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Monday, November 30, 2009

Movie Review: Inkheart

Inkheart: We bought this movie without knowing anything about it. But I like Brendan Fraser, and I like the concept.

Mo (Fraser) is a 'silver tongue', and when he reads aloud, he can transport the characters and elements out of books into our world.

We were delighted to find Paul Bettany in the movie. Bettany is superb in anything he plays. And Helen Mirren as the eccentric old aunt was equally as charming.

I'd heard this movie got mixed reviews, but since I speak to so many writers and readers on this blog, let me assure you, YOU would not only understand the film, but like it as well. It's about books, about how they come to life, and about the writer and how we imagine our characters and our worlds.

I can heartily recommend this movie to any writer or lover of books. Don't forget to watch the bonus feature called "Eliza Reads to Us". It's the final passage of the actual book where it tells you what happened to all the characters.

If I had any regrets, I felt it was too short. There were so many other books I wish they had explored, and I would have loved to have seen more back story to the main characters. You could tell that the eccentric aunt (Mirren) had led a most interesting life, and the fire juggler (Bettany) had a lot more underneath his character than what was shown.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What DUNE Taught Me

We tend to pick up dvds about this time of year. They're usually at the best price all year and there's a bigger variety out too.

One of our recent buys was DUNE, the film treatment for Frank Herbert's book. Being hard core sci-fi types, it was a hard movie to like. When it captured the book's original flavor, it was great, but when it tried to cram the epic within a neat time frame, it failed big-time.

I think Greg and I read this series back in the 70s, and even today we can recite entire passages, so the movie was a visual vehicle for what we already knew. But I would imagine huge chunks of the movie would be nonsensical to someone who had not read the books.

It's a shame. Epics on the whole are very hard to capture on film. It's even worse when it's a Dino de Laurentis production. I never saw a film maker so intent on overworking a movie. I think he's gotten less heavy-handed in later years, but I still cringe when I see his name on the credits. I expect it to be an elephant in toe shoes.

The part I hated the most was that the characters' thoughts were dubbed into the movie. It's intrusive at best, and peppered throughout the entire movie, it becomes mind-numbingly tedious.

But it brings to mind that this is the way the book was written. It was set in an omniscient pov, the standard narrative for a book of that era.

This explains why I was so confused when I first started writing fiction. Few people write omni anymore--let alone do it well. Yet, this is what I grew up with, and what I enjoyed. To write differently seemed almost sacrilegious. But as I expanded my array of reading, I realized that omni was not just "dated", but lacking.

Tight 3rd pov is much more engaging and exciting. It's the tickle of not knowing what every person is thinking that keeps the suspense rising as well as the interest. It was my epiphany as a reader and a writer. And I owe it all to Dune, the book and the movie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey Day Stressors

It's the day before Thanksgiving and not only has my clothes dryer died, but the keypad to both my ovens are not responding.

The dining chairs I have been waiting to go on sale ALL year have gone down to an incredible steal--but only for one day--Thanksgiving. Who opens their stores on Thanksgiving!

And finally, Greg tells me we must go shopping for a home entertainment system. I had promised him and now he calling in my note. [Maria looks up to heaven and asks, why now.]

Am I stressed?

Well, maybe the ovens have me a little concerned.

-I can line dry until I get my dryer.
-Greg can order his entertainment system online.
-And I know he will be a dear and buy my chairs on his own, while I tend hearth and home.

But the ovens... If push comes to shove, we might have to barbeque our turkey this year. LOL.

Maria, always with a backup plan.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cooks Don't Stuff Themselves

I'm always surprised by (mostly) men who always wish me a Happy Thanksgiving with the added phrase, "Don't stuff yourself".

Speak for yourself.

Any woman (or man) who has cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal all by his lonesome is too TIRED to eat by the time the food is laid out and picture perfect.

I nibble on this or that--mostly the side dishes, but I save my feasting for the weekend to truly enjoy my labor.

It's a lot of work! Am I not right, fellow holiday cooks?

Not that the menfolk don't help, but for the most part Thanksgiving meals are by and large cooked by the women in the family. Greg, who always appreciates how hard I worked at putting together this feast has always washed dishes by hand and put up the leftovers. It's a tradition in our family now. And that's a perfect trade off for me.

By the time the bird, the side dishes and the desserts are made, all I want to do is put my feet up. I don't want to look at food, much less eat it.

