Goodbye to a Season

Last week, I boxed up about 20-odd books, slapped a shipping label on them, and sent them on their merry way to the southeastern U.S.

All the books in the box were books I was supposed to read and review for Christian Children’s Book Review. Many of them I’ve had for two years. Sitting. Collecting dust. Some went from Kansas City to Seattle and back again with me. I feel a little sorry for the woman who will open the box this week (maybe today) and find dust on many of the covers.

I first started reviewing for CCBR when my daughter wasn’t yet a year old. The founder and managing editor I count as a friend, and we were both delighted to meet each other when I went to the Pacific Northwest two years ago for my son’s bone marrow transplant.

Since transplant, it had become increasingly obvious that the time I had for CCBR was basically nil. During transplant, my son spent 70 days of the roughly 160 days we were there in the hospital. After we returned, my time and energy was devoted to putting out the fires associated with his care, growing more determined that my books were publishable, and reestablishing a normal relationship with my daughter and husband.

But I wasn’t ready to declare defeat.

I tried putting weekly reminders on my phone to do reviews. They were ignored by yours truly, other than having a guilt trip every week, at least once.

I tried moving the books so they were accessible, only to have my husband gripe about the piles of books everywhere. (Admittedly, we live in a tiny house, and there’s just not enough room for everything.) So back to the bedroom they went, where I only really saw them when I went to bed around midnight, or later.

Until a couple weeks ago, when my editor asked me what was up, and I admitted I just couldn’t figure out how to fit CCBR in with everything else I had going on. I’ve published three books in the last eight months, with a fourth in the works, and three more in the pipeline for (hopefully) by the end of the year. I’m a homeschooling mom. And my son still sees multiple specialists and therapists, with appointments at the minimum of once a week. We both agreed that it was probably best if I passed along my books to another reviewer.

You can’t imagine the sigh of relief I had. A burden had been lifted.

I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent with CCBR. Kristina, the founder, has helped me figure out a few nuances in grammar that I, admittedly, still screw up a lot. And she has been a truly good friend throughout the last several years. I don’t regret the time I was there in the least, although I do regret that my pride kept me from throwing in the towel much earlier.

The Perils of a Pet Mom

I’m SOOOO glad I didn’t have to spend the evening at the emergency vet clinic last night. We thought Tucker, my (practically miniature) chocolate Labrador, was sick for quite a while yesterday evening after we got back from  dinner. My daughter came to us and told us he was in her room, shaking, and I thought, “Oh no, he’s having a seizure.” And he just turned 7! We got him out (under his own power) but he was acting really strange, so we questioned her: did you give him anything? Was there any food in your room? She denied it. We thought Tucker was sick, so we made him go outside, where he began acting normally–playing, wanting me to chase him, etc. But when I tried to get him to come in, he flat out refused!

Tucker
Tucker

This went on for maybe 1/2 an hour, and he came inside a few times, only to insist on going back out. We thought he had the runs or something. I gave him fresh water, petted him, and he’d act fine outside, but go nuts inside.

Then I made him come in because I was tired of this, then went and did something else for a minute in another part of my house. When I came back, my husband said that Tucker wouldn’t go into the living room.

Well guess what was in the living room? A stupid karaoke machine which a co-worker was having Nate look at for an issue with it. My husband had turned it up so loud earlier in the evening that it had been rattling the glass in my china cabinet. No wonder Tucker was upset! I made hubby remove it to his truck to take back to work this morning, and after that, Tucker settled down and was fine!

At least I didn’t have to go to the emergency vet clinic.

Adventures in the Great Outdoors, I

If you took the way that my husband (The Man Of The House, or TMOTH) and I grew up and compared them, you would see the reason why the two of us are vastly different. Unless we were at my grandparents’ farm, we didn’t do much outdoorsy stuff–camping, hiking, fishing, etc. My husband? was outside ALL THE TIME.

