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Saturday, December 3, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 Has Been Conquered!

Why do we participate in NaNo?  For me, it's the challenge.  I know I can do it.  I know I can write 50,000 words in a month.  If I didn't have to work 40 hours a week I could probably double or even triple that, but this is real life and not going to work because you want to write a book just isn't an option for most of us.  So, I cram that writing time into the end of my days and ignore my family on the weekends, just to prove to myself that if I really want to I can do it.  If I'm truly motivated it can happen.  My family hates this by the way.

This is the first chapter of the story I worked on for NaNo.  The book isn't done yet, (almost, but not quite) and I wrote this chapter at the beginning of the year so it wasn't included in my 50,000 word count.  I actually wrote two chapters in February and then decided to live with the characters for a while.  They've been rattling around and arguing with each other in my head for months, so I let them all out to play for National Novel Writing Month.  Since I'm almost done with their story I wanted to share this little bit with you.

A Shade of Winter

Chapter 1

“So tell me, Pansy, how do you feel that you’ve been handling school since the accident?”  He closed the door before she answered but I could hear the low murmur of my sister’s reply through the heavy wood-paneled door.  She was making up some crap answer to placate the therapist, no doubt. Since nothing that I could say or do would help at this point I turned my attentions to the handful of people wasting time in the small, but plush, waiting room. 

No one bothered me as I wandered around the room. There was an older lady, maybe in her late thirties, with a lacquered helmet of dirty blonde hair that ran stick straight to her shoulder before curling under. It didn’t move as she leaned over to scribble something in her notepad and as I looked over her shoulder to see what she was writing, expecting to see the next great American novel, I was disappointed to see nothing but a grocery list. Adults were so boring.
The psychology books in the heavy oak bookshelf by the receptionist’s desk looked new and unopened and I noticed a thick layer of dust along the tops. They seemed to be largely ignored by both the staff and the cleaning crew. Absently, I ran my hand over a mercury glass mirror, its spotted finish looked old and expensive. Maybe it was, but I figured expensive, fragile objects weren’t the best things to have on hand when people were in an emotional state. Not that any of the people sitting out here looked particularly volatile. The waiting room serviced two other therapists' offices and their patients looked pretty placid. For all I knew, they were all doped up on meds, so maybe the mirror and the little glass tchotchkes on the shelves would live to see another day. My combat boots didn’t make any sound on the thick baby blue carpet as I continued my tour around the room. Blue is a soothing color, I’d read that in a magazine once.

Dad was paying top dollar for this therapist, even though Mom had had to bribe my reluctant twin to get her to agree to this session of the touchy-feelies.  Our parents felt that Pansy wasn’t showing enough depth of despair, or grief, or whatever, over the accident and together they’d made the decision that she should talk to a professional.  It was one of the few times since the funeral that they’d even spoken to one another and we’d been pretty shocked when this had been the decision produced from their little pow-wow.  In the last few weeks Dad had spent more and more time at work, and Mom, well… she spent her few waking hours lying in bed, staring at the wall.  We’d assumed their conversation was about her need for therapy, as clearly, it should be our mother sitting in that silky beige chair.  But no one had asked for our opinions. No, instead, my sister had to endure this emotional poking and prodding into the most private aspects of her life, and I fully expected her to lie her way through most of it.  She couldn’t tell them the truth or I’d be visiting her in the looney bin.
There was a kid who looked about two or three years younger than us with lanky dark hair, slumped in his seat, sitting next to a woman I presumed was his mother.  I wondered which of them needed the therapist.  She was reading a book and he was playing a game on his Gameboy, thumbs flying over the controls as he shot down flying saucers.  He didn’t notice when I rolled my eyes.

I made my way around a dusty fake fern on a spindly table to see what the overweight guy sitting on a settee in the corner was doing.  I sat down next to him but his gaze never wavered from the magazine he was holding in both hands.  He was just staring at an advertisement for Keds and not actually reading anything.  Upon closer inspection, his eyes were dilated and his breathing seemed shallow so I stepped away, convinced he was definitely on something.  Whether that something was prescribed or not, I had no idea.

