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NEW RELEASE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

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Troll Gurl is my attempt at writing a fairy tale. I don’t know if it was too much of ABC’s Once Upon a Time or reading Gabaldon’s Outlander, but this is just how Ginny and Jeremie’s story presented itself to me. I’m calling it new adult, but really it is the story of her entire life, from birth to age twenty. It could almost be young adult, except for the gratuitous sex scene (as is the case with all my books).

I had some issues I wanted to explore in this book, and I guess it was easier for me to do if a fantastical element was involved, where they all lived in a time so far removed from my own. But human nature is the same, no matter time or place.

I wanted to do something close to traditional romance writing with The Riley Sisters, to see if I could do it. And I think I, more or less, accomplished that, adding my own flair. But it left all the heroines feeling whole AFTER or BECAUSE they found their man. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read that kind of story. But in Troll Gurl, I made a conscious effort to make Ginny grow to be a full, satisfied person before she finds love in her life. Was I successful? Well, only you can be the judge of that! While the prince does save Ginny’s life in this book, she reciprocates by saving his as well.

This is my fourth book published in just under two years. I often regret not publishing sooner in my life. I always took writing seriously, but for personal pursuits such as a dream journal, amusing myself & my friends, and keeping my sanity. But really, in those years I was accumulating the experiences I write about now. So, if I am honest with myself, I never really lost anything. It was all a gain. But knowing how much those experiences hurt at the time, it is hard to look back on them with a positive light. They still try to dim the brightness.

There are five poems in the book that separate it into five sections. They were not written specifically for this book, but they fit so well you will think that they were. I pulled them from my archives, with dates ranging from 1994-2013.

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From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

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What I Learned This Week – 5/24/15

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I was at McDonald’s with my family this week. I was merrily chewing away on my chicken nugget when I grabbed the fountain cup that I assumed was mine. I took a big swig to wash down the compressed mystery chicken meat and greasy batter (Delicious!), when I realized I had my husband’s cup.

This week I learned that iced tea tastes like I imagine garbage juice would taste.

You know, when all the liquid in the garbage settles to the bottom, but then a hole gets in the bag and it leaks out and is an unappealing brown color.

WEEK-Picky Eater

That is exactly what tea tasted like. I have never had it before, and can guarantee (barring another fast food mix-up) I will not have it ever again.

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

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

[Pssst…Book 2 is COMING SOON!]

New Parent Recommendations

I had no idea about anything that I needed for a baby when I got pregnant. I didn’t have any younger brothers. Or sisters. Or cousins.

I had bought a few gifts for my friends when they had babies, but I bought directly off the registry and was pretty clueless.

And things change. When my crazy friend had her son, she had a special support contraption to help him stay on his side when he slept. Five or so years later, the recommendation was to have babies sleep on their backs instead.

When it came time to pick out items for my baby registry, I went with all the staples. I feel in love with some cutesy, expensive things. It always helps to remember that other people will be showering you with these things using their money, not yours.

One thing I fell for was the matching crib set. I found this super-cute woodland-creature themed set. Which was perfect, because my husband and I were waiting to find out if we were having a boy or a girl.

I believe I used giftcards to purchase the set of the matching crib sheet, comforter, bumpers, and dust ruffle. They were so cute to set up the crib with ahead of time. But they weren’t cheap.

Carter's Woodland Critters, or something like that...

Carter’s Woodland Critters, or something like that…

Waste of money. The dust ruffle became too much to bother with with frequent sheet changes (my son was a power pee-er). My husband banned the bumpers for fear my son would suffocate himself on them. The comforter is very stiff and not real good for a tiny baby. We use it now that my son M is a preschooler as a top blanket over something fuzzier.

In that same woodland design, we had also received the lamp, diaper holder, receiving blankets, basket, and fleece blanket, for which we have used all of them for varying degrees of time.

But the crib set. Man, there are better things to spend your money on. Things you would never even think about.

Like hearing protection.

“What?” you say.

Last year, when my son had just turned three, I wanted to take him (OK, really I just wanted to go) to a monster truck show. So, I went online, did lots of research, and ordered him a pair of hearing protection muff things.

They worked great for the monster truck show.

Watching Grave Digger

Watching Grave Digger

And for fireworks the next July.

Chicks did boys with hearing protection

Chicks did boys with hearing protection

And for dulling the sound of the yard blower and leaf vacuum last weekend.

No more crying when Daddy starts the leaf blower.

No more crying when Daddy starts the leaf blower.

For around $15, I was able to get something for my son that, while I don’t use it every day, when I do need it, stops him from being upset, having extra anxiety, crying, and possible hearing damage. Here is a link to the ones I ordered: 3M Peltor Junior Earmuff Blue #970239

Two tricks to this being useful:

1. You have to buy ear protection that fits.

I ordered mine off of Amazon.com, and I carefully read all the reviews for each model I was interested in to try to get the perfect size. Sometimes how the manufacturer describes it is not how it actually will fit your child.  Some are made for adults, some for teens, some for tiny babies.

If you shop for them in a hunting/sporting goods store, you might be able to try them on before you buy.

2. You have to predict when you will use them, and have them with you.

Some people are better at this than others. Pretty much, I am just obsessed with getting $15 worth of use out of them before my son outgrows them. So, I am always thinking, “Should I take his ear muffs with us?”

It might seem silly, but I know that if we wanted to go to a concert or something, we can just grab them and M and go.

What I Learned This Week – 10/5/14

This week I learned that taking in a hand-me-down couch & thinking “Oh, we will upgrade in a few years”, can totally turn into 10 years before you can blink an eye.

This gives you a little taste of our old couch.

This gives you a little taste of our old couch.

