Sunday, July 05, 2015

Our Squirrel Does Wicked

My husband put up a bird feeder outside our dining room window recently. We've had the usual sparrows and finches, and this week we got a pair of tufted titmice and a chickadee. (I love the less common birds, no surprise. :) )

My office window looks out at ground level right below the feeder. So I've a bunch of companions every day. A squirrel, a cardinal (sometimes his mate, too), a chipmunk or two, and three mourning doves. They forage around and under the rose bush. Oh, and I usually have at least one of the cats, too.

So yesterday morning I hear Number Two let out some kind of cry. I called to her, and she didn't respond. She made some other unintelligible exclamation, so I went into the hall. Number One then cried "Oh my God." I asked WTH and got shushed. So I went down to the dining room. And saw this:

This shouldn't be a surprise, right? Squirrels are notorious for getting into bird feeders. But this one was an astonishing feat.

We watched him hang out for a while. We called my husband out of the bedroom. He grumbled, but then also did the whole "Oh my God thing." While Squirrel stared placidly at us through the window and kept chewing.

But here's the thing. Here's where the feeder hangs. The bay window is the dining room window. The feeder (which you can barely see, because of the angle and background) is FIFTEEN FEET OFF THE GROUND.

This is the closest tree:

I'm thinking this little bastard went up the telephone pole in the front of the house, ran along the wires to the side of the roof, and then went over the roof to shimmy down the wire holding the feeder. There really isn't another way to do it. That takes intelligence and determination, right? Especially since there's tons of seed all over the ground all the time.

So after a while my husband said, "okay, tell him to get down." Number Two slapped the window with the flat of her hand. Squirrel JUMPED TO THE GROUND. Fifteen friggin' feet. Defying gravity indeed. 

He was back up there this morning. You almost have to let him take the reward for his effort, you know?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's No Fun When They Don't Play Along

Ref. last post, about needing something fun to watch? I have Part 1 of Dragon Riders of Berk that my friend Gail sent me! I keep forgetting to ask Number One if she wants to watch it with me. I think I'll just do it, starting tonight. If I'm not working until midnight again.

My husband has a lot of fun with telemarketers and wrong numbers and stuff like that. Our number is only 1 digit different from the local Domino's number, and people used to always call and ask if we were Pizza Hut, or would immediately launch into their order or request for delivery, even though we hadn't answered "properly." He'd say we were out of pizza or that we were Little Cesar's or something like that. They moved across town, out of our area, and now a) they won't deliver to us and b) we don't get calls for them anymore. That's NOT a good trade.

You know those people who call you and say they're from Geek Support and there's something really wrong with your computer and they want to help you? I kept one of those guys on the phone for 20 minutes. At one point he told me his company's address in Connecticut and I went on about how I used to live up there and asking if he'd seen certain sites. I told him I didn't want to go downstairs and boot up my computer. He passed judgment on my being in bed at that time of the morning, even though I hadn't said I was in bed, I said I was in my bedroom. That was a fun conversation. He tried so hard!

Anyway, today I got a friend request on Facebook. I always say yes. This person immediately messaged me privately. Red flag, right? It went like this:

Her:  hello
Me:  Hi. :)
Her: how you doing
Me:  Not too bad. How about you?
Her: i am good
Me:  Good. :)
Her: well i saw your name among the 20 lucky people who won $500,000,00 from the smartphone lottery i am among the lucky winners too
i have gotten my own check and i just cash my own check yesterday why havent you get your check
Me:  Oh, I did! I got my check three days ago.

She hasn't responded. So boring. *sigh*

How have YOU tried to play with someone lately? Did they play along?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Drowning in Darkness

I have never (or at least for a decade or two) gone for darkness in my entertainment. I tend to prefer light paranormal and romantic adventure over dark paranormal romances or urban fantasy or suspense. My husband can't drag me unconscious to a horror movie. And when I tried watching Daredevil on Netflix recently, I couldn't watch past the episode where the bad guy decapitated someone by bashing a car door against his head. For, like, 5 minutes.

