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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This 'n That

This morning I asked my email provider why I can't ever access my email whenever I'm away from my home base, and there was no explanation other than maybe there's a file somewhere that's corrupt. All he can do is delete the mail box and reinstall it.

Delete. My. Mailbox.

Uhh...no.

He says I can save my emails on Microsoft or Mozilla servers, but that seems like an awful lot of trouble just to fix a glitch. And we're not really fixing the glitch, we're starting over.

***

Meanhwile I am painting a room while Greg is off being feted by his company for 35 years of service. It's a big deal to have someone work at the same place for that long. There's going to be bbq, cake and speeches. ...the wife was not invited. Humph!

That's okay. I have plenty to keep me busy. Chemical plants aren't generally open to the public because of the dangerous chemicals in use there. But I was there once when this particular plant first opened at the Texas site. It's an amazing facility. I am very proud of the work Greg does. He keeps things (and people) from going BOOM.

Along with his regular supervising job, he is also a first responder. He's the incident commander for the emergency response team. The emergency can be anything from a fire to a hurricane. I worry about him when he has to put on his first responder hat, but he's the smartest guy I know, and I feel safe knowing he's in charge. He'll move heaven and earth to make sure no one goes BOOM on his watch.

***

I'm here for a few more days and wouldn't you know it, the owner of an indie bookstore read my book, Touch Of Fire and asked me to participate in a booksigning.

Me! At a booksigning. And at one of the neatest bookstores I've ever been at.

I hope she keeps me in mind for next time. I'd love to participate.

***

Back to work for me. Email me at the gmail account if you have to reach me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Promo Ideas at Novel Spaces

No markets today. I am back at Zannini south, stripping two layers of old tiles down to bare sub floor. If there is any justice in the world there will be a big chocklit cake waiting for me when this nightmare is over.

Greg and I were on the floor with crowbar and mallet, SCRAPING old vinyl tiles one inch at a time. We'd been at it for hours, both of us muttering and groaning, wishing there was some easier way to do this when we looked at each other at the exact same moment. You could see that stupid light bulb appear over both our heads.

He did have a way to do it faster. A tool I bought him only a few months ago! A fancy German job with a pedigree and price to match.

He scrambled up to get that roto zippy thingamajig and sure enough, Skippy, it does the job just fine. By this time our hands and knees were hamburger and I told him, let's wait to finish the room tomorrow.

Anyway...while I'm nursing my wounds, let me point you to Novel Spaces, where I have another super-duper post on promoting yourself.

I get asked with some regularity to guest blog, but because of my crazy schedule I usually have to decline. But Liane Spicer of Novel Spaces was very gracious and gave me a choice of dates. I've been following Novel Spaces for some time now and they always have great content and interesting posts, all from published and established authors. I was thrilled to be included in their lineup.

Pop over and visit. And leave me a comment so I know you still love me. That's at least as good as chocklit cake--and better for my waistline.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Prudent Penny: Food Shopping

I think of all the foolish mistakes we make with our money, food shopping is the most common and most insidious because it's usually a small amount multiplied many times over.

Here are some tips to save money at the grocery store.

• Survey your fridge, freezer and pantry first. This is usually where I do my meal planning too.

• Make a list, but make it a smart list. I list my items by category: Meats, dairy, produce, etc. My items are also listed in order of my store's layout. It saves me steps because I won't have to double back for an item.

On this list, I also put a notation using a C with a circle around it to indicate I have a coupon for that item. I look for the coupon in my coupon binder and pull it out to the front. (More on coupons later.)

• Before I head out the door, I get on the internet and look up the weekly flyer for the stores I will be going to (for me, there are only two). I see if they are running any specials that coincide with my coupons and I pay particular attention to their loss leaders, those items they drop below normal to draw people into their stores.

•I also look up Red Plum, Smart Source and Coupons.com and see if they have any coupons that can be used frugally.

• At the store, the produce aisle is my first stop. During the summer I don't buy as many fruits and vegetables, but there's always something I don't grow so into the basket it goes.

• The interior of the store is where all the packaged and canned items are. This is where most people are parted from their cash.
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The real secret to saving money at the grocery store is learning to make things from scratch. I can't think of a single homemade scratch item that doesn't taste better and is healthier than the prepackaged stuff. But sometimes the cost savings isn't worth your time. This is when you have to make an executive decision on what's worth more.

I am not a baker. I can't go through the steps as seamlessly as real bakers can. I'll bake from scratch maybe a couple of times a year, but recently I've been calculating the cost difference between a store bought muffin and one made from scratch.

