Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Purge:Anarchy (A Film Review)


"In this indirect sequel to the first Purge film, set in Los Angeles on March 21, 2023.... just less than 2.5 hours before the Annual Purge commences where all crime will be legal for 12 hours..."
-IMDB

IMDB rating: 7.2
My rating: 9

The Purge: Anarchy tops this summer's list of thrilling films! 

My husband and I checked in with relatively low expectations (being that this was a sequel), but tension was established from the outset in this instant attention-grabber. Anarchy introduces a cast of likable characters in a variety of new situations and doesn't, at any point, feel like a recycled Purge 1. 

This film wastes no time getting into the action. While not a continuation of the first Purge film, this one is a great take on the question, "What happens when all crime is legal for twelve hours?"

There's a man on a mysterious mission, a couple debating separation, and a mother-daughter duo who have recently lost their ailing father/grandfather to the purge. In an act of desperation, the man, who has cost his waitress, single mother daughter more money than she has, sells himself to a wealthy family as a martyr to be killed for $100,000. If we didn't feel bad enough for the mother/daughter duo, their building is one of many in a low income area being targeted by the government. Enter Sarge, the tactically trained hero of the film, who, despite his intention not to help anyone, leads the team of four through the dangerous streets, protecting the innocent couple and mother/daughter at all costs. As a rogue group of terrifying marauders follow the troubled couple, Sarge and the others end up in the cross-hairs of a deadly game of cat and mouse.

The Purge, fundamentally, pits the wealthy against the poor. In Anarchy, the poor fight back. 

Who will survive the night? Sadly, you know not everyone can live. The characters are so well written you don't want to see harm befall any of them. That's just one of the things the movie does right. 

Fast-paced, laced with fear, and tense to nth degree, Anarchy hits every mark. From the moment the sirens go off, accompanying the dreaded announcement, the depravity was on. Don't blink. Not even for a second. This is too thrilling a ride to miss.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Writing a Story that Insists on Writing Itself


Thirty-four-year-old Blake Wheeler was everything Lila had ever wanted. 

A rising-star surgeon with his whole life ahead of him, Blake gave Lila ten perfect years of marriage before plunging her into the hardest year of their life.

When a late night shooting leaves Blake in a coma, Lila is faced with a difficult decision: continue life support or let him go. Ending his life without explanation takes its toll.

One year later, Lila remains clinically depressed, unwilling to speak or eat, in a private mental health facility where she refuses to move on.

Dr. Ross Reeves knows firsthand about loss, having spent the better part of five years burying himself in his work. Called to assist his mentor, Dr. Guy Oliver, Ross is faced with the challenge of breaking Lila's silence. 

Determined to uncover the root of Lila's grief, Ross investigates her past, uncovering a series of mysterious circumstances leading up to her husband's death. Treating a patient consumed with guilt is never easy, but this one hits too close to home.

ADD THE MISSING YEAR TO YOUR GOODREADS TBR.

In a word, The Missing Year is uncooperative.

"You're supposed to be a romance," I say.
"No, I'm a mystery," the book answers back.
"I want it to be from dual points of view, but it's her story."
"No, it isn't. It's his. And I won't stand for her stealing his spotlight. His POV, author."
"What if I alternate between past and present?"
"Then I'll stick bamboo under your nails so you can't type."
"Fine, his POV, and only his, but these two characters fall in love."
"No, they don't. These two do."
"This one's getting a fresh start."
"Nope, he's cleaning up his mess."
"He can do this alone."
"No, he can't. He needs a blonde bombshell community-theater actress sidekick. She'll be a wise ass and she'll challenge him ... and hot as she is, he'll have no interest."
"Never?"
"I don't think so."

... and it goes on. Everything I had planned is gone. Vanished into some bizarro ether where books write themselves.

The Missing Year is part contemporary romance, part mystery.

The weight of a serious situation (which was supposed to set the tone of the book) is counter-balanced by a sharp tongued character I hadn't even planned. In all this mess, she's actually pretty fun. The doctor, who was supposed to fall in love with his patient, is doing nothing of the sort. She turned out to be a liar and he has to dig to find out what she isn't telling him.

Good thing he has an unplanned sidekick.

None of this is what I expected when I sat down in April to start this book.

