Monday, November 29, 2010

Tarot and The Big Muddy

Mystery author Tina Whittle is my guest today.  I've had the pleasure of getting to know Tina through The Mojito Literary Society where she is one of the founding members.  She always has something intriguing to share and I find myself waiting for her blog pots on interviews, book reviews, wine pairings, and even quantum entanglement.  Yes, I said quantum entanglement.  Totally blew me away.  Today she talks about how tarot cards have influenced her writing.  Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or your favorite chocolate and enjoy getting to know Tina.

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In her mystery-writing manual How to Write Killer Fiction, Carolyn Wheat describes the middle part of a novel as “waist deep in the big muddy.” She’s not exaggerating. When my novel The Dangerous Edge of Things reached its midpoint, the Big Muddy almost sucked me under. I had no idea what these people I’d created were up to — their motives and goals and secrets were a treacherous mucky mire. My plot was crumbling, and my book along with it.

Seeing my dilemma, a friend offered to do a tarot reading for me. I was curious, but skeptical. After all, what could a deck of fortunetelling cards accomplish that storyboards and plot outlines hadn’t?

But I was desperate. So tucking my skepticism into my back pocket, I sat across from my friend as she divined the intricacies of my novel. First, she had me shuffle the deck; then she laid out the cards in a pattern called the Celtic Cross.

“That which covers you, that which crosses,” she explained. “Above and below, before and behind.”

She tapped the first card, a calm masculine figure seated on a throne, a gleaming rapier upright in his hand. “The central conflict involves the King of Swords,” she said. “A man of strength and power and intellect, someone who holds the power of life and death in his hand. Often solitary, sometimes ruthless, but ultimately fair and objective.”

I was stunned. She was describing Trey, my male protagonist, like she‘d sneaked a peek at the character synopsis. Then other cards turned up. The Queen of Cups— submerged unexpressed emotion, perhaps jealousy. The Knight of Wands — an energetic ally with charisma and passion. Justice reversed — a situation riddled with bias and prejudice. And then, in the final position, The Magician.

“It all ends with a single choice,” my friend said, “a big one, the kind of choice you have to believe in with everything you have.”

And as I stared at those cards — at the swords and wands and clear-eyed figures — I suddenly understood what my intuition had been trying to tell me all along. I’d been going at it backwards. Instead of letting the sequence of events flow from my characters’ desires and goals, I’d imposed a series of events on them. No wonder my book was drowning — I’d put a straightjacket on my characters and tossed them in the whitewater.

This is a common pitfall in the tug-of-war between the free-wheeling creativity of the subconscious and the controlled order-making of the conscious. As a writer, I understand the challenge of moving between these two modes of operation and the frustrations that occur when you can’t do it easily (writer’s block being the most common).

But this is why tarot, or any divination deck, is such an effective tool in the creative person’s toolkit — it provides a channel of communication between your conscious and subconscious minds. As your own responses to the images in the deck bubble up, you try out different scenarios, look at situations from a new perspective. Facts rub together in new ways, creating sparks.

Think of it this way — your subconscious is a vast library, with lots of information on the shelves and more coming in every day, but unless you have some way to find what you need when you need it, it can be pretty overwhelming. Tarot is like a very smart, very friendly librarian who knows you well enough to bring you exactly what you need — all you have to do is ask.

My first tarot reading was so successful that I went on to become a professional tarot reader myself. I now counsel others seeking creative solutions to life’s challenges. Thanks to the cards, my soon-to-be-published novel was completed successfully. And even though my hero remains an intellectual King of Swords, I tucked a tarot deck in his desk, just to remind him that sometimes he should put away his graphs and flow charts and open himself to the mysterious powers of intuition.

Tina Whittle is a mystery writer living and working in Southeast Georgia. The Dangerous Edge of Things, her first novel, debuts February 2011 from Poisoned Pen Press. Set in contemporary Atlanta, The Dangerous Edge of Things is the first book in a series featuring gun-shop owner Tai Randolph and corporate security agent Trey Seaver. When not writing or reading, Tina enjoys golf, sushi, and spending time with her family (one husband, one daughter, one neurotic Maltese and three chickens). You can find her at http://www.tinawhittle.com/.

