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What I Learned This Week – 10/2/16

This week I learned that Lena’s Italian Restaurant in Blissfield, Michigan still has the best pizza I have ever eaten.

I was told by my asbestos friend, whose opinion on pizza I highly respect, that Pizza Junction in Huntington, Indiana was the best pizza ever. (She is the one who introduced me to Lena’s, afterall*.) She knew of it because she had attended Huntington College back in the day.

She has mentioned several times that Pizza Junction was the best pizza ever. I really wanted to test that theory, but I knew I would never go all that way without her. And when she made the pilgrimage, it was always a family affair.

I looked up Pizza Junction on Facebook, only to discover that it is named that because it located in an old train depot that still has railroad tracks next to it that used to be part of the Wabash line. There were even videos of a classic steam engine roaring by at high speed. Now, if you have stopped by this page very much at all, you will realize that my family is a little crazy about trains. Last year I redid my son’s room to look like a train station. M flipped when he saw the Pizza Junction videos.

My asbestos friend’s husband was out of town. So I snuck into her car and put in a cassette tape with hidden subliminal messages for her to take me to Pizza Junction.

What, you don’t believe me? She totally has a cassette player in her car.

Actually, I just sent her a suggestive text or two about how lovely it would be to go. So when the opportunity presented itself to us the very next day to accompany my asbestos friend and her brood to Indiana, we took her up on it.

The road trip was awesome, even being squeezed six into a car. We saw two Norfolk Southern trains go by as we ate in the station, and they were flying. The bruschetta was excellent. The pizza was great, but not quite as good as Lena’s, in my humble opinion. We explored a place called the Sunken Gardens, photos from which you will see below.

Sidenote: Last weekend a memorial was erected in our local cemetery to honor the long-ignored Italian immigrant victims of the 1901 Wabash crash just north of Seneca in Lenawee County, MI. Then my family went about figuring out about where the crash might have occurred. That track is now run by  Norfolk Southern.

Some people were very happy to arrive at Sunken Gardens

Some people were very happy to arrive at Sunken Gardens

I could have stayed her for a very long time...until it started to get cold.

I could have stayed here for a very long time…until it started to get cold.

FYI: The journey of 252 miles starts by back tracking to home.

FYI: The journey of 252 miles starts by back tracking to home.

If we could have traveled by train, we may have gotten to Pizza Junction quicker.

And consuming orange juice is like drinking sunshine.

*Expressing “afterall” as one word is a conscious, stylistic decision made by the blogger.

 

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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What I Learned This Week – 1/10/2016

This week I learned that hot young rising country music star Thomas Rhett is the son of 1990s hot young rising country music star Rhett Akins.

Thomas Rhett is actually Rhett Thomas Akins, Jr., but I totally get why, for business purposes, he would want to be his own guy with his own name; makes for less confusion that way. His voice has been on the country airwaves lately with “Make Me Wanna” and “Crash & Burn”. I especially like “Crash & Burn” because it doesn’t sound like a typical country song. I am sure many other people hate it for the same reason. I’ll admit, he’s a hottie. But the cover of his latest album Tangled Up bothers me. He is standing there in a holey T-shirt. Is that supposed to be like “Hey, I need a new shirt so you should buy this album.”? I am a forty-year old mother now. I just want to call him up and tell him to put on a new shirt.

His father Rhett Akins had several great hits while I was in college, at the height of one of my country music phases. “That Ain’t My Truck” has a great country title and lyrics, but “Don’t Get Me Started” gives me the good song neck tingle (link).

Rhett Akins was cute, but I couldn’t be fully on his bandwagon. Because, you see, I was already taken.

I was way ga-ga over Ty England. I had been ever since I saw him singing behind Garth Brooks on the 1990 American Country Music Awards. In fact, I had it on VHS so that I could watch it over and over again. (Holy hell, how has it been 26 years!) I couldn’t have been happier when he got to step into the spotlight. I bought his CD. I joined his fan club, which afforded me the chance to meet him backstage at the Hillsdale County Fair in 1996. He was my world until I began dating my future husband the next February. I think my mom still has the picture of Ty and I hugging displayed in a frame in her apartment somewhere. A burglar breaking in might assume that Ty was my husband.

