QuickJAB

The Road Less Traveled

Robert Frost ends his poem: “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

We all travel different roads, don’t we? I love hearing the stories of others’ journeys and enjoy imagining the different paths we all take.

Taking the concept of the different path literally, which is very easy for a literal person like me to do, we’re checking our trail through the woods after a storm; it’s not unusual for a large limb or even an old tree to crash across the trail during one of our wicked, late summer storms. I’m always thinking of a reason to go outside on a quick writing break. Three times a day, I walk the perimeter of our field with the dogs. They look for voles and grasshoppers, and I listen to the birds and exchange trash talk with the crows. Four times a day, I check the chickens then report back with their latest antics. Be very wary if I approach you and ask if you want to see a picture of our baby chicks because a picture may be worth a thousand words, but I’ve got stories to go with the pictures. Unless, of course, you’ve set aside enough time to hear about our twelve baby chicks, then let’s go for a walk or for a coffee, and I’ll tell you a story.

If I were to write a memoir, I’d title it, “The Different Road.” It would be easy to write and edit, and it wouldn’t take long to read because it would consist of one page with five words: Our road was less traveled.

I promise I’ll stick with fiction.

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing.

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You keep reading; I’ll keep writing!

     

QuickJAB

Bugged by Bugs

 

I love dragonflies because they eat mosquitoes. Anything that can catch a mosquito and chomp it down is a hero to me. I managed to snap a photo of a red dragonfly as she zipped past me. 

I had a day this week that was obviously a concerted attempt by bugs to terrify me, and they were successful.

Are you squeamish about bugs? Stop reading now because this is not for you.

Bugged #1

I was sweeping out our chicken coop that hasn’t had any chickens in it for almost a year. Most of my sweeping was sweeping down the walls and corners near the ceiling because the cobwebs were thick and sticky. I had my hair pushed up into a ballcap, not my writer ballcap, and I wore work gloves, but my arms were bare because it was hot. I had knocked down all the cobwebs and spiders’ eggs and was sweeping the floor when FarmerMan came into the coop to check on me. 

 

We have dropdown doors on the inside of the coop for the nest boxes that close the boxes when the chickens are too little to lay because we don’t want them to learn to roost in the boxes. FarmerMan knows how I feel about cockroaches, so he peeked behind the doors and told me he found cockroaches. He sprinkled the poultry dust that we use in the nest boxes to keep out bugs and mites. Cockroaches evidently hate poultry dust because 200 (okay, maybe it was 20) cockroaches flew out from behind the doors and LANDED ON ME. I screamed, brushed off cockroaches, and flew out of the coop, almost literally.  

Bugged #2

Later that morning, we sprayed our trees. FarmerMan had more chores that didn’t require my participation, so I went to the camper to write.

 

Toby helps with mowing by clearing the mowed area of grasshoppers that fly up, in case you wondered why I don’t help with mowing.

The camper is my favorite writing spot because I don’t have any distractions. When I went into the camper, TWO aggressive, black WASPS went in with me and buzzed me. I’m allergic to stings, but my most severe reaction was a few years ago when a black wasp stung me, and I collapsed. I had no intention of a repeat performance, so I flew out of the camper. FarmerMan killed the two, found their nest, and dispatched the nest. I was kind of over trying to write in the camper, so I went inside the farmhouse.

Bugged #3

 

After I was inside, I was certain I was over being bugged. I wrote until it was almost time for lunch, then my computer rebooted itself then came back up and rebooted itself: automatically and repeatedly. I pulled out every computer trick I knew, including trying to catch it mid-reboots, so I could run a diagnostic test or two. It finally quit rebooting and mooned me with the Blue Screen of Death. 

I called a Computer Guy, who said it sounded like a hardware failure, but they could probably recover my hard drive. FarmerMan took it to the computer shop. I discovered I have every file on the computer backed up, except for one: my Character Bible, which is a listing of  the names of all my characters (4 series with 27 books and approximately 50 different characters per series), major, secondary, and minor and their physical descriptions, relationships, and in which books they appear. I certainly hope they can recover the hard drive. I bought a new laptop, so I can write in the camper, at the coffee shop, on trips, and while I sit on the sofa with my feet up.