"If you’re wondering who can give Stephanie Plum a run for her money, meet Tai Randolph." --Kirkus Review

The Dangerous Edge of Things is available at your favorite independent bookseller or from Poisoned Pen Press. Also available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feast Your Eyes On This!

No, this is not my Thanksgiving table.  But a girl can dream.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my most favorite holidays, despite my abysmal cooking skills.  Unless food can go into a crock pot or one pot, I consider it "gourmet." 

My mother, on the other hand, was a fantastic cook.  Unfortunately her children--especially the middle child (moi) cannot claim the same Martha Stewart-like skills.  I do remember watching my mother cook around the holidays, though.  I only wished I had picked up a few more tips in the domestic department.  And she'd always break out the china for special occasions.  Her china was so beautiful and delicate.  My grandmother brought it over when she emigrated here from Sweden in the early 1900's.  How a box of Limoges china made it here on a bumpy boat ride in one piece is a miracle in itself.  (Side note: I wrote a short story about these dishes years ago because their journey has always intrigued me.)  But I remember Mom saying, "What good are they if we never use them?"  Vintage Mom.

I also remember the mouth-watering aromas that floated from Mom's kitchen and every year everyone in my family always declared it to be "the best dinner ever."  And yet every year it was always the same thing--all the comfort foods that we loved--turkey, mashed potatoes to die for, green-bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and the best hot buttery rolls I've ever tasted in my entire life.  For desert sometimes we would have homemade oatmeal cookies or pumpkin pie.  Nothing too fancy and yet it was always delicious.

Following dinner, we'd always watch the same movie: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE with Jimmy Stewart. 

Don't get me wrong, my crazy house was more CHRISTMAS VACATION than A VERY BRADY BUNCH THANKSGIVING SPECIAL but around the holidays, you always tend to remember the good and forget the not so good.  But we sure did laugh a lot.

To those in the States, Happy Thanksgiving! And even if you're not, the more the merrier.  Bon appetit!

Monday, November 22, 2010

This Is Your Brain

This is your brain.


This is your brain after a weekend of nonstop blogging.


This past weekend was my inaugural foray into hosting a Blog Hop and I must say that I had an absolute blast reading the First Gift stories that people shared.  By the time the weekend had ended, I had experienced the whole gamut of rollercoaster emotions that comes from reading personal stories.  Happy, sad, heart-warming, funny, refreshingly honest--they were all a little bit of everything.  Again, a big ginormous Thank You to everyone who participated!  I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about you through your stories.  You totally rocked my weekend.

I did step away from the computer for a short time on Saturday night to visit my favorite Cuban restaurant, Club Babaloos which, by the way, has the absolute best mojitos in Phoenix.  Later, Craig and I watched a totally hysterical movie called SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE.  Kind of THE HANGOVER-lite in crudeness but very funny.  I think Craig liked it even more than I did, although I really liked it!  It was more guy-lit than chick-lit.  Definitely worth a rental.  

Hard to believe that we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States on Thursday.  So much to do, so little time.  Shopping, baking, getting the house ready.  Oy.  And I've only written 10,000 words in my unofficially official NaNoWriMo WIP this month.  November has been too busy for words, pun intended.  Next month must be better.  Must.

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And speaking of blog hops...

Don't forget the Monday Author Blog Hop hosted by the super-cool Lisa.  Check out her site for more deets and then hop on!


Friday, November 19, 2010

First Gifts Blog Hop: My First Anniversary Gift Story

A big humongous thank you to everyone participating this weekend in the First Gifts Blog Hop! And smooches also to everyone who helped me and The Mojito Literary Society spread the word this past week.  Girls (and even a couple of guys) just wanna have fun, right? I so look forward to reading everyone's stories.  *takes a sip from virtual mojito and a bite from a chocolate cupcake*  And without further ado, here's my story:

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My First Anniversary Gift

Craig and I had dated only six months before we got engaged.  (I know--brilliant, right?!)  We were married a whopping nine months after we met (No need to say it!  I know.  More brilliance)  We were young(er), mostly broke, but pretty happy.  Anyway, it probably shouldn't have come as a big surprise when I opened my first anniversary gift, a mind-boggling 20 years ago.

