School Visit, DNA, and Thanksgiving

Back in August, a librarian at a local high school asked if I’d visit her class, and I immediately accepted. They were working on a unit dealing with fear and what makes a nightmare, and she asked if I’d discusss my books and writing process. The visit was scheduled for the week before Halloween – a perfect time to discuss fear and nightmares. The problem? It’s been several years since I’ve done any kind of public speaking – more like a couple decades when I did HR training at a hospital – so saying I was nervous is an understatement. But I told myself it was a group of teenagers, and I’d be discussing books. Honestly, I could talk to just about anyone when it comes to books. Several days before the visit, I began working on my presentation. I emailed the teacher and asked about the number of students – thinking I might take some bookmarks to hand out – and figured the number would be somewhere around thirty. Wrong. Two hundred fifty-six. The whole sophomore class. I wish I’d had a picture of my face when I read that email – no doubt it was a look of sheer terror.

I prepped and prepped that week – then threw out 80% of my presentation and started over the day before the visit. But guess what – the dread of speaking to that many people was worse than actually doing it. Since we were talking about fear, I confessed up front how nervous I was speaking to them. Afterwards, four students who were genuinely interested in writing came up and asked me questions. I was thrilled to speak to them one on one about books and writing. It turned into a fun day, and I’m glad I set aside my fear of public speaking and did it.

A couple months ago, I mentioned Son #2 and I did the Ancestry DNA test and promised to update you. Our results came in, and some were pretty surprising. Fifty percent of mine was England and Northwestern Europe, which I’d expected, but 28% was Scottish. Didn’t see that one coming. My son’s showed both of those, but the surprise was the 26% Sweden and Denmark that came from hubby’s side. He had no idea. My MIL has claimed for years there was Italian on her side, but it sure didn’t show up in the DNA. I know over time these percentages can change, but we had fun doing this. If you’d like to try it, Ancestry regularly has the kits on sale.

We’ll have both sons and a couple friends who we consider family here for Thanksgiving on Thursday. Hubby always fries a turkey – if you’ve never tried it, I strongly recommend correcting that oversight ASAP. To all my American friends, hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Yallfest and #AmWatching

Happy Monday! With Bad Moon Rising, it’s been more than a minute since we’ve caught up. So let’s get started.

This past Friday and Saturday, a friend and I attended Yallfest in Charleston, SC. We really lucked out with the weather considering they caught remnants of Nicole – the rain held off (other than a few sprinkles) Friday, and Saturday was beautiful. I’d hoped to get five books signed, but settled for four. Maggie Stiefvater’s line went on for days, and if I’d waited I’d have missed three other authors. I met her at another bookfest in Nashville several years ago and got a signed copy then, so I figured it was a fair tradeoff. She was only scheduled to sign for one hour, but she stayed until she had to leave for a panel and wound up signing for over two hours (her poor hands). Since I skipped her line, I got signed books from TJ Klune (an absolute delight – he loves talking to readers), Gina Chen (her morally ambiguous main characters made me ridicuously happy), and Neal Shusterman (his Arc of a Scythe series blew me away). On Friday I got a signed copy of Children of Ragnarok by Cinda Williams Chima. We attended a couple of the same writing retreats before the pandemic, and it was nice to see her again.

I left mid seventies weather to come home (a 6:20 am flight) to below freezing temps in KY on Sunday. Hubby was also out of town, so no one was there to turn on the heat – the house was fifty degrees. Brrr! I turned on both the heat and the gas fireplace, and Bond immediately curled up under a blanket with me.

Who’s watching Interview with the Vampire? I was ecstatic when I learned AMC was making a series and was so nervous about the casting. I shouldn’t have been. Sam Reid (where’s this guy been hiding?) and Jacob Anderson (loved him in Game of Thrones) have mesmerized me, and the adaptation is outstanding.

#HeartlandBookFestival and #BadMoonRising

Today is a total promo post both for myself and other authors, but that’s part of the job. So let’s get started.

I get to meet and talk to readers this week! If you’re in the Elizabethtown, KY area, I’ll be participating in the Heartland Book Festival this Friday and Saturday. I was also at their first festival in 2019, and then we all know what happened after that, so it’s been postponed for a couple years. Friday is Student Day, but it’s also open to the general public, and Saturday will be full of workshops, panels, and signings. The hours are 9 am to 3 pm EST both days. Go HERE for the schedule and a list of participating authors. Hope to see you there!

