Monday, January 23, 2017

Some Good in the Bad and Ugly by Margo Hoornstra



Last Wednesday morning I received a diagnosis of colon cancer.

I won’t lie to you I’m still processing the news and desperately looking for an up-side. Caught Early, that’s good, mine’s highly curable they say. Ninety-two percent from what I’ve read.
This whole saga started ten years ago with my first colonoscopy. (Those of you who are more – ahem – mature, know what I’m talking about.) After the twenty minute procedure, I had a ‘come back in ten years’ result. Yay! I’ll take it! Especially since my husband is one of those, he calls himself a polyp farm, who gets to do this every couple of years or so.
I was luckier than that.
Fast forward a decade. During my annual physical the end of June last year, the doctor ordered a certain test for me to do at home. Those results were negative all across the board as it were. I’m home free!
She ordered a colonoscopy anyway. Whatever.
Silly me, I put off scheduling the thing.  I had reasons. I was busy. There was a month long work commitment I’d previously agreed to. In and around that, I had a book to write. After that, summer was winding down and my husband and I wanted to get some use out of our new fifth wheel. Then fellow Rose Diane Burton invited me to join her at a week end writer’s conference. Another long term, if temporary, employment opportunity came my way I couldn’t turn down. As I said busy.
In October, I finally did call the physician group I’d been referred to four months before only to learn they were closing one office and would open another one in January. (Was the universe trying to tell me something?) Should I wait until the first of the year or see about referral to another group? When I posed that question to the receptionist at my doctor’s office, I got a very polite – well duh – it’s not a good idea to wait response and a new referral.
Soon, I had an appointment for the dreaded screening procedure. Would you believe the very next day they called to push the appointment out another couple of weeks to the middle of November. Something about double booking.
At long last the day of my appointment arrived and I had the thing completed, where they discovered a rather large polyp, but could only take out part of it. For some reason, immediately after this doctor strongly suggested surgery. “Then you’re done with it and it’s gone.” That was the route I took, even after the subsequent lab results on the nasty specimen came back non-cancerous with the recommendation to simply have a repeat colonoscopy in another year.
Though I really didn’t want to, I stayed with the surgery option, at this point scheduling out another month until the holidays were over. After all, who wants to be in the hospital at Christmas? With the upcoming surgery on my mind the whole time, we got through November and December.
All along, both doctors stressed they believed this was nothing more than a benign growth with the potential to become a problem. On the off chance there was something there, I was told, the surgical technique was the same as if it were a known cancer. All of the growth would be removed along with some of my digestive tract and a number of connecting lymph nodes. This was done and all 22 of mine came back negative, that’s good! Mine was a surgical cure. No further treatment needed. Here’s hoping. Doesn’t make it any less scary. Though I regret my cavalier attitude in putting the test off initially, I am so glad, for whatever reason, I was steered to the surgery.
A writer friend had the same thing seven years ago and she’s just fine. Even though a blood test and CT scan and visit with an oncologist are in my near future, I have to believe I will be equally fine as well.
Which is good, because as I said before, I’m busy.
On the Surface, Book One in my Brothers in Blue series with The Wild Rose Press is in production and I have edits to return. On the Force, Book Two is in rewrites and due in October.
Plus, a former editor of mine asked me to be part of an upcoming box set of stories that take place in and around a casino. It just turns out I have a half finished project the will fit that bill just fine. I think I’ll call it Give Us A Chance.
Then there are two more Brothers in Blue books, yet to be written, On the Make and On the Move due in 2018 and 2019.

Again. Busy. Even so, positive thoughts and prayers are welcome and encouraged.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my WEBSITE

Sunday, January 22, 2017

And you think you have problems? ~ by Leah St. James



I live about three hours southeast of D.C., in an area that is home to a number of our nation’s historically significant sites, including Jamestowne and the site where the first African slaves stepped on “American” soil, not to mention the U.S. Army base that took in fleeing slaves during the Civil War (by cleverly declaring them to be “contraband,” but hey, it worked). 