Craig lovingly wrapped the gift in pretty bright paper.  It even had a shiny bow! I was so excited to open it.  How many times do you get to open a first anniversary gift?  Once, right?  (Well, once, usually.)  Still, I thought my loving husband of 12 months knew me better than anyone in the whole world.

I would be mistaken.

Friends, I give you what Craig and I would eventually call The Bridle...

The Bridle

Bridle is the first thing that came to mind when I laid my eyes on this hideous gold-plated monstrosity.  Gaudy, chunky, and weighing about a pound (although it felt like 100 around my neck), this was jewelry that someone with big hair, power suits, and pointy shoulder pads would wear.  Like those chicks on Dynasty.  Like Alexis and Krystle Carrington and people who spell their first names one way when you think they should be spelled another.  And I am so not a power suit, pointy shoulder pad, weird first name kind of gal.  I am the complete opposite of that!  I don't even wear a lot of jewelry--never have!  Why Craig ever thought that I'd even remotely like this necklace, I have no idea. 

Of course, when I first opened it, I had to pretend that I loved it because, well, that's how nice people behave.  Gifts were never dissed.  Ever.  It was supposed to be the thought that counted, right?! 

Um, yeah.

But it was our first anniversary!  You only get one first anniversary!!

So, I wore The Bridle to our fancy first anniversary dinner that night.  But the whole time it felt like a noose around my neck, and I couldn't stop agonizing over why in the world Craig would even for one millisecond think that I'd ever like this thing. 

Finally, at dinner, I guess I had been acting kind of quiet.  Over crème brûlée, he came right out and asked, "You hate it, don't you."  It wasn't a question.

With a big guilty lump in my throat the size of a peach pit, I reluctantly replied, "Yeah."

Then we both laughed hard enough to attract the attention of most of the restaurant.  And we learned three valuable lessons that night:

1) We wouldn't hold back when we were upset, no matter how bad.
2) Craig wouldn't buy jewelry without me. 
3) Crème brûlée would always be our favorite dessert. 

And, The Bridle? It's still the ugliest piece of jewelry in the History of Ever but I wouldn't part with it for anything.

Friday, November 12, 2010

First Gifts Blog Hop: You're Invited!

Do you remember the first gift you ever received from your boyfriend? Girlfriend? Spouse? Life partner? Did you get something sparkly? A mood ring that turned your finger purple? Sexy lingerie? An ugly puppy?  A toaster?  If you've got a story to tell--funny, sad, or in-between--I'd love it if you'd join me and the cool chicks at The Mojito Literary Society in our blog hop next weekend.  Virtual mojitos and chocolate cupcakes will be served.  Here are the deets:

Who's Invited:  Everyone!  Anyone can post a story or hop around or both!

When:  November 19 - November 21

Why:  Because laughter is the best medicine, or something cheesy like that.  And we're basically nosey.  Seriously, this blog hop should be a blast!

How:  All you have to do is click on the linky link below and join!  Then on November 19, post your story.  And if you have a photo to share, even better!  Your story does not have to be long.  In fact, I'd recommend no more than 500 words.  You can even post the linky link html code below to your blog if you're feeling techy.  ;-)

Prizes:  What are we, 12 years old?! There are no prizes and definitely no judging.  Blech!  Just the satisfaction of reading other people's stories, making new friends, following new blogs, and generally having a good time.  What's not to like?  "Tis the season, too.  We all might as well get in the gifty mood.

Anything else?:  Please include the cute little Blogger Button above in your November 19 post because, well, what's a blog hop without a cute lil' blogger button?  Any help you could provide in spreading the word about this blog hop--your own blogs, Twitter, Facebook, skywriting, bull horns--would surely be appreciated!
 
A Final Note:  I'll be sharing a photo and story of my first anniversary gift from my husband.  Let's just say that the moment I opened his present, I seriously thought that Martians had landed and someone abducted my real husband, leaving me an impostor.  Like those pod people.  I could NOT believe what he wrapped up for me in shiny paper and bows.  Good news, though.  After 20 years, we're still married.  Oh, but that first gift...Can't wait to share it with you on the 19th!

