liquid ever. Every time I’ve tried it since, my opinion has never changed. But I do love the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

8) Have you ever gone on a coffee date?
No. Boo-hoo. No one ever asked me out on a coffee date. Not that I would have wanted to go.

So, you can see … I have a real problem with the junk I am drinking at my desk all day long. The coffee isn’t the problem; it’s all the sugar I’m dumping into it! And even though I’ll drink Coke Zero for weeks at a time, I really don’t want the chemicals.

My goal this year is to drink more water. I like water with ice. A slice of fresh lemon or lime in it isImage good, too.

What about you? What do you drink while you write or blog?

To keep Ben’s quiz alive and moving along, I’m tagging a few people to take the coffee quiz. Now, Tim Dittmer, I know you are contrary and don’t do these things, but you are a self-confessed coffee addict, so you may want to consider this one. Tag!

I’ll also nudge these fun bloggers to answer the quiz: Zen Scribbles, Carrie Rubin, Marcus Matherne, Piper George, Jackie Roeder, Dallas (that Crazy Train to Tinky Town), and my buddy Mike Akin.

Title for My Next Book?

ImageNew Year’s Eve was quiet this year. Rich was recovering from a nasty bug, so we didn’t visit with friends or family. We played some Dr. Mario, and I kicked him to the curb as I won nearly every game. I realize I should have gone easy on him as he wasn’t at his best, but my competitive nature Imagewouldn’t allow it, and I gloated and taunted him, and I let him know definitively that I was the champion of 2012!

With all of that winning adrenaline coursing through my veins, I sat down at my desk and gave some thought to the next Susan Hunter book. I was surprised at how many ideas came to mind, so I started mapping out scenes.

With 26 seconds remaining until the ball dropped in Times Square, I dashed over to the den, stood behind Rich’s chair, and kissed him on the top of his head at midnight. I love him, but I didn’t want his germs. I told him I would see him later, and dashed back to my desk. Aren’t I romantic?

At 2:30 a.m., I had my notes finished, and I realized I could start writing the book. I had most of the pieces.

I promise I won’t torture you by babbling about this book all the time, but I need some help. The titles of the books have all had a theme. Sushine Hunter referenced the nickname of the state of Florida; all of the other titles had city nicknames.

This book will start in fictional Carbide City, Ohio, move to Niagara Falls, then to Toronto, farther north to a hunting/fishing lodge, and finally back to Niagara Falls.

I don’t have a title. There are no nicknames that work for Niagara Falls or Toronto. I don’t think I like Niagara Falls Hunter – or Niagara Hunter, or Falls Hunter, or Falling Hunter. Sheesh.

There may be treasure in this book. Treasure Hunter Hunter. Oh, yeah, that’s good. /sarcasmImage

Oooh! I think there will be a Bigfoot in this book. Bigfoot Hunter. Sasquatch Hunter. Cue the Fonzie music.

There may be a rare coin(s), mules (like drug mules, but no drugs), muskie, sturgeon, bear, and frogs.

Susan will be meeting with an editor in Toronto to publish a children’s picture book entitled, Stuck in the Bushes.

I think that’s all I have to share at this time. Any ideas for a title?

Disclaimer: If you offer an idea that I like and decide to use, by offering it, you agree there will be no payment to you other than a free book when it is finished. If you offer an idea, and it doesn’t quite do it for me, please don’t be offended. Silliness is always appreciated here, but no vulgarity please. Also, remember that Zombie Hunter, Rat Hunter, Gorilla Hunter, and Flushing Hunter have all been suggested at other times and rejected. Thanks again for those suggestions, guys.

Stalking Bloggers in 2013

ImageThere is quite a voyeuristic quality to blogging. You can look in on the lives of others, and they don’t even know you are there.

Or they do know you’re there, because you push the Like button and/or leave a comment. Sometimes you *really* like a blogger, and you almost gush (or maybe you do gush) as you let them know how much you like them. I’m speaking in strictly platonic terms here.

Sometimes people joke about stalking in the comments section, because it feels like stalking at times – especially when you comment on every blog post of your stalkee, and then comment on your stalkee’s posts on other blogs, too. (Did you follow that?)

I recently upped my game a bit in the stalker department.

Because David Harding has caused me to truly laugh out loud so much, I decided one day to Imagehang around his blog and peek through the windows. I went back and looked in on his very first blog post – April 13, 2012. Friday the 13th. Who starts a blog on a bad luck day? David Harding, that’s who!

After clicking the Like button and leaving a comment, I told him I was going to read all of his blog posts and comment on every one. And I did! It turned out to be a fun romp through the world and mind of David Harding.

My original intent was to read one post per day, but it was too much fun, and I went through all of August in one day. There were only eight posts.

There are poems, book reviews, game reviews, stories, and some crazy stuff that is uniquely David Harding. I saw where one man stopped by and told him he needed help, and it appears the man never went back. He missed so much fun! Who ever heard of Fist Dancing before?

Hanging around David’s blog was like taking a field trip every day. I ran off to read samples of Imagebooks he recommended, I lost myself in websites of authors he linked to, and I watched YouTube movies and shorts. I bought one of his books and read it!

I was entertained over these early, wintery, cold days as I read his blog. He responded to my comments from his summery Australia while wearing Vegemite shorts.  I certainly know more about him now than I did when I first stopped by his blog in October, and I am happy to call him, friend. 🙂

I already know who I’m going to “stalk” next, but I think I’ll ask permission first, lest she call the Blogger Police for a restraining order against me.

And before you think you might stalk me, don’t bother. My early posts were stiff, dry, and boring. I was trying to be a mature adult, and we all know how hard it is to be someone you’re not. Is there a person who brings a smile to your face the minute you see that they’ve made a new post? That’s the person you should choose to stalk.

So, go forward and stalk!

BUT FIRST!!!!!!

PizzaBoxDrawcember has come to a close. Voting is open on ImageDavid Harding’s site. Before you dash over there and VOTE, leave a comment, and let me know if you have ever gone back through a blogger’s archives and left comments on all posts before, and If so, how did it go? Will you stalk anyone in 2013?

Good-bye PizzaBoxDrawcember

ImageNew Year’s Resolution #1 – Quit asking pizza workers to draw pictures of gorillas throwing dice.

New Year’s Resolution #2 – Quit eating pizza for at least three months.

I need the next three months to work off the amount of pizza I’ve eaten in December alone. Getting that first picture under the pizza box lid was like being on crack (not that I’ve ever been on crack), but I needed more, more, more!

The second time we ordered pizza and requested a drawing, Rich used a Pizza Hut app to order. The request was ignored. The pizza didn’t taste quite as good as one with a gorilla drawing in it.

The third time, he asked for a drawing over the phone, and there must have been an artist on staff at this pizza shop, because we got a killer gorilla with dice! Eat your heart out over this gorilla, David Harding!

(Cue heavenly music as you view the drawing.)ImageImageThree days before Christmas, I drove up north to meet our son and do a little Christmas shopping with him. We stopped at a pizza shop next door to his apartment building to place an order for delivery before heading back to his apartment. There was a young girl behind the register. I told her I wanted double cheese, pepperoni, and jalapenos. She asked, “Those are green peppers, right?” I told her they were green, but not “green peppers.” No green peppers for me! I wanted hot jalapeno peppers. Once she had our order in the system, I asked her to have someone draw a gorilla throwing dice under the lid. After I repeated the request a few times, and she fully understood what I was asking, she smiled and said, “Ok.” Our son gave her $5.00 and said half was for the delivery guy and to give the other half to whoever draws the gorilla. As we were walking out the door, I heard her ask, “Jim, what’s half of $5.00?”

It’s no wonder this is what was in our pizza box:Image ImageIf you look closely, you’ll see yellow banana peppers and not jalapenos. We still thought it tasted awesome, but what a freaky little dinosaur with tiny little hands that couldn’t even hold the dice if he tried. Hahahahaha!

Here is our last pizza of the year. This was when we knew we had a problem and needed to stop. Don’t feel sorry for us. We learned our lesson. We won’t let David Harding lead us down the primrose pizza path again. Image ImageWhat about you? Did you get pulled in by the seductive lure of PizzaBoxDrawcember? Will you next year?

Overture, Curtains, Lights!

ImageThis is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart
Overture, curtains, lights
This is it, you’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it

It’s that time again. Time to acknowledge some really great bloggers who have passed out awards, and time to pass out some awards from here as well.

I’ve come to appreciate the awards. I’m honored when someone has thought enough of me and/or my silly blog to send an award my way, and I like how the awards give us an opportunity to point others in the direction of bloggers we enjoy and think others would, too.

We may run over time with today’s awards, so I’m going to list the award winners first. They are more important than any babbling I may do, so here we go …

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

On September 13, recently published author Tessa Sheppard honored me with the Reader Appreciation Award. I am passing this award on to three good men who you might appreciate reading:
vinnylanni – Live the Dream. He’s a dreamer, he still watches cartoons, and I like his outlook.
Simplicity Lane – Steven writes some beautiful pieces and poetry. I like his “building blocks.”
tincantheory – I love Jerron Tables. He writes things that I can’t make heads or tails of, and then he writes something that has me tapping my toes. I find him hugely entertaining (even though he can be quite serious at times), and he has the best tags out there.

 ~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for this award.

On September 28, Zen of Zen Scribbles awarded to me the Super Sweet Blog Award. I choose these super sweet women to accept this award. They have wonderful blogs, and I think of each of them as friends:
Dianne Gray author
Michelle Proulx Official
retiredruth Life in the 50’s and beyond
stuff i tell my sister
Maggie Myklebust

~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for this award

The One Lovely Blog Award came to me from Chelsea Brown of The Jenny Mac Book Blog on September 14. I nominate these lovely ladies – and two lovely critters – for this award:
Valerie Clarizio – I’m reading her lovely book right now. It’s really good!
Tales of a Charm City Chick – La La is lovely and fun. I enjoy her sense of humor.
Scatterbrain – I enjoy reading about Jae’s lovely life and family.
Seriously Seeking Grannies – Mary is a favorite blogger of mine. She has a lovely spirit, and I enjoy reading her musings.
Teaching David to Cook – Rita Kay is as lovely as they come. She is sweet, full of life, and I always enjoy a visit with her.
Deep in the Heart of Textiles – Textile Ranger has wonderful, lovely photos of textiles treasures. I always enjoy a visit to her blog.
Spineless Wonders – Cyrus and Willy. A snail and a worm. They are lovely together. You just have to go see.

 ~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

The Liebster Blog Award came twice. Once from Malinka of Malinka’s Studio on October 9, and one from Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right??? This award comes with questions to be answered, and I choose these two authors for this award:
Keri Peardon
That Girl Who Reads Books

 ~~~~~

Image

Click the award for the rules for the award.

Three Very Inspiring Blogger Award(s) came my way from Chelsea Brown (11/16), Marie at good morning, joe (12/4), and from Claire at LilyPetal (12/16).  This nice mix of bloggers will inspire you in their own unique way.
Brother Jon
Daniel Koeker
Bo Lumpkin at Gatorhead Comics
Rachelle at A Rich, Full Life in Spite of It
Kris at vikingessa

 ~~~~~

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

I was very honored to receive five stars for the Blog of the Year 2012 Award. They came from Maggie, Chelsea, Mary, Carolyn, and Paula. I think these bloggers deserve Blog of the Year 2012 awards:
Tessa Sheppard – One of the hardest working writers I know.
The Cheeky Diva – Julie! Cheeky and fun!
Pam Tanzey, Artist – Her artwork is fantastic, and she even does it for Trader Joe’s.
Before I Forget – Katykins! Kate! Creator of Cyrus and Willy. You never know what you’ll get here, and it’s always fun!
Michelle at Play – Probably one of the nicest people I’ve run across in the blogosphere. She makes great lists, and she has wonderful bits of wisdom to share.
Kat at Travel Garden Eat – Kat is inviting, and her blog is a visual delight in addition to giving us wonderful words to read.

 

The music is playing. They’re telling me to hurry up.

 

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Click the award for the rules for the award.

