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Today’s gripe is about cheap stuff. In other words, consumer products made quickly and cheaply, not expected to have much of a life span.

When I was a kid (don’t groan, I won’t tell you a story I’ve told before), things were expected to last a long time, and if they stopped working, it was expected they’d be repaired.

Examples: a pair of shoes with a hole in the sole could be re-soled. A radio that stopped working could have a tube replaced and it would work again. Socks with a hole in them were darned.

My then-boyfriend (now husband) spent many hours working on cars that had problems, fixing vacuum cleaners or toasters or lamps. It was worth the effort put into repairing the items, because they were sturdy and would continue to give many years of excellent service.

But then came along the “disposable” society idea. Making things of cheap plastic and metals made the price low, so many people could afford the items. Along with the low price came the expectation that if the item stopped working, it was more economical to toss it out and buy a new one than to repair it. Soon, in fact, it became impossible to find someone to repair these items, even if you were willing to pay the price.

Thus, we can buy a printer so cheaply—sometimes cheaper than a refill of the ink it uses—that it makes no sense to have it repaired. Just pitch it and buy a new one. Cordless phone stop working? Throw it out and get a new one. Hole in your shoes? Into the garbage they go, and get a new pair.

For a generation like mine that worked for saving the environment, this seems like a terrible idea. Where do all those objects, many of them electronics, end up? Most of them go to a landfill. Just what we need, more garbage.

I’m not sure anything can be done to stop the flow of cheap, disposable items. But I reserve the right to bitch and moan about it! What about you?

Friday Happies

Of course, the perennial thing to be happy about on Friday is, Thank Goodness It’s Friday. And today is no exception…I’m happy the week is ending, so we can all relax and let down our hair.

I’m also glad the rain stopped, at least for now. It’s been raining for two days straight, bringing us more rain in that short period than we usually get in a month. Oy.

I’m happy that my various medical concerns are all being fairly quiet and benign today. Yay!

I’m also happy that my family and friends are all fairly happy and healthy, with no crises on the horizon at the moment. That deserves a double cheer.

Just found out the Steelers game on Sunday will be televised here. If you’d asked me before their game last Monday night, I’d have said, “I don’t need to watch them play; I need more grief like I need a hole in the head.” But since they won on Monday, and impressively so, I’m cautiously optimistic they might just repeat the feat.

What else? I’m glad there are still some pretty leaves on the trees, although the past two days of rain has thinned them out.

Now it’s your turn. What are you happy about today?

Monday Gripes

I haven’t done an edition of Monday Gripes for a while, so I decided it was about time.

First gripe: it’s not even  Monday! I got so busy yesterday, I forgot. So technically, this is Tuesday Gripes.

One new gripe has to do with my English budgie, Jack. (Short for Captain Jack Sparrow, naturally!) It seems he’s made friends with a catbird he sees out the kitchen window. He has apparently taught the catbird some of the whistles Jack learned from hubby Dan, so they whistle and chirp back and forth to each other.

The problem with this: they do it at the crack of dawn (or “crackadon,” as my oldest daughter used to say), and they do it LOUDLY. It’s like having a bird alarm. Oy. Yelling “Shut up, Jack!” doesn’t work; nor does putting the pillow over my head (can’t breathe). So eventually, muttering dire threats about extinction of a species, I get out of bed and start my day. Naturally, Jack is delighted to see me up and moving, so he doesn’t understand my mood.

I’m thinking a good revenge is to wake Jack up when HE’s asleep. Only problem is, once you wake him up, he’s delighted to talk to you. Apparently, he needs less sleep than I do!

Also, I’ll share with you a classic gripe. This drives me nuts, so even though I’ve previously mentioned this, I will repeat.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who, when driving, do not know how to merge. It sounds like a simple thing, right? Get your car from the on-ramp onto the main highway safely.  Let’s examine how most folks do it:

Drive slowly up the on-ramp. Look to see if there are any cars coming—not that it will make any difference to your merging method. Lumber into the main highway lane, going 20 miles below the speed limit and forcing the car next to you to hit the brakes sharply to avoid hitting you. Ignore the horns blowing and rude gestures sent your way.

Now, pay attention, please. This is the CORRECT way to merge:

Check out who is coming on the main highway lane. Find a space you can fit into without hitting anyone. Accelerate smoothly on the on-ramp to match your speed to the main lane traffic. Carefully steer your car into that open space, without forcing the car behind the space to swerve or brake.

