The Week Before Thanksgiving

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It’s the week before Thanksgiving (for us here in the US) which at its end marks the start of the Christmas Season (which actually started back in October) and… ugh. I’m not feeling it this year. If I’m honest I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be bothered with Thanksgiving and I definitely don’t want to bother with Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the year I’ve had. I have so much to be thankful for and I don’t want to every sound ungrateful. Regardless, I’m not feeling any of it.

Could it be all the political crap still going on? How crappy people are treating each other, both on-line and in public? Possibly. There seems to be so much crap (this post is also a drinking game to see how many times I say the word ‘crap’) going on and despite all the encouraging things happening there is, sadly, so much negativity to go along with it. Why? This can’t be only me feeling this way? Can it?

Now, I realize that I’ll get out of my pre-holiday funk and things will turn around. In that vein, I want to share all the positive things that have happened for me this year:

  • I released my debut novel, The Calling.

  • I’ve received positive reviews for The Calling.

  • The Calling is in the top 150 Best Vampire Books by a new Author.

  • The Calling is in the top 100 Best Gay Vampire Books.

  • I’ve made great Author Friends this year.

  • I’ve gotten to know some wonderful fans who have been supportive of my writing.

  • My two short stories The Reunion and A Dragon for Christmas have done well and people seem to enjoy them.

  • After fourteen years, I finally got a new car. Yay!

  • The agency TV I worked on, Change Lives for Good, was a finalist for the CreaTV Awards.

  • Eric and I had a wonderful cruise to Mexico.

  • A New World – Contact was picked up by my publisher.

  • T.A.D. – The Angel of Death was picked up by my publisher.

  • We spent some amazing time with Family and Friends this year.

  • Eric and I had a fantastic week in Hawaii for my birthday.

  • We got our Bathroom remodeled.

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There has been a lot for me to be thankful for, even putting this list together has improved my mood, which is another thing I’m grateful for. I think, like many of us, this crap happening around me has bogged me down which has taken my focus off all the wonderful things that have happened and continue to happen all around me.

Maybe, that is something we all need to do. Keep a list of all the positive things that have happened to us and continue to happen to us and not let the crap steal the spotlight and take away our sunshine.

Thank you for allowing me a moment to whine and focus my thoughts. Reminding me that, yes, there is a lot a crap in the world, but overall things are good and life has provided me and my husband some wonderful moments. If you want to share some positive events your year has shown you I would love to read them. You can do it in the comments section below. The more we can focus on the good the better off I think we all will be. Remember, you can like and share this blog (or any of my blog posts below).

Until next time, have a great week Scribblers (oh, and, if you were counting I said ‘crap’ eight times).

October Updates and Special Announcement

Wow, can you believe we are already in October? Crazy right? This week I wanted to provide a personal and writing update. Also, I have an exciting special announcement so stay tuned (this is a Scribbler Exclusive). Let’s get to it shall we.

The last few months a lot has been going on with my writing and me. If you’ve been following along then you know we have been amid a bathroom remodel. We can now see light at the end of the tunnel. Thank goodness! It hasn’t been that bad, but it’s exhausting. I’ll be thrilled when construction is over and we have, not only, our bathroom back, but also our house (if you want to see the images from the construction check them out here and here). Once everything is complete, I’ll provide a final update with photos for you to check out.

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When it comes to my writing, I’m working on The Calling – Book 2, which I’m toying with naming… The Called. There are a couple of reasons for this name, which I can’t get into now, no spoilers and all, but the name is significant within the story. Also, it was one of the names suggested by a reader over on my Facebook Page (check it out here). What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Overall, the writing is going well and my goal is to have the first draft finished by the end of the year, which is ambitious, but we’ll see. Should be a piece of cake, right?

Oh, did you see the character interviews I have with two popular characters from The Calling? If you want to know more about Victor Rey (click here) and Juliet de Exter (click here). You need to check them out, they were a ton of fun and you might get hints into what may be coming in The Called - Book 2 in The Calling Series.

This month I will be getting the edits from my Editor for A New World – Contact Part One (learn more by clicking here) which is slated for release on January 21, 2019. As with The Calling there will be a launch party here in San Jose. If you’re in the area or can make it out this way stay tuned for more details in the early part of January 2019. I hope to see you there, last year it was a lot of fun… just saying.

Believe it or not, I have a second book coming out next year T.A.D – The Angel of Death (learn more by clicking here) it be released on March 11, 2019. As with A New World – Contact there will be many more details as we approach launch day.

I’m looking forward to sharing these new characters and new universes I’ve created with you.

Now for my Special Announcement. This is a Scribbler’s Exclusive… drum roll, please…

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I have a limited number of copies of The Calling, which I will personalize, autograph, and send out to folks in the US for $20. This is a print book, and the cost covers the physical book and shipping (standard USPS mail nothing fancy). To be part of this limited exclusive offer of The Calling First Edition please email me at info@mdneu.com and we can work out the details (name, mailing address, and payment). If you are outside the US and would like to take advantage of this amazing deal, please email me and let’s see what we can work out. I will keep this offer open for a limited time (I’m not saying when it will end). And remember for right now this is a Scribbler Exclusive, so take advantage of it now before time runs out and I open it up.