I hadn’t wasted nearly enough time touring the room but since I had made a complete circle back to the door where my sister was being ‘treated’ I eased into Dr. Noonan’s office with its cheerful yellow walls and big windows that let in as much of the weak November light as possible.  Dr. Noonan didn't look up from his notes but my sister gave me a warning glance as I perched in the chair next to hers.  It was her way of telling me to behave although she didn’t speak to me directly. Her eyes were red and I could see that she’d already been crying.  Maybe she was laying it on too thick.  After all, we wanted the doctor to believe that she was well adjusted and capable of grieving, not that she was a big blubbery mess.
“But you were driving the vehicle, at the time, correct?”

“Yes, sir.” She dropped her eyes to the tissue she was twisting back and forth in her hands.  Avoid eye contact.  Good thinking, Sis.

“Your father said you blamed yourself for the accident, but the police report says that a man crossed into your lane.  Have you actually seen the police report yet, Pansy?”

“No, sir.”  Short and sweet, that was good, don’t say too much.

“I have a copy here and I think you should look at it.  The man, Justin Woodbridge, was well over the legal limit, but surely you already know that.”

“Yes, sir.”  She took the manila file folder from Doctor Noonan and laid it open across her lap.  Standing, I moved behind her to read it over her shoulder and she nudged it a little to the side so that I could get a better view. 

“Now, some of the pictures you’re going to see are graphic.  It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to see them.  Don’t feel bad if it makes you anxious or brings up bad memories. This is just a folder.  All you have to do is close it.” Dr. Noonan leaned back in his seat and crossed his ankle over his other knee.  He smoothed his longish dark hair back from his face before settling his hands across the pooch of his belly.  I assumed that he was getting comfortable so that he could observe Pansy’s reactions while reading through the report.  When I glanced down I saw that there wasn’t much to it, really.  It looked like there were a few statements that the police had gathered, the first responders, one from my sister, and one from this Justin Woodbridge guy.  There was a hand-drawn diagram of the accident scene showing the placement of vehicles in relation to the bridge.  It looked so nice and neat on paper.  Almost orderly. 

Pansy flipped to the next page, which was a glossy 8x10 photo from the scene, and I admit, I had to look away.  That was too real, much more like it had been that night, and I suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline, fear, grief, something... hit me hard.  My chest tightened like I couldn’t get enough air.  Trying not to hyperventilate, which was ridiculous, really, I walked over to the windows.  The roses in the flower bed outside the window had been cut back for the winter, their woody stems whacked off at strange pointy angles and I stared at their ugliness until I got myself under control.  Dr. Noonan had resumed talking, but I hadn’t been listening.

“I know it’s not my fault.  I know that.  But I’m afraid I’m never going to forgive myself.  Maybe I could have reacted quicker.  If we hadn’t been out so late it wouldn't have happened, but I was the one that had wanted to stay at the party.  Why Gerri? Why not me?”  Her words were tinged with a hint of panic and pulled my attention away from my own feelings.  I didn’t know if she was acting for the doctor or if she really meant it, but my intuition told me that she was being sincere.  I frowned.  “It’s not your fault,” I said.  She shook her head and I couldn’t tell if that meant she was agreeing with me or not.

“Survivor’s guilt is common in these kinds of cases,” the doctor began to drone on in his soothing voice.  I began to wonder if part of the therapy was to hypnotize the patients with his voice.  Hypnotherapy was a real thing, right?  Recomposed, I walked back over to stand behind my sister. 

The file was still open on her lap and the picture that was currently on top of the pile was of the car we’d been in - our 1994 Chevy Cavalier that we’d gotten brand new last year for our sixteenth birthday.  The front end was smashed and crumpled, but the firewall had held.  It wasn’t the force of the oncoming car that had killed me, no, it was the broken end of the guardrail being forced through the passenger side door that had ended my life.  I shivered with the memory and laid a hand on Pansy’s shoulder.  “It’s not your fault,” I said again, more firmly this time.

She laid her hand over mine, or tried to, anyway. To Dr. Noonan, it probably looked like she was just touching her own shoulder for no reason.  Dr. Noonan could suck it.  As far as we could tell, my twin was the only person who could see and hear me since I’d died.  In the last few weeks we had adjusted to this strange turn of events as well as we were ever going to. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hell or High Water is now Available on Kindle!

My third book, following the life and adventures of Grace Jackson, is finally finished and published.  I've tried to wrap up all of the loose ends, so Grace and Co. can enjoy their lives peacefully for a while.  Not too long I hope, but I have other projects waiting.  I hope you read it and enjoy it.  And if you do enjoy it, please leave a review!

