#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.


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.


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.


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:


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


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.


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.)


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:


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.


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.


#TopTenTuesday – Author Resources

(This week is really only interesting to fellow writers & authors, but I thought it might be nice to share.  It can take a long time to figure out what ads/promos/how-to’s/sites are worth it vs. which ones make you want to eat your own hair.  Here’s a list of the cheap or free ones that have worked best for me with the least amount of effort required – i.e. living the dream.)  

Top 10 Favorite Author Resources:

1:   WordPress.  Okay, this seems kind of “duh,” but this is where I started to create any kind of “brand” or name for myself, and it’s very straightforward and intuitive to use.  Plus, with so many other writers on WordPress, you can just click their “follow” button and have instant access to a whole collection of blogs to read.
2:   Bitly.com.  It’s very, very handy to create shortlinks when posting everywhere.  It’s even better to be able to see which links people use and which they don’t.
3:   SocialOomph.com.  Yes, it seems like cheating to set up Tweets ahead of time.  But it’s a huge relief to know you’ve got SOMETHING posting every day without your having to take time to promote your work.  (Just, for the love of goodness, don’t auto-tweet promos 10x a day – no one wants to see that!)  I use this in conjunction with Bitly, and it’s pretty easy to keep track of what works.
4:   NovelRank.com.  Honestly, there are probably better systems out there that track the sales of your books.  But a friend in publishing asked me to try this because some of her authors wondered about it, and I’ve stuck with it because it works well enough for me.  Also, I like the app for my iPhone…not that I check my sales hourly, but it’s nice to have.
5:   Makerbook.net.  This is a good artsy resource to get to a lot of other artsy resources.  They have collections of places to get stock photography, fonts, audio, video, etc.  It’s just an easy site to find everything  you’d want at once.
6:   TheFussyLibrarian.com.  If you’re willing to pay (not a lot) to get on daily emails to subscribing readers, this is a pretty good place to start.  I’ve made my money back easily every time I’ve used them.  Plus they send out intelligent newsletters with helpful author info.
7:  ReadCheaply.com.  I tried this on a whim and saw the most downloads of my book that I’ve ever seen.  Definitely great if you have a free book that can lead to sales of another book.
8:  AwesomeGang.com.  They have a free promo option, and I’ve seen sales just from that.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s certainly worth what little time and effort are required.
9:   AskDavid.com.  This is another one of those “why not try it?” things that works pretty well.  It sets up a page for your book, plus tweets out about your book, PLUS you get a handful of tweets you can create yourself and they’ll send out whenever you want.
10: Alinka Rutkowska’s advice page.  I randomly found this (translation: I can’t remember how), and the links on this page are really helpful.  You tend to see the same advice over and over, and little of it tends to be useful.  BUT, this woman has a lot of new ideas  that made me go “Oh, I can do that,” and almost all of them are little tweaks you can make to your marketing approach for free.  You can grab her book on Amazon for free (I think) here.


Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!

#TopTenTuesday – Actresses

Top 10 Favorite Actresses:

1:   Kate Winslet.  I’m not going to lie – having my name in the title of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind set me up to like the movie.  Whatever my reasons, this is still one of my favorite Winslet roles.  No matter what character she’s playing, though, I’ve always found her relatable.  (Yes, that includes Divergent…don’t judge me.)
2:   Tatiana Maslany.  I got into Orphan Black around the middle of the second season. Holy crap.  How one actress can play such vastly different characters so convincingly – often having to fake act with herself – is beyond me.  Somehow she can play one clone who’s pretending to be another clone, and you still know which one she really is because of subtle mannerisms or facial changes or whatever that she brings to each.  Amazing.
3:   Angelina Jolie.  I’m always torn with the whole “pretty actress” thing because I think a lot of them coast on their looks.  But the emotion that Jolie can bring to life on screen really is respectable.  And I also respect the roles she chooses, often political, often stories that might not get attention if she wasn’t involved.
4:   Meryl Streep.  Cuz she’s MERYL STREEP.
5:   Emma Stone.  If she’s in a movie, at some point I’m probably going to laugh.
6:   Cate Blanchett.  Something about seeing her face on the screen immediately makes me pay attention.  She’s captivating.
7:  Katharine Hepburn.  When I first started watching old movies with any kind of commitment, I started with a lot of the other Hepburn.  Audrey is fine, I like her work, but she was always a little too proper and girly for me.  Then I found The Philadelphia Story and Katharine H., and suddenly here was a tomboy smartass I could identify with.  She had a sort of ease about her onscreen that draws me in.
8:  Maggie Smith  I can’t think of any character she’s played that I haven’t liked.  And I might enjoy her character on Downton Abbey a little too much, because blunt delivery of opinion is probably how I’m going to be if I make it to old age….if my grandmother is any indication.
9:   Marion Cotillard.  She’s just lovely.  My first exposure to her was Big Fish, but I didn’t realize that until Inception, when I looked her up and decided I was a fan.  Then Midnight in Paris… The Dark Knight Rises… And I’m looking forward to MacBeth.
10: Laura Linney.  Often when I find myself liking a character and not thinking about “oh, it’s the actress from THIS or THAT,” it’s Laura Linney.  She’s just consistently good without being overly attention-stealing or flashy.

(On any given day when my tastes are slightly different, switch up with Myrna Loy, Keira Knightley, Octavia Spencer,  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judi Dench, Jessica Chastain…)

Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!

#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.


Top 10 Favorite Things About Fall:

1:   Halloween.  People who don’t like Halloween make me sad.  Who doesn’t like goofing off and getting to have the imagination of a kid again?  And as a creative, author-y type, it’s wonderful to see everyone joining in on how my mind functions most of the time anyway.  I’m not actually a huge candy person.  But I do love a good spooking.
2:   Cider.  I grew up in an area known for apple orchards.  There’s still something homey about making cider or drinking the local cider…although adult-me now usually adds rum.
3:   TV.  Because I’m too busy in the summer to watch much TV, I usually save up on any show that sounds interesting and then binge on all of it once Fall and a slower pace of daily life rolls in.  All I want to do most nights is curl up and lose myself in a good show.
4:   Bugs dying.  I also grew up in an area that grows mosquitoes by the millions.  Not having to swat at my skin when outside is a huge plus of Fall.
5:   Layering clothes.  I’m honestly more of a bare feet, jeans, and tank top kind of girl, but if I have to wear more clothes, I do like layering, usually with a flannel (I am a teen of the 90s, after all).  It’s a nice change with Fall weather to feel like you can be comfy but not TOO bundled yet.
6:   Leaves changing.  It’s absolutely gorgeous in Michigan in the Fall.  We might not have the best roads, but the trees all along those roads almost make up for it once hues of orange, red, purple, etc. start to take over.
7:  Ichabod, by New Holland Brewing.  Of all the oktoberfest beers, pumpkin beers, pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING everywhere you try to buy something — Ichabod is by far my favorite.  This is the one thing that always “starts” Fall for me.  When Ichabod is finally on the shelves, I accept that summer is over.
8:  Bonfires  Summer bonfires still risk swarms of mosquitos, and usually they just make me hot.  But Fall bonfires are a time I can indulge my love of fire and not be uncomfortable.  A little nip in the air is a nice thing, and a good bonfire is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening with a circle of friends.
9:   School resuming.  Nothing against children, but it’s nice when they’re not loud and running up and down the street every day anymore.  And college resuming means I get to watch sports and see theatre productions again.
10: Pumpkin carving.  I like scooping out and getting into the squishy, icky bits.  I’m a horror with knives and need supervision, but I love carving weird faces.  Plus, again, fire.


Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!

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