We’re also home to Langley Air Force Base and Naval Station Norfolk (largest naval base in the world)...oh, and the CIA’s top-secret training facility at Camp Peary known as “The Farm”....or so legend says. (Even typing that probably bumped me up someone’s watch list!)


The major private industry in town builds nuclear aircraft carriers, and down the road a bit are a bunch of rocket scientists who work at NASA Langley (“descendant” of NACA, the organization featured in “Hidden Figures”). We’re also home to The College of William and Mary, one of the country’s oldest and most respected institutions of higher learning.


So...yeah...there is no shortage of really, really smart people where I live, or of those who are committed to protecting our country and to making it better for all of us. I come in contact with many on a daily basis, both in my neighborhood and at work.


In my “day job,” I work for a news organization that covers our local community with daily and weekly publications in print and online (a/k/a “the newspaper”). I have the privilege of answering the newsroom “tip” line, our publisher’s direct line and the “feedback “ line. Our readers are not shy in sharing their opinions about what’s going on in our community, the nation or the world. (My brain is still bleeding from listening to reader commentary, from both sides, during the presidential debates.)


So earlier this week as the nation prepared to swear in a new president, and our journalists prepared to cover both the local inauguration story and the women’s march in D.C., I was prepared for an earful. And I got it.


The calls started before I got in on Thursday—lighting up my voicemail’s message light. I dropped my purse under my desk, booted up my laptop and got to work. And the news was worse than I had thought. 


Our residents were mad as H-E-double-hockey-sticks! Catastrophe had happened. The end of the world was near. American was doomed; the last nail had just been hammered into the coffin of the most traditional of news media--the newspaper.


It seems our production team had inadvertently published the wrong day’s puzzle/comics page. 


Yep, it’s true. We printed Friday’s puzzle page on Thursday. So if you were looking for the answers to Wednesday’s crossword puzzle...sorry, Charlie. If you were hoping to read the next panel of your favorite serial comic...too bad. We had screwed up...bigly.


One 80-something-year-old retired general told me, “My wife goes bat-**** crazy when she doesn’t get those crossword answers!”  


And that was mild...I took one snarky/PO’d/threatening call after another.


All day I told myself:  This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.


And it did. On Friday we published both the missing Thursday pages and the (now correct) Friday pages, and once our readers figured out where to get their answers, things calmed down.


So what’s the moral of this story?


If something is making you anxious or upset today, maybe, just maybe, it will help to tell yourself: This too shall pass.


As a completely unrelated bonus, hoping to elicit a few smiles, I've added a funny video of my son’s 9-month-old cat Hercules. (Please click on the link to see the video; I am NOT a rocket scientist and don't appear to have the technological smarts to embed it.) :-)



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Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. She routinely escapes the reality of our world by immersing herself in romance novels, where she can always find an HEA.

Visit me at leahstjames.com or on my Facebook page.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A snowbird's tale by Barbara Edwards

Apalachicola Bay

As a snow bird, I get to visit the beach anytime I want. 
Yesterday was special. There was a big piece of trash on the furthest point of the St. George's Island State Park and we volunteers took the mule to pick it up. 
Instead of sunshine we had thick fog, but it was fun. We picked us trash. so much we filled the rear of the mule and had to rebag it so we could stack it higher. 

The best part was finding shells. All of us had been here before and had certain pieces to look for. Pat wanted a sea biscuit and found a fragile section. I was looking for scallop shells to make Christmas ornaments. Jane and Betsey looked for Welks. We found two, one unbroken but encrusted with barnacles, the other with a large hole perfect for making a decoration.
On the east point of the island


Then we found the trash: a refrigerator off a boat had floated to shore.
Luckily we were close to the parking lot and road. 
Cleaned

We called the camp for the large truck and they came out to take the refrigerator and trash to the recycling area.
We rode back on the mule. A rough drive on a sandy, pitted trail. Worth the sore behind when I counted up the nice shells.