Lately, though, I've gotten myself into some pretty dark stuff. Like iZombie. It didn't start out dark. I mean, as far as zombie fiction goes, it was cool. The heroine is focused on hiding her condition and getting along without going full-on zombie. But they couldn't leave it as "she's the only zombie who survived." No, the last episode I watched (we're still behind) ended with her finding out her hunky British rock star boyfriend, who has spiced up that screen by a LOT, has been not only been buying brains from the evil guy (normally yummy David Anders; why does he have to be evil AGAIN?!) who is abducting and murdering kids to feed his zombie customers and make tons of money...the kid they are eating is the one her ex-fiancé Major cared so much about that he got beaten up twice and lost his job. And I know what's coming for Lowell. As if THAT'S not enough, Liv's only real supporter is Ravi, her boss, who's trying to find a cure. And he got BITTEN BY A ZOMBIE RAT. I am so freaking sad for him.

So that wasn't too dark by itself. But it ended ominously. My Outlander, and I love it—except the most recent episode about killed me. We watched it right after iZombie, so I insisted we watch Modern Family to cleanse my brain. I'll watch the finale because of Jamie, but I'm NOT looking forward to it.
friend Gail has talked me into trying

Then there was Supernatural. Always kind of dark, but unique. Until this year's finale, in which Dean gives up, makes a deal to kill his brother and go somewhere unreachable for eternity, and then fails, kills Death (nooooo, Julian Richings!!!!), and has the Mark removed, thereby unleashing The Darkness—the evil that came before us, that God and his archangels battled back and trapped. The Mark was the key. So now they've unleashed this Darkness. Can you GET any bleaker?

I'd be so ready for light summer fare, if there was any. Franklin & Bash is no more, and Covert Affairs has also been canceled. Thank God for Royal Pains starting in a couple of weeks. But the other shows I watch in the summer are The Last Ship—about the only people who have survived a worldwide plague—and Falling Skies—about the only people who have survived an alien invasion. Nothing light and fun there! I have Dark Matter on the "new show" list, but anything whose trailer ends with "Because we're dangerous" is unlikely to be a laugh a minute.

So I might have to find something I can get on DVD from the library and binge-watch. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Upcoming Books I Can't Wait For

I ended up judging two published contests (the Prism and the Daphne) at the same time, so I have 8 books to read by May 15. And I have... *counts* ...57 titles on my Kindle I haven't read yet. (OMG, I should haven't counted!) AND there are a couple dozen paperbacks on the shelf in my bedroom.

And still, I can't WAIT for a bunch of new books that aren't due to be released for weeks or even months. Here's a sampling:

Go Ahead, Make My Bouquet by Misty Simon
Release Date May 22, 2015

Okay, I confess, I got to read this one already. :) It's a great contemporary romance set in the same small town as Misty's What's Life Without Sprinkles? and Making Room at the Inn. If you've been waiting for Zoe's story with my level of impatience, you'll want to get this one on your wish list. :)

No Woman Left Behind by Julie Moffett
Release Date June 1, 2015

I've loved this adventure/mystery/romance series since the beginning. I have a theory about Lexi that I'm eager to see revealed (or not!) in the next book.

Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey
Release Date May 26, 2015

Football! It's high school rather than pro, but I'm geeking out anyway. :) Shannon has another book coming out in June, with firefighters. I've enjoyed the Kowalskis, but excited to start new stuff by her.

Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones
Release Date May 19, 2015

If you haven't read the Charley Davidson series, and you're one of those who loves to binge, you're in for a treat. Snarky, brilliant, unique heroine, super-hot hero, ever-growing (but not unmanageable) mythology... The only reason I'm not thrilled that there are apparently 3 more books after this one is that means we might not get more YA or "A Lovely Drop" stories from Darynda. But I guess I'll survive. :)

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Release Date September 29, 2015

Steampunk is something I like the idea of a lot more than I ended up enjoying in reality. I used to read a lot of historicals as well as epic fantasy, but lost my taste for both a while ago. But since I can't devour the next Dresden Files book until some undefined time that might be in 2016, I'm willing to try this to tide me over. :)

 The Bull Rider's Son by Cathy McDavid
Release Date July 1, 2015

Cathy is amazingly consistent, keeping me in family westerns at a steady pace. :) Her mouthwatering heroes keep me away from my chores, that's for sure. :)
Dakota Cowboy by Lisa Mondello
Release Date May 30, 2015

Talk about consistent! Her last Dakota book just came out last week, but I'll barely have time to miss them when the next one releases. And that's a GOOD thing. :) More westerns, but in a totally different kind of world than Cathy's books. Hmm, I'm reading a nice balance across the country, with Shannon's books in New England! :)

What books are you looking forward to?

Blue Silver is Back!