My, how young we both used to be!

My, how young we both used to be!

If you wonder how Ty fits into all this, I’ll tell you. Ty’s debut single was steadily climbing the country charts, although not fast enough for me. At the same time, Rhett Akin’s “That Aint My Truck” was charging up the charts and taking over the radio airwaves. “Truck” made it to number 3 on the Billboard US Hot Country Songs chart the week of September 16, 1995, while Ty was only at number 6. Within my head, it was a competition between the two of them. The next week, “Should’ve Asked Her Faster” made it to number 3. That would be the peak spot for both artists for those songs. “Don’t Get Me Started” would be Rhett Akins only number one.

Here is a YouTube link for the song “Don’t Get Me Started.”

It makes my heart hurt just listening to it now, it is so good. Makes me wish I had had a chance to see him perform it in concert. With songs like this and Ty England’s, I wonder why I ever switched over to alternative.

Oh, right. Songs like “Plowed” by Sponge and “Doll Parts” by Hole and “Just a Girl” by No Doubt. They awakened something deep and primal within me with their unique sounds. They helped me realize that there was more to sing about than trucks and dances and tractors. Although, when it came time to write my first book series, I would return to the familiar comfort of those things had always brought me.

Here is Ty’s video. Isn’t he an uber-cutie? If you are interested in purchasing some real estate in Oklahoma these days, give him a call 😉

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a BugAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016!

Cheap Meal: Potato Burritos

Ah, Christmas approaches. There are trees to purchase, gifts to buy, and license plate renewals for both my husband and I.

Nothing makes a person feel more poor than the Christmas season.

So, to cheer you up, I am going to share one of my favorite low-cost meals. It may even be a slight bit healthy for you. (That part was an accident, I promise.)

I can’t remember where I found this recipe. I used to make it years ago when I was an unmarried gal living in my tiny apartment all by myself with a car payment that wasn’t officially included in my budget.

All done. Yum.

All done. Yum.

Potato Burritos

A touch of salsa spices up filling (but usually bland) potatoes.

(makes 2 burritos, fills up one average-sized female)

Tortillas (whatever size you like, flour or wheat or what-whatever you prefer)
Salsa (I like Tostitos Mild myself, found in the chip aisle)
Medium Potato (russet, white, yellow-they all work)

Diced potato after frying

Diced potato after frying

1. Dice the potato in small but uniform pieces.
2. Fry using vegetable oil, salt & pepper to taste. They will be done in 10-15 min, or when they begin to get brown and crispy.
3. Heat two tortillas in the microwave for 10 seconds til easily foldable.
4. Divide up the diced potatoes evenly between the shells. Top with salsa. Fold & consume.

* Potatoes can be purchased individually, or a 5lb bag of them can last for several weeks. Salsa can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks as well.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a BugAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016!

Excerpt: The Wind Could Blow a Bug – Chapter 19

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I am happy to offer you another excerpt from my debut novel, The Wind Could Blow a Bug. Chapter 19 takes place after Jane and Wade have broken up, and she is exiled off to college. Jane is depressed because she no longer has Wade, but she also has no other friends in her life either. Her existence is empty.

And, to make your bookshelf feel less empty…

I WILL BE GIVING AWAY TWO COPIES OF THE WIND COULD BLOW A BUG!

The Wind Could Blow a Bug, Jennifer Friess

The Wind Could Blow a Bug, Jennifer Friess

I will give away ONE COPY to someone who comments on this very blog post here at ImNotStalkingYou.com.  Click on “Leave a Comment” below. When it asks for your email, be sure to use one I can reach you at if you are the lucky winner. (Note: Your email will not be displayed to anyone but me.)

I will also give away ONE COPY to someone who comments on the post containing the link to this blog post on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/imnotstalkingyou2. (Note: Only comments on the Facebook post with the link to “Excerpt: The Wind Could Blow a Bug – Chapter 19” are eligible to win.)