Well gang, that’s all I have this week. Coming up later this month, I have a couple of amazing interviews so keep an eye open. Remember to like and share below. See you all next week.

My Life Dealing with a Bathroom Remodel (The Fifth Week)

Happy Wednesday Scribblers. It’s been a busy few weeks and I hope you all have enjoyed the recent series of Interviews I’ve provided. I have another great interview coming up next week. I’m not telling you with whom, but I can’t wait to post it.

This week, I figured I would do an update on our bathroom remodel… oh yes, we are still under construction, and its been painful both financially and emotionally. Both Eric and I are trying hard not to complain and we remain grateful that we can repair all the water damage to the house and get things fixed up. However, it is taking its toll on us.

If you haven’t read about our first week of construction, you can check it out here (see the damage) so you can get caught up with the drama.

As the title says, we are on week five. I’ve attached a bunch of photos for you to look through and see the progress (click the images to scroll right).


The amount of work that has gone into our small bathroom (remember it’s 8-feet by 7-feet) is crazy. The construction team has done a lot of work and we’re pleased with the quality. But, there have been several hiccups along the way all related around communication with the contract and the scope of work. Leading me to my latest lessons learned:

Third lesson, get everything in writing, and I mean everything because communication is sketchy at best. You should make notes of the color of the paint (not the name, but the code), how many shelves you want in your shower niche, the fact that you want a shower niche, any additional work you may want done (like wall sconces instead of a single light), what your current balance is, how much more money you owe them, what does the contract say about payments, who is picking up what material and when, what is included in your contract, etc. Anything and everything you talk about, write it down, make sure they have copies of it, and you have copies. Don’t assume you are all on the same page, EVER.

This leads me to the next few lessons we learned:

Fourth lesson, you are not the only client the contractor and designer have. They are working on several jobs at once, and you are only one. The contractor and designer are human and they forget things. You may live in the construction zone and see it every day, but they don’t, and so it’s important to remember that. Try to not over react (this is difficult… very difficult… trust me).

Fifth lesson, communication can suck. Even if you meet, write things down, email and text them, communication sucks big time. This can be for many reasons. They are busy. They don’t have time to respond to you. What you sent them may not need a response. You may be just as annoying to them as they are to you at the moment. They are human, and might need a break from your craziness. Even though you are paying them an obscene amount of money for the job.

With all I’ve said above, you may think I’m being easy on the contract and designer. Trust me, I’m not. I’ve been pissed at them and irritated as hell with them for not remembering something as simple as; we needed two shelves in the shower niche… you know the freaking niche you showed us in the tile showroom. The same tile showroom we sat and picked the paint colors for the bathroom together in. Yes, that show room. Ugh… how can you not remember… you showed it to us. Okay… breathe… I’m not being easy on them, but I’m desperately trying to remember they are human and we are one of the many clients they have.

One point I quickly made above and wanted to share more about here is, when it comes to the contract and change orders knowing what you actually owe them can be tricky. And annoying as hell. You would think the Invoices would be clear, but they aren’t. The amounts can change, especially if you change the scope of work, which we’ve done. We’ve been working with the office staff, and they have been good about getting back to us and ensuring we are all on the same financial page. Still it’s been annoying to deal with especially when you’re trying to rework your inflated budget and confirm you have enough pennies saved to pay for the project.

There ya go. That is the construction update for now Scribblers. To the best of my knowledge, we still have a couple more weeks to go, but honestly, I’m not sure. What’s left? Well, they still have to finish the stucco on the outside of the house, tile the bathroom floor and shower, put in the fixtures, install the glass shower surround, finish the electrical, touch up the paint, pass inspection, and who knows what else.

Can it please just be over? Please!

Well Scribblers, I hope you have a great week. As I said at the start, I have another interview coming next week. In the meantime ‘like’ and ‘share’ (click on the buttons below) this post with friends and family who you think might be interested in learning what it’s like to live through a real life bathroom remodel (and not an HGTV version). If you have questions about this post or anything going on with my writing let me know in the comments below.

My New life Dealing with a Bathroom Remodel (The First Week)

Happy Wednesday Scribblers. Here we are again.  Another week into August (can you believe it’s almost September?).

This week I thought I would share with you my current journey of having my bathroom (and only shower) remodeled.  The process has only just begun (week one) and we’ve run into snags, cost overruns, and increased timeline.

Let me start at the beginning. Our house was built in 1938 and we moved in on September 2000. The first thing we did was turn our home, formerly the neighborhood crack-house, into something livable, which included a full bathroom remodel. We did a lot of the work ourselves (my father at the time was a general contractor) so we were confident in our skills and his ability. After a month of ongoing cleaning and household updates, we moved in. The bathroom was shiny, new, and we loved it (see the photos above. Nice. Right?).  That was eighteen years ago.

A few years back we noticed that not only was the bathroom getting a little dated, but some tile cracked and we were having issues with leaking (it happens).  We started planning for a bathroom remodel. Since we had done this before we knew what we were in for, and we also planned for what we knew would be water damage (broken tiles and water stains).  We created a budget and went to work trying to find a contactor (we couldn’t do the work ourselves and my father had retired).  After finding the top three Kitchen and Bathroom companies in our area (based on the BBB, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) we called them all in to view the space (which is only 8-feet by 7-feet) and give us an estimate. The process took about two weeks.

