Thursday, September 22, 2016

Marna Reed Talks Chocolate

Hey everyone! Today I have a special guest and co-crazy-goal-setter (TOTALLY a word) Marna Reed here with me as part of her blog tour. First, let me share a bit of something about the book.


Finally back home... 

When Ren Lang set out to do a good neighborly deed, he didn't prepare to be digging out more than a car. Seeing Kristal Overwood once more reminds him how hard it was losing her the first time. It doesn’t take Ren long to see Kristal staying in Waterseed, their small Vermont hometown, might crack open up his closed, hard heart. It’s not a risk he’s willing to take again.

But for how long? 

Since she has no plans to linger in Waterseed, Kristal doesn't want to build any lasting emotional ties. Of course fate has Ren helping her re-build her childhood home. Seeing her foster brother is stirring up more than the past...it's digging up that long-ago buried attachment to him. And despite her resolve, she's falling for more than his charming family this time.

Now will it take a cup of spiced cocoa to have that chat they should have had all those years ago?

Find Home Sweet Cocoa here.

Take it away, Marna!

Hi, everyone! Marna here.

First I’d like to thank Misha for allowing me to take over a bit on her blog to let you all in on my debut Christmas-themed novella, Home Sweet Cocoa, a sweet contemporary romance.

So, let’s talk hot chocolate.

I’ve been trying out some new recipes. Since it’s starting to feel like fall is finally replacing summer here, I’m putting away the ice cream and busting out my hot chocolate. Usually I’m a simple Nestlé kind of girl, but lately I’ve been fiddling around with making cocoa from scratch. From there I branched out to try different hot chocolate blends.

Here are a couple variants of orange spiced cocoa, which is really just like regular hot chocolate with a kick of citrus:

RECIPE ONE – ORANGE-SPICE COCOA

I grabbed this recipe from the Food Network. It’s a little more straightforward and simple than the second recipe, so let’s start here.

Ingredient List
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
½ cup cocoa powder
6 cups milk
½ tsp of orange zest
1 cup whipped cream

Preparation Steps:
Sift 1 cup confectioner’s sugar into a bowl with ¼ tsp ground cardamom, ½ cup cocoa powder. Stir until mixed well. Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat (don’t let it boil, unless you have a strainer handy). Whisk in the cocoa mixture until smooth. Top the chocolatey drink off with whipped cream and a bit of orange zest for garnish. J

I sum it up below with pictures from my first attempt with this recipe!

 




RECIPE TWO – WHITE HOT ORANGE-Y CHOCOLATE

Recipe Two is from a cute little blog called WillCook For Friends, and this one has added the twist of white chocolate. Fun!

Ingredient List
4 oz. (by weight) good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped (or about 3/4 cup)
2 cups milk (I used whole milk, but I’m sure you could use whatever % you like)
3-4 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 two-inch strip of orange zest
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
fresh whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Preparation Steps:
If your chocolate is in a block or a bar, chop it roughly and place it in a large bowl. If it is in chip form, just add it to the bowl as-is. Place a small pot on the stove over medium-low heat, and add the milk, crushed cardamom, and orange zest. Heat until the milk begins to steam, and small bubbles appear around the edges of the pot, stirring frequently to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot. As soon as bubbles appear at the edges, remove from the heat — do not let it boil! Place a strainer over the bowl with the chocolate, and pour the milk through to remove the cardamom and orange. Add the vanilla extract, and let sit for 20-30 seconds to allow the chocolate to begin melting. Whisk until smooth. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg. Serve as is, or top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Check out the pictorial breakdown for this recipe below…

 


Yum!

If you’re curious about more hot chocolate recipes, search the internet for the many lists of all the kinds you could try out if you’re adventurous enough.

I’m also giving away one (1) e-copy of Home Sweet Cocoa. All you have to do to be entered is answer this question: What’s your favorite hot drink to blast away the chill of autumn and winter?


Leave a comment with your answer and your email address and I’ll get back to the winner. I’m looking forward to reading the responses! Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Before and After: Chaos. Hope. Love. teaser graphic.

Some of you might not be aware of this, but I do the graphic design stuff for my own books. And actually, I really enjoy it.

One of my favorite parts of this is to take a picture, play with it, and make something from it that's completely and utterly me. My style. My aesthetic. 

So... Because I enjoy it and to encourage myself to do more of this sort of thing, I thought I'd share some before and afters of the pictures I used to make some image or another. Just so you know, the quality of the pictures and the graphics won't be the same as what I used/the original result, because I've actually paid for some of the images and wouldn't want people to infringe on copyright on my behalf. 

