Last Year’s Rose

I’d say that I’m planning on playing more with the new software today, but I’m starting to accumulate projects that I need to be working on. While my calendar for March isn’t nearly as full or as colorful as April and May, March is when the crazy starts to really seep in and I need to get those projects done before that happens. The projects are all creative in nature and I’ll be sharing those when I get to them.

I’m also struggling to come up with my next submission for the magazine. I’d had plans in place and fingers crossed for a book on my TBR, but it didn’t work out. Now I’m scrambling to find one that will work and I have to work that in along with the projects. I still have time, but I was really hoping that I’d have a whole lot more cushion to that time.

If I don’t get all of that at least planned and organized, time is going to sneak up on me and bite me in the ass and something is going to slip. That means, I’m going to probably going to be busy. I have a feeling that between the upcoming projects and the insanity that is my calendar in the next several months, I might just be a bit of a mess for a while.

Tiny Bit of Self Promotion: An Unexpected Turn

I haven’t mentioned anything about my book in a while and thought I’d put this out there just in case any of you hadn’t seen it yet. Or… if any of you felt nice enough to push it on share it with your reader friends. Or even just say nice things about it to other people. That’d be awesome!

I’m about a month shy of the one year anniversary of this release, so I’m hoping it sees a little love.

Blurb:

“When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m surprised that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look different than the one I’ve seen staring back at me for the last 27 years. I see the same brown hair and brown eyes, the same heart-shaped face, the same upturned nose. I feel like I should look different. That my face should show the upheaval and the weight of the last day, that it should somehow show how much has happened, how the course of my life has changed, but everything is still the same.”

Life is rarely ever predictable. It is rarely even kind. But… sometimes… just sometimes, those unexpected turns that throw you into the chaos and upheaval of loss lead you to the exact place you need to be.

This is a story about love, but it isn’t a romance. It is about holding on when it would be easier to let go, about fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves. It is about finding and creating family through the unpredictable, beautiful mess that is life.

 

It is still available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and paperback.
An Unexpected Turn on Amazon

If any of you are on BookSirens and want to get a review copy: An Unexpected Turn on BookSirens

 

Now I’ve Done It

I finally caved.

I’ve been using an old version of Photoshop. In software terms, it could probably be considered an antique because of how many new versions have come out since my version was released. I had originally bought the suite when I had intended to do graphic design. It had all the programs I wanted to play with, but any Adobe products are expensive as hell. Worth it if you are going to be doing that kind of work.

Years later and I’m not doing graphics work. I have still used many of the products to work on any number of projects over the years, but almost all of them were for fun stuff, not make money stuff, so I’ve never been able to justify upgrading. What I had still worked great and the version of files I was using didn’t matter, so I saw no real need to fork over the cost. Especially since they moved to a subscription model.

With the work I’ve done for Envie! and as into photography as I’ve gotten lately, I’ve been incredibly tempted, but still couldn’t justify how much that stuff costs. Especially because there are 3 different programs in particular that I’d really want, so would be forced to do the entire suite of programs for the full price.

I’m beginning to think that Adobe can read minds now because I got an email offering an incredible discount for a year and I absolutely caved. I now have the latest and greatest products.

I haven’t had a ton of time to play just yet, but the little I’ve seen, especially with Photoshop… I feel like I’ve been trying to create a masterpiece using crayon. It could probably be done, but with a crap ton more talent and work than really necessary. I’m really kind of blown away. I knew it was different to an extent, but not to this extent.

I’m crazy excited to dig in deeper. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the other programs yet. It is going to take me a bit to figure out all the differences and all the fun new things I can do. The photo above was just me messing around trying to learn some of that. Below is the one I posted before so you can see the difference.

Dried Up Maple Leaf
Dried Up Maple Leaf

Geese On Frozen Pond

Okay, so not my best photo, but thought I’d share. While this pond isn’t currently frozen, the geese seem to be everywhere lately. On the street going to BG’s dance studio, they need to put in crossing signs for them. I’ve had to stop several times in the last couple of weeks because they decided to take over the road. I’m just glad they don’t want to hang out in our yard.

The ballet last night was amazing! I really shouldn’t be surprised as I’ve always loved ballet, but I am. I’d never seen Swan Lake, even in a video, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I have seen certain small pieces here and there that I guess I didn’t connect to Swan Lake or didn’t remember that was where those pieces came from so when I saw those performed on stage last night, I was all excited that I was getting to see it live.