Holy Moley!

Greg had to revive me with smelling salts.

It's outrageous what they charge compared to what you can do at home. So I've made it my mission to practice my baking more, especially for things I love like cranberry muffins and fresh flour tortillas.

With other people it might be something like chili. Give up the canned stuff and make your own from scratch. I guarantee you, you won't go back to cans. It's yucky compared to what you can make at home.

Everybody has their crutch food, food that is easier for them to buy ready made than to make from natural ingredients. It could be spaghetti sauce, French onion soup or orange chicken. Start with one product that you normally pay high dollar for and see what it'll cost you in time and money to make from scratch. Every little bit helps.

• When you shop, check out the price per unit or ounce to see if buying bulk will give you more value. Don't be surprised if occasionally you find a product that's cheaper in the smaller size. Don't ask me why that is. It's a mystery.

• The meat department: Here's my sinful little secret. I try to hit my stores at around 9:30am. I know that's when the butchers (at my stores) start relabeling their meat to up to half off if it expires the next day. With the economy the way it is, more and more people are beating me to the punch, but I will grab every rib eye and porterhouse I find if it's on clearance.

Pork butts make the most heavenly shredded meat for fajitas or BBQ sandwiches. Cheap chicken goes to the dogs and some of it to our grill. Pot roast will bring Greg running to the table every time. The only thing I won't buy on clearance is fish. Maybe it's just my area, but I always think they are a day too late when labeling expiration dates. I like my fish very fresh.

But meat is more forgiving. And they're not selling you old meat. They just don't want to be stuck with it when it expires, that's why they mark it down. Buy as much meat as you can freeze. It will keep for several months with no detectible deterioration to taste.

Household goods: Don't waste your money on a multitude of cleansers. Buy some bleach, ammonia, baking soda and vinegar. This list will take care of most of your cleaning needs. I do buy deodorizers, dishwashing soap, and the occasional wood oil, but that's about it.

Paper towels? Invest in some good bar towels for the counter and cloth dinner napkins for the table.

Resealable plastic bags? Use generic or invest in containers.

Plastic containers? That's a tough one. I'm seeing a lot of research that seems to indicate that some plastic ware has toxic chemicals that leach with time and heat. I've slowly been switching to glass containers, using plastic only for items that will go in the freezer.

*
Coupons

Coupons are only frugal if:

• you buy that particular brand anyway
• it is used when the item is on sale
• if you can double or triple the coupon

I have to admit, I don't use a lot of coupons. I will clip them if it gives me a free product, or on the rare occasion when it's a product we normally buy. For example, Greg is rather particular about the ketchup in our house, so I specifically hunt for the brand name he prefers.

All these coupons go into my black book, a binder with plastic sleeves in it. I place however many coupons will fit on one page so I can see what I have at a glance. I sort the coupons by category.
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For example, dog food or dog cookies go on one page, tomato sauce or pasta goes on another.

If the coupon is about to expire and I know I won't buy the item, I will often leave the coupon by the item in the hopes someone else will use it.



My black book of DOOOOOOM! ---kidding.
They're just coupons....of DOOOOOOM

*

Grocery shopping is a battleground. Manufacturers will do whatever it takes to part you from your money. Go on a full stomach, with a list, but without the spouse or kids. Shop with a menu in mind. Know what you're going to fix for the week and for the month.

And my #1 shopping rule: If it's a good price (especially a loss leader), stock up. If it's something you or your family likes to eat, it will not go to waste.

Next week: Stocking up

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.
For more posts on saving money go here and here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Subtle Selling

I went to a new dentist yesterday and I was relieved and pleasantly surprised that no one in the office tried to "sell" me a treatment, pad the invoice with special toothpastes, or scold me for not flossing enough.

The last dentist I went to constantly urged me to replace my old fillings, or buy the latest gadget. I felt so harassed that if it hadn't been for the fact that I was moving anyway, I was determined not to come back.

This got me to thinking about how we 'sell' our books to the public. When I used to write ad copy, one of the most important aspects of the ad was to ASK for the sale in every pitch. We were taught that the consumer wants to be told what to do.

Now there could be some validity to that given the success of those shopping channels and infomercials. But I've always felt that subtle was more effective--and a lot less noisy.

Yes, I wanted them to buy whatever product I was pitching for the ad I designed, but instead of asking directly for the sale, I preferred to give them all the good reasons on why they should buy the product.

