Hakuna Matata

mufasaI love cartoons. I can be just as engaged with a cartoon as I can a real television show or movie. One of my favorites is the Lion King, and over the last month a quote from the movie has been resonating with me.

For those of you who have not seen the movie in a while or (gasp!) have never seen it at all here are some highlights (spoilers to follow). Believing he was the cause of his father’s death, young lion cub prince Simba runs away from home looking for a refuge. He runs across some new friends who introduce him to a hakuna matata way of life(it means no worries). All his basic needs are fulfilled, companionship, relative safety, food, but still something isn’t right. His best friend from childhood discovers his hiding place and tells him his homeland is in dire straits. She begs him to return and fight his uncle for the crown. He refuses, not ready to give up his cushy life, even though he is not completely satisfied.

A scene close to the end is what has been pestering me. Right after he refuses to return, Simba meets up with a spiritual representation of his dad, Mufasa.

Mufasa has to step in to remind Simba of what was really important. He will never be truly happy without being true to himself. He is a prince and has a duty to be king and protect his people.

“Remember who you are.”

The line keeps chasing around in my head.

Of late, I got a new job. It’s a pretty good job, a lot of responsibility, a decent amount of money, but it takes up (forgive the pun) a lion’s share of my waking hours.

The nice part of the deal: I don’t have to worry about having a roof over my head or transportation or food. I’ll be able to help my kids if they need me. But with all the potential vacations, home refinances, and coffee drinks that I didn’t make myself, I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, a port in the storm of life.

Because, this isn’t who I am.

I need to remember who I am down deep in my bones, and when my finances are organized again, when my books start selling to a profit, then I need the courage to return to my own Prideland of being a full-time writer.

I need to be like Simba. He gave up his little paradise to fight for his pride and to become who and what he was born to be. It was not easy, but he did it. I can’t be seduced by all the excuses, of being too tired to write, too weary to query, too exhausted to take a class. I have to stay on the path and fight the fight against my own personal Scar. And not get too addicted to the comfort of having money.

And, I will do it when the time is right.

But until I leave this little port I am going to enjoy the ride… hakuna matata.

Have you ever had to remember who you are? Kick yourself for forgetting what was most important? Please leave a comment. Or just stop in to say ‘hi’.

The Work

I’m tired of writing about motivation and maps and goals. Now, I’m going to write about the work. The daily grind, the nose to the grindstone, feels like torture to get started: WORK.


It is hard sitting at a kitchen table with your neck aching and your hands cramping trying to tell a story that is as likely to be adored as it is to be ‘just not the right fit’ for us. It is hard to figure out editing and cover art and self-promotion. It is hard to find an avenue to share your work with the world.

I had decided to go indie until I got a request from an agent who may or may not do one of three things: tell me she isn’t interested, ask to represent me, or not respond at all.

It’s like shooting your infant into outer space. My work is like baby Superman, I guess, and I hope it finds a kindly Jonathan and Martha to take care of it once it reaches its destination.  (sorry my nerd is showing.)

But here I am. Working hard. Waiting. Putting the words on paper. Taking a new job to survive and waiting. Ever waiting. But you know what? That’s ok. Because, I like the writing.

Some acknowledgement would be wonderful.

Some money would be fantastic and freeing.

But I don’t need that to keep writing. The writing itself is the reward. Telling stories that at least my friends will read and that express my creativity, is highly satisfying. Like running. It is a great rush to finish a race and even better to win, but that’s not the point. Running for me is about the process. Like writing, the practice is good for my brain, spirit, and soul.

I’m still planning and hoping to get my words to a wider audience. Heck, self-pubbing in May or June is just as good as February or March, so the end game is still in play. But until then you will find me in the coffee shop. Or at the kitchen table. Or in my car with a notepad. Writing.

Romancing the Null — Sneak Peek

Tina here. Last night I finished formatting and converting Romancing the Null into all the platforms. I’m really close to having it go live and to celebrate I’m going to post the first five pages (which also happens to be the first chapter. HA!! I’m so smart–it’s like I did that on purpose). 

I’m so excited for this book and I really think people are going to love it as much as I do and the people who’ve beta read for me also assure me it’s fantastic. All these things make me really nervous, but a good nervous, not the creepy-guy-in-bar-trying-to-buy-you-a-drink-and-you’re-only-there-to-pick-up-a-drunk-friend kind of nervous. 




Chapter One

The oracle walks into my office ten minutes before I’m set to go home and I know by the not-so-casual glance at the name on my door that he isn’t here for me. He couldn’t be. It’s not my name on my office door.