It’s almost here! Bad Moon Rising starts this Saturday, October 1st – thirty-one days of horror, paranormal, and thriller authors – woohoo! I’ll post a list of participating authors this Friday, but this year features children’s up to adult genres, so there’s something for the whole gamut of readers. Hope you’ll stop by to join in the fun!

Furry Friend and #AmWatching

We have a new furry friend at our house. Don’t be thinking it’s another cat – Bond wouldn’t stand for that, and he’d find some way to lock us out. It’s an adorable rabbit living in the bushes around our patio. I’ve named him Percy. Have no idea where the name came from, it just popped in my head. I tried leaving lettuce and carrots out for him, both of which he turned up his twitchy little nose at. He prefers to eat azalea blossoms and hosta plants. Strangely enough, we never see him through the week, so we figure our yard is just his weekend home. Bond hangs out with us on the patio on his leash (where hubby watches football on the weekends), and he’s seen Percy a couple times. I’ve explained we don’t eat our friends.

All slots are filled for Bad Moon Rising – woohoo! It’s a good mixture of returning authors and some new folks to meet. I worked on the graphics over the weekend, and I’ll start putting together the posts this week. If you haven’t returned your info yet, please send it in the next couple days.

Over the weekend I came across Last Light, a miniseries on Peacock starring Matthew Fox (Lost) and Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey). Although the reviews aren’t outstanding, with its fast pace and high stakes it hooked me from the first episode. With only five, it doesn’t take long to get through them. It’s a little preachy environmentally, but sure makes some good points. Here’s a description – Yeats (Fox) and his wife Elena (Joanne Froggatt) must try to stop a global disaster from occurring while keeping their family safe. When the world’s oil supply is compromised, a chain reaction occurs that threatens humanity as we know it.

Oceanography, DNA, and #AmWatching

I mentioned a couple months ago that I’d gotten tickets to see Dr. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer responsible for discovering the Titanic and many other shipwrecks. Hubby and I attended the event last week, and I’d promised to tell you guys about it. First off, Dr. Ballard has a wonderful sense of humor and had the audience laughing several times. He told how he’d gotten interested in ocean exploration and how it factored into his military career. He considers his dyslexia an advantage because his mind works differently from most people and gave examples of how his thought process aided him in discovering shipwrecks. He showed pictures of sea creatures that looked as if the mother ship had brought them from another planet. Something I found fascinating was more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. Just think about that. It was an interesting evening well spent. Check out the Ocean Exploration Trust and Nautilus Exploration website to see livestreams of seafloor mapping HERE.

About five years ago, Son #2 and I took advantage of a free thirty day trial membership to During that month we traced part of our family back to the 1400s. It’s amazing the records and pictures that are accessible on that website. Not too long ago, he mentioned he’d also like to try out their DNA tests for ethnicity and genealogy. When they were half price over Labor Day weekend, I took advantage of the sale and bought each of us one. I mailed them out today, and it takes 4-6 weeks to receive the results. With what we discovered in tracing the family tree, I’m pretty sure what the results will be, but there could also be some surprises. I’ll keep you updated.

I finished The Sandman on Netflix over the weekend, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a second season. Given my track record with shows, the odds aren’t good. I finally started House of the Dragon last night. After two episodes I’m engaged, but not completely sold yet.

Hope you have a fabulous week!

Sarah $0.99 TODAY ONLY and Lunch

Happy Labor Day if you’re in the US, and I hope you’re having a relaxing long weekend! I have a surprise for you today. Sarah is a BookBub featured deal for horror TODAY ONLY and is on sale for $0.99 across all markets! Visit Amazon to take advantage of this one day sale if you’re a reader who enjoys horror with a dash of humor in the mix. Click HERE for Amazon UK and HERE for Amazon US.

Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

Both sons were here for lunch on Sunday, a rarity. Son #1 is in town for the long weekend and Son #2, who I’ve mentioned before is a serious foodie, made lunch for us. Doesn’t that pic look delicious? It’s cod over grits with sauteed spinach and Cajun shrimp gravy. And it was amazing! He’s enjoyed cooking since he was around the age of seven, and is always helpful to have in the kitchen. He started working at a high end restaurant here a few months ago until he figures out what he’s doing for grad school, and we get to reap the benefits of everything he’s learning from the chef. Woohoo!

Have a wonderful week!

