Who Are We?

The NovelFriends are four writers who met through Wisconsin Romance Writers and initially became bonded by our love of books. That connection has expanded, grown, and deepened into true friendship over the years. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you, so follow the blog and join in the fun - we're always happy to have more NovelFriends!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookie Bake 2012! ~ Stacey

Each year I get together with my two lovely sisters from the Green Bay area, my two wonderful cousins from the Milwaukee area, and we spend the weekend baking all kinds of cookies. Sugar cookies, peanut butter balls, chocolate dipped pretzels, Rolo cookies, chocolate Jimmy Sticks, frosted butter cookies, peppermint bark, chocolate dipped peanut butter and Ritz cracker cookies, and mint chocolate cookies that are better than the Girl Scout Thin Mints.

Here are a couple before and after pictures:

Before the 'sugar' storm...

After the confectioner's dust has settled...

The annual Doughmen...

...become Snowmen

The penguin has a candy cane for you!

Our creative decorating minds at work about 1:30am...

and finally, the cookies my kids wait for each year!

We finished our clean-up this year at about 2:45am. A LONG day, but so worth it, the least of which is the cookies, with the best part being the time spent with my family. We joke, we pick on each other, we seriously show the love. *grin*

This year the buzz words were 'gorgeous' and 'stinking', and many times we combined the two for the lovely descriptive phrase, "Stinkin' gorgeous!" I, for one, was very happy that everyone seemed to have forgotten (or maybe just forgiven?) that two years ago I fed my left-over cookies to the horses. I caught a lot of sh!t for that last year because apparently everyone else ate ALL theirs.

I wouldn't trade these weekends for anything and look forward to many more in the years to come.

Do you have any holiday traditions to share with us NovelFriends?

Wishing you all a very
Merry Christmas!

Stacey Joy Netzel

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Living my own Happily Ever After - Jamie

I have been in love with romance since I was a little girl. I did all the cliche things - Barbie & Ken weddings and silly school girl crushes that had me trailing boys around the playground. I could say I eventually grew out of that silliness, but it's not completely true. I did stop the Barbie weddings, but not slipping into those little crushes when I met a great guy was a lot harder for me. I still loved the idea of love and wanted that for myself. It was a frustrating process and after another heartbreak I decided enough was enough and gave up on the whole idea.

It really was like a romance novel in a way. I had taken a few years off after high school and had just started attending technical school. One of my friends from school insisted she knew this great guy I had to meet, Len. No way. First of all, I was not getting sucked into another crush again. But come on, Len? Really? He was studying accounting and with a name like that I could just see some geek with glasses and a pocket protector. Forget it.

My friend didn't give up though. She invited me to a birthday party for Len at his house. It was a Friday night and I had nothing else to do, so I went. It wasn't love at first sight, but it was close. My first sighting of Len was him standing at the kitchen sink in a t-shirt and short running shorts that gave me a fantastic view of his legs. Whew! We had a great time talking and made plans to meet at the game room at school to play darts. He walked me to my car and gave me a kiss on this cheek, and bam - that was it for me. Somehow, I just knew this was different from anything I'd experienced before.

We went on our first date the following week. Two months later we were engaged. Two years later we were married.

We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last week. No big, super romantic event, but that doesn't matter. We had a great dinner our with our two boys. Perfect night. Our life has little resemblance to the chick flick movies I love so much, or the romance novels I devour each day. I didn't even have the incredible romantic proposal I'd always dreamed of. I realized none of that matters. What matters is that Lenny really is my best friend. We've had our rough times, but never so bad we couldn't muck our way through it together. We've been through a lot and it has only made our relationship stronger. No one can make me laugh or feel better the way he can. I may not be the Disney princess I always dreamed I'd be. I'm something better - I'm Lenny's princess and he's my prince charming, and not the Disney version, but my own and that, for me, is a million times better.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy - Delia

A few years ago, I came to a realization, I had the power over who I let into my life and who wasn't allowed.  If someone or something made me miserable, I had the ability to delete it/them out of my life.  How empowering is that??