Grace Jackson is getting her life back on track. Mamaw is back home, Nate has moved in, and Grace and the crew are heading to a job on Blair Mountain in Logan County, West Virginia. Their dig is hampered by heavy rain and flooding, and when a nearby mudslide uncovers some bones, Grace finds herself digging up old secrets as well as human remains.

 Amazon link

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mud, Sweat, & Tears is Free This Week for Kindle!

While I'm still working on my third book, "Hell or High Water" I'm currently running a promotion on Amazon for my second book, Mud, Sweat, & Tears.  It's free!! (June 1-5, 2015)  


Returning home after a ten-week stint on the Chesapeake Bay, Contract Archaeologist Grace Jackson assumes life will be returning to normal. However, she doesn't make it through the front door of her home before that illusion is shattered. Mamaw is missing, Lottie is still on the run, and Grace and the gang will be called to the forests of Fayetteville, WV to assist with the recovery of a body buried in the park for more than two decades. Set against the backdrop of Bridge Day in the New River Gorge National River, normal will have to wait.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Castle Diaper Cake

Diaper cakes are a dime a dozen on Pinterest, so for my niece's baby shower, I decided to try my hand at it.  How hard could it be?  Well, plan to set aside at least two hours if it's your first time.  I'm sure the pros can knock one out in under an hour, but I'm certainly not at that level.  I could, however totally do it, and so can you!

What You'll Need:

64 diapers - I bought a box of 100.

A 6" x 60' roll of tulle.  This will lend a very slight color cast to the diapers, so choose a color that works with your theme.  I believe organza ribbon would also work, although I didn't try it!

1 roll (or partial roll, it won't take much) of crepe paper.

3 to 4 sheets of scrapbooking or construction paper - various patterns.

About 5 feet of 2-3" wide ribbon and any extra bits of ribbon, buttons, pompoms and/or any other bits you want to use to decorate the castle.


Hot glue - preferably low temp.  You can use high temp, but it takes longer for the glue to dry and it's much more painful when you stick your finger in it.

Step 1)  I started by making four 'towers' by rolling up three diapers lengthwise, rolling the first one to make the middle, then adding the other two on each side.  Try to keep the printed side of the diaper on the inside of the roll so you don't have a cartoon character sticking out somewhere you don't want it.

 Step 2) I cut a length of tulle to wrap the tower in, leaving enough to overlap, and then slid a piece of crepe paper underneath the overlap.  Since diapers are crazy expensive, I wanted her to be able to actually use the diapers later, which wouldn't be possible if they're covered in glue.  The crepe protects the diapers and gives the glue something to hold onto.

Step 3)  After I scribbled some glue down the length of the crepe paper, I ripped another section off and placed it on top, sandwiching the the two ends of the tulle between the two pieces of crepe.  Once the glue was dry, I trimmed off the extra tulle and crepe paper.  (Because, as you can see from the picture below, it looks like a hot mess at this point.)  If you wanted to make this a little fancier you could use a piece of ribbon over the seam, but I had these turned to the inside and you couldn't see them anyway.

Step 4 ) For the castle walls, I staggered 6 diapers, three on each side, making sure that the printed sides were all facing the same way so I could hide them later.  I slid the crepe paper between the diapers and the tulle, then wrapped them lengthwise, with the seam over the printed area.  Again, I cut enough tulle to leave an overlap, then sandwiched it with the hot glue between the crepe.

Step 5) For the base of my 'castle' I ran a strip of tulle down my table, and then laid out 12 diapers, overlapping them in a regular pattern.  As a word of advice, don't cut the tulle from the roll until you've rolled up the diapers, because they're going to shift as you go.  Because I couldn't predict ahead of time where my strip of crepe paper should be, I stuffed it under the tulle after I had it rolled and tulle cut off.  Using an ungainly method of holding the roll against my body, placing the hot glue on the seam and then ripping off another piece with my teeth, I managed to make the bottom of the cake.  I did this again with 10 diapers for the middle section, and a third time with 6 diapers to create the top layer.

Step 6 ) Stack your layers, place your towers, and then set the walls around it all.

