The Battle of the Landline

My husband and I are able to agree on most things with relative ease. New furniture? No problem. We have the same taste. New paint color? No big deal. He really doesn’t care so he pretty much goes along with what I want, but I know he would weigh in if he had a problem with my choice. However, one of the two areas that gives us problems is our landline. (The other is house-hunting but that’s a topic for another post.)

We still have a landline. Yes, I know. We’re dinosaurs.

Seriously, you can find anything on the internet. (Image courtesy of www.123rf.com)

Several years ago my husband tried to talk me into getting rid of the landline but I refused. At that time, our elderly parents primarily called us at that number. And, since we had had the same number for years, I really didn’t want to go to the trouble of getting them used to calling our cell phones. However, over time, my mother-in-law began calling my husband on his cell phone and my parents were sort of half and half—sometimes they called our landlines, sometimes our cells. At this point, I decided it would be okay to go ahead and get rid of the landline. My parents would adjust to the change.

I was excited about telling my hubby that he was finally getting his wish—no more landline! (I was also pretty stoked about the monetary savings but that was secondary.) So, I made my announcement and… my husband said “Great! We’ll add another cell phone to our plan, port the landline number over to it, and then cancel the landline.”

Wait. What? Um, no. I put my foot down. “No, we won’t. Adding another line to our cell plan will be more expensive than the landline and do you know how long it will take the “home” cell to disappear? About five minutes.” He swore that it would be fine, we would keep the phone in the kitchen where the landline resides. Yeah, right. Sooner or later, (my money is on sooner) the new cell phone would get misplaced, the battery would die, and we would never find it.

After many rather heated discussions we finally had to agree to disagree. And, we still have a landline. My hubby doesn’t want to get rid of it because he wants to user that number when placing orders online, etc. I understand not wanting to get spam calls on our cells but, to be honest, it’s much easier to block calls on our cells than it is our home phone.

We have revisited this discussion a few times over the last few years and it has never gone well. But, I think I have finally found a resolution—moving. Now that our eldercare responsibilities have lessened we are no longer tied to our current home and are actively looking for another house further outside of town. (We both grew up in the country and miss country living.) My husband has reluctantly agreed that moving the landline wouldn’t be cost effective. (Score!) Now, if we can just agree on a house…

Do you have a landline? Or better yet, do you even know anyone who does?

You’re Not Crazy, Grief is Weird

My father passed away in February 2016 and my mother joined him in death in February 2017, one year and eight days later. My life has been filled with emotional ups, downs, and where-the-heck-did-that-come-froms over the past year and a half. (My grieving process began with my father’s fall three months before his death.)

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

Science breaks the grieving process down into five steps: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. In reality, the process isn’t that clear cut. The steps don’t come in any particular order, and you may even skip some and repeat others.

In my case, there wasn’t much bargaining. Both of my parents were in their nineties and not interested in staying trapped in failing bodies. My mother moved two states away to live with my oldest sister and brother-in-law after my father’s death so the extent of my bargaining consisted of “Please God, let me be with my mother when she dies.” My prayers were answered and I was holding her hand when she passed away, but that’s a topic for another post.

Anger was similar. In late 2016 it became obvious that my mother wouldn’t be with us much longer. My initial reaction was anger. Why? I was just starting to get my feet back under me emotionally after my father’s death and I really didn’t want to go through that process again. But, it wasn’t about me so I had to rather quickly pull up my big girl panties and just deal with it.

However, through all of this, the emotions that have been the most surprising are the ones that have completely blindsided me. The first time this happened I had just picked up a prescription from the pharmacy. That’s it. I picked up my refill, got in my car, and cried all the way home. Seriously emotions? What’s up with that? My husband and I began using a locally owned mom-and-pop pharmacy shortly after we moved to this town. We knew the employees and they knew us. After we moved my parents to live across the street from us, they began using the same pharmacy. When my husband or I would stop by to pick up my parents’ prescriptions (of which there were many) the staff would always ask about them; they were genuinely interested in their health and well-being. Sadly, the main pharmacist and owner developed pancreatic cancer and died shortly before my father. After the pharmacist’s death, his family sold the business. The new owners repainted and removed all of the vintage decorations that previously graced the store. My tears were joined with sobs of “This isn’t my daddy’s pharmacy anymore” which didn’t make sense to me. It took my husband (who is far more perceptive than he thinks he is) to point out that what it meant was that there was no longer anyone at the pharmacy that remembered my father or could share my grief over his loss. It was a completely routine action that temporarily re-broke my heart.