If I were advertising dog food, I would note the things a dog lover wants to hear. I'd tell them what nutrients it had, pictures of a clean and modern facility where the food was made, or testimonials on how much healthier other owners' dogs looked. I tried to design the ad from the consumer's point of view.

I think you can use the same technique when selling books. Zero in on the audience for your book. If you are pitching to crime readers, focus on a blurb that highlights the mystery in the story. If it's a romance, insist on a cover that represents them well.

Use review quotes. People want to know what other people thought of the story.

Use your expertise. Are you a diehard history buff? Make sure your readers know how much research went into your time travel story. I'm much more likely to pick up a book set around pyramids from someone who's actually been to the pyramids.

Invite people to visit your website or blog. People who know you, are much more likely to buy from you.

Give them a peek. Offer a (short) taste of your work. If it's in an actual ad or bookmark you probably won't have room for more than a sentence or two. Make sure they're knockouts.

We're so anxious to sell our books that we sometimes forget to be subtle. Offer the best details about your work, and let the reader decide from there if they'll buy.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free Stuff & Housekeeping

Here's another one of my frugal secrets. I haven't bought a single magazine since I moved here in October.

Through various websites, blogs and friends, I've learned to locate magazine offers that are free or nearly free. Magazines make their money off advertising revenue. Subscriptions are really the gravy. That's why you should never pay full price for a magazine subscription. Someone, somewhere has it on discount or free.

This week I found:

Food & Wine Magazine - Free subscription. It says something about a purchase, but I signed up with no problems.

Field & Stream - Free subscription

Taste of Home - Normally, I won't list anything but free stuff here, but Taste of Home is an especially good recipe magazine--certainly worth the $2 for a year's subscription. I got this magazine for free last year, but haven't seen it offered free since. If you like to cook, this is worth a try.

To sweeten the deal, Taste of Home also has 25 free downloads of past magazines. There is no purchase necessary, just download and read.

***

Housekeeping News: Missing Emails

I'm a little worried that some emails aren't reaching me. A few get through, but not as many as I usually get. And since I'm not sitting at my desk as much as normal, I don't see emails as they arrive anymore.

For the last few days I've been within earshot of my computer and I heard that email 'beep' go off several times, yet when I came to check, there were no messages.

Weird.

I checked my spam folder. Nothing.

I checked for unread emails. Nothing recent.

Could I have been hearing things. :shrugs:

If you sent me an email in the past month that should have deserved an answer and didn't get one, contact me again through my gmail account. (that's the one on this blog's profile page)

I really hope they're not simply vanishing. Since I'm on this new computer there are still some strange anomalies that I haven't gotten used to yet. But I don't want people to think I'm ignoring them. I always answer my email.

***

One last note: The post, Prudent Penny: Saving Money did cause a bit of a stir and received a lot of hits but few comments. One person who commented, did so anonymously. He didn't say anything inappropriate, but I must insist that if you post, you must sign your name (or blog moniker).

We're all blogger friends here. If you have an opinion I want to hear it, but please let me know who you are first, otherwise it comes off as a drive by shooting. Thanks!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Markets

The Way of the Wizard

One-time print anthology by Prime Books. Your story should be about a wizard, witch, sorcerer, sorceress or any user of magic. Stories should be no longer than 5,000 words

Pay: 5 cents per word plus 50% of earnings plus contributor copy.

Deadline: 31st March 2010

***

Harlequin Presents Contest

To enter, submit by e-mail a Microsoft Word file of a typed, double spaced, first chapter (no greater than 5,000 words) of a story you have written which is suitable for the Harlequin Presents or Modern Heat series, and a synopsis (no greater than two pages in length, double-spaced) of the complete novel.

Deadline: November 2nd, 2009.

Prizes:
1st – winner will be awarded the services of a Harlequin Mills & Boon editor for one year [1st December 2009 - 30th November 2010], who will offer advice and guidance on contest entry, plus subsequent, previously mutually agreed submissions of partial or full manuscripts aimed at Harlequin Presents or the Modern Heat series.

2nd – consultations for two runners-up on their first chapter and synopsis aimed at Harlequin Presents or the Modern Heat series (5,000 words) with a Harlequin Mills & Boon editor.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'm Suffering For My Art

I've been writing again. It's a novel I was going to send to an e-publisher because the word count was on the light side, but then I started reading some of the comments from the people who had critted it and I thought, whoa, I think this deserves to be a full sized novel.