Step 7) Once you have your diapers stacked up into the shape you want, then comes the decorating!
I used wide ribbon around the base of the walls to keep them from falling over, around each tower and the two visible bases.  To make pointy castle-like roofs, I cut half circles in sheets of decorative paper.  The large top roof was a full sheet of paper, while the smaller ones were only quarter sheets.  Then I glued ribbon around the bottoms, lace on the inside of the top, and ran a bamboo skewer down the top of the largest roof with a flag I'd glued onto it (paper, although ribbon would have been cute too) so that the roof wouldn't fall off.  A rounded 'drawbridge' completed my castle, and I later added a sparkly monogram sticker on the front.

All in all, I thought it turned out pretty well, and it added a little extra something to our fairy-tale themed baby shower.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Playing Dirty for FREE!

Just an FYI - my first book, Playing Dirty is currently FREE on Amazon.  The promo will be running until October 5th, 2014, so if you're looking for some archaeology mixed with murdering drug rings, and smart-assed characters, you've come to the right place. 

 Playing Dirty

Book 2, Mud, Sweat, & Tears is currently for sale and priced at $2.99

 Mud, Sweat, & Tears

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why Lino's Sticky Widget is the Best.

Yay me, I've just finished writing my second book, Mud, Sweat, & Tears, because, ya know, I can totally do that.  Now that that is over and out of the way, I want to share, with pretty much anyone that will hold still long enough to listen, this awesome and FREE virtual cork board app.  In my pseudo-professional opinion, this is the way to go when trying to organize your research and story ideas.  

During the hours when I was supposed to be writing, I, of course, spent my time procrastinating on Pinterest.  I was searching for tips and tidbits, ideas about how to make your writing better, how to get organized, how to make the whole process easier.  (Instead of actually writing.)  There were countless pins touting the benefits of Scrivener, how its cork board made organizing your story board so much easier and how you can see everything laid out in front of you.  And it's true, you can use Scrivener to lay out your entire novel in scenes, which you can then move around at will.  There are another twenty to thirty benefits to Scrivener, or so I've read, but I tried the free-trial and decided that I didn't want to use something that required me to watch multiple YouTube videos before I could figure out how to use it.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  But I liked the idea of a cork board...

So I went in search of an online cork board, because I didn't want to waste paper printing stuff out and putting it in a tabbed notebook or pinning it to a real cork board.  I keep a notebook next to my bed to jot down story ideas or bits of dialogue that I come up with while I'm lying in bed,  but I don't want to carry one with me all of the time.  I already take a phone with me, and with lino as an app on my phone, I can take that cork board along too.  Did I mention that it's free?

Let me show you how it works:

I have a sticky note widget on my home laptop, which is what I used for my first book.  I wrote down information about the characters, plot ideas, and twists, but I quickly ran out of room.  Plus, if someone, say, your child, decides it's in their way, they x out of the sticky, and you lose that information forever.  Not so with lino.  It's safely tucked away on a server, far from your children and their button clicking ways.

You can choose from several background colors if you want to personalize your boards.  While the first board they give you will be titled MAIN, you can choose to name your other boards whatever you like.  When you add a sticky, it will look like the picture below.  Make a note, add a link if you like, tag it, or change the color of the sticky to fit into whatever color-coded plan you want to use.  Again, it's customizable. 

You can create a board for each book/paper/short story/screenplay...whatever, and there is no limit to the number of boards you can create.  Are you writing a series and want the same information shared across several boards?  You click the down arrow button on the bottom of the stick and choose which board you want to copy it to.  It's that easy.

I have multiple ideas going around in circles in my head at any given time, so this is the perfect way to do research on something that I may only be planning to write in the future.  This sort of research is normally done while I'm supposed to be writing something else, which is also called procrastination.  As you can see below, I've added pictures and then labeled each picture with a link to the site the picture was found.  I'm not ready to read all of those sites right now, but I'll know where to find it when I am.

And a shot of another book that I'll start writing for Nanowrimo in November.  I've put up pictures of random people I've found on the internet for my character references, and then slapped stickys around them as I've thought of their backstories.

You can add it to your computer, your tablet, or your phone, and take it with you anywhere, for free.  So the next time you're in Wal-Mart and think to yourself, 'That loser is going into a book," you can just pretend that your checking your grocery list app, while you're actually updating your board with characteristics of 'weird guy #10'... or whatever.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Colored Easter Deviled Eggs

Well, this is another idea I saw on Pinterest, and let's face it, Easter projects on Pinterest range from super elaborate to gluing some Peeps to cardboard.  But this is one project I saw, and well, it seemed like everyone was posting different pics of it, and I thought, 'Hey, I can totally do that!"  And guess what?  It was super easy.  Since it involved eggs, I thought I'd incorporate another Pinterest project - baking eggs in a muffin tin.  

