Cover Reveal for Dances with Werewolves

Dances with Werewolves, the second full-length novel in my Kudzu Korners sweet paranormal romance series, releases on May 27, 2020. This book has been a long time coming and I couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait for you to meet Sydney and Kain as well as renew acquaintances with other Kudzu Korners residents. I love the cover that Livia Reasoner of Fire Star Press designed; it was Livia’s idea to make the scene a night setting and I think it’s perfect.

Dances with Werewolves INorse

Blurb:

Sydney Hall has spent her life looking for love in all the wrong places. Her world falls apart when the man she thought was Mr. Right turns out to be Mr. Couldn’t-Be-More-Wrong. She needs to make some major lifestyle changes—if she can figure out where to start.

Kain is a werewolf afraid of the vulnerability that comes with life with a pack.  Nevertheless, werewolves are made to protect and his instincts kick into high gear when he meets a bruised and battered Sydney Hall. He is determined to help her see herself as the strong woman he believes she can be.

Friendship grows as two damaged people find hope in each other. Can Sydney and Kain maintain their promise to remain friends without benefits? Or, is love inevitable as two wounded souls learn to heal together?

Excerpt:

Once the door shut behind Maggie, Kain moved to the spot she occupied previously on the sofa. He patted the cushion next to him, indicating Sydney should join him. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Questions about what?”

“About your dad. Maggie said he was in law enforcement. Do you remember which branch? State Trooper? Police? Private detective?”

“Wait. I thought you were coming over to check on me and the cats. How did we get on the topic of my father?”

Kain immediately backed down, glad Maggie wasn’t around to see. He was known for digging in when on the trail of something hot, be it a danger to his paranormal charges or an eighties music remix he had yet to hear. Such an abrupt about-face would have Maggie feeling his forehead to check for fever and threatening to call the doctor. He would be the last to admit it but he thought the change was a positive one. Hanging around Sydney was helping him remember the world didn’t revolve around him and that other people have feelings too.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s okay, you just took me by surprise. I don’t mind.” She hung her head. “I don’t get to talk about my daddy often.” She drew in a deep breath and then blew it out. “He’s been gone for years and I still miss him every day. I was only ten when he disappeared. I just remember him telling me it was his job to protect people. I asked my mom for some details after he died, but before she completely lost it. All she said was it was what he was born to do.” Sydney’s brow furrowed and she chewed on the corner of her lip. “No, wait. That’s not right. She said protecting people is what he was made to do, not born. Even then I thought it was a strange choice of words. I still do.” She leveled her gaze on Kain and cocked her head. “Why?”

“I’m in the job of protecting people too. I’d like to think if I disappeared, someone would care enough to look for me. It’s been a long time, and I can’t make any promises, but I’m going to look for him. I think you deserve some answers. Is there anything else about him I should know?”

“What else is there? He was my daddy. He said I was the apple of his eye.” Sydney blinked rapidly, her eyes glistening. “I was his little girl and he loved me. No one has loved me like that since.”

Pre-order your copy HERE!

Outhouse Deliveries

We’re all familiar with the terms “morning person” and “night person”. I’m definitely a night person and my husband is a morning person. (He denies it but that doesn’t change the fact that he is, LOL.) Night is when I’m most likely to come up with a resolution to a story plot that has been bugging me or an entirely new story idea. Odds are good that if I can’t sleep it’s because my brain is running full steam ahead on a story. My husband is the opposite, early morning, usually during that time in-between awake and asleep is when his brain comes up with new projects or solves problems with existing ones. Not long ago he greeted me with the statement “I had the best idea this morning.” His eyes were big enough to be worthy of any cartoon character. Since I had just woken up, I wasn’t sure I was up to the level of excitement such a pronouncement should entail.

Before I tell you his idea, I need to explain a little about where we live. About 2.5 years ago we moved to our rustic dream home in the country; we call our house The Cabin. We both grew up in the country (most would say I grew up in the boonies) and after almost 30 years of living in town we were more than ready to return to our rural roots. Some rural residents set up boxes for use by delivery drivers; most of those residents live in areas far more rural than ours. However, since we have moved when deliveries arrive, there is no telling where they will be placed. On the deck? On the walkway? Under the carport? Left in the rain? Anything is possible.