Tomorrow was my initial rough draft deadline. I can't make it. I tore the book to pieces back in May and cut over 20,000 words, only some of which will come back.

But I'm interested in the twist the story has taken. Invigorated by the path that was not in my outline. Writing books can be like that. You think you have a plan, but subconsciously, there's a conflicting one that you don't even know about. Enjoy the ride, I say. Even if doing so puts you off your deadline. The real deadline is October 6, 2014, The Missing Year's official release date.

That, I think, is still doable.

Ever have a story turn out to be something totally different than planned? Tell me about it in comments.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

If the Best Thing About the Movie is the Soundtrack ...

... You might be watching "Deliver Us From Evil".



"NY police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the possessions that are terrorizing their city." -IMDB.com

IMDB rating: 6.5
My rating: 5

*Spoilers ahead. Turn back, or read them and thank me for saving you the ticket money. Your choice.

Trailer makers, you got me again! 

What looked like a great premise was poorly executed, and the best acting was done by someone who probably shouldn't have been cast in the movie to start with.

Joel McHale's appearance was the first thing to dash the great expectations I had heading into "Deliver Us From Evil". 

Let me explain. As a former weekly "Soup" viewer, I'm used to Joel McHale as a quirky, smart-ass comedian. Typecasting being what it is, I figured there was no place for him in a "horror" movie (and I use the term "horror" lightly). Turns out his comedic one-liners were actually a highlight.

The movie opens with a war scene in Iraq, the genesis of the "evil" that is, at best, poorly explained. Three soldiers descend into an underground cavern and see something we don't get to see because the camera goes dark. What these three men bring back to the Bronx with them seems to infect those around them (though not on the grand scale the trailer would have you believe).

Enter Detective Ralph Sarchie, a man whose lost his faith (of course--he's going to have to work with a priest of sorts) and whose wife is newly pregnant (of course--because there has to be a vulnerability factor). There's a brief scene of Sarchie in an alley coming upon the body of a dead infant that, guess what, has NOTHING to do with the movie, other than that finding it is the start of Sarchie's bad week. 

There's a domestic abuse call, a call to the zoo where a woman has tossed her toddler (who we never see again) into a lion's den, and a mysterious painter. What's the connection? Iraq.


Sarchie attempts to question the woman about what would cause her to throw her child (who hasn't died, but is injured) into the ravine, he quickly comes to the assumption she's crazy. She rambles "The Doors" lyrics and talks about "the other side". She's hauled off to jail. 

The priest, of course, has known for some time that this woman's exhibiting "possession-like behavior" and attends her transfer (at the family's behest) from the police department to a psychiatric unit that is like nothing I've ever imagined (and I used to work in a hospital that specialized in psychiatric care). 

This place was purely for effect. Jail-like and with no staff to speak of, the "hospital" the woman is remanded to looks less hospitable than the worst prison. She is put in the basement with the other "criminally insane" folks and *spoiler* eventually (and mysteriously) coaxes the only person who works there (a physician) into her cell, where she eats him and escapes. 

"Based on a True Story". The phrase kept ringing out in my head, along with "Sure it is".

Now the rambling woman is on the loose. Eventually she jumps to her death and lands on, you guessed it, Sarchie's car! At this point though, the ringleader of evil (one of the three Iraq veterans and the guy with the coolest makeup in the movie), has called Sarchie from his own house.

"What have you done with my wife and daughter?" Sarchie asks him, rushing home to find his family missing.

Sarchie arrests the bad guy and enlists the priest to exorcise the demon inside the man (at the police station?). After a dozen VERY disconnected scenes, too many cliches/tropes to count, and very few scares, the movie launches into a WAY TOO LONG exorcism scene, during which I (because I was sitting in the back row with no one but my husband anywhere nearby) caught up on my Facebook.

The rescue of Sarchie's family happens in about two minutes. 

The End.

Now, "Based on a True Story" means that some of it is fictionalized. Why not do it right? The bad guy was genuinely creepy. Let him take Sarchie's family early on. Build some damn tension, people, because that scene had NO place in the movie the way they did it. It was the definition of anti-climactic.

"The Doors" bit was crap. Sarchie heard their music playing every time his "radar" went off. See, he has special abilities--a "calling" per se--that has him in constant trouble. I've never been an Eric Bana fan and this movie hasn't changed my opinion of him as an actor.