The next incident involved my father’s walking stick. Daddy’s walking stick has been propped in the corner of my dining room since shortly after his death; I see it every day. The sight of it makes me smile. Admittedly, it’s usually a bittersweet smile, but it’s a smile nonetheless. A few weekends ago my grandson was visiting and he decided that he needed to bring me all of the walking-type sticks in the house – this including both of our hiking staffs and my daddy’s walking stick. No big deal, right? Wrong. I hugged my daddy’s walking stick and cried like a baby. Why? No idea. Like I said, I’ve seen it every day for over a year. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was touching it instead of just looking at it.

I will be adjusting to my new normal for the rest of my life. Emotions will continue to blindside me but hopefully the occurrences will lesson with time. For a long time, I had problems going to pick up my grandson – the route to his house is the same route that I drove countless times taking my parents to various doctor’s appointments. At first, by the time I got to my grandson’s house I would be fighting back tears. Now, I’m still filled with a sense of nostalgia, but I no longer cry. I call that progress.

So, why did I write this post? First, to let you know that you aren’t alone on your grief journey. Second, to let you know that even when your emotions are bouncing around worse than a squirrel on caffeine, you aren’t crazy – grief is weird.

What tips do you have to offer those who are grieving? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you Bioware

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

In my last post I talked about how playing the video game Fallout 4 by Bethesda Game Studios helped me maintain my sanity during the time that my elderly father’s health was declining. However, once daddy passed away and I was dealing with all of the grief associated with that, I needed something different, something familiar and comforting. Only one video game series meets that qualification – the Mass Effect trilogy created by Bioware.

I was already having Mass Effect flashbacks due to Bethesda’s use of voice actor Brandon Keener for many characters in Fallout 4. Brandon Keener also voices my favorite video game character ever – Garrus Vakarian. Garrus is a companion and eventually a potential romance partner in the Mass Effect games. So, when my heart was torn apart by grief, I returned to saving the galaxy with my virtual friends and lovers.

Garrus Vakarian Picture courtesy of masseffect.wikia.com

I will be the first to admit that I am partial to Bioware games – their storytelling is what makes their games shine and my heart sing. The writers at Bioware create believable worlds inhabited by believable, but flawed, characters. Jeff Moreau, known to all as Joker, is the pilot of the Normandy (a space-faring frigate) in all three games. Not only is Joker the best pilot in the Alliance (human military) and a total smart ass – he also has brittle-bone disease. Joker is a wonderful example of how our limitations don’t have to define who we are – we can shine in spite of them. At the other end of the spectrum is Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams. In a time in which humans know they are no longer alone in the galaxy, Ashley doesn’t like aliens – a pretty big drawback for someone on a mission that includes as many alien crew members as it does humans. Ashley’s unfailing negative attitude toward non-humans is one of the main reasons that when forced to choose between saving Ashley or fellow crewmate Kaidan Alenko, I always choose Kaidan – even though once-sweet Kaidan turns into a complete dick in games 2 and 3.

My last year has included not one but TWO play-throughs of the Mass Effect trilogy. As with Fallout 4, the time spent working through virtual political machinations, fire fights, and brokering peace between warring races for the good of the galaxy helped me work through my feelings without getting lost in them. And the tears I shed over being forced to say goodbye to much loved characters such as Legion and David Anderson were not only for them but also for my daddy.

So, if any employees of Bioware see this post – thank you. Thank you for your games, your stories, and your characters – they mean more to me than I can ever explain in a simple blog post. Your stories gave me the push that I needed to finally start writing – none of my stories would exist without yours. And, thank you for helping me through one of the hardest times in my life.