Ironically, my husband and I met on a camping trip–the weekend was the first time I’d ever stayed overnight in a tent.

While I’m still not an “outdoorsy” girl–I’d still rather be at home with my books and laptop–I’ve been getting better about being outside. Or at least I’m trying to be.

Frequently on the weekends, my husband says for me to pack a cooler and grab some diapers for our three-year-old, and off we go. Sometimes I grumble, if not to him, to myself. I’m not a spontaneous person, I like to have some time to plan things when possible. An hour to pack everything we’ll need for the rest of the day and it’s 11 AM? Yeah, doesn’t thrill me too much.

But, I like what it’s teaching my kids–to be flexible, roll with the punches, and most importantly, enjoy the outdoors (although, much of the time, all they’re enjoying at this age are movies in the car and an excessively long car ride.)

Father’s Day was one of these days. On the way to church, TMOTH made noises that he wanted to go fishing. So, I had about a two hour warning before we got home that this was on the plate. Get home, pack lunch, grab the diapers, head out. 

Then, what inevitably happens with us, “Where are we going?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“It’s Father’s Day. You pick.”

“I don’t know where to go!”

A bluegill our daughter caught on Father’s Day

I sigh, make a few half-hearted suggestions. We stop and he retrieves the Gazeteer from the trunk. I start telling him directions. The kids watch “How to Train Your Dragon” for the 17th time in the last few weeks. The younger one naps. The dog is cramped, on the floor between the front and back seats of our mid-sized sedan.

We’re all wishing we had a Suburban, especially the dog.

Eventually, we find a spot we’ve been to before, a long, long time ago–maybe before the kids came around. TMOTH and our daughter fish.

Our daughter catches two small bluegill, TMOTH catches a small catfish and a small bluegill.

I keep our son from falling into the water, take pictures of dragonflies when I can get close enough to them without our son getting too close and scaring them off. We huddle down together after retrieving our hats from the car as light showers come across the lake and hit us head on. By the time we leave, my T-shirt is soaked from the rain.

I’m cold, haven’t had dinner, and am tired, but other than gently reminding my husband he neglected to get me something to eat when I couldn’t eat at Subway (I started a gluten-free diet last fall, so Subway is NOT on my menu,) I don’t say too much. I do adjust the thermostat in the car to something a little warmer, then help my husband figure out where the heck to go. We take a wrong turn or two (I’ve gotten turned around on where we are,) and I mark the Gazeteer in ink on where to go again, and scratch off roads shown on the map that aren’t roads.

It’s been a successful day overall. We made it home in one piece. The kids got to run around and fish. I took several pictures, none I’m thrilled with, but they’re okay. And more importantly, my husband got me out of the house. I’ve become quite a homebody the last couple years. Having your life center around the health and wellness of your immune-compromised son will do that to you.

Next up on our list of challenges–a possible weekend trip to a cabin, or maybe even in a tent.

I’m not sure I’m ready yet.

Until next time…

Murder Down the Street

This week has been an INSANELY busy week for me. I’ve been exhausted because of it. Even so, on Monday afternoon, as I was heading home from an appointment, my curiosity was piqued by a site: a police car sitting in the driveway of a house about a half mile from my own.

My first thought: why would they be running radar from there, and did they get permission from the homeowner?

See, it’s across the street from a parking lot where I FREQUENTLY see cops running radar. No big deal to me–I’m always turning onto the road a block away, and there’s no way I’ve even come close to reaching the 35 MPH speed limit by the time I pass the radar-gun carrying officer.

But this Monday was different. As I was watching the evening news, I learned there’d been a murder in my town which had been discovered after a welfare check. The neighborhood looked like mine–I hadn’t caught the address.

Sure enough, it was the house I’d observed earlier in the day.

I didn’t know the victim, may not have ever seen him. And I’m not in fear for my life. Sure, the area of town I live in is slightly more likely than other areas to have violence of this sort, but this is only the 5th murder in my city this year–and three others made the national news because they were a mass shooting at the Jewish Community Center.