Vacation and #BadMoonRising

Last week I mentioned we’d get into the gory details about our beach vacation from a couple weeks ago. As a reminder, the Polens aren’t known for having stellar, hassle-free vacations. A few examples – a cruise involving a hurricane, flooding/low temps in Hawaii, flight reservations canceled by people we’ve never met, questionable landing gear efficacy. Because of our history, most of our friends know not to travel with us. Let’s start on a positive note with the good things from our trip. The weather turned out much better than forecasted, and humidity was low. Below is a beautiful sunrise on the first day. After epic fails with restaurants the first few days, we enjoyed fabulous food the rest of the week. We had a wonderful day trip to Charleston, SC and took a fantastic food tour there. I read 3.5 books on the beach – woohoo! Any time with family is always good, and Son #1 and his girlfriend were with us.

Now for the not so good. I’d reserved a beautiful, updated condo at a resort we’ve stayed at many times over the past twenty years 3-4 months before our vacation. We’ve never encountered any problems in all that time. Upon checkin, we were given keys to a different condo, and I didn’t notice the discrepancy in the room number until we went into the condo. We immediately went back to the front desk and were informed the other condo was no longer available (I never received any advance notice) but weren’t given a reason why. Several other guests also seemed to be having similar problems.

The condo we’d been given was our only option. This one hadn’t been updated at all, the stovetop was something I didn’t want to touch let alone cook on, the dishwasher door was close to falling off, some of the floor tiles cracked when we walked across them, the kitchen was poorly stocked. Monday morning the A/C went out. To the resort’s credit, maintenance had it fixed within a few hours. Tuesday night the cockroaches showed up. Wednesday morning I called the front desk, and they promised to send someone to spray ASAP. We were in Charleston all day, and when we returned to the condo that evening I called the 24/7 front desk again to confirm pest control came. After four attempts of letting it ring over twenty-five times, I finally gave up.

The guest services manager offered to take 20% off our final bill, so that’s something. Maybe it’s new management, someone screwed up in the scheduling office – who knows? It was disappointing, but we made the best of it.

Moving on, openings are still available for Bad Moon Rising! If you missed the post last Monday and want to be featured, email me at Not sure what Bad Moon Rising is? Click HERE for more information. Have a fantastic week!


I’ve got posts scheduled for a couple days this week, but I’ll be scarce around the blogosphere and slow to get to comments. I’m on vacation! Yesterday was gorgeous, and I did nothing but sit on the beach and read – my happy place.

I’ll try to catch up with you here and there this week. You might want to note this on your calendar – Bad Moon Rising signups will start next Monday, August 22nd!

#AmWatching and Sci-Fi Writers’ Week

Looking for something to add to your watchlist? Hubby and I just finished the first season of an amazing series – The Old Man (thanks, Sue!). It originally aired on FX earlier this year, but we watched it on Hulu. Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow are perfect in their roles, and the story line incredibly intense. Here’s a description: Dan Chase absconded from the CIA and lives off the grid. When an assassin arrives and tries to take Chase out, the old operative learns that to ensure his future he now must reconcile his past. The FBI’s Harold Harper is called on to hunt him down because of his complicated past with the rogue fugitive. When Chase proves to be more difficult to apprehend than the authorities expected, a highly trained special ops contractor is sent to pursue him as well. 

Any Anne Rice fans out there? I’m a fan of both the book and the movie Interview With the Vampire and was momentarily delirious with excitement when I heard it would be a series on AMC this fall. It debuts October 2nd, and the trailer was recently released. Take a look.

If you’re a sci-fi writer, mark this on your calendar. Science Fiction Writers’ Week starts August 29th at ProWritingAid. The schedule is full of guest speakers and classes and includes replays. For more information click HERE.

It’s going to be a busy week around here – hope yours is a good one!

A Long Weekend and the Titanic

Hubby and I took an extended long weekend and visited family in NC and SC over the last several days (which is why I haven’t visited many of your blogs). We were able to go out on the pontoon boat (we still own a boat slip on a lake) a couple days and also reconnect with some friends. We had plans to visit other friends we haven’t seen in twenty-six years and were just getting in the car to leave for their house when I received a text saying one of them had just tested positive for Covid. Plans to meet another friend for lunch the next day were canceled after her husband tested positive. And you may remember Son #2 had Covid a few weeks ago. Seems like it’s a mild, but highly contagious strain this time around. Be careful out there!

I’ve always been fascinated with the Titanic and have watched numerous documentaries and read plenty about it. I was so excited to learn that our local library is hosting Robert Ballard, American oceanographer and marine geologist, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985. Do I have my tickets? That would be an ecstatic YES! When I asked Hubby if he wanted to go, he gave a most definitive no. When I went to book club the next night, many of them were talking about it and making plans to attend. It’s good to be surrounded by my people. It’s not until September, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

I have a lot of catching up to do, but hope you all have a great week!