There are a bunch of inconsistencies: Sarchie misses his daughter's soccer game (but the kid is dry and the scene this happens in takes place during a rainstorm?), the seemingly bizarre mish-mashing of Latin and Spanish, some theological issues, and the fact that it seemed the priest couldn't have accomplished his exorcism without Sarchie (how ever did he manage before him?), but that wasn't the worst of it. The "evil" was recycled from every possession movie before it. The scenes with the scratching beneath Sarchie's daughter's bedroom floor and her creepy toys seemed thrown in (as did many of the scenes in the movie). The acting was mediocre, but it was the fact that the movie seemed overall disconnected that had me more annoyed than anything.

Two thumbs way down for what might have been the worst movie of the weekend. "Deliver Us From Evil" takes a back seat to "Ride Along" and "Delivery Man", both of which I rented from the Red Box for a fraction of the cost. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Box: A Book Review


4/5 stars for another in the hilarious Dr. Gideon Box series.

What happens when the worlds biggest narcissist goes hunting horny women in the south? Everything you'd come to expect from Dr. Gideon Box and MORE!

It's hard to review a book like "Box" without ruining some of the fun, so I'm going to be intentionally vague. As per usual, Dr. Box has gotten himself in a heap of trouble. When you think things have hit rock bottom for him, they get worse.

Imagine, the homecoming queen (young and beautiful, the belle of south) dares you to steal a policeman's handcuffs, then lets you handcuff her to the fence behind the diner, and kiss her. This is the kind of thing Dr. Box lives for ... though he wants more than a kiss ... and the cop turns out to be the girl's father!

This is the start of Dr. Box's trip, landing him in hot water before he makes it to even one of the three women he's supposed to hook up with. When things go bad does he stop? Nope. But by the end of the book it's clear he should have.

What John Locke does well with Box is what he did even better in "Bad Doctor" (my hands down favorite of the Box books), he keeps you turning the page with outlandish scenarios and engaging dialogue. The books feel short, but if you look at the page count, you'll see they aren't. They're just so fun that they read at lightning speed.

These aren't "thinking" books, they're suspend disbelief and have fun books.

In "Box", every southern trope was done, every stereotype explored, and still, it was a good read. I miss the medical aspect that was present in "Bad Doctor" and am disappointed that the book didn't pick up where "Bad Doctor" left off, but those are the breaks I guess.

Oddly, an excerpt from "Bad Doctor" appears at the end of "Box", which is out of order since "Bad Doctor" (I believe) came first. "Box" ends at 87%. Always a bummer.

But the book was a good time. I like the characters, the off-the-wall plot, and John Locke has an undeniable knack for pulling a reader in and dragging them along for a speedy ride. His pacing is fantastic, his dialogue perfect, and he's original. Seriously, kudos for making this stuff up.

A recommended read if you're looking for a good time.

There's this lady ... and she's waiting to show you her horses.

2,000 Miles and it's Time to Get Back Into the Groove (Again)

Another week lost.

This is not good for my deadlines.

But I had the most excellent reason for taking yet another break (after finally getting over the hump from the May hiatus). My son graduated boot camp! You'd have to know that my son hasn't always finished things he started, and that he hasn't historically been self-motivated to know what an accomplishment this is. To say I'm proud is the understatement of the year. I'm over the moon!


2,000 miles from New York to Ohio to Illinois to Wisconsin to Ohio and finally back to New York  in under a week. 

I'm beat. We had storms, hail, tornadoes, and more road construction than I'd have thought possible. I'm tired of my car, fast food, hotel rooms, and continental breakfasts. 

I've lost my story line and am going to have to dig deep to find that momentum I had just gotten back. 

I spent some time thinking about my characters, but with all that was going on, my mind wandered. The Missing Year faded into the background and was overtaken by the Fatal Reaction follow-up I intend to start at least the opening chapter of this week. I've also been thinking about some Strandville shorts for the blog just because. 

Miranda, Amelie, Reid, and Michael are telling me what's been going on since the apocalyptic decline that had them all on the wrong side of the virus. There's been a mutation and Amelie's developed a handful of new abilities, putting Scott, Miranda, and the other survivors directly in harm's way. 

There are never enough hours in a day, especially when you get off-schedule. 