Now that you have the background, what was my hubby’s fantastic idea? He wanted to build a box for deliveries, but not just any box. He wanted to build the box to look like an outhouse.

Yes, this kind of outhouse.

Yes, this kind of outhouse.

He was kind of crushed that I was not enthused at the idea of having an outhouse in our yard. Honestly, I’m not convinced that we need a delivery box at all – we’re not that rural. In some ways it might be nice so we don’t have to worry about things getting wet when packages are left in the rain but I’m not sure how we’d even let drivers know that there is a certain place to leave packages and I’m definitely not having an outhouse by the road.

What do you think of the outhouse idea? Do you have a special box or location for package deliveries?

A Farewell to Movie Theaters

It’s official. I am done with movie theaters.

In a world where almost every movie is available via streaming within a few months of its release (if not weeks) you would think theaters would be changing their business model in order to survive in the new landscape, but no. Instead, they seem to be doubling down on their existing model and in my opinion its not working. My dissatisfaction began a few years ago when theaters decided to do away with the ticket window, forcing everyone to stand in line at the concession stand in order to buy tickets. True, most theaters have an electronic kiosk where tickets can be purchased – if you can find it hidden in the darkest corner behind a potted plant. After all, if you buy your ticket from the kiosk you won’t be buying any over-priced movie theater snacks. However, I’m not going to buying any of those snacks any way. My biggest problem with being forced to wait in the concession line is that patience is not one of my virtues. I’m amazed by the number of people who act like they’ve never seen movie theater snacks before. Seriously people, they’ve been the same as long as I can remember.

Image courtesty of www.depositphotos.com

Image courtesty of www.depositphotos.com

However, the final straw was the implementation of assigned seating. Are you fricking kidding me? Adults and teens have been successfully choosing their own movie theater seats forever. The first time I ran into this was when we were out of state for New Year’s. We made the mistake of deciding to go to the theater to see The Rise of Skywalker. Once we finally got to the counter to purchase our ticket they asked us to pick seats. Excuse me? We made our selection and went into the theater where of course, others were in our seats. This turned into a confrontation with a jerk. I wasn’t willing to deal with all of this completely unnecessary crap so we left – and got our money back. The manager indicated that this wasn’t the first such situation. Why assigned seating? I don’t understand at all. Theaters are rarely full, so what gives? I told my husband that I was done with theaters but that I would give it one more try when we got home but that if they implement the assigned seating bit, that was it.

Once we got home we went to the local theater where, of course, they have implemented assigned seating. Give me a break! And, prices had increased – our cost for two matinee tickets was over $20. Nope. That’s it. I’m done. I can stream several movies for that price. I’m not sure what the answer is but increased prices and assigned seating isn’t it. I absolutely refuse to set foot in a movie theater for anything less than something of the magnitude of Avengers: End Game – and even something of that nature is highly doubtful.

What about you? Do you still go to the theater or just stream movies from the comfort of your home?

Commercial Logic

I find television commercials annoying – and not just because they’re ten times louder than the show I’m watching although that doesn’t help. I get annoyed by the subtle and not-so-subtle messages they cram down our throats. Yes, I know it is the job of a marketing department to make their product or service the first one that comes to our mind. However, I’m a bit contrary so odds are that the more you try to cram your message down my throat, the less receptive I will be.

Years ago Toyota bombarded the airwaves to convince us that the Camry was the car that everyone must have. All it did was convince me that I wouldn’t own a Camry if you gave it to me. Do I hate Toyota? No. Toyota makes good vehicles and we own two: a Highlander and a Tacoma, both well into their teens. Even though Toyota no longer beats us over the head with the message to buy a Camry, I still wouldn’t have one. I have a long memory.

A wine company had commercials a few months ago that I never did figure out. Were they trying to convince me that drinking their wine would make me ultra-skinny and in demand at ultra-posh parties or was it only available to ultra-skinny people at ultra-posh parties? Hmmm. Their newer commercials have toned down the posh party vibe but apparently it’s still only skinny people that drink it. You’d think in an age of growing body positivity that their marketing department might be aware that their ads should be a bit more inclusive but, apparently not.