Today, though, I have a free image (I.E. one with a CC0 license) from Pixabay

Before:


Fashion, Beauty, Model, Portrait, Girl

I was looking for a picture that suits the story of Eris (Greek goddess of chaos) in modern times (and who kinda sorta fit the mental picture I had of her in my head.) 

Part of the story Chaos. Hope. Love. is the fact that part of Eris's talents as a goddess (and the reason why she could be everywhere and nowhere at once) is the fact that she can dissolve herself into thin air, so I wanted my picture to represent that. 

A bit of adaption, a few words and...

After: 


Tada! For those of you who missed the previous million times I mentioned it, you can find the first part of Chaos. Hope. Love. here. ;-) 

Let me know what you think! Like the teaser graphic? Find the before and after idea interesting? Should I do more of these kinds of posts? 

Also! Just a heads-up to my friends on Wordpress. I keep hearing that people using Wordpress are struggling to visit Blogger blogs for one reason or another (or about a thousand of them.) 

SO. I'm experimenting with cross-posting to a Wordpress blog. Exact same content, just on a different platform. So if you'd rather go there, all you have to do is click this link.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Thing with Being a Writing Entrepreneur...

Now that I've decided to make a dead serious go of making a living, I'm having to completely rethink the way in which I'm spending my time.

And the thing is that I'm currently spending more time sorting out my social networking stuff than anything else. And there's so many things that depend on other things that depend on still other things, that I'm finding it really difficult to decide where to begin on a given day.

So, to help myself, I decided to create a nifty, colorful mind-map to simplify things visually.

This is the result...


*Headdesk* 

How are things going on your end?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Some More Perspective on the Full-Time Writing Thing

So lately, I decided to approach my writing like a business. And I'm calling myself a full-time writer, which has a few of you guys confused and worried.

Worried... might be somewhat accurate, although you guys are worrying for the wrong reasons. My other business(es) that I started to recover from the last SNAFU have entered the dreaded hurry-up-and-wait stage. Which is... Yeah. That bit worries me, and you're welcome to worry/pray with me. (Although I find that, upon praying, I worry a little less.)

The thing is that, while this hurry-up-and-wait phase is ongoing, I have hours and hours worth of time that I can use more constructively. And I decided to use those hours to be a full-time writer, because I'm basically working 40 day weeks at this writing thing (even, by the way, while I'm doing the day-job too.)

So really, this foray into full-time-writerness isn't new. At least, the time I can spend on it isn't. The major difference is that I've decided to set myself up better. Instead of saying I'll wait for quiet time and then waiting for an hour or two in case day-job work comes in, I'm asking if there's anything I have to do that can be done right now.

If there isn't, I'm immediately going into full-time-writer mode until such a time that something does come up at the office. (This happened on Wednesday, which I was super grateful for. But now offers have been made and we're waiting for clients to come back to us.)

In other words: No. I'm not refusing to do anything else that could bring me a more stable income just so I can write. 

It's just the case that, since I have to wait for my income anyway, I might as well spend it furthering my writing career instead of sitting around and doing nothing, waiting for the hours to pass.

Admittedly (as mentioned on Monday), pushing my writing career on a shoe-string budget is a pain in the ass.

That said, I'm not sure that it's a bad thing. 

Yes, I'm stressing about money. Yes, I have to literally turn every cent I get over twice in order to make this thing work. Yes, I'm currently having to do 90% of EVERYTHING myself and there are never enough hours in a day.

But.

Turning cents over twice is good business practice. Even when I do have money to splash around on my writing venture.

It's making me so sad to think how much money I wasted being inefficient with my time and money just because I assumed there would be another salary next month.

So yeah. EVEN if -- ahem -- WHEN my clients come back and my other job brings in some money, I'm only going to put back the royalties I've earned and used to other purposes. And IF I need more money for something, I will do so on a strict loan basis and keeping track of everything.

Because I want this thing to work. And it's not going to work if I'm lackadaisical about my writing business.

Business is a serious thing.

And I think, in retrospect, that saying "oh I'll make a career of writing someday when I have money" is bad business. (Sorry not sorry.)

So I'm putting my foot down right now.

I'm saying: Writing is my career now, regardless of my other jobs/obligations/present circumstances

I will approach it with the same seriousness with which I approach all of my other business activities.

Writing will support my writing.

And I will support my writing by writing even more.

Which is to say:

I am building an empire, even if I have to do it with my bare hands.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Spotlight on Mission to New Earth



Author: Diane Burton
Genre: science fiction romance
Release date: August 31, 2016
Length: 88 pages (25k words)


Blurb:


Would you go on a one-way trip to explore a new planet? Would you do it to save humankind?