Meanwhile, that’s The End of my sorry tale of being Bugged by Bugs, and I’m writing.

 

Guess which series my newest book belongs in…

 

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QuickJAB

The Eccentric Historian

My Foster Plants

Foster Plants June 2022 smaller

Sometimes people fall into a position at a company that isn’t a good fit for their interests or their skills. My favorite was a brilliant historian with a PhD who worked in a group of software engineers. I don’t know how it happened because he was there when I joined the company and the group.

He had an incredible knowledge of history, particularly of his niche specialty, but I had trouble following all his wonderful tales, so I’m not sure I ever knew what his area of expertise was. One day, he came into my office with two large, brown paper grocery sacks and set them down on my already-crowded desk. 

Inside the heavy sacks were plants and dirt. He told me that he stayed up all night  to dig up the plants in his yard because he decided to retire immediately and sell his house, and he was sure whoever bought the house wouldn’t be the right type of person to give the plants proper care. He told me what kind of plants they were, but I was still in awe of his plan to walk out and walk away from work and his house. 

He told me the plants were rare, native plants and very delicate, and I was the only one he knew that would take care of them properly, so he decided I could foster them until he bought another house and could get them back from me. 

That was seventeen years ago, and we have moved twice since he gave me the plants. We’ve never watered them, but we have divided them several times and have more pots of plants.

Over a dozen years after he abruptly disappeared, I was so inspired by his example that I gave two weeks’ notice, instead of the “expected” three months’, that I was retiring. Then I started writing…

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing! 

Signature cropped

 

QuickJAB

Cat’s Ears and Survival Month

See the feathery puffballs? Did you think of dandelions? These are actually Cat’s Ears and are related to Dandelions, which I think should be spelled Dandy Lion, so we can remember the name of their distant cousin, Cat’s Ears, aka Dandy Cat’s Ears.

All parts of the Dandelions and Cat’s Ears plants are edible, but the leaves are a tender delicacy in the spring, and full of vitamins A, C, and K in addition to folate, calcium, and potassium. I’ve eaten dandelion salad, and it had a similar taste to arugula. As a side note: I think if I ever made a Cat’s Ears salad, I’d call it a dandelion salad, just because.

So, how is this related to survival? Including greens in a diet helps a body stay healthy, and walking outside to forage in a chemical-free yard or field is much more convenient and nowhere as costly as driving to a grocery story. Alternatives are good.

I’ve been trying my best to grow greens in my garden the past few years, and I’m looking at you, buttercrunch lettuce, bok choy, romaine, and collard greens, but the bugs feast on the leaves before I can.

I’ve discovered the leaves on the Cat’s Ears aren’t ravaged by bugs. Who knew? I had a whole field of salad with no painstaking planting, watering, thinning, weeding, or weeping.

So, why is this month Survival Month? Because first, I sobbed over my collard greens then researched Dandelions and Cat’s Ears; and second, Book 5 of the Grid Down Survival Series, Danger at the Farm, will be released at the end of this month!

Want to read Danger at the Farm? Click here for the link!

Or would you like to start the Grid Down Survival Series with Book 1, Danger in the Clouds? Click here for the link!

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing!

QuickJAB

Honey Bee Buffet

We don’t mow our front field in the early spring because the honey bees love the clover buffet. The bees gather pollen after the sun dries the dew in the morning until early afternoon when it’s bee quitting time because the Georgia sun is hot. I guess they get too sweaty, and they aren’t that kind of bee. *

Toby always goes with me when I take a walk in the front field. Evidently, Sadie taught him to take over her job of guarding me, and he takes his work seriously. I am particularly safe from all birds and grasshoppers. He used to snap at bumblebees, but he decided against that; we’re not to discuss that ever.