The times I've read Dear Abby recently, I'm always amazed at the people who are writing about struggles they have with others in their lives, parents who abused them (and still do), siblings who've cheated them and friends who've lied to them.  Why haven't these people done the obvious (which is NOT write to Dear Abby)?  I had a friend, a good friend,one I considered one of my best.  Lately, things he's said have literally sucked the happy right out of me.  These weren't things he said to me personally, just things said in general - things that made me wonder how he'd became my friend in the first place.  My life is too short and too full of good things for me to waste time and life space for darkness, hatred and downright miserableness.  So is yours.  It's easy to Unlike someone from Facebook, everyone's done it, why not Unlike Happysucks right out of your life as well?  Heck, I Unliked Facebook in general - I discovered the better I got to know a lot of people, the less I liked them.  I figured I needed to get off Facebook before I started hating everybody.  Yeah, if you haven't already guessed, I'm NOT a people person.  :-) 

Now is the time to start cleaning out your life like you would your hall closet.  Get rid of the stuff, issues and people who drag you down and fill those empty life shelves with things that bring you up.  On Saturday, I'll be celebrating the 22nd year of being married to my best friend.  We're very different kind of people and people wonder how we ended up together and how we've stayed married for so long.  It's simple - besides the obvious fact that I love him to pieces and he's got a great butt - he makes me laugh. How lucky can I be to be able to live forever with someone who makes me happy?  Your life can't be happy if you're not happy with yourself - but it sure helps when you surround yourself with others who bring you peace and happiness.  Go out and do it!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - a book review

First off, I hope you all had a wonderful and thankful Thanksgiving.  Now, if you're like me, you're going to spend the rest of the weekend hiding out from rabid shoppers and enthusiastic deer hunters making one last play for the big buck.  If you're looking for something to keep you occupied during your self-imposed exile, I've got a great suggestion.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is NOTHING like I was expecting.  It's about a teen aged boy who, after the death of his grandfather, finds himself drawn to a remote island in Wales, to the place where his grandfather grew up.  All Jacob's life, his grandfather told him amazing stories about the peculiar children he knew growing up - the invisible boy, the levitating girl, and about the monsters he fought.  As he grew older, Jacob realized that these stories he'd believed so firmly in as a young child couldn't possibly be true.  But, then he arrives at Cairnholm Island and discovers that not only may his grandfathers stories about his past be true, but maybe his past is still alive as well.

Expecting maybe a haunted house or a ghost story, I eagerly opened it up and found something completely different, utterly unexpected and incredibly delightful. Using real vintage photographs intertwined with a fictional story built from a fertile imagination, Ransom Riggs brings you on a fantastic adventure in a brand new world full of peculiar children, the people who protect them and the dangers they face.

Plainly put, this book was freaking awesome!  I love the idea of creating a story around old photographs and wish I had thought of it.  It's certainly got me interested in digging through old photos at yard sales and flea markets and filling in the blanks with my own crazy imagination.  Bravo Mr. Riggs, bravo  *insert slow clap here*

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Giving and a Positive Attitude

"Imagine if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today."
My mom and sisters saw this saying while out shopping this past weekend. When they quoted it to me, it gave me goose bumps on my arms. Really makes it hit home how powerful being thankful, and appreciating what we have, can be.

For me, this means trying to keep a positive can-do attitude in all I do. I don't know about you, but the more I think about how hard something is, the harder it gets. If I think can't, I won't.

Case in point is exercising. I hate it. I actively say how much I hate it all the time, despite knowing how good I usually feel afterward. Tired, but good - and even energized later. Doesn't matter for the next day though, when I hate it all over again and put it off. It's funny how it literally just dawned on me as I'm writing this (and didn't exercise today) that I need to change my attitude about exercising the same way I do my best to keep positive in all the other things I do in life.

Yes, sometimes it takes effort, and I have my bad days like everyone else, but it's easier to keep my attitude upbeat than it is to be crabby and negative and still have to do the same work. Plus, life is just that much more enjoyable when you're smiling.

Now if you're reading this but don't believe in God, the saying still applies with a slight adjustment.
"Imagine if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today."
Just in the few days since I've heard this, I've been more aware (except with the exercising *grin*) and make sure I take the time to thank God (because I do believe) for the joy and blessings in my life. My husband, my  children, my family, friends, my life, the roof over my head, and food on my table. Those are the basics, and yet the most important.

May you all be blessed and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Stacey 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Comfort in the Chaos

Life seems like it is always throwing curves our way. Usually small things, sometimes big stuff. I do my best to try to take things in stride and not let them bother me. Most of the time I do pretty well. Once in a while though, taking deep breaths just doesn't cut it. This fall has been one of those times for me.

My oldest son is a senior this year so we've waded our way into the world of college applications, essays, scholarships and financial aid.  My youngest son just received his temporary drivers license. I now know for sure I was not meant to be a driver's ed instructor. After 20 years in our home we are finally remodeling our kitchen and getting rid of the mauve walls and countertops and the baby blue cabinets that didn't hold anything. I do not function well when the house is a mess, so I probably don't need to tell you how stressful it is to have our kitchen essentials all over our dining room. On top of all of this, I've been having some health issues that involve a series of tests that haven't exactly been a barrel of fun.

Dealing with so much at once makes it nearly impossible to get through the day in a relaxed state. When this happens I find myself seeking out some extra comforts. I have several fairly reliable sources that work for me.

Reading is a given. There is nothing like escaping into a good book. It's the next best thing to an actual vacation (sometimes it's even better!) Hand in hand with a good book, is a favorite movie. I have a few favorite romances that I can watch over and over and over again. How can a happily-ever-after ending not brighten your day?

Now, you can't get true comfort from a book or movie without the right accessories. Comfy clothes are a must. Comfort dress code includes flannel pajamas and slippers, soft comfy t-shirts or hoodies and a well-worn pair of jeans. A very specific menu is required for these chaos emergencies as well. Bring on the soups or stews and fresh baked bread. Chocolate (or pretty much any sweet) works well as a quick band-aid for most situations. If things reach a Code Red level, pizza from my favorite local pizza place is the only thing that will help.

When all else fails, one thing is guaranteed to make life better - a good old-fashioned hug. If the hug comes from one of my kids, it is a very special and rare treat. A hug from my hubby still gives me an amazing warm feeling like no other. Those hugs from my friends (even virtually!) let me know how much caring and support I always have. 

I'm hoping your life is mostly chaos free, but what comforts you when life does get a little crazy?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A hermit goes on vacation

I'm one of those rare souls who hates to go on vacation.  My theory is:  my clothes are here, my favorite foods are here, my bed is here, why in the world would I want to be someplace else?  Yep, I'm a hermit.  There are very few instances I can think of where it would be preferable to be someplace beside my own cozy little house.  A couple months ago, an instance came up.

A good friend invited me to go along with her to Washington DC to visit her daughter and son (and his family) who all live in the DC area.  I'm not too interested in monuments and memorials, but my dream has always been to go to the Smithsonian Museums.  She'd found some cheap flights, we had a free place to stay and, the topper, she wanted to spend all her time with her 6 month old grandson and her family are all busy people, this meant that I would be able to spend the day at the Smithsonian all by myself. The hermit in me did a little squee of excitement - I could go wherever I wanted to and take as much or as little time at each display as I desired with no one to feel responsible about.  So, heck yeah, I WAS GOING!

Our first full day was spent driving through the Shenandoahs.  Lots of trees, lots of mountains and valleys, yeah yeah, I can get nature at home, people, give me some good stuff!  The next day - jackpot!  A friend from the area offered to go with me to the city.  She taught me how to use the Metro, gave me a map of the city and spent the day with me at the American History Museum.  Since she'd seen it all before, she was fine just tagging along, letting me take my time and do my thing.  We had a great time at the display of First Lady inaugural ball gowns, critiquing everyone's taste in clothes.  Grace Coolidge is definitely the first lady with the coolest dresses. Of course, this may have something to do with her being First Lady during the 1920's, the greatest era of all time in my opinion, so there's a tad bit of favoritism going on.

The next day was my day on my own.  I went to art galleries (if you're ever in DC, the Renwick is a must-see, it's just covered in awesome sauce), visited the various war memorials and such, and generally just wandered the streets taking everything in.  This was definitely the highlight day of my vacation, especially since what happened next.  Did I mention that I started this vacation 2 weeks ago?

Yep, the hermit finally leaves the house to see the sights and gets hit with a hurricane.  What the heck is up with that?  Fortunately, we were in an area that was barely affected by the storm, but the wind and rain prevented me from going back out on the town to continue getting my Smithsonian fixes.  It also delayed our flight by a day.  I've already learned about myself that if I do leave home, four days away is about my max before I start missing the old homefront, so I already knew this week long vacation was going to stress me out, but when I was forced to stay an additional day, I was going bonkers.  I did everything but put on a cheesehead hat and dance the polka when we finally landed back in good ol' Wisconsin.  Granted, this vacation was not as stressful as the one where my husband caught some sickness and thought he was going to die.  We were in Grenada at the time - Grenada is a tiny little 3rd world island in the Carribean, in case you didn't know.  I told him that if he died on me in a foreign country, I would never speak to him again - I guess that scared him healthy, because we got out of there alive, which is always a good thing.  But, now that I've crossed "live through a hurricane" off my bucket list, I see no reason to ever do it again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

HALLOWEEN—without question my favorite day of the year. I love everything about this ghoulish holiday, from the gloomy autumn weather, to carving pumpkins (and roasting the seeds!), to making caramel apples. I love watching the special Halloween episodes of all my favorite TV shows...and yes, I still watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every year and I’m not afraid to admit it. I especially love watching all those classic horror movies from the 70s and 80s, like The Omen, The Changeling, The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and of course John Carpenter's Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis. I do love Rob Zombie’s remake, but for me there's nothing like the original.