Long-time readers might remember that several years ago, I was part of a collaboration with a few other authors on a series of novellas called Blue Silver. These all take place at the same time, with the comeback of the band Blue Silver at their core. Well, it's time for another comeback! Jody Wallace, Megan Hart, and I have resurrected these stories, updated them to fit with modern technology and stuff, and re-released them. So if you missed them, now's your chance! They're just 99 cents each. You can find out more by visiting the Blue Silver page. Thanks!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Greatness in Customer Service: Hulu and, Believe It or Not, American Airlines

Okay, so I probably just had the best customer service experience ever.

Back in December, I subscribed to Hulu Plus so I could watch the end of Selfie. Once the last episode aired (so sad!), I canceled my subscription. Or so I thought.

I clicked the cancel button, and confirmed I wanted to cancel, and then they have this cute little video telling you that you don't want to cancel. Down to the right, where the eye doesn't naturally fall (trust me, I learned about the Z-pattern thing working at an ad agency), was a check box you had to click to say yeah, I still want to cancel. Until that box is checked, there's ANOTHER cancel button that's white and not real obvious.

Now, I would swear I'd gotten to the point where it told me I'd canceled and I'd get an e-mail confirmation, but I can't find an e-mail confirmation in my files, and it's quite possible that I rolled my eyes at the video and overlooked all that. I honestly don't remember.

So when I was looking carefully at the charges on my credit card today and saw a charge for Hulu Plus, I was very mad. Not least at myself for not noticing it for the last two months. I immediately went through the process I described above and made VERY sure that I completed it. I still haven't gotten an e-mail confirmation, by the way.

However, when I sent an annoyed message through their help center, I got an immediate response. Literally, 4 minutes after I posted my complaint. I acknowledged my own culpability but told them I felt their practice was tricky and misleading and it would unfortunately cause me to speak negatively about them and never go back. They told me in response that they'd forward my comments about their procedures and refund me for three months of charges.

I KNOW, RIGHT?! Who does that? Obviously, someone who wants my service again. They'll get it, as soon as some network cancels a show I love but runs the remaining episodes through Hulu. :)

The other experience was with American Airlines. I bought Number One a ticket from Boston to Ohio last weekend before her grandmother died. The services ended up being scheduled a couple of hours after her flight back on Sunday. I'd booked through Priceline, which had saved us not enough money, but some. And that always makes things trickier. My brother, who flew Delta, was told he couldn't change anything until he got to Ohio, and then after that they couldn't book him a later flight on the same day and said if he flew another day he'd have to buy a whole 'nother ticket, to the tune of somewhere around a thousand dollars.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with American while they tried to help me out. The bummer was that because of very full flights, for her to go home later Sunday, even using G inventory (presumably tech-speak for bereavement fare), we'd have had to pay $652 plus a $200 change fee. For her to fly Monday would cost $117, because the difference in fares reduced that $200 change fee. There was a $25 penalty for using Priceline, too. I had to make two separate calls but everything went incredibly smoothly. So they'll get my business again, especially since all her flights landed early.

So what great customer service have YOU gotten lately?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Unretouched Last Man Monkeys Male Draw New Releases and FREE Books

I couldn't come up with a good title that hinted at the content of this post so I just kind of mashed it together. So here's a preview:

1. Unretouched Photos
2. Last Man on Earth
3. 12 Monkeys
4. Why I Follow More Male Celebrities on Social Media
5. New Releases and Two Free Books

Unretouched Photos
I was just reading a short piece in Entertainment Weekly that analyzed all the unsavory reasons "we" clicked on unretouched celebrity photographs and used that for brief commentary on the (mostly) awful state of our society.

Why can't we just click because we're curious?

I didn't actually click on any, though I kind of heard that they were out there. If I had clicked on them, it wouldn't have been because of resentment of Beyonce (I really couldn't care less about Beyonce—notice how I didn't even add the accents on her name?) or a desire to feel more like Cindy Crawford. If I'd clicked, it would have been pure curiosity about the process. I mean, we talk all the time about how magazine photos are unrealistic, but we haven't had a clue exactly how much of a difference there is. So it would be a "huh, how about that" moment for me and, I suspect, a lot of other people.

Last Man on Earth
I really wanted to like that show. I watched the first two episodes, and for the most part, while I was watching, I enjoyed them. The humor was there, and Will Forte and Kristen Schaal did a great job. But afterward, when it popped into my head, it wasn't the humor or pathos or cinematography or directing or any of the good stuff I thought of. It was how many bugs had to be crawling in that house, and why the hell didn't he just MOVE when it got gross? He's in a big neighborhood of mansions, and it can't be the only one in Tucson, even if he felt compelled to stay there.

