Sunday, December 16, 2012

Scrappy Sunday: Gratitude (November Journal Cover)

Back with another pagemaps challenge. This one was really great.

Here is the sketch:

And here's my take on it. I used it for my November journal cover.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Scrappy Sunday: OWSE Red and Green Challenge

So I've been doing most of my scrapbook challenges off the Pagemaps blog, but I also do one for the wonderful group over at Outlaw Women's Scrapbooking Emporium. They have awesome challenges every month, as well as a great website and store.
This was actually the November challenge page I made. It was supposed to be anything using red and green. I was going to go with the Christmas theme (obvious), but I'm not very good at making pages for pictures I don't have yet, and I wasn't in the mood to scrap old pictures from last year. So I did some of Gabe's soccer team this summer. The red gingham reminds me so much of summer!

Here's the 2 page layout. The left page layout design is lifted from one of the wonderful weekly sketches over at Sketch Inspiration, another wonderful site I don't utilize nearly as often as I should. Stop over if you have time! Another group of wonderful, supportive, talented scrappers over there. Thanks!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scrappy Sunday: Pagemaps November Challenge

Hi guys,
Here is another awesome challenge from the talented designers over at Pagemaps.

This one was pretty simple for me. Here's a list of the suppllies I used:

cardstock: making memories, letters, flowers: Making Memories
chipboard hearts, rub-on flowers: KI Memories
Pen: Uniball signo
Ink: Stampabilities
Other: Tag, ribbon, staples

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scrappy Sunday: Halloween!

Hey guys. I know it's been a while since I posted on here, so I thought I'd share a scrapbook page I made for a recent Pagemaps challenge. I love Halloween!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scrappy Sunday (pagemaps challenge)

Okay, I'm a bit obsessed with Pagemaps lately. They have a newly resigned blog, too! There's a new challenge up that goes until September 2, so of course I had to do it. I'm a little behind on my pictures (probably a few years), but I'm scrapping my Florida trip right now. Here is the page I made for their newest challenge!

I used American Traditional Designs scrapbook bundle for this one, as well as a few of their stickers and embellishment kits. I have a lot of their travel stuff, and it all coordinates. Paper, border strip, tags, stickers, tabs, ribbon, etc, are all from their line. I also used SEI spray ink for the background, a brad from my stash, and Stampabilities ink.

I had a lot of pictures I wanted to use, so I made another page to go with it, also using one of the sketches at Pagemaps (August sketches). This page goes on the left side, the other on the right.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Scrappy Sunday!

Yay! It's time for more scrapbook pages. I'm posting another page I made from one of the sketches from Page Maps. They have a monthly challenge, which you can find over on their blog.

Thanks to their wonderful site for all the inspiration!

I also entered this page in the Hot Summer Days Layout Challenge over at Outlaw Women's Scrapbooking Emporium.
Supplies used in this project:
Cardstock, patterned paper, tags, accents, tabs: American Traditional Designs kit
flower brads: Colorbok
Stickers (sand dollars): Miss Elizabeth's
stamps: Stampabilities (journaling), 7 gypies (round)
other: staples, adhesive, pen

I really like that I was able to use a bunch of stuff that's been unused in my stash forever! I hardly ever use page kits, but I've had this one for a long time, and I was happy to finally have some pictures to use it for. I have to admit, it took a lot of work out of finding products to coordinate, which usually takes up most of my time on a project.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: The Concubine's Gift by K. Ford K.

Today's book review is extra special! I'm done reading this fun novel and thought I'd pass it on so someone else could enjoy it, too. Please see details after review for a chance to win a paperback copy of this awesome book. (Only open to US residents. Sorry for any inconvenience!)

When the author of The Concubine’s Gift contacted me asking for a review, I admit I was skeptical. I’m not much of a romance reader. In fact, most romance novels are a huge turn-off for me, because I either despise the arrogant jerk that the heroine inevitably falls in love with, or I find the whole book unbelievably cheesy and trite. However, I hesitantly agreed to read this book when the author sent me a copy, and I’m glad I made an exception from my romance rule for The Concubine’s Gift.

First and foremost, I have to warn readers that this is not your typical romance. In fact, if possible, this is a romance novel but not a love story. I think that’s why I liked it. A lot of romance novels just don’t convince me. I don’t believe the romance. I don’t buy it. There’s too many clich├ęs, too many overused devices (love at first sight? Oh, please. Love triangle? Sigh. A handsome stranger coming to the rescue? Eyeroll). The Concubine’s Gift avoids all these pitfalls and more. If you’re looking for a novel about a beautiful brainless bombshell being swept off her feet by a swarthy swaggering swindler-of-virtue, look elsewhere. Trust me, you’ll find many, many books that are exactly what you’re looking for. They are a dime a dozen. The Concubine’s Gift is something else, something new and refreshing. It’s a sexy novel about, well, sex, as well as self-discovery.
As we watch Bernice come into her own and accept herself, we can cheer for her because she’s just like you and me. She’s not meeting the hottest guy on earth and falling in love with him the moment she lays eyes on him. She’s working and talking to her friends, trying to seduce her reluctant husband and shopping for antiques. It’s one of these antiques that provides the catalyst for the story when Bernice finds a concubine’s magical face powder, which allows her to see the secret to a happy sex life—for those around her.
Some of the sex scenes are glossed over, while others go into minute detail. I never felt frustrated by lack of detail in the former, or overwhelmed with raunchiness in the latter. The author walks the line between sexy and dirty well, never venturing too far into the obscene. Just when you think she might (lesbian threesome? What is this, a frat-guy fantasy?), instead she breezes right through with minimal detail, focusing on the lasting changes resulting from it, and goes on to a more detailed account of another scenario. The sex scenes were creative and varied, some a bit titillating and some matter-of-fact. I found the varying degree of explicitness made for a more interesting, tasteful read and kept it from sinking to the thrusty and porn-like play-by-play of some romances.
The Concubine’s Gift is sexy, straightforward, and sometimes just a bit silly. I don’t know if I would have made it through Bernice’s story if she had been a typical helpless heroine, or even an butt-stomping, wise-cracking badass. No, Bernice is just your ordinary working woman, trying to be proper, worrying about her disapproving mother, estranged brother, ungrateful children, inattentive husband, and sexually free neighbor. And that’s what makes her such an accessible character who we can relate to so well. After all, who hasn’t wondered at some point, when our kids are screaming in the front yard, or we stop ourselves from telling someone what we really think of their kids screaming in the front yard, WHAT WOULD THE NEIGHBORS THINK?!
I enjoyed reading about those neighbors, the town, its founding and history, and the political struggles surrounding the brothel. The townspeople were also entertaining, although most of them are not developed well enough to get a real sense of their personalities. Most of the book has a light tone, which makes it a quick, light read. A few errors in punctuation (frequent missing commas) were scattered throughout, but nothing glaring.
Although I enjoyed the novel, I did find the whole great-sex-will-fix-your-life theme a bit tiresome. I’m not one to discount the importance of sex in a happy marriage, or to say that it’s something we shouldn’t look for in a partner. However, I doubt that having a good sex life is going to make all your problems disappear. It was implied throughout the book, and really pounded home when Bernice sees her teenage daughter taking one of two paths—having adventurous sex with a boy who will break her heart and then leading a happy, fulfilling life afterwards, or missing out on great sex with her high-school sweetheart and going on to lead a stifled life as an uptight, fearful mouse. Although I’m not much for romance novels themselves (I need more going on than two people falling in love), I do believe that romance, like sex, is important in healthy relationships. I think love is important, and that’s one thing missing from this book. Love didn’t seem to factor into most of the stories. They seemed to all suggest that fulfilling your sexual potential will fulfill your life, and love is either unnecessary in the equation or will inevitably follow. And yes, that is the part I didn’t buy. I can swallow the rest, magic makeup included.