Toothpaste commercials are the bane of my existence. If I see one more commercial featuring someone with blindingly white teeth bemoaning how yellow their teeth are, I may throw things. But, as a society, we’ve bought into this. Everybody and their brother – including me – has done some sort of tooth whitening process. I paid for a professional whitening which, while it did lighten my teeth it did NOT whiten them. Oh, and it also made my teeth ridiculously sensitive. Fun times. I guess these commercials bother me the most because I don’t have white teeth and no amount of bleaching, etc. is going to change that. Genetics are stronger than toothpaste and bleach. The only way I will ever have unnaturally white teeth is if I invest in implants or veneers, both of which involve levels of pain and money that do not interest me. So, even though my smile may not require you to don sunglasses in order to gaze upon it, it is genuine. And I resent the implication of some commercials that, just because my teeth aren’t white, I should be deleting photos of myself smiling. And any so-called friend who hands me a tissue and suggests that I take the tissue test… Let’s just say that won’t go well.

french bulldog

Okay, maybe things haven’t quite gotten this bad. Yet.

In order to convince us to buy their razors, companies show us women with no leg hair pretending to shave their legs. Pffffft. Any razor can do that. Want to impress me? Show me a real woman with hairy legs using your product. The only company I know of that has done this is Billie - and because of it, I will try Billie razors once my supply of non-Billie razors runs out. In a similar vein, if you want to show me how well your wrinkle cream works, demonstrate it on a woman fifty or older, not a twenty-something with nary a wrinkle in sight.

But, now that the holiday season is upon us, the worst of the worst commercials are too. This is the time of year we are bombarded with commercials telling us we need to spend more than we make in a year to make our loved ones happy. I especially feel for men. They are the ones being hit with all of the commercials telling them how expensive jewelry is the only way to their significant other’s heart. Don’t fall for it guys! I’m sure it’s true in some cases but probably not most. And the car commercials. Don’t get me started on the car commercials. If my husband were to present me with a new car on Christmas morning, he would not get the reaction the men in the commercials do. Not only would I be furious but, giving me a “gift” that would put our family in debt for several years would probably require marriage counseling.

Oh! There’s one more. “In need of stocking stuffers? Try Listerine Ready Tabs.” Now, I love Christmas and the stockings are one of my favorite parts. I can honestly say that I have never been so desperate for stocking stuffers that I would even consider mouthwash. No one is going to take it kindly if they find mouthwash in their stocking. (“Gee, honey. You could have just told me I have bad breath. You didn’t have to put Listerine in my stocking.”) I don’t know who on the marketing team thought this was a good idea or how they were able to convince everyone else. I wonder if Peloton and Listerine use the same marketing firm?

Thanks for listening while I ranted. Now, it’s your turn. Which commercials push your buttons and why?

 

Learning to Cook (Or, Apologies to My Children)

I watch a lot of cooking/baking shows and many of the contestants (professional chefs and home bakers alike) talk about how they grew up cooking/baking with their mother and grandmother. I did not. Nevertheless, when I married and had children of my own, I was the one primarily responsible for meals. It wasn’t a process I enjoyed. I had a terrible time planning meals and it didn’t help when my oldest son turned out to be an extremely picky eater. What do you fix (Southern for “prepare”) for the kid who won’t eat anything? It wasn’t only the meal planning that was stressful, the actual preparation was as well. I had a hard time getting all of the components ready at the same time which tended to make me meltdown. (Perfectionism at it’s finest.) After a while, my husband got tired of me stressing out and he took over meal preparation. I’m not sure that he enjoyed the actual process any more than I did but he is much calmer than I am (about pretty much everything). Our boys grew up eating a lot of Shake and Bake chicken and Hamburger Helper. Our meals weren’t the healthiest but both boys survived and are now in their thirties.