He fiddles outside my door, waiting to catch my attention. I slouch lower into my chair, wishing I had something to hide behind, but my new office is still barren. Just me, my cheap ergonomic chair that is set to someone else’s height and weight, my laptop computer, and a desk. There’s a pile of broken office supplies, hinting that my office had been used as the junk room before I’d inherited it. I do have a dusty twig that may once have been alive, reaching like a skeleton hand from a chipped pot, but nothing that indicates a homey work space. No glass-blown paperweights, no books aside from the outdated actuary procedurals, not even a scatter of papers and files neatly grouped on my desk. I don’t have enough assigned cases for that yet. I type up the last of the reports from this afternoon, emailing the proper department copies. If I play dumb maybe the oracle will go away.

Week one of working in the Accidental Death Predictions Department was as uneventful as promised.

“It’s not even homicide,” my cousin-next-door, Ali, moaned when I had told her the news a few weeks ago. “So they transferred you from traffic predictions to accidental death?”

“As an actuary for predictions, the more experience I have in multiple departments, the better for my career.” I picked up her scarves and gloves she’d littered around my apartment living room and hung them on the rack. “This transfer is a step in the right direction.”

“It’s not in any direction. It’s a side step, it’s a getting-out-of-the-way step.”

I didn’t understand her lack of enthusiasm until now. Anything would be better than traffic. Considering my two-year stint in traffic was the result of a major mistake, one I’ll never repeat.

Now, at this moment while I’m bored as hell going over the latest oracle recordings and sending out the percentage forecasts that I think could save lives, I see what my cousin must have meant.

Nobody ever thanks their actuary. Everyone glorifies the oracle.

Excuse me, that’s wrong. Some people do love the actuary. Some actuaries. One actuary. Michelle Kitman—rose through the ranks of our profession and became a world-renowned celebrity. She went on several talk shows and spoke with the clients she saved by delivering accurate assessments and statistics of their death predictions. Colleges still use her techniques to teach young mathematicians, called the Kitman Method.

The oracle brushes his hand over her name above my door. Kitman retired a few years ago and her office sat empty. Nobody wanted to take her place or pretend to fill her shoes. I don’t. But due to a severe shortage of office space I was assigned to her old room. The chilly office atmosphere let me know that if I tacked up a “Kate Hale” sign and claimed this office as my own, it would not be a welcomed move.

I should have been honored, except it was a lot like knowing you were a number away from winning the lottery, being born a minute too shy of claiming the “New Year’s baby” title, coming in fourth place at the Olympics. Nobody notices the people who were almost amazing. My history of fuck-ups confirms this theory. And judging by the glares I’ve gotten from my colleagues, I’m not going to rise to Kitman levels of fame anytime soon.

I clear my throat.

The oracle’s hand flutters from the door to his comb-over. He smooths an errant grey hair among a few light browns into place. The hair springs out again as soon as his fingers leave his head. “I’ve never been to the actuary offices. Forgive me for my indulgence.”

I can’t help but smile. I sort of geeked out at her nameplate too the first time I opened that door.

“This isn’t where the magic happens.” I tip my head to the third-eye pin on his lapel designating him as an oracle. “You know that.”

He holds out his hand. “Jack Robert.”

I don’t take it. Don’t touch the oracles is hammered into us from the moment we sign up for a career in predictions. Experts claim it can interfere with their visions. “Can I help you?”

“I have a case, a unique death prediction that only someone of your caliber can decipher.”

Doubtful. I glance at Kitman’s name plaque. I would have removed it to keep these kinds of misunderstandings from happening, if it weren’t for the fact this office is treated like a national monument.

But an oracle, even as flighty and absentminded as they’re known to be, would remember Kitman’s huge retirement party. Maybe he was sent to me for another reason. Maybe this was one last practical joke from Traffic.

“Why me?” I lean back in my chair, analyzing him.

“Why you?” he asks, but in a way that tells me he’s stalling for an answer. Jack presses his hand over his comb-over again and then pulls on the lapels of his coat. He rocks on his feet. His gaze searches the Berber carpet for whatever lie he’s about to feed me. “Ah, you don’t know yet.”

“What don’t I know?”

His lips flutter into a hesitant but knowing grin. I hate it when people hold back information; I want to know everything they know. And so naturally I don’t like oracles.

He inches forward and cups the side of his mouth like it’s a secret just for me. “You’ll soon be the best investigative predictions actuary in Angel’s Peak.”

I cross my arms, trying my hardest not to sound combative. “Says who?”

His mouth gapes open. “I’m an oracle.” It’s the indignation I’ve been waiting for. Jack has finally lined up with my expectations. Oracles are nothing if not self-important drama queens. They’re rarely questioned and so when they are they don’t know how to react.