And now, dear Bioware, we are entering a new phase together. Just as I started getting my emotional feet back under me, my mother passed away. So, now I am leaning on you again. I have big hopes for the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda on March 21, 2017 – one day after this post goes live. I am hoping that Andromeda will bring the best of both worlds to this new stage of grief – exploring new worlds with new virtual friends while bringing back the best of what I loved about the original games – wonderful stories and believably flawed characters, both human and alien. Here’s to more adventures – and more healing – together. *raises chai latte in toast*

Thank you Bethesda

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

If you’ve kept up with my rather sporadic posts over the last fifteen months you know that there has been a lot of “life” in my life – including a lot of strong emotions to work through. (You can read the highlights here and here.) All of the sadness was sometimes overwhelming and really impacted my creativity. I wrote very little – blog posts or stories. I just couldn’t. I’m sure plenty of authors would write through the pain but mine was just too raw. Even though my brain was still working on stories, I just couldn’t put them in writing.

However, stories are too big of a part of me to turn my back on completely. I found my salvation in the stories of others, but not in books – in video games. During my grief I continued reading but it was easy for my attention to wander away from the pages and find its way back to all of the things that were so overwhelming. That way lies anxiety and panic attacks.

During this time my husband was playing Fallout 4 from Bethesda Game Studios. I wasn’t planning to play because I’m not a huge fan of open world games. (Also known as sandbox games.) There are a couple of reasons for this: First, there is SO MUCH to do in these games and I always feel like I have to do ALL of it which kind of sucks the joy out of the experience after a while. Second, the quests in most open world games tend to become a bit repetitive after a while and it starts to feel like you are just doing the same thing over and over in different locations. In spite of my trepidation, after the fall that started my father’s decline, I created an avatar in Fallout 4 and begin playing.

Image from 9gag.com via Pinterest

Image from 9gag.com via Pinterest

Many thanks to you, Bethesda. Your game helped me retain my sanity during a very difficult time in my life. I spent at least a portion of virtually every night for the next three months wandering the wasteland, building settlements, and avoiding Preston Garvey and his inane quests. When my heart was aching and I was tired of crying I could enter a virtual world and work through those emotions while I rescued settlers, battled ghouls, and avoided super mutants. At the end of a couple of hours of playing my emotions would once again be under control and while I might not be ready to face whatever the next day held, I was able to do so.

However, dear Bethesda, it was your decision to use Brandon Keener as the voice actor for so many of your characters that ultimately drove me to leave your game. How could I stay in the wasteland when those dulcet tones had me picturing the face of Garrus Vakarian at every turn? Nevertheless, in spite of that decision, it is you to whom my first thanks for helping me through the past year must go. So, thank you again Bethesda. I am forever in your debt.

How do you deal with extreme stress?

Let the SELLER Beware

Scam AlertBrace yourselves for a lengthy post my friends! In my non-writing life in addition to a full-time job in IT customer support, I’m also an independent designer for Origami Owl, a direct sales custom jewelry company. (If you look for me on their site, you won’t find me; I’m listed under my real name, not my pen name.) I recently became aware of a scam targeting those in direct sales when the scammers set their sights on me. It took me several internet searches before I stumbled upon the right words to find others impacted so I thought I would summarize my experience here – along with the things that set my internal alarm system off – as a warning to others who might find themselves in the same situation.

My journey began when I received the following email notice via my Origami Owl website:

Hello i have a list of stuffs I will like to order for my daughters wedding. I will appreciate if u can email me back at (david.cook101@aol.com ) so I can forward you the list. Thank you. Mr David.

The fact that the message has a couple of grammatical errors is not enough to make me think SCAM! Grammar Nazis aside, we all make typos and fall victim to autocorrect. Some might think it odd that the customer contacted me about placing an order rather than just placing it on my site, but once again, that isn’t enough to indicate a scam. There are still plenty of people – especially older people – that are somewhat comfortable surfing the web, but not necessarily with actually ordering.

So, I contacted “Mr. David” to find out what I could do to assist. I received the following reply:

Thanks for getting back to me, I hate to say this, I am hearing impaired and hope you treat me like any of your other customers. Sadly for me this is the last Christmas we will be celebrating together as a family unless she comes for holiday. 