Be there!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting Personal: Remembering My Dad on Veteran's Day

Today on what I consider one of the most sacred of days, I feel compelled to tell you about my Dad, the greatest guy I've ever known.  I don't often share personal mushy family stuff on this very public blog but today I make an exception, maybe it's because I feel that time is running out and there are stories that should be shared.

My Dad is a World War II veteran.  He served in the United States Navy for four years aboard the USS Leonard Wood after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  One night at a soda shop with his buddies from his Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood, Dad heard about the bombing.  The frantic news crackled over a radio.  He remembers asking along with his friends, "Where's Pearl Harbor?"  It probably sounded as foreign to them as Mars.  Shortly thereafter, Dad left high school and enlisted.  And so did just about every boy from his crowded melting pot neighborhood, many of whom never returned. 

USS Leonard Wood
My dad was not even eighteen at the time of the bombing but he lied to the military authorities so that he could enlist. Desperate for soldiers, they took him gladly, despite the fact that he was also partially blind in one eye. I kid you not.  Dad memorized the eye chart before his physical so that he would pass. His war experience would change his life forever and it would shape the impressive man he became. 

But that was Dad--impulsive, quietly determined, and always courageous.  He never wanted special consideration, help of any kind, or even praise.  He was never afraid to jump into the middle of a fray and do his part and more.  He was also a man from very humble beginnings, grew up dirt-poor during the Depression, his parents didn't speak English, but he would tell you that he was no better or worse than anyone else.  His parents emigrated from Italy in the early 1900's, penniless and uneducated, and they barely understood what was happening at that time.  Of course, they didn't want their eldest son to go to war--any war--but Dad enlisted anyway.  For the next four years, his family didn't know if Dad was alive or dead.

And my father would be mortified if he knew that I was posting this blog today, mostly because he'd argue that what he did was nothing more that thousands of others did, many of whom paid the ultimate price.  But good thing for me, Dad thinks that Facebook is actually a book--like a dictionary or a bible--if he even knows what it is at all.  :-) He's never touched a computer in his life.  It's only been in the last decade that he's shared with us snippets from his service aboard that ship.  I never remember him talking about the war when we were young, and he's never ever spent a second gloating or glamorizing it either.  That would be so unlike him, if you knew my Dad.

I've tried to write down much of his story for safekeeping because his stories are both heartwarming and gut-wrenching.  Landing in Sicily.  Dancing with Hollywood actresses aboard his ship during a USO tour.  The Pacific Theater.  Kamikazes buzzing overhead.  Thousands of dead soldiers floating in the ocean.  I cannot believe what he endured, what he saw, the sacrifices he made.  It's like the kinds of things that only happen in novels or movies, not to young boys in the prime of their lives.

And I share this with you today because I know that the days that I have left with both my Mom and Dad are probably measured in months, a couple more years, if we're lucky.  Dad is no longer the tall, robust guy he once was.  He doesn't eat much, he forgets things, he probably shouldn't drive anymore, but he does so anyway, no matter how much we beg him not to.  The last thing in the world he'd ever want from anyone was pity or even help. 

It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that Dad, Mom and the men and women from that time period are labeled The Greatest Generation but, somehow, that's not even a good description.  I'm  not sure there is a word that's worthy enough for them.  But I thank God every day for having kept him safe during that war and my heart breaks for all the people who died and for the families that were destroyed.  I also thank God every day for the remaining time that we have together.

So, forgive me if I get a little emotional when it comes to our Veterans and Veterans Day. Now you know why.

Happy Veteran's Day, Dad!  And to all the other veterans and their families, thank you!

Maria Zannini: How To Do A Blog Tour

Today I'm blog swapping with Maria Zannini, author of the recently released TRUE BELIEVERS from Carina Press.  Maria is cool.  I've been following her blog now for months and hope you are too.  She's super-funny and always has something interesting to share such as today's post on "How To Do A Blog Tour."  Easier said than done, mes amies.  Without further ado, please welcome Maria to the blog!