First lesson, the cost of the bathroom remodel would be $10k more than our budget (I wanted to throw up).

Second lesson, the timeline would be about two weeks longer then we planned for. (I didn’t throw up, but I came close).

See, when we had done the remodel ourselves it took a little over a week (and we weren’t living in the house). The cost, well we didn’t have to pay much labor because we did a big chunk of the work ourselves (except for the plumbing, which if we would have done we wouldn’t have had the leaking… ugh) so those costs were low. We didn’t go into this blind; we had done our research so we felt we had planned on a healthy budget (overly generous if you would have asked me when we started the process, did I mention the size of the bathroom 8-feet by 7-feet. It’s small).

Not happy with the budget news and the timeline we picked the contractor we felt would do the best job and seemed to get our style. They weren’t the most expensive, and they weren’t the cheapest. None of them were cheap… oh well I’ll get over it. I don’t want to sound ungrateful because I’m not. I understand how lucky we are to be in a position to fix all this. And I also realize that labor isn’t cheap and I believe people should be paid for their knowledge and their expertise… but does it have to be so much?  Ugh.

Documents signed, first and second design meeting finished. The big day arrived. Demo…

Oh, before I get ahead of myself, we decided to continue to live in our house. We managed to set up an outdoor shower (in the backyard). Stop laughing. We have it tented with sidewalls, a propane insta-hot water heater, rack for our soaps and shampoos, etc. So, it works.  It’s not ideal, but it works.

Okay, back to the Demo.  We left our bathroom in the morning and came home to what can only be described as the gateway to hell.  Dry rot on the exterior wall, decaying floor joists, 2x4’s that crumble in your hands, etc. You can see the damage in the photos.  Is it as bad as it could be? Probably not. Was it worse than any of us thought?  Yes. Yes, it was.

The Contractor and the Designer came to meet us, last Friday, to talk about what we needed to do. More demo was needed to tear out all the old rotted wood before they could repair it.  This would include knocking out the back exterior wall. As you can guess this changes the scope of work, adds more time to the timeline, and more dollars to our already inflated, ridiculous, outrageous, budget.  This has happened all within the first week of construction. Oh, joy. Oh, bliss. According to our Contractor we have about another four or five weeks to go.

Just shoot me now. I don’t think I’ll make it.

Now of the best part. A co-worked asked me, when I started talking about a bathroom remodel, what we were having done, what our budget was, and about contractors. He as looking at doing the same thing as us. Well, a few days ago we were talking, and he informed me that he was getting his bathroom done for $6k (new floors, new fixtures, new tile, new everything, and the guy was a licensed contractor) this time I really did almost throw up. I have no idea how either bathroom is going to turn out, but at this point I can’t help but feel like one of us is going to be getting screwed… and not in the good way.  Ugh.

Well Scribblers, I thought I would share this journey with you. Again, I don’t want to seem ungrateful or unappreciative because I’m not. For me it’s all about shock at this point. I know we are going to have an amazing bathroom when it’s all done. So, do you have construction nightmare stories?  Do you feel like venting about it?  Feel free in the comments below.  I would love to hear that I’m not the only one.  Until next week, I hope you have a great week. If you want to share this blog post with someone who is going through a remodel of their own, you can do so by clicking on the share button just below.

Merry Christmas!

 Have a wonderful and blessed Holiday Season.

Have a wonderful and blessed Holiday Season.

I wanted to take this moment to wish you a very merry Christmas and thank you for being so supportive of me and my writing.  If you’ve been following along this whole year, you understand it’s been filled with amazing highs (three books picked up by my publisher, NineStar Press) and painful lows (Illness and deaths of several close family members). Still, I’m so blessed to share not only my thoughts with you all here, on my Scribbles page, but also, I’m able to share three wonderful stories with you. Click here for Amazon and here for NineStar Press where you can buy my books.

This year Eric and I are hosting a holiday party.  We haven’t done one of these in quite a few years, so I’m sure there will be pictures which I’ll share either here or on my FB page.  Also, during this holiday season I plan to finish reading, Diary of a Quarterback–Part 1: King of Imperfections, by S.A. Collins.  I, also hope to get more writing done. Even though I get just over a week off, I’m gonna be busy.

Feel free to share what you are doing for the holiday.  I love to hear from you.  So drop me a note and let me know.

Have a great holiday everyone.

Writing & Personal Update

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It’s time for another Writing Update and given all that has happened over the last several weeks there is no better time than now.  Things for me have been a mixed bag full of blessing and sadness. It’s never easy talking about the not-so-happy events going on in our lives, well not for me, but I figured I would share as talking it through is supposed to help.

Recently, my husband and I had to go to Utah to take care of my husband’s father. He has terminal cancer and dementia.  It’s not been easy, and my husband is an only child, so there is a lot for him to deal with. All I can do is support him and the decisions he makes. Luckily we’ve had some wonderful support from his aunt and uncle so we weren’t totally alone in dealing with all of this. 