A few years ago I subscribed to the Blue Apron meal kit plan for a while and even wrote a post about it HERE. While I enjoyed experimenting I don’t think any of the meals we tried became repeats. Fast forward a couple of years and I decided to subscribe to the Hello Fresh meal kit plan. Aside from a few delivery problems, this went much better. I think some of it was the actual meal offerings themselves. The Hello Fresh meals still gave me the ability to try things I wouldn’t normally fix but weren’t so far outside of my comfort zone (or rather my husband’s comfort zone) that we wouldn’t try them again. As a matter of fact, several of the Hello Fresh meals have become repeats. Hello Fresh taught me just how much I enjoy roasted vegetables and how easy they are to prepare. Who knew? I also learned that olive oil, salt, and pepper are good on pretty much everything. I think another reason that the Hello Fresh process went better was that I was at a different place in my life; I was no longer doing elder care and had gotten through the worst of the grief over losing my parents.. The extra free time made it easier for me to spend the time I needed on meal preparation – after all, I’m still a slow cook.

Now that I’m retired and my husband is still working, it’s only fair that I have taken over once again as the primary cook. And, it’s going much better. I actually enjoy the meal prep and all of the slicing and dicing. I’m still not always the best at getting everything done at the same time but I try not to let it stress me out, after all, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still not great at meal planning but it is getting a little easier. Not only that but we are eating better, we now buy a lot of fresh produce and rarely have a pre-packaged meal. (And, I feel kind of guilty when we do.) I also like the fact that Kroger now sells individual Home Chef meal kits. This allows me to keep experimenting without the cost of a weekly subscription.

Blue Apron

Yes, I now own an apron and I still suck at selfies.

In short, I am 56 years old and I am just now learning to cook. Fortunately, as I’ve said before, age is just a number and it’s never too late to learn something new. (My husband, 57, is now taking guitar lessons and I couldn’t be prouder.) So to my sons, I’m sorry I didn’t have these skills when you were still at home. However, you were loved fiercely, had a roof over your head and clothes to wear so I guess it all worked out.

Did you learn to cook as a child?

Guarding Saturday

For many years I, like many of you, stayed busy. All. The. Time. I was a wife and mother with a full-time job who spent my Saturdays volunteering with an animal rescue group and Sundays were reserved for church. Eventually, I reached the point where I realized I just couldn’t keep up that sort of schedule. I was always tired and desperately needed some “me” time. It didn’t help that, as an introvert, I was always surrounded by people – that alone is exhausting. Adding a permanent lack of sleep on top of a drained introvert battery and I was pretty much in zombie mode.

Yes, I felt guilty stepping down from my role with the animal rescue group; these groups struggle to have enough volunteers as it is. But, I had to take care of myself. (And, I feel guilty about pretty much everything so why would this be any different?) What was surprising to me was how fiercely I guarded my Saturdays after that. Saturday became the one day of the week I could sleep in and once I got up, I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. Saturday was MINE. That’s not to say I didn’t occasionally have somewhere I had to go on Saturday but if I did you can be sure I had done everything humanly possible to reschedule/get out of it. Sometimes you have to be selfish.

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that my husband and I did the eldercare thing for our remaining three parents for several years. I know that I did the best I could during those years but, I’m human, so I have regrets. One of those regrets is that I didn’t spend my Saturdays taking my mama to the local senior center or other things like that. I’m pretty sure she would have loved it. But, I didn’t. I was still protecting my Saturdays, my precious “me” time. Eldercare is hard. I know I did what I needed to do for myself in order to be able to  keep going but… *shrugs*

I retired at the end of April this year meaning that my time is now mine to do with as I will. However, old habits are hard to break and I find myself still fiercely defending my Saturdays. For example, I realized yesterday that I’m scheduled to go to a painting class tonight and immediately found myself trying to think of ways to get out of going. Nope. I paid for this class and I’m going to go. I just have to stop and remind myself that I now have all of the free time in the world – it’s okay to treat Saturdays like any other day. I guess after working for most of my life, it’s going to take more than a couple of months to change my mindset.

What do you do to protect your “me” time?

Women Over (Insert Age) Shouldn’t…

What’s the deal with all of the articles telling women what we should do/wear/own/think, etc. based on our age? I just don’t get it. I also don’t understand why I keep looking at the darn things. *facepalm* Someone please stop me. I often wonder what will happen to the individuals who write these articles when they reach the age they have written about and realize they have no sudden desire to follow their own rules? On the positive side, it only takes a quick internet search to find oodles of articles disputing/mocking all of the “must do” lists. I guess this post now joins them.