I'm very inspired anyway. I really like this story, especially the world building. Like Touch Of Fire, it was fun to write. And I need some fun in my life.

Why?

Because the physical act of writing is so very, very painful.

I can't sit for more than a few minutes due to an injury. And I can't stand for very long due to another injury.

You're seeing a pattern here, aren't you? LOL.

Every doctor I've been to told me I had to rest both affected areas. Nothing they tried could alleviate the bursitis, and the knee injury is not serious enough to warrant surgery.

Rest, they said. Agh!

Greg will tell you that I can't simply 'rest'. My idea of relaxing is working. If I'm not working, I'm not happy. So what do I do?

Since traditional medicine hasn't helped me, I've turned to homeopathic remedies. I'll let you know in a few weeks which ones I've tried and which (if any) have worked. In the meantime I've really been in a mood to write. I'm also working on a review for a crit partner. Both require a great deal of sitting.

So far, I've tried sitting on my balance ball. That helps for ten minutes.

I've tried standing. Another ten minutes.

And I've tried writing from bed. That usually gives me thirty minutes before I have to get up and move around.

I've envisioned a complicated contraption where I would lie on a very narrow massage table, my face in that face hugger thing they use and my laptop beneath me.

My other option is buying voice recognition software. It's a little pricey and I really don't want to spend that kind of money for something that may or may not work for me. I've been checking out ebay every so often to see what's out there.

So here I am. Burning to write--with no wick in my candle.

Hmm…did that come out right?

Hope your candles are burning bright.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Prudent Penny: Saving Money, Part One

What follows is MY strategy for saving money. Your mileage may vary.

***

The state of our financial fallout in the US is due to one part government meddling, one part corporate meddling and one part personal irresponsibility.

You can't do anything about the idiotic decisions the government or corporations make, but you can do something about your own spending habits.

Before I go into how to save money you must do two things first.

• Stop depending on the government to bail you out.

• Stop making excuses on why you can't save money.

If you don't do these two things, nothing I tell you will help.

Let me preface this also with one certifiable piece of information. When we started out, we had low paying jobs, a mortgage and credit card bills. Sound familiar?

Within nine months of marriage, we moved for Greg's job. (Hello Texas!) I lost my job, but Greg's job became more lucrative. We bought a house and I got another low paying job that I loved very much.

Within two years we paid off every credit card and never again in the past 34 years have we ever carried a balance.

Within ten years, we paid off our first house, five years early. Within one year of paying off the house we also saved $20,000 for a new house we had our eye on. A house with land. We did that by living on my meager paycheck, socking away Greg's check, and living BELOW our means.

Important rule #1: Just because you have the money, doesn't mean you have to spend it.

I am not sympathetic to people who say they can't save. We had almost nothing. I bought bedroom furniture with my life savings the day after our honeymoon. Probably not the most intelligent use of our money, but the suite did last us 25 years before we sold it in a garage sale.

In 1975, we had pitifully paying jobs. We were young, inexperienced and had no equity. Within two years we turned it all around. I will not kid you. That first year on our own in Texas could have been a marriage killer. We lived from hand to mouth that whole first year. Never once did we ask for assistance from the government, our family or our friends. Not once.

Here is what we did to get out of debt and save money. Bear in mind that none of this is sacrificial. If you think it is, then you're not serious about saving money. Sacrifice means not eating and not having a roof over your head. Anything else is gravy.

How to save:

First and foremost, make a goal for yourself. For us, we really wanted a home in the country. In 1984, we planned to save $20K cash, in addition to paying off our first house. We did this by paying attention to every expense.

The first thing we did was pay off our debts.

All the experts tell you this, but very few spell it out. I will tell you in plain words.

Make a list of all your expenses. I mean ALL. Everything you write a check for, pay by credit, or cash. Every coffee, every tip, every piece of change you throw into a charity bin. Count every incidental for one full month. This will give you a snapshot of what your normal expenses are.

Break down your yearly expenses by the month. Count: Mortgage or rent, auto, home medical and life insurance, real estate taxes, clothing, food, utilities, phone service, internet service, cable, prescriptions, subscriptions, meals out, snacks out, entertainment, child care, vet care, school, clothing, trinkets, toys.

You should have a fairly long list. Now go through it with a yellow highlighter and mark off the ones that are nonnegotiable, like rent, mortgage, and taxes.

With a pink highlighter go through your list and mark off the ones that can be modified, like food, phone, education, or internet.