Yes, YOU must find a space to fit into and do it without disrupting the pattern of traffic. That’s the definition of MERGE.

There! Got that off my chest (again). What are your pet peeves, on the highway or in life?

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Old Man Winter

I am SO sick of winter already. Not just the snow—we didn’t get as much as some other spots in the US, though we got a respectable amount. But the cold is not only painfully uncomfortable, but potentially dangerous.

A couple of weeks ago, we got up to find there was no hot water. Somewhere along the line,the hot water pipe had frozen. Eventually it thawed, and luckily caused no permanent damage. But now we have to remember to leave the water running (at a drip rate) at night on bitterly cold nights, so we don’t end up with frozen pipes again.

Then we had a day where there was no heat. I called the oil company, and they said, “Oh, you’re out of oil.” Surprised smile Since we’re on automatic delivery, this should have happened. But that’s an argument for another time. They came out within a few hours and put some oil in the tank—due to the demand, they couldn’t fill it. We’re down to 1/4 tank or less again and just hoping they come out tomorrow as promised and fill the tank. I’m not even going to say how expensive that is. Sad smile 

The woodburning stove is getting a real workout. We had it going almost all weekend long. I’d use it myself during the week, but I never earned the Firestarter badge in Girl Scouts. Winking smile So I just end up wearing lots of sweaters and drinking lots of tea.

Shoveling the walk or scraping ice off the car becomes a race against time: can we finish before frostbite sets in?

Just getting up our steep, bumpy driveway is an exercise in terror: how fast do I have to go when I make that 90-degree turn into the driveway, and how much fishtailing do I have to endure to make it to the top?

But there’s one thing that’s positive about this frigid weather, as long as I don’t think what this says about my storm windows:

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Jack Frost was here!

Please help me welcome guest author Margie Church, whose novel THE POET’S WIFE is being released today by Tirgearr Publishing.

The Poet's Wife by Margie Church - 200 (2)

Lily Holliway’s life is shattered when her husband, Gabe, is killed in Afghanistan. A new job and dear friends aren’t enough to ease her yearnings for the love she clings to.

Gabe feels her grief so strongly that his spirit cannot leave the confines of this world. He can’t rest in peace until he’s sure Lily is going to be okay. In desperation, he reaches out to her using his special gift.

Finding the mysterious haiku makes Lily question her grip on reality. When she sees Gabe face-to-face, can she believe her eyes?

Lily must trust the only man she’s ever loved to help her begin again.

I hope you’re intrigued enough to read this amazing story. One commenter will win a copy of The Poet’s Wife by telling me about their close encounter of the paranormal kind.

Read it now at Tirgearr Publishing, Amazon, (US, UK, and Canada), and Smashwords.

* * *

Here’s an excerpt from THE POET’S WIFE:

In his spirit state, Gabe heard and watched the entire scene between his wife and Jana. He stood behind Lily while she said goodbye to Jana. He walked out of the building to the car with Lily. The wind caught a wisp of her hair, and he wished he could tuck it behind her ear. He used to love stroking Lily’s soft, wavy tresses.

Not yet. She wasn’t ready to know he was close by, trying to help her cope. Hell, he was trying to cope, too. God had given Gabe a chance to help Lily, and himself, but it was all in the timing. Gabe wouldn’t get long. The Shepherd of Souls had been very clear about that.

Lily drove out of the parking lot, but instead of taking her usual direct route to the base exits, she drove through the grounds.

In his spirit form, Gabe followed her.

She slowed down near one of the park benches.

We met there. Gabe recalled seeing Lily with her brown-bag lunch when he’d gone jogging on the historic base. She’d caught his eye immediately. Her long, graceful limbs and full lips captivated him. When she smiled, the sun seemed to dim. Her charming demeanor wiped out all his defenses.

She’d shaded her eyes to speak to him. "I’ve never seen you before."

"I was in Seattle for training, but I’m stationed here. Are you visiting your husband?"

She’d giggled this wonderful, heart-warming sound, and her face turned the loveliest shade of pink. Gabe knew in that moment, he was pretty much a goner.

"No, I’m not married. I started working at the commissary last week."

"Well, if you have lunch in the park, I’ll be seeing you. I jog through here almost every day."

Gabe didn’t usually take that route, but he was darn glad he had that day, and every day afterward. Lily had waited for him, sometimes bringing along an extra bottle of water or a piece of fruit for him. They’d talk for a little while, then he’d finish his run, although his mind was never on physical fitness after he saw Lilianna Carston.