My goal has been to release The Missing Year by October, and I intend to meet that. I'll be doing double-duty with these two books and will be less forgiving with myself when it comes to procrastination. I might write at night, too, sometimes, during time normally reserved for my husband. Fortunately, he's supportive. I'm almost out of episodes of United States of Tara, which should help.

More than anything, it's a matter of breaking out my notes, re-reading what I wrote, and moving forward. I had done some major reconstruction in May, but the inclination is always to edit before it's time. I'll save that for second draft and get this rough one knocked out. 

July has Better Left Buried releasing on ACX. Today is the "deadline", so that's something else for me to work on. I need to listen to the book and make sure all is well. Honestly, I like the story so much, I don't mind hearing it again.

Fatal Reaction's audiobook has hit a snag. I had thought I won the narrator lottery twice, but it turns out one has issues keeping her from honoring her timeline (stretching it by another four months). I'm in the process of talking to ACX about how to deal with this and hope it won't put the project off too far. I'm bummed about that last bit of news because I really had hoped to have two audiobooks out in July. 

There are always ups and downs, right? That's life.

Speaking of, I have a few things left to do to get my homestead back in order. A week away has me wondering how I can afford a gardener if I go away again. I've gone overboard with planting this year, not realizing the amount of time I must normally put in to keep it all looking amazing. The same with my dogs. I've been brushing them like crazy to get them back in order, but it's hot and they shed. It's a Herculean feat to keep Sheltie fur on the dog. I'm pretty sure my vacuum hates me.

Writing and life, it's a juggling act. Time to get dirty.

Until next time,
B.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

#FREE SURVIVAL HORROR with a Medical Twist

**Runner-up 2012 HALLOWEEN BOOK FESTIVAL**
#FREE #Smashwords

Medicine meets horror in this thrilling escape tale about the evil men do in the name of progress.

Dr. Howard Nixon's medical research has him dabbling in the undead and has the women of Strandville disappearing.

Desperate to find a cure for the lethal virus which turns its victims into zombies, Nixon kidnaps Miranda Penton, a security recruit with a past that won't let her go. He doesn't count on anyone coming looking for her, least of all her ex-husband, Scott.

A warning call brings Scott to Strandville where he bands together with a team of locals determined to bring their own loved ones home. Together, they infiltrate Nixon's staff, hatching a plan that releases not only the surviving women, but the virus on those left in the hospital.

Nixon locks down the center to contain the spread, turning patients, visitors, and staff into a dangerous horde that is almost impossible to escape. Miranda and the others fight for their lives. The town of Strandville is ground zero for the zombie apocalypse and Miranda must get free because the fate of humanity lies with her unborn child.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/239681


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ACX, the New York Book Festival, and a MAJOR SNAFU...

GOOD NEWS!

Who doesn't love it? 

The first fifteen minutes of the audiobook version of Better Left Buried have been approved! Choosing a narrator is tough, but Heidi Mattson was a hands-down winner the minute I heard her audition. 

I can't wait for the July release date! 

Better Left Buried is one of favorite stories. Why? The characters. Writing this novel brought me back to my tumultuous adolescence and gave me the opportunity to revisit the best and worst of those times. It's real. Sometimes brutal, often kind, Better Left Buried deals with social issues and what it's like growing up under a cloud of unending depression. Harmony, my suicidal main character, is tragically, but beautifully flawed. Heidi has done a perfect job of capturing her.



And it seems I'm  not the only one in love with this cast of characters. Better Left Buried received Honorable Mention in the 2014 New York Book Festival. 

It's a bit of an 'always the bridesmaid' situation for me, having had Cure come in runner-up in the 2012 Halloween Book Festival. I am determined to crack that win!



I haven't been actively blogging because I've had a  bit of a SNAFU with The Missing Year.

I hit the infamous "soupy middle" and realized the recipe for this particular cake was all wrong. Ever had this happen, writers? It sucks! I was so proud to have hit the halfway mark in record time, only to have to tear down fifty percent of the work. I knew something wasn't working when I couldn't get forward motion. Writing a story from multiple POVs can be tricky. Alternating past and present more so. Every time I sat down to write, I could feel the dread. I was bored with my own story because there was no mystery left. I'd given up too many critical details too early. The solution: re-spin it. I changed to a linear timeline, from different POVs and voila! Like magic, the groove resumed.