Plus, somehow, despite said squalid house being full of enough empty booze containers to have drained the entire city's supply, his local bar remains fully stocked.

And they can't get water because there's no power but he somehow pumps gas?

Okay, those are small logic things and the writers can't be expected to think of ALL of them. I'd give them a pass except for the absolutely ludicrous "we were chosen to save humanity by procreating" storyline. If Phil had pointed out that their kids would have to then procreate with each other, and then those kids with each other, and how horrible that whole idea is, then I'd have been okay. Especially if Carol responded with the very logical hope that there might be other people out there still, they just weren't in the same place at the same time, and they can't just give up. Two simple lines of dialogue and I wouldn't be so squicked out and annoyed.

So when all I can think about after watching a show is the bad stuff, I don't go back. Sorry, LMOE. Good luck to you, because I think you're a fun idea.

12 Monkeys
This show had the opposite effect on me. I wasn't going to watch it at first, because the movie had no appeal. But then Aaron Stanford changed my mind, and I'm soooo glad! He was my favorite on Nikita, and he's even better on this. There's a lot of tension and chemistry on this show. I love Amanda Schull, too, and Emily Hampshire and Kirk Acevedo. And it's the one show every week I have to watch the instant it's on, and I need the next episode immediately.

I have to admit to being unsettled after the last episode, though. During the first half of the season, everything was kind of straightforward (for a time-traveling suspense show with more than one crazy person). Cole had a simple mission: go back, kill a guy, and save the world. But it didn't work, and things got harder. He got to experience the world he was trying to save. The comforts and conveniences and even more importantly, the humanity. People who had more to do, to care about, than killing for their next meal or a bit of warmth. And Cassie made it personal. Jones might have done some awful things to get to this point, but her goals seemed so noble.

And now... Not only are they less noble (albeit understandable), not only are her methods impossible to justify, but it might not even be true, that anything can be changed at all.

I just can't wait to see what happens next.

The Male Draw
I have this vague guilt that I'm drawn to male celebrities and NFL players for my "social" (non-personal) entertainment. I like a lot of actresses and admire tons of other women in a multitude of roles...but I get notifications on Facebook for Tom Brady (New England Patriots quarterback) and Stephen Amell (actor from Arrow), and I follow Misha Collins, Alan Tudyk, and Nathan Fillion on Twitter instead of Gina Torres, Felicia Day, or Mindy Kaling. My favorite shows might have female characters that I love, but it's the men I really watch for.

I'm such a betrayer of my gender.

But I was thinking about it yesterday, and I think I figured out why. IRL, I'm surrounded by women. Day-to-day, there's my husband and one of my bosses, but I have two daughters and work with a dozen women in my day job. My closest friends are women, and when I get together with other writers, all but one are women. On Facebook, probably 90% of my Friends are women, and the ones who aren't are family.

So it kind of makes sense that I'd be drawn to men in my entertainment, be it football, television, or the social media extension of both.


New Releases
I am SOOOOO happy to finally announce the release of the third book in The Soul Series!

Harte and Soul is about Peter Ranger, who some of you might remember from the first book, Soul of the Dragon. (If you didn't read that one, it's free right now!) Peter's all grown up now, a single father who comes under attack. Brooklyne Harte is assigned to investigate, mostly to see if his extraordinary daughter's abilities are powerful enough to make her a target.

Brook never realized how closed off she was until Kiena and Peter burrow into her heart, and she understands how much she's willing to sacrifice to protect them. But when the threat becomes exponentially greater, her relationship with Peter seems doomed no matter what she does.

You can buy this book here:

Right now, you may be all, "Hey! You said free BOOKS, plural!" I'm glad you mentioned it! As I said, Soul of the Dragon is currently free. 

You don't have to read that book or the second book in the series, Soulflight (also at a special price) to enjoy Harte and Soul. But if you want to find out how Alexa and Ryc and Samantha and Rock got together before reading about them in Harte and Soul, those books do come first chronologically.

The other free book is actually a collection of micro-stories. Remember when I participated in Tiny Treats—A Holiday Collection back at the end of 2014? Well, we did it again! Introducing Tiny Treats 2—A St. Patrick's Day Collection! These stories are slightly longer, but still readable in short bites, and they all center around the March holiday. The anthology is totally free at all retailers!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

FREE Tiny Treats, Renegade, and Computer Shopping

So what's everyone been up to?