The final award is humbly and graciously accepted. I was amongst a fine group of people chosen to receive the first ever Cheeky Diva Award on October 7. She is so cheeky, she made her own award. What do you have to do to accept the award? In her own words, “Not a damn thing.” I think these fine folks would love a Cheeky Diva Award, too:
Kate at Let’s Get Milkshakes! – If nothing else, read about her fabulous vacation to Fiji.
Marcus at Voices in His Head – You get fabulous humor here.
The Famous David Harding – He’s just fabulous. Period.
Jackie at Change Is Good…..Right??? – She posts fabulous recipes, her fabulous comments are witty, and her writing is fabulous.
john the aussie – There’s always a laugh at his blog, and his Murphy’s Road Rules posts are fabulous!

~~~~~

I simply cannot make this post any longer. I will do a separate post with answers to questions and some fascinating to me, boring to you, tidbits about me to go along with these awards.

Please do check out some of these fine blogs. There is something for everyone here, and it took a couple of hours to assemble all of the links, so please click some or all!

Finally, I wish I had my own award to give. I’m not quite as cheeky as Julie, but if I did have my own award, I would give one to everyone who follows me, and one to everyone I follow. I’ve only been blogging for seven months, and it has been a great experience. It’s been wonderful getting to know so many nice people.

If you stop by and see your award, please let me know. I’m afraid it will take days for me to notify everyone.  If you haven’t clicked on the award for your rules, click here for all of the award rules.

There’s A Bloody Mary at the End of the Mayan Calendar

ImageMy new book is published! I’m celebrating with a Bloody Mary that has been spiced up with jalapeno dust.

This is the book I wrote in November for National Novel Writing Month. Start to finish, November 3 to December 21, and I squeaked in under the end-of-the-world deadline. I hit the publish button at Smashwords at 8:00 p.m. and at Amazon at 9:27 p.m.

Windy City Hunter is live at Smashwords, and will go live at Amazon, hopefully, by morning. It will be at Barnes & Noble and other outlets as Smashwords distributes and retailers update their inventory.

I want to share some fun things with you about the book:

– One of my favorite bloggers is a genuinely nice guy with a great sense of humor – Christopher De Voss. His blog posts, and his one-liners in blog comments, tickle my funny bone. Chris is a Imagepoker player and a zombie expert, and he recently had a story published in Undead Uncensored, an anthology from the Zombie Survival Crew.

I asked him for permission to use his name for a cameo appearance in my book under the name of Chris/Christopher De Floss. He was a peach to say yes, and he promised not to sue me. After the initial scene with Chris in chapter three, he’s mentioned six more times throughout the book, and that includes prominence in the ending. It’s pretty cool, and if you don’t think you want to wade through all of the Susan Hunter books, read this one. It stands alone just fine, and I think it will even entertain the guys.

ImageGlenno at Erehwon, a.k.a Arnold the Armadillo, enjoys photography. I took a fancy to one of his photos, and he sent the original to me. Rich printed it, framed it, and it now hangs above my desk. I described this photo and one other (b/w with red door) as paintings in the book. They are now hanging in a fictitious art gallery on Rush Street in Chicago.

Image– At the last minute (truly, just a couple of hours ago), I made two small changes in the book as shout-outs to David Harding. I won’t say what they are at this time, but will wait for him to read and see if he finds them. Don’t shake your head like that. He will read the book.

I want to thank all of you, my blogging friends, who have been helpful, encouraging, and supportive while I was writing this year. It’s truly appreciated. I still can’t believe I started writing and actually published these books; it’s quite surreal. I say it all the time, because it is true: my books aren’t perfect, but they are entertaining.

Also, I do apologize for not visiting your blogs this past week. Editing has been a priority for quite a while now. I promise to be by soon to catch up with all of you. I know I missed some great posts as I watched them scroll by in my reader.

It will likely be a while before I write the next Susan Hunter book, so I want to do a little babbling about the books in general.

I like the way they have progressed. Susan manages a weight loss center by day and works and plays at a racquetball club in the evenings and on weekends. I tried to mix up the locations, characters, and stories between the books.

New_Sunshine_Hunter_386Sunshine Hunter – The story starts in a racquetball club in Carbide City, Ohio. The book basically starts out as chick-lit. Susan and her best friend, Darby, go to Florida, and this is where the mystery starts. There is a bit of romance, humor, and some action. The ending is back home in Carbide City at the racquetball club.

 

Final_Big_Apple_Hunter1Big Apple Hunter – The pace is slower in this book. It starts as chick-lit with the setting in the weight loss center this time. There are some flashbacks in this story. I didn’t know you shouldn’t do that, but I’m a rookie author, and I’m sticking with it. Susan accompanies Darby to New York City for a weekend, and this is where the mystery starts. It is then brought back home to Carbide City and the weight loss center for the climax. Once again, there is a bit of humor, some romance, and action.

 

ImageSin City Hunter – This book moves faster, and I finally had clarity on the use of “which” vs “that” in writing. 🙂 Susan is in Las Vegas for a week of work at the corporate offices of the weight loss company. She flies out a few days early for some fun and relaxation. Her parents join her, and there is a new character introduced. Once again, we have chick-lit, a (murder) mystery, some romance, action, and I think the humor worked well in this book.

 

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Big Easy Hunter – The book starts on a racquetball court in Carbide City, and two mysteries are quickly introduced. A character only mentioned before has a main role in this book. Susan, Darby, and the new character go to New Orleans for a wedding, where there is yet another mystery. The book ends back in Carbide City with a big climax. Chick-lit, romance, humor, action – and dogs! I love this book.

 

ImageWindy City Hunter – This is the first book that has no racquetball playing in it, and there aren’t any scenes at the weight loss center. It takes place entirely in Chicago. The tone of this book is different. It’s more “pure mystery” than the others. There is a flicker of romance (hard to have romance when Mick is in England), and some humor. A new character joins the fray near the end.

I don’t know what’s next for Susan. I have an idea for one more book, but even though I feel quite certain number six will be the end, I’m learning to never say never. I also know that I may not have the final say in the matter. I’ve been to Los Angeles, and Susan just might want to go there, too.

Comment! I’m giving away five copies of Windy City Hunter and will draw the winners from the comments section! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this. I didn’t pony up the money to be able to post this little video wherever I want, but clicking the picture will take you to YouTube where you can see a little promo I put together for Windy City Hunter.

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Editing Your Own Work

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When in the midst of writing a book, I like to go back and read what I’ve already written. I usually do this at the beginning of each writing session. I read the previous chapter or two to set the stage again in my mind, and it allows me to do some early proofreading.

Here are my next steps:

1. Read the book on my computer from chapter one to the end. This is my first full pass, and I’ll usually catch typos and missing words/commas/quotation marks. Sentences are sometimes reworked. Details might be wrong from one part of the book to the next, and I try to fix all of this on the first pass.

2. Wait a day or two and read it again. I still read the book on my computer, but I read out loud this time. I read as if I’m reading for the audio book version. Laugh if you must, but I pay closer attention when I read as if someone is listening. Reading out loud is a good way to find all of the things that sound “clunky” or don’t portray normal speech patterns.

3. Notebook time. I make a list of unnecessary/overused words and the number of times I used them. Here are a few that are troublesome for me in my current project: that (343), just (78), very (101); the list is long. Other words are: fact, quite, truly, try to, shocked, surprised, a lot, really, pretty, put, place, suddenly, took, looked, time, walked, and there are more.

This is the step that takes the longest. I look at every use of each word. Most of the usage is fine in its context, but if I can eliminate or trade out the word, I do. I write with simple words, and if I change a word, it is usually to another simple word. It is during this step that I am most likely to rewrite a sentence.

4. Print a hard copy. When I go back to editing in a few minutes, this is where I am in my current project. The book is printed, and I will now read it as if I had purchased it and am reading for my own enjoyment. Errors, poor sentence structure, and lack of commas seem to jump off the page at this stage.

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Sneak peek of my new cover!

When I reach the end of the book, this is when I’m usually surprised and think, “If someone else had written this, and I had bought it, I would have really liked it.” And I think that’s important! I’ve read that we should write to please ourselves, and our work is more likely then to be pleasing to others.

5. Two more copies are printed – this time for my beta readers. Both copies come back fairly quickly with changes, but there usually aren’t too many. I try to leave the book alone while they read, and then I make their corrections on my master – or do some rewriting based on their suggestions.

6.  Time to print one last copy and read the book backwards one page at a time. This way, I don’t get caught up in the story, and I tend to read individual sentences and paragraphs with an eye for anything we may have missed.

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It’s almost as good as “maroon.”

When I’m satisfied we’ve done the best we could, and the words aren’t macaronic, my book is ready to publish.

Do you do your own editing? Is your process similar? Am I missing any important steps?

macaronic: muddled or mixed up
A challenge from Zen.

Edited to add reader tips from comments below:

From Book Writing Tips: “If it is possible and you can, after your 1st step which is to read the book in your computer from chapter one to the end, why not leave it for a much longer time like 15 days or a month perhaps? In this way, you get a clear head and you get to read the book as if you’re not the one who wrote it.”

From Dianne Gray: “When you read it on your computer can I suggest you change the font. Enlarge it and change it to something you’re not used to looking at – I find I pick up a lot of mistakes this way.”

Pro Writing Aid

Grammarly

SmartEdit

 

No More Cranky Interviewer

ImageZen at Zen Scribbles has reviewed my first book, Sunshine Hunter, and graciously interviewed me as well. It’s my first interview by a genuinely nice person.

Hop on over and take a look. There’s chocolate cake, and we’re giving away free books!

http://zenscribbles.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/a-review-a-giveaway-and-a-chat-with-maddie-cochere-on-everything-from-writing-to-cake/

Sunday Night Pizza Bender

ImageIn case you haven’t heard, something is afoot this month.

PizzaBoxDrawcember is an age-old celebration created by David Harding last week in which participants order pizza online and ask the pizza shop to draw something awesome inside the box.”

I lifted most of those words from Chris Morphew who is also celebrating PizzaBoxDrawcember.

I’ve actually never heard of a pizza bender before, but La La of Tales of a Charm City Chick fame recently blogged about a pizza bender with her commitment to participate in PizzaBoxDrawcember.

Rich and I chose tonight for a double whammy – to have a pizza bender and celebrate ImagePizzaBoxDrawcember.

My telephone call to the pizza shop went like this:

Me: I’d like to order a large pizza with the works for delivery. Oh, and light sauce.

Pizza Shop Owner: You got it!

Me: And I have a request.

Pizza Shop Owner: Ok.

Me: Under the lid, could you draw a picture of a gorilla playing dice? It’s not for me! It’s for a guy in Australia.

Pizza Shop Owner: You got it! Coming right up!

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UPDATE! Monday, December 10: Paula (whom we all love) told her sister, Renae, about PizzaBoxDrawcember, and her family ordered pizza tonight and asked for a Christmas tree with dice under the tree. Her comment about ordering the pizza is below. Here is the picture the nice people at the pizza shop drew for them. Thanks for sharing, Renae!

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Renae’s pizza box picture. Click for a closer look!

What are your favorite pizza toppings? If you are in the United States, do you put shrimp on your pizza? What about walnuts and pears? Will you be participating in PizzaBoxDrawcember? Go on, try it! Call your favorite pizza shop and ask for a drawing!

Susan Hunter Gangnam Style

All Susan Hunter needs is for someone in one country, like India, to fall in love with her, spread the love around, Imageand before you know it, she will be the next big thing (like PSY’s Gangnam Style), and the entire country will be buying the books and making fabulous Bollywood movies about Susan and Darby and their adventures.

Hey! A girl can dream, can’t she?

In October, Paula Acton tagged me for The Next Big Thing, but I didn’t realize at the time it had an expiration date. You can see Paula’s answers to her next big thing here: Voices Across The Void, A Collection of Ghostly Tales

Recently, Valerie Clarizio wanted to tag me for this, but as I was still writing for NaNo, I declined. You can read about her next big thing here: Cookies for Santa

When Chelsea Brown tagged me last Wednesday for The Next Big Thing, I thought it must be time to answer the questions. You can read about Chelsea’s next big thing here: Jenny Mac and the Man of Secrets

There are ten questions to answer. I’m sorry if I’ve been babbling for so long about this book that you already know the answers, but here we go …

1. What is the working title of your book?

Windy City Hunter

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Susan has been to Florida, New York, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. It was simply time to go to Chicago. My husband helped me with plot ideas in July.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

My books are all noted as mystery, but this is the first book in the series that is a true mystery throughout.

4. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I enjoy mystery books with an element of fun and even silliness. Gemma Halliday comes to mind, Laura Levine, and dare I say, Janet Evanovich.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have an image of Susan and Darby in my mind, so it’s hard to think of someone playing them. I will leave that to the casting director, but here are a couple of looks (not necessarily the right people) which are close:

Image6. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Susan and Darby bite off more than they can chew when they go to Chicago for a cooking competition and become embroiled in a murder. (Nicely cliched, eh?)

7. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published – before Christmas I hope!

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Twenty-four days. This is my National Novel Writing Month book. I started on November 3 and finished on November 26.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I had the storyline in mind, and it was simply time for the next book in the series. NaNo lit the fire under me to start writing.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

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The book is typical Susan Hunter. She has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, readers will laugh with her, and if they don’t cry with her, they will
 certainly feel sorry for her at times. There are pink shoelaces on one man, a gorilla head on another, and a wise-guy investigator involved with both.

All of my books stand alone with individual story content, but the books are chronological with respect to Susan’s relationship:

#1 – Sunshine Hunter
#2 – Big Apple Hunter
#3 – Sin City Hunter
#4 – Big Easy Hunter
#5 – Windy City Hunter – due out this month!

Just in case Susan is not The Next Big Thing, here are a couple of authors whose books just might be. I tag these two fine Michaels to answer the same questions next Wednesday:

Michael (Mike) Akin – author of The Distorted Trail
12/12/2012 – Edited to add a link to Mike’s answers to The Next Big Thing.

Michael Fedison – author of young adult sci-fi/fantasy, The Eye Dancers
12/12/2012 – Edited to add a link to Michael’s answers to The Next Big Thing.

When Your Life Is a Video Game

ImageFor a break from the usual, I thought I would share a couple of Christmas memories today.

This will be our first Christmas since our son moved out on his own, and Rich and I don’t really care if we have any hoopla around us or not. Christmas with family will be at our nephew’s house this year, so we’ll enjoy the decorations, food, and festivities there.

Our son has had some pretty memorable Christmases. I was always like a kid at Christmas, so in essence, we were like two kids, and Rich had to be the adult.

The first memory comes from when Rich used to work afternoons, and for several years, he worked on Christmas Eve, which took away that evening and also the next morning.

Our son was twelve at the time, and, of course, he played NintendoImage quite a bit. We were all enjoying a goofy old game called Snake, Rattle, and Roll. One of the best parts of the game was warping to other levels. If you have never warped to another level, it’s basically finding a secret place on one level (like level three) that will automatically send you up to another level (like level six), so you can bypass some of the game.

This particular year, our son also bowled in a league on Saturday mornings. Two weekends before Christmas, I took him to the bowling alley as I always did. I told him I would pick him up in three hours, and if he was done early to stay inside and wait for me. I usually stayed to watch.

The minute I left the house, Rich put a ham in the oven and started decorating. The tree went up and presents were loaded beneath. Other decorations were placed around the house. Christmas music was turned on. The minute I came home from dropping the boy off, I started fixing Christmas dinner. Rich made a banner for across the wall in the kitchen.

When it was time to pick him up, Rich drove down to the bowling alley. He probably told our son something lame like Mom wasn’t Imagefeeling good. When they walked through the door, a huge Christmas dinner was on the table, the house was decorated, gifts were under the tree, and along the wall was a banner which read:
WARP TO CHRISTMAS DAY.

The boy couldn’t believe it. He was living a video game. He kept asking, “Is this for real?” He had two full days that weekend to play with Dad, the neighbor kids thought he was the coolest thing ever, and it made Christmas that year so much nicer for all of us.

The second memory is from a couple years later when our son and I were sitting in a Starbucks late one afternoon. Once again it was about two weeks before Christmas. I asked him if I was getting something in particular, but I can’t remember now what it was. He said, “I’ll tell you if you tell me something I’m getting.”

Well, there we were, not one kid and one adult, but two kids. Before you knew it, we were telling Imageeach other everything. Rich was at work, and we dashed back to the house and dragged all of the boy’s gifts out from their hiding places and looked at everything. There was a Sega Game Gear in the lot, and we played with it for the rest of the day. We messed with and/or played with his gifts every day after Dad left for work – right up until I had to wrap the stuff on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas day, our son acted wonderfully surprised with everything he opened – as did I. It was months – as many as eight or nine – before we confessed to Rich what we had done. We confessed in front of Grandma and Grandpa. They thought it was hilarious, but Rich absolutely couldn’t believe that I would have done such a thing. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The boy and I had a blast.

So even if my house isn’t decorated this year, or Rich and I don’t have any hoopla, I still have a ton of fun memories.

I know I’m not the only one to mess with Christmas. Tell me what you’ve done!

Book Covers and The Public Domain

ImageNow that National Novel Writing Month is over, I have a book in hand. I didn’t take the advice of experienced NaNo participants, and I did some editing as I went along – at least on the first half of the book. I finished writing last Monday, and since then, I’ve made a pass on the second half of the book.

My mother has finished reading it, and she has proclaimed it entertaining and a winner. That’s what mother’s are for, but she really did like it. We laughed over a few scenes, and she approved a few minor swear words that worked well in their context. My books really are pretty squeaky clean.

I usually cut out pictures, use glue, crayons, and markers to cobble together ideas for covers. I used the cover from Big Apple Hunter and started playing around with that yesterday.  Here was my first attempt. It is only being shown for humor purposes:

ImageThis is what I sent to my niece and asked her to work a miracle for me: ImageI want a Christmas tree that is mostly white -or- one that is very colorful; whichever looks best. I’m leaning toward a colorful tree. If I’m going Christmas on the cover, I may as well go all the way. I want a Chicago skyline, Susan in an apron while holding a cake, and I need a gorilla head! She also needs longer hair because Mick doesn’t want her to cut it. Men! It will be fun to see what Gillian comes up with based on the mess I sent to her. I gave her free rein to discard my ideas and go with something completely different if she wanted to.

This morning (Saturday), I double-checked the story I “used” in my book to be certain it was in the public domain. I spent most of my day reading about public domain works, and how they can be used for inspiration, or in your writing itself.

You may remember that I wanted to put Susan into a situation where she was seeing events unfold in the apartment building of Stephanie Plum. I wouldn’t mention any names from the Evanovich book, simply references of hearing gunshots, seeing a redhead lying in the hallway, men in black at her door, etc.  But, I soon found out that even if names are not mentioned, if a scene is recognizable, it is copyrighted.

I started reading books and stories in the public domain. I had the main storyline for my book mapped out, but I still wanted a sub-plot in the condo. I wanted Susan and Darby to have a parallel view of Imagesomething happening in another book. I finally found a short story in an old pulp fiction magazine.

It started out perfectly. The two of them saw the body, and they were questioned when the police arrived. It was all downhill from there. I only meant for them to observe and comment, but Susan can’t keep her nose out of anything, and she ended up smack dab in the middle of everything. I actually felt as though I had no control of the story at times. Writing still surprises me so much.

My book turned out better than I could have hoped by taking some elements of the public domain story and turning them into something completely different. I didn’t use any of the same names, nor did I use any text from the original story. Once Susan started snooping around the building, there were actually only a few original elements that remained.

That brings me to some of the things I’ve read as I’ve searched public domain books and articles over the past two months. It’s been fascinating!

Public domain is massive. There are more than 85 million books and stories in the public domain. In a nutshell, that means you can pretty much do anything you want with them.

If I wanted to write a book about Cinderella (the original Cinderella) traveling in H. G. Wells’ time machine to obtain some advice from Romeo and Juliet, I could do so. My new, original story would be copyrighted, but the characters would not. The characters will always remain in the public domain for others to use.

Many old fairy tales have been rewritten into modern day tales. Beauty and the Beast didn’t originate as a Disney movie. Look no further than Once Upon A Time on television, and you will see very creative use of public domain works.

You can borrow ideas, concepts, plots, and characters, and do Imagewhatever you want with them as you write them into your new work. Numerous beloved stories have been adapted. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a New York Times bestseller, a creation from the public domain, and it’s being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman.

My husband and I spent nearly an hour this morning chatting about the public domain, and discussing how so many books, movies, television shows, and music have used work from public domain sources to create wildly popular spinoffs, mashups, and new works.

Because there is still at least one Sherlock Holmes work of Sir ImageArthur Conan Doyle that is under copyright, the character of Sherlock Holmes won’t be released into the public domain until 2022. Start working on your zombie and vampire books now. The Sherlock Holmes fans will be gobbling them up.

Have you ever written a story, book, or song based on something that was in the public domain?

P.S. – The little cutie pie at the top of this post? She’s there because the first picture posted in the reader is the *BIG* one, and I couldn’t let that goofy cover with the gorilla head behind the Christmas tree be it, so you get to look at a little cutie pie.

He’s Baaack!

ImageNational Novel Writing Month, you have been conquered. My book is finished, and I’m four days early. Whoo-hoo! I finished at 8:42 p.m., and the final word count is 52,452.

Considering I’m easily distracted, I’m proud of my achievement, and the book is quite entertaining, if I do say so myself. I think this calls for a celebratory interview about the book. My favorite interviewer just happened to be nearby when I stuck my head out the back door and whistled down the street. He’s settled at the kitchen table with me now.

Cranky Interviewer:  I thought I told you not to call me when you finished this book.

Me:  There was no one else available, and I’m excited to get the news out.

C.I.:  Just so we’re clear, I want cash this time. … The title is Windy ImageCity Hunter, right? Was it windy?

Me:  Yes, Windy City Hunter, because the setting is Chicago, and of course it was windy. Chicago in December two weeks before Christmas? It was near-blizzard conditions at times.

C.I.:  Well, let’s cover the important stuff first. How many bags of m&m’s did you go through?

Me:  Two and three quarters.

C.I.  You’re kidding, right? That’s nearly 400 m&m’s!

Me:  They inspire me.

C.I.  How many beginnings, middles, and endings are in this tripe, er, I mean this stunning masterpiece of fiction?

Me:  Why do you always have to be such a wise guy? You know my writing is light, breezy, and easy to read. My books are entertaining and a good escape for a day or two. You should try one. To answer your question, there are three beginnings, three middles, and three endings.

C.I.:  You’re kidding, right? You convoluted this book, too?

Me:  It’s not convoluted. There’s a murder, a mystery, and a sort of mystery/puzzle thing going on. I gave that a beginning, middle, and ending, too. I didn’t want to leave any loose ends.

C.I.:  I hate to ask the next question, but everyone is going to want to know. How many exclamation points?

Me:  You will be happy to know there are only 83 exclamation points in this book.

C.I.:  Jeez Louise, will you never learn? … What’s this I hear about zombies? How could you possibly incorporate zombies into one of your fluffy books?

Me:  They were on television. Susan was greatly affected.

C.I.:  Oh, for crying out loud. You’ve been hyping zombies for weeks, and now you’re telling me they were on television. You’re killing me here! … Does Susan cry very much in this book? Why does she cry so much?

Me:  Of course she cries a lot in this book. She’s sensitive and emotional, but she laughs a lot, too.

C.I.:  How about a quick synopsis?

Me:  Sure. Susan and Darby are in Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. They stay in ImageDarby’s Uncle’s condo, and shortly after they arrive, a tenant is murdered. One of them, Darby or Susan, I’m not telling you which, is eventually suspected of the murder and ends up in jail. So, you see, it doesn’t matter which side of the bars Susan ends up on, she’s upset and crying.

C.I.:  Where’s Mick during this crisis.

Me:  He’s in England. He doesn’t have much of a role in this book.

C.I.:  There are rumors that your blogging has seeped into your writing. Are some of your blogging buddies going to be embarrassed by what you’ve done to them?

Me:  Oh, you bet! There will be acknowledgements in the back to thank one awesome guy for allowing me to seriously abuse him, and I described the photos of another blogger as artworks in a gallery. That was very cool.

C.I.:  You’re going to get sued, you know. … When are you going to publish Windy City Hunter?

Me:  I’m not going to rush it. I want to be careful with the editing, and I have to give my niece time to do the cover, so I’ll probably publish in January. It would have been a neat accomplishment to publish five books in one year, but I’ll settle for having written five in one year.

C.I.:  Yeah, whatever. … Last question. Will there be another Susan Hunter book after this one?

Me:  Of course! I don’t have a working title yet, but I know Susan is going to be writing children’s picture books in the next book. I’ve had a few suggestions so far: Zombie Hunter, Flushing Hunter, and Rat Hunter (thanks, guys!).

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Cranky Interviewer Dude

C.I.:  I’m outta here. Good job on that NaNoRhinoceros thing or whatever it was you just did. I’m not interested in your next book at all. I hate kids. Please don’t call me.

Me:  Ok. Toodles!

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Take NaNo and Stuff Your Chicken With It

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First things first. My husband’s name is Rich. I’m tired of calling him hubby, and I have no pet nicknames for him, so there you go.

Next, I was thankful on Thanksgiving Day. I’m always thankful. I say that upfront lest you think I am ungrateful as this post continues.

Rich and I were in the kitchen Thursday morning as we prepared our Thanksgiving dinner to take to my mother’s house. Music was playing, and we enjoyed the time cooking together. But every time something would go into the oven, I would run to my computer to type a few sentences, and then back to the kitchen, I’d go.

It was time to throw together the corn bake. My family calls it corn shit. “Hey, Maddie! Are you Imagebringing that corn shit again?” Anyway, the corn bake was popped into the oven, and I was off running to my computer to type a few more sentences. … In a nutshell, National Novel Writing Month was a terrible idea. Who thought doing this in November was optimal?

My mother doesn’t care for turkey, and we don’t care what we eat, so I stuffed two chickens instead. Imagine my surprise when it was time to leave, the oven door was opened, and the chickens weren’t done. Neither was the corn bake. I can only assume the oven decided to be persnickety about cooking chickens instead of turkey.

We dragged it all out anyway, and we took off for Mom’s. I called ahead and told her to turn her oven on, and we would finish cooking everything there. Well, that was just fine with her because she wanted to go to the grocery store and stop off at the drug store to pick up her prescriptions. On Thanksgiving.

Mom and I left Rich in charge of the food, and off we went. Having a husband with a strong feminine side is wonderful. He browned the chickens, finished the corn bake, and heated the noodles, sweet potatoes and extra dressing. When we came home forty-five minutes later, he had the meat off the chickens and onto a platter. Our son had arrived, it was just the four of us for dinner, and it was very nice. … Until several hours later when NaNo raised its ugly head inside my brain. I had to go home right then. I had to work on my book.

I did write for a few hours that evening. I was even a teeny bit cranky about it. Ok, I was a lot cranky about it. I would have much preferred to visit blogs and see how everyone’s ImageThanksgiving turned out. When I finally gave up and went to bed, I had crossed 30,000 words – still 6500 words behind. Sigh.

By the end of the day Friday, I was at 33,710 words – still 4600 words behind. On one hand, I wanted to throw in the towel. The book would get done eventually, and I’d rather blog than write. But my mother has been reading the book a few chapters at a time as I get them done. I gave her two more chapters on Thanksgiving. She called Friday evening and told me to hurry up and finish the book. She said she loves it, and can’t wait to find out what happens next. She went so far as to say that this one might be her favorite. Hmmm … I was partial to the ghosts in New Orleans; she must like the zombies in Chicago.

So here I am on Saturday evening at midnight. I was tempted to visit blogs today, but I restrained myself, and it turned out to be a good writing day. Rich and I played a little Dr. Mario when I needed a break, but for the most part, I started writing around 2:00 and kept at it for the day. Word count at midnight: 41,188. The finish line is in sight. Today, I was a writing goddess.

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Click for a closer look and to see what Susan is doing now.

It’s World Toilet Day

ImageI hate toilets.

Yes, I know we need them. Yes, I know how to use one. Yes, I’ve hugged a few in my lifetime. But that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

I’ve mentioned before that we live in a century home. That means it’s over 100 years old, and the plumbing is probably original to the house. When we bought the house, it came with two evil toilets.

The upstairs toilet was the worse. Oh, it had us fooled with its pretty blue color, but I eventually caught on. You didn’t dare get up and go in the dark in the middle of the night, or the seat Imagewould be mysteriously up, and you’d take a water plunge. No one in this house leaves the seat up. No one. It was the evil toilet slipping its seat up in the night.

Then it took a lean. Literally. There is wallpaper in the bathroom with a tiny flower pattern in straight rows. The back of the toilet was lined up perfectly with a row of flowers. One day I noticed the toilet was a little lower than the flowers on the right side. Over the course of a year, the toilet leaned more and more until it was two rows of flowers lower on the right side than the left. You had to sit sideways to use it.

Thank goodness my husband is a man who can do anything … when he’s good and ready. The evil toilet was removed, floor boards replaced, and a brand spanking new white model that could flush a sweater arrived. It has a magical seat that closes hydraulically in an ever-so-quiet motion. No more catching the back of your pajamas on the seat and having it bang in the middle of the night.

However, the evil spirit from the upstairs toilet moved into the downstairs toilet. Go ahead, give it a flush. Works perfectly, doesn’t it? That’s what it wants you to think. The next guy who goes Imagein there and flushes runs the risk of the toilet overflowing. The second guy must always be prepared to be the plunger guy. Run the washing machine? Oh yeah, the downstairs toilet has a fit, and the water does freaky things and sometimes looks like it’s boiling. Go back in there and flush it again just for kicks. The kitchen sink gurgles. That’s cute.

Want to come to our house to visit? We’d love to have you, but if you have to use the toilet, please run down the street to the McDonald’s.

Hubby and I were lying in bed the other night. It was that really quiet time just before you drop off to sleep. But then there was a noise that was killing me. I had to get up, close the bathroom door, and turn on a fan in the bedroom so there would be ambient noise to drown out the offending noise.

The faucet in the bathtub was dripping.

http://www.worldtoilet.org/wto/
Even though I hate toilets, I have done my part today to promote awareness for all of the people in the world who don’t have toilets.

ImageQ: How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper?
A: We have no idea. It never happens.

My blog is rated PG. Add your own love/hate toilet story … or add some toilet humor!

Vacation, Writing, and An Aussie

My husband says his vacation is technically over, but I still consider this weekend to be the last two days of his vacation.

I thought about doing a Christmas song post like this: On the First Day of Vacation, My True ImageLove Gave to Me … a rude awakening to the sound of a saw. Not a manly man chainsaw like a burly woodcutter in plaid would use in the forest, but a Sawzall with its weenie little sound. He was outside and finally cleaning up the large tree branches from the wind storm a few weeks back. I made my way downstairs, opened the back door, leaned out to give him a thumbs-up and said, “You go girl!”

But the rest of the days sort of blur together, and I don’t remember what day he slept on the sofa all day so I could write. Or what day he went to the grocery store for me so I could write. Or when he cleaned the kitchen and then cleaned out the junk drawers. He ground up dried jalapeno peppers in the coffee grinder and filled a spice jar for me with “jalapeno dust.” I also noticed the fried microwave disappeared. He kept me supplied with chocolate.

On Wednesday, he took a drive up north and picked up my mother. Then he came back for me (because I am not riding 60 minutes round trip listening to those two moan andImage complain!). We went to Warther’s Museum to see the Christmas tree displays. Local businesses set up trees, sell them, and the proceeds support the local hospital. Mooney Warther was “the world’s master carver,” and we always enjoy the time spent in the museum – Christmas trees or not.  Afterward, the three of us had lunch together. It was a nice day.