A few weeks back we all spent a week in Utah taking care of his father’s house (getting it ready to sell). We also spent time seeing his dad and making sure he is settled in the care facility, which is amazing. The staff are wonderful and so is his father’s hospice worker.  As I’m sure you can imagine it was a stressful week, but we got everything we needed accomplished. By the end of the week we were all exhausted but we still had out humor. Eric’s uncle summed up the week like this, “It’s amazing we’re all still talking to each other.” We all got a good chuckle out of that.

Amidst that, my short story, The Reunion was being finalized and getting ready for its launch. The launch was October 23rd and went off swimmingly.  I’m so thrilled that I had the support of great friends, family, and the wonderful folks at NineStar Press (check them out here).  They really helped and made the process seem less.

Unfortunately, because this has been a mixed bag of emotions. Last week I got news that one of my only living great-aunts passed away (she was 99 years old).  This sad news brought up the memories of my grandmother (my aunt’s older sister) and the realization that that generation has all moved on. We have a close family so that has made it all the more difficult.

Also, on October 23rd it was the fifth anniversary of Eric’s mother’s passing in a tragic accident.  So, the day my debut short story launched there was an air of both joy and sorrow. Eric and I agreed that his mother would’ve been proud and excited and we’re sure that the launch date was no coincidence.

I’m a firm believer that our family never leaves our side and that they are always there with us. The launch day was one way for her and my mom (also passed away) to show their collective support.

There you have it an emotional roller-coaster.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note because as I said at the start these last few weeks have been a mixed bag of both good and bad. To that point, I still have two more books coming out over the next few months, A Dragon for Christmas (December 18th) and The Calling (Jan 1st) I’ve also, been writing/editing three different stories so there is much more to come. And lastly, I want to share some quotes from a few of the reviews I’ve received for, The Reunion (buy it here):

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“…cleverly written and I couldn’t put it down because I just needed to know what had happened in this town!” – Lulu Forth (Alpha Book Club) full review here.

“I thought I knew where the author was going with the story and time after time, they proved me wrong.  And that ending….” – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (full review here).

“A fantastic story full of good times and bad, The Reunion is one of those tales that you're going to want to read over and over again.” – Amazon Review by Wordsmith full review here.

Until next week, have a great week gang.  Remember I love hearing from you, so leave me a comment and don’t forget to like and share.
 

Polite Society…Ugh

We live in the age of Polite Society.  When you speak with your friends or coworkers, it goes something like this:

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“Good to see you.” You say.  “How’s it going?”
Friend, “great. How about you?”
“I’m doing well.  Thanks. Talk to you later.” You smile and walk off.

That’s normally it.  There might be a little more banter about movies, sports or TV, but normally things wrap up quickly and you both go on with your day or move onto something else. It’s all lovely and polite and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Except.  You both lied to each other.  Things aren’t great and you’re not doing well, but you don’t want to air your dirty laundry and your friend or coworker doesn’t really want to hear it. So, we pretend for the sake of social graces.

What brings this up? You’re asking.  Well, for me there is a lot happening right now and it’s made me take a moment and reflect on all that we don’t know about each other and what we don’t share for the sake of being polite.  Over the last six weeks (actually much longer) I’ve been dealing with major family issues, both my side of the family and my husband’s side of the family.  I won’t go into the details, however needless to say it’s been stressful and left me in a kind of funk.

I’ve tried to keep it away from both work and social media, because we all have our own crap we’re dealing with. What it’s made me realize are the smiles on each other’s faces are often a mask to hide the drama in our own lives. We want to show the world ‘we’re fine’ and ‘everything is great’ when in reality it’s the opposite.

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Look, I’m not a proponent for ‘airing your laundry’ to the whole world (in face there are some people who do this way too much just for the attention they get) and a certain amount of ‘stiff upper lip’ is important. However, when we see all those smiles and we have our pleasant generic chit-chat about sports, or movies, or TV maybe peek past all that. Ask yourself if this is a moment I should go a little deeper, does this person need to talk, really talk, or do they need the false charade to help them get through all the crap they are going through? Because it does work both ways, sometimes we need Polite Society to get us through the day and provide us a break from our world of crap. Regardless, it’s worth at the very least a mental question and perhaps we should take a moment to open up and really talk to people especially our friends. 

I don’t know.  It’s just what’s been going on in my head these last few days. I’m not the only one to think this and I’m not the only one to point this out.

Feel free to share your thoughts.  I always love hearing from folks.


Also, I wanted to let you all know that I’ve read two really amazing books recently:

Daimonion by J. P. Jackson click here for my interview with J. P. and here to get the book.

And

When Heaven Strikes by F. E. Feeley Jr. click here for my interview & review of the book and here to get the book.

Until next time have a great week.

Writing Update

I have so many updates to provide, but first with all the current devastation with the hurricanes in Texas and Florida and the major earthquake in Mexico I want to share some ways for you to help.

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Catholic Charities USA–Long term recovery and support click here

Red Cross–Immediate support click here

Caritas (Caritas International)–International relief outside the US click here

These agencies do amazing work and already have people in the areas helping.  There are many other non-profits who help as well.  These just happen to be the ones I tend to support when disasters hit.