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Amazon Author’s Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003F6ZK1A



Friday, January 20, 2017

THE EXCITING CONCLUSION WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR

Dr. Michaela Blautsauger finally finds her mate in...

COLD-HEARTED VAMPIRE

                      

                                  

 The 4th book and exciting conclusion to The Blautsaugers of Amber Heights series is in the hands of my editor. We are tentatively planning on a summer or fall release. 

Cold-Hearted Vampire features the eldest daughter, Dr. Blautsauger, and Michaela might well be the most misunderstood member of the family. She was born during an age when girls were considered their father's property until marriage. After that they were legally designated as their husband's chattel. No wonder she chafed against such restrictions. Even as a young she-vamp, she realizes her only way out is to never marry. To make sure her independence is complete she also knows she has to find a way to earn her own income.

Almost three hundred years later, her kick-ass and take names attitude hasn't changed. Against her father's wishes she's still unmarried and has earned her medical decree. For the last fifty plus years she's worked as a physician and scientist. Her most cherished desire is to formulate the perfect synthetic blood. One which will release vampires from their dependence on humans. 

Unfortunately, she hit a snag while attempting to reach her goal. She needs an artificial molecule. A liposome base sturdy enough to transport all the necessary nutrients throughout the circulatory system. Plant fructans might be the answer and provide a workable foundation. If she can only find the right plant.

At that exact moment she hears about a rare plant
that might be just perfect but there's a problem. The 
ch'ich pak' or blood plant only grows near a sacred 
cenote in the Yucatan jungle which is deep within the 
belly of enemy territory. And the Toltecs would love 
to get their hands on a Nosferatu. Especially a Blautsauger. 
She goes anyway, even knowing she might be walking 
into a trap.

Human Detective Seth Whitehead has had his suspicions 
about the Blautsauger family. In particular the coldly aloof 
but enticing Dr. Michaela Blautsauger. Even as he finds 
himself drawn to her, he knows she is hiding secrets. 
Knowledge that might help him apprehend the serial 
killer he's been hunting. 

Following her to Mexico turns into a race against time. 
As they swim in the cool waters of the cenote and accept 
their intense attraction. Seth knows danger is looming. 
The Toltecs know she is there and they are hunting for 
her. If he can't get her out of the jungle before the 
Toltecs find them it will be certain death for both 
of them.

Start at the very beginning of the saga with IT'S 
A WONDERFUL UNDEAD LIFE. What happens 
when you pray for an angel and get a vampire 
instead? Cailey Kantor is going to find out with 
a little help from Gabe Blautsauger.







     


          




Next is A VAMPIRE IN THE SCRYING GLASS. The

beautiful genius, Morgan Maguire, hides a 
supernatural secret from the world. Rafe
Blautsauger fights his attraction to the human
woman but forces conspire against them.



 The third installment is A VAMPIRE TO
BE RECKONED WITH. Metta Blautsauger
has been fighting pre-conceived notions all
her life. Her family considers her to be a
ditz. The rest of the vampire community
believes she's a good-natured simpleton.

In reality she used to be an agent with
Orcus, a shadow vampire organization.
She returned home after an operation
gone went sour but she hasn't been idle.
Unbeknownst to all but a small group
of human ministers, she's gone rogue. 
She's hunting human traffickers without 
official Orcus sanction even knowing 
the penalty is a stake through her heart.

Lucas O'Cuinn, her former trainer and love,
has been sent to reel her in. He's headed
her way but with an agenda all his own.