I’m still slogging away at writing my book for National Novel Writing Month, but I’m woefully behind. I’ve broken the rules of the experts, and I’ve taken the time to read what I’ve already written. I’ve also done some editing, and I’ve rewritten a few passages. Sue me. As of this post, I’m at 20,894 words. Unbeknownst to my husband, I’m going to continue to slip Nyquil to him so he’ll sleep all weekend so I can write.

I haven’t been able to keep up with blogs very well, but I will catch up soon. There is one blog I must point out to you today. David Harding is a teacher and an author of children’s books. He lives in Australia, and he recently had a blog post entitled, How to Talk Like Me. It was a hoot, and I suggested he do a video explaining the rules Imageto his favorite game, Gorilla Dice, so we could actually hear him speak … and he did! He titled it, Me Talking Like Me. I’ve watched this thing at least a half dozen times already, and I still laugh when I watch it. There isn’t sound for a few seconds, so be patient and watch with amazement as he affixes a moustache to his face for Movember. If you haven’t already clicked one of the links for him, click this one and go see David and follow him. 🙂

Blogging, Blah Blah Blah, NaNoWriMo

ImageWell, obviously, I can’t do two things at once. My brain can either produce the writing for my book, or it can produce something for my blog, but not both.

It took me over four hours last night to go back and read blogs from the week, drop likes, and leave embarrassing comments. Even though I was late to everything, I did find that being the last one to leave a comment can be a good thing. Fewer people are likely to read the crazy things that come out of your brain at 2:00 in the morning.

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My cousin sent a link to me this week. It was for some old pictures of our grandmother, grandfather, and aunts and uncles. I have to show you one photo that I just love. My aunt and uncle (brother and sister) look like they came right out of a Mad Men episode. They both have drinks and cigarettes in hand, and the furniture was fab.

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Of course, I saw my mother this week. She doesn’t have a computer, but she does have a Presto machine. It’s a printer for receiving emails. Before I went up to see her, I sent the first chapter of my book to her. We were waiting in line at the drive-thru at the bank, and she said, “I don’t like your book.” My heart sank. If my mother didn’t like the first chapter, I was in trouble. There was no way I was starting over, and I didn’t have another idea. I said, “Aww, really? What didn’t you like?”  She tried, but she couldn’t hold back a smile, and she said, “Oh, I’m just teasing you. I loved it. I can picture everything, and it’s really good. I didn’t like that you left me hanging.” Grr! Mothers! She took a week off the life of my heart.

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NaNo is a bit of a pain. When I wrote my other books, I just wrote when I felt like it. Some days produced a lot of words, other days a few or none. This is Day 10, and I’m supposed to be at 16,667 words by the end of the day. That’s not going to happen. The story went completely cattywompus in the condo, and I have no idea how it got out of control. But it’s making me laugh, and I’m going to go with it and see what happens. It’s as though all of those ideas and notes I made before November have Imageflown out the window. The detective in the Santa suit – out. The major mystery at the cooking competition – out. A man wearing a gorilla head – in. Susan and zombies – in. It’s as though I’m possessed. Oh, and we’re only at 11,627 words.

Hubby is on vacation next week. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of writing done then. /sarcasm

So, what’s shakin’ in your neck of the woods?

Let’s Talk about Author Interviews

You may remember that cranky interviewer who was here a while back. He conducted my first book Imageinterview, and I thought it went well. I was able to get the message out about my newest book with its 101 exclamation points, but I haven’t sought any other interviews. I’ve been torn between my thoughts as a consumer and those as a writer.

When I was a consumer only, here is what I thought about author interviews: I don’t care. It wasn’t personal; I simply didn’t care about the author. I never read the jacket flap information about an author. I skipped over author interviews in magazines, and I didn’t read about the author at Amazon or B&N when I bought books.

Janet Evanovich is a favorite author or mine. As a consumer, I don’t care about her writing process or her personal life. I care about Stephanie Plum, and I’m rooting for Ranger, but I’m thinking it will be Morelli, because he is most likely to offer the happily ever after to the series.

But now that I am an author, my mindset is changing. Here at WordPress, I’ve come to know some really great people, and I’m building personal relationships with other authors. How cool is that! A few have been interviewed by other bloggers, and I loved their interviews.

I kind of still don’t want to read about Janet Evanovich, but I do want to read about my friends and other aspiring authors here at WP. The interviews put an author’s name and their book(s) out there for more people to see. In turn, more followers may be gained, more relationships built, and along the line, some sales of books will be made.

All interviews aren’t created equal, and based on my own feelings, past and present, I think it’s important to appeal to the consumer first, so if the reader doesn’t stick around long enough for the personal information, they at least have the information about the book.

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Valerie Clarizio

For an example, I chose fellow WordPress author, Valerie Clarizio to interview. Her book, Cookies for Santa, debuts tomorrow, November 5 at Melange Books (also Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

I already know I like Valerie, but before I decide to buy her book, there are some things I want to know, because no matter how much I like Valerie, I’m not buying gruesome horror and lying awake at night with the lights on for a month. These are basically the same things I want to know before I see a movie, and here are her responses:

Genre / Audience: Romantic Suspense / Adult female. Heroine is 28. Hero is 32.

Content Warning: Cookies for Santa does contain some adult content. There is some minor swearing and a consummated love scene that is both sensual and emotionally satisfying.

Synopsis: Detective Spinelli’s life is tossed sideways when he is reassigned from the Homicide Division to assist in the Child Services Division of the Social Services Department for the holiday season. From the beginning, Spinelli and caseworker Shannon O’Hara generate their own kind of fireworks, causing more than the normal workplace stress. … Shannon moonlights as Santa Claus’ little helper at the mall, and when Santa and an elf turn up dead, Shannon appears to be next on the killer’s list. Spinelli is placed back on homicide and goes undercover as Santa to help capture the killer. He catches a great deal of grief along the way, but will he capture the heart of his little Santa’s helper as well?

Book Length: 38,000 words / 130 pages

The above information is all I need to know to make a decision to buy or not. I don’t need to read a Imagesample, and I don’t need to read anything about Valerie. She has a great cover, and that would draw me in as well, but a cover is never a deal breaker for me. The consumer side of me is now satisfied.

But let’s move on to some questions I would like to have answered from my standpoint as a writer as well as in my effort to continue a personal relationship with Valerie. There could be many questions, but I’ve chosen just a few.

Because of some of my own experiences when writing, I was curious to know Valerie’s answers to the following three questions:

What prompted you to sit down and start writing your book? I had just finished reading the most recent novel of my favorite author and was waiting impatiently for her next one to come out. In the meantime, I had a dream about Spinelli, and I woke up thinking, Wow, my favorite novelist should write this story. After giving it more consideration, I thought to myself, Wow, I should write this story.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences, or is it purely imagination? It’s all purely imagination. Though I wouldn’t mind if a couple of the scenes actually would happen in real life. 🙂

What was your favorite chapter to write? I especially liked writing chapter twelve. The chapter contains another scene of Spinelli playing Santa Claus at the mall. In this scene, Spinelli/Santa is visited by a couple of kids that he and Shannon had previously removed from their home and placed in foster care. The oldest child’s Christmas wish really got to Spinelli, and you can see this tough homicide detective soften before your eyes.

As an author, I wanted to know the answers to the following two questions:

How long did it take to write Cookies for Santa? It took me about five months to write Cookies for Santa, and about eighteen months to finally get it in print.

Why did you choose traditional publishing over self-publishing? How many queries? I was afraid to self-publish. I wanted someone experienced in the business to do things such as edit, design the cover, and help market the book. I’m a newbie, still trying to figure this all out. … I sent out six queries, and of the six, two publishers took a serious look at the MS.

The next three questions are in the fun category and give me a little more insight into Valerie as a person and a friend:

Who would play Shannon and Spinelli in the movie version? Molly Quinn would play Shannon, and Anson Mount would play Spinelli.

What does your family think of your writing? Since I write outside of my day job, I spend many evenings in the home office. That said, my husband has washed more dishes in the past year and a half than he did in our first 20 years of marriage, and he has sole control of the TV remote. J Seriously though, he’s been very supportive. Each of my brothers think they are the hero…they are mistaken, and as for my cat, as long as her food dish is full, she doesn’t care what I do.Image

What is your favorite cookie? White chocolate macadamia nut!

Of course I had to ask her favorite cookie, and if chocolate wasn’t in the answer (even though it’s white chocolate), I would have had to find another person to interview. And look! She used an exclamation point at the end of her answer.

There you have it. A little information to help you get to know Valerie if you would like to follow her here at WP, and enough information about her book to make a decision to buy when it comes out tomorrow. A big thank you to Valerie for being a good sport and allowing me to do a less-than-typical interview.

As for the rest of you, do you read about the author before making a decision to buy a book? Do you read about the author after you know you like their work? Or were you like me and ignored them completely while simply throwing money their way and devouring their books?

If you have any questions or comments for Valerie, feel free to leave them for her in the comments section.

National Novel Writing Month – Day One

Thursday, November 1, 2012

9:00 a.m. – Drag myself out of bed after six and a half hours of sleep. Brrr. It’s cold. Remind myself to find the time to work on clothes warming invention before it gets really cold.Image

9:30 a.m. – Take out dog. Make a cup of cocoa. Clean off my desk in preparation for big writing day.

10:00 a.m. – Show up at a blog and drop a haiku. Mess around reading blogs for a while, write and send an email.

12:00 – Surf websites looking for floor map of condo in Chicago. Walk around the streets of Chicago with Google Street View. Oh, look! A squirrel! Make myself stop surfing clothing stores and go back to condos. Zillow sucks me in, and I shop for my own condo.

1:30 p.m. – Finally have floor plan, room samples, and list of condo amenities. Crap! There’s no paper in the printer and none in the house.

1:45 p.m. – Play a few rounds of computer game.

3:00 p.m. – Drop a comment on a blog and leave a typo. It’s a curse. Read more blogs.

4:00 p.m. – Take out dog again. Did he really wait this long to ask to go out? Converse with hubby about dinner. Leftover spaghetti?

4:15 p.m. – Microwave still dead. Pile leftover spaghetti and sauce in baking dish, top with Parmesan cheese, and plop into the oven.

4:30 p.m. – Run to store for chocolate. Pat myself on back for remembering to buy paper.Image

5:15 p.m. – Hubby home. Dinner is good. Spaghetti is always better the next day – or was it from last week?

6:15 p.m. – Crash on sofa in den and play Dr. Mario with hubby. Crank up music and realize Pitbull and Flo Rida both have new songs out. Hubby loving and singing along with new Rihanna tune; I’m not so sure I like it. I am tonight’s champion. Yay!

8:00 p.m. – Back at my desk. Ok, I’m ready to write. Ready, set … oh, look! A squirrel!  Country Music Awards are on.

8:25 p.m. – Text from son; he works afternoons. Haven’t seen him for a while. Decide to run up and see him over his lunch break.

9:30 p.m. – Back home. Country Music Awards are still on. Fast forward to catch up live. Motorboatin’!

11:00 p.m. – Awards over. I can write for a couple of hours now. That’s plenty of time to crank out more than 2,000 words. Commercial comes on for Nashville with that cute girl from Heroes, Hayden Panettiere. Hey, I missed that last night. Find it online to watch missed episode.

Midnight – Nashville over. Take out dog again. Dog goes to bed. Hubby sleeping on sofa. Now I can write!Image

12:10 a.m. – Grab notebook and start handwriting notes for first scene. No actual manuscript writing, but look at me! I’m accomplishing something!

12:15 a.m. – Oh, look! A squirrel! My dvr is recording something. What am I recording now? Check the listing and see Project Runway is recording. Well, I’m not waiting to watch that! It’s the All Stars.

12:30 a.m. – Give up on writing and put together a blog post chronicling first day of NaNoWriMo while I watch Project Runway. After all, this blog was originally intended to track my writing journey.

National Novel Writing Month – Day 1 – Number of words written: ZERO

Blasted squirrels.Image

I Wish I Were a Hero

ImageNot a hero like someone who puts their own life in danger to rescue their fellow man (although I would hope I would do that if the occasion presented itself). No, I wish I were a hero like the heroes in the television show, Heroes. You know, the one that ran for four years, and I stopped watching after the first year because I was no longer into it. “They thought they were like everyone else … until they woke with incredible abilities.

I want the ability to resist fire.

I’m fascinated by fire. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not a pyromaniac. But staring into a fire is hypnotic, and it’s warm, and I like the way fire crackles and sounds.

ImageLook at that picture. It has not been photoshopped, and I swear there is a hero at the arrow. Or a monster.

Two doors down from us, a house caught fire. Everyone got out, and firefighters were quick to arrive, so the house was saved, but I was fascinated watching the flames try to claim the house for their own.

Last year, an old warehouse-type building caught fire in our town, and I couldn’t leave the scene. I’ve never seen such a large fire. The heat was intense, and the amount of noise surprised me. Noise from the fire as well as the building falling apart. It was mesmerizing.

I wish I were a hero with the ability to resist fire and some day walk through it unscathed.

Ideally, I would find out about my powers gradually. If a mean boy in high school reached across the table at a hamburger joint, and held a lit cigarette over my hand, I wouldn’t pull away. I would let him put it on the top of my hand, and I would look him in the eye until he chickened out and pulled back. I wouldn’t utter a sound, I would simply grab a sliver of ice from my coke and put it on the hole.

If I loaded wood into the wood burner, and my hand or arm banged the side of the hot burner and left a white hot mark (just about every freakin’ time), I wouldn’t flinch.

If smoking hot oil flew out of the pan when I dropped a beef roast into it, and it melted a hole in the carpet, I wouldn’t cry or fuss when the hot oil also landed on a wide area of my arm.

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Joe and his screaming chicken.

If I put chicken under the broiler in the oven, and my hand accidentally hit the heating element, I would just sigh and run it under cold water.

In our house, I’m the one who can wash dishes in the hottest of water. I’m the one with white marks on hands and arms from what should have been nasty burns and scars, but the incidents only appear to have taken the pigment out of the skin. I’m the one who can’t seem to stop burning herself with little to no pain or aftermath, and I just look at the menfolk and say, “I’m a hero.”

What hero quality do you possess?

(Carrie Rubin! You better not tell me that I have some terrible neurological disease, and I need to see a doctor right away. Don’t take my hero dream away from me. I’m going to be a firewalker some day! :-))

Weekly Writing Challenge:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/weekly-writing-challenge-i-wish-i-were/

Thank you to my friend, Charlie, who put me onto this remix video. As of this date, it’s coming up on eight million hits

Image(This is a fun lady, and she’s adjusting to her new-found fame well!)

P.S. – When you publish your post about fire, don’t forget about your ham and cheese sandwich in the skillet in the kitchen, or the bottom piece of bread will look like this:

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National Novel Writing Month – Why?

ImageAfter a beautiful week of near 80-degree temperatures, we dropped into the forties with rain all weekend. That kept us from doing yard work, but we managed to accomplish a few other tasks.

It was good to take the weekend away from the blogosphere. I watched a few movies, hubby and I dusted off the Nintendo 64 and played a few rounds of Dr. Mario, and I made some preparations for NaNo – as well as a pot of chili. Yum.

I wasn’t going to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I didn’t really see the point. All four of my books are in the 50k to 57k range, and the first three were all written in a three week period of time (with editing after, of course). House guests and a few other projects cropped up in the middle of book number four, but the actual writing was about four weeks with one day producing 7100 words. I didn’t feel the need to challenge myself by participating.

I’ve been enjoying reading about what others are doing to prepare. Some have everything planned down to the number of hours to write in a day, food choices, number of words to write daily, housekeeping schedules, etc.  I’m highly competitive, and the thought of being a “winner” is enticing, but that wasn’t a strong enough motive to participate.

The reason I finally decided to sign up is that I’ve been dragging my feet about writing at all. I only want to write two more Susan Hunter books, and I just haven’t been able to get started on the next book other than the first two paragraphs. I’m thinking NaNo is the kick in the pants I need.