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How To Do A Blog Tour


If there's one thing I've learned it's that experience will slap you silly with smarts if you take the time to pay attention. After my first blog tour for Touch Of Fire, I picked up some tips that I will gladly share with you today.

• Mindset. Stop looking at promotion as if it were something shameful. It's not. It's a means of telling others about your latest work. Unless you're selling cheap suits, stop worrying.

• Plan ahead. Most authors have a fair idea when their book will release. Plan for a blitz immediately before and after that first week of release when you will be the media darling.

• Schedule your stops at least a couple of months ahead of time and write those posts well in advance. You are going to have enough to do without having to write a scintillating post before deadline.

• Network. Not when your book is out, but right now. Visit blogs and forums often. Comment often. Make yourself VISIBLE. Readers respond to people who interact with them.

• Cast your web widely. Don't blog just at familiar places. Try some place new. Bring your blog followers with you and introduce them to a blog or web site they haven't been to before.

• Talk on a variety of subjects. Your readers don't want the same old pitch. Give them a reason to visit you while you're traveling from blog to blog. A writer is a storyteller, and storytellers are entertainers. Entertain.

• Can't figure out what to say? Steal. Borrow. Check out what other authors talk about during their blog tours and quietly pilfer their ideas.

• While everyone else is on tour, be sure to note where they've been, what they talked about, and what kind of response they got while they were there.

• And here is the biggest secret of all. Readers want relationships, not sales pitches. Give them a bit of yourself in every post.

Readers/Fans: Is there anything that drives you crazy about blog tours? Go ahead and rant. Tell us what you think.

***

Maria Zannini's latest release is a science fiction romance called TRUE BELIEVERS.

Mix one cynical immortal and one true believer and throw them into the biggest alien-hunt the world has never known. Rachel Cruz is a Nephilim masquerading as an archeologist and she's stuck with an alien who believes she can lead him to his ancestral gods. Black Ops wants to find these gods too. They want them dead.

Follow Maria here:

Blog
Facebook
Goodreads
Twitter

Contest time! Every time you leave a comment, tweet or mention "Maria Zannini" anywhere with a link to my blog, your name goes in the hat for a chance to win a Texas sized prize. Go here for more information.

HOLD THE PRESSES! Maria has made it to the second round of the Kensington Contest. Vote for her novel, Mistress Of The Stone. (Maria is the one with the very cute dog.) Every vote, tweet and nudge is appreciated.

Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMoIShouldHaveMyHeadExamined Update

No, that's not me in the photo.  But it could be.  I'm unofficially officially participating in NaNoWriMo this year, although I got a late start.  I blame the cold that I had last week.  And the Halloween candy high that finally wore off.  And global warming.  And...

My current WIP finally took hold of me this week, so I've got a lot of catching up to do if I'm to make it to the 50K goal by month's end.  Only 40K more to go. ;-)  Piece of cake.

It didn't help that I kinda got lost in a reread of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER (the perfect escape book), although it's a gazillion pages long and hence the pause in my writing.  I also started Kate Morton's THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN for my Happy Hour Book Club and, so far, I'm enjoying it very much.  You can read all about it on Goodreads.

Hope you've been way more productive than I've been this month! But if you've got any books to recommend, please share!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sweet Dreams

I don’t know why but when I dream, my dreams can be so unbelievably vivid. In fact, to not dream, is sort of unusual for me. And I had a couple of doozies this past weekend. One of my dreams seemed to go the entire night when I know that science will tell me that it probably lasted no more than a couple of minutes.  Dang science!

Sunday night, I dreamt that I was back in college. I was attending Indiana University (never been there; have no idea why I would even be dreaming about the place) and living in a dorm (shoot me now, please). For some bizarre reason, the dorm room that I shared with another girl had a connecting door to an auditorium-style lecture hall. And I seemed to be the only one in my dream who thought that was kind of strange.  People traipsed in and out of our dorm room all day long.  Totally weird. 