My joy is in presenting something extra special for my family and friends. Once my part is over, I want people to eat as much as they want at my table. It doesn't bother me in the least that I'm too tired to eat. This is my gift to my guests.

I'm thankful they cared enough to spend the holiday with me. I'm thankful we have enough to share. --And if they want to thank me, they can clear the table.

I'll feast later--after I've recuperated.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Prudent Penny: Black Friday Deals & Decisions

We're counting down to the great holiday buying dash that is Black Friday.

Black Friday, for those of you who don't know, is the day retailers pull all the stops to get you into their stores. In the US, it always occurs the day after (US) Thanksgiving, which of course is always a Friday.

I thought they called it Black Friday because it's the one day retailers should be in the black despite any ill economic forecasts, which is true. But according to Wikipedia, the first modern use of the phrase appeared in 1966 to describe the traffic conditions on the day after Thanksgiving with all the shoppers out and about.

Originally, it was used to mark the 1869 stock market crash.

The vet I used to work for told me that's what he calls his wedding anniversary--but I'm sure he was kidding. ;o)

I don't shop on Black Friday. There is simply nothing I want so badly that I would be willing to risk life and limb among the hordes of rabid shoppers. They won't let me bring my sword and crossbow to the battle anymore--so I ain't going. It's dangerous out there.

We tried years ago and picked only one store--Best Buy. Worst. Mistake. Ever. People were parking on the sidewalks, on the grass and even along the highway. It was madness! Somehow we lucked out and found a spot just as someone was leaving, but it was shoulder to shoulder with every other shopper--and I'm short! There's no air down there for me.

We left disgusted. The one thing we came for had already been sold out. Mind you, the store had been opened only ten minutes by then.

We swore, never again.

So now I watch the crowds on the news, eat turkey sandwiches and pecan pie then curl up on the couch with Greg.

But if you are the diehard type, allow me to make it worth your while.

I found this site that lists all the major retailers who will have big sales on Black Friday. If you absolutely must shop, scan these flyers for potential deals.

If you must go out on Friday, here are some tips for saner shopping.

• Eat before you go out. You don't know if and when you'll have time for a bite. Restaurants are crazy too. Those hordes of locusts have to replenish themselves after they empty all those store shelves.

• Study your flyers and make a strict list. Buy only what you need. The retailers are trying to separate you from your money and will use any means to do it. Think with your head and not your emotions.

• If it's an item you must have and you can muscle your way in, shop EARLY. I mean it. Get there before the store opens and stand in line. You can't be everywhere at once so decide which item is worth most. Then work your way down the list of stores and hope your other items haven't sold out.

• Work as a team. Grab husbands, sisters, older children, and your crazy Aunt Tilly and assign everyone to a location so you can expand your reach and find things more quickly. Make sure your cell phones are charged so you can check in with each other.

• Leave little kids at home, please. Not only is it no fun for them, but it's a prime way to lose them or get them snatched. Leave them at home and keep them safe.

• When it's all over, go out to a nice restaurant far, far away from the retail center. Collapse into your chair and toast yourself for a job well done.

Cheers! My sofa and I salute you.

More Prudent Penny posts.

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Swami Maria on Harlequin Horizons

I've been reading with interest as the Harlequin saga unfolded and I even discussed it with a few of my online friends, but mostly I'm sitting back with my popcorn and Milk Duds to see how this plays out.

While everyone is demonizing Harlequin, it's quite possible that it's a logical and lucrative move.

What?! Are you crazy Swami Maria?

Well, that's always possible, but let me finish.

Do I think Harlequin creating a vanity press is unethical?

Yeah, I do. But only when they were going to name the subsidiary Harlequin Horizons. The name Harlequin implies a respectable company. Publishing virgins and those desperate to see their names in print aren't going to care that it's self-publishing, they've got that Harlequin pennant to hang on to. They can squee to all their friends that they were published by Harlequin Horizons.

Do I think it's going to hurt their brand?

Nope. The average Harlequin reader is not a writer. They don't know squat about self publishing or why it's a stigma. And they don't care. They're never going to see a Harlequin Horizons book (or whatever they end up calling it) unless a family member shoves it at them.

It matters to us, but we're not the majority of the readership.

But Swami Maria, why is this a logical move on Harlequin's part?