I knew our couch was old and worn. I had sewed it up myself on several occasions. It regularly had 2 dogs on it. No amount of Febreeze gets rid of that.

I was just always waiting for tax return time to buy a new brand new couch (we had never bought our own before). But then the money always went for something else. Maybe next year. And we went from having an infant who oozed all sorts of substances, to a toddler who was more mobile with his food. It just seemed silly to get something new that would just be old again instantly.

On a whim, we found a good deal & got a new couch Sunday morning.

It is very weird to sit down on the couch and not sink down into it a good 12 inches.

NEW COUCH!

NEW COUCH!

Only after we got the new couch did we realize how much our old couch bothered everyone around us. No less than 3 people close to us had very strong reactions to our old couch. None of them live in this house! One never even comes over!

My mom, especially, could not say enough bad things about the old couch, now that it was at the curb.

Which, I had worried about having to call the garbage men and make special arrangements to have it picked up. But then some kind stranger loaded it into his pickup and it was gone. Actually, getting the new couch home in my husband’s car had been much less troublesome than I would have imagined.

I guess the new couch was just meant to be…

My Love of Lighthouses – Part 1

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Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle, Michigan

Me at Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle, Michigan.  See how excited I am!?

I had never given much thought to lighthouses. I had never seen one, and had no desire to.

Then when I was eight my mom took us on a trip Up North (that is how people from southern Michigan refer to any point north of Grayling). Our destinations included Mackinaw City, Sault Ste. Marie, and Tahquamenon Falls. But we also were stopping anywhere along the way that caught our eye. We were heading north at a leisurely pace on US 23, which hugs the Lake Huron shoreline.

We had just passed through Alpena (a town whose name still makes me giggle) and were headed up to Rogers City. (How nice. Roger has a whole city all to himself.) On the way, we saw an old, weather-beaten billboard alongside the road that boasted tours of a real lighthouse. We made the quick decision to check it out.

We drove on a tiny winding road through the woods for what seemed like forever. Every turn did not bring us to a great lake or tall light, only more trees. It felt we were in an episode of Scooby Doo. I expected a green monster in ratty clothes to step out of the thick woods in front of us at any minute. Except we were not in a multi-color van, but a silver Chevrolet Chevette 2 door hatchback. If we had hit one of those monsters, it would have destroyed our tiny car.

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

There were a few turns that were not well marked, but we must have gone the right way because we eventually came to a parking lot. Instead of yellow lines marking out the spaces, there were trees between the cars. You had to park just right, so that you could still get your doors open. The cool day must have warmed by that point, because I changed out of my jeans and into my shorts while we were still in the car. There were other cars there, but no people at the moment. My mom acted as a look-out. We were still under the dark cloak of the forest. But the sun could be seen to the south of us.

We walked toward the light. We found ourselves in a big grassy clearing, with Lake Huron stretching out to the east. Between us and the great lake, lay a brick house painted white. Next to it, a white stone tower. That would be the first time I would ever lay eyes on a lighthouse.

Inside there was an elderly man and woman who seemed to be running the show. They had a few souvenirs for purchase, and collected any money required to go up into the tower, details that I cannot remember. The man was also giving out rocks from the beach. He stamped them all so that they said “Old Presque Isle Lighthouse”. The rocks were free. I found him a little scary at the time. I grew up with very few males in my life. Even though he looked old and grizzled, he kindly showed me where my rock had a tiny fossil on the corner (If rocks can have corners).

Then I went up in the tower. It was a relatively short lighthouse, standing only 30 feet tall, but one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes. And it was plenty tall enough for the view to be impressive to an eight year old.

View in the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, return visit 2003.

View in the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, return visit 2003.

While not a big fan of history, from that day on I was hooked on lighthouses. I wanted to see all of them that I could, but I also wanted to climb as many as I could. I didn’t even know at that time that I could do better than that.

Only after we got back home, did we discover there was an even taller New Presque Isle Lighthouse just a mile down the road. Although I would take many more trips Up North, it would take me almost 20 years to get back and climb the 113 foot tower of New Presque Isle Lighthouse, tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes that can be climbed by the public.

In the years since, I found out that the elderly gentleman, George Parris died in 1991, and is said to haunt the Old Presque Isle lighthouse. I saw the story on a PBS special. It is kind of cool to have met someone who is now a ghost. Maybe I was on to something with my earlier Scooby Doo analogy.

Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, Ohio

Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, Ohio.  The most beautiful lighthouse I have ever laid eyes on.

My mom and I also went with my grandma to Marblehead, Ohio to see the lighthouse there. Marblehead Lighthouse looks the most like the idyllic lighthouse you will ever see. When you are in a souvenir shop and see light switch covers or hand towels with a generic lighthouse on them, I guarantee you that they will bear some resemblance to Marblehead. It has very classic dimensions. It is a white tower, with green doors and a red roof and railing. It is is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.

Photo of Marblehead Lighthouse from 1885.  Later, they would add another 10 feet to its height.

Photo of Marblehead Lighthouse from 1885. Later, they would add another 10 feet to its height.

It was a very dreary day when we visited. The sky was the same gray as the sheets of marble that the lighthouse rests on. I enjoyed climbing on the uneven stone. It really frustrated me that the lighthouse was unmanned and locked up. I was like a reverse Rupunzel. I desperately wanted to get INSIDE the tower. But it would be years later before the State of Ohio would realize its full tourism potential and started offering visitors a chance to go inside of it.

Return visit to Marblehead, 2002

Return visit to Marblehead, 2002

It turns out my lighthouse memories are very long-winded. For more stories on the lights of the Great Lakes and a complete list of lighthouses that I have personally visited, come back by on Thursday.

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