February 12, 2017

about, Musings

No comments

I was flattered at the Poisoned Pen this week.

Kristan Higgins is one of my favorite romantic comedy writers, so when I heard she’d be at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on a tour for her latest book, On Second Thought, I requested a day off from work so I could go down and see her.

The Woman in Cabin Ten | #bookclubI live in Prescott now, but I used to live 90-plus minutes farther north, in Flagstaff. Consequently, I never quite remember how long it’ll take me to get down to the Valley. I arrived quite early for Kristan’s 2 p.m. talk, so I settled into a comfy chair at the bookstore and dove into my book club’s next read (The Woman in Cabin 10). It’s a page-turner, for sure.

Of course, there were other people around, and I couldn’t completely lose myself in the book. Instead, I struck up a conversation with one woman who brought her dog and granddaughter to the store, not knowing there was an author coming, and decided to stay for Kristan’s presentation. Another woman pulled a copy of Gone with the Wind off the shelf, which was right by my head, and said something that started a conversation about the book vs. the movie.

As we chatted about the characters on film in no way matching up with the visions in our heads, she suddenly burst out: “I know why you look familiar. You’re Kristan Higgins!”

“No, but I’m here to see her,” I replied with a friendly/nervous laugh. I’d never been mistaken for one of my favorite authors before, and I didn’t know quite what to say.

The poor woman was embarrassed and tried to explain. “With your short hair and those glasses, you look just like her.”

By then, Kristan had walked in and was standing at the counter, near the front of the shop. I pointed in her direction and said, “That’s Kristan. But I’m flattered. Thank you.”

“Well, I’d better get out of here before she finds out what I’ve done,” the still-embarrassed woman said.

Despite my protests that I didn’t think anyone would mind and she ought to stay for Kristan’s talk, the woman left. And I was left with a warm, fuzzy feeling that someone—for a brief moment—thought I was famous.

Frankly, I don’t see much of a resemblance.

Here I am with Kristan Higgins at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, Feb. 8, 2017.

Here I am with Kristan Higgins at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, Feb. 8, 2017.

Well, maybe the hair and the glasses are similar … and we both laugh a lot.

Plus, we’re both a rare breed — extrovert authors. As she said during her talk, “unlike a lot of authors, I actually love meeting people.” (It was something to that effect, anyway. I wasn’t taking notes for an exact quote.)

She’s right. So many writers are introverts who’d rather be alone with their laptops, but I thrive when I’m in crowds. Even if I’m just sitting quietly, observing, I get energy from being among people. I think that’s why I do so much of my best writing at Starbucks — I can be social and recharge my batteries in the presence of fellow coffee lovers.

I’ve been mistaken for worse!

Now, if only I had a guy like Kristan’s McIrish …

January 1, 2017

Musings

No comments

happy-2017And good riddance to 2016.

It was a hell of a year, claiming, among other greats, Prince, David Bowie and George Michael — so many of my fave ’80s artists. Then Carrie Fisher died, and—a day later—Debbie Reynolds joined her. Every time I turned around, someone else had dropped.

There were some high spots, though. I published Ogling the Outfielder AND Stealing the Southpaw, and re-released Sliding into Home. Sometimes I think Sliding is my favorite—and it’s definitely the most under-performing of my books. Every time I re-read it, I wonder why it doesn’t sell more copies.

I also put the first three Love & Baseball books — Diva in the Dugout, Beauty and the Ballplayer and Sliding into Home — into a boxed set.

I saw some good movies — Rogue One immediately comes to mind — and some not-so-great ones. (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, anyone?) Arrival made my “not sure how to feel about it” list. It held my attention, but the ending was … well, it left much to be desired, for me anyway. As the end credits rolled, I sat there, staring at the screen thinking “What the hell just happened?”

Coming up, I’m looking forward to seeing Hidden Figures and Why Him? I know, I know. Why Him? will undoubtedly join Mike and Dave … in the “full of laughs as the action unfolds but leaves me thinking ‘why did I pay to see this?'” file. (Edited to add: Saw Why Him? and was pleasantly surprised. It DID NOT join Mike and Dave in that category.)

Then, of course, there was THE highlight of 2016:

Cubs Win!

I doubted it’d happen in my lifetime, but the Cubbies did it. 2016 World Series Champs! The high of that success sustains me as I contemplate the future.