But, that’s not what I’m writing about, and I most certainly am not trying to insert myself into this tragedy.

As a mystery writer, I’ve been fascinated to watch the happenings at the house this week. Because of appointments and vacation Bible school for my daughter, I’ve had reason to go past there every day. I’ve also been very perplexed in my drive-by observations.

For instance, I’ve observed crime scene vans on sight for three days (Monday on the news, and Tuesday and Wednesday in person.) I’ve also spotted up to six vehicles on scene–some from the local PD, but others from the Sheriff’s office. More interesting, there’s always a police car parked in the driveway of the house, I presume protecting the scene.

This all has been making my little writer’s brain click away the last few days. I hope the police find the killer, and he or she is punished appropriately. But I can’t help but be a little grateful for this chance to observe from a distance.

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Did you know I’ve redone my mailing list? In an effort to get ready for the release of my first novella, I’m doing some cleaning up and tweaking. As such, I’ve started a new mailing list through MailChimp. If you would, please look to the right and enter your info for my mailing list. (As you’ve scrolled down this far, you’ll need to scroll up in all likelihood.) I’ll be using the mailing list for keeping you updated on new releases, specials, and giveaways. Also, when the time comes, guest appearances at other venues. I’ll only be sending out an e-mail every month or so, so no worries about getting a bunch of junk!

Sign up for the mailing list, and you’ll be the first to know about new titles, specials, and appearances.

Until next time…

A Time to Say Goodbye

Yesterday, February 11, was a difficult day for me. I awoke earlier than normal, scarfed down some breakfast, badgered my kids out of bed before the sun was up, and hit the road before dawn.

Anyone who knows me knows this is abnormal. Heck, I’m writing this at 8:30 AM, and I’m still in my pajamas.

But, I had a very important reason to hit the road.

On Friday of last week, I learned that a friend from my grade school days had died. Killed in a murder/suicide, actually. Very hard words to absorb.

I hadn’t seen her in well over a decade, but she’d been on my mind for a few days leading up to this news. See, I’d had some personal turmoil last week, and in the midst of it, I remembered what a good friend she’d been to me all those years ago.

I first met her when I began taking piano lessons from her mother. Despite the fact I’d be taken out of the public school we both attended a few years later, I continued taking lessons from her mother until I was about 16.

We were in a combination class together the final year I was in public school, she in the lower grade, me in the upper. I’ve always been a little odd, and was not “in” with the other five girls in my grade level. Throughout the school year, I was constantly teased, but for the most part, ignored it. But my friend didn’t. She and a couple other girls in her class eventually came to me and said if I didn’t do something about what was going on, they would–and they did go to the teacher.

My grade-level classmates were called on the carpet for bullying me. But it wouldn’t have happened without Erin intervening.

This story was in my head a lot last week before she had even died, and I’d been about to ask a mutual friend of hers and mine about where she was and to try to get in touch with her when I learned the news.

So yesterday, instead of talking to her, I got to hug her mother as I said goodbye to a woman I wish I’d stayed in touch with. I was so glad to be reassured of how much she loved her family, her friends, and God.

Life can be full of regrets. This is one that I’ll definitely regret the rest of my life, that I didn’t stay in touch, or get in touch sooner.

Rest in peace, Erin. I know you are already missed, but those who loved you and appreciated you will see you again, one day, in Heaven.

Goals Make the World Go ‘Round

I disappeared again.

Sorry about that.

But, it was for a good cause. About the time I did my last post, I had started in on a short story–and I blew through 21,000 words in about 3 weeks, including having two days straight where I wrote 4,500+ words (one of those cleared more than 6,000!) I’ve been working very hard on the project, hence the absence. My focus was just really intense there for a couple weeks.

Photo by Kazarelth

As I’ve been moving forward in these writing goals, I’m really finding how much I’m solidifying my long-term goals. I’m pretty sure I mentioned when I got back that I’d shifted my goal towards self-publishing in the next 18 months. It’s hit home that that number has now dwindled to 15 months!!! That means I have a lot of work ahead of me.