With a blue highlighter mark off the ones that are not life-necessary, like clothing, subscriptions, dining out and gifts.

*

Rewrite your list and place the yellow highlighted items at the top. Add up those costs. Your paycheck should cover these costs without difficulty. If it can't, you are in more serious trouble and need to reassess your finances fast.

Can't pay the mortgage?

Sell if you can, and look for a smaller place. Refinance if you still have good credit. Share a home and expenses. See if it's practical for the spouse to go to work. Sometimes it isn't. You can spend more on commute, wardrobe, lunches and child care than what the extra income will rake in.

There are ALWAYS options. It just may not be the options you like. I guarantee you, if there was a chance I could lose my home, I would work at McDonald's if I had to. My pride is not so delicate that I wouldn't do whatever it took to keep my family solvent. There is no such thing as work that's beneath you--not if it's honest work.

Our first home was so modest it cost less than the down payment that we put on our current house. It was an old sea captain's home, built in 1901. I loved that place. Back then old homes were given away, which was good because we couldn’t afford much, but it also helped us build equity and our credit rating. Both good things.

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Place your pink highlighted items next. Call your phone and internet provider and see if they can offer you a better package. Cell phone? You'd be surprised what they'll be willing to offer you if they think you'd leave them for someone else.

Food is a subject all to itself. We'll discuss this in a future post, but start thinking on ways to cut costs. Hint: The more you make from scratch, the cheaper your meals.

*

Next, go through your blue highlighted items. Does your kid really need the newest Wii toy? Will you be a social disgrace without a new outfit? Probably not.

If you or your significant other is a little weak when it comes to saving, wean into it gradually. Instead of eating out four times a week, eat out twice. Instead of buying an entire outfit, buy the shoes.

Make it a challenge. For example: How long can you brown bag it without feeling deprived? How long can you go without buying a new gadget or toy? For more on this, see my post on the No Buy Challenge.

Your blue list is the cull list. This is where you'll find your savings. Go through it ruthlessly.

How often do you watch cable tv? Be honest. If you're constantly switching stations, maybe that $60 to $120 a month isn't as good a deal as you think. A lot of shows can be watched on Hulu and movie rentals are free at the library, or $1 at the Red Box kiosk in places like Walmart.

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We are creatures of habit and mimicry. Just because the neighbor has a new car doesn't mean I have to have one. Think before you buy and ask yourself this question: Do I need it? If the answer is no, it's not important to buy it now. Buy it in a year when your finances are better. I'm willing to bet, it won't mean much to you by then.

Living BELOW your means having enough for your future.

I think the most fun we ever had was when we were poor. We did things back then. We walked, we explored the city, we spent hours at the library, museums and zoo. We enjoyed each other's company.

But our savings really started to jump when we started living on only one paycheck, my much smaller paycheck. I was making $12,000 a year back then-- only $1000 shy of the poverty level. But we paid our mortgage, remodeled our home, ate well, and raised five dogs, all on my pittance of a salary.

In the meantime we saved every penny of Greg's check, some going to our house fund and the rest going to the emergency fund. It put us way over our goal of raising 20K in cash and paying off our mortgage early.

By the way, we did this twice. We applied the same methods on the second home to buy the third home. Same principle, different decade and dollar amount.

If you live in a household with only one breadwinner, you can still save money, though it will require more diligence and more time. But a house with two incomes? I promise you, you can live on a lot less than you think you can, without government assistance and without starving.

Next week, we'll talk about saving money on food, perhaps the largest expenditure for most of us.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

For more posts on saving money go here and here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Here's Spud In Your Eye

Nothing tastes better than new potatoes freshly dug out of the ground. Had we not been so ravenous, I probably would have had pictures of the finished product, but instead you'll have to be content with the pre-harvest pictures.


Look at all those pretty eyes. I try not to be chintzy when it comes to leaving enough meat for each eye, but I have heard of people eating the meat of the potato and saving just enough to grow the eye.
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I might try that next year and see if it makes any difference.

This is a picture of how we grew the potatoes this year. In the past we used potato boxes, gradually layering a new (bottomless) box over the old one so the potatoes would keep sending out shoots.


This year because we were so rushed, we used heavy duty weed-choking fabric, doubled in half, and nailed to posts.

I would have called it a success because the fabric remained nearly pristine during the entire growing season, but no sooner did I harvest my potatoes than the fabric began to disintegrate. Too bad. I really wanted to use it again next year.

I think we put the fabric fence up too late in the season. By the time we remembered to put it up, the plants were already too high. You have to add more dirt (we used peat moss) as the plant grows.