When I told my husband about the dream the following morning over coffee, he laughed, like he always does. He loves hearing about my dreams almost as much I love having them, no matter how bizarre.  That's because they're like whole entire stories, better than Twilight Zone episodes sometimes.  Sometimes he dreams some pretty strange dreams too but he never remembers his as clearly as I do mine.

So it will come as no surprise to you then that the main character in my next book with Carina Press is about a woman who has some pretty amazing dreams, where the line between reality and daydreams gets pretty murky. Suffice it to say that I cannot wait to share that novel with you! 

Do you dream wild dreams at night?  Do you remember dreams that you had from years ago?  (I can still remember a dream I had when I was 10 years old.  Vividly.  Although it was more like a nightmare.)  Do you ever have the same dream twice? (I used to dream the same dream over and over when I was in high school. Long story.)

So, excuse me while I take a snooze. Wake me up in twenty. :-) 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bam! Pow! Wham!

I can only come out for a minute to play today, but I had to share this cool Batman poster.  As a kid, I loved Batman And Robin, and I can't tell you how badly I wanted to drive the Batmobile and scale those grey buildings in Gotham City in nothing more than black leather boots, tights, and a cape.  And a mask.  Yes, I wanted to be BatGirl and fight the bad guys with the Dynamic Duo--if only for a day.  An hour!

I probably had a crush on Robin too.  He was kinda cute in a Risky Business Tom Cruise sort of way.  And how was it that no one in the show could ever identify the men behind Batman and Robin?  Robin only ever wore those black glasses.  Wouldn't the police commissioner have noticed?  I mean, unless you were blind or younger than two years old, you could pretty much figure out that Robin was really Dick Grayson and vice versa.  Ditto for Batman and Bruce Wayne.  But when we love stories, I suppose we're always willing to cut the characters (and the writers) a little slack. 

Well, back to my Bat Cave.  It's been a crazy busy writing week for me and I can't seem to shake my cold.  Great timing, yes?!  I bet BatGirl never had to worry about getting sick!

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, hope your first week has been productive! Stay healthy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Home Sweet Home - Blogfest for the Lazy

I meant to post this earlier, and I blame the cough syrup for my forgetfulness.  Summer at And This Time, Concentrate challenged writers to share their writing spaces on November 1.  Naturally, I'm always a day late and a dollar short.  But better late than never, right?  Hey, it's not midnight yet at least where I live.

Without further ado, I give you my luxurious writing space:

Kidding!!




















Sheesh. I'm a bit messy sometimes but never THAT messy.  Anyway, seriously, here's my writing space when I'm not parked at my favorite corner table at the Paradise Bakery.  This is truly my fav spot in my house, right by my windows and next to my piano (that you can't see) and that I don't play nearly enough.


My writing space. Note the bag of chocolate covered espresso beans to the right of my Netbook.
















Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo!

Lost in Writer Space

I had one of those lost weekends, although not on purpose.  After not being sick in over two years, I broke my healthy winning streak this past week.  Thank you out there to whoever in Phoenix bequeathed their creepy cold germs to me.   Now go away, cold.

On the bright side, in my antihistamine and heavy-duty aspirin-induced drug haze, I wrote a killer ending to my current manuscript and returned to writing another book that I started over a month ago.  I think there's something to be said for a numbed mindset and writing breakthroughs.  Perhaps pain really does positively influence writing after all?!

No gain without pain has new meaning for me.

In other desert news, Craig and I rented two really good movies Saturday night that I have to pass along because I love unexpected surprises:  YOUNG VICTORIA and THE LOSERS.  Two totally different movies but worth the price of a rental.  I hadn't read very good reviews for YOUNG VICTORIA and, as usual, I'm glad that I ignored them.  I loved the scenery and the love story, and I thought the actor who played Prince Albert was perfect in his role.  A completely different movie, THE LOSERS is based on a comic book (who knew?).  Lots of blow-it-up action with the good guys winning in the end.  Jason Patric stole the show.  The writing was superb, and it was filled with so many great lines.  Great fun, in a dark sort of way.

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Time to go hoppin'

If you already know the drill, hop on!  If not, check out Lisa's page for more deets.  Feel free to follow and I'll follow you back!