Speaking of what’s to come, I’d like to make 2017 the year I finally get healthy. Yes, I say that every year. But this time I mean it. Been thinking of a way to get (and give) support to like-minded readers. Perhaps a Facebook group? A virtual walking club?

Use the comments to chime in with your thoughts. And if you want the full story of my attempts to lose weight, check out my other blog, Adventures in Weight Loss, Cooking and Life. It, too, has been sadly neglected lately, but I’m thinking it might be time for a reboot. Or maybe I should fold in the healthy living stuff over here? It might give me the impetus to blog more often …

Use the comments to chime in with your thoughts. I’d love to hear them!

December 31, 2016

Musings

No comments

raise-a-glassWith the addition of Carrie Fisher, and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, to the list of celebrity deaths in its waning days, 2016 has thrown many of us for a loop. I can’t help but wonder if this is the way it’ll be from now on … more of my favorite stars, singers and authors kicking the bucket every year as I, too, get older.

It’s been a pretty awful year, to be sure. Still, some good has to have come from 2016.

To remind myself of that, I took a look back at my stats for the year, conveniently compiled in Jamie Raintree’s fantastic Writing & Revision Tracker spreadsheet. (Link goes to the 2017 version, which is well worth the $8.)

The great spreadsheet tells me that in 2016, I:

  • Wrote 36,795 words
  • Revised 444 pages

Is that all? Damn. Looking at those totals, 2016 HAS been a dumpster fire of mega proportions.

However, I also:

  • Published two category-length novels—Ogling the Outfielder and Stealing the Southpaw—and one short story—Baring It All
  • Discovered the Universal Book Link. (Thanks, Books2Read and Draft2Digital.)
  • Included Sliding into Home in a bundle with other baseball romances from Kate Curran, Jennifer Bernard, Kasey Michaels, Mindy Klasky and more. (GetThe All-Star Baseball Romance bundle on AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | IBOOKS.)
  • Started sending monthly email newsletters (instead of sending one only when I have a new release)
  • Added 1K names to my email list (thanks to Ryan Zee)
  • Listened to countless podcasts on self-publishing, marketing and creativity.
  • Saw my two free short stories (Baring it All and Contempt of Love) hit 1 & 2 on Amazon’s free Kindle Short Reads (12-21 pages) list. (This happened after I sent a newsletter to all my new Ryan Zee subscribers, highlighting the free shorts.)
  • Sold a respectable number of books. Not enough to quit the day job anytime soon, but that’s okay. I continue to work toward that pie-in-the-sky goal.

I’m putting this out there now: Quitting the day job to write full-time is in my 10-year plan. I’m 45 now, so if I can get there by the time I hit 55, I’ll be happy.

How about you? What are your New Year’s goals? How about your 10-year plan?

December 5, 2016

Musings

No comments

Longtime readers of this or any of my other blogs (Adventures in Weight Loss, Cooking and Life, Chicklets in the Kitchen) are likely to know one thing about me: I often don’t feel as if I have time to cook.

So when Michelle Weinstein of FITzee Foods reached out to ask if I’d like to sample the company’s meals, it didn’t take me long to say “yes.”

From Michelle’s email: “FITzee Foods means no more grocery shopping, cooking, or doing dishes while enjoying the most delicious and healthy freshly prepared meals you will have ever have!”

No cooking, dishes or grocery shopping? Who in their right mind would turn down that pitch?

The offer was doubly appealing because it hit my inbox in one of my “I really need to start eating more healthfully” moments. I have those feelings way too often. I clean up my diet for a day or two and then it’s back to the drive-thru, where I stuff my face with moderately tasty but definitely unhealthy meals.

With a little luck, I thought FITzee meals could help me break that bad habit.

From paleo and low-carb to vegetarian and dairy-free, the company offers something for everyone:

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-36-36-pm

“Healthy meals made from scratch with no subscription needed,” the company’s website explains. “FITzee meals are always fresh and never frozen. We make all of our food with the best, all-natural ingredients available.”

I eagerly tracked my shipment, waiting for my freedom from cooking, dishes and unhealthy drive-thru food to arrive. Because I live in a house behind the main house, and my address has a 1/2 in it, the mail gets dropped at the big house. I had to make sure I knew when to walk up there and pick it up.

