How Carol from The Walking Dead Gave Me a Great Vacation

It’s taken a couple of years to get used to not only having gray hair but feeling good about it. My hair is not just gray but in places, it is silver and white. It’s been there, lurking in my roots, for the last twenty years, a generous and unwanted gift from my paternal side. Over the years, I battled my roots with ferocity like other people would use insect repellent to keep away mosquitos, sunscreen to prevent skin cancer or vaccinations to avoid coming down with the plague. Dyeing my hair to combat the gray growing out was necessary.

Until suddenly it wasn’t.

Remember when Carol from the Walking Dead had a gray buzz cut? It wasn’t my favorite look for Melissa McBride. However, as it grew, I watched in fascination as Carol’s personality changed with it. When Sunday nights rolled around and my husband and I watched TWD, I marveled over her short, wavy, gray locks. I admired the emerging strength in a character who not only kicked ass in a post-apocalyptic world but also looked sensational doing it with that shiny silver hair.

All my life, I’ve had dark brown hair with “tinsel” running through it, and when my roots grew out, I was miserably two toned until my next hair appointment, when I’d get my shoulder length hair trimmed and colored again. Watching The Walking Dead, however, I started to fantasize about how great her haircut was, how easy it must be to style Carol’s silver locks.

In 2015, I decided it was time for me to rock my inner Carol. No more $80 hair appointments every six weeks! No more awkward home dye jobs! I had about an inch of gray hair that had grown out when I decided. If Carol could do it, I could too!

It was difficult to let it grow out because it was just so obvious what I was doing. I had a lot of people telling me how “brave” I was. Amy Schumer was right when she said, “I don’t want the word brave used to describe me.”

In June of that year I went to the hairdresser. We discussed what I wanted to do with my hair. She was a fellow TWD fan and when I said, “I want to look like Carol from Walking Dead,” that’s exactly what I left with. She gave me the haircut of my dreams. Since I had grown out so much of the gray, cutting the rest of it off was a no brainer. (zombies. No brainer. See what I did there?) It was so light! So pretty! Hardly anything to wash and so fun to style! (Also, where did that double chin come from? And has the back of my neck always looked like a package of hot dogs?)

chrisjenjoe

Left to Right: Chris, Jenny, and Joe, the Collins children.

 

 

We went to Florida the next month where I could try out my new pixie cut. I adored it. I squeed over the steely silver color. I loved the waves I could style. I loved the little clips I could use. I loved the freedom. For once, I was trending—well, at least my hair color was. I told my hairdresser later that it was the best vacation I have ever had, all because of that haircut. She understood completely.

Recently I’ve let it grow out a bit. And since that transformation, it’s gotten more and more silver. It does look like I have ribbons of tinsel running through my hair. Mother Nature has given me highlights and curls and I love it. I also love paying for just a haircut now as opposed to dyeing it. If I scrunch it it’s wild and curly and very shiny. I love all things that sparkle and glitter, so it fits right into my personality.

candkids

with the Grandies.

 

But sometimes my hair does make me feel older.

Case in point. I was in Walmart and a toy I wanted to get was out of stock. A young male associate told me he’d check in the back. I stood there for a minute when I heard his voice. I rounded the corner and he was about 100 feet away from me describing what he was looking for to a fellow associate, and that I’d be easy to find, because I was—and these words are hard to type—“the older lady with the frizzy gray hair standing by the toys.”

I looked around for a little old lady for a second before it hit me with the force of a thousand knitting needles that he was talking about me. Me, the sassy silver vision with the devil may care curls that were gleaming and sparkly and glowed in the sunlight? I’m the older lady with the gray frizzy hair? The “older lady” who in a post-apocalyptic world would be one of the last standing, with a light blue cardigan and a tray of delicious cookies?

He threw the requested toy in my cart. I thanked him and plotted tying him to a tree so that the monsters could eat him up. This upstart had no idea who he was messing with or what I was capable of.  My chin went up as I headed out of the store.

As I went up to pay for the toy, I passed a rack of cardigans and throw a purple one in the cart because you know who wears cardigans other than Carol from the Walking Dead?

A silvery, sparkly, shiny unicorn.

Kindle Worlds ~ a primer

terri and me

L to R: Chris Cacciatore & Terri Reid

This post was originally published in May of 2017 on another blog, the Life and Times of Poopwa Foley in response to questions from the public about Kindle Worlds. Not too many people are familiar with Kindle Worlds and it was my important civic duty to educate them. 🙂

 

My writing group, the In Print Professional Writer’s Group, had a guest speaker named Terri Reid in the Spring of 2011.