One entry per person per site per day. Contest ends at midnight EDT on 3/18/15. Winners will be selected and notified on 3/19/15. The two winners will be asked to provide their mailing addresses to me so that I can ship them paperback copies of my book. Your address will be used for no other purpose.

If you WOULD like to stay in touch with me and my writing antics, please feel free to sign up for my author updates at THIS LINK (signing up at this link DOES NOT enter you into the contest).

Thank you so much for support!

If you missed the other excerpts, you can find them here:

Chapter 1: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/04/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-1/

Chapter 2: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/30/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-2/

Chapter 11: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2015/02/02/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-11/

19

Jane had thought (hoped, prayed) that when Wade heard about the Rileys’ divorce, as he surely would, that he would come and get back together with her. If nothing else, that he would at least call to check on her, see if she was alright. Because she was not.

But that was not his problem anymore.

That call never came.

Part of what made being with Wade so great, was the fact that Jane felt whole. It wasn’t just that she was happy for a change, but that he was the other part of her whole and he made her feel complete. A day just somehow doesn’t seem complete until you’ve been close enough to a guy to smell his masculine scent. Maybe that is why days and nights without him blended together as only big chunks of living; no more, no less.

Jane continued to work at the Diner, making eye contact with customers as little as possible. Wade no longer came in. She put in her two weeks notice before she left for school. Donna was very choked up when Jane’s last day came. Donna was the only one Jane would miss in Oakley. Well, and of course Wade. But Jane tried not to think about him. She tried not to think about much of anything.

Jane began to pack up all her things. Anything she wanted to keep would have to go with her to college to fit in her tiny dorm room. Stuffed animals, old school work, and treasured toys all had to be boxed. The house had to be completely empty and neither of her parents had offered to keep any boxes for her at their new residences.

Jane ran across the address she had found on the Internet for her birth mother. She ripped it into a million little pieces and threw it out her bedroom window, to watch the pieces flutter in the wind. One thing she was positive of: she could not bear to have one more person in this life abandon or reject her. Especially the one who had started the vicious cycle in the first place.

When the day came, Mr. Riley drove her the four hours and forty-five minutes up to Clark College in Burkeville. He helped her carry her boxes into her room. He gave her a kiss and a hug, and then he was gone. Jane sat in the center of the room, surrounded by the still-sealed cardboard boxes containing her entire life, starving, and cried. She didn’t know where the dining hall was or where to get her food card. She could hear other students in the hallway and knew the logical thing to do would be to ask one of them. But she just could not face anyone right now. Due to a paperwork fluke, she had a room all to herself. Although, it would probably only feed her desire for solitude.

Jane had never felt so alone in her life.

Jane felt lost at college.  Once Clark College had provided her class schedule to her and they had her money, it seemed like they had no more support for her.  Where was the cheery recruiter who had assured her there would be advisers, career counselors, dorm monitors, and all sorts of other imaginary-sounding positions to support her with her academic endeavors?  Jane had no idea what she wanted to major in.  God, she wasn’t going to join a sorority, that was for sure.  She supposed she could join the college newspaper, but even that seemed pointless to her now.

Jane was on her own, to get herself up and get to her classes on time, to get her homework done.  Despite her growing depression, these things were second nature to her.  Her responsible behavior made her seem like she had it together more than her fellow classmates.  They were not used to self-discipline or the freedom to party.  They often showed up in their pajamas, late for class, sometimes with incomplete homework.

If Jane’s suffering showed more outwardly, maybe someone would have reached out to offer her help.  But her suffering was mostly silent and invisible to anyone who didn’t already know what her regular personality should be.  She wasn’t walking past people in the halls missing an arm, leaving a river of blood behind her.  To anyone she passed, it would just look like she was having a bad day.  As such, if no one person took interest in her, then no one would realize that one day strung together into two days, which then became a week, a month.  Depression was invisible.  It made Jane invisible as well.