When it comes to my world of writing a lot has been happening since my last writing update. 

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Firstly, I now have three books (two short stories and one novel) being published by NineStar Press it’s very exciting and I can now share release dates with you (so mark your calendars):

 

So, as you can imagine things are crazy busy with editing and working with the publisher on cover art and all that good stuff.  I can’t wait to share the cover art with you all.

Secondly, I’m still one of the judges over at the Rainbow Awards.  There have been so many wonderful entries and I’m excited to still be part of the process.  The awards will be announced in December 8, 2017 click here for the Facebook page with more information.

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On the writing front (yep, I’m still writing new stuff) I recently finished my novella T.A.D and it’s started to make its way around my writing group, so this is exciting. The feedback and suggestions I’ve been getting are wonderful and are really helping the story.  Also, I’ve been editing ‘A New World – Conspiracy’ there is still writing to do, so this project hasn’t been getting the love it deserves these days.  I hope to change that over the next few weeks.

I have a few personal things I want to share with you all.  On August 21, 2017, I became a Granduncle, my nephew and his wife had a bouncing baby boy.  Eric and I have gotten to meet the newest member of the family, so that has been really quite exciting, I’m very happy for my nephew and his wife. Also, I know some of you still ask and yep, Eric and I are still doing our weekly meals.  It really has been wonderful and super easy.  We love it.  On a bit of a sadder note, both Eric and I have family members who aren’t doing well health wise. It’s not easy, of course, when you live in separate states so you can’t be there for them. However, with the help of technology we get to talk and check in so that is something.

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If you haven’t noticed I’ve made a few changes to my website, nothing major but there have been some additions and modifications.  We’ll see what more needs to be done, but for now we’re making tweaks here and there.

Lastly, some of you have been asking about the headshots, well the short answer: it’s a process.  The long answer; we’ve taken two rounds of photos and we still want to take a third.  We’re trying to get various looks and moods, so it’s taking a bit of time.  I would like to have the headshots all done by the end of this month.  That is my goal, however, the photographer, and the others involved on the project may have other plans.  Either way, the photos are moving along and what I’ve seen I like, so that’s good.

That is about all I have this week.  Next week I have an amazing author interview coming out, so that is exciting.  Have a wonderful week everyone and if you’re in an area of the country or world affected by the hurricanes or earthquake, please be safe and take care.

Our Experiment with a Meal Delivery Service (Part3)

Welcome to Part Three of our experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service. If you haven’t read Part One click here if you haven’t read Part Two (I’m gonna cry) click here.  As you should be familiar with by now, I’m hopping, we’ve been doing the Meal Service for three months and things are swimming along.  The food is still great. We’ve enjoyed everything, even things I wasn’t so sure about.
 
Shall we start?

As teased last month, I’m gonna tell you about how we save 20% on our meals and provide you some general advice and s few tips and tricks that we’ve learned.  So here goes.
 
Our trick for saving 20% on our Meal Kit Delivery Service is to buy gift cards.  We go to Costco (if you don’t have a Costco Membership talk to a friend who does) and buy the gift cards for the service it saves us an instant 20%.  Not very exciting and maybe a bit anticlimactic but that’s how we save money.  Every couple of weeks we head to Costco for whatever we need and pick up the gifts cards.  We don't make a special trip so getting the gift cards makes sense.
 
Another way you can save money on these services is to try a different one for the length of the free trial period.  I’m not a big fan of this method, but people do it and it works for them. There are several different meal delivery services out so bounce around and try different ones. Just don’t ask me what they do when they’ve tried them all and have to pay for it, cause I’m not sure.
 
Anyway, moving on.
 
What we’ve found with our Meal Kit Delivery Service is don’t be afraid to shake things up and experiment with what they give you.  We’ve got several spaghetti (red sauce) type dishes, and they were all right.  When we got the next one I decided I was going to shake things up, and I added my own Italian spices and it took the sauce to the next level, which really made me happy.

Don’t be afraid to add a little butter, yes it’s bad for you. Yes the meal services are trying to present you with a healthful meal option. Still, a little butter goes a long way for flavor. So, if you want to add some buttery flavor to what you're cooking or to vegetables go for it. I won’t tell.
 
Two of my co-workers, who are on the same plan as us, will put the spice rub or marinade on the meat the night before they cook it.  They say it adds a lot more flavor and I believe them.  I tried it once, and it really does amp up the flavor of the meat.
 
The other trick I have is, watch the salt.  Almost ever step instructs you to ‘salt and pepper to taste’ remember it’s ‘to taste’ so if you want to cut down on the salt do it.  To me this seemed like a no brainer, but you would be surprised at how you get caught up in following the step-by-step directions.
 
Speaking of directions.  Do yourself a favor and read through the direction at least twice before you start.  Then decide the steps you can combine and the ways to lower your pan and bowl count, cause you’re gonna use a lot of them.
 
When it comes to the oil always use olive oil or extra virgin olive oil.  It’s really the best way to cook everything.
 
When it comes to pans we use non-stick or cast iron.  So if you don’t have non-stick pans or cast iron get one.  It makes clean up so much easier.
 