She spoke to our group about her foray into self-publishing with the release of her first e-book, Loose Ends, a Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery. When we had secured her as a guest speaker, her book had been downloaded over 40,000 times. By the time she came to speak to our group, only a few months later, it had been downloaded 80,000 times.

Six years later, Terri is a best-selling author and not only has finished Book 19 of that series; she’s also written several other series and has fans around the world.

Because her books were selling so well, Amazon approached Terri with the idea to create a Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery World. She needed to assemble several authors for her end of June 2016 launch.

Here’s her email to me, in part: “I’ve been approached by Amazon to create a Mary O’Reilly Kindle Worlds – it’s like an Amazon fanfiction arena, but writers actually get paid for what they write. You write a story within the Mary O’Reilly World using the Mary characters and any other characters you want to create. You can write in any genre you want – as long as you use the main idea of the Mary O’Reilly World. 

“The other cool thing about this is that if an author has an established character in their own series – they can “visit” the Mary O’Reilly World and interact with Mary – but get publicity for their own character and book.”

To be honest with you, I could not say yes FAST ENOUGH.

WHAT IS KINDLE WORLDS?

Kindle Worlds is Amazon’s answer to fan fiction. Directly from their website:

“Welcome to Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties.”

Before we started on our books, Terri sent us a character bible, describing the characters in her books that we could use. We were also told that if we wanted to, we could bring a character or two from one of our own books into the Mary O’Reilly Kindle World book that we were writing.

The nuts and bolts of it? Write a book over 10,000 words set in the Mary O’Reilly world. Add much or as little of Terri’s character (s) as you wish. Your book should be properly edited, proofread, and formatted. You will also need a cover for your book using the Kindle Worlds template found on their website. Kindle Worlds also puts a copyright page in for you, and prices your book, generally $1.99. Then writers use the self-publishing tool on Kindle World’s website and upload it. It’s extremely user friendly.

For the launch of the Mary O’Reilly Kindle Worlds, we all had to have our books ready and submitted to Kindle Worlds so they could go live on June 30 of 2016.

The day for the launch came. It was so thrilling. Six authors had brand new Mary O’Reilly World books to bring forth—a world where fans of the series were practically salivating to get their hands on books that featured her characters.

The following are links to the Mary O’Reilly Kindle Worlds books. Click on the name to be taken to their Amazon author page!

Chris Cacciatore wrote Trouble Lake in 2016 and Grave Injury in 2017. I believe that writing for the Mary O’Reilly Kindle World has been a boon for my writing career. For instance, in Trouble Lake I brought in two of my characters, Baylyn and Cat, from Baylyn, Bewitched. In Grave Injury, I wrote bought in a character from Knew You’d Come.

Vicky Holt wrote Safety Measures in 2016 and Missing Links in 2017, last month. Vicky says, “For the process of writing for it, that part is easy. Simple to upload and quick review process. It’s nice to see my work getting more exposure than it would, thanks to Terri’s awesome success. That’s probably the biggest perk.” Vicky also points out, “As far as I can tell, no extra marketing going on. I even find it difficult to find Kindle Worlds in a basic search.”

Jan Hinds wrote Widow Maker, (Otherwise Engaged Book 3) in 2016. Jan writes, “It was a wonderful experience and I took the opportunity to overlap some of my characters with Terri’s. I have gained several new readers in the process and am thrilled to meet all of you. Having been a fan of the Mary O’Reilly series I thoroughly enjoyed working with her characters. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to Terri for enabling me to join this group and let my imagination mingle with Mary and her friends.”

Ophelia Julien wrote A Scattering of Bones in 2016. Ophelia writes, “Writing a story based on Terri’s characters and then having it go up for sale was an amazing experience. I loved being a part of it, and also meeting all of you in the process! I think there needs to be a lot of clarification on exactly what KW is. I have a review on mine that complains about me writing a story using someone else’s characters, and notes that if I have a story to tell, I should just write my own work and stop using someone else’s. Terri very nicely got on and addressed this, explaining in detail exactly what KW was and why all these people were suddenly writing Mary O’Reilly stories, and with her permission. But there are still folks who seem to have a problem with the concept and don’t quite seem to grasp the underlying intent of a KW story.”

Donnie Light wrote Tangled Trail in 2016 and True Song in December 2016. Donnie’s books are doing very well, and although I did reach out to him for a comment, I don’t think he’s on Facebook a great deal—probably busy writing!