Now Gabe sat on that same bench, remembering the delight in her eyes when he’d asked her to dinner the first time. They became almost inseparable. They thought they’d have a lifetime together.

He turned toward her car and saw the strain on her face.

He watched her shoulders rise and fall in a deep sigh before she drove away from the curb.

Gabe didn’t get off the bench and follow her. Being dead wasn’t exactly halos and fluffy clouds for him.

* * *

Margie Church 5

Margie shares with us the inspiration behind THE POET’S WIFE:

I’ve thought long and hard about where such an emotional story could come from. Thankfully, I’ve not been widowed but years ago, my father was violently taken from me. I think anyone who’s experienced a sudden loss, recognizes the turmoil it creates. You have a million questions that can’t always be answered, and you wish you could have been there in that last instant of life to sooth their journey into the afterlife. I think I was able to tie those emotions to those of being a parent and the sometimes horrible realization your child could die.

So, I had these ideas about not wanting to let go of the one who has died, and the pain survivors must endure. That became the angst Gabe and Lily felt. They were in their early 30s, and married for about six years. Although Gabe had a dangerous job in the military police, Lily and Gabe didn’t let that control their future. They had plans to start a family – to have their happily ever after. In an instant, that was taken from both of them.

The Poet’s Wife is a ghost story. Gabe is never alive in this book but his spirit is very present. Lots of times, we get the notion that spirits soar into some sort of bliss after death, and spend eternity with a smile on their face. I’d like that to be true, but I really don’t believe it. He’s as devastated by what happened as Lily is. It’s so bad that his spirit can’t leave the confines of earthly existence. God grants him the opportunity to help Lily rebuild her life and, in turn, sever his ties to humanity. Don’t expect a religion lesson; The Poet’s Wife is about two people coping with their grief and finding new ways to be happy.

My friendship with J. Andrew Lockhart led me to choose his poetry as a gentle way for Gabe to reach out to Lily. I found a kinship with Andrew because his own tragedies and together, we really understood the story and the characters. We hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s also a great gift for the reader on your holiday list that doesn’t enjoy foul language or erotic love scenes.

* * *

Thanks for being my guest today, Margie. Best of luck with THE POET’S WIFE.

Today I have something special to share with you. Author Charlene Raddon is about to reveal the new cover for her soon-to-be-released book, TAMING JENNA, simultaneously on multiple blogs. A little about the book:

THE WRONG MAN

Deserted by her father at the tender age of seven, Jenna Leigh-Whittington had taught herself to ride, shoot, brawl…and steer clear of the opposite sex. But now, in a lonely Utah canyon, the Pinkerton agent has drawn her gun on a rugged stranger—only to discover that, far from the dangerous outlaw she’d been tracking, he is Branch McCauley, hired gun…and the most irresistible rascal ever to tempt and torment a woman!

THE RIGHT WOMAN

If there’s one thing McCauley trusts less than a female, it’s a female who packs a six-gun. But what a woman! Vowing to bring the sensuous hellcat to heel, McCauley has no inkling that their passionate battle of wills has just begun. Taming Jenna will be the most seductive—and satisfying—job he’s ever taken on.

* * *

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Here’s an excerpt to tease you a little further:

Jenna scowled as she studied the man by the flickering glare of his campfire. He had the right build and appeared close to thirty, Mendoza’s age. But something didn’t fit.

The Denver police chief had described her quarry as a spoiled aristocrat, too busy wooing Lady Luck and every other female to be much of a train robber, let alone a killer. But the rogue in front of Jenna looked too lean and hard to be spoiled, too wary and aloof to be a ladies’ man.

To Jenna he seemed the perfect gunslinger: cold, tough, and ready to spring. Like a big yellow cougar perched on a ledge. Or a rattler, tightly coiled. Either way, his bite would be deadly.

In spite of the cool night breeze, sweat oozed from her pores. She couldn’t forget that lightning draw. Why had she come here? How had she expected to take an outlaw Pinkerton’s other agents had failed to bring in? No, she refused to think that way. She was every bit as capable as any man to capture Mendoza. She had to believe that, the same way she had to do what she’d set out to do. Only one question remained: Was this Mendoza or not?

"Who are you, mister?"

"Who am I? Hell, who are you? "

Blast! Did no male exist in this empty wilderness who wasn’t so taken with himself that he couldn’t cooperate for a change?