When it comes to clean up, do it while things are cooking.  You’re gonna go through a lot of pains, bowls and knives so clean as you go.  Otherwise you’re gonna have a lot of clean up at the end.
 
And there you have it.  Everything I’ve learned about our Meal Kit Delivery Service.  If you want to try it, go for it.  The options are great and the food is good.  Even the stuff you may not love. We plan to keep going.  If we stop I’ll let you know and tell you why.
 
As with Part One and Part Two here are photos from our dinners. 

I hope you enjoyed this series and found it interesting and fun.  Feel free to ask questions.  In fact I encourage it.  I love hearing from you. 
 
Until next time have a great week.

Writing Update?

Over the last few Blogs I’ve talked about various topics, the most recent was about Slow Burn Books if you haven’t read it check it out here.  Anyway, I thought today I would provide an update on all my writing endeavors and surprisingly there are quite a few.

To start, I was recently asked to work on a training video project ‘Know Your Rights’ for the nonprofit I work for. It was a series of vignettes about what to do when ICE confronts you.  Each video would be a different scenario.  First, ICE comes to your home. Second, ICE comes to your work. Third, a police stop. And, fourth, how an agency is to respond when ICE comes to investigate clients.  We did an English and Spanish version.

Know Your Rights!

We spent a few weeks working on the script and in rehearsals.  The thing to point out here is none of the people were professionals.  So, they were relying on my limited experience.  Regardless, I spent whatever time I had with them running lines, rewriting and changing the script and working on blocking and preparing them for taping day.

The day of the video shoot came, and we spent a full day in studio with a crew of five.  I had designed the sets and costuming as well as handled make-up (I was wearing a lot of hats that day including directing).  With the shoot finished the next week I worked with the editor to pull it all together.  The finished product is something I’m exceedingly proud of, and the videos already hit over 600 views (in just a week).  Click here to go to their channel.

I’ve been asked to work with the Editor and take the vignettes and turn them into an actual DVD that other agencies can purchase.  So, that will be cool.

Channel trailer for Tall Tale TV.

My second update is if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter (which I hope you do), you should’ve seen my interactions with Chris over at Tall Tale TV. Chris takes short stories and converts them to audiobooks that you can listen to on his channel.  It's a great way to hear about new and upcoming authors. The channel is new so there isn’t a lot of content yet, but he’s growing it.  Anyway, he had a call for short story submissions and he selected one of mine.  I recently, the last few days, got word that my story ‘The Reunion’ will be airing in the next couple of weeks.  Once, I’m given the date you can be sure I’ll be letting you know.

My next major announcement is that I have a new work in progress underway, ‘T.A.D.’  This new story is set to be a novella and much shorter than my other works.  I don’t want to give away too much because things may change, but this story has elements of time travel and focuses on angles.  I’ve gotten some positive feedback from the first chapter so I’m excited to bring the outline to life. 

My final update is about my other works in progress.  ‘A New World – Contact’ is back with a couple of Beta Readers.  ‘A New World – Conspiracy’ is still in the writing process however, I’m happy to report that Act Two is now complete, which means I’m on to the final act; Act Three.  Yay!

This leaves me with an update for ‘The Calling’ it is complete and has gone through edits.  The rest I’m going to be a little cagey about because I’m hoping to have a big announcement about ‘The Calling’ in the next few months.

Those are my updates for now.  I'd love to hear what questions you have for me ask them in the comments and I'll answer.  Feel free to share this blog with others who will find it interesting.

See you next time.

Our Experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service (Part 2)

This is Part Two of our experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service.  If you haven’t read Part One click here. We’ve been doing the Meal Service for two months now and things are moving along nicely. We’re still enjoying and looking forward to getting our weekly box with our food and menus for the week.

In this installment, I want to talk about portions and value for the dollar.  This is a big topic online and even amongst my coworkers, family and friends.  They ask or say things like, “Is it really filling?”, “That doesn’t seem like a lot of food.”, “Oh, I’ve heard of that but it seems kind of expensive.”, “It looks really complicated, is it?”, etc. So, let’s get to it. Shall we?

When it comes to portions and meal size, you need to understand one thing about me (and my hubby, but me more so) I love food.  I love to eat and I really love good food.  As I tell my friends, “you don’t get a body like mine, but passing up on seconds or sometimes, if the meal’s really good, thirds.” So, I was worried about portions.  When we got our first box, and I looked at what they said was three meals I thought, “well crap, that doesn’t look like near enough food.” We got things like two sweet potatoes as a side dish, or a quarter of a head of cabbage, or basically a cup of dried rice.  Those were the side dishes?  Ugh. Then I looked at the proteins and I almost laughed. Ten Ounces of ground beef for two grown men. Who were they kidding?

Anyway, our first meal was Burgers and Slaw with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. We skeptically followed the directions and put the meal together.  After it was altogether and looked similar to the picture on the direction, we sat down to eat.  As I’ve mentioned before the meal was excellent, but the big question came when we finished and looked at each other.  I asked Eric, “So, are you full?”  he looked at me and said. “Actually, yes.”  I nodded my agreement.  To our surprise we were both full.  Sure, we could have both had another burger, but we didn’t need it.  We were satisfied.