Maureen Tan wrote Hair of the Dog in 2016. Maureen says, “I’d say my overall experience was good…fairly straightforward paperwork, publishing interface, and prompt payment of royalties. Oh, and I got to meet all of you, which was FABULOUS! Zero support, as far as I can tell, from Amazon on publicizing the books, so that was a little disappointing, mostly because it seemed like they were going to be more aggressive about it. I guess my biggest frustration with it was readers who didn’t understand the concept of Worlds–back to Amazon/Kindle Worlds maybe needing to do a better job promoting/explaining the concept.”

Mary Lamphere published Kinder Garden her first time out, and recently released Baker’s Dozen. She is one of the newer writers of Kindle Worlds. Mary says, “I find a lot of people I talk to want to dismiss it as “fanfic”. There’s a lot of terrific fan fiction out there, but the ONE people know is 50 Shades and that seems to be what they want to compare my work to. I figure those people will be disappointed either way, right?! My experience with KW has been fine. It’s still early for me, so not much to report. I definitely plan on writing more in the Kindle Worlds!”

So, what does a Kindle Worlds writer make as a result of writing a KW book? That $1.99 is divided into three parts—a third for the author, a third for Amazon, and a third for the owner of the World you’re writing in.

Terri’s fans are some of the most loyal in existence, and the sales for the first few months our books were out in KW were astounding. Fans of our own writing were buying our books, and fans of Terri Reid’s Mary O’Reilly series were thrilled to have books about her character to hold them over until Terri’s next book came out.

That’s the special thing about her fans—they are absolutely in love with Mary O’Reilly and her now husband, Bradley Alden. They can’t get enough of Mary’s close friends, Stanley and Rosie, and the ghost named Mike, who is their daughter Clarissa’s guardian angel. Her fans read them voraciously the day they are live on Amazon.

My advice to you if you’re a writer looking to gain readership? Go to Kindle Worlds, browse through all the worlds they have to offer, and pick one that interests you. Then get to writing! You have nothing to lose, and only readers to gain.

If you’re a reader? Click on this Kindle Worlds link and immerse yourselves in quality writing in worlds you love. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll meet some superb new authors!

From Zero to Fifty One in No Time Flat

I have noticed that there seems to be only three days in the week anymore. They are: Monday, Friday, and today. The weekends go far too fast. We shop for groceries on Friday night and one blink later, I’m packing lunches again on Monday. I refill our pill boxes, clean the bathroom, wash the floor one day and suddenly they already need to be done again because an entire week has passed. I have just gotten used to writing 2017 on our checks, for crying out loud.

Time is going way too fast and I don’t like it at all.

My father once told me that the years leading up to your 21st birthday go very, very slowly, but once you hit 21, your birthdays start coming in fives. He’s right. What he didn’t tell me was that after 30, they come in tens. 22366445_10154794883401603_6421149369811760401_n

I was joking with one of my kids that since I love Halloween so much, I should get the powers that be to rename October “Halloween.” It started me thinking, then, that the other months of the year could use a little tweaking too. I mean, since time is going by so quickly, might as well have some fun with it.

Therefore, I submit to you the new names of the months. For the Midwest, at least.

January shall now be known as Cold.

February should be known as Short and Cold.

March, I rename Icy. (or Cancun, for those lucky people who can escape the last little bit of winter by buying a plane ticket and flying to warmer climes.)

April shall be known as Slush.

May will be renamed Getting There.

June, I will call Pre-Summer.

July can stay July.

August shall be renamed Hot as Balls.

September is a three-way tie between School Begins, Parents Rejoice, and Those Fucking Yellowjackets.

October is, of course, Halloween.

It follows, then, that November shall be renamed Thanksgiving.

December can be called Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza. For those who don’t celebrate any winter holiday, you may use Pre-Cold.

I will submit my suggestions and let you know what “they” say. If my suggestions are accepted, I’ll be sure to get some new calendars printed up.

They should be ready by August. I mean, Hot as Balls.

New Release and Two Free Books!

Over the past few years, I was a part of a Rockford writing club called the Prompt Club. It was the brainchild of Mary Lamphere, who not only compiled the list of prompts for the year, but also scheduled our meeting times/places and printed folders and bags for the members.

Despite it being called the Prompt Club, I don’t think I was ever on time. The one time I was, I had the night wrong. #soitgoes There were such talented writers in our club! It was very inspiring to be around such a group.