I’m getting her these gift as a surprise wedding gift so anytime she puts them on, she would always remember that mom got it for her… Below is the list of products I want, She’s my only child and my world. I will order some more for my self in the future. So reply to this email with an invoice with the total price and cell # as I might need to text you.

INSERT LENGTHY LIST OF ITEMS HERE

 I would like to send payment upfront so you can commence with the order, So let me know how much the grand-total  for the order would cost me and payment will be made out to you via cashier/certified check, once the check clears i will give you the shipping address to send it to.. Kindly get back to me with the total amount, Name, phone # and contact address where payment should be mailed to you. You will have it shipped to this address : 6300 44th street Sacramento, CA 95824.

Regards

Mr David.

This is where the first mental alarms went off. First, the total of the items listed was roughly $650. For someone to contact me out of the blue with an order that large made me a little suspicious. It kind of felt like the old saying “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Second, the shipping address was Sacramento, CA – the other side of the country. “Mr. David” could have found hundreds of designers closer to his location. However, I do have a friend in the Sacramento area and I had given her an Origami Owl bracelet for Christmas so it was completely within reason that she had referred him to me.

When tallying up Mr. David’s order I noticed some discrepancies, such as not ordering a band for a bracelet. When I emailed him his total, I included my recommendations for resolving the discrepancies and included two totals – one for the order as submitted and a second including my recommended changes.

The next response is where the warning bells became claxons:

I need to inform you that the payment for the products has been mailed to you via USPS courier service, my personal assistant is yet to get back to me with the tracking number from USPS although she told me its been mailed out. please do proceed to your bank immediately and get the payment check deposited into your bank account, funds will be available and fully cleared into your account the following day.

Also, I will like to notify you that she mistakenly gave you the wedding planner amount and gave the planner $644.95 which is ment for you, all you have to do is to just deduct the money for the product from the fund and Extra $20 as a gift for time and get the rest send to the wedding planner who is to book her ticket and other things needed to be done as soon as the money clears. Because she will be coming down to the area to visit all the vendors that will be working for us perior to the wedding day. Do get back to me asap to know you understand what i mean then i will get back to you with her account information to make the deposit. 

There were several areas of concern in this response. First, there was absolutely NO acknowledgment of the discrepancies I pointed out. Second, you have a “personal assistant” that mailed me the check but she couldn’t help you place the order online? Right. Last, the remainder of the response is classic scam: I’m going to send you money which you need to deposit immediately and then do this for me because there was a mistake. Yeah, not going to happen.

So, by this time, I’m confident that this is a scam but let’s just see where it goes. Then, the mail gods stepped in on my behalf. I didn’t receive the promised payment. The tracking number provided showed it as “In Transit” but it never arrived. So, after several days, being the professional that I am, I notified “Mr. David” of the problem. By this point, Mr. David must have thought he had a sure thing because he immediately sent me another payment by FedEx – he ever went so far as to overnight it! My dear “customer’s” excitement was almost palpable – he began texting me to thank me for “my caring” and to find out if I had received the payment. Now, a real, non-scammer customer would have taken this turn of events as an opportunity to fix his mistake and send me a payment for the correct amount. Not my dear Mr. David, his second money order was also for the incorrect amount – $4900 to be exact.

The payment itself was chock full of oddities. The FedEx label showed that the shipment came from Obi Arah at the The Blackstone Group in New York. Now, the Blackstone Group is real but their website shows no record of anyone named Obi Arah. The money order itself was supposedly drawn on Credit Union 1 in Anchorage Alaska. Once again, there is a Credit Union1 in Anchorage but why would a prominent New York firm write their checks from a Credit Union in Alaska? Well, they wouldn’t. The money order itself has a line which states “Ref: FRANCES MAUGA” Who the heck is Frances? Nowhere in our communications is a Frances listed. I even did an internet search for Frances and – big surprise (not) – didn’t find anything. The rather amusing clincher was the poorly formatted “letter” included. The letter from Michael Lee instructed me to email him at Michael.Lee@accountant.com (such an official address don’t you think?) and send him a copy of my deposit slip. Just how stupid do you think I am “Michael”? I don’t send anyone anything involving my account numbers and if you are reading this, neither should you.