I don’t know if our bees are wild bees or if they have a lovely apartment at a beekeeper’s farm. It doesn’t matter to us; we’re happy they are enjoying their springtime buffet at our place.

I suppose you think there’s a story that was inspired by the Honey Bee Buffet… and you’re right. I’ll give you a hint: Donut Lady and Andrew decide to celebrate National Honey Bee Day.

You’ll have to wait for the story because it’s in SWEET AND SOUR DEAL. You can preorder now, and Book 6 of the Donut Lady Cozy Mystery Series will automatically be delivered to you on June 21.

       

Extortion, Murder, and Honey Bees. 

Another Story with a Twist.

Sweat bees* don’t make any honey and are particularly drawn to the salt and minerals of sweaty humans’ skin.

Not Into Cozy Mysteries? No Sweat*

*See what I did there? There’s a new Sci-Fi or Thriller book every month or so for you! Tap the link… to subscribe to the newsletter for book news and stories!

Or if you like, Tap on the cool Word Cloud!

QuickJAB

Inspiration, Weeds, and Books

How could weeds that overtook a garden be an inspiration for books? There’s a story for that!

This is one of my four raised garden beds. When I first heard about raised gardens, I thought the gardens were on tables that were waist-high. I loved the idea of not having to bend over or kneel in the dirt. I signed up for the local county Department of Agriculture Extension Service classes on raising vegetables, and I was excited that one seminar was devoted to raised beds. I was sorely disappointed when a tall (everybody’s tall to me), young (ditto, young) woman led us outside to view the raised bed garden she had constructed for the class.

Her raised bed garden was six feet by six feet, and she had some green plants in it. She knelt next to her raised bed to show how easily she could weed and maintain her garden. She implied that a raised garden bed had to be six feet by six feet for the garden magic to work, but I pointed out that she had a little trouble reaching the middle of the raised bed. She said her raised bed was new, and everyone limbers up as they garden.

I’m not sure how much gardening it takes to become so limber that you’re taller. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

A few years later when we moved to the farm, FarmerMan built a raised bed for my short self, and I can pull weeds from the middle of it without climbing in. Last year, this raised bed had serrano peppers. After a visit to the hardware store yesterday, I came home with vegetable plants and vegetable seeds, and it was time to weed.

The best weeding news of the week is that it rained a total of three inches this week, so pulling weeds could have been much worse.

Here we are! I weeded the raised bed garden and planted nine plants: all collard greens. The irrigation system is in place, and rain has been in the forecast for today and one day next week. The perfect supplement to our irrigation system.

So, how does that relate to books?

My oldest series got a little weeding and a snazzy new look too. The series is great and fun to read, but the covers weren’t quite limber enough because they didn’t line up well with the cozy mystery theme.  You wouldn’t see them in a group of covers and say, “Ah ha! That’s obviously a cozy mystery novel!” They aren’t bad, and they kind of imply they are mysteries, but that doesn’t make them limber or cozy mysteries.

Old Cover. You can tell it’s a mystery because it says so on the bottom line, but you probably didn’t immediately read the fine print at the bottom before you saw the picture.

  

New Cover. If you’re a cozy mystery reader, you’ll probably recognize this as a book that’s suited for you because of the cover. If you aren’t a cozy mystery reader, you might like the donut cover better; not because it’s a book you’d want to read, but instead…Donuts.

  

If you’ve read any of the Donut Lady Mysteries, just a note for you that the stories have NOT changed. We just gave our DONUT LADY more of the center stage on the cover. Unless you want to have the paperback with the most current cover, please wait just a little bit longer for Donut Lady, Book 6, for a new Donut Lady story.

 

QuickJAB

What’s In a Name?

If you grouped the first three novels in a series together, so readers could read them one after the other without having to search for the next book, what would your call that group? A litter? A caravan? A herd?

While caravan has a nice ring to it because you read the books one after the other, I’m not sure anyone but us would understand. There isn’t an actual word that everyone in the book world uses for a group of related books, so we have choices.