At any rate, three years of Prompt Club times twelve 1000-word stories a year adds up, and I had over forty short stories languishing away on my flash drive, where they’re not entertaining anyone! I write humorous articles quite a bit, and five of my stories ended up being published in the amusing book series “Not Your Mother’s Book” a few years ago. I have two in NYMB on Sex, and one in each of the following categories: Parenting, Family, and Being a Stupid Kid. Some of the funniest stories went on my blog as well, the Life and Times of Poopwa Foley. However, I also love to write paranormal, creepy stories and had many, many of those too.

I assembled my favorites and bought a cover from Go On Write. Fun fact—I ordered a cover from them last Thursday at 1:42 p.m. I received the completed cover ready to go THREE MINUTES LATER—not kidding! Check them out!

The Amazon fairies did their magic and published my collection of short stories this past Saturday. It’s called “Weird, Wicked Tales…Creepy Stories for All Hollow’s Weird, Wicked Tales - High Resolution - Version 1Eve.” I have gotten great feedback from early readers, and I’m really excited about the stories. Take a look for yourself, if you’re in the mood for some spine-chilling tales!

If that wasn’t enough, I have made Baylyn, Bewitched (a mystical, magical witchy romance) free for the Halloween season. Why? Because Halloween is so friggin awesome, that’s why! Baylyn, Bewitched is a book I co-wrote with my sister, along with the second book called Cat, Charmed. We had a blast co-writing and are proud of the finished books.

41j-aIQTHsL__UY250_Another book I wrote is free today and tomorrow. It’s called Knew You’d Come, an erotic time travel/paranormal novella. This story is near and dear to my heart because it contains several things that make me happy…time travel, ghosts, romance, and of course, hot, smexy times.41zTJz4riFL__UY250_

A tiny sample:

She transcribed the recording but the typed up transcript of the conversation came off as frightening. Creepy. The tone and timbre of his voice, however, had been patient. Kind. Loving, if a little perturbed. Oddly, she had felt exhilarated hearing his voice. It had sounded so familiar to her and lit a flame in her that she had not even known was there.

That was frightening.

Then there was the fact that she wanted to hear his voice again.

That was frightening, too.

But the quiet joy in her heart—the little voice in her head that whispered “You found him. You found him, finally.”

That was the most frightening of all.

This All Hollow’s Eve, get your scare on. Try my book of creepy short stories, Weird, Wicked Tales. If that’s not up your alley, give Baylyn, Bewitched a try. If you’re looking for something smoldering hot, grab your copy of Knew You’d Come.

Happy Halloween!

Do the weird thing. Life is fra-geel-ay.

IMG_20161114_112851311_HDRBecause I am a nerdy geek, I did a nerdy, geeky thing with my sister, Jenny. To begin celebrating the holiday season, we took a five hour car trip to Cleveland Ohio, where we went on a tour at the house where the holiday must-see movie A Christmas Story was filmed! We had no idea what to expect. Would it be cheesy? Embarrassing? Would there be only one person there besides us? As it turned out, it wasn’t cheesy or embarrassing at all but in fact far more nostalgic than we ever dreamed.IMG_20161114_112909033~2

IMG_20161114_111820315

They charge $11 per person for the tour, and in our group there were fifteen. The tour guide said that the closer it gets to Christmas, the lines and groups are incredible—approximately twenty to twenty five people per hour all day long, with lines around the block. The tour guide was knowledgeable and told us entertaining, behind the scenes information. For instance, the snow wasn’t real! Watching the movie now, would you have ever been able to tell? Also, Darrin McGavin, who played the furnace battling father, is the only one who got royalties from the movie!

We stood on the landing where Ralphie wears the horrifying pink bunny outfit. That was a dream come true. The tour took us upstairs, where we saw the phone Ralphie’s mom used when she made the phone call that got Flick in trouble. As a matter of fact, when you pick up the phone, you can hear a recording of the conversation. The bedroom Ralphie and Randy shared was open for viewing, as was the bathroom where Ralphie solves the “drink more Ovaltine” puzzle and where he is also punished by having to hold a bar of Lifebuoy soap in his mouth. IMG_20161114_113145721

We saw the kitchen where the Bumpus’ dogs demolish the turkey, where mother hasn’t eaten a hot meal in nine years, Randy eats like a little piggy, and where he later hides under the sink because he thinks Daddy’s going to IMG_20161114_113343260kill Ralphie. We also went outside into the back yard where Ralphie has his imaginary shootout with Bad Bart and breaks his glasses. Let’s not forget the most important thing of all…the crate containing THE leg lamp.