Baked Hard-Boiled Eggs

You will need:
Eggs - 6,12,18  however many eggs you need for the number of people you're feeding.
Muffin tin and an oven

Honestly, I am the worst egg boiler on earth.  I've read so many different directions for how to boil an egg that I never remember which one actually works, then they're either under-boiled or have that green ring around them.  Either way you have to have a big pot of boiling water, the steam, trying not to splash boiling water on you, I just don't like doing it.  I like this method for it's simplicity and I've tried a few variations since this first attempt.  

The method?  Place eggs in muffin tin wells, bake at 325 degrees for half an hour.  If you find your eggs have burned spots on the whites, try putting cupcake liners in the tins first to give the eggs a little more protection.  I'm actually considering buying silicone cupcake liners just for this purpose.  (I'm on a diet, no cupcakes for me!)

There are thousands of blog posts about how to bake a hard-boiled egg, so I don't kid myself that I'm imparting any new wisdom on you, but still a little freaky to see what they look like when they're done.  The oozey stuff washes right off, don't worry about that if you were planning on dying the eggs for an Easter egg hunt.  

Drop them into a bowl of ice water, give them a few minutes to cool off so you don't burn your fingers, then start peeling.  I've found peeling the shells off takes a third less time on average than actually boiling them.  I swear I spent half an hour peeling a dozen eggs one year because they were fresh and ended up with terribly ugly eggs.  This is what the burn spots look like, they weren't as bad when I used cupcake liners, and the burned area peeled right off, so you can't see them in the finished product, you just see a little divot. 

The second best part, after easy peeling, is no green/grey ring around the yolk!

Then comes the fun part...

Dying Your Egg Whites

Your options here are only limited by the food coloring you have on hand.  I have Wilton Gels and put them to good use.  

You will need:
Hard boiled egg whites
Plastic Zip-Lock bags, sandwich size is fine
Food Coloring
Rubber gloves - unless you don't mind having multi-colored fingers

Pop those yolks into the bowl where you'll be making the deviled part of your deviled eggs and start throwing the whites into plastic baggies.  You just need enough water in each baggy to cover the egg whites, and since I was using gel color, I dipped a toothpick into the gel and smeared it on the inside of the bag, where I broke it up and mixed it with the water with my fingers after the bag had been closed.  You have options here, the more food coloring you use, the faster the dye works, and the longer you leave the whites in the bags, the deeper the color.  I was going for bold, not pastels, so I left them in the bags for about twenty minutes.  Since they're in plastic bags it is really easy to check your color saturation, just grab the bag and slide an egg half above the water line to see what color it really is.

Once you've reached the desired color effect, lay them on a double layer (or even a triple layer if your counter tops stain easily) of paper towels to dry.  I would wait until you have everything laid out and drying before starting on your yolks, as that will give them time to set.  WARNING - if you're not wearing gloves at this point, you're going to have colorful fingers.  Wash your hands off between bags of color, or you'll be transferring the dye on your fingertips and have some weird spots.  Unless you're into weird spots, then knock yourself out.

After the egg whites are dry to the touch, fill them with your yolk mixture.  Deviled eggs are an individual thing, and I don't even measure for it, I just throw mayo, yellow mustard, and vinegar into the bowl until it tastes right, add salt and then stick it into a plastic bag.  I don't have professional icing bags, but since I'm usually traveling with the deviled eggs, I load up a Tupperware container with the egg whites, and a half gallon Zip-Lock bag with an icing coupler in the bottom corner.  (If you try this method, make sure you stick that coupler in there BEFORE you fill it with the yolk mixture)  When I get to my destination, I cut the corner off at the coupler and attach an icing tip to pipe into the eggs. Wilton tip #32 to be exact.  I think it makes for a more finished product.  Also, I would advise that if you're traveling with the dyed eggs, to separate them with paper towels or wax paper to keep the color from bleeding into one another.

Place on a pretty plate, and VOILA!  Happy Easter!

Bonus Tip: 

Remember that yellow and blue makes green, and yellow and red make orange.  So if you don't want plain yellow centers you can get creative with the yolks too.  I made white eggs with green yolks for Christmas one year, don't be afraid to try something new!