But there are other things happening behind the scenes. Writing came out of nowhere for me this year. After seeing other people sell short stories for a dollar on Smashwords, I just wanted to see if I could write a story, too. The fact that a book – let alone four – came out still astounds me. I’ve said it a million times, my books aren’t extraordinary with fantastic plots, but they are entertaining, which is all I ever hoped for.

If this next book goes well, and I enjoy writing it as much as I did the others, I’ll keep writing. (I’m kind of afraid it will all disappear as fast as it showed up. Or my shades of ADD will kick it to the curb for something else.)

I did manage quite a bit of research and preparation over the weekend for the official start on Thursday: ImageFrom right to left:

-My notebook with my original thoughts on scenes, characters, and how I want the story to unfold.

-More scribble notes with a scribble map of where I want events to take place.

– Printout of a Google street map in Chicago. I’m having Susan and Darby stay in a condo where I once stayed. The building and the surroundings are familiar to me and will make writing the story easier.

– Notes from a pulp fiction story that is in the public domain. It has the elements I want to use for a sub-plot in the condo.

– Another map outlining crime areas in Chicago. I can’t very well have Susan walking around in areas that are noted as high crime areas.

– Scribble notes with research needed for Susan personally, and I also jotted down some things that came to me for the opening scene at a gas station.

-Obligatory dish of m&m’s for research and writing.

– The typed pages atop my scanner are other details I previously worked out for the book, as well as all of my research into cooking contests.

I still need to do a bit more research based on the criminal element of the story, and then I’ll be ready to start writing. If I don’t make it to 50,000 words by the end of the November, that’s ok. If I do, I’ll be editing like crazy around the clock so I can publish right away. It would be awesome to have a book with a Christmas theme published in time for Christmas.

I wish everyone good luck and joy as they write during National Novel Writing Month.

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Step Away From the Blog

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Do people from the blogosphere infiltrate your day? Not while you’re online and actually reading blogs, but as you go about your daily routine?

I’m on the interstate quite a bit. It’s easy access to the few towns near us as well as to civilization north of us. Today, instead of taking the back roads, I hopped onto the interstate to run to the bank one town over.

As I neared the end of the on ramp, I checked my mirrors once more before merging into traffic, and someone popped into my head – John the Aussie.

A man in Australia is suddenly with me on my little stretch of road in Ohio, and it’s not the first time. I see his smiling face in my mind, and I quickly check to be sure I’ve flipped my turn signal off. Crikey and blimey, is this a forever thing? Is this one of those things that you never shake – like the time a truck full of guys from school drove by and threw tomatoes at you when you were mowing the grass? I haven’t mowed grass since then, and I still see those guys standing in the bed of the truck whipping their tomatoes at me when I see someone else mowing grass. For crying out loud, I have three brothers, why was I mowing the grass in the first place? I blame my dad for that, but maybe he was the one laughing the hardest. Focus, Maddie. Get back on topic.

Yesterday, I ran through a Steak ‘N Shake to grab a quick sandwich while I was out. Of course, I saw Imagethe milkshakes on the menu, and I thought, “Kate would have a caramel one.” A fabulously funny girl in New Zealand is causing me to think about milkshakes!  For the record, I didn’t get one.

I turned my television on two nights ago, and it came on to the World Series. The announcer said, “Detroit,” and my mind instantly thought, “I bet Tim is all hunkered down to watch this.”

Plus, there are the blog things I have to share with my husband. Because I go to bed so late, I usually wake him on the sofa, and by the time we get settled into bed, we’re usually awake, talking, and laughing about something. At 2:00 a.m. one night, we were giggling like little school girls when I told him something Ruth said about her husband that was so sweet, and we could relate, but it struck our funny bones.

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Embellishment includes lighted appendage. Cartoon: http://holleygerth.com

Christopher is known to my mother, our friends, and my sister because of his fireflies story, and the embellishments my husband has added after we tell the original version. We should probably pay Christopher some royalties.

So, when I walk into the bathroom the other day, and I see an empty roll of toilet paper sitting on the counter, and I remember a blog post about empty rolls of toilet paper, I think I might need to step away for a bit and give my mind a breather.

The Weekly Photo Challenge this week is: Foreign. The very first thing that popped into my head was CLEANING SUPPLIES (see photo submission above). No kidding! These objects are completely foreign to me these days. This blogging gig has left our home woefully unkempt. To clear my mind from the blogs and bloggers who are continually running around in it, flicking at my synapses, I’m going to take the weekend off and step away from the blog.

NaNoWriMo starts next Thursday, and I’m going to take some time this weekend to put some thought into how I want to approach my writing. Hubby and I still have to clean up the tree mess from the storm, and someone really needs to buy some proper groceries. But mostly, I want to use some of those foreign products and do some cleaning. I don’t even know where the vacuum cleaner is.

Now, don’t leave me hanging out here like a freak. Bloggers get into your brain, too, don’t they?

Pass the Tissues, She’s Crying Again

ImagePinocchio saved Geppetto from the whale, Monstro. When they washed up on shore, and it appeared Pinocchio had died, I cried. I was an adult.

When my husband told me of seeing an old man crying as he took his dog into the vet to be euthanized, I cried.

When our son broke up with a girlfriend, I saw her face as she left our home. It was the right decision, but I felt her pain, and I cried.

I remember feeling things deeply as a child. I laughed hard; I cried hard. When I would read books, I felt what the characters were feeling, and it was not unusual to find me crying over a book. I still cry when I read books. Even my own, silly as that may seem.

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Buddy

I cry watching movies and television shows. I cry at weddings. I cry in church, especially from the music. I can’t watch those heart-wrenching commercials on television about dogs that need help, because they’ll turn me into a blubbering mess.

When I see someone who is hurting, I know how they feel. It’s painful at times.

This isn’t something I can control. I’ve tried. I fight tears. I try to think of something else, but the feelings are too strong.

Most people can sympathize with others and situations, but empathy is a feeling of another’s true emotions. An empath will deeply feel the emotions of others. It is suspected to be genetic and in our DNA – something passed from generation to generation.

There have been times when I wished this would go away, but I think I’m much more forgiving and understanding of people because of empathy.

I hope no one would ever say I am uncaring.
What’s the one thing you hope other people never say about you?
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/daily-prompt/

Q: Why Was the Photographer Arrested?

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ImageThis is a picture I took of my mother in the A Christmas Story house in Cleveland, Ohio. She is standing next to the famous leg lamp. You can see I have a talent for photography. /sarcasm

I’ve always had a fascination with cameras. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic, and I went through flash cubes like some people I know go through chocolate (you know who you are). There was great anticipation as I waited for the prints to come back from wherever they were sent. I think I was always a little disappointed in the final results, but there were usually enough pictures to delight me to make it worthwhile.

In my early twenties, I finally bought a 35 mm camera. I forgot to change a setting once, and my one and only trip to Disneyworld was forever overexposed. The camera certainly wasn’t as easy to use as an Instamatic, and my picture taking dropped dramatically.

I finally took a continuing education class in basic photography. I learned how to use my camera, and we even did some developing in a darkroom.

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The McKinley Monument has 108 steps. You run to the top and act like Rocky.

We were eventually sent out to shoot pictures, and we had to bring ten slides with us the following week to share with the class. I picked out my favorites. As more and more slides were shown that evening, I slid down in my chair hoping to go unnoticed. Most of the pictures were of the well-known landmarks  around the area (they all seemed to have the McKinley Monument) or beautiful pictures of flower gardens and streams.

I almost got away with it, but the teacher spotted me just before he went to turn on the lights. There were some chuckles and snickers as they viewed my picture of cows on a steep incline, slivers of the last rays of sunshine slipping between black trunks of skinny trees onto an even blacker swamp, and a sunset behind a dilapidated barn which was set to the left of my frame rather than the right. I don’t remember my other pictures, but they were equally odd and different from all of the others.

I’m sure my face and neck were red when the lights came back on.

Imagine my surprise when the teacher used my slides to show/tell everyone why their pictures were boring and uncreative while mine were not. After class, he suggested I sign up for the next, more advanced class. He thought I had an “eye” for photography and could do something with it someday. I didn’t pursue it. I just wanted to learn how to use my camera. It was stolen within the year when my apartment was broken into. I never replaced it.

I find myself following quite a few photographers here at WordPress. My love for photography has definitely surfaced again, but I don’t have a camera. Well, I do have a digital Sony Mavica, but it’s not what I want.

Yesterday was a pretty, sunny day. I charged the Mavica and asked hubby to take me for a drive, so I could take some pictures. I told him I’d make a great blog post with my photographic skills. We both laughed.

We weren’t very far from home when he saw two horses, a white fence, and a barn. Not what I was looking for, but he whipped off the road and pulled out his camera phone. He was shooting pictures so fast you would have thought there was an underwear model out there. I looked around. We were next to a dried up corn field. I spotted one yellow ear peeking out. I snapped a picture – just to get started as this wasn’t what I had in mind. The sky above the field was a beautiful blue, and although not special, I snapped the picture anyway.

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Then my camera died. Two freakin’ crappy pictures and my camera died. My enthusiasm was gone just like that. But not hubby. Oh, no. He drove on down the road to the winery and took a million pictures there with his phone. I whined and dragged my feet as I watched him be the photographer. Sigh.

Here are a few photographers I have more recently followed and have really been enjoying:

http://pamtanzey.wordpress.com/ – Pam is an artist, and I love her artwork. She frequently posts photos, and her close-ups of her horses are wonderful. Her recent dog photos made me want more dogs.

http://arnoldthearmadillo.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/leafy-drive/ – Glenno has a new blog, and this link will take you directly to one of his photographs that I just love.

http://disperser.wordpress.com/ – Emilio’s shots of bird, bugs, flowers, and much more are wonderful. His recent post of tree swallows feeding was great.

http://barrycreative.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/a-shore-thing/  – I first found Barry with the post at this link. I was hooked by his visuals and his stories.

And here are some of hubby’s camera phone pictures so he doesn’t feel left out:

ImageImageImageImageAnswer to the title of this post: Because he shot people.

Do you have an interest in photography? Do you share your photos on your blog?

I Adore My Husband (Part Two)

ImageMost people would say their husband is their best friend. I would say that, too, but my husband is my best friend and best girlfriend all rolled into one.

We chat about everything. He has been known to crimp my hair and enhance the color. He proudly wears pink and yellow. He shops. We were in a fabric store not too long ago, and he was oohing and aahing over fabrics while I was whining, dragging my feet, and wanting to go home. He sings the female backup parts to songs. He sheds tears when something touches his heart.

The flip side is that he is a manly man and is comfortable in flannel. He can fix anything, build anything, and solve any problem – at least in my world. He used an employment service the last time he looked for work. He had to take a test so they could pigeon-hole him into a few types of jobs. The workers said the test results showed he was one of the rare people who could literally do anything. I believe it.

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Single malt, no rocks for hubby.

I don’t mind that he smokes cigars and drinks an occasional Scotch. There’s something about those skinny cigars and a glass of Scotch neat that makes him too sexy for his pink shirt.

Women love him; men appropriately like him (although I recall a few men who would have liked to have loved him). He has a wonderful sense of humor, and not a day goes by without him making me laugh in some way.

Which brings me to today. Today I decided to delete old email and text messages on my computer and my phone. Of course, I first had to look for the gems he has sent to me since the last time I did this and embarrassed him back in August. Here we go …

There are still sweet greetings:

Good morning, honey pie.

Good morning, princess.

As well as some news from the overnight, and before he actually starts work:

Did you have fun punching me in the face last night?  What did I do to you?

Pete had a three-pooper this morning. Yippie.  He was a proud beagle.Image

I love you. I hope you’re still snoring and making spit bubbles.

Comments regarding his day at work:

Everyone who comes into my office today has commented on my banana.  They want to touch it.  I understand Debbie and Sue wanting to, but Steve and Bob?  Not so much.

Sometimes a random thought comes through:

Humpty says “Grab ‘em in the biscuits.”

We frequently talk about food as we try to eat healthier:

I’m starving. I’ll have bread and water for supper.

I want to run uptown and have a margarita, chips and salsa. Then go Imageto Wendy’s for a large chili and a single with everything but cheese, and wash it down with a large frosty. Then swing over to Taco Bell for an enchirito and a couple choco-taco’s. On the way home, stop at the gas station and pick up chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream for a light snack.

 

After I asked what he wanted from the Chinese place:

I guess the chicken with the big black snotty fungus flaps.

Some days he’s in a hurry to come home:

Just over an hour before I can leave to come home to my bride. I CAN’T WAIT.

Papa’s comin’ home, and he’s NAKED. I hope I don’t get pulled over along the way.

After I sent him the video of Greenback Boogie, which I liked:

Now there’s five minutes of my life that I’ll NEVER get back.

When I asked him to help me with the bacon limericks:

You want a dirty or a clean limerick? Dirty I can do in a flash. Clean may take me a few weeks.

Bacon peppered, smoky and thick,
Frying it fast is part of the trick.
Along with some eggs,
Or eaten alone,
Rub on your ears and use as cologne.

The day he needed to get something off his chest:

Our town’s finest was out in front of the house last weekend talking to the “Kettle Kids.” I figured he told them to stay away from the road and not play there. You know, doing his civil duty. I just mowed the grass, and I now know why the cop stopped. The Kettle’s were out there busting hell out of our slate sidewalk. There are enough slate chips out there to arm the entire Sioux Tribe with arrowheads for the next friggin’ ten years.

Just this week, after a wind storm ripped the power lines away from our house, and the surge fried our microwave:

I’m taking my dish of leftover spaghetti to the Circle-K. They have microwaves over there.Image

There are still sweet closings:

Hugs ‘n smooches

I love you, my princess.

I Adore My Husband (Part One)

♫ Tan Shoes with Pink Shoelaces ♫

We’re singing again. Dodie Stevens this time, because the song crossed my mind while writing this post.

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Steve Harvey of Family Feud

One day each week, I head thirty miles north to visit with my mother. I take her to the grocery store, shopping, for occasional doctor visits, and four times a year, we gripe and complain on the way to our accountant for our quarterly taxes. We generally have dinner before heading back to her house to gossip visit some more and watch the Game Show Network. I run up and down the stairs during commercials to do her laundry.

Yesterday, I was treated to a gorgeous drive on the way up. The fall colors are nearly at their peak now, and with the sun shining, it was miles upon miles of aurulent, melichrous, coccineous, vitellary, badious, and rubious leaves.

The color show reminded me that the Weekly Writing Challenge this week was to incorporate a splash of color into your post. I thought of my favorite color, yellow. It’s a cheerful color. We live in a yellow house, but I don’t want to write about my house. I’m mad at it right now because it allowed a power surge to wipe out my microwave and a television this week. (Public Service Announcement: Buy good Imagepower strips. Most of our electronics were plugged into heavy-duty power strips, and although four of them were fried and off to a dumpster today, the items plugged into them survived.)

I do have this love affair with pink. I have a fabulous, double breasted, pink jacket with a high collar. It’s quite retro. Pink shoelaces show up in my books.

Aha! That’s it! Color in writing.

Do you give a lot of thought to color when you write? Beyond the fact that a room was blue, the tablecloth was white, or the villain was wearing all black? Do you use color stereotypically?

This is something that probably comes up in Writing 101, but we all know I didn’t take that class. I searched one of my books and found references to colors that work just fine in their context, but had I given more thought to color specifically, I may have tried some other words and descriptions.

As my mother was TWO HOURS in the eye doctor’s office yesterday, I spent the time searching and reading on my Nook about using color in your writing. That explains the obscure color words I used above to describe the leaves. I was surprised to find that these words are also considered obscure:
Chartreuse – Humph! I put a guy in a chartreuse thong in one of my books.
Beige – What? Surely you’ve owned a pair of beige pants.
Hoary – I’ve heard my husband use this word. Oh, wait. Maybe not in reference to a color.
Indigo – Everyone knows this color, don’t they?
Khaki – More pants, usually with too many pockets.
Maroon – Come on. Obscure? Bugs Bunny uses this color word often. Image
Violet – Didn’t your grandmother have a little pot of violets in her house? You know this color.

Colors can show mood in your writing. Every color suggests a feeling. Red denotes passion and action; blue is trust and peace; yellow for wisdom and happiness; green for balance, growth, and nature. There are many sites that will give you a wide range of colors and their meaning/perception.

Colors can help to set the tone of your scene, and by adding strong adjectives, you can set a powerful stage with wonderful imagery.

There are thousands of colors across the spectrum for you to choose from when describing objects. Once you’ve decided upon your base color, change it to a color from the same family that will give your writing more vigor. Instead of a red sweater, choose a scarlet sweater, or even a ruby red sweater.

Many writers use similes and metaphors with color. The walls were a putrid green like a zombie Imageskateboarding toward me to devour my flesh.  They can be a great way to convey color images.

I’ve finally thrown my hat into the ring for NaNoWriMo. I think it will be a good kick in the pants to get me going strong. I only have two paragraphs written so far for my new book, and I don’t have to use them at all toward my novel/word count in November. As my setting will be Chicago at Christmas, I’m going to pay more attention to color in my writing this time.

Do you use color in your writing? Do you rely on it to set mood, tone, and feel?

P.S. – If you missed it, that crazy Stairway to Heaven post last week was Freshly Pressed. A lot of people stopped by to leave creative poetry and/or fun comments if you’d like to take a look.

A Male Perspective

More than ever, I’m convinced I have a genre problem. My books aren’t sophisticated with enough romance to satisfy chick-lit lovers, and the mystery element isn’t a murder to be solved from chapter one throughout, so hardcore mystery lovers may also not be satisfied, but those are the two genres available for my type of book.

Truly, I have to start a campaign for a fluffy, pink-with-a-hint-of-silliness genre. I market under Breezy Books. I promote my books as fun, easy, breezy reading with nothing to make you blush. I think there are still women who appreciate a book that is pretty squeaky clean. Tell your mothers and grandmothers about my books. They are suitable for young adults, but there is no fantasy or vampires, and I haven’t tested the YA market.

But … it was especially fun when fellow WordPress blogger, Mike Akin of sumthissumthat, decided to read my first book. Mike is working on his first novel, and I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading some of the beginning of his work, and it’s shaping up into a great story.

He is my first male reader (that I’m aware of) other than my husband. I have been tickled pink about this, and I want to share some of his email messages with you. The messages are sent to me from his phone, so there is no expectation of perfect punctuation or grammar.  We just go with it and laugh.

These are all separate emails – some days with more than one. Many of the smiley faces have been removed. We smile at each other a lot. His words are in bold, and we start with this note:

9/26I just saw your books on my iBooks app!! That is so freaking cool!! I’m corresponding with a famous person. I’ll be buying the first one later today!! This is so exciting lol

After I assured him my books were no great works of art, but they were fun, he replied:
I’m just tickled to death  lol  have a great day my friend … I love that he gets “tickled,” too.

I’ll kick your butt in racquetball   … Oops, not a comment about the book. We were one-upping each other in sports.


10/01
Bought your first book 🙂 how can I get it autographed? Lol

I’m reading it and like it!!


10/02
I love the description of play on the racquetball court in the scene where she first met mick

I replied to him:  Squee!!  Thank you.

He immediately wrote back: What was that sound? Image

I replied: That was me being excited and happy.  Kind of like a pig squeal.

In reference to one of the scenes in the book: Two aces to finish a match! I did that once or twice 🙂

Love it! That meeting in the pub, the harmless flirting lol I hope I’m reading the first one, sunshine hunter is the first right? Or does it matter? I’m sure it does. Again, I guess I’m hooked 🙂


10/3 –
(paraphrase from a line in the book) “He held my arms it’s a good thing cause I might have fallen down” … That’s good lol

wow I’m breezing right thru it. I think Susan needs to hook up with Darby

A side note about Susan and Darby after I showed him my two opening paragraphs for my fifth book I just started writing:
Wow Bonnie and Clyde lol GREAT

wow Darby is still around in next book I’m so looking forward to reading more


10/4 –
(paraphrase) “Susan you know I love you, and would love to date you, but (removed spoiler text).”  Great great

After I told him that the guy across the hall from Susan’s apartment opened his door, and the character was created just like that with no planning:
That’s cool about Darby. So he just appeared as a character and you went with it? I think I did that with Nancy’s sister Grace. Lol She will be in the story line thru out, but I don’t know how much 🙂


10/5 –
Food channel is referenced a lot in your book
I promptly responded: I like to cook. And eat.

Loved reading about the matches Susan had at that club in Florida. It brings back memories

Lol that is funny! Loudermilk for a last name 🙂


10/09 –
I loved the way (chapter) 9 ended! Shocker


10/11 –
I really like how your story took that twist with Susan and the (spoiler text removed) character 🙂 kudos to you

He’s so deep into the book, there would be too many spoilers now, so that’s all I’m sharing, but this has been a real hoot for me that a grown manly man is reading my book and enjoying it. It’s a real morale booster, and the rest of you men out there should take note and give my book a try. Sunshine Hunter – only 99 cents at fine ebook sellers online.

And below the fold is this bit of news I promised I’d share. My 50-book sale to ONE person at Smashwords has finally been reversed. The announcement was posted on their site that there were fraudulent credit card sales and all have been reversed this month. The secret admirer angle was a little too good to be true. ImageI have no questions to draw you in today, so we lapse into an awkward pause.

Ooh – or you can tell me what question(s) I should have asked. Or you can go over to Mike’s blog and have a look around. He has some of his wife’s art there, and he even has some manly recipes.

Blogging Freaks Me Out (Part Three)

ImageBlogging etiquette was the intended topic for today.

I’ve been blogging for three months now, and some things still confuse me. After scanning 40+ articles about blogging etiquette, I had a considerable amount of information to share, but, truthfully, it was kind of boring, and I found myself disagreeing with some points … and … I realized that blogging still freaks me out at times.

What should you do when you leave a comment and realize you’ve stuck your foot in your mouth? Please give me a delete button for my own comments! Commenter’s remorse is a real thing and will cause you to break out in a cold sweat.

As I compiled blogging etiquette information, I went back to some of my older posts and made some minor changes. When I checked my email later, there were notifications of new comments to those posts. OH MY GOSH! It never dawned on me that some people get alerts whenever I send up a post, and updating these older posts spammed the people who get the alerts. I’M SO SORRY! I spent 20 minutes under my desk until the red drained from face.

An unfamiliar author with an unfamiliar book left a comment and asked me to interview her on my blog. She wanted to connect with my followers. I was kind of freaked at her cheekiness and deleted. Should I have done that? Maybe her etiquette was good and mine was bad?

The fishermen bloggers confuse me. They will hit my like button daily for many days, so I finally go to their blogs, and if I like what I see, I follow. They hooked me, and I never see them at my blog again. Not that they need to come back, and it’s not really a thing to freak out about, but it adds to the confusion of blogging etiquette.

So that all of my research doesn’t go to waste, let me share some of the blogging etiquette items that I couldn’t wholly agree with:

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Blogging Etiquette Expert “You must credit everyone.”

 

– Give Credit.  I have a wee problem with the credit thing. You are asked to credit everyone about EVERYTHING. I counted as many as 30 links peppered throughout one article, with very few of them being relevant. These people would want me to link/credit all 40+ articles I encountered to cobble an etiquette post together.

When Morgan Le Fables posted the link to Anne Rice’s video talk to aspiring writers, and he gave his opinion about the video, you bet I credited him when I used his blog post as a stepping stone to make my own post about the video.

But according to the experts, that’s a no-no. You should come up with your own original ideas and not use the ideas of others. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be posting.

I don’t agree. Plagiarism is one thing, but reading a post about keeping track of the little things in your writing gave me an idea to show how I’ve done this in my own writing. If I publish, I’ll credit the author’s blog for the idea. I get a lot of inspiration from reading other blogs.

Image– Use correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization when commenting. I can see trying to have your actual blog post cleaned up as much as possible, but I’m not one to do a lot of proofreading and editing for a comment. Plus, I spilled a Starbucks Frappuccino on my keyboard, and some of my keys still stick. You won’t always get a capital *i* from me. I think we should be a little more forgiving in the comments section.

This is when I gave up working so hard on the etiquette post:
– Respond to all comments.
– Don’t respond to all comments.
– Leave a comment if only to say you liked the post.
– Don’t leave a comment if you aren’t contributing to the conversation.

Oh my gosh! Who doesn’t want a comment? I would assume if someone didn’t want comments, they would turn them off – or at least say, “serious comments only.” If someone simply slapped a smiley face in my comments section, I would be happy they took an extra moment of their time to let me know they read my post and found it enjoyable.

For me, everyday good manners and common sense go a long way in blogging. Be nice, have fun, be Imageyourself. Hide under your desk for twenty minutes if you commit a faux pas.

By the way, Part One is kind of funny, because I was still pretty shy and really freaked out when more than 20 people showed up to my blog one day. Part Two was when I unfollowed blogs because I was afraid they would think I was trolling for Likes/Follows.

What are your thoughts on blogging etiquette? Does blogging ever freak you out?

Call me Susan.

ImageFirst lines. How important are they? According to a huge number of online articles, your first line is everything.

I have four self-published books. Take a look at these first lines:

My perfectly restored ‘67 Chevy Chevelle careened around the corner at Walsh and Park, the tires squealing in an effort to get my attention. ~Sunshine Hunter

“Susan, Mrs. Colter peed on the floor again.” ~Big Apple Hunter

“Hey, beautiful, do you have any blue underwear?” ~Sin City Hunter

“Stop it!” I whispered.” ~Big Easy Hunter

Detective Bentley’s blood pressure was on the rise as he paced the hallway of the unfamiliar police station. ~Windy City Hunter (not yet published, still messing around with the first line)

I think I swerved into a fairly decent first line for the first book, and now that I’m learning more about writing, I think the last one is pretty good, too. First lines good or bad, I think all of my books are entertaining.

While reading about first lines, I came across this site which lists 100 Best First Lines from Novels. I enjoyed reading it, and I was surprised so many were quite lengthy.

It was a dark and stormy night continues for another 51 words.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times continues for another 48 words.Image

It was love at first sight.  Joseph Heller started Catch-22 with a cliché.

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.  Dodie Smith wrote this first line to I Capture the Castle. I thought it was funny. I wonder if she sat in the bathtub when she wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Only three of the 100 started with a sentence of dialogue. A few weeks back, I learned this is something taught in classes – do not start your book with dialogue. I did it anyway.

I did shrink the information I gleaned down to a few tips for the first line of a story:
– You want to grab your reader’s attention.
– Your first line should be interesting by asking a spoken or unspoken question, promising something, or offering an unproven idea.
– Show your main character in your first line.
– Show your setting or give a sense of your setting.
– Your style of writing should shine through. Your voice should be identified.

Well, no wonder writing is so hard. That’s a lot to lay on one sentence.

I also read that first sentences are rarely memorable. You are more likely to remember a last line or a last scene. Yet, it is, of course, the first that is used to hook a reader.

As I read the articles, I also read the comments. There were some interesting comments about so much weight being applied to one sentence. Many people responded:

– The first few lines are important, not the first sentence.
– The first few paragraphs will set the tone and writing style.
– The first chapter is the beginning, but it’s not necessarily the beginning of the entire story.

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You take over. What do aspiring writers really need to know about first lines? Does the first line truly do the heavy lifting ascribed to it?

Stairway to Heaven

I’m a fiction writer. Poetry is not my thing. I tried to write a poem for this post, and my husband said, Image“You didn’t rhyme the last two lines.” Of course I did. I’m not an idiot. I went back and read them. Hmmm … I guess “come” doesn’t rhyme with “done.” Crap!

But, in an effort to post outside of my comfort zone, I am forging ahead with poetry. I even have a picture to use for inspiration. Also outside of my comfort zone is to ask for participation. I can barely squeak out a question at the end of my posts, so this is definitely outside of my comfort zone. (I just used the words “comfort zone” three times in one paragraph. Now four.) So, here we go …

Sing with me. Led Zepplin. Stairway to Heaven. Do you have it in your head? Good.

Thanks to my husband, whenever I go out into our backyard, the song rolls around in my head. There isn’t a stairway to heaven out there, there’s a stairway to nowhere. Now sing the song using the words “buying a stairway to nowhere.”

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Click for a closer view.

This summer, the house next door to ours was gutted and completely renovated. The stairway in question used to go to the door to the kitchen. As you can see, they made a new entrance with new stairs. They didn’t remove the old stairs; they simply painted them brown. What were they thinking? For me personally, the stairs to nowhere would be a deal breaker.

Rather than try to understand the logic, let us pay homage to the stairs to nowhere today. Leave a poem, limerick, haiku, or simply your comment about the stairs to nowhere – or anything else for that matter. I’ll walk over, sit on the stairs, and read your work or comment aloud. Maybe. I might pay a neighbor kid to do it.

We’ll start. Here’s hubby’s limerick because he is a fountain when it comes to limericks:

There once were some steps, a total of four,
That led from the ground up to the door.
The door went away,
An improvement some say.
Now they lead to a door that’s no more.

Good, but BORING. His bacon/schmeckel limerick was so much better. If he hadn’t mowed the grass this past weekend and used up all of his energy, I’m sure he would have given us better.

Here’s my poem:

Oh stairs once gray,
I feel your dismay.
Slathered in brown,
The bane of the town.

You went to the kitchen,
You used to be bitchin’.
Now useless to all,
There is only a wall.

That is why I don’t do poetry.

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Let me try a haiku:

Gray happy stairway
Leaves fall on distressing brown
Renovation sucks

I’m supposed to take a moment to reflect on the experience of this new type of blog post for me. It only took a nanosecond to have my thought: Poetry is hard. I’m stickin’ with fiction.

Your turn.
Just go with it.

Imagehttp://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/weekly-writing-challenge-and-now-for-something-completely-different/

Six Sentence Sunday

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After taking a break for several weeks, I’m ready to start writing again. If I’m diligent, I might be able to have my fifth book published just after Thanksgiving. It has a Christmas theme, and I would love to have it out for Christmas.

I’ve rewritten the first two paragraphs five or six times already, but this is what I have now. My books are first person POV, but I’m going to start my new book a bit differently. Here are the first six sentences of Windy City Hunter:

————

Detective Bentley’s blood pressure was on the rise as he sat down hard on the cold steel bench in the police station. Chicago was the last place he wanted to be two weeks before Christmas. He had no clout here, and his demands for answers had only served to further aggravate the officers on duty. Six hours had passed, and he still didn’t know where Susan and Darby were being held. Worse, he didn’t know which one of them was being charged with murder.

He rubbed his temples in an effort to alleviate the throbbing.

————

Pick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site: http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

Are You An Audiophile?

ImageThere is often music in our home. My husband might be blaring something from the den, while I have music competing for airspace from my computer.

When we married and merged our belongings, he brought a stereo system with a set of speakers that were taller than me. They could rock the house – literally. He had a fidelity demo cd with a multitude of sounds ranging from a soft breeze rustling prairie grasses to the deep thud and whirring of helicopter blades. It also had a 747 flyby. Our son used to beg Dad to make the airplane fly in the house – with the volume turned up. It’s a wonder we didn’t break the windows.

Last weekend, I went over to the den, flopped into a chair, and asked hubby, “What is it with guys and music?”

He gave me the usual blank stare.

Unthwarted, I pressed on. “Well, I like music. But I don’t listen to it like you do. There are plenty of girls on WordPress who post music, but guys seem to *really* get into music. Is it a guy thing?”

