#TopTenTuesday – Summer

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday in a long time.  But, seeing as this is the last Tuesday of August and I’ve had a pretty wonderful summer,  I thought it time to share my favorite things of Summer 2016.  It started out where I was a little stressed, a little restless, and a lot sick of cold, but it’s turned out to be a summer where I’ve truly felt loved and blessed.  So here ya go.

Top 10 Favorite Things of Summer 2016:

1.  Fourth of July.  This is always my favorite holiday, spent with my crazy family at my aunt and uncle’s cottage.  This year’s theme for the boat parade was “Anything Goes,” and since my uncle is the Loon Ranger for their lake, this happened.  Oh, and one of the flags fell off the back when my aunt wasn’t paying attention, my cousin-in-law started playing “Taps” on his phone as it sank, and I jumped overboard to pluck it from the mucky bottom of the lake.  Pretty standard times.

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2.  This little girl entered our lives!  My parents used to raise Weimaraners when I was a kid, but we’d been without one in the family for far too long.  Ghost is probably going to be a bit spoiled as a result.

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3.  My bridal shower.  I hate being the center of attention, but that wasn’t a problem considering we had 19 kids staying.  My mom’s side of the family hadn’t all been together in like 3  years, so I was happy to be the excuse.

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4.  I’ve read a lot of amazing books from fellow authors.  I also beta read more than I usually do (meaning I read an advanced copy of a book an author is preparing to release into the world), which was a great opportunity.  You can see some of these books I’ve read here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/16027170?sort=date_read&view=reviews

5.  I moved to a super cool apartment that is slowly but surely getting filled so it’s less echo-y in here.

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6.  The Fiance and I celebrating knowing each other for 2 years.  Honestly the first thing to remind us was Facebook.  He was training for an upcoming Ironman all day, I was working, I went to McDonald’s to get us dinner…  It was “special” but worth noting.

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7.  My bridal crew helped me pick out a wedding dress.  Now, I’ve had a deal with my mom since I was 7 years old that I would elope.  However, since the diva groom wants a wedding, that means I had to find a dress.  I didn’t cry when finding the dress, but it meant more to me that these people were there.  (Our little Dutch souls did cry at the great deal I got, though.)

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8.  Reviews from authors I respect.  I’ve been slacking on the whole “book promotions” thing, but it’s been wonderful to have occasional kind words come in about my books.  It especially means a lot to me when other authors whose work I LOVE have something nice to say.  Here’s one:

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9.  The Haymarsh Benefit Shoot.  For almost 2 decades, our family’s hunt club has hosted a benefit shoot for a local facility that helps families with their needs.  It’s always a time I use to catch up with my many adopted-uncle-types.  It’s also a time when my dad, my brother, and I frantically prep to get things ready.  This year was no different, and it’s nice some things never change.

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10.  I found a quiet peace of heaven.  Our apartment doesn’t have a balcony, but there’s this weird private courtyard down the hall that leads to open sun, open air, and astroturf.  It’s the quietest place you can imagine while living downtown, and it’s great for relaxing and unwinding…which means reading.

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May – Mental Health Awareness Month

TPH Charity Promo Small
This month, I’m donating all proceeds from my novella, The Poet Heroic, to the Patient Assistance Fund for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, which is a  local facility that helps people with counseling, detox, etc.  Absolutely 100% of this fund goes towards helping people pay for treatments they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Why I’m doing this: 
Last Fall, one of my close friends committed suicide.   I was writing The Poet Heroic at the time, and I constantly thought of my friend as I wrote because he was a twin and my main character is a twin.  This book affected me emotionally in ways I wasn’t expecting as a result.  It was only fitting that I dedicated the book:

“In loving memory of Jeff, and for anyone else struggling to find the light.” 

No one knew my friend was struggling.  As far as we know, he never asked for help.  His loss hit us all very hard – for many reasons – but one of the hardest things is that he never asked for help and so we were never able to help him.  Many of us were left with this feeling that we just wanted to DO SOMETHING.  We wanted others who might be struggling to know it’s okay to ask for help.  We wanted others to be able to get help.

So, this is something I can DO.  In the few weeks I’ve been working on this month-long event, I’ve heard touching stories from many people who have suffered with depression.  I’ve heard touching stories from people who have a loved one struggling with mental health issues.  I’ve had many people join me because they too want to DO SOMETHING to help.  I’ve been very touched by all of the support and donations, and we’ve got a few weeks to go!!