Earth’s overpopulation and dwindling resources force the United Earth Space Agency to expedite exploration of new planets for a possible new home. When new crises ensue—a giant tsunami and the threat of nuclear winter—the timeline changes. Eight years of training crammed into four. Sara Grenard and her team prepare for launch, but are they ready for the one-way trip? Will the Goldilocks planet prove just right for Earth’s inhabitants? Before time runs out.


Excerpt:


“We screwed up again,” Marsh announced as soon as the five of us joined him. His voice echoed off the hard surfaces of the lav. “In RT, it could kill us.”
“You and your damn RT,” Tom spat out. “Why can’t you just say real time like a normal person?”
Marsh shot him a look, one I’d hate directed at me.
Military background evident, he stood in the middle of the area near the showers, his feet wide apart, hands clasped behind his back. The others were more casual. Bill held up a white-tiled wall across from the showers. Ana and Gloria sat on a fake wood bench. Meanwhile, I crossed my arms and leaned against a sink. I tried to look casual even though my nerves were strung tight. We had to be ready for the launch. Earth was dependent on us.
All of my team, except Tom and Marsh, wore hang-dog expressions. At forty, Tom was the oldest on the team and a damn fine pilot. His red face and mutinous expression as he confronted Marsh belied his usually even-keeled manner.
“You’re exaggerating, Rayburn.” That was more than angry. Tom was defiant. “You always exaggerate. Worst case scenario? Is that all you think about?”
I’d never seen Tom so worked up. Gloria walked over to him and rubbed his shoulder. Usually in stressful times, her gentle caress calmed him down. Not now.
When he shrugged off her hand, I caught the hurt in her eyes.
“C’mon, Bill. Back me up on this.”
Bill held out his hands in a don’t-get-me-involved gesture. He was our engineer, both formal and practical. He could fix anything from wonky engines to food replicators.
Tom turned to me. “Sara?”
I knew that was coming. I tried to let my team work things out by themselves. Soon we’d be living in close confines, not just on the ship but on our Goldilocks planet. If we couldn’t live in harmony during training, we would be in deep trouble once we reached our final destination. We’d be in even worse trouble if we couldn’t work out our differences here. Marsh was right to pick the only place that wasn’t monitored. We absolutely didn’t want the directors to think we weren’t a well-functioning team.
They could pull us and put in the Shadow Team. Our replacements.
“Okay, guys, what did I miss?” With a forced grin, I raised my right hand. “I swear I wasn’t dreaming about a day at the beach during the sim.”


GIVEAWAY:


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About the Author:


Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website

Goodreads: DianeBurton Author  

Sign up for Diane’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Timeless by Crystal Collier

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier #CoverReveal



Book Title: TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
Author: Crystal Collier
Genre: YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016



TIME IS THE ENEMY

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.


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Monday, September 12, 2016

And you thought being a full-time writer was glamorous.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've decided to jump into this being-a-full-time writer thing. 

Without a parachute. 

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN! 

Yeah. It's all very dramatic. Truth be told, though, it's not really all that glamorous. I've explained my thinking in my IWSG post, but the TL;DR version goes something like this...

Lots going on with my "day-job" businesses, but no money has come in. 
Writing, while bringing in a tiny income, is in fact bringing me an income. 
Ergo, it makes sense for me to put in more time to create content and writing which can bring me more income. 

Am I being stupid about this? 

Gosh, no! At least I hope not. Basically my "day-job" business has reached a hurry-up-and-wait phase. As in, I've contacted people. They want to work with me. They ordered samples. They've received samples, and now they're waiting for some meeting or the other to try said samples and decide whether or not they buy. 

In the meantime, I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs looking for other ways to make money.

Since writing is my passion, I want to put more time into making it work as a viable business, just like I'm doing with my other businesses. 

The problem with this is... 

You might have guessed it. Money. Right now, money is my biggest issue. See, if I'm going to make it as a writer, I need to keep producing books. Which will bring me in some money. 

Okay. But I need to get the word out, which means marketing. Marketing like... sharing stuff on all my social networks all the time. (Which I'm doing now, but man it takes a chunk out of my time.) Marketing like creating more content that has value to my readers (like more books). And so on. 

Problem is that I have to pay for most of this in some way, whether it's with money or time. Because more often than not, money payments aren't an option, it's time. Which means that right now, everything I do is a trade-off of some kind. 

I can spend more time on social networs, but that means I don't write as much. 
Or I can buy a way to schedule things to all my social networks, but that costs money, of which I have a very limited budget and no clue as to the Return on Investment. 

Yes. Me taking this thing into full-time territory has me thinking about return on investment a lot. 