One of the most baffling articles I have read to date is this one:

https://www.countryliving.com/home-maintenance/organization/g4721/things-no-woman-over-40-should-have/

What is it about this article that bugs me more than most? Everything. Why does this even have an age attached to it? Based on this article it’s okay to have orphaned socks and stinky shoes until you hit forty, then they have to go. What? And the “but no judgement” bit? Don’t even get me started. (I know. Too late.)

You. Are. Awesome. Rock on.

You. Are. Awesome. Rock on.

For the most part, as we age, we grow in a sense of confidence – of being comfortable in our skin. Does that mean we always have it together? Of course not. No one does. But, we have survived everything life has thrown at us so far and have the stretch marks and scars to prove it. We have earned the right to make our own decisions about what we own, what we wear, etc., etc., etc. So, the next time one of these articles works its way into your social media feed, ignore it. I am going to strive to do the same. And you know what else? I’m going to be wearing my blue jeans and graphic tees until I’m too old to dress myself and I’ll fight anyone who tries to take them from me. Love your shot glass collection? Good for you! I say flaunt it.

My life advice regardless of your age? Be you. Wear what you love. Decorate your home in the way that makes you happy. Let your awesome shine – don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Every time severe weather moves through this area, like it did today, I think back to my childhood when I was absolutely terrified of storms. Thunderstorms are just a part of life in the South. They can be especially severe this time of year when the lingering cold air of winter collides with the warmer air of spring. When I was young, all it took to transport me emotionally to an area just this side of hysteria was a darkening sky and the rumble of thunder.

It didn’t help that we didn’t have a basement or any sort of area in which to shelter from storms. (I was an adult before I learned that basements are common in other areas of the country. Around here, they’re the exception, not the norm.) My “safe place” was a quilt. When the weather got bad, I’d go to my room and wrap myself in an ancient quilt; it gave me sense of security. True, that threadbare quilt wouldn’t have provided any protection from flying debris but much like swaddling can comfort a cranky infant, being wrapped in its embrace soothed me. I grew up in an un-air-conditioned house and I can remember being wrapped in that quilt, literally dripping with sweat, waiting for the latest storm to pass by.

Image courtesy  of www.depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of www.depositphotos.com

The years passed and my fears stayed with me. Then, I got married and had children. When I was holding my oldest son and freaking out about the latest storm, I realized I couldn’t do that any more. If he saw me reacting like that to bad weather, he would do the same and I didn’t want that for him. So, I had to start pretending that I wasn’t afraid. Thunder would literally rattle the windows of our little house and I would say things like “Oh! That was loud wasn’t it? But, it’s just a noise, it won’t hurt you.” Then, we would continue as if nothing had happened. And you know what? It worked. He wasn’t afraid of storms and neither was his brother. Well, my second son did develop a fear of storms around age twelve but that was the result of us being out and about when a horrible storm blew up and not because I taught him to be afraid. (And he was lucky, we lived in a house with a basement so he could go downstairs whenever he was afraid.)

However, my charade had a completely unexpected impact. After a couple of years of pretending I wasn’t afraid of storms I suddenly realized I really wasn’t afraid any more. Mind. Blown. It’s amazing the unexpected lessons we can learn on this journey called life.

This “fake it ’til you make it” mentality has helped me in other areas of my life, primarily when my anxieties flare up. When I get caught in one of those mental spirals where one fear is feeding on another, I try to remember what I learned from the storms and force myself to realize that those fears are just that, fears – they aren’t going to cause me any physical harm. Sometimes it still takes me a few days to break the cycle, but it has gotten easier over the years. Now, if I can only apply this methodology to my irrational fear of spiders…

Has the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality ever helped you?

 

Unapologetic Geek

I admit it, I have a tendency to use the terms “geek” and “nerd” interchangeably but there is a difference. The simplest definition I have found is in this cartoon on Great White Snark. Based on this definition, I am a geek.

I love video games, action movies, and books among other things. Pull up a chair—I’ll be glad to sit down and talk your ear off about my favorite fandoms. Sadly, I have few people to discuss these topics with. Like most adults, I spend a good portion of my days at work. My coworkers, most of whom are my age, don’t get me at all. I am definitely the odd woman out. (At least my twenty-something coworkers think I’m cool. They think it’s awesome that I’m a gamer.)