In this particular ploy, the scammers are hoping that you will deposit their fake money order. Then, when the funds become available to you, that you will forward the “accidental” overage to the account that they provide. They then abscond with your money leaving you to face the consequences. You see, the financial institutions will discover in a few days that the money order is fake. And, while hell may hath no fury like a woman scorned, that doesn’t hold a candle to a financial institution in danger of losing money. And, have no fear, they will not go after the scammer – they will go after YOU. Not only will you be expected to pay back the full amount of the fake money order, but you will be hit with fees out the wazoo. Afraid yet? Good.

I noticed that a lot of the others approached by these scammers are, like me, relatively new to the world of direct sales. (I saw reports from consultants with Origami Owl, Avon, and Mary Kay. I’m sure there are others as well.) Yes, the idea of making such a huge sale is exciting, and that is what they are banking on. They are hoping that our excitement will overwhelm our common sense and sadly, I’m sure sometimes it does. They wouldn’t keep trying if they weren’t occasionally successful.

Oh, how does my story end? With one last text to Mr. David:

“Hi Mr David! Thank you for the phony cashier’s check. I have made a copy of all documentation received from you – including IP addresses – and forwarded it to local law enforcement agencies and the FBI. Better luck next time!”

I then blocked his phone number and email address. Now, I didn’t really send anything to the FBI but if my threat put some fear into some dishonest person’s heart for just a minute, it was worth the little white lie.

What about you? Do you have any tales of scammers to share?

Hair We Go Again

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

I love the funky hair colors that so many people carry off so well and carried a secret desire to become one of them for some time. I even scoured Pinterest and other sites for ideas. It quickly became apparent that I seem to have two strikes working against me.

Strike One: Most of the examples of colorful hair are on blonds or brunettes. I don’t think I have found a single example of a natural redhead rocking a multi-colored look. Galaxy hair? Brunettes. Oil slick hair? Brunettes. Peekaboo hair? Blonds. Where are the redheads? Surely I’m not the only one that loves the cool colors.

Strike Two: I have short hair. Most of the short hairstyles with fun colors are an all-over color and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go that extreme.

Finally, in February 2015, I decided to take the plunge. I told my stylist to book an appointment – we were going to add some blue and purple to my strawberry blond locks. After assuring her that I wouldn’t get in trouble at work, we were a go. Then, my father passed away; the appointment that I had scheduled would be the day of his funeral. I knew that I wanted to proceed with my plans but also knew that the appointment needed to be rescheduled. What to do? Postpone the appointment that I had been looking forward to with great excitement or try to reschedule it to before the funeral? After a relatively short internal debate, I decided to try and get it done before the funeral. My stylist was able to move my appointment up a day and, without telling anyone but my husband what I was planning to do, I “disappeared” for a few hours to have my hair done. To be honest, it was a much needed respite. After being surrounded by people for several days, this introvert needed a chance to get away and recharge a bit. Of course, by the time I got home, my husband had squealed on me and one of my sisters was waiting for me when I arrived. So, I rocked the look in the picture below to my father’s funeral. It caused a few raised eyebrows, but not nearly as many as I had expected.

blue-and-purple

When I had the color added, I asked the hairdresser how long it would last. She estimated that it would last a month, maybe six weeks if I babied it. The “babying” stage only lasted a couple of days. However, it took a full three months for the color to fade completely. My day job is IT customer support so I deal with a lot of people face-to-face on a daily basis. A fair number of people asked me about my hair and why I had decided to add the color. I told them the same thing that I told everyone at the funeral – I needed something to make me smile. A few people had their own ideas as to why I had it done. My favorites were:

 Did you have that done for Mardi Gras?

I thought you must have done it for Easter.

I figured it was a Gay Pride thing.