There are certain things that I love to see when it comes to ballet. The really intricate, tight, synchronized choreography of larger groups of dancers that create these stunning effects, especially when you are positioned to see the whole stage from above. There is just something about watching that when the dancers nail those moves to such a degree of perfection that blows my mind. Swan lake had several dances that fell into this category for me and I spent quite a bit of time just sitting in awe.

Having watched BG learning ballet over the years, I’ve learned the names for a lot of what I saw. It was really interesting to see the professionals doing the same moves that BG is learning or has done. When she told me about the black swan at intermission and how she does 32 fouettes at some point, I knew what she was talking about and understood how impressive that truly is. Ballet is meant to look easy and effortless when the reality is that it so isn’t. This was the first professional ballet I’ve seen since she started ballet, so it was an even more incredible experience to see it knowing how insanely hard and technically difficult all those moves really are.

I had to laugh, though. We’d joked before we left that BG would be dancing in her seat when her song came on. Apparently, the piece she is doing for recital is a piece that you hear multiple times (or at least some similar version if not the full piece) throughout the entire ballet. Every time she’d hear it start, she’d look over at me with a grin and do these small hand and head movements that were pared down versions of what she’d be doing in her routine. When she whispered over to me at one point, “This part is my front line” it really drove home how much I loved that she got the opportunity to see and experience this.

Not only did we love the ballet itself, but we both got to dress up and look amazing. Not that it is hard for her at all, she’d look amazing in a sack. It is the first time in forever that I went all out. It felt really good. I’m so glad that we did this and that I didn’t end up missing out.

 

Swan Lake Day: Sorry, No Photo

I don’t have a photo to post today because I’m busy getting ready to go see Swan Lake with my girl. I’ve never seen it before, so I’m so excited to get to experience this with BG.

I’d say I’d have some pictures for you from the ballet, but I have no intention of taking my camera (not that I think it would be allowed anyway) so I can just sit and enjoy. Have a great Sunday!

Book Review: Last Memoria – Rachel Emma Shaw

Author: Rachel Emma Shaw
Book Name: Last Memoria
Release Date: May 10, 2020
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3 Stars

3 Stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories.
Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I always struggle with writing a review when my personal opinion and preferences conflict with the quality of a book. This book pulls me in all directions because I’ve hit that kind of conflict as you can see by the disparity in my above area ratings.

I’ll be upfront and say that this isn’t the kind of book I enjoy. It has a heavy, depressing theme throughout that never really lets up. I struggled to like or sympathize with the characters because their thoughts and actions tend to heavily reflect that theme. If I had understood that ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have read this. If I hadn’t been reading specifically for a review, I might not have finished at close to the half way point for that same reason. But those are my personal preferences, so take it with a grain of salt.

That said, this was definitely a well written, unique storyline with a nicely developed and interesting world. Anyone that likes the darker tones in their stories with deeply, humanly flawed characters would probably really enjoy this.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: Oath Sworn, Jacky Leon – Book #1

Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Oath Sworn
Release Date: July 15, 2019
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Jacky Leon isn’t someone who goes looking for trouble. She owns a bar, pays her taxes, and serves her drinks cold outside a small town in Texas. The fact that she’s a werecat is just something she’s had to live with. Alone in her territory, she’s lived a secretive life for six years: under the radar, avoiding her past and the baggage that comes with it.

Trouble finds Jacky, though, in the form of an eleven year old girl and a werewolf turf war just outside her borders. Forced to honor an ancient treaty and the Laws of the supernatural world, Jacky swears an oath to protect Carey Everson, the human daughter of a local werewolf Alpha from Dallas.

When his enemies come after Jacky and her charge, she’s going to have to embrace the more dangerous side of who and what she is. She’s going to have to challenge the very Laws that govern her kind.

And nothing is going to stop her from honoring her word.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

I already tend to be a sucker when kids or taking care of kids takes a big role in a book. Combine that with a fantasy book with shifters in it and I could not pass this one up.

The second that “get the kid” scenario popped up in the story, I was seriously hooked. I loved how the problem of this really out there premise is presented. For one, that is kind of right up my alley as far as a kid premise goes and I’m always fascinated to see how an author can pull that theme off, if they can actually do it in a way that makes a reader believe it. Because this was a fantasy, it was a cool and unique way of presenting the problem and the author sold it really well. And believe me, I was watching that closely as I know how hard it is to make that work, so I was thrilled to see it pulled off.

That whole premise and how it ties into the world that is created here helps to add to the uniqueness factor of what would otherwise be a normal shifter style book. You get the range of paranormal creatures often seen in UF, though the main focus are the werecats and werewolves, but the background and history of this world felt new and different.