She took a calming breath. A body could catch more flies with honey than vinegar, old Charley Long Bow used to say. Jenna figured flies might fancy the hairy creature facing her, so she decided to try being friendly. "Listen, I smelled your coffee and hoped you might spare a cup, is all. You can understand me being a mite leery of walking into a stranger’s camp without knowing who I’m hooking up with."

Firelight glinted on the man’s straight white teeth as his whiskers parted in a cold smile. "Don’t recall inviting company, but I’ll play your game. Name’s Branch McCauley. Now it’s your turn."

His smile unnerved her. It held no humor, only a lethal sort of grimness that cannoned her stomach into her throat and made her wish she’d wired William Pinkerton for instructions instead of going off half-cocked this way. "I’m Jim…Jim White," she lied.

"All right, Jim, how about some honesty? You come here looking for me?"

"I’m not looking for anyone named Branch McCauley. If that’s who you are, you’ve nothing to worry about."

The wide, innocent eyes McCauley studied held honesty. He relaxed. "In that case…be glad to pour you some coffee." He reached for the battered graniteware pot. His visitor’s next words froze him in a half-stoop: "I’d feel more welcome if you’d set aside your gun first."

Cool as Montana sleet, McCauley straightened, hand poised above his holster. "Reckon you would. Wouldn’t do much for my sense of well-being, though."

So much for trying to be friendly, Jenna thought. What now? She clenched her knees together to still their shaking and swallowed the fear knotted in her throat.

"Look." McCauley shifted his weight to one leg. "Why don’t you put your gun away and have a sit? Could be I might know something about the hombre you’re hunting.

Hombre. Sounded Spanish. Like Mendoza. It must be him. She had to get his gun away from him. Surprise seemed the best means. She squeezed the trigger of the .44 Starr. The bullet kicked dirt onto the man’s scuffed boots. He jumped and let out a yelp as though she’d set his feet afire.

"Dammit, kid, going up against me won’t get you anything but a six-foot hole in the ground."

"Shut up and toss over your gun or I’ll turn them boots into sieves. ‘Course, my sights might be a bit off." She raised the muzzle toward his groin.

"You made your point," he growled as he unbuckled his gun belt and tossed it over.

Instead of the fancy weapon she had expected a gunslinger to own, an ordinary, six-gun lay at her feet. No ivory handle or engraved barrel. Only an ordinary .44 Peacemaker, crafted and worn for one reason—to kill. The thought did funny things to her innards.

"All right," she said, getting back to business. "You aren’t going to like this, mister, but I don’t know any other way to be sure who you are. Drop them trousers to your ankles."

"Do what?"

* * *

Here’s Charlene’s bio:

Char portrait 2009smer(3)Charlene Raddon began her fiction career in the third grade when she announced in Show & Tell that a baby sister she never had was killed by a black widow spider. She often penned stories featuring mistreated young girls whose mother accused of crimes her sister had actually committed. Her first serious attempt at writing fiction came in 1980 when she woke up from a vivid dream that compelled her to drag out a portable typewriter and begin writing. She’s been at it ever since. An early love for romance novels and the Wild West led her to choose the historical romance genre but she also writes contemporary romance. At present, she has five books published in paperback by Kensington Books (one under the pseudonym Rachel Summers), and four eBooks published by Tirgearr Publishing.

Charlene’s awards include: RWA Golden Heart Finalist, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award Nomination, Affair de Coeur Magazine Reader/Writer Poll for Best Historical of the Year. Her books have won or place in several contests.

Currently, Charlene is working on her next release.

* * *

And now, without further ado, here is the cover for TAMING JENNA:

Taming Jenna by Charlene Raddon - 500

Gorgeous, isn’t it? Check out this fun book trailer: http://youtu.be/ejkEtuTUp8c 

For all of you who have persevered this far, here are the details of Charlene’s giveaway:

Charlene will be  holding a drawing for a $30 amazon gift card for all those viewers who visit each participant’s blog and leave a comment with contact info. She will be awarding three copies of her new book to randomly chosen participants.

Here’s the list of blog participants:

http://wordwranglers.blogspot.com/

http://www.charleneraddon.blogspot.com/

http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com

http://elizabethdelisi.blogspot.com/

http://susanhorsnell.com

http://peggylhenderson.blogspot.com/

http://writingdreams.net/?p=1360

http://katerobbinsauthor.com/

http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com

http://alisonhenderson.blogspot.com

http://vintagevonnie.blogspot.com/

http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com/

Thanks for being here for the cover reveal for TAMING JENNA. Check it out; you won’t be sorry!