Because it makes them MONEY. I've been studying Harlequin's business moves for several years and they've been alarmingly intuitive about where the industry has been headed. Most notably, they were the first major publisher to embrace digital. Now all the other big houses are playing catch up.

Do I like this business model?


Absolutely not. It sucks.

Money flows to the author. We were weaned on this. It was hammered into our heads. Money flows to the author.

Yet all it takes is one giant company to make one tiny move and that philosophy falls by the wayside.

This is one business model I hope does not work. But knowing human nature as I do, I have a feeling I'm clinging to false hope. Not only will it will work, I'm afraid it will become especially lucrative. There are just too many people out there with a "book idea". Frustrated with the traditional route, they just as soon pay for the privilege and hope for the best.

Harlequin wouldn't have gone this route if there wasn't a demand for it. And I will bet dollars to donuts, they're not the only ones with this plan on their drawing boards.

To add insult to injury, it's been reported that Thomas Nelson of WestBow Press offered a finder's fee to agents who refer new authors to his company. While most agents seem appalled with the advent of major players owning vanity presses, I've no doubt some will be lured to the dark side by way of kickbacks for services rendered. How many take their thirty pieces of silver is yet to be ascertained.

Take a look around. Self publishing companies haven't dwindled despite all the education and advice we give newbies. On the contrary, they're growing, and now the big boys want to play too.

How do you stop an entire population of wannabe authors?

Giving Thanks to Our Troops

My friend, Melina sent me this. If you go to this web site, and pick out a card, Xerox will print it and send it to a soldier serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.

Whether you know anyone serving out there or not, wouldn't it be nice to let them know you're thinking of them?

It only takes a few seconds. Tell our kids over there how grateful you are.

Please pass this link around and let's send them a bunch of cards!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prepping For Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving (US) dinner coming up soon, it's time to plan ahead. This year I'd like to have company for dinner, so I'll have to make sure everything is perfect.

Turkey: Have you checked the prices at Wal Mart lately? They were selling turkeys for 33 cents a pound. I bought two good sized birds and I'm trying to make room in my freezer for another one. I usually spend 60 cents a pound for chicken thighs and legs when I cook for the dogs. 33 cents is a whole lot better than 60. I can chop off the legs for Greg (which is a treat for him) and cook the rest for the dogs.

Don't forget that most stores will start dropping prices on key ingredients the week of Thanksgiving. STOCK UP. You won't see that value again on that many items for the rest of the year. They drop some prices down around Christmas, but around here, Thanksgiving is the best time of the year for food value.

The best values I've seen this week was on chicken broth, canned vegetables and nuts. Every store is different, so it pays to browse their flyers and see what their loss leaders are. If you're in the vicinity, stop in and stock up.


What am I doing to prepare for company?

• Deep clean my house five days before company comes. That means windows, bathrooms, ovens and spare bedrooms.

• Put the frozen bird in the fridge four days before roasting.

• The day before Gobble Day, marinate the bird in salt water for at least six hours.

• Start saving my leftover bread pieces and add it to a pan of cornbread that has been cubed and frozen.

• Side dishes: This year, I'm having mashed potatoes, asparagus, herbed cauliflower, and baby peas and pearl onions. I will wait until the day before to get fresh asparagus, but peas I buy frozen, and the potatoes and cauliflower I can buy ahead.

• Salads: Salads are my specialty, but since I will have a lot to do that day, I will rely on already prepared salad greens with which I can add cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber, carrots and feta and then toss with a special dressing.

• Desserts: I get a reprieve! I'm having my guests bring a desert each. I will have Blue Bell vanilla bean ice cream as an accompaniment though.

Speaking of guests, don't be afraid to ask them to do something or help with the vittles. I don't know of anyone who wouldn't want to chip in where they can.

Our last summer party was so hectic, I didn't get a chance to visit with any one person for very long. For this dinner, I want to be able to talk to my guests and enjoy my dinner.

What do you do to prep for a big day? Any tips?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Arthritis, Raisins and Gin

I came down with arthritis in my hands only recently. Greg has had to deal with it even longer. We regularly take anti-inflammatory meds to help ease the pain.

Take note lil' children. I was once like you. Nothing stopped me. But the body wears down and the more brutal you were to it during your youth, the more vengeful it becomes as you age. Bodies are mean like that. They're vindictive. And I was a very bad girl in my youth. There was nothing I wouldn't try, even if I got injured. Pain is temporary, right?