Of course, while I was in the self-loathing stage, I let my mind wander. And what came up? What always comes up when you're procrastinating after bitch slapping your muse? Another story line. Yeah. Not a bad problem to have, except when you start hybridizing. I had to remind my brain there's no murder in this particular romance (The Missing Year). BUT, there is in a follow-up to Fatal Reaction.

I hadn't intended Fatal Reaction to continue, but a) it's my bestseller. People love it and it's had staying power in the charts. And b) After persistent  badgering on my husband's part that there MUST be more to that story, I realized I inadvertently left a useful Easter egg in the first book that lends itself to a diabolical sequel.

FTW!

I've never worked on two books simultaneously and cannot guess the impact starting the next in the Anneliese Ashmore books will have on The Missing Year's release,  but what the heck? Why not give it a try? I'll be interested to see which story gets finished first.

Until next time,

B.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Godzilla: A Film Review


The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence. -IMDB

IMDB rating: 7.3

My rating: 7

Godzilla, what can I say? I'm a sucker for a monster movie and my husband isn't over the loss of Breaking Bad


I had heard mixed reviews and it seems Godzilla viewers divided into two camps: first hour and second hour. The first hour focused on the Brody family (husband, wife, and young son). The parents worked at a nuclear facility in Japan that collapsed following a strange phenomenon Joe Brody (Cranston) was investigating. Following the loss of his wife, Elle, Joe becomes a conspiracy theorist claiming the plant wasn't lost to a meltdown. 


Fast forward fifteen years and the Cranstons' son, Sam, is Navy EOD (bomb disposal). Sam is called back to Japan to free his father, Joe, after his father's trespassing to further his investigation of his wife's death. Sam is forced to leave his wife and young son with whom he's been recently reunited.


Sam wants to bring his father back to the states, but his father's obsessed. He claims the data he had from the day of the nuclear plant disaster is required to prove that the same thing is happening again. Something dangerous is coming. 


Sam helps his father get back to the remains of his childhood home only to be captured and questioned. Sam and Joe see what's been hiding at the nuclear plant, what's been feeding off nuclear energy, and they experience, firsthand, the destruction it can cause. MUTO: mobile unidentified terrestrial object is a parasite that moves with Godzilla and both are headed toward Sam's family in San Francisco.


Enter the second half critique. 


I am camp first hour. There was a genuine story happening until the monsters came. All that went out the window and almost became moot when the focus shifted. I get that the loss of Sam's parents was fuel for his super-powered hate fire, but it didn't need to take an hour for that to happen; not if the intention was to shove that whole story line under the rug.


The movie entertained, the effects top-notch for Godzilla. My husband is retired Navy (nuclear power field) and had more plausibility issues with the second half than I did. But, even without his training, I found quite a few technical holes. The story became predictable, implausible, and the 'hero', Sam, was blatantly bulletproof. He was untouchable to the point of laughability.


In all, not a bad flick. We went to the 3D version, which was not worth it. I am continuously disappointed by live action 3D. All the best 3D is animated, Avatar being the exception. 


I'd have given the movie 8, even 9, stars if the writers at least made Sam stumble, if they continued his parents story in any way, and if there were less gaping plot holes. If you're looking for a summer "blockbuster"--tons of destruction and big monsters--this is a must-see. If plot and characters are critical, this is a maybe. A fun movie if you don't think too hard about it. 



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Results: Ereader News Today, e-Book Cafe, Book Gorilla, Kindle Nation Daily, and Read Cheaply

The indie marketing experiment is about over. I spent a couple of months focusing on ads, finding out which worked and which didn't. I could say I've leaned a thing or two, but the truth is, results vary by book, by day of the week, by the site's following, by price ... there may even be a lunar cycle factor in there. Who knows?

On April 7th I ran two ads, Better Left Buried appeared on Read Cheaply (FREE) ( and Fatal Reaction on Kindle Books and Tips ($100). This was my second most productive run, landing me with 79 sales. 74 of those were Fatal Reaction so the crown goes to Kindle Books and Tips



April 27th was my absolute best day, netting me 83 Fatal Reaction sales from a Kindle Nation Daily ($159.99) run (I chose Option 6).

May 7th I ran Better Left Buried on the e-Reader Cafe ($35) with a total of 49 sales.