If you’d like to be part of this event, join us at http://bit.ly/MentalHealthAwarenessEvent

If you’d like to enter a raffle for 50+ ebooks! and help spread the word, enter at https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5acd3f201/

If you’d like to add to my donation to the Patient Assistance Fund, (THANK YOU!), see http://bit.ly/ThePoetHeroicBonusGiving

If you’d like to buy a copy of The Poet Heroic and donate that way, go to http://bit.ly/ThePoetHeroicPurchaseDonation

Please, use this month to raise your own awareness, maybe ask for help yourself, and be especially supportive of those struggling with mental health issues.

#TopTenTuesday – Jeff

Last night, many gathered to say goodbye to one of the best people I’ve ever known.  As I said to someone, “This is the first thing I’ve ever not liked about Jeff.”  If you know me at all, you know it’s really significant that I never found anything I didn’t like about him.  Jeff was a little man, but his absence will be an enormous hole we’ll all feel every time we gather.

Several people at the visitation last night told me how much they appreciated seeing all the pictures I’d taken of Jeff over the years.  In the smallest of ways, it made me feel a little better to know I’d been able to witness and document so many truly excellent Jeff moments.  Here are my favorites.

Top 10 Favorite Jeff Memories:

321:   Camping Cartwheels.  I had a fractured arm.  Jeff and Dan were considerably tipsy.  Why not choose that moment to learn how to do a cartwheel?  There’s video of this on Facebook, but I think these pictures capture the gist.  At the very least, it sums up Jeff’s willingness to try new things.  “Jeff, can you do a cartwheel?”  Jeff: “Absolutely not, but what the hell,” before handing his beer to Dan and having me literally flip him into a cartwheel.


1472:   Porch Nights.  When some of us girls lived in a house together, we regularly had Porch Nights where the group would gather, sit around, drink, play games, and talk about nonsense, TV, our lives, and philosophy.  Jeff was always right in the middle of it.  I can remember being inside and hearing his infectious laughter out on the porch, and at least a part of me always smiled.


1236958_653285365251_1840961993_n3:   Jeff and Ari.  (Yep, this is where I start crying.)  Jeff was an awesome godparent.  I was never sure who seemed happier to see who – Jeff or Ari.  But there was a special bond there, and it always made me so happy to see.


427503_602850911301_1183354188_n4:   Catfish Ninja.  I can honestly say that Jeff and Dan were the only campers to ever catch one of the needy but skittish catfish in my grandmother’s lake.  It was at the every end of a camping trip, but it happened.  (This after HOURS of Jeff sitting on the end of the dock trying to reach in and grab them by hand, hence that year’s Jeff name of Catfish Ninja.)


149509_533026095791_7026604_n5:   Drunken Headbutting.  I don’t actually know if this was a Jeff “thing” or it only happened occasionally.  I kind of think he did it to make everyone get on his level.  And since I now live with a cat who does this as a sign of affection, I think that was part of it too.


5452_519725405481_152000781_30842750_2442717_n6:   The Mermaid Pose.  My grandmother’s lake where we always went camping was a bit weedy, to put it mildly.  One year, Jeff decided to make this happen and then insisted that I do a photo shoot.


DSCN22337:  Mardi Gras Fish Face.  Don’t remember why he wanted an aquarium on his face.  Do remember that he wouldn’t sit still while trying to do it.  The fact that his mouth is done so badly proves that he wouldn’t stop talking.


1738:  …This  As Brooke said, “For every event there is a ‘Jeff Picture.’ It never fails to delight.”


5452_519725225841_152000781_30842734_6340590_n9:   Out on a Limb This tree WAS begging to be climbed.  Dan was slightly more graceful, but Jeff hanging upside down is what made me laugh until I cried.  How he did it with a beer I’ll never know.


10: Last Second Thursday Supper.  While preparing to go to the visitation, I found the receipt for the last dinner I shared with Jeff.  It was also the last time I saw him.  Only a few of us were able to go, which in a way I’m glad of because it meant I got to talk to Jeff more than I might have if the whole group had been there.  The restaurant had been his suggestion, and it was certainly not a place I ever would have thought to try on my own.  It was excellent.  And that is so Jeff to me – he had a way of finding the good stuff.  Whether food or film or music or book or idea or person – he found the good stuff.  I will miss his recommendations and that happy smirk he got when you agreed with him about it.

A Pause…

I don’t have it in me to write a #TheFourFriday today.  Last night, my closest group of friends received the worst possible news you can get about a friend.  We sat around for a few hours together, shellshocked, trying to individually and as a group process what it meant that our friend had taken his own life.

I’m a writer.  I process by writing my thoughts and feelings down, so bear with me as I get this out.  I’ve now had about 12 hours to sort out my reaction.  I know the stages of grief, and I don’t know exactly where I’m at, but I know a lot of words that apply to this situation.

Denial. Shock. Confusion. Anger. Guilt. Mourning. Unreal. Sorrow. Regret. Love. Why? Why? Why?