    
Check out my new website at remullins.com and keep up with what I'm currently working on.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Password Purgatory by Alicia Dean


Am I the only one who thinks keeping up with and changing passwords is an unfathomable nightmare? Yes, I know, we need the security, but geez…at what cost? Our sanity? Long ago when I was a young'ish, naive, bright-eyed first time computer user, I chose a password that would be easy to remember. I vowed to use that same password for everything, until the end of time (against the dire warnings of the Password Guru/Gods/Kings, who insist you should use different passwords for everything, change them more often than  you do your underwear, and be sure to include lower case letters, capital letters, numbers, symbols, morse code, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Klingon).

However, my fairy tale password fantasy was soon shattered. Because, just like the Password Guru/Gods/Kings, many sites did not like my simple, easy to remember password. They insisted I add all the aforementioned ridiculousness. They weren't all that subtle about it either. I'm sure you've seen THIS before:



So, I did as they demanded. I created another ‘universal’ password that included all of that. Only one, though, so I’d be sure to remember it. Guess what? The omnipotent ruler of the computer hemisphere was STILL not happy. Periodically, one of the sites I visited would give me the dreaded message: “It’s Time to Update Your Password” – WHAT??!!??!!! No, please!!! Spank me, stick a fork in my eye, waterboard me, make me watch endless episodes of "Keeping up with the Kardashians"…ANYTHING besides making me change my password! 

But, alas, I DID have to change it. And, of course, I’ve had to change it many times since. You know how it goes, you try to use a wrong password on a site, so they make you update it. You make note of it somewhere, but you can’t remember where, so the next time you go into the site, you have to update it again. You provide a 'new' password and get the message: Please try a password you haven’t used before. You’re like, how??? There ARE no passwords I haven’t used before…

But, yesterday, I experienced the worst possible password fiasco. I pulled out a laptop I hadn’t used in a while. I typed in my most recent Microsoft password to get past the Guard of the Windows and access my desktop. I received a message: “You are not connected to the internet. Please use the last password you used on this computer.” WTF??? I can’t remember a password from 5 minutes ago, let alone freaking months ago. I attempted again, and again, and was shunned with every try. Then, I was like, “Oh, I just need to connect to the internet.” I did (after I had searched for and located my wifi password, of course). I tried my most recent Windows Password. Nope, sorry, “Incorrect Password.” How could it be incorrect? I updated it YESTERDAY. 

Pleeeeaaassseeee, I just want to access my desktop. Is that too much to ask?


I got onto my desktop PC and logged in to Windows, using the same recently-updated password, just to be sure. Yes, I confirmed, it was correct. I tried again on the laptop. Huh-uh, nope, sorry, too bad, so sad. Okay, so maybe it didn’t like me effing around with so many passwords. I’ll start all over. I updated my Microsoft PW again. Same message. Grrrr. I started a ‘chat’ with a Microsoft customer service rep. She went through all the questions/steps, and couldn’t help me. She referred me to their tech support, who would call me. I turned the phone over to my daughter, since I had to get ready for work. (This was ALL before I went in to the day job). My daughter finally noticed that I was missing an ‘I’ when I set up my email address, so it was AlicaMDean instead of AliciaMDean. (SMH…how did I do that???) Then, by some miracle, I remembered the password I was ‘probably’ using during that time. I tried it and...voila! I was in!!!


Whew. What a freaking pain! What do people do who only have ONE computer, the one they are trying to log into? WHY do we need protection from even getting onto Windows? What can ne'er do wells and dastardly fiends do to us via Windows when they don’t know all of our many, many, complicated and extensive passwords? I couldn’t care less if someone accesses my desktop. Help yourself! I just want a world where I’m not controlled, judged, and tormented by password demons. Is that too much to ask?

Soooo...I guess what I'm trying to say is, do any of you have a solution? An easy way to update/store/remember/survive Password Purgatory?


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Joys of Pioneer Life...NOT by Jannine Gallant

My work area to make dinner.

I always thought I was born in the wrong era, that I should have been a pioneer conquering the West. I was a history major, and that time period always fascinated me. Let me tell you...I was wrong.