“It’s not a guy thing. They’re probably audiophiles.”

“Huh?”

The next twenty minutes presented a husband before me who was animated and passionate about music. Not that I didn’t know this, but we haven’t talked about it for years.

He explained that a good sound system will not allow you to hear violins moving from one speaker to Imagethe next, it will allow you to hear the violins in their proper section in the orchestra. He went on to say that when he bought expensive sound equipment, he could finally hear *all* of the music in a song.

I told him that my mp3 player surprised me by how good it sounded as the sounds separated and ran around the back of my head.

“They’re supposed to fill your head.”

“They run around the back of my head,” I told him.

“Some people might hear the sounds in the front.”

“My frontal lobe is probably damaged,” I said.

“Well, your mp3 player should sound better because the music has nowhere else to go. It can’t bounce off of walls or be diffused by the carpet or furniture.”

Image“Cool,” I said with a smile. My ADD was kicking in, and I was done listening. “Thanks. I have to go. I have blogs to read. See you at supper.”

Audiophile: A person having an ardent interest in stereo or high-fidelity sound reproduction.

Music soothes my soul. Music is emotional for me. I am not an audiophile.

Are you an audiophile? How do you view and/or listen to music?

Slowly I Turned

ImageJuly 2, 1984. We cross the Peace Bridge into Canada, and I start rubbernecking like a kid in F.A.O. Schwarz.

The view along the Niagara Parkway as we make our way to the falls is lovely. The Niagara River is to my right, well-maintained homes and parks are to my left, while trees line the parkway on both sides. I attempt to take in every detail and make a mental memory for all time.

My heart quickens in anticipation of my upcoming encounter once again with the thunderous monster at the end of the river. Every few seconds I peer down the ribbon of water, hoping for a glimpse of white spray signaling our arrival.

A gorgeous home comes into view. I want to live here on the parkway. An audible sigh escapes my lips; envy surrounds the soft sound.

The drive is taking longer than I remember. We come to a small, quaint town and run into a bank to convert our American dollars to Canadian. Our math skills are as good as those of a beaver who chiseled a pencil or three (see Mark Armstrong), and we know it will be easier to use the more colorful bills than worry about conversion rates for our greenbacks.

We encounter a kerfuffle alongside the parkway. People are moving quickly. We slow our pace, and myImage rubbernecking increases as we drive by. A man is shooting video of others as they shove a barrel into the water. They race to their vehicles, quickly overtake us, and speed toward the falls.

I am soon squealing like a teacup pig enjoying her new red rain boots (see La La). The spray above the falls is now in my line of sight. It only takes a few minutes before we are turning into a parking lot.

There are police cars, ambuli (the plural of ambulance), ok, ambulances, and security personnel rushing around. Tourists are excited and curious about the disruption to their day. I know what has happened. My rubberneck saw the barrel go into the river – a lapping, growing monster as it carried its victim away to certain death. I’m strangely unconcerned as I rush to my spot.ImageI lean over the rail at the edge of the falls and breathe deeply as I absorb every bit of the experience with all of my senses. I am mesmerized and enchanted by the thunderous monster that is Niagara Falls. There are no words to describe this particular spot at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls. You have to hear it, see it, feel it, to truly understand.

I am unaware of how long I stand in this one spot. Others may have wanted to stand here, but I am Imagegreedy this day. Slowly I turned … in time to see policemen and rescue workers whisk away a man with a blanket around his shoulders. Onlookers applaud. Good for him. He lived. I turn back to my spot and allow the monster to envelop me once more.

WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Easy As Pie

♫ Wouldn’t You Like to Be A Genius, Too ♫

ImageSometimes I have ideas, and I think I’m a genius. Within a week, I see my genius advertised on television for $19.95. Someone beat me to it.

I have two genius ideas right now:

Genius Idea #1- I think every automobile should have a light bar running from left to right across the back of the car. It will show you the degree to which the driver has applied the brakes. Is Grandpa riding the brake and thereby applying only a little pressure? Just a few lights of the bar will light. Is the driver braking rationally in preparation for a stop? Possibly half of the lights will light. Or has the driver slammed on the brakes because a squirrel darted into the middle of the road and held up a stop sign? All of the lights across the rear end will blind you with their redness. Rear end collisions would be eliminated with my light bar, which is a way better idea than that goofy additional red light in the back window. … The Big Three have ignored my emails.

Genius Idea #2 – We don’t heat our upstairs in the winter. It’s great for sleeping, and with plenty of blankets, it’s always warm and toasty in the bed. Getting out is manageable, but taking off warm pajamas to put on frozen clothing is brutal! This year, I’m putting my clothes for the next day into a box with an electric heating pad hooked up to a timer set to turn on an hour before I get up. I’ll let you know how that invention works out and if the guys at the Shark Tank go for it.

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When I came up with an idea for my next book, I thought I’d hit upon genius again!

I’m a Janet Evanovich fan. In 2008, I picked up the first book in her Stephanie Plum series, and I read it in one sitting. I laughed out loud – something I rarely do when I’m by myself. I read the next thirteen books in the series, plus the in-betweens, in just two weeks.

In Explosive Eighteen, there is quite a bit of action at Stephanie’s apartment in New Jersey. I thought it would be awesome to have Susan and Darby go to New Jersey, stay with his uncle in Stephanie’s apartment building, and their story would run parallel to hers for one weekend. Darby would comment on the passed-out redhead in the hallway, or they would be awakened by multiple gunshots in the middle of the night, and the uncle would bark, “Go back to bed. It’s just the bounty hunter across the hall.”

Genius I tell you! There would be no mention of any names whatsoever. Only an Evanovich fan would catch the references.

But I do my homework. Research and a quick online consultation Imagewith a copyright attorney quickly exposed my folly. Even though no names would be referenced, characters and locations are by design copyrighted. If fictitious characters and locations can be recognized, you cannot use them.

It would have been fun to write, and I was disappointed. This idea came to me out of nowhere. I was working on something else at the time. Why was it dumped into my head by the universe?

Ha! I don’t give up that easily. It’s still a good idea. In my next book, Windy City Hunter, coming to an eReader near you in 2013, I have Susan and Darby staying in a condo in Chicago. I know I want a subplot in the condo, and I still want to use my idea of these two looking in on events from another book.

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Not the book I have in mind.

I’ve been speed-reading Public Domain Books! I’ve already found two possibilities. I’m pretty sure this isn’t an original idea, and when someone reads my book they will likely have no idea what I’ve done, but I’m pleased that an idea fell into my head, and I figured out a way to make it work.

Have you ever used a public domain book when writing? Tell me about your inventions!

C is for Cookie

ImageThese crazy special days tickle my funny bone. Who came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day? National Lumpy Rug Day? Do A Grouch a Favor Day?

Well, John Baur and Mark Summers came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day while playing racquetball. Men after my own heart!

Ever since I discovered Hallmark’s The Ultimate Holiday Site, I check it every day. Some days I smile and shake my head.

Today is Homemade Cookie Day. Here is how the Hallmark site describes it: “This is the one day of the year when you can legally stuff your face with the chewy, gooey goodness that is the cookie. The catch? You have to make them yourself! You don’t want to be caught walking out of the market with cookies wrapped in packaging, do you? The cookie police will not take kindly to that on this sacred day. But you might be able to bribe them with snicker-doodles.”

Snickerdoodles! We are pros at making snickerdoodles here. Our son was taught to bake them at an Imageearly age. He would pack them in empty ice-cream buckets and take them around to the neighbors.

My grandmother made the most amazing sugar cookies. The cookie jar at her house was always full for the grandchildren. We could only have one per visit, and what a special cookie it was! They were big, round, super soft, and always iced with PINK icing.

Grandma eventually gave her recipe to me. I’m a good baker, but I could never get my cookies to come out exactly like hers. She used to laugh when I would question her about leaving out an ingredient. I think the missing ingredient was nothing more than Grandma’s loving hands.

When our son was thrown out of daycare at the tender age of three (he led the charge, opened the door to the outside, and all of the children followed him), I quit my job to stay home and take care of the boy myself. As Christmas neared that first year, I decided to bake Grandma’s sugar cookies for some extra money. Of course the cookies were in Christmas shapes, iced, and decorated.

ImageAll of the girls from the weight loss company were my first customers. I baked for days on end to fill their orders. Word of mouth brought more orders. My sister and I went to craft shows, and I took cookies. They always sold out.

It was an astounding amount of work, and it was exhausting. Our neighbor hadn’t seen me come or go for many days, so he came over and knocked on the door. I was covered from head to toe with flour as I opened the door, and all I said to him was, “Welcome to hell.” He laughed and went home with a dozen cookies.

We burned wood in the fireplace at that time, and the main floor of the house was too warm to store the cookie orders, so I kept them in an unheated room upstairs. I was rushing one day to bring orders down, and I had boxes in both hands. I lost my footing and took a ride down the steps on my rump. I didn’t dare drop the cookies. The cookies survived; I ended up at the chiropractor.

I baked and sold cookies for three Christmases before I hung up my apron. I was sick of Christmas sugar cookies by then, and I don’t eat them anymore. Give me a good homemade snickerdoodle any day!ImageWhat’s your favorite homemade cookie? Do you have a cookie story? Or better yet, a falling down the stairs story?

About You, About Me, About Everyone Else

ImageWhen I land on an interesting blog site, I always look for the About link – and I click it. Rather than to read several blog posts to find out about the blogger, I hope to find some insight on their About page. If the blogger is friendly and appears approachable, I’m more likely to read some posts and follow.

Ruth Ann Nordin recently posted a link to an article entitled, Top 10 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes of Author-Bloggers. I was sure I would find ten more things I wasn’t doing right, but I was pleasantly surprised. Other than no twitter handle, because I don’t tweet, my biggest mistake was my About page. I had nothing on it other than one lousy sentence. I should have known better from my own blog-hopping habits.

In addition to the tips and information the article put forth, I did a little research on how to make the best of your About page. As with many blogging topics, the viewpoints can be subjective, and the pointers for a commercial business vary quite a bit from what I’m putting forth here. My comments are in parenthesis:

Per Google Analytics, your About page is one of your most highly-trafficked pages.

People can’t resist clicking the About page. They want to know who you are and what you are about.

It’s ok to have fun on your page.

Keep your first paragraph short. One to two lines – lines, not sentences.

Tell a good story. A good story hooks them every time.

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Hubby used to pass this picture around and say it was his wife!

Use a good photo of yourself.  (I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t need to see what someone looks like to want to follow their blog or read their books. There are a couple of not-so-good photos of me floating around out there, but I’ll wait until I really need author headshots to post a good photo to my page. … A little positive thinking there!)

Post contact information.  If you’re not including a way for people to contact you outside of the comments section, you may be missing opportunities. (In an effort to keep spam down, I’ve avoided putting my email address out there. I’ve probably kept questions and fan mail down, too.)

Your About page can bring more readers AND more sales.  (I’ll take both, please.)

Write in your own voice. Don’t try to sound like a press release.

Be consistent with your voice. Being upbeat and witty on your blog will have been for naught when someone clicks on your About page and finds it crumbly-dry and boring.

Tell why you are blogging. Do you specialize in a particular subject, or do you cover a variety of topics? Who are you hoping to reach? Your blog will be defined here as one of primarily offering information, help, or a more personal blogging experience.

Show your books. Include a synopsis for each, and have a link for purchase.  Viewpoints vary for this suggestion. Some say your books and links should be visible with every post, others say they should be on your About page, while even others suggest a separate page for your books. (My books are on my home page, and they are now on my About page. I don’t want them showing up in every post; my header makes it pretty clear I have books.) You should, of course, choose what feels right for your blog.

Don’t post your resume. Keep your bio short utilizing one focused paragraph. It is ok, however, to additionally talk about achievements and publications.

Make sure your About link has prominence on your main page.  Preferably at the top of your Imageblog. It’s one of the first places many visitors to a blog go, so make it easy to find.

Backlink. If you have posts you’re particularly proud of because they’ve received tons of comments, or they are just plain wonderful, list them on your About page. (This is a good idea, especially for your Freshly Pressed posts.)

When someone leaves, they should have an idea as to who you are as a person.

I now have a squeaky new About page. I tried to follow some of the pointers – two lines to start, tell a story, why I’m blogging, about my family, contact email, and I shared enough about my books to, hopefully, entice a few new readers.

Let me know if there was anything helpful to you here. Will you be making changes to your About page? Or will you be making your first About page? Was I the only person at WordPress who didn’t utilize the About page?

The Power of Positive Thinking

ImageThere are a multitude of items you can order online nowadays, but I remember something I sent for via our good old postal system before the convenience of the internet. Something that was guaranteed to change my life. I would have love, wealth, and happiness – all of my dreams come true.

I’m an upbeat person. I always look for the good side of everyone and every situation. It can get annoying to others at times. Even our son has told me to back off when he didn’t want to feel better about what was making him blue. I get that. Sometimes, you just have to feel it.

I must have been at a low point about something those many years ago. I really don’t remember; I don’t hang on to negativity very well. But when I saw the ad in the magazine, I simply had to have this miracle, whatever it was. I don’t remember the cost, but I wanted all of the promises. I waited the appropriate six to eight weeks for arrival. On the day it came, I literally tore the box apart to get the magic out.

I sat stunned for a moment.

Inside was a little soapstone dish with a lid. I could hold it in the palm of my hand and close my fingers around it. I removed the lid, and inside was a polished stone. That’s all. I looked in the box to see if Imagethere were instructions. Sure enough, there were. Three times every day, I was to remove the stone, hold it in my hand, and repeat the enclosed mantra. I don’t remember the words, but they were nothing more than a series of positive affirmations for believing in yourself. I remember flopping back on the sofa and laughing at my folly.

But I got a lot of mileage out of that little dish and stone. I used it several years later when I conducted training classes. I shared the story, and I passed the dish and stone around as I gave a quick talk on being positive and believing in yourself whether personally or in your job.

That’s a bit of long story to get to my main topic today, but I appreciate positivity. I appreciate someone who encourages you, instead of someone who drags you down, or makes you feel inadequate, or tells you that you can’t do something.

On Monday, writer Morgan Le Fables posted a link to an almost 13-minute video from Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire. I’ve never heard her speak before. She is charming, sincere, passionate, and very giving with her encouragement and advice.

I took notes.

Here is the link so you can view the video when you have time – Anne Gives Writing Advice, September 18, 2012.  Here are my quick notes:

  • Write every day.
  • Keep what you write. Even if you decide not to use what you write, put it away – keep it.
  • There are no rules in our profession.
  • All you need is a computer, typewriter, or paper and pencil, and you can turn out a War and Peace or an Old Man and the Sea.
  • Write anywhere. In a café, at the kitchen table, in a garage office.
  • People say you can’t break in. That’s not true. Every year people on the outside break in.
  • It’s no harder to get published today than it ever was. New authors come out of nowhere every year.
  • Interview with the Vampire was rejected five times. Don’t give up. Anne was at a writer’s conference when she asked someone to read her manuscript. The woman did, and Anne was off and running.
  • Publishing is crying for new voices, new visions, new stories, new characters.
  • Her friend, author Floyd Salas, said to her, “Go where the pain is. Write about what hurts.”
  • Anne expands to, “Go where the pleasure is.”
  • Write what is exciting to you. Interesting to you. Be excited to want to find out what happens next.
  • Every one of her books has had bad reviews – worst book ever. You can’t win them all, so be sure to turn out what you like.
  • Don’t revise your book because of rejection from an editor. Any editor who rejects your book doesn’t get it.
  • When they love your book and ask for changes, now you can listen.Image
  • Lots of rejections? Do not give up! Self publish! It’s never been easier.