When the tour was over, we were allowed to enter the Christmas Story museum and see costumes and props from the movie. We found out there were six different Red Ryder BB guns used in the movie. There were lots of pictures of behind the scenes filming—fans of the movie would love it.IMG_20161114_115709099~2

We next went to the gift shop. My Discover card is still rather warm to the touch from our shopping. I mean, they had everything you could hope for in souvenirs. I bought a t-shirt, a leg lamp ornament, and horrid red Christmas sweatshirts that features the leg lamp on them and says “Fragile”, which I forced my long suffering husband to wear not only to Christmas with the family, but also to our corporate Christmas party. We needed to get our money’s worth out of them before they’re put away for the season.

The highlights of our trip were many. We talked about kids, writing and husbands. I was informed that I snore, but “very lightly.” I might have misheard because I was pretty high on painkillers from a dental procedure. And we were eating potato chips in the car when driving out to Cleveland; my sister misjudged how quickly a toll gate would come down. It turns out it comes down VERY quickly. It hit the top of her minivan and cracked off. We spit out chips and cough-laughed for almost an hour over that, calling ourselves Thelma & Louise (but in sensible shoes). We also had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which was awesome. I got a piece of Lemon Raspberry cheesecake and if that wasn’t a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.

All in all, this was one of those unusual trips that turned out to be so much more fun than we ever imagined, and we’re already planning our next nerdy geek adventure.

The perfect shade of red.

There are hypochondriacs, then there’s me. I live on a whole other plane of existence.

“Are you sure it’s a pulled muscle?” a slithery voice asks me, when I’m sure that the reason my shoulder is sore is because my wild boar of a dog yanked on his leash. “Are you sure it’s your gall bladder?” it asks, when I have a stomach ache, but I’ve already had a scan that shows significant gallstones, a surgical consult, and a scheduled date for surgery.

“But are you sure?”

Because it’s not enough to constantly worry about the aches and pains that come with being 50 and menopausal, I also have a big side order of anxiety deluxe.

Other people: My leg hurts. If it keeps up, I’ll go to the doctor and have it looked at.

Me: I have a blood clot, and I’m going to die.

Other people: Geez, what did I eat today? I have terrible indigestion and gas.

Me: I’m having a heart attack, and I’m going to die.

Other people: Boy, this is a terrible headache. I’ll take a couple of Tylenol and it should subside.

Me: I have a brain tumor, and I’m going to die.

You may be noticing a pattern. My counselor calls this catastrophizing. I call it “Monday.”

I joke about my health anxiety. I have to, in order to stay sane. There are several tricks I have in my arsenal now to get through the day. Sometimes the fact that I get through the day without calling my doctor in a panic or speeding to the ER is a major feat.

Sound generators (ocean waves, white noise, tubular bells, etc.) help as well. Recognizing ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) tends to defeat intrusive thoughts. Watching funny videos is always good too, especially the little clips I have of my little grandchildren. Watching American Housewife. (looking at you, Katy Mixon.)

Occasionally, though, I get an A plus in imagination and creativity when it comes to my anxiety. For instance, the other night I was battling for space on our bed with our pig of a dog, and when he finally laid down, my covers were pulled down. Since the light was still on, I was able to see a giant reddish bruise right between my boobs.

Cold fear shot through me. I couldn’t remember injuring myself, so obviously, the only reasonable thing to conclude was that I was bleeding internally. Lips numb with fear, I wet a piece of the top sheet and rubbed at it, and it disappeared. My tired but still slithery brain said that I was just dissipating the blood, and I was quite confident I’d be dead by morning. I decided against calling the ambulance just then.

Morning came and the alarm went off as usual. After I took a shower I noticed the bruise wasn’t there anymore. I had been given a reprieve and was going to live, temporarily at least.

After lunch I brushed my teeth in the bathroom at work, and just for shits and giggles, decided to look and ensure the bruise was still gone, just in case I should forget entering sales and begin writing my obituary. I pulled up my shirt and to my absolute horror; the bruise was back, only bigger. And redder.

I hyperventilated for only a minute or two while I was wetting a paper towel, just in case a wet paper towel was good for curing internal bleeding.

Funny thing, though, once again it disappeared. Not only that, there was a red stain on the paper towel.

Wait just a gosh darn minute.

It was then that I remembered that while I was getting ready the day before, putting on makeup, a small chunk of red lipstick had crumbled off the tube and dropped. I hadn’t found it on the bathroom floor.

However, my bra caught that small crumb of lipstick right between my boobs, where the warmth melted it onto the inside of my bra, where it caused a big, red “bruise”.

lipstick

I let out a high pitched giggle. I wasn’t about to die, after all. I could put off writing my obituary and instead write this article.

Thanks for the welcome to Love, Lust, and Laptops!!