Jane just went a full hour without thinking about Wade. That must be a new record. Just yesterday, she made it a full 30 minutes without seeing his face in her mind. This morning, she got through 45 minutes (almost all of The Price is Right) without hearing his voice in her ears—oh, that sexy, fun voice.

No, I won’t do that to myself, Jane thought. Even though it seemed harmless enough, letting her mind wander back to the days with him, it really only made things worse. There may be a day, sometime in the uncharted future, when she could look back on those memories without it being a problem. But for now, it hurt much less if Jane shut out all the thoughts of him, good and bad. If she didn’t think about him, maybe she could forget that he exists altogether. That would make the pain hurt much less. If only Wade still loved her, then she wouldn’t hurt at all.

You would think it would be easier to not think about him, being away from the places where it all happened. But somehow, the fact that she couldn’t go back to those places made it all seem like it was a movie or someone else’s dream. It was the same way with his face. She was afraid she would forget what he looked like. She had no picture to remind her. This made her mind seem to hold on to those memories even more fiercely.

Jane glanced at the clock and realized it was time to go to her on-campus job in the dining hall. The arrangement helped pay part of her tuition. It wasn’t like working at the Diner. There she had been out in the dining room, if you could call it that, with the customers. Here, she was mostly in the kitchen. First, filling pans with food, then scraping and cleaning them. There were other students who worked in the kitchen as well. They were polite to Jane. But usually she was not part of their conversations.

“Hey, Jane, there is a party tonight,” Sally said.

“General admission, $2,” Jake added.

“Everyone welcome,” said Andre.

“Eh, I don’t think they mean me,” Jane replied back, making a face as if she smelled something bad.

“Are you going to the party tonight?” Dan asked, as he walked into the kitchen. He had either not heard the conversation or caught only the tail end of it.

“Ya, Sally and I are,” Jake answered him.

“Are you going to the party tonight, Jane?” Dan inquired.

“I’m not going. I think I’ll stay in my room and catch up on some things.” Jane knew while the posters around the campus said “Everyone Welcome” in thick, black copier ink, they did not mean her.

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

Repost: College Sucked

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On Thursday I will be posting another excerpt from my new book, “The Wind Could Blow a Bug”.

The book begins with the lead character, Jane Riley, as a senior in high school. She gets her first boyfriend, then graduates. That is when things begin to fall apart in her life. She heads off to college seeing no hope in her life, and suffering from depression. The excerpt on Thursday will come from that section of the book. I wrote it heavily from my own influences. To get you prepped, here is a post I wrote over 2 years ago about how much College Sucked. Enjoy.

And come back on Thursday for a BOOK GIVEAWAY as well!

This was originally posted on 2/26/13. You can follow this link to the original post and comments here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/02/26/college-sucked/

I always measure my experiences in life to how they would be portrayed on a sitcom. As you might expect, my own experiences often play out much differently than in TV Land. College would be one of these.

College sucked. On TV, everyone is always a joiner who participates in every student activity. They make friends they will have for the rest of their lives. They go to parties. They learn to be deep thinkers. They find their soul mate.

Me? Not so much. I was a commuter with no car for 3 out of my 4 years of college. While waiting for my ride home every day, I had to kill hours in the library. There are only two friends that I made in college that I still keep in touch with. I never went to a single party. I am not a natural-born joiner. I joined some sort of academic fraternity that never had any activities just so that I could get a sweatshirt with Greek letters on it. Then I felt self-conscious in it and never wore it. I submitted some of the depressing poetry I wrote while killing time in the library anonymously to the college literary magazine. They published a couple.

My two closest friends were at two other colleges in two different states. It made for a very lonely time in my life. My best friend came back home after her freshmen year (she HAD found the parties), which was better. But she was attending the university across town, so we never saw each other except at night.

I also had an undiagnosed, then diagnosed, stomach problem during this time as well. So I felt miserable physically as well as mentally!

It was overall the loneliest year of my life. I don’t really think I look forward to coming back in the fall. -JLF 4/27/95

My other friend, my asbestos friend, had an even worse college experience than me. I told her this week how I was going through my old college free-writes to get a true sense of the misery to work on my new story (and this blog post). Her reply?