Once the colors faded, people began asking when I planned to have something done again. I didn’t know. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t know when. Then, in December 2016, the time was suddenly right. (That’s how I roll. I may delay a decision but, once it’s made, it’s made.) I booked the appointment to have some as yet determined color added to my hair and began scanning Pinterest for ideas again. I decided to go with an all over color. When I contacted my stylist she said “Are you sure? That means that we have to bleach all of your hair.” I told her that I understood and that I wanted to go with an all-over gray/silver with maroon accents. When the big day arrived, she decided to put some orange over the burgundy. While the silver was lighter than I expected, I really liked the overall look.

maroon-hair

Sadly, my happiness didn’t last. Both the maroon and silver faded within the first couple of days, leaving me with an overall color that was just this side of platinum blond with bright orange bangs. It was not a combination that I was happy with. After the holidays, I went back to my hairdresser to get things repaired. I told the stylist that I didn’t want to re-add the red and requested that she just strip the orange so I’d just be blond. Well, while most of the orange cooperated, the brightest streak did not; not even bleaching removed it, much to my hairdressers surprise. She then had to put some toner on my hair to even out the colors between the parts that had been bleached first and the newly bleach section. Much to my delight, the toner gave me more of the grayish silver color that I had wanted in the first place. The remaining orange has now lightened significantly and even though the silver has lightened as well, I still really like it. I’m not sure how long I will keep it this way before I let my natural red grow back in. I’m guessing that I will be a ginger again within six months or so.

However, there is a downside to this gorgeous silver color – now people just think I have silver hair because I’m old, and not because I’m cool LOL. Oh well, I know the truth and now, so do you! ;-)

silver-hair

Since I’m terrible at selfies, I may as well make goofy faces!

What about you? Have you played with adding any unusual colors to your hair?

The Really Bad Idea

15338578 - young blonde woman gets a thoughtless gift

Yes guys, this is a bad idea.

There are all sorts of ideas in the world, ranging from life-changing to life-ending. The one that I am going to tell you about was not to either of those extremes but, it was on the “bad” side of the idea spectrum. I will go so far as to call it really bad. Perhaps I should tell you up front that this was not my idea, it was my husband’s. I was the one on the receiving end.

My husband owns a small lawn care business that he runs as a second job. When we get home from our day jobs, he changes clothes and heads out to mow lawns, trim bushes, etc., usually returning well after dark. One evening he came home, super excited about something—he practically bounced in the back door. “Have you got a minute? I want to show you something. I discovered the coolest thing tonight. Grab your headlamp and come outside.” What girl can resist an invitation like that? So, I donned my headlamp as requested and joined him outside.

My husband led me to the back yard with me peppering him with questions. The only response that I could get was “You’ll see. It’s so cool!” Once we got to the back yard he instructed me to shine my light on the ground, which I did. “Do you see anything shining?” I did not. From the frequency with which the question was directed at me, I knew it was important so I really tried to find , something, anything, shining. The best I could do was when the light would occasionally glint off of the mica in the sandy soil. That wasn’t what I was supposed to be seeing.

Once I had waded out into the middle of the yard, it hit me. I had a horrible, horrible thought. I stopped in my tracks and asked the question that I dreaded the answer to. “Does this have anything to do with spiders?” Just so you know, I DO NOT like spiders. A lot of people think of snakes, rats, and bats as scary but I’m fine with all of those. (Rats make awesome pets, by the way. Much better than hamsters. Just sayin’.) But spiders? No. Just no. Something about those eight legs and multiple eyes just completely creeps me out. I don’t even like to look at pictures of spiders.

My husband responded (far too cheerfully) “Yes! I found out tonight that when the light hits a spider’s eyes, they glow!” At this point there may or may not have been a few expletives issued on my part as I stomped back across the darkened yard, snarling “What were you thinking? You know I don’t like spiders! What made you think it was a good idea to bring me out into the dark to look for SPIDERS!” I was not a happy camper, to say the least.

42706902 - green cat eyes glowing in the dark spooky

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

I still have no idea why my dear, sweet husband thought I was going to be excited by this discovery but, he honestly did. He even told the guys in his office about it the next day. To give them credit, they were all on my side with the unanimous reaction of “Dude, what were you thinking?”