  • There are stories every few weeks of self-published authors being discovered by big publishing houses.
  • You need stubbornness. You need courage. You need faith in yourself.
  • Don’t be cynical. When a New York editor opens your manuscript, they want it to be good.
  • Believe in yourself! Be brave!
  • Nobody can tell you that you can’t do that! Realize your dreams.

Truly, all of this is so much better in Anne’s passionate voice. And there is more than what is in my notes. She is motivating and will give you a lift.

As I run down this crooked road of writing and self-publishing, Anne Rice gave me a bit more confidence that my stubbornness, bravery, and writing because the stories excite and delight me, is the crooked road in the right direction.

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Leave Them Kids Alone

ImagePink Floyd. I’ve always been a Pink Floyd fan. Hubby is a mega-fan, and it’s not unusual to hear Floyd blaring from the den. I’ve had a Pink Floyd lyric running through my head this past week: “Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!” Leave them kids alone. The words shift; the tune remains, “Hey! Maddie! Leave them covers alone!” I’m not making this up. It’s in my head, and it’s annoying.

This evening, I approved the final artwork for the rework of my first cover. I’ve read plenty of articles about covers, and thought I had everything under control. A little more research tonight turned up some interesting tidbits, as there is a plethora of articles related to the mistakes of indie authors.  Ha! Here we go again. I compared my covers to the tips. All of these helpful hints appeared in more than one article:

1. Do not use a family member or relative to do your artwork.  – FAIL

2. Sexy covers are hot right now.  – FAIL

3. Do not put your name in small type in the lower right or left corner.  – FAIL

4. Do not clutter your cover. Design around one element.  – FAIL

5. Quit messing with your cover. Pick a design and stick with it.  – FAIL

6. Changing the cover art can attract new buyers.  – PASS  – Yeah! I passed one! Oh, wait. Basically the change was from one of a boring cover to one of the steamy sex god and goddess covers. – FAIL

I’m happy with my covers. They certainly portray the pink, fluffy, fun, not-too-serious, theme of the books. I think I’ll keep them.

After watching the Emmys …

ImageI was inspired to have an awards ceremony. Some very special bloggers have been kind enough to nominate me for awards. I’ve always been a little shy about this award thing, as I don’t feel I’ve done anything here to warrant any type of award, but I realize we nominate the bloggers we enjoy, and we help bring attention to other blogs as well. I’ve found some wonderful people by following the recommendations of those who have nominated others. So without further ado, let me catch up with awards today.

On June 18, Lightningpen nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

July 31 brought a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from The Living Notebook.

On August 3, T.W. Dittmer grouped his nominees together for the Very Inspiring Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. My name was on his list.

On August 7, Zen Scribbles nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

August 12, I was nominated for the Family of Bloggers Award by Paula Acton.

August 18 brought One Lovely Blog Award from The Cheeky Diva.

A great big “thank you” to all of you who nominated me. If you aren’t presently following any of the above people, please check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Most of these awards require you to tell seven things about yourself and then nominate other bloggers for the same award. There is no way you want to hear that many things about me, so I’ll just do one set of seven for the lot:

1. My highest bowling score was 245. I was chatting with a girlfriend about her wedding, and having to get up to bowl was a distraction. When someone pointed out to me that I had rolled seven strikes in a row, the spell was broken.

2. The movie Camelot reduces me to a crying, blubbering mess – every time.

2. I love playing Scrabble.

4. My first car was a used, orange Ford Maverick with a black stripe from front to back over the hood Imageand top. My first new car was a GREMLIN! I “designed” it myself with chocolate brown paint, white stripes down both sides, slightly wider wheels with awesome hubcabs, and an automatic on the floor. It was a fantastic car, it never embarrassed me, and I had it for over ten years.

5. I was Track Queen in high school. Not Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen – track queen.

6. The first year I played racquetball, I won our state’s tournament as a novice.

7. When going out to eat, the first thing I look for on the menu is a Reuben sandwich.

For the Family of Bloggers Award, you tell what attributes you bring to the family, using an anagram of the word FAMILY:

F – flexible (in my reactions to people and situations)
A- affable
M – merciful
I – imaginative
L – loyal
Y – youthful (in spirit)

On to the Nominations!!

ImageBeautiful Blogger Award – I chose these people because their blogs are visually appealing:
Canadian Hiking Photography
Richert Images
Mark Armstrong Illustration
Charlie’s Photo Blog
The Way I See

ImageVery Inspiring Blogger Award -Inspiration comes in many forms. I nominate this fine mix of blogs for this award:
Nicolette Reed
Human Nature and Superpowers
Daniel Koeker
The Word by Mike Ballenger
Gas Station Gastronomy

ImageOne Lovely Blog – There are lovely people, things, and sentiments at all of these blogs:
Simplicity Lane
In a Grand Fashion
The Bookstore Lady
Retired Ruth
Sumthissumthat (especially his wife’s artwork)

ImageSisterhood of the World Bloggers – Ladies you will enjoy:
Rendevous with Renee
Keri Peardon
Michelle Proulx Official
That Girl Who Reads Books
The Jenny Mac Book Blog

ImageFamily of Bloggers – These people are like family to me and are listed in the order that I met them:
Zen Scribbles
Tessa Sheppard
T.W. Dittmer
Robin Coyle
Cheeky Diva

Phew! Thank you all so much!

12 Tips – How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

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I get a kick out of everyone who stresses over their stats and checks them many times throughout the day – if not the hour. I often forget to check my stats. Better stats still scare me. I liken it to being on a stage while an audience watches and listens. Will they get up and walk out? Will they laugh at the humor moments? Will they enjoy themselves? Will they throw tomatoes?Image

Even on days when my post might be a stinker, I’m grateful for the people who come by and push the Like button. A comment is icing on the cake, and because I know how both make me feel, I try to be supportive of the blogs I follow and comment when I can without saying something too stupid (and oh, yeah, I have done that). I even click many of the links on blog posts. I’ve found some interesting people and things on the other side of those clicks.

I noticed a few minutes ago that the next comment to my blog will be the 600th comment. Here are a few more of my stats:

  • My total views doubled from July to August.
  • The highest number of views I’ve had on any one day was 74. That’s fine with me (see paragraph one again).
  • I have 153 followers. My husband was surprised I had that many. Me, too.
  • The dog Muttley was #2 on my list of most hits through search engines, with “horse poo” being in the top ten.
  • I’ve never been, and I never want to be Freshly Pressed. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say never, but not for a long time, that’s for sure.

So, why have I had the recent urge to search for ways to get better stats?

Because having people visit my blog, if only for a moment or two, puts my name and Susan Hunter’s Imagename out there. And someone who likes pink or mysteries might stay around a little longer to see what we’re about.

By the time I was done wading through articles and blogs, I actually had a lot of information about getting more blog visitors. Some of it was technical and pertained more to a business than a personal blog. A lot of it was what most people already know – visit other blogs, leave comments and likes, respond to comments on your own blog, add graphics, shorter is better than longer … but the following are some additional suggestions. I’m not attributing them to any one person or article, because they are fairly generic, and I encountered them in multiple places. Some of the information came from the gurus right here at WordPress.

#1 – Your blog should express what you’re most passionate about. I definitely see this on many blogs, but if someone had said this to me before I started blogging, I probably wouldn’t have even tried. I’m supposed to be, and am mostly, chronicling my writing journey, which is not yet a passion as much as it is a wonderment.

#2 – Are you blogging to help people, be a resource, and make a difference? Or to make you famous? Well, let’s be honest.  I’m not doing much here to help people. I’m definitely not a resource. And nothing I write will make a difference in the world. I’m sort of leaning to the famous side – you know, the book thing. Everyone says if that’s the case, then you should quit now. So, if you don’t see me after today, I took their advice and packed it in.

#3 – Post only one post per week.

#4 – Post Often.  Obviously, there was a mix of advice as to how often to post. Some say multiple times per day, others say writing and posting too often leads to weak writing, but the majority thought posting often would lead to the best results – every day or every other day would keep the search engines happy, too.

#5 – Analyze your blog’s competition.  What?! We are in competition with each other? I had no idea, and I refuse to play along.

#5 – Don’t blog about your pet, your boyfriend, husband, or your kids. I’m already turning people away. I probably had 1,000 followers and they are dropping like flies. My husband and our dead dogs come up often. My kid is not yet off the hook, and I don’t agree with this. There are loads of blogs with families at the heart of them, and frankly, I like them.

#6 – People want you to talk about them, not you. -and- Write in the second person.  I generally want to visit my favorite blogs to see what each person is up to. I like it when they talk about what they’re doing or accomplishing. And what’s with writing in the second person? You. Your. Yours. I always thought second person was best used for e-mail, presentations, and professional writing. I can see this on a more information driven blog than a personal blog.

#7 – Tell stories. -and- Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t bore your readers.  I’ve got that covered – sort of. Book stuff, stories, bits of information. There are different topics simply because I have no idea where I’m going here.

#8 – Guest post on other blogs. Crikey, this is good advice, and for most of you, it would work, but I have enough trouble finding something to say here without getting on someone else’s stage, too.

#9 – Use numbers in your title to indicate lists, and the words “how to.” These are highly searched key Imagewords, and we are a list-making society, as well as a people who want to know how to do things. Got that covered today!

#10 – Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts.  I think there is a lot to be said for keyword search. I simply haven’t taken the time to put enough thought to it yet. But using keywords in your title and in your post will definitely bring more hits, and hopefully, more readers to your blog. There are entire sites devoted to keywords. Working a high-ranking keyword or two into every post can be extremely beneficial. I came across an article from a blogger who had passed the million hit mark. He swears by keyword search – even writing entire articles about random topics just so he could include high-value keywords.

#11 – Turn your articles and blog posts into PDFs, then submit your PDFs to document sharing sites like Scribd.  “Scribd is the world’s largest online library, making it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices.” This is perfect for bloggers who share great information, but there are also books, recipes, and other interesting writing here. Hold your cursor over the word “explore” at the top to see the numerous categories. And there are some awesome Geek types on the About page.

#12 – Start using Pinterest to post pictures from your blog.  I did this as soon as I found the tip. It takes a little time, but you’ll want to go to the actual blog post to grab your image to pin. That way, each picture will link back to the post where it was used. Ideally, you should label your picture with a bit of information about the blog post. I may do that later. I knew I was putting goofy pictures out there last night. There are usually lovely pictures flowing across the Pinterest landscape, and I dropped goofiness on it. I didn’t care; I did it anyway. My Pinterest page. My whopping two followers haven’t ditched me yet.Image

This was a long one today, but I hope it was helpful.

As I started this post a couple of days ago, my 600th comment came and went. It was from Jennings Wright who is amazing and has written four books – in different genres! Please check out her blog – and consider buying one of her books.

Peddling Wares – An Idea

ImageOn my recent trip home from the grocery store, I drove past our in-progress county fair. The rides and food booths were situated along the chain link fence running along the road. As I tried to quickly take in the sights, a light bulb went off over my head.

We haven’t been to the fair since our son was young, but I enjoy the fair. I love the animals – all of them – even the smelly ones. Ahh! I almost forgot! We got our beloved dog, Joe, at the fair! Well, sort of. The people from the dog pound were there with dogs for adoption. All three of us decided that our shepherd at home needed a brother, so we picked out a black and tan coon hound with red ticking on his chest. Our son was excited and named him Ticker. When we went to the pound to get him the next day, there was a mix-up, and Ticker wasn’t there, he was back at the fair. But his brother was at the pound. He looked like Ticker, he seemed to like us, so we went with him. I named him Joe.

Back to the subject of the fair. The rides are ok, but we really like fair food, and one of my favorite thingsImage to do is walk through the commercial buildings where everyone peddles their wares. All of the home improvement gurus are there, the hot tub people, local businesses, craft people … there’s a lot going on. And we go through collecting cards, pens, advertising pieces, etc.  Some of it is useful; some of it is junk.

The light bulb over my head was a flash of an idea. A flash of a booth at the fair with posters of each of my book covers on the walls, print on demand copies of my books for sale on the table, bookmarks, and lots and lots of cards with my website for eReaders. I love this idea!

Of course, I had to tell hubby as soon as he came home from work. He didn’t share my enthusiasm. With a sideways glance and a frown he said, “It sounds like work.” A trade show. It sounded like working a trade show to him. Well, duh.

ImageI assured him it would be fun; it was the fair! And we would have fun together schmoozing with the locals. And the fair is full of old people during the day, and he LOVES old people (I’m six years older than he is), and old people love him, and old people would like my books.

I think I saw his shoulders slump.

“Next year, honey. Not this year. Next year. We’ll have fun,” I said as I walked out of the den. I think I heard a choice word under his breath. I’ll post pictures of him having fun in my booth next year when we go to the fair.

I’m sure this isn’t an original idea. I’d like to know if any of you have done this or something equivalent, and how did it go for you? I think it’s a good chance to get in front of a lot of people who read – both young and old. Someone tagged one of my books at Amazon as young adult. I never really thought about it, but the books are certainly not objectionable, and a young adult reader might enjoy them.

Also, about print on demand. When you want one copy of your book, or just a few, or quite a few for the fair, who do you use? I may want to print a few copies for Christmas gifts this year, but am uncertain where to turn. Recommendations are appreciated.

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Baby Joe – home from the fair.

The Bag Sucker 100

National Talk About Your Book Day was a success, so I’m moving on to something new. A product endorsement!

After a trip to the grocery store today, and after the groceries were put away, I was left with all of the meat on the counter. It needed to be repackaged for the freezer. It used to be a daunting task, especially when wrapping multiple times in an effort to keep freezer burn at bay.

ImageI longed for a bag-sucker. A vacuum sealer for food. I fondly referred to the popular, expensive machine as the Bag Sucker 9000. I was jealous when my sister got one. She rubbed it in my nose how fantastic it was. I pleaded with my family for a Bag Sucker 9000 multiple years for Christmas, but to no avail.

Imagine my delight when I was cruising the Walmart aisles one day and found the Reynolds Handi-Vac. A Bag Sucker 5000! How cool was this! Forget the shape. Forget that it needed a dozen batteries to Imageoperate. Well, five. But it was sooo cool! Just put the food in the bag, place the bag sucker over the hole, cross your eyes and hold your mouth just right, and it would take all the air out of the bag. Sometimes holding it up against the kitchen cabinet helped to seal it, too. The food was freezer-burn free, and I think I started with the Bag Sucker 5000 for under $20 – or maybe $30. I was pretty happy. I even rubbed my sister’s nose in it as to how much cheaper I could seal meat than she could.

For a while.

The Reynolds people stopped servicing their product. The bags were no longer available unless you bought them from HSN (at that time), and they only came in one size. What?! I wasn’t jumping through hoops just to get the bags, and the batteries were almost dead anyway, so I chucked it into the kitchen junk drawer. Sigh. Thanks a lot, Reynolds.

At least a year later, I’m cruising the Walmart aisles again, and I spot the Ziploc Vacuum Pump. Oh, this is swell. Hand operated, and I have to pump it? The Bag Sucker 100. I got started for under $10.00.

ImageThis cheap plastic gizmo is fantastic! I give it 5-stars, and it works even when there are no batteries or electricity in the house. It’s easy, it’s fast, the bags stay sealed, and I don’t have to cross my legs or stand on my head to get it to work. There are never any freezer burns. Seriously, if you don’t have a Bag Sucker 100, you must run out and get one.

My sister had surgery last Christmas Eve. My husband and I ran down to the hospital again on Christmas morning to see her. I gave my gift to her there at the hospital. It was a cruel thing to do because it made her laugh, which, in turn, made her hurt. It was a Bag Sucker 100. I found out later she gave her expensive Bag Sucker 9000 to her daughter, and she only uses the cheap plastic Ziploc sealer now,

Take a look at lovely Melanie here as she demonstrates the ease of use of the Bag Sucker 100. She even freezes meat for seven weeks (or months, I don’t remember), and then she shows you the end result. Pretty impressive, and she gives the product an A.

You’re welcome.