“Is this an actual vision or a hunch?”

His eyes go wide. “Uh…”

“I’ll save you the trouble, Jack.” I keep my voice low, not wanting the whole office to know my private problems. “I’m a blank. An unpredictable. Fateless. You can’t know I’m any good at water polo let alone my own job. I’m that big blank spot in the oracles’ net and you don’t know I’m going to be anything in any future. I don’t have one that can be predicted.”

He backtracks, fumbling in his pocket. “I didn’t mean…I wasn’t predicting…are you sure?” He sits, a slow lowering into my extra office chair, waiting for my answer like an anxious pet after a toy slipped under the furniture.

“I’ve never once received a prediction. Once I tried to force it.” I clear my throat and look away. I don’t want to get too personal. My parents’ death, although an accident, wasn’t my fault. Not after all these years. When I didn’t get the death prediction like they did, we all assumed it would mean I wasn’t going to be in the car. They thought they were safe as long as I was with them. That turned out to be far from true. I shove the memory away. It has no place here. “Well, let’s just say they couldn’t get a reading on me.”

“A shame.” His worried expression turns to pity. “But it doesn’t mean you’re fateless. That’s rare, and pardon me for inserting, perhaps a bit unusual given your profession. I’m sure that you’d not want that information to get out into the wrong ears.”

My neck shifts three inches back into my collar. He’s right. I can’t afford for that rumor to go around, especially in the Death Department.

I shrug, pretending it doesn’t matter. “Who knows, then?”

He shakes his head in pity. “A terrible handicap.”

I never thought so, until I realized how much I’d felt left out, but I could never admit it out loud and definitely not to an oracle. There were too many hate groups and anti-prediction groups to share those thoughts in mixed company. I shouldn’t have even told him I was a blank. If the higher-ups got wind of it, accidental death would be the farthest up I could ever hope to climb. “It is what it is.”

Jack rolls his fingers on my desk in a staccato rhythm, crosses and uncrosses his legs. He makes a show of tapping his fingers against his pursed mouth. I lace my hands together and hook them over my knee, waiting.

“I’ll hire you anyway.”

“You do realize that the name on the door is not me.”

He waves his hand in front of his face, his eyes closed like he’s fighting off some invisible fly. I’m not exactly sure he’s listened to a word I’ve said. “That’s fine. I don’t care. I want you to work the case. You’re hired.”

“I work for the government and so do you. You can’t exactly hire me for work that is technically my job.”

His eyes dart to my boss’s door—still closed for her lunch. She’s in heated debate with her wife over holiday plans.

“This isn’t connected to the Oracle’s Department, is it?” I guess.

He shakes his head, confirming this case would require me to go off the books. Off radar. And far off from my goal of attempting to not fuck up my first week in a new department.

“This is something separate.”

He doesn’t nod this time, but his eyes don’t leave mine, confirming my assessment.

Jack pulls out a small square paper from his coat and carefully unfolds it. His hands tremble. “The death I asked you to investigate. It’s—” His voice breaks. He swallows. “It’s my own. Someone’s targeting oracles and I’m first on the list.”


Romancing the Null–Out February 2016

By Tina Gower

There are three kinds of lies. Lies the fates spin as half truths. Lies of destined love. And statistics.

As a fateless, Kate Hale is immune to the first two, but the third kind of lie is her profession. After spending years as an actuary for the Traffic Department, Kate is promoted to Accidental Death Predictions. It’s all she’s worked toward, and her career is finally on track. But when an oracle delivers an impossible death prediction and insists on her help to solve the case, she might lose any chance of impressing the brass.

Her only hope comes in the form of the police liaison assigned to her department, latent werewolf Ian Becker. Becker can grant her the clearance to find answers, but he’s a wild card with a shady past who doesn’t play well with others.

Every prediction has a loophole, but if Kate can’t solve the case before the crime is fated to occur she won’t just lose her job–she’ll have the blood of an oracle on her hands.



The Power of Color



The coat in question (with special guest appearance by Oliver the Cutie Pie.

The coat in question (with special guest appearance by Oliver the Cutie Pie.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed something strange. At the grocery store, the gas station, and even walking into restaurants, people who would usually never acknowledge me were smiling, nodding, even drumming up conversations.

I’m by nature a very introverted person, but won’t rebuff a friendly interchange, a nod, or smile. But oddly, it seemed the amount of these encounters had tripled. I couldn’t figure out what the difference was. Had I done my hair different? Was I projecting an outgoing personality? The attention was weird, but not unwelcome. I just wanted to understand why.