May 8th Better Left Buried hit Book Gorilla ($40 for $0.99 cent promo) for another 35. I'm going out on a limb to say YA/paranormal isn't Book Gorilla's following's "thing" because Fatal Reaction did much better on here last November.

May 13th saw 78 Better Left Buried sales on eReader News Today (25% of two day sales cost me about $6 for a $0.99 cent priced book), a close third in this group of ads.

And finally Digital Book Spot  ($5) ran Better Left Buried on May 23rd for about 20 sales.

With each ad came varying residual sales in the days that followed. Those aren't captured here. I noticed that sales peaked mid-evening (around dinner time) and that most ads spread across multiple platforms throughout the day. For example, the main ad would post to a website first thing int he morning and then later to the site's corresponding Facebook site. In this case, Facebook ads work. The pages followed by 40,000 and up readers are, in my experience, still successful in a way that authors promoting themselves cannot be. 

As a reader, I favor Book Gorilla for recommendations, but several of these sites offer very attractive emails and Facebook posts. eReader Cafe does a nice job showcasing book covers.

The take home lesson is that the more expensive ads do perform better (hence why people are still booking them at a higher cost), but you can see rank improvement and some modest sales from less expensive ads as well.

**UPDATE: 5/29/14: I had a lot of requests for information on cost. The total ad  cost was about $346. The return, a little harder to calculate this early in the morning. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day (Survival Tips for New Navy Moms)


Month one of being a new Navy mom saw a lot of mixed feelings: pride, worry, anxiety, sadness, grief, and eventually acceptance. 

I'm the wife of a retired sailor so I had some insider information on what to expect, but I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be having my only child away from me and being unable to talk to him. The digital age makes this process a whole lot easier. 

If you are sending a loved one to Navy boot camp, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Check out: http://navyformoms.com/forum/topics/things-to-do-in-the-last-month-before-your-future-sailor-leaves (before your future sailor leaves). 

Tips:

The navy wallet (which is the ONLY thing your recruit can keep after day #1) doesn't necessarily have to include moleskin and band-aids. Your recruit will get them when they check in. I sent them anyway, but it's nice to know it wasn't required.

PHONE CARDS ARE A MUST. There is a vending machine for your recruit to buy cards and they're provided NEX credit of $150, but there's no substituting readiness and value. It's tough for the recruits to get to a phone, let alone then find a way to pay to use one. I bought a 1,000 minute card from WalMart (see clickable link above), which now provides 2,000 minutes of time for about $40.00. Your recruit can't possibly burn through this many minutes, but I wanted to be prepared.

Facebook has become somewhat of a hub for recruits loved ones, IF you know to use it. I've joined several groups, the most frequently visited being my son's PIR (Pass in Review) group. PIR is boot camp graduation. 

How do you find yours? 

Type: PIR XX-XX-XX NAVY BOOT CAMP into the FB search bar, substituting your loved one's PIR date for the x's.

You will receive your recruit's tentative PIR date via the first letter home (typically a week after they leave).

There is nothing as comforting as talking to others whose loved ones are with yours. We notify each other when calls are going out, when our recruits have had something done (like wisdom teeth!), and we're there for each other to show support when we need it. You will need it.

Make no mistake, PIR travel is expensive. Not every recruit will have family able to attend their graduation or take them on liberty that weekend. Joining the PIR group helps identify others with needs. I'm more than willing to have my recruit share his phone card with those who don't have one. He has WAY more minutes than ability to use them. I've told the group this and will contact my son to reach out so other families can get the calls I rely on to keep me sane. I've also let him know if he has a buddy that doesn't have family coming, we'll gladly support an extra. We're fortunate to be able to do this. Every recruit should have a special weekend. PIR is a milestone.

Unique Memory Makers is a site for and by Navy Moms and includes such keepsakes as personalized PIR ribbons. If you're looking for something to commemorate your future sailor's day, check it out.

Other groups to join:

Navy RTC
Great Lakes A School (if your recruit is staying in Great Lakes)

There are countless others, but these are my go-tos.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I'll try to post more helpful tips and information for other Navy moms, wives, fiances, and loved ones. We're in this together. In the meantime, I have a BBQ to prepare for ;-) Thank you to all who have served (in all branches) and the families who support them.