We still have our old potato boxes at Zannini south. I'll try to remember to bring them next spring.

Despite the lower yields, our spuds were delicious. There's nothing like fresh off the vine potatoes. You don't even need butter.

Has anyone else tried growing potatoes this year? How were your results?

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

For more posts on homesteading and permaculture go here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Being Published

Perhaps one of the most interesting things that has happened to me since being published is that I get a lot more respect from agents, editors and other published authors.

Yes, I still get the occasional brush off from 'big' NY published authors, but these boors are few and far between. For the most part, I am treated exceptionally well by nearly every publishing professional I've ever contacted, whether it's for a submission, an interview, or simply to ask a question.

I noticed this most recently when I started querying agents this month. I'm getting requests for manuscripts which is always nice. But it's the two rejections I got last week that really made me take notice.

They weren't form letters or surly remarks, but real letters with actual opinions on the story and justified reasons on why they didn't offer representation. I feel truly grateful that these very busy people took the time to provide feedback.

I know that's not normally the case, and I got to wondering why I'm given such good treatment. I think the only thing that's changed since the last time I sent queries is that I got published.

It was a small press, but it's a respectable company. I'm a relatively new writer, and my credentials show that I take this profession very seriously. I'm an editor, a freelance writer and a conscientious reader and reviewer.

My query letters are usually pretty strong, thanks in no small part to all the copywriting I did in my early years. I don't revise a lot, and when I ask for critiques by people I trust, I scrutinize every word.

There are a couple of rules I give myself when I write a query.

• I never give the same query to the same person more than once. I want to know how it reads to an agent or editor, so I need an untainted perspective. If you already know the story it makes it that much harder to give an honest appraisal.

• I make every word count. If it doesn't deal directly with the point of the story, it doesn’t go in.

But mostly, I think pub credits have given me more credibility as a whole. While there are still plenty of writer snobs, the agents and editors in the field are far more broadminded and cognizant of what entitles someone to a true publishing credit. They see beyond the borders of New York and mine their gems in places where authors have already proven their salt.

I really like the place I'm in. Small press has given me the experience and the time I needed to mature and learn the ropes of this industry. And it's made me feel safe in the bosom of veterans and peers. I couldn't have asked for a better education.

--oh, and they pay me too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Markets

Travelers Tales

Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures and other books such as The Thong Also Rises and More Sand in My Bra have been huge hits. We're always looking for hilarious, outrageous misadventures for future books, so send us your stories.

Deadline for submission: OPEN

Payment: $100

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You'll notice a beguiling little cover to the right (More Sand in My Bra) where yours truly was published. Travelers's Tales were very easy to work with and paid promptly. A big thumbs up.

PS If you love me, you'll have already ordered both my books and squeed about them to all your friends. I was thrilled to see that my print royalties for Touch Of Fire are now coming from the UK too. You rock, UK! Thanks!

***

The Way of the Wizard Anthology

(a) The story should be about a wizard, witch, sorcerer, sorceress, of some kind (basically, any sort of user of magic).
(b) The fact that the story has wizards in it should be vital to the story, i.e., magic should be an important factor in the resolution of the plot.
(c) The wizards should be literal, in that they do actual magic, not like a pinball wizard or something like that.
(d) I’m interested in all types of wizard tales, but am especially interested in seeing some stories that explore the idea of wizardry from a non-traditional viewpoint–i.e., something based on the Chilean Kalku or on the supernatural practices of other cultures.
(e) The story may be set in a secondary world, the real world, the present, or in a historical time period…let your imagination run wild.

Genres: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror. Obviously wizard stories tend to be fantasy, but some sort of SFnal take on the theme would be acceptable.

Reprints/Originals: Original fiction strongly preferred. The anthology will include some reprints, but I will be very selective in my choices given I have all of sf/fantasy history to choose from.

Payment: 5 cents per word ($250 max), plus a pro-rata share of 50% of the anthology’s earnings and 1 contributor copy.

Word limit: 5000 words. (Stories may exceed 5000 words, but $250 is the maximum payment per story, and stories 5000 words or less are strongly preferred.)

Rights: First world English rights, non-exclusive world anthology rights, and non-exclusive audio anthology rights. See my boilerplate author-anthologist contract, which spells out the rights in detail.

Reading Period: July 1, 2009 – March 31, 2010.