When I originally planned this post, this is pretty much where it ended. However, last week we went over to my son and almost-daughter-in-law’s house to meet her father. Our visit ended with a round of backyard archery – after dark. Once again, headlamps were called into action. As I shone my light around the yard, I saw it – the eerie green glow of spider eyes. They. Were. Everywhere! My skin still crawls, just thinking about it. *shudder* To my credit, I didn’t run inside and lock the door. I stayed outside with everyone else and shot a bow for the first time since my college PE days. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is, LOL!

My hubby is extremely disappointed that he can’t find anyone else who thinks that glowing spider eyes are cool so, if you do, please let me know in the comments and I’ll pass it on!

Dial V for Vampire

Dial V for Vampire by Isabella Norse Web (2)** The contest is now closed. Congratulations to winner Lynda Bailey! **

Someone pinch me! I must be dreaming.  At long last, it is release day for Dial V for Vampire, the first novel in my Kudzu Korners series. This story has been a part of my life – and my heart – for so long that I can’t belive that my little novel is all grown up and heading out into the world. *sniff*

Dial V for Vampire is the story for those who love vampires and werewolves but prefer their romances sweet. It takes place in the small (fictional) Southern town of Kudzu Korners, near Savannah, Georgia.

I want to give a big shout out to Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn of Fire Star Press – thank you for believing in me and my story! I’m so excited about introducing the world to Maggie, Noah, and Zombie that I will give away an ebook (Kindle) copy on Saturday, August 27th. Just comment on this post for a chance to win!

Want to know more? Here’s the blurb:

Maggie Robinson is a full-time server, part-time blogger, and 24/7 skeptic. Her love life? Non-existent. Why bother? Her parents’ divorce is proof that “happily ever after” is a fairy tale. To make matters worse, she has no idea that her tongue-in-cheek blog, Life with Zombie, has placed her at the top of the werewolves’ Most Wanted list.

Noah Townsend is a vampire with a broken heart. It has been two years since his wife’s death and he is still recovering. Instead of dealing with his grief, he has thrown himself into his duties as the head of a security firm that specializes in protecting paranormal beings and hiding their existence from humans.

Worlds collide when Noah saves Maggie from a werewolf attack. Can Maggie overcome her skepticism and Noah his grief in time to realize that they were made for each other? Or will the ripples started by Maggie’s blog grow into a tsunami that will tear them – and Kudzu Korners – apart?

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K28NU7E/

New Look, New Designer

The original cover for The Purrfect Partner

The original cover for The Purrfect Partner

An important consideration when publishing a series is having a consistent, or “branded,” look to the covers so that readers can tell at a glance that the books go together. Love them or hate them, two series that have done this very well are Twilight and Fifty Shades. I’ve never read either series but my hat is off to the cover designers – in my opinion, neither series would have been the phenomenon it was without their creativity.

I first fell in love with the original cover for The Purrfect Partner, the first story in the Paws and Effect series, (shown at the left) because it illustrated the Valentine’s theme of the story perfectly. I liked the fact that you can’t see the couple’s faces, so it was easier to adapt them to my story. Also, the outfits the couple are wearing helped me work out some of the details of the story. The base cover was a pre-made and I paid a little extra to have a cat added since all of the stories in the Paws and Effect series involve animal rescue.

Now, all of that said, when I began working on It’s Meow or Never, the second story in the series, I had to consider how to brand the cover so that it would “match” the first one. This is where the drawbacks to the original cover became obvious. First, the cover is beautiful but busy. Secondly, the cat that I had added? Most people don’t even see it. (Yes, there really is a cat there. I’ll wait here while you look again.) The invisible feline is a big problem since the cat is integral to the story. What to do? I decided that the best option would be to have the cover redesigned with series branding in mind.

Once I made the decision to have the covers redesigned, then I had to agonize over which designer to use. (Well, I guess I didn’t actually have to “agonize,” but that’s how I roll.) There are so many amazing cover designers! In the end I decided to go with author and cover designer Victorine Lieske of Blue Valley Author Services. Victorine is a New York Times bestselling author – as such, she knows the importance of a good cover. Victorine asked a few simple questions and pretty much nailed the series design on her first attempt. As a matter of fact, I actually squealed with excitement when I saw the first mockup she provided. We had to make a few tweaks to the couple on the cover, but that was the only change.