And thinking about that, brings me to the timing of those returns. In other words... No matter what I do, there tends to be at least a month delay between my spending my money and me getting it back, if I even get it back. 

To illustrate. 

Let's say I want to publish a new book. 

If I pay outsource: 
Cheapest Nice-ish Cover for ebooks and paperback: $150 if I'm really lucky.
Formatting: Between $100 and $500

This means a minimum of $250 for one book. 

If I do it all myself, I can bring the cost down to $80 by paying for sofware I use to make my own covers etc., but the downfall is that this is $80 per month. Which means two things: 

1) To keep the cost at $80, I need to create a book every month. Which is something I had been working towards, but that got steamrolled by my life. So let's say we're actually closer to $200 per book, unless I use the same software for other income streams. (Which would be the plan.) 
2) In order to keep the software, and assuming that books are the only way with which to pay this money, it means I have to sell at least 40 books every single month just to break even. 

And even if I was there (and I'm not), that money will only come in at least one month (but as much as three months) after the end of the month in which I incurred the expense. 

To say the least, it's a freaking headache. 

If I was to publish through a publishing house, it does save me the expense, but at the cost of not making any income off the time-commitment to write until at least nine months after I sold the book. Never mind the time it takes just to find a publisher who wants to sign the book. 

So now I have to find other ways to generate money with which to pay for these products, such as Patreon, Fiverr and monetizing YouTube videos. Which is great, but I still a) need the those same $80 products to help generate content, b) need to spend time in order to market my activities on those sites c) need to wait at least a month before I receive the money back. 

And to make the money back as quickly as possible, I have to use Payoneer in order to have a US Bank account, and if I do that, I have to wait until I have $200 to pay out just to get the money loose. 

So, in short... I'm feeling very much stuck. 

Advice? Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG: A Little Perspective Change...


Today is the first Wednesday of September, so it's time for another round of Insecure Writer's Support group. For those of you who are wondering, IWSG is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. A whole lot of us have signed up for this bloghop and once a month, we share our insecurities and our encouragements.

If you would like more information or to sign up, click here


I've been mostly quiet, lately, and you don't need to scroll back far to see why. Things haven't been going well. It's been so bad, in fact, that I've started to think that my dreams of making a living as a writer will never come true. 

I've been completely without hope for weeks now, because it just seems that everything I've tried (including finding a job, or doing anything to build up my business again) comes to nothing. 

Which means that, all in all, my dreams of turning writing into a day job seemed so far away.

And that just made me sad. 

Something's been happening, though. A tiny seed of a thought have been planted by various friends saying various little things. A tiny thought that's been growing more and more every day until a tiny royalty payment put things into perspective for me. 

And the thought goes something like this. 

Suppose...
Suppose that, for all the hours I'm putting into my business, I just am not able to get to the point where the business stands on its own. Or suppose that it's just a few months away, but nothing I can do now is going to make it happen faster. 
Suppose I've done everything I could to find and contact possible clients for my available products and now it's a matter of waiting for them to come back. 
Do any of the hours I'm currently wasting waiting for feedback help me? No. 
Do I have to sit there staring at nothing while I'm waiting for feedback? No. 
Do I have anything else I could be doing that could actually add value? 

Well... 
Actually...
The fact that I'm getting any income at all from my writing means that it's actually adding more value to my life than hours spent at the office. 
In fact, this income, small as it might be, actually could be what pays the Internet so we can keep doing business. It could be a small bit towards trying something that could become something bigger. 

It could be a start. 

And I've been overlooking all that for the stupid reason that my year just didn't look the way I wanted it to.

I keep griping and moaning about not writing full-time, but if I keep in mind the idea of flexi-hours, I could have worked 40 hour weeks as a writer for WEEKS now. 

But I haven't, because somewhere in my head is this idea of all-or-nothing. And also, the idea that I needed to stabilize my business so I could use that to pay for my writing in order to become a full-time writer. 

Which is great in theory, but not if my writing income actually out-strips what I'm actually getting out of my business. 

Because if that happens, doesn't it make more sense to double down and figure out a way to 1) write more and 2) generate income for writing-related activities and 3) generate income to fund further writing and publishing endeavors? 

To me it does. 

And to me, it means I'm actually a card-carrying full-time writer as of now. 

But. 

Since "Staving Artist" is a bad look on me, I need to be more than a writer. I need to be a businesswoman who writes. 

And as a business woman who writes, I know I might have some products and services that might interest you: 

1) My writing.


If you're a reader, you might be interested in my books. Right now, all of my available writing is speculative fiction of some sort. But I have a wide variety of other genres waiting to be released as well. My books are also available at iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and other places.

