The Really Bad Idea

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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.

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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.

What I’ve Learned from Blue Apron

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

Image courtesy of www.123rf.com

I’ve been away from blogging for several months due to life. A lot of life. Did you miss me? For my first attempt at blogging again, I thought I’d write about something not likely to make me cry. After all, I’m all about keeping things on the humorous side, right? So, with no further ado…

One of the most important things to know about me at this point is that I am by no means a cook. I can follow a recipe with the best of them, but I have never enjoyed the process. I have always found meal planning and preparation to be very stressful. Several years ago, my husband took over most of the cooking in our house. It works for us; he doesn’t mind getting in the kitchen and throwing meals together and I don’t mind letting him, LOL! In spite of not being a kitchenista, when my son’s girlfriend offered me the opportunity to try Blue Apron free for one week, I jumped at the opportunity. In spite of being a reluctant cook, I am a huge fan of the Food Network and a bit of a closet foodie.

Blue Apron, and similar services, deliver pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to your home on a pre-determined basis. Once I registered with Blue Apron, I was able to select my meal plan (family or two-person), my delivery date (Saturday) and my dietary preferences (no shellfish, my husband is allergic). Once my free week ended, I decided to stick with the program. So here, from a non-cook perspective, is my experience with Blue Apron thus far:

  1. I have been very impressed with the packaging of the items received. All of the ingredients for three meals (each serving two people) come in one relatively small box. Each ingredient is packaged separately and there are even ice packs to keep everything cool for several hours if necessary. (Not sure I’d want to put this to the test in the heat here in the South though. That’s why I selected Saturday delivery!) Seriously, a couple of deliveries have included eggs and they have arrived intact, nary a crack in sight.
  2. As much as I enjoy the television show Chopped, I will not be a contestant any time soon! Even with all of the ingredients on hand and detailed instructions, I’m slooooow. Which leads me to the next item.
  3. However long the instructions say preparations will take, it will take me longer. First, I am double and triple-checking behind myself to make sure that I am not leaving anything out. Second, even though the directions are detailed, sometimes they aren’t detailed enough for me. For example, “separate the thyme leaves from the stems” is not as easy as it sounds. I’ve never cooked with fresh thyme before. If you haven’t either, thyme leaves are tiny and there are hundreds of them per stem. Those who cook with thyme regularly probably didn’t bat an eye at this step. I, however, did. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the best method to use. I was ridiculously proud of myself for doing so without even using Google!
  4. Apparently, all homes – except mine – have a ready supply of olive oil on hand. Every recipe that I have prepared so far has called for at least two teaspoons of olive oil. Before I made a trip to the store (for the sole purpose of buying olive oil) I had to make do with regular vegetable oil and even olive oil cooking spray. (Please don’t faint.)
  5. I have used ingredients that I have only seen on Chopped. Among the ingredients that come to mind are kale, capers, and Castelvetrano olives. (I really, really like capers!)
  6. My inner foodie is enjoying the chance to try things that I would have never tried otherwise. Seriously, one of my favorite recipes to date was for muffuletta-style grilled cheese sandwiches. This take on the grilled cheese had a filling made from celery, green olives, and piquante peppers. It was delicious! If I had seen a sandwich like this on a restaurant menu, I would have wrinkled my nose and stayed as far away from it as possible and by doing so, I would have missed something wonderful.
  7. Most importantly, this experience is teaching me to enjoy cooking. I find myself looking forward to getting in the kitchen and trying my hand at the different recipes. While you may never see me hosting my own cooking show, I am slowly becomig a more confident cook and that alone makes this experiment worthwhile.

Have you tried Blue Apron (or one its equivalents)? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

It’s Okay to Cry (and other tips about caregiving)

Photo courtesy of www.123rf.com

Photo courtesy of www.123rf.com

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but the words haven’t come together in my head. So, it’s time to put pixels to electronic paper and see what happens.

My husband and I have been part-time caregivers for several years. Caring for three elderly people while working full-time and trying to maintain a semi-normal life has become increasingly harder. In fact, the ultimate purpose of this post is to discuss some of the aspects of caregiving that tend to get swept under the carpet. Continue reading →

How Nerdy Are Thy Branches

Glitter treeI’m a sucker for glitter and I love the way the light plays off of this ornament on our Christmas tree so I posted this picture on my Facebook page. My daughter-in-law responded almost immediately with this comment: “No closeups of superheros or singing chickens? This is an inaccurate depiction of your Christmas tree.” She is absolutely right. :-) I believe that Christmas trees, as with any other home decor, are a reflection of their owner. Our tree is eclectic at best, but “nerdy” is probably the best word – and I’m totally okay with that.

Continue reading →

Leveling Up

My new sweatshirt.

My new sweatshirt.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I’m a gamer. Therefore, a hooded sweatshirt with the image in the picture was a pretty much an auto-buy. I celebrated my birthday a couple of days ago and wore my sweatshirt when I went to dinner with my family, earning an eye-roll from my oldest son. Totally worth it. *fist bumps self* Continue reading →

Redemption in Big Fork Lake, by Mary L. Ball

Cover image courtesy of Mary L. Ball

Cover image courtesy of Mary L. Ball

Today, I am thrilled to host Mary L. Ball, a fellow member of Clean Indie Reads. Mary is celebrating the release of her newest novel, Redemption in Big Fork Lake. Read on for all of the awesome details! Continue reading →