So, I’ve also been getting some critique partners reading, thinking about others I’d want to ask to read some of my projects, and building up the nerve to ask them. (I do have that problem–I lack the nerve a lot of the time to simply ask for help!)

And, I’ve also been thinking about how to handle certain aspects like cover design. I do not have any formal training as a designer, but I love to play around with programs. (Several years ago, I asked my husband for a home design program for my birthday. I love opening it up now and then and playing around with it, even though I’ll probably never be able to design a house that we’d actually live in!) So, I did spend a significant amount of time playing around with GIMP to design some mock-ups. That’s been a lot of fun, and I’m improving my skills. Not sure if I’ll ever be able to do a full-blown cover without Photoshop and a couple of classes at my local junior college (which I am contemplating for writing and non-writing reasons, like being able to get student-priced tickets to the opera!) But, I can at least make mock-ups and point someone else in the right direction!

A lot of this has been pushed by the fact that one of my acquaintances locally who works in the hematology office where my son goes is a self-published author… and he has his next book releasing in a couple of weeks. That, and all of the self-publishing podcasts I’ve been listening to lately. All of this has really motivated me, and I’m practically chomping at the bit to get something, anything up on Amazon.

Even though I’m eager to do so, I know I need to wait. My stories are not ready yet. They need to be polished. I’ll get there, and maybe sooner than the 15 months I’m targeting now (maybe as soon as next spring!)

In the meantime, keep watching this space for updates.

Until next time… well, you know. 😉

A Face-Palm Moment

You know, when I picked up writing again on this blog a couple weeks ago, I joked I may be sharing my cooking disasters here.

It really was meant to be a joke. Truly, it was.

Unfortunately, barely a week had passed when I did it.

Normally, I don’t have full-out disasters in the kitchen. I’m really a pretty good cook. I will, occasionally, choose recipes that don’t go over well. I will experiment, and things won’t be as flavorful  as they could be. Or, I’ll be absent an ingredient and will substitute something that really shouldn’t be in there. Like… cilantro instead of basil.

My husband has decided I should not be grilling any longer. Unfortunately, his hours require me to grill if we’re going to be grilling on a weeknight or it could be 9 PM before we eat dinner.

Enter a bad combination of events last week.

  • I was grilling.
  • I was grilling mule deer ribs.
  • I wanted to watch the season finale of A&E’s “Longmire” before it expired on my iPhone app.
  • I decided doing all of these at the same time was a good idea.

iPhone in hand, I began grilling our mule deer ribs after having properly thawed them for 2 days in my fridge. I’d seasoned them lightly, and as I watched Walt Longmire’s TV portrayal, went inside to get my side dishes going, and wash and set the table. My kids were being a little needy… I probably should have sent them to their rooms.

I get a little engrossed in the show, but go out to flip the ribs. They’re looking pretty good, and I turn down the heat, mostly because I’d gotten a text from my adorable husband that he would be a little late. No big  deal, I do this all the time with the grill.

Mistake #1: Pushing the ribs to the back of the grill.

Mistake #2: Not turning off a burner.

I come back out 10 – 15 minutes later… and the thermometer on the top of the grill immediately tells me something is definitely wrong. 600°?!?! How the heck is it 600°!

Robert Taylor on A&E’s “Longmire”

Opening the lid, I find my ribs a charred mess, and mostly ablaze. It had gotten so hot, some of the rib bones had turned to ash, I discover once the fire is mostly out.

Needless to say, none of us were thrilled. We couldn’t find much edible meat, though enough for a few bites a piece. Hubby and I were still hungry after we put the kids to bed (late) and had to share a bowl of popcorn.

On the plus side, the “Longmire” season finale made me wish it wasn’t a summer show. Thirteen episodes a year are not nearly enough. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Until next time,