“I don’t think I could relive that time. I’ve blocked much of it out & I think that’s for the best.”

She has told me a few of her great miserable stories, including being sick with mono and all alone, and donating so much blood for money that she passed out in the parking lot at the donation place. (Those are two separate occasions. I think.) But my favorite story is the one where she takes her life back into her own hands. It’s the story where during her last semester she realizes college is making her miserable and she is an adult. She has her own job and her own place to live. She just leaves the campus and never turns back. She is my hero:)

I did not leave. I stayed, hoping to get my MRS. degree. I only went to college because my mom told me I had to either do that or get a job. I had gone to school for K-12 years. I had never had a job. I picked the option I was familiar with. I should have got a job. Now I have a Bachelor’s Degree and I am applying to entry-level store jobs at Meijer, Cash Advance, and Family Video. And they are not hiring me.

Compilation of 2 No Doubt drawings I made while in college

Compilation of 2 No Doubt drawings I made while in college

I had my first boyfriend for a month my freshmen year. After it ended, from my old writings, I seemed to be lonelier than before.

When I was in high school, I had a few hours after school everyday before my mom got home from work that was my time to myself. In college, I had no privacy. My mom was my ride. If she was home I was home and she drove me nuts. (This is probably the only way my college experience was worse than my asbestos friend’s.) My bedroom didn’t even have a door. I would stay up late to do homework, and find myself watching Beavis & Butthead marathons on MTV instead. I always said that I could feel my brain cells rotting away as I watched that show. I think it helped numb my depression. Then my mom, who always slept on the couch in the living room where the only TV was, would wake up. (Yes, I went to college in the Dark Ages. My college had text-only Internet my freshmen year!) She would ask me,”Are you watching Beaver & Buttface?” I mostly watched it for the music videos, which sucks, because any version released on DVD has only limited music videos. How much did I watch them? Here are a poem and some fan artwork from that time:

Lovin’ the Boys
By: JLF
3/7/95

If I make a video
Can I get on that show?
First I would have to make
A really cool video
You know,
One with lots of guitars,
And riffs, and drums.
I would stumble around
In a really short dress
And scream all the words
Really, really loud.
I would put in some shots
Of farm animals and livestock,
And throw in a toilet
(To give them something to talk about).
Then I would send it to New York,
To that video channel,
And wait every day & every night
For them to put my video on that show.
They could sit there on their couch
In their dirty T-shirts & stinky shorts
And watch my video.
That dark-haired guy and his dumb-blond friend
Could belch and fart
And yell “Fire! Fire!”
Then they would deem my video
As “Cool” or “Sucks”,
By how short my dress was,
How loud I yelled,
And the fact my video had only one
Toilet in it.
But I would be happy
Because I got to see my video,
With one of those yellow, pointy
signs with their names in it
In the corner of the screen.

And that would make it worthwhile. . .

Illustration I made based on a video that Beavis & Butthead mocked.  (My son likes this pic a lot.  Maybe I should be concerned about that.)

Illustration I made based on a video that Beavis & Butthead mocked. (My son likes this pic a lot. Maybe I should be concerned about that.)

I ended up getting an on-campus job, so I started interacting with my classmates a little more. It also got me out of the library. I got paid (!) to wait for my ride. That helped a little.

Then I got a better boyfriend. I couldn’t find him at college, because he was still in high school. (I should have flunked!) Those who know me know he is now my husband.

Then I got an off-campus job too, in addition to those other things. My best friend worked at the convenience store too, and helped me get the job. People who know me know it was one of my favorite jobs. I liked it so well that I saved up my earnings over the summer so that I could buy a car so that in the fall I could keep the job while I finished college. (Most people get a job to get a car. I got a car to keep a job.)

I should become a writer like Erma Bombeck & just write about “stuff”. -JLF (found in an old college notebook)

So, ya, college sucked for me. I can enthusiastically say that not everyone enjoys themselves at college. Accept this post and the accompanying writings below as evidence. Probably the worst time of my life. When my son gets old enough, I don’t know how I will ever be able to keep from talking negatively about it. I kind of feel about it the way I do about the Lord of the Rings films. I want my time and money back. I want my four years and my $18,000 back (I got a lot of scholarships).