Response Time: I will be making all of my final decisions in April and May 2010, so if you submit early, your story might be held for consideration for a long time. Most rejections will be sent out quickly, however, so I’ll only hold onto a story if I’m seriously considering it, and if that happens, I’ll notify you.

Publication date: November 2010

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time To Unwind

It was a very long week at Zannini south, but I feel I got a goodly amount done. The trip back seemed endless. It rained all 300 miles. I didn't mind the rain in north Texas, we really needed it, but I wish it could have waited until I was safely home.

5 hours of driving + steady rain + cooped up dogs + full bladders = Loooong Trip

Glad I'm home. It will be so nice when we both get to live in the SAME house like normal people.

***

I haven't been posting lately, but I have been keeping up with the news. Quartet Press closed suddenly and unexpectedly. The explanation was a little veiled which led to all sorts of speculation.

To be honest, since the public hasn't invested in QP yet, the public isn't owed an explanation, but the authors who signed on, the cover artists, the editors, and the admin staff is owed an explanation--a thorough and unvarnished explanation. I hope they got one.

***

Blogging is still my favorite way to interact with everyone. Now that I live in the middle of nowhere it's more important to me than ever before. I don't go on Twitter anymore. I'd like to, but it takes too much time and I can't keep up with all the conversations.

Do you Twitter? Is it worth it to you or has it become a time drain? Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Packrat Recovery Program

I'm not a neat freak, but I am an organized person. This week I am at Zannini south, battling the master bedroom into some semblance of order. Every time I come here I have to drink heavily.

Okay, I'm kidding, but drinking alcohol would probably help the situation. Greg and I have different ideas on tidiness.

Despite his inner pack-rattedness, he consented to going through the closet and throwing out clothes he no longer likes, uses or can wear.

My dearheart saves everything! It was like taking a stroll through the last three and half decades.

Some of the things we found were hilarious. Tie-dyed shirts, baggy pants, and all the memories they conjured. I found some of my fashion faux pas too. Velvet leggings, tube tops and some pretty scandalous lingerie. (I think we're keeping the lingerie.)

We are keeping a couple of graphic tees that remind of us of who we were back when. There's a 'dirt shirt' we got who knows where, dyed with the red oxide of the hills there. And dog shirts with the mugs of the various dogs we've owned.

He was VERY good about getting rid of the wardrobe he no longer wears. I can actually see wall space in the closet now. Of course, that's only one closet. We have two. But I didn't have the strength to tackle two in one day.

I think if I can clean this room out to bare walls before I have to leave, I should be able to paint on my next visit. It'll be a big load off my mind when that gets done. This room has been needing attention for a long time.

I don't blame Greg for keeping his stuff. All of us become attached to something from our past, but I do think it should at least be organized and useful to someone. What good does it do you if you box it up and put it in storage, only to resurface for relatives so they can pick through your things after you're dead? I want to enjoy my keepsakes now, while I'm still kicking.

For example, if you have a favorite shirt, even if it no longer fits, you can still turn it into a throw pillow. The wife of a friend of ours took all his 'motorcycle' t-shirts and turned it into a quilt. I thought that was a neat idea. Functional and practical. I've also seen really worn clothing torn into strips and knotted into soft bathroom rugs.

We've framed shirts too. When Greg flew his solo flight, it's tradition for the instructor (and friends) to rip whatever shirt the pilot is wearing and write the date of the solo, the airport and the instructor's name. I took that scrap of t-shirt and put it under a frame. It made for a very nice keepsake.

Much as I enjoyed all the memories these old clothes ressurected, I'm glad to have the space back.

Who's the packrat in your family?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Round-up

No markets today. It's Labor Day in the US and I am off to see hubby and giant dog.

My niece called me the other day. She said: 'You are so lucky that all the dogs you've ever had were really nice dogs.' I laughed. That's not luck, darlin', that's training.

We've had some willful dogs in our day (Iko being one of them) but not a single bad dog. We understand the pack mentality all too well and that's our secret for raising good dogs. :o)

People are always astonished at how sweet and docile our dogs are, especially the rottweilers. Please don't believe all the media hype about rotties. These are the sweetest, most loving dogs you'll ever meet. If you meet a bad one, I'm willing to lay odds it's due to his human owner.

***

I'm still in a lot of pain. I can't get comfortable regardless whether I stand, sit, or lay down. I won't lie. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. And then I caught a story about a quadraplegic with Lou Gehrig's disease. That ended my pity party. The pain still makes me cranky, but I'm not going to let it stop me. Since traditional medicine hasn't been much help, I'm looking into homeopathic therapies. I refuse to let this take over my life.