When I researched the online bookseller websites, I found three common terms:

  • Collection
  • Omnibus
  • Boxset
    • Collection may be confused with an anthology, which is a collection of unrelated short stories in one book; according to the dictionary, a collection of books is a library.
    • Omnibus sounds a little old-fashioned, but it’s probably the most accurate because it’s defined as a volume of several novels that were previously published separately.
    • Boxset originated with paperbacks sold in bookstores that were sold in a physical container: an actual open-ended box with a cover portraying the series. When ebook publishers first published ebooks as boxsets, readers, especially literal me, were disappointed because we didn’t receive the novels inside the pretty box in the mail.

Which term do you like?

Here is a caravan of three novels for you. No fuss, no bother; each novel leads you to the next while Donut Lady solves another murder or two.

Donut Lady attracts customers with sprinkles, donuts, and coffee and attracts the attention of killers when she closes in on solving murders.

QuickJAB

GRID DOWN SURVIVAL SERIES

Have you noticed there’s a new book on the block?

Dilemma: The original Grid Down Survival story made its appearance in 2018 as a Young Adult book, THE GIRL WHO SAW CLOUDS. The book was a blend of the stories of Major Dave Elliott and his granddaughter, Aimee Louise, but didn’t quite reach all the  readers who would enjoy the story.

Easy Fix: A “Major” (did you see what I did there?) adjustment, and DANGER IN THE CLOUDS expanded to focus on more of Major’s story and was released in January 2019.

A Series is Born: DANGER IN THE CLOUDS became Book 1 of the GRID DOWN SURVIVAL SERIES in 2020 when DANGER IN THE WIND, Book 2 was published. Watch for Book 5 in June 2022!

Dilemma: The Girl Who Saw Clouds still had a lot of non-YA adulty boring stuff.

Fun Fix:  THE GIRL WHO SAW CLOUDS underwent a huge Minor (get it?) rewrite, and THE GIRL WHO SAW CLOUDS, SECOND EDITION was released in January 2022.

Related to A Series is Actually A Thing: Because THE GIRL WHO SAW CLOUDS is the same story as Book 1, except it’s from Aimee Louise’s point of view, the next book to read is DANGER IN THE WIND, Book 2.

Your Dilemma: Should you read both DANGER IN THE CLOUDS and THE GIRL WHO SAW CLOUDS? Aren’t they exactly alike? It’s up to you because both books tell the same basic story, and you’ll know what happens next and how the book ends. There won’t be any surprises for you except remember that even if two people go through an experience together, their points of view are different. Your choice, but either way, if you enjoy one or both of the books, you can continue on with DANGER IN THE WIND.

Friendly Fix: Confused? Tell me what confused you, and maybe I can help!

QuickJAB

Fear of Missing Out

This is my FOMO jar. Fear of Missing Out.

When I reviewed my expenses for 2020 and 2020, I discovered I spent a significant amount of money, especially on the latest and greatest software tools that everybody else was getting, that was a total waste of money and of my  time. 

My reason for buying the Latest and Greatest Whiz Bang tools? FOMO

My reasons for not using the new tools were not impressive: the software wasn’t instinctive; the software tutorials were too much work to listen to; the software wasn’t as good as what I was using; I didn’t have time to spend learning new software; I had trouble with the download because my internet is slow, so I quit; it was foggy outside.  I know that last foggy excuse is pretty lame, but so are all the rest of them.

This year, I have a #FOMOjar. Every time I purchase something because FOMO, I’ll drop a quarter in the jar. Every time I decline a FOMO purchase, I’ll drop a penny in the jar. At the end of every month, I’ll set aside bonuses and penalties based on the cost of the purchase temptations. Penalties for FOMO purchases, and bonuses for saving money by avoiding a FOMO purchase.

The coins will be a reminder and a tracker of how I’m doing, and the bonuses and penalties will go toward paying for gas when we drive the the truck and camping trailer to a national convention next fall that I really want to attend.

Watch for my first report for January 2022 at the end of the month!

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