Our street after the cutter came through. The berms are taller than me.

We had a massive series of storms move through Tahoe last week that took out power to the entire region. We went through a 31 hour stretch without power then had power for a day before it went out again. 45 hours of no power for the next stretch. We had one blissful evening of light and internet before it went out yet again...and stayed out. As I'm typing this, I'm at work in the main PUD offices, which have been set up as a Red Cross warming zone. Since the rec center I normally work at on weekends is in my neighborhood and powerless, they decided to send me over here to make myself useful. Yea, power and internet for my six hour shift before I go home to the dark zone... Have I mentioned cell reception in my house sucks. Yeah, one bar if I put my phone in the right spot by the dining room window. So, I'm truly cut off from the world!

Even Ginger isn't thrilled since the snow is so deep in the woods we have to walk on the street.

I took Ginger for a walk this morning and found the crux of my problems for this most recent outage. A tree fell, taking out power lines in our neighborhood. There's a wad of tangled wires on the ground with caution tape blocking that section of the street. Oh joy. No one was working on it, and I have a feeling we're low on their priority totem pole. We're 2 days into this most recent stretch of no power and counting. I can only hope it'll all be over by the time this posts on the 18th.

Our driveway after I got the car shoveled out.

So, the moral of my story is...being a pioneer wasn't a whole lot of fun. Or maybe we're just spoiled. By the way, WILDE ONE is on sale for 99 cents all month. So, if you haven't started my BORN TO BE WILDE series, now's a great time to do it! Available on AMAZON or find additional buy links on my WEBSITE.


Have a great day filled with light and internet connectivity!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Letter To My Younger Self, Part I by Betsy Ashton

Dear Betsy,

I have so much to tell you, not all of which you will want to hear. I have advice, which I'm sure you will not like, as well as memories of things you will do, both good and bad.

The first thing I'd ask you to think about is not what you want to be when grow up, but how you want to live. If you can define the how of living, the what will follow course. What I mean is if you want to live the life of the rich and famous, you could marry into money. You could also find a career that would lead to that fame and fortune.

What I would ask you to consider is the price of that fame and fortune. Do you want to give up your privacy for a life of avoiding the paparazzi? Do you want people to stare at you every time you go out in public, not let you eat your meal without someone commenting on your food choices? Do you want to hide behind closed blinds and high walls to protect your children and your privacy in a world that will increasingly blur lines between public and private lives, between what is acceptable behavior and what is intrusive and potentially dangerous intrusion.

Do you choose a life where you are fulfilled with your family and friends? You will marry, once to the wrong man, once to the right one. In the first case, you will not pay attention to what your friends and family say to warn you off the marriage before it happens. You will marry and realize as you walk down the aisle that you could still stop it. But you will not. You will learn from this so when the right man finally appears out of the darkness in a disco in Tokyo you will recognize him as the right person to have in your life.

You will inherit a family, not have your own children, and you will be just fine with that. You will discover three children who will become your closest friends as years go by and they grow up. You will not try to be their mother, since they already have that role filled, but you will be able to be a role model and friend who listens to hopes and fears.

You will have many friends over the years, but not all of them will be around forever. You might have the very best friend who comes into your life for a few days and then exits, leaving behind a footprint of a particular kind of friendship at a moment of need. You will have opportunities to be that five-day best friend often in your life. I hope you remember how important it was when your first five-minute best friend reached out a hand to help.

Some of your friends will turn out not to be as true as you had once believed. You will learn to identify those friends who are toxic, who are emotional vampires who suck the life out of you. When this happens, you will be called on to decide how you want to let the friendship go. You can cause a blow up that will harm both of you. Better, you can let the friendship whither slowly over time. Only you can decide which path to take. Choose wisely, and you will be comfortable with your decision. Choose unwisely, and you might feel better for the blow up but in the long run will realize you chose the wrong path.

To be continued on January 27.