Want exclusive sneak-peaks of my writing? Then there's Patreon, where you can find out first if there's any publishing news from me, see any excerpts I post first, and even read stories I post there, all for as little as $1 a month. 

2) My knowledge.


As part of my writing and publishing journey, I've gathered about 15 years' worth of experience in what works and what doesn't in a story. 

I'm sharing advice on Patreon when asked for (as part of my $1 subscription reward) and will be posting regular vlogs about writing, which you can watch and enjoy while I (eventually) earn revenues from advertising. 

Then, I am also offering my services on Fiverr. I am offering critiques of short stories, novellas and novels. I will also help you polish your query or back-of-the-book blurb. Or your synopsis. I can even go through your query package (query, synopsis and up to five chapters) to help you find possible weaknesses in your submission. 

Right now, I'm trying to build a track record on Fiverr, so I'm offering Query/Blurb, Synopsis or critiques of up to 10,000 words, all for $5, even if you need one of the premium packages on offer. All you have to do is go to my profile, click on "Contact" and follow the instructions to get in touch with me. 


So yeah. I actually have a lot to offer people. Now it's a matter of getting the word out... 

How are things going on your end? Have you had a bit of perspective change for one reason or another? 



Monday, August 29, 2016

Tamara on Acrophobia and Desensitization Therapy

Hey everyone! Today I want to welcome the lovely Tamara Narayan to my blog as part of her blog tour! Take it away, Tamara! 

 I'm Looking Down! Acrophobia and Desensitization Therapy


Image: zerega


A donkey follows a huge, green ogre across a crumbling wooden bridge like the one pictured above, but over boiling lava instead of a river. The ogre advises the trembling donkey to keep his head up, but alas, a wooden slat falls away under his hooves, and the poor animal shrieks, “Shrek, I’m looking down!”




Approximately 2% of the population suffers from acrophobia, or an irrational fear of heights. Twice as many women are affected than men. (I couldn't find the stats for donkeys.) While most people feel a twinge of fear gazing down into the Grand Canyon or at the apex of a roller coaster, someone with acrophobia may have a full blown panic attack a few steps up a ladder.


Image: uckhet


Vertigo is not another word for acrophobia. Rather, it is the sensation of movement (of the person or objects around them) when no movement has occurred. Vertigo can be triggered by looking down from a high place, which explains the confusion between the terms. For example, I'd get dizzy walking across a grate like the one below or any high place where I’m responsible for my balance. But looking out of the window of a plane? No problem. In fact, I prefer a window seat. So I experience vertigo even though I’m not acrophobic.


Image: Max Morley


In my short story, One Step Away, Darryl James' life is ruled by extreme acrophobia. This affliction started early, when he was abandoned on top of the monkeybars while his entire class, including the teacher, went inside after recess. (This actually happened to me.)


Image: David K


As an adult, things only get worse. His wife leaves him after enduring things like hanging Christmas lights herself while six months pregnant and Darryl quitting his job after a departmental transfer to the third floor.

When his acrophobia puts his son’s life in danger, Darryl seeks help from a psychiatrist. Since he has a heart condition, medication or flooding (doing something extreme like jumping out of a plane) are not viable treatments. Instead, Darryl undergoes desensitization therapy or a gradual exposure to greater and greater heights.


Image: Thomas Hawk



These days, Darryl’s psychiatrist might use virtual reality technology, but this story is set a bit too far in the past for that. To celebrate the end of his therapy, Darryl travels to a city with skyscrapers, where he’ll experience a relapse at a pivotal moment in history. To find out what happens, check out Heart Stopper and Other Stories, available at Amazon.com.



One dreams of feathers, wings of might
Yet experiences terror at a meager height.
This phobia takes every dear thing away
Then, in a brutal twist, saves a dark summer’s day.

About the author: From doling out movie popcorn to flinging smelt to penguins, Tamara Narayan’s career took the “road less traveled”. It veered off into a land of integrals and other strange things while she taught college level math, but these days she’s cruising the fiction highway. In addition to the Heart Stopper collection, her short story Scrying the Plane is in the IWSG anthology Parallels: Felix Was HereFind her at www.tamaranarayan.com.

If you'd like to explore whether you have acrophobia or not, check out this YouTube video of a guy climbing a tower over 1700 feet high. Can you watch without flinching or feeling butterflies in your stomach?




Thanks for stopping by, Tamara! Anyone else Acrophobic? I know I am. When I was a kid, I was so scared of heights that I couldn't even comfortably stand on a choir bench. Which sucked, because I was tall, so I always got put on the highest one.