So, with no further ado, (and much excitement) I present the new and improved cover for The Purrfect Partner!

Cover design by Victorine Lieske, Blue Valley Author Services

Cover design by Victorine Lieske, Blue Valley Author Services

 

So, what do you think? I hope you love it s much as I do! Want to know more? Read on for the blurb and the buy link:

Lorelei Stevens, newly certified veterinary technician, faces the future with a mix of excitement and dread. Freedom from the meddling of her well-intentioned friends is finally within reach. All she has to do is spend Valentine’s weekend dodging the unwanted attentions of strangers during the annual singles gathering at The Lodge. In return, her friends promise to never, ever set her up on another blind date.

Dalton Freeman, laid-back rancher, receives a getaway to The Lodge as a gift from his brothers. The catch? The gift is only good during Valentine’s weekend. So what if all of his attempts at online dating have failed miserably? There’s no reason for his brothers to play Cupid. Really.

When these two strangers pretend to be a couple for a weekend, will it be a disaster or will fate – and a half-frozen kitten – lead them to the purrfect partner?

Buy it HERE for only $0.99. (It’s free if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited.)

A Large Strawberry Milkshake with Whipped Cream and a Cherry

Picture courtesy of www.123rf.com

Picture courtesy of www.123rf.com

In my last post I mentioned that life has kept me away from blogging for a while. The specific life events involved were the failing health and death of my father. In spite of losing my father – which was hard – I still feel blessed. My father was ninety years old at the time of his death so I had him in my life much longer than many do. (My father-in-law was only in his late sixties when he died.) And, most importantly, my father’s decline was quick – he didn’t linger and he didn’t suffer.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I have tattoos. (See examples HERE and HERE.) When it became obvious that my daddy was not going to bounce back from his decline, I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate my parents. My first idea was to get their initials, in their writing, on my foot. However, the more I thought about it, the more I decided that that just wasn’t quite right. Instead, I decided that I wanted some sort of symbol that would represent my parents. Once that decision was made, the rest was easy.

The last several months of my father’s life, a large strawberry milkshake – with whipped cream and a cherry – was a staple of his diet. Perfect! My mother drinks coffee by the gallon, so a cup of coffee was the natural choice to represent her. The next step was to look for examples to give the tattoo artist. But, examples of tattoo milkshakes? Really? Well, Pinterest to the rescue! Believe it or not, when I searched Pinterest for milkshake tattoos, I found exactly what I was looking for.

My father, even at his advanced age, was my mother’s primary caregiver. After his death, my mom moved two states away to live with my oldest sister and her husband. My husband and I had to clean out my parents’ house. The process ripped my heart out. I told my husband more than once that I felt like I was wiping what little was left of my father off the face of the Earth. Most of my daily cleaning sessions ended with me in tears.

I told my husband that, for me, my tattoo was an important part of the healing process. He had the insight to point out that it is also a way for me to keep a part of my father around. He is absolutely right. So, without further ado, here is the finished product:

 

My memorial to my parents. This is about 4.5 hours of work.

My memorial to my parents. This is about 4.5 hours of work.

 

I gave the tattoo artist an idea of what I wanted and we worked together on the layout. My hubby tossed out some suggestions as well. (It was his recommendation that resulted in the artist adding the checkered table cloth to the design.) I also gave the artist the freedom to add his own touches. He decided to add the angel wings to the steam from the coffee since the tattoo is a memorial. At the last minute, he also added a very subtle halo to the area between the wings.

I’m not the superstitious type nor do I really believe in portents and signs but, occasionally, something happens and I feel like everything is happening as it should be. I had one of those moments when I went in to have my tattoo finished. The artist told me that the color he was using for the strawberry shake was called Pink Panther. My daddy was a huge fan of the old Pink Panther movies, a fact that the artist had no way of knowing. I think daddy would approve.

Every day, I see my tattoo and it makes me think of my parents and smile – which is a good thing. There have been enough tears for a while. When people ask me about my tattoo (which happens frequently) I get to tell them a story and, for those few minutes, my daddy is with me again.

I miss you, daddy. You are always in my heart, and now, I am wearing my heart on my “sleeve” even more than usual.