I also love helping my girls pick out their costumes each year. I always push for something scary, though I don't always get my way…

Okay, Okay, so they were a little too young yet to appreciate the importance of vampires, witches, and ghosts. Thankfully, my girls have since inherited their mother's love of the dark side...and horror movies. The younger one has a fascination with shark movies, while her sister loves a good ghost story.  Dad prefers slashers, particularly with a cabin-in-the-woods setting. And Mom simply loves them all. J

Of course, the highlight for all kids on Halloween is trick or treating. Just as it was for us back in the day. Though times have changed since I was a kid. For one thing, we never had a set time limit. We’d rush home from school, toss on our costumes, and race out the door on a quest to hit every single house in our neighborhood, gathering as much candy as humanly possible. And we didn’t call it a night until people quit answering their doors…LOL

So what does adult Donna love most about Halloween? Putting up my decorations! They're not exactly news worthy (someday…), but I do love to watch the heads turn as cars drive past my house. I have a cemetery scene I put up each year complete with ghouls, witches, flashing peeper lights, and zombies crawling out from their graves. I also have ghosts, grim reapers, a werewolf, a scarecrow, and even a grave digger. And I have a few new toys this year as well…wanna take a peek?

Thank you for indulging me on this special day. I sure hope you enjoyed my musings, pictures, and my creepy little video of my newest toy, The Harvester.

Anyone have any Halloween traditions they’d like to share?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And Donna Makes Four...

I’m excited to share my very first post on the NovelFriends blog.  I’ve always shied away from blogging, probably because I’m terrible at it…LOL  But I figured maybe I’d get better with practice, and who better to learn from than my very best friends?

While searching thru old photo albums for a baby picture I could use for the blog, I found so many others I hadn’t seen in years, and I would love to share some of these cherished memories with you.  This first picture is of my maternal grandparents and brings a huge smile to my face.  One of the many picnics we shared over the years.  Doesn’t it look like an old KFC ad from the 70s? 

The house on Lisa Lane.  Lived there from the age of four to eighteen, so it holds a very special place in my heart.  So many wonderful memories…and of course, some I’d just as soon forget…LOL  When I realized this picture featured both my little red tricycle and my grandpa’s beloved old Chevy Impala, I got a little misty.

Me and my grandpa…you may have guessed by now that I’m a bit of a grandpa’s girl.  As his first grandchild and only granddaughter, we've always shared a special bond.  He took me to Disney World when I was a five years old...just me and grandpa.  I still have vivid memories of that trip, believe it or not. J

I thought all pictures of my Tiger-Louie had been lost, so I can’t even describe how excited I was to come across this one.  Awww, look at that beautiful little fluffy face…without a doubt the coolest cat I ever owned. 

My mommy...Dig those groovy pants. LOL  I lost her almost two years ago, yet some days it still takes me by surprise.  I miss picking up the phone and hearing, “How’s my little author today?”

This last picture reminded me of exactly where I inherited my love of romance novels, so I simply had to share it.  By the time stamp I know this was taken on vacation in Florida.  While my brothers were having fun with the camera [that's Danny on the bed, and Darrin flexing], my mom – as usual – had her nose buried in a book.  And in case you’re wondering, the book is Dawn Of Desire by Joyce Verrette.

Thank you for reading my very first NovelFriends post and indulging me in my walk down memory lane.  Please check back next Tuesday for our very first book review.  See you next time!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tales From the Mist - a book review

First off, let me make a confession, I don't usually read short stories or E-books.  The E-book thing is purely a matter of preference, I don't have a reader, so I have to use my laptop, which is a beautiful machine (I named it Shiny) but not something I want to read a book on.  I tend to get distracted by the many other things Shiny can do and it takes forever for me to finish reading something.  I've also taken a couple E-book readers for a spin and just haven't found the experience worth buying one, I guess I'm a traditionalist at heart.  As for short stories, I avoid them because they tend to make me feel... unfulfilled I guess you'd call it.  They tend to leave me wanting more rather than being satisfied.

I'm happy to say though, that Tales From the Mist not only kept me glued to Shiny from page one to the very end, but afterwards, I felt like I'd just finished a literary Thanksgiving dinner, I was stuffed, but knew I'd be thrilled to go back for leftovers the next day.

Tales From the Mist is an anthology of short paranormal stories that cover just about any facet of horror from ghosts, haunted houses, shape-shifters, a vampire rat story and the scariest of all, a persons mind.   Usually, when reading an anthology, there are some stories you love, some not so much, but I can easily say this was not the case in this book, each story was great in its own unique way.  Though you're not supposed to have favorites, I have to say that Haste by Catie Rhodes struck me both in my sense of justice and her ending twist appealed to my warped sense of humor (those without my warpedness will probably find it terrifying), either way, I loved it.

In spite of having a favorite, I can also say I enjoyed each story for what it brought to the table, each so different, yet equally enjoyable, again, much like that Thanksgiving dinner, I love the mashed potatoes just as much as the stuffing, and smush them all together with the turkey and it's to die for, much like this book.  (get it, "to die for" and it's a horror book???  :p  I crack myself up)

To bring some extra spooky joy to your Halloween season, you can get Tales From the Mist at Amazon.  Enjoy...and leave the lights on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Where I Came From

Hello! For my first post here with my NovelFriends, I'd like to share some pictures I came across while looking for my baby picture to put on the About Us page. Did you look at that page yet? Go ahead, I'll wait.

....[insert Jeopardy music]...

Aren't we cute? A few of us more so than others--and I don't mean me!

I come from a big family. Four kids on my mom's side, nine on my dad's and so many first, second and third cousins that I can't remember all the names at our family reunions. I learned long ago not everyone remembers me, either, so I usually just introduce myself as "Butch and Judy's daughter, Stacey." That's if my dear dad hasn't already put me on the spot with "Do you know who this is?"

Anyway, as usual, when pulling out photo albums, it's so much fun to look at the old pictures and hear the inevitable "Remember when we did 'this'?" or  "So that's where Becky got her taste for beer." (she was draining the empties off the picnic table and back then apparently parents didn't rush to take the bottles away, they snapped a photo) and "Oh, my God, look at my hair!"

My kids giggled at the boy's cut my mom gave me so she didn't have to comb all the snarls out each day. By her third girl, she didn't have time to be combing hair for an hour and a half each day. (Which is why I don't make my daughter cut her hair even though it sometimes takes me twenty to thirty minutes to remove the tangles before school.)

But again, I digress. I'd intended to share some cool pictures of my parents, not meander down memory lane. In the midst of looking through these pictures, my mom pulled out an album of old portrait studio pictures. It'd been so long since we'd seen them, it was like discovering hidden treasure.

So here we are at the reason for this post. I thought these pictures of my mom and dad were so cool that I just had to share them with the world and show where I came from.


Mom's all glamorous and beautiful; Dad's handsome as can be with those bright blue eyes.

Actually, I just realized there's a better reason for this post. When was the last time you sat down with your kids, your parents, your siblings, or maybe your grand children, and looked at your old family photo albums? If it's been awhile, then I suggest you do it. For my dad's 70th birthday a couple years ago, our immediate family all got together and had a slide show. We're planning to do the same for my mom's 70th in a couple weeks. Everyone from age 9 to 72 has a great time - boy haircut pictures and all!

There are stories behind your family pictures that need to be told and remembered and passed on to future generations. For that matter, print some of those digital pictures and put them in an album, too. (I'm guilty of not doing this and need to.) Digital is great, but there's something to be said for having a hard copy back up.

And now I'm done before I start rambling again.

Have a great day and go enjoy your pictures as you create new memories while remembering the old.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Fall Things

My favorite time of year has arrived. I am in love with autumn. The temperatures have recently cooled quite a bit making me anxious to start enjoying some of my favorite things.

The sights… I soak up the vivid rusty-colored leaves grasping tree branches and covering yards, pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and cornstalks dressing up porches. A final burst of color before the snow falls.

The sounds… I relax to the harmony of crunching, crackling leaves on the sidewalk and the thumps and bumps of chestnuts falling onto the roof outside our bedroom window.  A soundtrack of the season.

The tastes…oh, the foods of fall - spiced apple cider, warm apple kuchen, hearty soups, fresh-baked bread and of course a handful (or two!) of candy corn. Mmmmm.

The smells… for me the mingled scents of decaying leaves, crisp wind-washed air, the smell of wood burning in bonfires, rooms filled with a blend of apples, pumpkins and spices. Ahhhh.

The feel… what could possibly make this symphony of sensations any better? Only a warm snuggly sweater, a soft cozy blanket, the comforting weight of a book in one hand and a warm mug of cider in the other. Sigh.

Now, consider that it is the one time of year when baseball and football seasons overlap and there are ridiculous amounts of school supplies available and on sale. It’s just the whipped cream on my pumpkin pie.

What are your favorite season and your favorite thing about it?