But, over the last few years, I have stumbled across a recurring phenomenon I just don’t understand. For most of my adult life, my work days have been spent in cubicles. However, four years ago, I wound up with a private office—a wonderful thing for an introvert like me. Even better, my office has shelves I personalized with photos of my family, and of course, my geek stuff. Passersby and customers frequently comment on my things. Some have no idea what it is and have questions. Others recognize some of the items and also have questions such as “Is that a Master Chief helmet? Do you play Halo?” Then they notice the Boba Fett helmet. “You like Star Wars too?” I assure them that yes, I play Halo and other games, and yes, I like Star Wars, and Star Trek among other things. I usually end the conversation with the statement that “I’m just a geek.” This pronouncement is always met by the response “Oh. That’s okay.”

N7 Day

Me all decked out for N7 Day in one of my geek tees. Some of my other items are visible in the background.

Well, duh. Of course it’s okay. I wasn’t apologizing nor will I. I’m proud of my geekiness. For heaven’s sake, I have a tattoo featuring a Playstation controller on my back. (I’m seriously considering a second geek tattoo as well.) It would be one thing if only one or two people made that response but it’s every single one. I’m baffled as to why. Can you explain it to me?

Are you a nerd or a geek or neither?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes, we are now in the thick of the holiday season and Christmas is my favorite holiday but that’s not what this post is about.

Here in the deep South, we don’t experience four seasons like a lot of y’all do, we only have two-ish. Spring/Summer is one, Fall/Winter is the other. I honestly don’t have a favorite season – there is something I enjoy about each of them. Well, except August. True, August isn’t actually a season but it should be. August is pretty much the worst month of the year. The heat is at it’s worst and the humidity is horrendous. We practically need gills to breathe. I live in an area where we have a steady influx of people from other areas of the country. Those poor souls who have spent their lives in the northern climes are completely unprepared for their first August here. More than one has asked, with a touch of fear in their voice, “Is it always like this?” The answer, sadly, is yes. I’m quick to tell them that you never get used to August in the South; I’ve lived here my whole life, I know. However, the gradual change to cooler weather begins in September and I begin to look toward to my favorite time of the year with increasing anticipation.

Now, I’m definitely not a fashionista but I do prefer my fall/winter wardrobe over that for the rest of the year. I think it’s a combination of the warm colors associated with fall and the soft warmth of sweaters. But, my favorite time of year is when the weather grows cool enough for me to break out my favorite article of clothing – my hooded sweatshirts, or hoodies, if you prefer. It’s not uncommon for me to jump the gun and decide to break them out a little too early. Just because it’s forty degrees in the morning, doesn’t mean it won’t be back up to seventy-five in the afternoon, at least not during the first few cool spells. That’s a bit warm for sweatshirt weather, even for a fan like me.

There’s just something about a hoodie – it’s big and baggy and warm. It’s kind of like a wearable hug. As soon as it gets cool enough, hoodies are my go-to clothing when I’m not at work. Just like my warm weather tees, I have a variety of hoodies that are all a reflection of me and my personality. I do have one that is… unique. It was purchased when my husband and I were vacationing in the mountains and an unexpected cold snap hit. We had not packed clothes for the temperatures that moved in so we went to a local outfitter where I purchased a hoodie. It wasn’t until we got to the trailhead where we were planning to hike and I donned the shirt that I realized it had an unusual feature. The pocket of the shirt contains a bungee cord and attached to it are a can cozy (or koozie) and a bottle opener. *facepalm*

The perfect hoodie for a gamer!

Easily Distracted by Cows.

Who isn’t?

 

This year a new second favorite cold weather article of clothing has joined my hoodies – flannel sleep pants. Such a simple pleasure that I have missed out on for so long. Due to my height, I can’t buy sleep pants in most stores and the only ones I have found online have been ridiculously expensive. (I’m not going to pay $50 or more for sleep pants.) Kudos to Old Navy for having flannel sleep pants at a reasonable price, even for us tall gals.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s nice and cold so it’s time for me to don a hoodie and sleep pants.

What is your favorite season? Do you have a favorite article of clothing?