But the thing is, it all boils down to the word… Sad.  It is sad that my friend chose to take his life.  It is sad that none of us saw this coming.  It is sad that we all would have tried to help if we’d known.  It is sad that he left people who love him.  It is sad he couldn’t find the light.  It is sad that he is gone.  I am sad that he is gone.  We are sad that he is gone.

And I want to say, for anyone struggling with something to the point that it is dragging you into darkness, PLEASE talk.  Say something.  Ask for guidance.  If it gets to the point where you want it to end, make one last effort to reach out and get help.  People love you.  There is ALWAYS someone who will want to help.

I also want to say that I’m incredibly grateful for the people around me:
The friend whose phone wasn’t working and so drove over to tell me this news in person.
The friends who welcomed everyone into their home late at night to grieve together.
The man I love who was intuitive enough to go get us whiskey and bourbon when tea just wasn’t cutting it.
The parents I informed because I know they care about the people I care about.
The brother I texted because I knew he would know how I was feeling.

God bless, all.

#TheFourFriday – Luke as Whitewolf

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂


This week, Luke as Whitewolf.
Obviously as kids we all have ideas about who we’re going to be when we’re adults – what we’re going to look like, what our jobs will be, how successful we’ll be, etc.   One thing I love about how Whitewolf turned out (via fiction) is that he really basically is Luke.  Bullseye is a lot more of a burdened mess than I am.  Rave is a lot more action-driven and crazy than Christian.  Tigris is a lot more anxious and bossy than Kaly.  But Whitewolf and Luke both turned out to be pretty…normal, in the best possible way.

Also, there’s the not-insignificant detail that Luke LOOKS the most like his alter-ego.  Maybe not quite as tall or quite as muscular, but he’s certainly closer than any of the rest of us.  And certainly closer than I could’ve guessed from the chubby little toddler I could hardly lift.

While developing his character for the original Book 1, I’m not sure if I was conscious of the similarities or not.  But, thinking of real-life Luke when writing Whitewolf later helped me keep him “real” and relatable.  Of all 4 Warriors, I picture Luke the most when I’m writing his fictional replicant.  And I definitely hear his voice when Whitewolf talks, especially when he calls Tigris, “Sis.”

The Four

#TheFourFriday – Kaly in Tigris

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂


This week, Kaly’s quirks in Tigris.
When we were little and creating our characters, Kaly’s character of Tigris went through several metamorphoses.  At one point I’m pretty sure she could turn into a horse.   In our heaviest X-Men-influenced phase, Tigris basically was a ripoff of Jean Grey, constantly having her powers increase and swooning from telepathic headaches, then going on power-hungry rampages.  Still later, she took on a similar persona to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar version.   Finally, by the time I got my hands on her for the writing of The Kota Series novels, I found a way to balance everything out into the character Tigris is today.

BUT, some little Kaly quirks are still a part of Tigris (as they should always be), even if only I notice.  Such as:

  • Blond hair, petite frame.
  • Called ‘Sis’ by sibling.
  • The calm voice of reason to the group (at least when we were kids).
  • Loves ice cream. (book 1)
  • Loves horses (book 4)
  • …more that I can’t remember right now.
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I have no idea why I’m making this face at her.

#TheFourFriday – The Picture

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂


This week, The Picture.
When my mom first started babysitting Kaly and Luke, of course she took pictures of us sweet little cherubs.  Little did we know, however, that one picture in particular would lead to years of repeating the pose.  Pretty much every time we’ve gotten together over the years (…er, 2 decades?), we take a picture of our aging selves in the same order.

So you’d think I could remember the order, right?  But no.  Pretty much every single time, I confuse our arranged order with how I arrange things in my head for The Kota Warriors – Me/Bullseye, Christian/Rave, Kaly/Tigris, and Luke/Whitewolf.  OR, you’d think mom would have arranged us at least by age.  But again no.  The order actually goes Christian, Luke, Kaly, Me.

We were pretty stinkin’ cute (ignore the kid on my lap…he was a one-time thing).  Sometimes, we take the pose less seriously.  And recently, Kaly has added the next generation into the picture.

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The Four

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#TheFourFriday – the Mark

Here’s a new thing I’m going to start:

Every Friday, I’ll post something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂


First up, the Mark.
In the Kota story, each of “us” was born with a Mark on our arm/shoulder that meant we were destined to be the Kota Warriors.  In real life, I think we wanted to get tattoos of the Mark as soon as we came up with this, and when Luke (aka, Whitewolf) turned 18 we finally did it.  And since today happens to be Luke’s 28th birthday, I’m pretty sure that means our tattoos are 10 years old.
So that’s the story behind our matching tattoos.

The Four

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