I've been freaking cold, man. It's been in the teens, which broke records for our area. Typically, we play football on Thanksgiving in sweatshirts. Not that it can't be cold now, but usually low 40s, high 30s. Not 17! I'm a little worried about our oil budget this winter.

I've also had a lot more Christmas spirit this year. Not sure why. I usually compartmentalize my holidays. It gets me into trouble when we hit December 15 and I realize I don't have time to ship presents the inexpensive way. So maybe that's why I've been planning sooner. I have a couple of presents bought, which isn't much, but I'm very Christmas-focused, mentally speaking. :)

Part of that might be because I've been laptop shopping. Or rather, pre-shopping. My laptop is ill. Last year it was having lockup problems. The tech guys couldn't find the problem, but talked me into upgrading to a faster hard drive. My battery wouldn't hold a charge, so I bought a new battery, too. Well, that had to be a refurbished battery or even just plain used, because first the lock tab snapped off, then the laptop stopped seeing the battery at all. So I'm tethered to the wall. Which is doable, though not of highest convenience. The lockup still happens, mostly (thought not always) when I'm watching video. And now I've got two growing splotches of what appears to be leaking liquid in the display. I can work around them, but not sure for how long.

SO. I've been shopping laptops. At first I was thinking small and light. I like typing on the Surface, and I like the idea of convertability. Also considered the Lenovo Yoga, and then I saw the Toshiba Radius. The 11 is very affordable and it's gold! But you can't know what will work best until you try them all out, right? So I went over to Best Buy, which had more on display than I expected. Apparently not being able to "ship-to-store" from the website doesn't mean the store doesn't have the computer. I didn't like the keyboard of the Yoga, and the screen of the Radius 11 was just too small. I really liked the Toshiba with the detachable screen, but it was very wobbly, and that concerned me. I found a Radius 15.5", and I really liked that. I can get a portable CD drive for about $30 so I can use my Office 2007 (instead of paying $99 to download the hateful 2013). But then I was looking at the reviews. The 5-star reviews are vague. The 1-star reviews are far fewer in number, but wifi weakness and spacebar issues and flickering screens and very poor customer service from Toshiba are repeated throughout. Of course, someone who gave that 1-star rating says "I bought an Acer instead and love it" and you go over to Acer and they talk about screen and bootup problems and the bottom line is that every make and model can have issues. It's always a roll of the dice.

So I'm kind of back to the drawing board, maybe. But then I look at the temperature, consider the oil bill, and know that I have to ride my old laptop into the ground anyway, so STOP SPENDING SO MUCH TIME LOOKING, NATALIE. LOL

Okay, on to more fun stuff!

I am very excited to announce the release of a new anthology. Trish Milburn pulled together a couple dozen highly talented authors (and I am so humbled and honored to have been invited!) in a collection we decided to call Tiny Treats.

Tiny because these are micro-stories. I tested them out—you can literally read a whole story while waiting in the pickup line for your kid, or the drive-thru at a busy Starbucks, or while you're waiting for you spouse to be ready to leave for dinner, already!

Treats because they're all really good romances. Seriously, I'm not just saying that. If there was a single dud in the bunch I'd be more vague and general. :) I loved every single one.

Most of these are contemporary set and the holiday featured is Christmas, but there are some historical and paranormal gems, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year's are all included.

But best of all, it's completely FREE! Everywhere! So you can download it now!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo | Smashwords

Oh, and if you've read If You Believe in Me, my story, "On This Christmas Day," features Rina and Danny!

I have another story out, too. This one isn't new. It's a reissue (updated, but with no major changes) of an erotic paranormal novella, and it's only 99 cents at all retailers:

Trex Samuels has lived her life supporting her best friend. Her job as an information broker allows her to stay in one place and keep tabs on Jake, who travels the world using his unique gifts to save abducted children. Trex is the closest thing to a home Jake has, and she waits for his infrequent visits that always bring both joy and pain. Things change, however, when Jake is on the run from the law. This time, he is haunted by his failures, tormented by waking nightmares. This time, he’s brought a partner.
Dan awakens in Trex a new craving, but one that doesn’t eliminate the old. When she realizes the men need her, that she has the power to banish their demons–however temporarily–they embark on a journey of sensuality and desperate pleasure. In the end, she not only has the power to heal them, but to set them free. And only one will come back to her…
Note: Originally published in 2008, reissued 2014
Buy Now: