Pretty Please?

America is the land of pet owners. Approximately 68% of American households own at least one, and many have more than one.

So, I get that you love and adore your dog. I love and adore my pets, too.

dogs
Seriously, I get it. How cute are they?!?

But I have to tell you, that slipping on frozen dog poo during my walk does not endear me to other pet owners.

Yes, I am walking on the sidewalks.

No, I am not traipsing down some country road and mistaking coyote droppings for dog poo.

As a matter of fact, I’m walking on company property up to a public sidewalk. A recent dusting of snow still covered the sidewalk, but the landscaping company has already cleared it off company property. Or most of it anyway.

I make note of the few areas still covered by snow and continue my walk. At which point I slip not once, but twice, on frozen dog poo hidden by the fresh snow.

Be careful what the pretty snow hides!

 

The curses that came out of my mouth would’ve made a sailor blush. I think I even invented a few new ones.

Grumbling a few choice words, I wiped my boots into the snow and finished my walk. Whereupon I noticed that the areas the landscaping company had shoveled also had doggy deposits. After talking to the head of maintenance, I learned poo removal was not in our contract with them, so they’d left it. Of course it wasn’t in the contract. We have no dogs.

We had to send a maintenance guy out to dispose of it so that the walkways would get cleared on the next snowfall.

Please, pretty please, if you have a dog, clean up after him. I understand dog poo bags are quite inexpensive, and all of us walking on the sidewalks would really appreciate it.

Seriously, 1,000 bags for $15. That’s gotta last most of a dog’s life.

Have you ever slipped on anything unusual? Please don’t tell me I’m alone on this.

 

 

 

Short Story: The Queen’s Trap

This can be read alone, but you can see an earlier short story with the same characters here.

The Trap

Cato stared down at the map, wishing its contours would change, but knowing they wouldn’t. He wanted Leonora to be lying, to be playing some political game or another, but she wasn’t.

Their king really had sent them to die.

There was no other explanation. Oskelez was much further south than he’d believed, and it would take considerable effort to protect their supply chain in the event of a full siege. That was assuming King Pentus continued to keep them supplied.

If Pentus was smart, he’d wait until they’d marched south then blame storms for ships being delayed. It would seal their fate.

The door to his tent opened, and Sir Octavian ducked through, his strange purple gaze fixing on Cato.

“There are rumors that Miss Leonora was aboard the latest supply ship.”

Cato motioned to the map. “She brought us this.”

Octavian raised a brow then studied the map. “This doesn’t match with what we’d expected to find. Do you think the map’s accurate?”

“Agrees with what little the scouts have brought back.”

“If it’s accurate, our mission is much more difficult than we thought.”

Cato snorted. “Like it wasn’t hard enough already.”

“We should have Lord Brighton study this. If anyone can see how to make the logistics work, it would be him.”

“You trust him?”

“If he accompanies us on the march.” Octavian traced a finger down the long path to Oskelez. “I wonder how King Pentus got such an accurate map so quickly. We left with the spring winds, and autumn has only just begun.”

Cato rolled up the map. He was certain Pentus had the map long before they’d left and had decided to send them to Oskelez because of where it was, not in spite of it. Cato decided not to share that. It was only speculation, and Octavian’s faith in the Holy Trinity was so pure he could channel Their power. That same faith was a liability in politics.

“I don’t know, but Lenora risked a lot bring it to us.”

“To bring it to you.” Octavian studied him then nodded. “We need to show this to Brighton. Depending on what he says, we may need to make winter arrangements.”

Cato planned to make winter arrangements anyway, but he kept that to himself as they went in search of Brighton.

 

Octavian found Lenora standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. Her brows were furled in concentration and her arms spread wide, oblivious to her cloak that flapped around her.

He didn’t try to mask the sound of his footsteps, and she lowered her arms.

Turning, she faced him. “Shouldn’t you be inspiring the troops or something?”

“Lord Brighton is reviewing the map you brought.”

“Good.” Waves crashed against the cliffs and sprayed water up at her, but the droplets never landed on her.

“What brings you out here?”

“Salt.” She motioned to a wooden barrel nestled on an outcropping.

“Why?”

“I harvest it from the water. And don’t argue with me about magic being forbidden. We’re not in Stardale.”

“You shouldn’t be here alone.”

“What does it matter?”

“You are King Pentus’s only daughter.”

Lenora laughed, a bitter sound against the thrum of the ocean. “But Queen Hestia has no daughters. Only a sickly son who will be lucky to see twenty summers.”

A seagull soared overhead, its cries undulating with the grey waves.

“There are many that want to see you marry the prince. To become the next queen.”

“They assume my half-brother will live long enough for that to happen.”

Octavian frowned. “He has the best healers.”

“And has his whole life. I don’t know what in the seven hells is wrong with him, but I wish they would cure him already.”

“That would knock you out of contention for the throne.”

“Then I could be my father’s spoiled bastard rather than an upstart threatening the queen’s son.”

“Has Queen Hestia treated you that poorly?”

“You know Hestia. What do you think?”

Octavian stared across the sea. “Why did you really bring the map?”

“Because our knights don’t deserve to die, you don’t deserve to die, and that’s exactly what will happen if you charge into that swamp.”

“That is noble. Very unlike you.”

“There wasn’t room for being noble and surviving.”

“I suppose it couldn’t have been easy living in the castle with a queen that hated you.”

“I’m a living symbol of Pentus’s infidelity and her failure to produce a decent heir. Yes, she hates me, but I survived. We all do what he have to do.” Lenora stared out over the rolling water. “But you don’t have to assault Oskelez until spring. Take the time to scout it. See if the map is accurate.”

“Do you doubt it even though you risked so much to bring it to Knight-Lord Dracasan?”

“Either I landed a coup in getting this to you and saving your lives, or I finally fell into one of Hestia’s traps. Make my sacrifice worth it. Scout the area.”

“You are a brave woman, and Cato is a lucky man.”

She swallowed hard, balling her fists. “He has nothing to do with this.”

“You love him, don’t you?”

“Doesn’t matter. Love has no place in Stardale.”

“Good thing we’re not in Stardale.”

6 Reasons We Don’t Take Good Advice

Whether romantic advice, career advice, or financial advice, there are a a slew of professionals out there that offer it. Sometimes we “get” it free of charge, other times we pay for. Yet, I (and I suspect many of us) are not always good at taking it.  Even advice we’ve paid for.

How many romance stories revolve around a hero or heroine not wanting to listen to their aunt, brother, sister, mother, uncle about who the right person is for them? Especially when it turns out that person was right?

After doing some digging, here are the reasons I’ve come up with:

1. The Advice is Bad

We’ve all been given bad advice, even by a professional. Sometimes, it’s because we haven’t given them the whole story. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t understand. And perhaps sometimes, it’s because they really don’t know and won’t admit it.

advice2
Tried this. It didn’t work. Co-workers looked at me like I was from Mars.

2. The Advice Conflicts With What We Want

I know i’m guilty of this. Not one, but two financial advisers told me not to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible. I ignored them. After living through the Great Recession, I never want to have to endure the belt-tightening we had to go through when our primary income was cut by 50%. Our primary expense was our mortgage.

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3. Discouraging 

You see this less with professional advice as they are (usually) in the business to help you succeed, but not all of the advice friends and family give is the most uplifting. Or helpful (see point #1).

 

4. Gut Instinct Takes You Another Direction

This is so nebulous, but sometimes, you just know something is wrong. It intrudes on your thoughts during quiet times. You find yourself mulling it over again and again. I have no idea what gut instinct is, although I suspect it’s your brain working on a problem in the background, but it seems to be right most of the time.

 

5. It Differs From Other Advice You’ve Gotten

This is always difficult, especially when you’ve gotten advice from two professionals or two very trusted friends/family members.

 

6. Anger

Or other negative emotions make us much less likely to take even good advice. Here are other good reasons from real psychologists. Granted, these are mostly work related, but they could be applicable.

 

How about you? How willing are you to take advice? What makes you willing or unwilling to take advice? How about offer it?

5 Things About Slavery in the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire had a dirty little secret, though not so secret at the time. The over five-hundred years of peace and prosperity that people enjoyed was founded on the backs of slaves.

 Slavery was so widespread, that it’s estimated 35%-40% of Italy’s population by the end of the first century were slaves. Yeah, two out of every five people were slaves.

salve

Throughout the entire empire, 10–15% of the total population of 50–60 million inhabitants were enslaved.  Of these, an estimated 49% of all slaves were owned by less than 1.5% of the Empire’s population.

Yet, the Empire couldn’t be made to function without slavery (not that they ever tried), and in the later years of imperial Rome, serfdom even among free Romans was already taking root.

Five Things About Slavery in the Roman Empire

 

Spoils of War

Many of Rome’s slaves came from war, with hundreds to tens of thousands being captured and enslaved i. During a war with Gaul, Julius Caesar sold the entire population of a region (over fifty-three thousand people) on the spot to slave traders.

Occupations

Unlike the images that most of us have of what a slave is, only about half of Roman slaves were unskilled laborers working in the fields. As a matter of fact, many Roman slaves, especially those of Greek origin, were highly educated. Many physicians and accountants of the time were slaves, and there were many government positions also held by slaves.

Less surprising, most of the sex workers in the empire were also slaves. As slaves were considered non-persons, there were no protections even for children.

doctor
Because a slave is totally someone I want treating me.

 

Living Conditions

As with all things, living conditions varied greatly. Those who served in wealthy and influential homes often lived better than poor citizens. Those who served out in the country on imperial estates fared far better than those forced into the mines.

Slaves were property and had no rights. Unlike Roman citizens, they could be subjected to corporal punishment, sexual exploitation (prostitutes were often slaves), torture, and summary execution. Over time, slaves gained increased legal protection, including the right to file complaints against their masters.

Runaways

As slavery in the Roman Empire was not based on race, if a slave could slip away from their master, they could be very difficult to find again. As such, there were professional slave-catchers that were hired to hunt down runaway slaves. Some slaves were branded across the forehead to mark them, while others were forced to wear metal collars.

swiss
Not very Italy or Rome-like, but the Nazis might not have been the first group people were escaping to Switzerland to avoid.

Insurrection

When such a large portion of your population in enslaved, there’s always the danger of insurrection, especially when many of these slaves are captured soldiers. We know about several slave insurrections, and yes, Spartacus was a real man. Who really led a slave revolt. And really lost.

So, while I may base my world very loosely on Rome, this is one thing that won’t be brought into the same kingdom as the Knights of Valor. However, those bastions of justice who love to uphold the law may come across slavery in other places. It will be interesting to see how they react to it.

 

How about you? Know any other dirty little secrets about Rome or other empires that would be interesting to research?

Now, the Letdown

It’s that time after the holiday season that I dislike the most. It’s still dark, cold, and snowy. But now, it’s just winter.

Christmas is over, New Year’s is done. The eggnog is gone. It’s time to be done celebrating and move on to the grind of January.

From this:
lights
Pretty lights!

 

To this:
trees
Only looks pretty until you have to drive in it.

 

Even the holiday lights don’t look the same. They’re still pretty and help brighten the darkness, but each day, there are fewer and fewer up as people accept that the season is over and take down theirs.

There’s no anticipation brewing.

No excitement as we wrap presents eager to see the joy on the receivers’ face when they get them. No expectation of what’s under the tree for us. Not even the anticipation of a few days off of work.

Just snow. Darkness. Cold. And long hours at the day job.

funny-go-work-dark-home-pics
Sums it up.

 Oh, and taking down the Christmas tree. Because that’s always a fun job I look forward to doing. *end sarcasm*

I wish I could schedule a holiday in late January or early February so we’d have something to look forward to, but it’s really hard for me to get time off before April 15th.

In a few weeks, I won’t notice. I’ll be head down, getting work done as we dig out of the snow and cold to get to work on a daily basis.

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Actual winter footage.

It’ll be the grind of obligations and doing what needs to be done.

And, it’ll suck.

The song about how the singer wishes every day would be Christmas would ruin Christmas, but I do wish we could stretch out the holidays a bit. Maybe exchange our New Year for the Chinese New Year so we have something to look forward to after Christmas. The next holiday on the horizon in Easter if you celebrate it, otherwise, we’re looking at Memorial Day. That’s just too long.

How about you? Do you feel post-Christmas blues? If so, how do you deal with them?

I Want to Eat Healthy. Really!

It’s the time of year when so many people are settling in to their New Year’s resolutions. I didn’t bother with any this year. Yes, I want to eat healthier, but that is a tired refrain that never comes to much.

I actually prefer healthy foods over fast food. I like home-cooked meals better than what is served at most restaurants.

food1
Looks so much better than McDonalds

When people ask me if I could have one helper, would I want a chef, a maid, or a gardener, I never have to think about it. Chef, please!

Like every other working mom, I am time-constrained. Gone are the days when one person stays home and has the time to fix from-scratch food. Heck, we didn’t even have that luxury when I was a kid.

When I get home from work, it’s a lot easier and faster for me to whip up some burgers in my new cast iron pan and serve it on white buns (that the kids will actually eat) with some baby carrots, strawberries and a side of chips than it is for me to roast chicken.

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Yeah, still looks better than what I normally can make.

Taco night is celebrated in my house because the kids love it, and it’s fast.

A friend of mine tried one of those fancy new food delivery services, and she was extremely critical.

food3
Not exactly.

  She didn’t need someone to send her a box of veggies for her to chop and dice. She’d expected the stuff to arrive mostly prepared. The vegetables ready to be popped into the oven. The main dish already seasoned and ready to be cooked.

She had NOT expected to spend 45 minutes prepping dinner before it even found its way into the oven. Whoever thinks it only takes ten minutes to chop and slice all that stuff is NOT your average home cook.

She canceled her subscription to the service and strongly advised against it. Maybe that’s not what most food delivery services are like, and if they are, there is clearly a market for someone to do better.

If it doesn’t exist already (and if it does, please point me to it!), what we really need are meal kits filled with fresh, whole foods that are already chopped, seasoned and ready to go. We’re looking for the healthy home-cooked dinner that we can get on the table in twenty minutes or less from the time we get home from work.

Anyone who says forty-five minutes is a weeknight meal either has a stay-at-home spouse or doesn’t have kids. My kids aren’t going to make it to almost seven before eating supper. Especially as their bedtime is eight.

 How about you? Ever try a food delivery service? How did it work out for you? Would you recommend it?

 

Book Review: Queen of Swords

Book: Queen of Swords

Author: Katee Roberts

Recommendation: Worth a Read

QueenofSwords

Not sure I’m any more qualified than the next person to leave a review, but I’ll try to give it a shot with a book I recently finished.

No-Spoilers

All in, this sci-fi romance was a decent read.

World-Building

The world-building is spectacular. Seriously, this is by far the best part of the book. The world, the religions, the people. The aliens are truly alien. For example, I love how you can tell one alien’s feelings from how his fur shifts. These are not humans with pointed ears.

The author uses a Tarot deck throughout, and she seems to have really studied up on it. I also love how the force acting through the cars is simply the Lady. You decide if she’s a goddess or Lady Luck.

Sanctify makes a fabulous villain, and the torture techniques they use to “purify” are truly gruesome. Seriously bad villain.

 

Hero and Heroine

The hero and heroine have chemistry. The steamy scenes aren’t memorable, but they’re pretty good.

He’s been through hell and back, though he’s still clearly your protective alpha male. I liked him much more than I thought I would.

The heroine is not a damsel in distress. She is strong, competent, and feisty. Hellcat is used to describe her. More than this, I like the fact she’s comfortable with her sexuality, knows what she wants, and takes it.

 

Story

The plot intrigued me once we got over some plot holes large enough to drive car through trying to get the characters in a situation where they’re stuck together, but I was ready for the author to get on with it around the three-quarter mark. I felt like some of the middle was go-nowhere-filler as we ramped up for the climactic showdown between the hero and his half-brother.

The writing is a bit clumsy at points, particularly in the beginning as the author sets up the entire story line and gets the hero and heroine stuck being together. Sadly, this extends to the smack-upside-the-head way that the author introduces that the heroine is pregnant. Other parts, such as the heroine being able to hack a com terminal, should have been discussed before she actually hacks it.

This is all the more strange as other times the author makes a big deal out of things like sharp sticks being used in the heroine’s hair that never have any purpose.

I was disappointed with the end. I was expecting so much more. The big climactic ending. The heroine and hero standing up and defeating impossible odds together. While we got a happily-ever-after, I didn’t feel that fist pump moment when the hero and heroine win.

As a matter-of-fact, I was really disappointed with how easy the whole ending was and how little the heroine figured into it. I still don’t understand why the hero didn’t do what he did years ago and end the threat his brother posed back then.

The ending also left certain things unresolved. Either the author didn’t tie up loose ends, or she left them loose for the next book in the series. That seriously irritates me. Still, this is a romance, so the hero and heroine do get together.

 

 

 

 

Top 4 Reasons Why We Think We Procrastinate (and the 3 Reasons Why We Really Do)

As I’ve been working on stuff this past week, I’ve discovered myself spending way too much time doing other things that are much less important than what I’d been planning to do.

prorast

This is odd for me. I am not a procrastinator by nature. As a matter-of-fact, I surprised more than one professor by turning in term papers weeks early. So, why am I procrastinating now?

As part of my procrastination, I decided to investigate and share with you.

 

4 Reasons I’ve Heard for Why I Procrastinate

1. Overconfidence – Maybe for some people. Possibly. But I’m not confident in my ability to turn this garbage first draft into a passable second draft. I’m not oblivious to this fact, as here I am, admitting it to you! Do I think I can do it? With enough work, yes. So why am I procrastinating rather than putting in the work?

2. Lazy – Lazy is not an adjective I’ve ever applied to myself. I work full time, am a mother, wife, blogger, writer etc. So no, not lazy.

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3. Not Believing the Task is Important – This definitely doesn’t apply. I can’t share a crap story. Okay, maybe I can, I’ve read enough of them, but I think a good story is very important. I want the reader to feel like the build-up, love the character, and have a sufficiently epic ending. I want a mental fist pump at the end. I want my reader to have that happy grin when you’ve come to the end of a particularly good romance novel.

4. Not Knowing Where to Begin – Well, maybe this is the case. I’m a Panster when I write, so I don’t have the whole thing plotted out, but the first daft is already written, even if it’s very rough. So, begin at the beginning.

 

 

3 Reasons Science Says is Why I Procrastinate

You can take a look here and here if you’d like, but the gist of the articles is:

1. Avoidance Behavior – If you dread the task ahead of you, you may avoid doing it in the short-term. You know, procrastinate. This can cause a vicious cycle, but it does play into #3 below in that it gives a temporary feel-good emotion while you’re doing something other than what you dread.

2. Lack of Motivation – People are known to procrastinate when there’s very little motivation to do a hard task.  Now, we’re getting closer. Even if I complete this revision, there will be more to come. I need alpha reader input and eventually beta reader input. So, yeah, motivation might be a little bit lacking. Yes, I want to finish the book. Yes, it’s important to me, but the real issue is when you combine this with the next point.

3. Present Emotions vs Future Emotions – There’s a very real emotional punch you get when you accomplish something. While revising the book will be accomplishing something, any benefits are in the far distant future. Watching a funny cat video? Instant laugh.

 

How about you? Do you procrastinate? What do you procrastinate doing? What’s your fix for it?