And satisfied is how I would describe every meal thereafter.  Have we been stuffed?  No.  But after each meal we were full and comfortable.  Which, I’ll admit was a nice feeling.

What the Meal Service does well is portion control.  What you think might not be enough food actually is.  Are there leftovers?  Nope.  Not in my house.  But I have a co-worker who only eats half her meal and saves the rest for lunch the next day.  She’s not a big eater.

A foreign concept to me.

One of the side benefits of the Meal Service is we’re not eating as much, which has the additional side benefit of us both dropping a few pounds.  Not a lot, but still I’ve noticed.

Major Disclaimer and I want to make this very clear.  The Meal Service is not a diet plan.  Not by a long shot. So, don’t confuse the two.

Now, let’s talk about value for the buck.

This is another big area that people question, and I did too.  But, what I’m finding is that for the quality of the ingredients (organic, locally grown, blah, blah, blah) we’re getting the cost seems right.  “But, how can you say that?”  I hear all the collective yells.  Very simply, our Meal Service costs $60.00 a week (three meals $20 each, six servings $10 each) Eric, and I have made two receipts on our own, using the exact ingredients from the provided receipts.

When we went to the store to buy everything for the meals it actually cost us more per person.  One, was $10.75 per person (this was for the Fried Rice) and the other was just under $11.50 per person (this was for the Chicken Enchiladas).  So not a lot, but that is how it broke down on the days we bought the ingredients.

Now, I’m sure if we bought the food on a different day the costs might have changed, but considering how close everything was cost wise it all worked out and I’m not that much a penny pincher.

When it all comes down to it, the quality and the quantity of the meals is worth every cent we’ve paid. However, we’re not paying full price for our Meal Kit Delivery Service plan.  

“What?” you ask.

“How?” you say.

Well, you’ll have to wait for my next installment to find out my cost saving tips and tricks. As well as some overall general advice for how to make the most of the Meal Kit Deliver Service.

As with Part One here are my photos from our dinners.  Yes, we really did make all of these. I’m quite impressed with how good they all look

Hmm, maybe I should be a food photographer. Have a great week everyone.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Twitter is the question.

I just don’t know Twitter.  I’ve spoken with a bunch of folks (writers and bloggers) and they all say the same thing.  Open a Twitter account, it’s easy, fun and a great way to get connected with your fans and followers.  Not to mention a good way to get out there.  All of that sounds good, but I believe in connect. I’m not saying I have great connect, or that it will change the world, but I do have things to share with my Blog.  It’s only once a week to not bombard people, and to date the feedback has been positive.

The idea of a Twitter feed.  Do I have enough to say?  Am I that interesting (I don’t think I am)? Would people really fallow me?

I don’t know.  It all sounds so “me, me, me” and there is so much noise out there already.  Do I really need to add my voice to the masses? Granted I all have, with the Blog, but somehow that feels different to me.

There are pros and cons to everything, including tweeting.  It does seem like the next logical step in connecting with people, building a brand and creating a following.  The purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is so that I can show publishers that people are interested in my writing.  So, that eventually, one lucky publishers will pick up my manuscripts and help me get my novels out there.

Another purpose of the Blog, the Facebook page, the website, and a potential Twitter account is that it will make things much easier if I self-publish, because I will be published one way or the other.

 Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

Look how happy you all are that I get to interact with you.

The big bonus for me is reaching out to my followers and fans.  I would get to interact more with you, but is that something you really want?  You poor things.  You must have more interesting things to do then listen to me, don’t you?  Isn’t Dancing with the Stars starting up soon?  

All teasing aside, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.  So, Twitter or no Twitter? Let me know in the comments below.

Our Experiment with a Meal Kit Delivery Service (Part 1)

My hubby and I have been experimenting with a Meal Kit Delivery Service. I know, I know, we’re late to the game and I’m sure this has been talked–blogged–about to death.  Still, several people have been asking me about our experience (and even asking for pictures of the cooked meals. Yes, I’m including photos.) Considering the interest I decided I would do a multi-part blog series on the subject.

This is the first installment.

I realize this has nothing to do with writing, but I figured it’d be fun.

My hubby and I started our meal kit delivery service because of a gift card we got for Christmas. The gift card covered about 90% of the cost.  I wasn’t so sure about the idea, but I didn’t want the gift card to go to waste.  So, we signed up.

We got to pick three meals (each meal was two servings) for a single week.  They give you a total of six different meal options to pick from, which is nice.  When I saw the dinners, and I wasn’t sold.  A lot, of the food seemed to be stuff I wasn’t keen on eating.  But, then I remembered gift card and away I went.

Waiting almost four days for the delivery was a bit annoying, but I get it.  They deliver all over the country, so waiting for the delivery to our area was fine.  Finally, our meals showed up. It was on a Wednesday (that is now our delivery day).  The meals arrived in a medium size box.

I was yet to be impressed.  I can’t say what I expected for the deliver but seeing the box arrive as is was a disappointment.

So, I brought the box home, and we unpacked it.