Untitled
By: JLF
4/8/95

There’s a party tonight
General Admission – $2
There’s a party tonight
Everyone Welcome
Are you going to the party tonight?
I don’t think they mean me
Are you going to the party tonight?
Everyone would be happier if I didn’t
Everyone’s going
But I am not
Everyone’s going
I’ll stay home and listen
to my own silence.
Sometimes a person
has to look through the thick, black
copier ink lettering
And realize that circumstances
and situations and history
are the things that really predict
who will attend the ball
and who will stay home.

The Driving Rain
By: JLF

It is 9:06PM. It’s raining. I have a half a tank of gas. Will this be the night. Will this be the night I keep going and don’t look back?

I could change my life right now. It would be just as easy as changing channels on the television. I can see all my different options spread out in front of me, and the television channels just keep going. There is the music video channel, blaring sounds and images. There is Channel 25. All Hitler, All the time. The third reicht of the Chicago area. Heil! Channel 25. Then the weather channel. Do I want rain or do I want sunshine? Which road will lead me to what type of weather?

Oh. I’m on the road back home. But I still don’t have to go there. This road is so boring, so familiar. A person could die on a road like this and the drivers who travel it every day would probably not notice the body for months. Was the light I just went through green or read, not that it would really mater. The slick road is completely vacant of other cars. The only tire marks I can see on the wet pavement are in my rear view mirror. I could slip out of town now, right out of the city limits. No one would see me, no one would be the wiser.

God, to just keep driving. To have no pre-planned destination, no over-analyzed goals—it all sounds like a dream. For the first time since I walked into Kindergarten on Experience Day and was assigned a seat and pencils and crayons, I would be in charge for myself. New mothers complain about not having handbooks to care for their new children. It is too bad they don’t make handbooks for the children, to help figure out what is right for themselves. I feel like I have never done anything I truly wanted to in my entire life.

One more road until home. Is this it? Well, a few times I have done what I wanted. There was the time I went to the carnival by myself, and I kept playing games until I won a stuffed animal. But I felt as though everyone was staring at me because I was by myself. (I am always by myself. I am at this very moment.) I got a stuffed animal that day. But it wasn’t from the guy I flirted with or the games I tried the hardest at. I got my little stuffed bear from a crooked game and, even though I know that, I still think of him as a lucky charm.

Should someone as naïve as I be roaming around the nation’s highways? Probably not.

Ahh—I just passed the drive to my house. But it wasn’t a brave, meaningful decision of symbolism as I had hoped. I simply got too caught up in my petty thoughts. But there is always a last refuge of a coward. I click on my turn signal for the next road, like reflex. I will turn around and make my way back to the same house and my same room.

Tonight—tonight I just couldn’t do it. Rain can be romantic, but it is also scary. A half a tank of gas, well, maybe I’ll try it when there is a full tank. Maybe I’ll try it when I have more courage, or more caffeine coursing through my veins. Maybe I just need something more to run away from than familiarity.

So, I pull in the same driveway, unlock the same door with the same key, and walk through the living rom. I flick on the TV without even turning on a lamp, enjoying the flashes of blue that light up the room instead. I turn on the Weather Channel and see what it will be like tomorrow.

I hate life.
By: JLF
8/96
I hate life. I hate life. Life sucks so bad. My life is just one f***ing blackhole, which I don’t know what that is because I am too lazy & distracted to bother to read my astronomy book to bother to find out what a f***ing blackhole is! And why do I have to come back to f***ing school, which I f***ing hate! I have only had panic attacks while I had to go to school since I was in, like Kindergarten. I HATE SCHOOL! It makes me feel all yucky inside. It makes me feel dark & gloomy inside. It makes me feel like I do when I think about death–> DEATH, how stiffling & cold & lonely & empty it will be. That is what every second at school feels like to me…

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

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