Lucky for me, the box was bulky but not terribly heavy. I was able to wrangle it to my place without dropping it. Inside were 14 of FITzee’s small-sized meals, which contain 8 to 9.5 ounces of goodness. That might not sound like much food, but when the food is high-quality and nutrition-packed, you don’t need oversized portions to be satisfied.

Surprise! I know I fall into the trap of thinking more is better—one of the many reasons I struggle with my weight. But for folks with bigger appetites, there are medium (11.5- to 15-ounce) and large (15- to 20-ounce) portions, too.

After I unpacked the box (with two each of seven different meals), I dove right in to grab a healthy lunch. It was a good way to cap off the 30-minute walk I took earlier that day.

As a Midwestern gal at heart (Indiana born and raised), I love anything that has anything to do with pulled pork. So the BBQ pork with sweet potatoes and creamed spinach was a natural first pick.

Paleo BBQ Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Creamed Spinach | FITzee Foods

Everything—even the spinach—was delicious! And this is from someone who’s not normally a huge fan of cooked spinach. I’ve been known to say “give me raw spinach in a salad any day.” But this spinach had a good flavor—and tasted even better when eaten with a bite of potato and pork.

Don’t ask me what happened to the little girl who used to eat each thing on the plate individually, saving her favorite/the best for last. (Little girl? Who am I trying to kid? I still do that—at Thanksgiving, I saved the green bean casserole and stuffing for last.)
Paleo Spaghetti | FITzee Foods

Dinner that night at work was the Paleo Spaghetti (above): zucchini noodles in house-made marinara sauce with ground turkey and fresh basil. Another home run.

I love zoodles! Sure, they’re nothing like real pasta—but as someone who was on a low-carb diet for two years and is considering going back to it in the New Year, I can deal. After a few days of low-carb eating, I don’t even miss the pasta, bread, potatoes and ALL the sugary sweets.

(The thought of going low-carb when I AM eating all that crap is another story, however. When I’m not low-carbing it, the prospect of giving up all those delicious carbs sounds like the worst of very bad ideas.)2016-11-03-09-52-19

The Paleo Breakfast Hash (above) was my least favorite meal of the shipment. It sounded delicious in theory: all-natural chicken sausage, nitrate-free turkey bacon (okay, real bacon would be better), garnet and white sweet potatoes with mushrooms, local chiles, onion and garlic.

I don’t know if it was the chiles or the sausage, but something about the hash made it a bit too spicy for my liking. The brochure doesn’t note the dish as spicy. (But I have Midwestern taste buds, remember? I grew up eating VERY bland food. It took me years of living in Arizona to be able to handle medium salsa and moderately spicy pad thai.) 2016-11-07-08-56-07

The Paleo Turkey Butternut Chili (above) might not look like much, at least when I’m taking its picture, but it was probably my favorite meal. It was on the company’s list of weekly specials, rather than the “Everyday Favorites” that are available all month long. It had great flavor (not too spicy) and was very filling. Plus, I love pretty much anything that involves butternut squash (or zucchini).

For sure, FITzee meals made eating easier. There was no thinking about what to cook (or which drive-thru to hit up next). I could pull out a fresh, tasty meal, microwave it according to the directions and enjoy. I think it’s Gretchen Rubin who says decision-making is hard. Using up all your decision-making power on things like what to eat makes it harder to make the BIG decisions when the time comes. So FITzee meals are an easy way to NOT have to think about food.

Another perk: There is, indeed, little cleanup required. I had to wash only the utensil I ate with and, if I was trying to be fancy, the plate or bowl I put it on.  Sometimes a gal likes to eat off real plates, not little plastic trays. Right?

The one downside: Since everything arrived fresh, not frozen, I started to panic toward the end of the week about whether I could eat everything they sent before it went bad. So I ended up popping a bunch of the meals in the freezer to enjoy at a later date. (When I get a new urge to eat healthfully would be a great time to dig them out.)

Intrigued yet?

FITzee offers a variety of meal plans and boxes that range in price from $48.51 (5 small meals in “the lunch box”) to $258.35 (21 medium-sized meals in the “All in with the Big Box” package).

I have my eye on the Paleo Shepherd’s Pie and Winter Vegetable Scramble. Jose’s Carnitas Plate looks tasty, too, but with the word “spicy” in the description, it’s no doubt way too hot for my wimpy taste buds.