***

I harvested my soybeans yesterday. I didn't plant a lot, since it was just an experiment. I will plant a lot more next year and try to space them two weeks apart so I won't have to shell them all in one go. I love edamame. It is easy to grow, and soy is good medicine for man or beast.

Speaking of gardening, please be careful if you use Milestone herbicide or get your compost from an unknown source. Apparently a lot of gardens in the UK were affected and some here too. Hay, manure and compost were contaminated with this herbicide and turned it into killer compost. Here's the article from Mother Earth News that tells the whole story.

I was about to buy compost this year, but my nursery person warned me not to. She had bought a ton of it from a reputable dealer. It looked gorgeous, deep brown and rich, but EVERY plant she put in using this compost either died or stayed the same size as when she planted it.

You can't even trust organic material any more! We're on our own.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Free Stuff w/ a Dash of Oy!

Oy! Mr. or Ms. Author, the fastest way to lose me as a reader is to spew your political agenda as unimpeachable fact. People are allowed to have a different opinion from yours--no matter how many books you sold last year.

You want change? Please don't bully me. I still have the power NOT to buy your books.

***

On to more important stuff!

Harlequin has done it again. Free books. Harlequin is giving away 16 free downloads in various romance sub genres in celebration of its 60th anniversary. No sign up necessary.

***

Walmart is giving away a free sample of Zyrtec. I haven't tried this allergy medicine yet, but Greg swears by it, and he is a veteran of sinus headaches. Click on the tab that says: Zyrtec 10mg Tablets and it will refresh with a radio button that says: Get a free sample.

***
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Newsy Stuff

Thanks for all the comments and lovely emails. I'm doing better, but if I were to listen to doctors' advice, I should be hanging up my keyboard, and I'm not quite ready to do that yet.

Suffice it to say that I will try to limit my computer time and hope that will be enough to control the pain. I'm also going to try to write from bed more often. Ironically, it's not a very comfortable position, but it's an option.

So what's been happening while I've been offline? I know Marian Perera just signed a contract with Samhain. Woot, Marian!

Marian writes excellent blog posts so I'm looking forward to reading her fiction.

Diane Craver just released Whitney In Charge.

My gardening buddy and sick-dog sounding board, Marianne Arkins is in full home-schooling swing. Just the thought of home-schooling terrifies the heck out of me. The woman must be made of iron will and spit. LOL!

My friend Rochita Loenen-Ruiz just got back from Clarion. I still can't get the green out of my eyes. Clarion is like the holy grail of workshops.

My crit partners Mike Keyton and Dorothy have both turned in their manuscripts for review and I'm looking forward to reading both. My red pen is ready to roll. Since I've been reading so much, I feel like I've sharpened my perception for good fiction.

And the last I heard from KS Augustin and Shelley Munro, they were on vacations in beautiful and exotic locations. --Le sigh.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. You guys have been busy!

Me? I've been putting the summer garden to bed. More on that in a later post, but it looks like the tomatoes and edamame were my best producers. This was my first year growing soybeans and I couldn't believe how easy they were to grow.

Books: I've been reading a lot. Some were winners, others were okay, but not necessarily keepers. The most interesting thing I noticed is that the editing quality between small press and NY pubbed was almost always the same. The big mass market books generally had a little more complexity to the plot than many of the small press books, but it didn't necessarily make them better. Sometimes it just made them clunky.

Out of seven books, three were small press, four were mass market. The only two I truly disliked were both NY pubbed. On the other hand, the two I liked the best were also NY pubbed.

Writing: Since I couldn't be on a computer, I limited my writing to a few handwritten notes for plot development ideas.

Fall Garden: I bought a few fruit trees and will buy more in the spring. These few looked terrific though and I wanted to put them in while we still had warm weather. I started some brussel sprouts and bok choy. Hopefully, I'll have enough sun left to bring them to the table.

And I was surprised with a secret crop of basil. I had an old pot with dirt in it sitting next to one of my basil plants. The little rascal seeded itself and now I have basil growing everywhere.

Dogs: Iko is still a ball of fire and up to 40 pounds of tornado. Tank is ever the patient saint who puts up with Iko's rough housing until it gets too much, then he nips the little heathen just hard enough to remind him who's the bigger dog. Right now Tank is off with Greg in SE Texas and his little shadow is missing him terribly. They'll see each other soon enough.

So what's new with you? I need some news from the outside world.