This is where my opinion started to change.  They included everything, and the food was still cool because of how they packed it (they had it wrapped in an insulated blanket-type-thing with the meats on the bottom packed between two chemical ice packs).  To my surprise, the meats were still frozen, and the veggies felt like they had been in the refrigerator.

We couldn’t cook anything that night because nothing was thawed, so we had to wait till the next night to cook our hamburger and our red cabbage slaw.

We waited.

The next night once we got home we started to cook.  The vendor included easy full-page directions with color photos of each step (nice touch on their part).  They couldn’t have made it any easier for us unless they came over and prepared it.

We cooked our way through the directions (the hardest part was cutting the cabbage for the slaw).  The service provided everything we would need to cook with the exception of pans, pots, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

That impressed me.

The cooking experience was a blast. We enjoy cooking, so that was an easy sell for us.  The whole process, from prep, to eat, to clean up, took us about an hour and a half (when we cook this is about how much time it normally takes us), so that wasn’t bad.

When we sat down to eat, the meal was excellent. It was different from how we normally eat a burger, but it was still good, really good (sorry no picture of the burger and the slaw).

The rest of the meals, to date, have gone much the same way, with little variation in prep to clean up time.

Here are the pictures of our first seven meals.

I’ll stop here.  In the next part I’ll talk about portions, and the value for the dollar.  Stay tuned

When did you Know

People ask and are curious about my coming out.  I get asked this a lot by my straight co-workers and friends.  It’s kind of funny because if you flip the questions ‘when did you know you were straight?’ it’s silly.  Anyway, I don’t mind sharing my story, so here it is.

I always understood I was different at least on some level.

I grew up in the 80s, so yep, I’m old.  Anyway, I never gave much thought to sexual feelings or identity in middle school.  Sure I was ‘sensitive’ but I had a good group of ‘nerd’ and ‘stoner’ friends so I never suffered from any personal angst.  I couldn’t figure out what the big deal about girls was.  Sure they were pretty, and some were friends, but I wasn’t interested in kissing them or anything like that.

I suppose there were a few girls who liked me, but honestly I had no clue.

I wasn’t supper popular in school but I wasn’t an outcast either.

I didn’t really deal with my sexual identity until my later teens and early twenties.  I had a few girlfriends and even was engaged to be married, but something didn’t seem right.  Again I didn’t really know, clueless as I was, what the ‘it’ was.  I found guys so much more attractive than girls but I just thought I was normal.

Once, my engagement fell apart (her doing and not mine) that was when everything crashed in around me.  I realized I had all these fake walls and barriers up.  For the first time I had to take an honest look in the mirror and accept that I spent my younger years in deep denial.  I had major crushes on guys and I denied it ¬– hid it.  I had even fooled around with a few friends, but again it was all pushed behind these walls I created, and this life I wanted to live – I needed to live in.  For me it wasn’t so much an outside source, but internal ones.  No one told me to be one way or the other, it all came from me.  Anyway, when all the walls crashed down, I fell to pieces.  It wasn’t until I thought about killing myself that I figured something needed to change. I couldn’t be like this anymore. I had to pull myself together.

Of course no one realized any of this because by then I was amazing at hiding my drama.

I found a therapist and spent about a year going to treatment once a week.  She helped me face who I was and where I needed to be.  After that I was able to come out to everyone.  First, my friends.  Then my sister. And finally my parents.

I was lucky, very lucky, because I was my own worst enemy.  Everyone in my life supported me and was there for me. I was the hurdle. I was the one that created all my problems. I tried to make myself fit into this perfect image that I had in my head.

I guess what it boils down to for me, is that I always realized I was gay. I always understood, but I wasn’t willing to face it.  I never blamed society or anyone (as I said my family and friends were way more accepting than I was) and I don’t judge it as a failing of the time period I grew up in, it was more what I was willing to accept.  Maybe, if there were more positive gay male figures when I grew up things would have been different, I honestly don’t know, but like I said for me, it wasn’t so much the outside influences, but my own internal thoughts that caused me the most trouble.

Part of what I write is to provide positive LGBTQ characters with a voice because I do agree we need more of them.  My goal is to show them without this ‘struggle’ I want them facing other issues, the LBGTQ thing is just a part of them and not the focus.  My opinion is that the more people/society can see us and relate to us on a non-sexual identity level the better.

I share this because people ask about the ‘gay struggle’ and it’s different for everyone. As I say, I was lucky.

New Year Update

First Off.  Happy 2017.  I hope you all have a wonderful new year.

A lot is happening on the writing front.  I have a short story coming out this year.  ‘The Reunion’ is a dark short story about ten friends reuniting in their old home town. Stay tuned.  Also, ‘A New World – Contact’ is fishing up it’s editing cycle and will be moved on to Beta Reads in the next few weeks. I’m excited to share that book two ‘A New World – Conspiracy’, is in process and moving along faster than I thought.  Initial feedback has been positive so more information will be released on ‘Conspiracy’ later this year.  Lastly, ‘The Calling – Book One’ is going through its editing cycle and feedback and comments have been extremely positive.

So, with the end of 2016 I’m jumping right into 2017 with plenty of iron in the fire, as they say.

One final update, as some of you has been asking, I plan to release some new poetry in January.  Keep your eyes open