The only reason this didn’t tip over into a full 5 star range for me is that once you hit that shift in the story (a little over the half way mark), the plot slows a bit and I lose a tiny bit of what I loved about the first part.

I really enjoyed this and already have the next in the series downloaded and ready to dig into.

 

Brittle Winter Veins

PSA from a whiny, wimpy girl:

Whiny, wimpy girl cannot recommend attempting to repierce your own ears. Especially if you are whiny and wimpy, cannot handle pain (at least in odd areas that aren’t used to feeling pain) and may potentially faint in circumstances like getting your blood drawn.

No. Seriously. Just don’t.

Except, this whiny, wimpy girl is also an idiot and did just that yesterday.

Somehow, at some point, I must have scraped the inside of my earlobe and when I didn’t wear any earrings for an extended period of time, one of my holes closed to the point I couldn’t get an earring in. Over the last several months, after I realized this was an issue, I’ve tried to see if I could manage to get various different earrings in, but was never able to.

Idiot that I am, I really didn’t want to try and go somewhere and spend money to have someone poke that hole back open. I was also pissed that I have all these amazing earrings, many that I’ve made over the years, that I couldn’t wear. With MC’s scholarship ceremony (which was really cool, BTW), the ballet and a whole list of things coming up in the next month or two, I was determined to figure out exactly how closed off it really was.

I grabbed a pair of small studs that I’d be able to leave in for a while. In all my attempts, I’d never gotten the post to go much past the opening. Yesterday, when I tried, I had this immediate “pop” and that sucker was in farther than I’d been able to get it. It didn’t even really hurt much, though there was a little blood, which I was handling decently at the moment. I thought “Awesome! This is going to be easier than I thought!”

There was still some resistance past that point, so I pulled the earring back out, cleaned it up really well, coated it in alcohol and tried again. It would NOT go any farther. I twisted my earlobe to see what the backside was looking like and I could see that there really only was a small layer of skin to get through. No big deal right?

So wrong!

Did I mention I’m a whiny, wimpy baby when it comes to certain pains? And yes, I have been known to pass out getting my blood drawn.

I was now feeling a bit lightheaded after that little bit of blood and the longer it took to finish, the more my stupid brain focused on it and the worse I got. It didn’t help one bit that this tiny piece of skin was stubborn and I think holds about 95% of my entire body’s nerve endings, every single one of them telling my brain “This shit hurts!”

I’m in the bathroom off my kitchen having decided that right before the kids get home was the perfect time to do this. The pain and queasiness got so bad, I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out, so I had to lay down on the floor. I’m laying there and imagining MC walking in from school and freaking out to find his mom half in and half out of the bathroom on the floor like an unmoving blob, so I forced myself to get back up not wanting to scar the kid for life.

Nothing I did got that paper thin layer to break. Each time I took the earring out to clean it and reposition it, I got queasier. My brain convincing me that breaking through that skin was going to create a gush of blood. I did get a little smarter at that point and started using some ice on the lobe to numb it up, but that only dulled it down a little.

The earring wasn’t doing the trick with a dull post end, so I got a pin and did the same thing. Cue even more pain. And still no break through. I resorted to putting pencil eraser against the back of my earlobe hoping to give it some leverage. This between breaks of me sitting on the toilet lid with my head between my legs trying to get the room to quit spinning while yelling at myself in my head for being an idiot of extreme proportions.

But apparently that didn’t help. I was still a frickin’ idiot. A stubborn and determined one because I WAS going to get to wear my earrings again, dammit! After more ice, a really numb earlobe, MC getting home and laughing is butt off at me then hightailing it to his room so he doesn’t have to see his mother lose her lunch, I manage to get the tip of the pin to finally break through. Yes!

Uh, okay. Nope. The skin is now broken, but it refuses to open up enough to let the post of the earring through. This starts another round of fighting off passing out or puking.

More ice, more wimpiness and lots of whiny whimpering later, I finally manage to get that damn earring all the way through, shockingly, with no more blood. So yes, I did what I set out to do, but damn! That was such a bad idea. I’m so lucky I didn’t actually pass out and crack my head open on the toilet.

It wasn’t until it was all over and I was still fighting of feeling queasy hours later that I realized that part of why it was so frickin’ hard to break through that layer of skin is because it was probably a thin layer of scar tissue.

So, no. I really, REALLY don’t recommend this method. Just go somewhere and have a professional do it. It is over in seconds, not nearly an hour. And if it hurts, you can blame their technique and not your own personal idiocy. But hey! I can now wear all those amazing earrings I have sitting around collecting some tarnish.

 

 

Graphics For Envie! Magazine

So… that graphics project I mentioned? I was asked to redo the logo for Envie! Magazine as well as work up a badge for their blog awards. In the process of working on those, we decided it would be really awesome to make a badge for any of the staff members that wanted them for blogs or websites.

The designs are now officially done and I can share them, even though they haven’t been put in place everywhere just yet and the staff badges still need to be personalized.

It has been a while since I had the opportunity to really play with any graphics outside of creating a t-shirt design for science club. Getting to work on this was such a blast! Yes, it was technically work, but for me it was fun. This is the kind of work I love to do. I especially love it when I’m working with great people that make the project even more fun.

I’m so thrilled with how these turned out and so grateful that I got the chance to work on these.

New logo:

Envie! Magazine Logo
Envie! Magazine Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Award Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Blog Badge
Envie! Magazine Blog Badge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Member Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Staff Badge
Envie! Magazine Staff Badge

 

Painting The Mood

Of all the “accidents” I managed, this one is has a different kind of interest for me as it almost has a painting like look to it. There are so many times I’ll look at the sky, especially a sunset, and it looks like it has been painted there. I think this is one of the only times I’ve ever managed to flip that on it’s head and get a photo that looks like a painting of the sky.

Continuing The Theme

Here is another moody one from the series of photos I got “accidentally”. It fits my mood at the moment. Can you believe that my cough is actually worse after having gone to the doctor? And not in that “it sometimes gets worse before it gets better” kind of way, either. For this reason alone, I’m ready for spring and warmer temps. This crap is… well… crap.

Cool Mistake

I’ve mentioned before that some of the coolest things I’ve ever created started as a mistake. This may be one of them.

I took this while we were driving the other day. The sun was doing this peekaboo thing from behind the clouds, but there was still a sort of thin layer in front, so it was being filtered, creating this amazing effect. I attempted to get a shot of it, but it was still too bright and blew out my shot.

Because I was in a moving car, I had to adjust quickly or miss the shot. In going that fast, I pushed the levels just a bit too far to the dark end of the scale, but the results are amazing. It really wasn’t that dark, but I love how much of an eerie feel these photos ended up with. Especially with the stark, black silhouette of the trees.

I have another one or two I’ll share over the next couple of days.

Book Review: Great Balls of Fury, Federal Bureau of Magic – Book #1

Author: Annabel Chase
Book Name: Great Balls of Fury
Release Date: February 22, 2019
Series: Federal Bureau of Magic Cozy Myster
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Annoying but loving family? Check.

Picturesque small town with a hot police chief? Check.

A rescue hellhound, a black cat with attitude, and a pet python that thinks he’s a puppy? Triple check.

My story has all the hallmarks of a sweet and cozy supernatural tale, but there’s a twist—

I am evil.

Well, I’m supposed to be evil thanks to both nature and nurture, but I fight it with every fiber of my being. I just want to live a normal life. I even joined the FBI instead of the Federal Bureau of Magic, until my powers reared their ugly head and the agency sent me packing back to my hometown to fight magical crimes instead.

Now I’m back in Chipping Cheddar, living with my evil family, with a new job and all my old baggage.

Oh, and there’s a dead body, which was definitely not an accident.

So there you have it. Welcome to my world.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

I honestly struggled with this one. Mostly, I like the bones of the story and the world that is created here. I like the idea that the main character is a fury.

But… and there are few of these… but, there are just some things that didn’t work for me. Normally I love me some irreverent snark and attitude. I’m pretty sure that was the direction this is trying to go with the family dynamics, but instead of it coming across as funny, it feel ugly and mean, something I’m not a fan of at all.

I also sort of get this feeling that if there is a paranormal/mystical type of creature that exists anywhere in mythology or fantasy, there is a very high probability that you are going to see it at some point in one of these books. That may not actually be the case. It just feels like this has that catch all flavor, instead of a specific, defined basis for the overall world, like it isn’t entirely sure what kind of fantasy/paranormal type of book it really wants to be.

The main character is interesting, but again, not completely defined to where you really know who she is. The side characters have personality, but they are either strangely ugly (the family) or lacking in much depth. Again, you aren’t really sure who they are as characters.

While I mostly liked this, it was a little weak in areas and pushed my peeves in others.

 

 

Red Tailed Hawk

It seems that whenever I see a hawk, especially one close, I don’t have my camera with me. Probably because that is often when I’m in my car.

We went to my FIL’s yesterday and I decided to take my camera on the off change I’d be able to get something cool, even if it was from a moving vehicle (something that rarely actually happens). Shockingly, I saw dozens of hawks yesterday. Sadly, by the time I saw them, we were already up on them or just too far beyond and I couldn’t get my camera ready in time.

By the time we were almost home, it sort of became this hawk spotting adventure for everyone. Of course, from the time we got off the highway and close to home, we were no longer seeing them. We decided to make a quick pass through the new section and I managed to grab a shot of this guy.

He really was just a bit too far away for me to get a good shot. Even then, this is pretty heavily cropped and the quality isn’t great, but I got a picture anyway.

I predict that the next time I get in my car without my camera, there will be a hawk  sitting on a tree or one of the lamp posts nearby and close enough to almost touch.

Last Of The Snow?

It is still way too early to tell. As of right now, we don’t have any more in the forecast. It is one of the reasons why I hauled MC out yesterday afternoon to try and get a few more photos for his senior pictures because he was adamant he wanted some done in the snow (because that is SO him, the gamer guy that rarely leaves his lair to venture into nature).

We’d had a beautiful, if cold, perfectly clear sky, sunny day. All day. I’d been watching the light trying to figure out the best time to try and get my shots. Just as we walked out the door, clouds came rushing in from the west and killed the light. Of course it did!

I still managed to get a few good ones, but I need to do some editing on them as they aren’t quite good enough. MC said he wants to do some with a range of backgrounds like sunset or even in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. I actually think it is a brilliant idea as I’ll have been taking pictures of him all throughout his senior year. Talk about putting together a true senior portrait package!

They won’t look all perfect and professional, because doing portraits is so not my thing. But… I have several that are really good already. I’m going to have a hell of a time trying to decide which one(s) I’m going to want to print to hang on the wall. I may have to come up with something really creative and do something like a large collage with all of them. I don’t know yet, but something.

On a side note, I’ll be editing my private post with the most current update on that situation for those that chimed in.

Frozen Bubbles!

I did it! I braved the horrid cold and managed to get several amazing shots yesterday. It took a little while as the area I set up in still wasn’t entirely protected by the wind and they broke easily. I felt a bit like a circus monkey in the process.

Blow a bubble, set down the bubble stuff, drop to my camera and attempt to focus only to not be able to find the bubble in my viewfinder because it had already broken. Pop up, rinse and repeat over and over. I did my best to keep them in mostly the same location, but I still needed to refocus on every single one and that sometimes took longer than the bubble could last.

Broken Soap Bubble
Broken Soap Bubble

I got nearly as many broken bubbles as I got whole ones. I almost love the broken ones the most because the way they collapse or break adds so much character and interest.

Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble

There are so many things I love about doing these. One is that they are very much like snowflakes in that each one freezes a little differently and creates different feathery, snowflake like patters across the surface.

Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble

It is amazing to watch the process of those patterns forming as the bubble freezes.

Broken Frozen Soap Bubble
Broken Frozen Soap Bubble

I had done a little research to see if there was something I could do to make my bubbles stronger. Found that using glycerine is supposed to help and I think it does some. Sadly, it also looks like adding that makes these so much harder to freeze. Of course, it took me about 15 bubbles before I realized these weren’t freezing the same as the ones I did last year, so I had to run back in and remake my bubble solution before I could get any decent photos.

Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Soap Bubble Just Starting To Freeze
Soap Bubble Just Starting To Freeze

Side Note

The last post is private for a reason. I’d love some feedback and I’d love several of my regular readers to chime in, but I need to not have the post public. Drop me a message through my contact page and I’ll send you the password if you want access.

Sunset Geese

It is bitterly cold today. Funny, it is also sunny for the first time in a while. The cold and the bit of snow we got late yesterday caused school to cancel today. The timing is such that it gives my kids a 5 day weekend because there were in service days planned for tomorrow and Monday.

I would say that with the sun, it is a perfect day to get out and get pictures, but we are looking at low single digit temps and sub-zero wind chills (the biggest reason why schools closed). I really don’t like the snow enough to freeze bits of myself right off my body, so I’m just going to sit here in my chair and enjoy the snow on the ground against a sunny, blue sky day through the window while enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee, burrowed under my blankets.

If there wasn’t a breeze, I’d risk it to go play with bubbles, but not only is that wind COLD, it makes it impossible to do bubbles. Almost always seems to work that way. Finally get temps low enough and sun, but it always comes with that wind.