The winter weather in Michigan is usually a bit wacky, zero one day and forty the next. On a warm (warmer than zero anyway) day, I had to exchange my artic wear for a lighter jacket, and the extra attention stopped. Just like that. Like a faucet being turned off.

My super warm coat is a stunning shade of pink, not fuchsia, but a nice, bright pastel. Most of my outerwear is normal earthy tones, tan, gray, and brown, so this was a huge change. I fell in love with it because of the feeling I got when I saw it, happy, warm, friendly feelings.

It got me thinking of the power of color in everyday life. How appearances influence us subconsciously.

I did some Googling and found color psychology is a thing!

First, I stumbled on Bourn Creative, which defined pink as a color of universal love of oneself and of others, friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace, and approachability.

I researched on and found a slew of marketing information. There are reasons why the Golden Arches are golden and the Target bullseye is red. Red encourages excitement, and yellow/gold symbolizes warmth and optimism. Green for John Deere tractors to tie it to growing things.

Now, according to the website, The Psychology of Color, personal preference plays a role. So, if you grew up being forced to wear olive green every day, and you HATE green because of it, then you may not feel the same instant attraction to the color, even if you are a farmer or someone who adore plants.

Men tend to prefer primary shades, and blue is the universal favorite across genders. Some colors are touted to help you get dates, study, or have more energy. Orange and teal are great for non-fiction book covers, while if you are trying to attract men don’t choose purple.

I don’t think any of these are axioms that work every time, but it’s interesting to speculate that your choice of outfit could influence your creativity, your feelings of wellbeing, chances on a job, or even a date.

I still love my coat and now that I understand The Pink Coat Effect, I may wear it more often or forsake it for my old brown backup on days I just want to blend.

How does color effect you? Do you have a favorite that inspires you? What about a signature shade? Comment below!

The Anxiety of Poor Timing

Getting a book series ready to self-publish has brought out a lot of anxiety for me. Am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right choices on how to launch it? What if this decision or that decision ruins an opportunity later on down the road?

I feel like I’ve suffered from bad timing with most of my career and financial moves (career and financial are tied in some way, right?). When I started college, job prospects looked promising. I had no reason to assume that things would drastically change by the time it was my turn to job hunt.

Except they did. During my senior year of college, 9-11 happened and then following that horrible event a recession. The next three years I attended graduate school and watched as each year became more and more grim. Graduates from my program had more and more difficulty finding full time work locally. Prospects were not only slim, the market turned hostile. Also, cue No Child Left Behind, which brought some much needed standardization across states, but had a lot of flaws that left Special Ed services in flux.

It wasn’t the best time to enter the field. Yet, I managed it anyway. Despite my professors telling me I’d have done better in another decade, I managed to cut out a career for myself, but it was not without struggles. I was budget cut from two jobs, and although they did what they could to keep me in some capacity it was still hard. Ultimately, and unrealistically I blame myself. Like I could have controlled the economy?? Part of me wondered if it was just an excuse (the government and union employment standard of first-hired, first-to-go or be lowered to part-time) and if I’d been more stellar in some way they would have kept me.

And always hearing the mantra of “If this was a different time you would be that employee we’d have been excited to have hired and looked forward to years of working with you, but alas, this is not that decade.”

My husband and I bought our house at the peak of the housing market, right before the crash. So we paid an inflated price for it. Everyone loves to talk about their amazing deal on their zillion square foot home and we have a very modest and lovely house that I’m happy to own, but we definitely over paid. Except it was what houses were going for in the market at that time. We had no idea of the impending housing crash or we would have waited a few years.

(Although we did get a fixed mortgage, so we didn’t have to deal with the lending fiasco that so many of our friends did who had other types of loans).

I worry that this will be the case with my writing career. That is was not a good time for *me* to become a writer. Maybe perfect for someone else with different qualifications, but not me. 

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but if I were it would be to be a little braver and not worry so much about timing. Just do. I can’t control economics, or the stock market. I can’t control buyer’s preferences. But I can control me and my decisions. If they were poorly timed, then at least I tried and one day that risk will pay out. I’m one of those people who believes luck is hard work meets opportunity.

I can’t help but to be superstitious about it though and it’s the Year of the Monkey, and I’m a Monkey. Not in real life mind you. I was talking about the Chinese Zodiac. Not in a “nobody knows you’re a monkey on the internet kind of way.” Anyway, year of monkey for a monkey–I thought it might mean something good and when I looked it up, it does! This is supposed to be my year for a major career risk that works in my favor. My horoscope says the same thing. Heck, I even asked the Magic 8 Ball online and it says “It is decidedly so.”

So, maybe for once my career timing is finally in tune.