Overall, a well-edited and engaging read that I would recommend to romance readers and other adults looking for some fanciful entertainment.

Today, I am pleased to bring to you not only a review, but also a giveaway! I am passing on the copy of The Concubine's Gift that the author was kind enough to provide for review. This is a paperback, the same one I read. It might show a little wear, but it's in great condition. If you want a chance to read the novel, here it is!
Here's how:
Follow my blog (1 entry if you already follow or become a follower), share this on Twitter (+1 entry), Facebook (+1) and Google plus (+1). Blog this or link it to your blog (+2 entries). Any other form of social media sharing adds extra entries. Please leave me a comment letting me know if you've done any of these and I'll drop your name in the hat.
Become a fan of K. Ford K on Goodreads or add this book to your TBR list here! Bonus entry for that, as well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Read The Superiors free!

Hey all,

I got in on this late, but Smashwords is having their summer sale this month, so for the next week, The Superiors will be free on that site! If you have an ereader, you can download the book for free in any format. Check it out, and all the other great books you can get free this month.

Also, many more books are half off or more, including my second book, The Vigilantes.

Happy reading!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Scrapbooking pagemaps challenge

As some of you may know, I'm an on-again scrapbooker. So...I decided to post a few layouts now and then. Right now I'm making a scrapbook about life, one about me and my significant other, and my never-ending project is to scrapbook my son's life. So...

Here is a page from one of them.
I created this page for a challenge over at pagemaps. Thanks to Becky Fleck for the great, detailed sketch. To see the sketch or enter the challenge, go here.

Here is a list of some of the supplies I used:
Background paper: Daisy D's
other patterned papers: American Crafts (scalloped), 7 gypsies (music note), Paper Studio (hearts, rose petals)
vellum: Remember When
ink: Paper Studio (brown), Clearsnap/colorbox (pink), ATC (glitter spray ink), Sharpie (pen)
sentiment: Making Memories
Element stickers: All My Memories

other: canvas, burlap thread, staples, doilly, ticket, tag & photo corner

Monday, July 2, 2012

Minnesota heat-wave

We left home thinking Minnesota...nice break from the heat. Ha. Ha. Ha. It is 93 degrees here, hotter in the cities. And so humid you could slice the air with a knife...or a mosquito!

Phew. I'm standing here sweating as I write this, having earlier soaked my shirt in cold water to cool off, which did not work due to the humidity keeping all the moisture on me! Let's is what has happened since my last blog.

On Saturday we were going to go to Duluth, but decided against it because we thought the crowds would be too bad. Marcia, Katherine, Craig and the whole crew of uncles and aunts were up. Instead of heading up to Duluth, we went to Sturgeon Lake. The water was clean and cool, and after Stephen and Deane fixed the dock, which had floated away in last week's rains, we jumped off the end and swam. I went for a little kayak ride, watched Gabe play and swim, and swam for a while myself. We had to stay out on the dock in the sun because all the mosquitoes swarmed us the moment we set foot in the shade.

That evening we went back to Deane's and Katherine cooked a wonderful meal of smoked salmon, dressing, mashed potatoes, bread, salad, beets, and zucchini. Matt and April joined our party and we played cornhole and bocce ball while dinner cooked. We had a wonderful dinner and then had strawberry cheesecake and carrot cake for dessert. Then some people played ping-pong and everyone else relaxed and hung out. Later that night we played Nertz! with a bunch of the relatives, playing in 4 teams of 2. It was really fun. Me and Deane almost won, but Elana and Craig pulled ahead at the last and beat us.

On Sunday we went out to the lake a little earlier. Rose and Anna stayed back because Rose had gotten sunburned and didn't want to be in the sun, and Anna wanted her to give her a pedicure. The rest of us went to the lake and swam a bunch of times. I tried to stay out of the sun by wearing a long sleeved shirt, but every ten minutes I got so hot I had to jump back in the water to cool off. The mosquitoes weren't too bad so we sat in the shade a lot of the time. Matt came to visit for a bit and then left. I took Gabe for a spin in the kayak, and Craig took him out in the canoe. But he did a great job kayaking around the dock on his own, paddling and steering and impressing everyone. He wanted to go out in the lake with Deane, but of course I made him stay where we could reach him easily if he tipped.

We went back that afternoon and had dinner, courtesy of Marcia. She had grilled a chicken, which we had with baked potatoes, grilled veggies, and black bean/corn salad. Later, Marcia and Craig had to leave, after a short "Tangled" watching moment with Craig and Gabe. Gabe took quite a liking to Craig, but once they left, he invited Steve to watch the rest of the movie with him. The rest of us talked and played Sudoku, rubix cube, and read. Before bed, we played a few hands of cards (golf). Then Katherine and Deane went to bed, and the four sisters stayed up playing Nertz! on our own until late into the night.

Today it was super hot and humid and we didn't do much. Took naps, ate, sat around sweating a lot. Now we are about to have Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes (Steve is on a potato kick this year), salad, and later, homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert, which is heavenly good!

It is 101 degrees in Stillwater, probably 93 degrees here, at 730pm. Craziness! Tomorrow we are going to Duluth to hang out near the lake and cool off!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Minnesota Day 3

This is the third day in Minnesota. This morning it was hot and muggy when we woke up. I got up and went for a quick run first thing, which left me hot and sweaty. We hung around for a while waiting for everyone else to get up. Then we had a big breakfast consisting of more of Steve's eggs, bacon, melon, juice, etc. Afterwards, Katherine was home but she had to work, so we hung around and looked at a lot of the pictures of all the beautiful houses she and Deane have designed and built.
Gabe played rockstar and the rest of us were his fans for a while. Then I scrapbooked while everyone else hung out reading, doing sudoku and lounging around. In the afternoon, Marcia showed up, making the family unit just about complete.
We went to pick strawberries at Hinke's farm next, which was really hot. But at least it was windy and the mosquitoes weren't too bad for once! We picked two buckets in about 20 minutes between the 7 of us in our immediate family. We went back to Steve's afterwards. I wasn't feeling very good, but I went out and took a short walk and made a phone call while dinner was cooking. We had venison chili, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, and sourdough bread with organic butter. I talked to Marcia all about the local beers she'd had at a beerfest a few years ago.
Now we are all hanging out and talking about Anna's wedding. Will we have more adventures tomorrow? You betcha!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Minnesota 2012

We are in Minnesota again for our somewhat annual visit to relatives, so as usual, I am chronicling my travels and adventures in the land of the mosquito bird.
This year, we left yesterday at 830am to go to the airport. At XNA, we had a leisurely hour wait for our plane. We took a direct flight, so no extra time connecting. The pilot was super friendly and said hello to Gabe when we got on board. The flight attendant was also very nice and had an awesome bracelet which I had to compliment her on. She gave Gabe extra cookies and juice and he had fun on the flight. I slept most of the way to Minnesota, where we waited on the curb for almost an hour in the muggy 90 degree heat and parking deck-esque smog. We got our rental car and drove out of Minneapolis in the early afternoon.
We went to Hugo to see Leroy in the nursing home, which was shocking and depressing. In the past two years, he has lost a ton of weight and looked shockingly frail, sickly, and disoriented. He couldn't seem to remember any of us except Liz and John. It was very sad to see him that way and think that soon enough we all go down that road.
When we left, we continued on our way very subdued. Liz and John waxed intellectual about aging and we didn't talk about the emotional impact of seeing such a strong, masculine, sturdy guy become so feeble. The usual route for us.
When we got to the farm, Steve was waiting for us. We helped a bit for dinner and heard about his newest dietary adventures. He made Shepherd's Pie and Liz made salad and we had dinner and then homemade banana ice cream for dessert.
Deane showed up late and we talked a bit and then went back to his house for the night, trying to avoid the swarms of giant silent-stalker mosquitoes that descended upon us the second we ventured outside the house. They are the worst I've ever seen them this year.
I slept like a baby all night, better than I have in ages. Towards morning, it cooled down a lot and I actually had to cover up with a light blanket. Quite a change from the 100 degree heat back home and the sweaty nights. I woke up early because it gets light so early here! I journaled a bit and then everyone else got up. We hung around and talked and then had a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, melon and juice. Afterwards, we looked at some pictures of Deane's awesome log cabins and other buildings. Then I scrapbooked a while, Rose played with Gabe, and we generally hung out and enjoyed vacation mode.
Later, we took naps and then went out to the lake. Deane and Stephen fixed the dock and we all went swimming and looked at old yearbooks and learned some interesting things about our dad's high school career as a beer maker. It was pretty amusing.
We came back and hung out at Steve's for a while. I talked to John about working at a chicken plant, classic literature, Lady Gaga, and the different definitions of success. I took a short walk and started a new book, The Concubine's Gift, which so far is pretty amusing (Look for review soon). Then we had a huge dinner of natural pickles, cauliflower, lamb curry, lamb hearts, and mashed potatoes. More homemade ice cream is in the near future.
Now Gabe is having a pillow fight and driving cars across the old treadmill and the rest of us are sitting around chatting, reading, etc.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Numbers Blog Tour, author interview

Please welcome my guest author for today, author of The Chosen and the recently released sequel, The Numbers, as she talks about the challenges of writing a sequel. Make sure to check out the information on her series below the post.

The Sequel

The Number is the sequel to The Chosen. Initially when I started writing my first novel, I thought that it was the hardest thing ever. When you write a novel, obviously it isn’t the same as writing a short story. You need to really develop your character and refine your world building skills. And then you need to take your simple little idea and write about it for a good 60-80,000 words. For the aspiring writer, it’s a mountain to climb and once you reach the peak, it’s an exhilarating accomplishment.

And then you start writing the sequel.

I had a clear vision of how to end The Chosen, but for the life of me, I had no idea how to start The Number. There is a time gap of five years between the books and I found myself asking: How do I fill the reader in what’s happened to all of the characters during that time span? That’s a long time and my characters have all been doing something. They haven’t just stayed in limbo.

I thought that maybe I should sort of do a countdown. Like, highlight an event that happened five years ago, then four years ago, etc. until we meet our characters in “real time”. But as neat as the idea was, I scrapped it. I liked knowing the timeline for my own personal notes, but it just seemed like I was forcing a beginning. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to tackle this as if I was meeting an old friend again. You don’t just come out and dump information at one time. What happened during the years you haven’t seen your friend is told gradually. You tell a little bit in one meeting and then a bit more in another meeting and so on and so forth. I felt like my characters needed to take their time to tell the others what has happened to them during the five years apart on their own time.

Of course figuring out how to start The Number was only part of the problem. Nobody tells you that all that world building you did in the first book is going to be put to the test in the sequel. My advice: If you’re going to be writing a sequel, be sure to take notes on every little detail. Luckily for me, I had already started on a binder full of details about my world when I started with The Chosen. It really helped during the process of writing The Number because I wasn’t constantly flipping through the first book to figure out a description of a character or place.

Despite the pressure of getting things right, the sequel is still fulfilling to work on. You and your readers already know the characters and if your readers are grabbing the sequel then you know you’ve written characters people want to be invested in. And as a writer, I think it’s fun to keep the adventure going, especially when you know that your characters’ stories aren’t done being told.


Kaia disappeared for five years. Now she’s back and her planet is on the brink of war.
The new “Numbers” program, created by the Tueors’ leader, tracks and isolates demigods. Kaia’s friend, Catrina, refuses to take part, and that makes her the most dangerous Number of all.
It’s Kaia’s duty to gather and protect the treasures of the gods. But neither the treasures nor Catrina are what they appear to be.
As the day a dire prophesy foresees draws near, will Kaia reverse the gears of fate, or will everything she’s ever loved be burned away by the flames of war?


Author Links:

Author Website:

Twitter: @SheenahFreitas (


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Memphis in May, Day 3

Okay, so here's what happened on our last days in Memphis.

Sunday we got up late and Jon finished his paperwork. We hung out at the hotel a little while, even though we'd missed breakfast. I was feeling better that day, though. After a while we went downtown. I wanted to see Chris Robinson at 335, but Jon wasn't really crazy about them. He said he'd go if we got there on time, though. We went and ate lunch at Alfred's on Beale Street. It was pretty good, but not as good as Pig. Jon had a beer and then we left.
We walked around a little, but not as long as the day before. Jon wanted to get me a turtle necklace to go with the dress I'd gotten the day before, so he got one from a street vendor. Then we saw some girls on the street selling Jello shots, so he had to get one of those. We walked down to the festival after that.
It was sweltering again on Sunday, but I was wearing better clothes (no polyester!) so it wasn't too bad. We'd forgotten sunscreen, but by the time we got down there it was almost 5. We ran to catch the last ten minutes of Chris Robinson, but he'd already finished playing when we got there 10 minutes before he was supposed to be done. So we went right to Michael Franti and Spearhead.
We got up close, about halfway across the rubber mat, and thankfully, in the shade of the stage. We stood around for about half an hour. At first, we thought maybe the show wouldn't have many people there since we were able to get up so close and there weren't many people waiting. But the stage filled up by the time the band came on, and they had a pretty good audience. The band was AMAZING. I'd only heard a handful of their songs, but they were so great! Chill and groovy and cool, really fun and happy. The guitarist had this humongous grin on his face the entire time, and Michael Franti kept coming off stage and going through the audience. He pulled a bunch of people up on stage, gave a couple of them guitars, and let two little kids sing part of one of his songs. It was really cool, and I liked how appreciative of his fans he seemed and how he interacted with everyone so much. It was an amazing show--my favorite one of the whole weekend. The music was great, too.
After that, we went to get food and Jon got a chicken dish from the gyro place. We sat down and ate and waited for Herbie Hancock. But he must have been REALLY late coming on, because 20 minutes after he was supposed to start, he still hadn't come on stage. So we went down and listened to Bush for about 5 songs. Then we went all the way to the other end of the park and listened to the end of The Civil Wars, who everyone had said was one of the best bands there. They were pretty good.
After that, Alison Krauss was at the same stage, so we stayed for her. We got to the third row after the Civil Wars fans cleared out. But I was hot from dancing by then, and the crowd was pretty thick. I also got pushed by the first rude fan I ran into all weekend. Anyway, we stood around waiting for the band for a long time. Finally they came on. I've been waiting to see Alison Krauss for literally 10 years, so maybe it just couldn't measure up to my expectation. Or maybe I was just hot, and tired from standing and walking around in flip-flops for 3 days straight. Whatever it was, I just wasn't as into it as I'd expected. Jon, who hadn't really wanted to see her too much, ended up really enjoying the show, especially the rest of Union Station. After 40 minutes, I asked if he was ready to go see Primus. He said we could stay, but I really wanted to get off my feet for a while.
So we went to see Primus. On the way, we noticed all this lightning in the clouds off to the west over the river. We went and sat in the grass pretty far back from the stage. They were really loud even back there. Jon went and got a funnel cake, which they made right there while he waited. It was super hot and greasy, delicious and crunchy and gooey and sugary. I hadn't had a funnel cake in years, and it definitely beat the last one I had. We watched the lightning and listened to the band. I kind of wanted to get closer, but Jon was happy sitting back in the grass, so we stayed there. The band kept talking about the lightning. Finally, towards the end of the show, the lightning got a lot closer and the wind picked up and started blowing constant and cold from one direction. "Here comes the rain," the band said, and they went off stage without even saying goodnight.
Everyone in the entire park jetted out of there at once. The wind was gusting big clouds of dust everywhere, whipping wildly around. The last band was still playing in the blues tent, but we got out of the park as fast as we could along with just about everyone else. We walked back to the car and got in, watching the storm move in. Almost as soon as we got on the highway to go back to the hotel, the rain hit. It came down in giant sheets, washing across the car while the wind rocked us all over the place and the storm blinded us. I turned off the radio and sat there not saying a word so Jon could concentrate on driving. We kept hitting slick spots where the road was covered with water, and even going 40mph it was hard to see. It seemed like it took hours to get back to the hotel, but we made it safely through the driving rain and back to our room.
We got up in the morning and it was still raining a little outside. It took us a while to get on the road, but we finally did and headed back to Arkansas on Monday morning.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sweatfest in May #bsmf12

So, I'm way behind on my trip, but here goes...This was Saturday at Memphis in May.

We got up kind of late, but not nearly late enough. I was still tired and felt really bad and sick in the morning. We ate hotel breakfast and then I tried to sleep while Jon did some paperwork. Eventually we got going and went down to Beale Street. It was really hot and sunny out. We walked around and decided to get lunch at this place called Pig. It was bbq, of course. I got a pork plate and Jon got a turkey sandwich. It was really, really good. The meat was super tender and great. They also had big-ass 32 oz beers for 5-6.50. We walked around on Beale after lunch and shopped at a few stores. I was wearing a jumper and decided that was a very bad choice of festival gear! I had to take the whole thing down every time I went to the bathroom, and you really don't want to spend any extra time in the porta-potties when it's 93 degrees outside. So we decided to go find a dress. Jon found one he liked for me and then we went to the festival. On the way we spotted a line of horse-drawn carriages and Jon thought we should get a ride.
Our driver was pretty cool and told us some crazy stories while we rode around downtown Memphis for half an hour. Neither Jon nor I had ever ridden in a horse-drawn carriage, so it was pretty fun. When we got back we went down to Tom Lee Park for the festival. We had missed a few of the bands we wanted to see (Son Volt and Kenny Wayne Shepherd) but that always seems to happen on Saturday. We went to see The Cult but didn't even attempt to get up close. We sat in the grass far away from the stage and rested. The show was okay but neither of us were too impressed. We walked down to see Al Green next, and caught a bit of Yo Gotti on the way past. We also did a little browsing at some of the shops and got a foot-long corndog (not too impressive).
Al Green was amazing! It was really hot out but I couldn't stop dancing for the whole show. It was tons of fun and he played a lot of old songs and some newer ones, too. The only downside was that the dress I'd gotten was polyester and stiflingly hot! It was definitely a sweat-bath that day.
After Al Green we went to see Jane's Addiction. They put on the usual epic rockband show, complete with wailing guitars, stripper/dancers, hanging devil creatures, TV screens with bondage videos, etc. It was a high-energy show, but about halfway through, the heat caught up with me and I was so exhausted I had to find a spot to sit for a while. I got back up and we stayed until the very end, after midnight, and went back to the hotel.
I was so tired I passed out cold about 1 minute after I crawled out of the shower and into bed.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beale Street Music Festival, Day 1

In Memphis again for Beale Street Music Festival for the fourth time. This year, the only person I could get to go with me was Jon. We left on Friday and Jon drove. He'd driven almost all day, from Oklahoma City. I was tired, too, having only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before. So we decided to get a taxi down to the show. We called and the taxi got to our hotel really fast. Our cabbie was really nice and dropped us off at the BP station near Riverside. I'd never gone into the park from the south side, so it was kind of strange going in that way.
We went in and caught Needtobreathe. They were more rock'n'roll than I'd thought from listening to their songs. I thought they were more indie. Jon wanted to see Three Six Mafia, so we walked over to that stage. I'd seen them before at the frat house in Fayetteville and it wasn't a very good show. They don't really sing, just put on their CD and dance around a little saying, "Yeah," and "Hey" a lot. We stayed for less than one song before Jon said, "This sucks, let's go."
We went and got giant gyros and went back to see the rest of Needtobreathe. Then we stayed at the same stage for Florence and the Machine. There were TONS of people there. I wanted to get up in the crowd, so we followed some people making their way forward. Jon and I are both short, so we couldn't see very well. Every time we saw people going forward in the crowd, we tagged along behind them. Finally we got on the rubber mat in front of the stage. We were still pretty far back, though. We tagged along with two guys and a girl and got pretty close. One guy took his shirt off and was dancing in front of me, sweaty and really into the show. I was surprised at how many guys were there really getting into the show, singing along and dancing. The shirtless guy hit me in the head with his elbow once, but he was really nice and apologized and kissed my head. Unfortunately he was really tall and we couldn't see much, although when he got going dancing and lifted his arms I had a perfect view of Francine right under his armpit.
Jon got really tired of the guy and wanted to go, but I convinced him to stay. I could tell he was sort of mad and wanted to get out of there. But I didn't really mind the guy, he wasn't gross or anything. And I enjoyed listening to the band a lot. Francine was really energetic and ran back and forth across the stage, jumping up and down and wailing away. She was wearing this black dress with sleeves like huge black wings and she looked kind of goth and really cool, with her haunting voice and flaming red hair.
Finallly the show ended and we plowed forward when people started leaving. We ended up in the second row next to a group of college guys who were tripping and high, completely sweaty and kind of annoying. By then we were packed in so tight it was hard to move around and pretty much impossible to dance. We were drenched in sweat because it was warm and muggy, no breeze at all so close to the stage. Luckily we had water with us. Some of the people around us were begging water from security whenever they walked past.
I'd seen My Morning Jacket once or twice, but last time I saw them, they were at a smaller stage at a festival and the crowd was really small. This time, there were TONS of people, a lot of them hardcore fans who had come and stayed through the past 2 shows just to get up close and see My Morning Jacket. We stayed at the front and listened to a couple songs. It was unbearably hot with all those people, and the music was so loud that I could feel it in my sternum, in my bones, blasting my ear drums even with ear plugs in. It felt like it was trying to redo my heartbeat to match the drums. Jon just lost it and freaked out. He was like, "Hey, I'm not okay, I'm gonna go." He turned around and bolted from the crowd, as fast as you can bolt through a tons of people packed in like cigarettes in a new pack.
I followed him because I was pretty hot anyway, and we didn't have a predetermined meeting spot. Our phones weren't really working again this year, since there were so many people there. Jon went out and collapsed in the grass. I sat down next to him and touched his arm, which was literally drenched in sweat. It felt like he'd just gotten out of the shower. The heat and the crowd were too much for him, so after we calmed down a little, we went to the back of the crowd. We'd run out of water, so we went and got another 2 bottles and lay down on the ground a long way from the stage. Even WAY back from the stage it was still vibrating my bones.
We stayed there the rest of the show and then got up and walked back to the BP station. We called our cabbie but he said he'd just gotten home. He told us to wait at the station and we'd easily get another taxi. But the only 'taxi' that showed up was a guy in an SUV with a handmade sign in the window that said, "shuttle." He said he'd charge us $75 to take us back to the hotel. Considering we'd gotten a ride to the show for $38 in a legitimate taxi, we said we'd pass. Then the guy said, "Come on, it's negotiable," opening his door and beckoning us to get in. We got out of there pretty fast. We called the taxi company and they told us to walk all the way back to Union Avenue. It was a bit of a hike, but we tried to stay with the other people walking around since it was dark and kind of creepy in the area. Finally we made it back to Riverside and Union and got a taxi right away. Despite the fact that the car had a loud knocking when we went around corners, and seemed like a wheel might fly off when we got on the interstate, we made it back to the hotel for another $38.
A shower never felt so good.

Day 1: $100 including tickets.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Boy A, by Jonathan Trigell

Boy ABoy A by Jonathan Trigell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could find a way to adequately convey my love for this book without sounding like a gushing groupie. But, I can't, so I'll soldier on with my groupie flag flying.

What can I say other than this book is amazing. I can't begin to say how amazing it is in a short review, and I'm a fair hand at wordplay. I'll do my inadequate best.

Trigell takes the story of Jack, a newly-released-from prison, twenty-something convicted child murderer--as in, he was a child when convicted of murder (the victim was also a child) and makes you wallow in it. He takes you into the mind of Jack and makes you love him. He takes you to the slimy, dark, gritty underbelly of English society and makes you lie on your back and lick it. You can't help but do what he wants as he weaves the story through the minds of various characters, crafting a perfectly plotted, perfectly paced, perfectly terrible story of attempted redemption. As you slough along towards the inevitable conclusion, you know what's coming, but you breathlessly keep reading, wanting to look away but utterly unable. Such is the hypnotic control Trigell masters in this artfully honed masterpiece of suspense. As difficult as it must be to create such tension in a book where from the start you know almost without doubt of the story's outcome, Trigell does it, and does it well.

Although his writing style is more gritty than poetic, Trigell can turn a phrase with beauty and almost magical precision. I can't count the number of times I had to stop and savor a sentence and wish ardently that I could weave words together with such breathtaking rightness. Because each of these sentences shows craft and a kind of heartrending accuracy. You find yourself thinking simultaneously that you'd never think to put words together in that way and that it's the exact way they were created to fit together.

In short, from the first words this book grabs you by the throat like a vicious, one-eyed mangy dog with oozing pustules and shakes you senseless until the last breathtaking sentence.

Although I can't recommend it to everyone due to its graphic nature, I wish I could.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 13, 2012

Godless, by Pete Hautman

GodlessGodless by Pete Hautman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very clever and thought-provoking without ever crossing over into that territory where I feel like an author is patting himself on the back the whole time he's writing, thinking "I'm SOOO smart to think of this." No, Godless is smart and funny without being arrogant. I enjoyed reading it very much, and it's a book I will recommend to readers as well as writers as being an example of great writing. The author does an amazing job at showing (rather than telling) everything from the characters' social status to their beliefs. It's also a thought-provoking exploration of finding and losing faith. It might make you uncomfortable or make you question your beliefs, but in the best possible way. After all, if you're not willing to question and examine your beliefs, how strong can they be?

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blogger Awards

Hey fellow readers!

As many of you know, I spend an inordinate amount of time on Goodreads. My blog is now up for an Independent Book Bloggers award. If you have a Goodreads account, please take a moment to click on the 'VOTE' button on the right side of my blog. There are lots of wonderful blogs up for awards, so make sure to check them out if you  have time. Thanks so much for your support and for reading my blog!

Have a great day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

This was one of the strangest books I've read in a long time, maybe ever. At first, the start of it didn't suck me in and I didn't know about reading a book written entirely as a series of letters because I don't normally like those gimmicky formats. Usually it seems like those things are used to prop up weak plots, so I put down the book for almost a month. I found it again last week and thought I'd give it another shot since I had heard so many good things about it. I am so glad I did.

This book was so unique and quirky, but not enough to irritate me. It never tried too hard. It managed to be funny and moving and wonderful all at once. Charlie had such a strange voice and he was such an odd character that I kept wondering if he has Asperger's. It took me a bit to get into the flow of the story because of the odd way he articulated everything. But I was already absorbed into the plot, and pretty soon I got used to his voice. Then it got weird because he reminded me of this guy I knew who was mentally insane and talked *exactly* like Charlie thinks. So I started wondering if Charlie was crazy.

This book is probably best for older teens as it has a lot of disturbing themes, including rape, incest, child molestation, underage sex, drinking, drug use, domestic violence, etc, and how often people are passive to these things or stay with (and love) the person perpetrating the abuse. It deals a lot with passivity to life in general. There are also lots of homosexual scenes that some people would not be comfortable reading. The book has lots of bad language and is a very sexualized account of this boy's life and experiences. While the sex isn't described in a titillating way, it is pretty graphic in terms of what goes where, what exactly is happening, who is in what positions, etc.

I must also warn that this book is extremely absorbing and written from the perspective of a child with psychological problems. Sometimes while reading, it made me feel a little like I was losing it. To me, that is a sign of a great book, being able to draw the reader in so thoroughly. My only complaint was that the surprise at the end seemed unnecessary, and I would have liked a more internal explanation for Charlies problems, since he was such an internally focused person.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting personal.

As many of you know, I'm a writer. Or I like to think so. But lately, it hasn't seemed like it. I haven't written anything new since...October. That's a long, long time for someone who could write for 16 hours a day a year ago. Sure, I've been journaling. And I write poetry. But my real passion is novels. At first, I just let it slide. I was waiting for inspiration. Only, inspiration never came. I've never gone this long without writing something. And it's starting to make me feel a little crazy. Unhinged. Nagging fears rise up, fears like that I'll never write again, and it's hard not to sink into something that sounds a lot like a doctor's office brochure on depression. So when I found something on the internet that literally made me laugh out loud, I had to share it. Maybe it will make someone else feel like things are okay for a minute. Or at least make you chuckle. Because really, has anyone out there NOT gotten at least a dozen of those emails with pictures of cats doing oh-so-adorable tricks, or peeking out of something-or-other, or singing "Deck the Halls" get  
Conspiracy Keanu Meme: "what if cats have their own internet and it's full of pictures of us"

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Read an Ebook Week--Final Day!

It's the final day of Read an e-Book Week!

If you haven't entered to win a free copy of The Vigilantes, this is the last day to do it!

You can earn entries by sharing my books and pages all over the web.

Leave a comment letting me know what you did this week to celebrate. Did you read an ebook? If so, which one? Did you go to to find free books? What did you get?

If you're a writer, did you participate? Did you give stuff away? Join the smashwords promo? Read an ebook yourself?

If you helped me or another author out this week, let me know what you did. Any other ideas to help make indie books more visible? Share that too!

I look forward to hearing from readers, writers, and followers about what you did this week.

Look for the winner of the ARC copy of The Vigilantes coming soon...I still have to tally up entries!

Hope everyone had a great, successful week of e-reading.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Read an Ebook Week (Day 6)

It's almost over! Congrats to the five winner so far!

If you want to win a free ARC hardcopy of The Vigilantes, make sure you check out all my "Read an Ebook Week" posts to see how you can get extra entries! And don't forget to leave links to what you've done so I can give you credit. To enter to win an ebook copy of The Vigilantes, keep reading.

Today is Friday...Follow Friday! Make sure you've followed my blog, Twitter, and liked my Facebook pages (writer and book).

Here's what you can also do: enlist your friends to follow my blog (+3 entries each) and leave a comment telling me you sent them.

Get your friends to like my FB pages and leave a comment telling me you sent them.

Tweet a #FF post with my name in it: @lenahillbrand....every time you post a #FF tweet with my name, +1 entry. Every time you get someone to retweet it, +1 entry. Every time you get one of your followers to follow me, +2 entries (have them let me know who sent them, of course!) Also, share this post on Twitter, the same retweet rule applies!

Additional ways to enter on this next-to-last day of the contest:

Like, share, or add me as a favorite author on Amazon (+3). If you like The Superiors and The Vigilantes, make sure you let me know on amazon (+2 for each).

Pin one of my books on Pinterest (+3).

Add me as a favorite author on Barnes&Noble. FB like The Vigilantes and The Superiors on Barnes&Noble.

The Superiors is free for 2 more days on Smashwords! Pick it up while you can! Add me as a favorite author on Smashwords. FB like The Vigilantes and The Superiors on Smashwords. Share my books on all the social media sites on the right-hand side of the page a few inches below the FB like button.

If you have a Goodreads account: Follow the link to The Superiors and The Vigilantes. Scroll down to the bottom of the righthand column and you'll see where you can share via FB, Twitter, Pinterest and Google. Do that stuff!
Add me as a favorite author.

(For +10 bonus points, take The Superiors quiz if you've already read the don't even have to get the questions right! Post a comment on the quiz letting me know your score).

As always, bonus entries for sharing this post all over the place! Share buttons below!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Guest Author/Book Release: Nancy Lauzon

Book Launch Party! In honor of Read an Ebook Week, I have a special guest today. Make sure you check out her contest to try to win a copy of her book as well as mine! Today, you can enter to win a copy of The Vigilantes as well. Just share this post on all your sites and leave links below in the comments section (Twitter, FB, Blog, and Google+1 this post).

A Few Dead Men - a Chick Dick Mystery

March 1 - 8

Drop by anytime during this week to join in the fun! Play games, nosh on virtual goodies (a.k.a. recipes) and win prizes!
Leave a comment on Nancy Lauzon's blog to win a FREE copy of A Few Dead Men.
If you like what you read, post a review on Goodreads, Amazon or the website of your choice anytime to win another FREE copy of any Chick Dick Mystery!

Blurb: A Few Dead Men - a Chick Dick Mystery

Life has dealt part-time mystery novelist Darcy MacDonald a lousy hand. The men she knows are either missing, dead, drunk or demented.

Lying next to the corpse of her boyfriend, the head of Bloodhound Investigations, definitely qualifies as lousy since he’s the man who also issues her paychecks.

The doctor says her boss had a massive heart attack during an orgasm, and it wasn’t Darcy’s fault. But she can’t help feeling guilty, since his orgasms were her responsibility. Or so she believed, until his grieving widow shows up, along with a mysterious, punk rocker chick who weeps inconsolably at the funeral and claims he was murdered.

Nancy Lauzon's Blog Tour Stop #5: Where Do You Find Live Men?

My latest mystery novel, A Few Dead Men, was inspired by my youngest daughter's disastrous dating history. The 'dead men' in the novel are composites of every boyfriend and/or bad date my daughter ever had. Believe me, I had lots of material to choose from. In fact, I didn't have room for all the 'dead men', since I didn't want to go over my word count.

This book raises several questions: Who exactly are dead men, metaphorically speaking? How did they become dead? Are there more dead men than live men? And where do you find live men?

But the book is also about a young woman compelled to solve the mysteries around her, like her favourite amateur sleuth, Nancy Drew. She doesn't go about it in exactly the same way.

Previous stops on the Blog Tour: How Does a Dead Man Become Dead? at and Are There More Dead Men than Live Men? at

I'm not sure there are any single Live Men left in the city where I live, or its surrounding areas. Maybe they're hiding.

My daughter has joined various dating sites over the years, with no luck, only some first dates from hell. She's been hooked up through friends and acquaintances, no luck. She spent 5 years in university, no luck. She's worked at various jobs (in a law office, in retail) no luck.
Yes, my daughter's unlucky in love. I already know that. But you'd think by now she'd have come across a few single Live Men along the way and been asked out on one date.

I know what you're thinking. She's got a face only a mother could love, she's got no personality, she's got no ambition, she's got no heart.

All not true.

It is true that she doesn't go out enough. She's a full-time professional, and she's busy. She doesn't like the bar scene, so she doesn't go clubbing. Most clubs are filled with Dead Men, anyway. So she recently joined a mixed Dodge Ball league. They meet every Thursday evening. I have my fingers crossed.

I've also heard it said that you shouldn't go looking for love. It'll find you when you least expect it. But if she stays in every evening, it's not exactly going to knock on her door, is it?

Does anyone out there in the blogosphere know where all the single Live Men are?

Next stops on my Blog Tour:

Saturday, March 10th -
Calling All Sleuths! I'll be blogging at the 2012 Nancy Drew Web Con. What is a Web Con you may be wondering? It's simply a convention on the web! The subject of my blog will be Nancy Drew with a Twist of Lemon.

Tuesday, March 13th -

I'm over at Ellis Vidler's Unpredictable Muse. Ellis is the author of the brand new novel Cold Comfort, released in December. I'll be doing a Character Interview, featuring Darcy MacDonald, the heroine of A Few Dead Men.

A Few Dead Men - a Chick Dick Mystery is available now at Smashwords

Coming soon to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Chapters/Indigo/Kobo

Author Bio

Nancy Lauzon worked nine years on a hospital ward as a cardiac nurse before the night shifts turned her into a zombie. She got a day job in health promotion and began to write health-related articles for magazines and newsletters.
Life threw out a few curve balls, and to relieve the stress, she began to write fiction part-time. Five years later she sold two different manuscripts to two separate small-press publishers, using a pseudonym. She left nursing in 2003 and began to write full-time.
Nancy lives in Ottawa, Canada.

Join the Chick Dick Mystery Group on Facebook

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Read an Ebook Week Day 3 and 4 Giveaway

Have you picked an ebook to read yet?

If you're looking for free books, check out and find some free books on promotion this week for free or cheap!

If you want to win a free e-copy of The Vigilantes, I'm giving away one every day. If you haven't won yet, try again. I'm also giving away an ARC hardcopy at the end of this week to the person with most entries for the whole week, so keep trying!

If you haven't entered the contest yet, find tons of ways to get extra entries in yesterday's post.

Here are some new ways today: get somoeone to follow my blog (have them leave a comment with your name on this post so I know who sent them) +5 entries.

Go follow me or get someone to follow me on twitter (again, have them send me a tweet with your twitter name) +1.

Like or get someone to like my FB writer page or book page, and get +2 for every like (have them leave a comment so I know who sent them).

Get someone to pin one of my books on Pinterest (+5 each).

Tomorrow I will post a poetry blog as usual. Share it via FB, blog, twitter, Google+1 for additional entries (as always, post a comment letting me know you did those things so I can add your entries to my random drawing).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Read an Ebook Week (#Giveaway) Day 2

Want to win a free copy of The Vigilantes?

Well, you can. I'm giving away one every day this week. Congrats to yesterday's winner!

You can find the first book in the series for free on Smashwords this week: The Superiors.

ALSO, at the end of the week I will be picking the person with the most entries for the whole week (not random selection like the daily winners) to receive a paperback copy of The Vigilantes. So keep coming back and helping me promote this great event to get people reading Ebooks and independent authors!

Today, to win a copy of The Vigilantes, I've added extra chances to win. Here's how:
Like yesterday, share this post via Twitter, FB, Blog, Google+1. One entry per post, +5 for blogging this. Please leave links in the comments section to your posts. Also, if you ask people to retweet, I will check your twitter post and give you an additional two entries for every person who retweets your post or reposts your FB link!

Additional chances to win if you do these things: Add me as a favorite author on Smashwords (under my picture, it will have a list of people who added me as a favorite author. Below that, there's a link that says "add author as favorite." Also, there's a button on the top left that says the same thing. Click on either one to add me (+2 entries).

While you're on my page, click on, The Vigilantes (or follow these links). On the lefthand side of the book page, there are tons of ways to share that book: Twitter, FB like, Stumbledupon, Reddit, Digg, or bookmark on Delicious. If you have one of these, it's a +1 each time. Tomorrow do the same for my other book, The Superiors. And download it for free while you're there!

Happy ereading!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Read an Ebook Week! (#Giveaway)

Hello fellow readers and writers,

In case you didn't know, this week is "Read an Ebook Week." What does that mean?
It means you should read an e-book!

It also means many other exciting things like:
I'm giving away a free ebook of The Vigilantes every day for the rest of the week!

I'll post with new details throughout the week, so check back often and try to win the free copy for that day.

Here's how you can win: Throughout the week, I will post about Read an Ebook Week. When you see those posts, check out what's going on for chances to win. I will add new ways to get extra entries as the week goes on.

Sunday: Go to the bottom of this post and share it on Twitter (+1 entry), Facebook (+1), Google Plus-One (+1), and your blog (+5), or Pin one of my books on Pinterest (+3). Also, if you link my blog to yours (add it to your list of websites) that's +10 entries. Make sure you leave a comment letting me know what you did, with links to your posts & blog. I will message you on Twitter if you win, or you can leave your email address in the comments if you don't have Twitter.

If you don't win a copy, you can still get The Vigilantes for half price on for the promotion they're having this week. They are having a huge promotion! Tons of books are 25% off, 50% off, 75% off, or FREE. Make sure to go check it out. If you don't have an account, it's free to sign up, and you can download ebooks in any format so they work on whatever digital reader you have.

ANNNNNDDDD...remember how I said a bunch of books are FREE this week? Well....The Superiors is one of them. So, if you win The Vigilantes and you haven't read the first book in the series, you can get it free on Smashwords all week. And if you get The Superiors free and want a great deal on the second book, it's half off.

Check out the site and see what books you can score all week long. Yay for ebooks!

On a personal note, I will finally be finishing an ebook or two that I've been meaning to read for a long time. Look for an ebook review at the end of the week.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Guide for Guys (Post V-Day Regrets: Oh No You Didn't!)

Valentines Day has come and gone. You had your shot to impress or less. How'd you do?

Well, even if you proposed by putting a ring in her dessert and she broke a tooth or choked and had to go to the hospital, don't despair. Or if you spilled wine all over her new dress. Or if you didn't listen to my sage advice and you didn't ask her to do anything, and she cried. If you're wondering why she hasn't called you back, make sure you didn't do any of the following.

1. Did you really make her ask you out? Shame on you!!!

2. If among your cuddling and sweet talking you said anything even remotely close to, "I wish I could keep you locked up in my basement so you could never see anyone else for the rest of your life." Maybe you thought it was sweet, but it's just creepy.

3. You've been going out for 3 months and still haven't kissed her? She thinks you're gay and she's given up.

4. You drank a few too many and seem to have a big blank space in your memory. Maybe at a somewhat crucial moment. Better find out what happened next. Really. You better.

5. Did everything right and still got the cold shoulder? You got her flowers, gave her a massage, made her dinner, and sang her a great song at karaoke, even bought an embarrassingly sentimental stuffed monkey for her because you know she loves monkeys, and yet she was unmoved?

Go find someone else. You're wasting your time and she doesn't deserve you, anyway (but feel free to give me a call. I love massages. And monkeys).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Guide for Guys (Part 3 of 3: Great Dates)

Valentines Day RoseHappy Valentines Day all you love-lorn fools and lovesick puppies!

Hope everyone has a wonderful, happy, love-filled day with or without a date.

Here is the last installment of helpful hints for you men (or your man). Happily brought to you by My Traumatizing Dating Experiences, LLC. A few tips on what to do (or not) to make a date successful.

If you missed Part One and Part Two, find them here.

1. If you want a date on Friday, and you wait until Thursday (or Friday--the horror!) to ask, don't get mad if she's already made plans. If you respect her, you'll ask at least 2 or 3 days in advance, because you realize that her life does not revolve around you. Just be glad she'll make plans with you at all, and if it makes you feel better, think about the other people she'll be telling "Sorry, I'm busy," when they ask her to do something on Friday. (Plus, waiting until the last minute says she is your last priority. If that's true, you shouldn't be dating her).

2.  If your girl plans a creative surprise date for you, and you show up and realize she's taking you to a circus, and you forgot to mention that you have a deathly terror of clowns... After you run screaming from the place, please stop and consider the following (once safely inside your car where the scary clowns can't get you): a. she didn't know you hated clowns and feels stupid for not asking, b. you trampled all over her ego in your haste to tear out of there, and c. she's standing there all alone holding two tickets to the clown show, probably wondering if she should go home with that one who winked at her because at least she knows he won't abandon her at a circus. You should immediately do the following: call and explain your nut-shrinking fear of clowns stemming from a childhood viewing of IT, and then tell her you'll make it up to her by taking her out whenever she wants, to do whatever she wants, even if it's getting a couple's manicure or bikini wax. Just get one, already. You owe her.

3. If you ask a girl what she's doing all weekend and she says she has off and has no plans, ask her to do something, or you're just the asshole who left her hanging. You shouldn't have asked if you didn't want to make plans with her. And if you already have plans, ask her to come along to your motor-oil wrestling competition or drive-by shooting. She can always say no, and you'll still look like the good guy. She said she wasn't busy because (hello!) she wants you to ask her out.

4. If you ask a girl to go skiing, or sychronized swimming, or on a drive-by with you, then you have to stay with her. You asked her to hang out, remember? The point is to be together. Don't leave her, even if she says you can. Even if she tells you to. Even if she says, "I've been shot, leave me for dead. Save yourself!" She doesn't want to die alone. She wants you to hold her while she gurgles her dying breath. Or at least to hang out with her while she gets the hang of the kiddie slopes.

5. Just because neither of you have mentioned Valentines Day doesn't mean your girlfriend has forgotten about it. She probably thinks you're planning a surprise. So if you haven't made plans, call and make a quick reservation or stop and get her tickets to a show or a little something else on your way home. Because you really don't want to be that guy standing there empty-handed when his girlfriend gives him a present and says, "So, what'd you get me?"

5.1 (Bonus) Just make sure your surprise is something your girlfriend will appreciate. While some women may admire the creativity of your disemboweled teddy bear with gummy worms crawling out its empty eye-sockets, believe it or not, not all women will. Some of them may decide you are indeed a future serial killer (or a guy who might pin his restraining order to her head with a knife).
Valentines Day

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Guide for Guys (Part 2 of 3: What Not to Do)

Hello all. That day so dreaded by singles and so anticipated by the coupled-up is rapidly approaching. In honor of the day of love, I'm giving out free advice on how to woo and court and generally please female-kind. If you're one of the fortunate ladies who has an 'other' for the day in question, but you're not sure he's quite tuned in to the finer points of dating a real live woman, feel free to share this little guide with him by 'accidentally' leaving it on the printer/counter/taped to his steering wheel.

Here are five mishaps to avoid, straight from the vast pool of my cringeworthy moments.

1. If you take your lady out to dinner and she orders a burger, don't say, "Are you sure you don't want a salad?" Don't even mention a salad. Don't even hint at it. You might think you're being subtle, but you're not. In fact, don't even look at the list of salads. And please, please, for the love of God, don't order a salad. Please.

1a. Also, never grab a girl's stomach and tell her she has muffin top. Especially on the first date. But even if you've been dating five years, just don't do it. On a related note, never tell a woman that you like how her _______ jiggles, even if you really do like it and you think it's a compliment. It's not. (If you don't believe me, imagine how you'd feel if she said YOURS jiggled... Yeah, that's what I thought).

2. If you did something bad and then got in a fight, and you tell your lady that you're going to take her out and make it up to her/talk about it, do NOT go to the following places: a strip club (I'm serious), Hooters (again, serious), Waffle House (just don't) or McDonalds (ever tried to have a serious conversation while seven unbathed children drip snot into your hair from the seat behind you?). If you're short on funds, throw on a couple of grilled cheese at home, light a candle and prepare to apologize (see Part 1, #2). We're not here for your money. We just want to know you care. Taking us out to watch a naked woman gyrate on your lap does not scream remorse, let me tell ya.

3. Don't introduce a girl by saying, "This is my friend (insert name here)" (even if you've only been on five minutes of one date) if you even want to kiss her during this lifetime. It's like being slapped. Introduce her by first name only, until you're ready to introduce her as your girlfriend. Oh, and don't introduce her as your girlfriend after the first date unless you've mutually agreed on the status beforehand. Don't tell your mom you have a girlfriend after one or two dates, either, even if your mom is really wishing you'd find a girl who will put up with you long enough to be called a girlfriend. Nothing quite so awkward as having to explain to a man's mother that you are not, in fact, his girlfriend (you're just sleeping with her son).

4. If a girl you've been gently stalking threatens to get a restraining order on you, don't tell her you're going to pin it to her head with a knife. Common sense? You'd think....

5. If you're dating a girl on Valentine's Day, and you happen to be out of town, don't have your roommate call to wish her happy Valentines Day for you, especially if your roommate is really weird/creepy or has a voice like Kermit the Frog. CALL HER YOURSELF. (Is is, however, okay to have your roommate leave a gift from you on her doorstep without letting her know who left it. She'll be impressed. Really impressed.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Guide For Guys (Part 1 of 3: A Few Do's)

In honor of V-Day, the big love-fest, I've put together a handy little guide for guys who are in the midst of figuring out the complicated landscape called dating. Fortunately, not all men are clueless. But I have run across a few who just have no idea. So, I'm making a handy-dandy guide for dudes who don't get it. If you're not a dude, you can put this on your fridge for the next time you run across one who needs some gentle hints on how to treat the female species. This is drawn from my own personal experience only (feel free to laugh at my pain, though).
Valentines Day

1. You can never compliment a girl too much. Really, you can't. It doesn't make you weak, or whipped, or in any way less of a man. And she'll tell her friends, and they'll think you're awesome. And that's a good thing, trust me. Girls listen to their friends, and it never hurts to impress them. You'll need their good opinion later when you forget your girl's birthday or call her by your ex's name.

2. "I'm sorry you got upset" IS NOT AN APOLOGY!!! (Do try again).

3. If you have to leave in the middle of the night while a girl is sleeping because you're scared of her cat, or your car rolled out of your driveway and through the neighbor's living room, or you got hit by a sudden attack of salmonella and crapped yourself, send her a message the second you get home (or better yet, before you leave) explaining why she woke up alone. Or make up something if you crapped yourself. We really don't want to know that.

4.  If you have a girl and you appreciate her, let her know it or she'll find someone who will. (Just hope she tells you beforehand).

5. If you're dating a girl on Valentines Day, and you think it's all a bunch of consumerist crap, suck it up and ask her out anyway. Don't tell her you'll just be sitting at home watching TV because Valentines Day is stupid. She already knows it's silly, and she doesn't care. At least take her out to dinner. I mean, you have to eat anyway, right? It doesn't have to be a big deal. Just do it because SHE wants to. She will appreciate it, I promise. Just gauge her level of enthusiasm first. You don't want to put on a violin concerto and read your own poetry by candlelight to a cynic. She might laugh, and you will then die.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lena & Gabe's Excellent Adventure (Days 7 & 8)

The last 2 days of our trip:

On Friday morning we woke up to the storm. Gabe and I cuddled up in the tent and had a long snuggle fest. Then we got up and went to the beach. Perdido Key is a very narrow strip of land, so if you stood in the right place, you could see the ocean on both sides. We’d been on the Gulf side up until then, but Gabe decided he wanted to explore the bay side. So we went to that side and walked along the beach. Gabe loved watching the sandpipers skittering along in their weird way, and the pelicans gliding over the water and diving for fish. It was all very nice until we came upon a dead octopus. Gabe thought that was just amazing, and I’d never seen one up close, so we went and looked at it. Then we noticed a big jellyfish in the water…and then we saw dozens more, all along the beach in the water and on the sand. They were humongous! We came across the behemoth one, about twelve inches across, and I had a stick so I opened up the ‘skirt’ and let Gabe see the tentacles. That sort of freaked him out, and he wanted to go back. He had lots of questions about jellyfish the rest of the day.

We swam a few times, jumping in the water for about ten seconds each time, which Gabe loved. Unfortunately, we both got sunburned that day, too. In the afternoon we walked the mile back to the car and went into town to get some hotdogs for our campfire. It was supposed to rain again that night, and it was cloudy off and on all day, but we were hoping for a little bit of time for a fire first. We walked back to the campsite, took a little nap, watched the most amazing sunset I think I’ve ever seen (of course my phone battery had died and I couldn’t take pictures, grrr). Then we dug a pit and tried to light a fire.

Okay, first of all, our wood had gotten wet in the rain the night before. Secondly, our paper had gotten wet TWICE and never fully dried from the rain the first night we camped at the state park. Then it had gotten damp again Thursday night. And if you’ve ever been to the beach, you know that nothing dries there. Nothing. Ever.

So we crumpled up our soggy damp paper and put our damp wood on top and about 5 pieces of kindling we’d found along the beach. I lit the paper about fifty times and every time it only smoldered and went out. I was getting really desperate. I hadn’t carried that huge bag of wood down the beach for nothing. FINALLY a piece of paper caught fire, and I lit about five others with the flame. They burned for about one minute and then went out. I was about to scream in frustration, but I moved some logs around instead, hoping that all the paper hadn’t burned and left us with a bunch of big, damp logs and nothing to start them with. And suddenly, a flame flickered up from the smoldering paper. We frantically fed pieces of cardboard into the flame, and eventually, our fight started up. It looked like the wood was burning really fast, so we started cooking hotdogs immediately. They kept getting charred, but we managed to eat a few. I put the last two pieces of wood on the fire and they lasted…for hours. We didn’t have any marshmallows, so Gabe decided we should roast dried figs on the fire, so we did that a while. Then Gabe looked at me and said, “This is the best night of my whole life.” And it was all worth it.

We threw a couple hotdogs on the fire so Gabe could see them turn black, which he thought was pretty cool. He also enjoyed poking them with his skewer stick, and lighting his skewer on fire and poking it into the sand to watch it extinguish. He sat in my lap and we huddled into the warmth when it got chilly on the beach. The fire lasted a long, long time, and I let Gabe stay up late until all the flames died out. He got to dump a bucket of water on the coals, which he also loved. And fortunately for us, it did not rain at all that night.

On Saturday morning we got up early and watched the most amazing sunrise while we packed up our stuff. I wanted to make it back to Arkansas that day, but it was such a long drive I thought we’d stop in Little Rock. But we left so early that we got back to Little Rock by 6pm, and it was so early that I thought I’d just stick it out. We drove 14 hours…remind me never to do that again. It was awful, and Gabe got bored, and we were both sore from riding so long. We got back late that night, ending our epic road trip. And we both survived.