Getting Fit


I have a friend who is a personal trainer. As I’ve had some back issues and shoulder issues, she has suggested that I dedicate some time to getting more fit. Her specialty is to come to a client’s home and look around for spaces to use for fitness activities. I’ve got exercises to do on my stairs, exercises to do in the floor, and a few that require resistance. I already had a couple of pairs of dumbbells, so I’m using those, and she had me make one purchase: exercise bands.

I got a set from Amazon (pictured above) which are long enough to tie to make a circle for leg exercises, and I can do arm and back stretches with them, too. As I used to pay quite a bit to go to a gym, I’ve been really happy to have a program that works well and costs very little, beyond a few visits from my trainer.

She also wants me to do some cardio, so let me go ride my bike a while! Maybe I’ll think of a new plot twist for my current manuscript while I’m out there.

The Magnolia Story


A friend and I were talking about how much we love the HGTV show Fixer Upper, and she was saying she had just read the book about the hosts, Chip and Joanna Gaines. When I heard that, I’m like, “Hey, can I read it?” So, the next time I saw her, she had the book for me.

Now, I have to confess that I am not a stellar housekeeper, nor am I a good decorator. However, I am genuinely inspired by the show, and I did find the book fascinating. It is told from two first person perspectives, those of Joanna and Chip. A total difference in fonts makes this quite easy to follow. Joanna begins with a discussion how she was approached (in 2012) by a television production company, wondering if the offer to film the two of them working on homes was a scam. Chip was sure it was some sort of scam, but Joanna wasn’t convinced, so she talked with them a bit more. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history, of course. We know it was real, because Fixer Upper is in season four as I write this. So, Joanna goes all the way back to when she began dating Chip.

There’s a good bit of humor, as well as some insights into how difficult their lives often were, before the cash that comes with a hit television show enabled the duo to become the owners of the very valuable portfolio of companies that all bear the name of Joanna’s favorite flower, the magnolia. While the book is about the hosts, it does indeed concentrate on their businesses.

Rather than spoil it for potential readers, I will just say that the book is a more in-depth history of a somewhat familiar story. Chip had already begun buying up and fixing up small homes before they married. While he was a student a Baylor University, Chip realized that college students needed a place to live near campus. Their first home together was one of the rentals— the first available at the end of the semester. That home was the first one Joanna decorated, on the cheap as they were pretty much broke. Soon, they realized that together they could make some money flipping houses. Over time, their reputation was so good that locals began asking them to help with remodeling projects, large and small.

Because she enjoyed home decor so much, early on, Joanna found a small shop that they were finally able to purchase, and it was there that they first used the term “Magnolia” for a business. As the family grew, their businesses both expanded and contracted, but there is a common thread of hard work, good fortune, and a belief that things would work out for the best. Much has been made of the the pair’s faith in God. For me, this seemed to be secondary to their work ethic, but it is a constant aspect of the book, which is published by W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, which publishes religious works.

For fans of the television show, this is a very good read. Yes, I’d like even more about how Jo learned design and how Chip learned to be an expert contractor, but the book is general in nature. There is a promise in the end that there will be a Joanna Gaines design book forthcoming, so I shall have to wait.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Magnolia Story.

Shades of Treason

This novel by Sandy Williams gets good to great reviews on Goodreads. Quite honestly, it took me a while to get through it, but I finally finished. The plot begins with an interesting premise: Ash (also known as Ashdyn or Ramie, as her official designation is Lieutenant Ramie Ashdyn) is some sort of super soldier. She’s in a combo psych ward/detention situation, because she killed her team, i.e. her fellow soldiers. Not good.

On hand to debrief (or cure) her is Rhys “Rest in Peace” Rykus, who is apparently a really sexy guy. He also trained her and is considered to be her “fail-safe”which is some sort of control figure. As the story unfolds, some of Ash’s history is revealed by either flashbacks or comments from characters, either to Ash or about her. The romance is stronger than the other subgenres (military fiction, fantasy, science fiction) and I would classify it as that, but others might disagree.

That Ash is the victim of some conspiracy seems to be the only logical outcome of the initial conflict; otherwise she is guilty as heck and ought to be executed. The reader is along for the twisting, turning ride as Ash tries to remember what happened, and others try to figure out if she is guilty or innocent. For me, the characters did not engage my empathy, thus suspense suffers. When I read about Honor Harrington (David Weber’s famous heroine) I know she will come out ahead, but I care about her. When I was playing Tomb Raider, and yes, that dates me a bit, I was sure Lara Croft would be on top at the end of the game, and I cared a lot less. Ash is like Lara; she is bad-A and will overcome.

Shades of Treason (An Anomaly Novel) (Volume 1) is available as a Kindle book and in paperback.

Canva— cool site for graphics

Pilar Savage-2
My new Kindle cover

The other day, I was watching a marketing video of Guy Kawasaki (the guy behind APE— Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur which I reviewed a while back) and he mentioned that he is currently working for Canva.com. I’m a huge fan of Kawasaki, so in short order, I navigated over to the site and before long, I created a personal  account at Canva and updated my Facebook header with a New Year’s celebration graphic. As I was rather busy at that time, left the site after just a few minutes of playing around.

However, I did remember how cool Canva is, so recently, I decided to try another cover for my crime/suspense novel, Victim & Witness. For whatever reasons, and it just might be the cover, that novel has not sold as well as Once Upon a Dirtball, which seems odd, as V & W seems more mainstream, and should thus outsell the sci-fi novel. BTW, both of my books have do-it-yourself covers, with artwork that I purchased via the web. Despite the old adage, you can’t tell a book by its cover, most folks in the marketing biz will quickly state that the cover image is critical in selling. So, after looking at the “inspiration” section of Canva, I’m trying a different look entirely.

As for the Canva.com site, it has a number of templates and lots of artwork. For example, there are templates for social media (Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and so forth) and for publishing, such as magazine ads and eBook covers. By and large, the artwork files are $1, and many of the templates are free. While I was re-doing that cover, I also created a new header for my personal FB page.

If you lack design skills, there is quite a bit of information about how to do graphic design and do it well. This site goes way beyond templates, as it really is educational as well as cost effective. I’m very happy I found it, and I will certainly be returning from time to time.

Many roads lead to “Hog Mountain”

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When driving around northeastern Georgia, there are many unusual road names. But one in particular, seems to be a favorite, and that is “Hog Mountain Road.” Just do a search for “Hog Mountain Road” in Georgia, and you’ll no doubt see a lot of hits for addresses, including many in Oconee County, Jackson County, Barrow County, and Gwinnett, but those are just the more populated areas. Nope, if you drive around a lot, as I do, you’ll see plenty of signs saying “Hog Mountain Road.”

Wondering if this seemingly quintessential southern name had something to do with “living high on the hog” or even southerners love of fried pork products in the morning, I decided to do a bit of research. Turns out, there is indeed a community known as Hog Mountain. This name goes all the way back to 1700s. The road seems to date back to the early 1800s when a stage coach road was built from Hog Mountain to Mule Camp Springs (now known as Gainesville.) This road also intersected the “Federal Road” to Nashville, which was built around the same time.

Hog Mountain was the site of a trading post, then a two-story hotel, and an army fort. Today, there is a Hog Mountain Farm, which is in the Friendship community in southern Hall county, which produces organic crops.

So, the next time you see yet another sign saying “Hog Mountain Road” you’ll know that the route is no doubt an old one, because it lead to a center of civilization back in late 1700s.