Uh...no. LOL.

Greg always relied on pain meds and anti-inflammatories, but I am so leery of drugs. I avoid them as much as possible--much to the consternation of my doctor. I would rather live with the pain than subject myself to a lot of foreign chemicals. But sometimes it's too much, and I'll cry Uncle and take the drugs.

Given this history, I put myself on the hunt for alternatives for arthritis relief. There are a lot out there, but in order to make this scientific I need to take only one remedy at a time to see if it helps, so it is a slow process.

I started with the drunk raisin remedy. It's an old standby that seems to have a lot of supporters. I put Greg on it a week after I started. Here are our findings.

Although some fans say that their arthritis disappeared after six weeks, ours only lessened. But it lessened to the point that now I can open a door or make a fist. I couldn't do that two months ago.

So it DOES work. It wasn't a complete recovery, but it provides enough relief that we'd be happy to continue it.

According to everything I found on the internet, you need to take NINE drunk raisins a day. I have not found anywhere why it has to be nine. I mean...some raisins are smaller or bigger than others, so why nine? But nine is the accepted holy number.

Gin: We used Bombay Sapphire which is what Greg had in the house. I got in trouble later because evidently this is "special" gin, the kind Richard Marcinko drank all throughout his Rogue Warrior series.

What the heck? It's gin.

But not all gin is created equal. For this remedy to work it MUST be made with real juniper berries. Supposedly, this is the ingredient that reacts to the sulfites in golden raisins.

Golden Raisins: I have read one report where they used regular raisins, but in my research, nearly everyone used golden raisins.

Do NOT use this remedy if you are sensitive to sulfites or suffer migraines.

Fermenting: Put the whole box of raisins in a bowl. Cover with gin. You want every raisin to touch the gin. Cover with cheesecloth.

Leave for a week or so until the gin has soaked into the raisins. Once the raisins are plump with the gin, store covered with a lid or plastic wrap in the fridge.

Dosage: Eat 9 raisins every day.

It helped us.

Which is better than another arthritis remedy I found.

Bee sting therapy.

I'll wait on that one. I'm not that desperate yet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Is Good Enough?

Literary agent Kristin Nelson had a sobering post on her blog yesterday. She said she had to reject an author with a really good manuscript because she didn't think she could sell it.

Publishers have become so demanding that a good manuscript just isn't good enough in today's highly speculative market.

And another agent (I apologize because I can't remember who it was) said his agency only wants big books.

Well, duh. What agent doesn't want the next Twilight or Harry Potter? Big books come around maybe once a year. Everyone talks about them and it makes them seem even more important. But is it a good book or a highly commercial and sellable one?

Not that you can't have both commercial and good in the same book, but I can think of quite a few that missed the mark on being a really good read.

Interesting? Yes. Unique? Absolutely. But it's rarely been the kind of book I would call a keeper. Maybe that's why I see so many of them at garage sales.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of the new and big that we lose our sense of direction. We're mad to read the next blockbuster, just to be part of the "in" crowd. This way we can discuss the big book at the water cooler and talk about how great it is.

I call this the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome. Everyone else is reading it so it must be good.

I'm not much of a groupie. It took me well over a year to read the Da Vinci Code and that's only because someone gave me the book and insisted I had to read it. Even then I dawdled.

Sure, I want the publishers to make money so the authors can make money. But in limiting our choices and selling us the BIG books, are we losing touch with the good books--the books that remain on our keeper shelves?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dirt & Dogs

It's supposed to rain today, so I wrangled Greg on his one day off over the weekend to roto-till my garden and move the rest of my compost.

Of course, the roto-tiller decided it didn't feel like running that day.

I'm glad Greg is so mechanical. God knows how broke I'd be without him. LOL. He fixed it, after we drove for miles looking for a belt for it.

We bought a Troy-Bilt tiller about 25 years ago. We have NEVER changed the oil, the filter, or any of the belts. When Troy-Bilt says it last, it lasts! I guess it's time the poor thing got a real tune up. It deserves it. We've abused it enough.

Greg fixed it and got back to tilling. He nearly finished when out comes a slow gusher in the middle of the field. The original owner put a water pipe in the middle of the garden. Oy! We never hit it the first time we tilled last spring, but now that we've been amending the soil, we can till more than 18 inches deep and that's how we hit it.


I dug out the pipe and Greg put in a new end piece and valve. We plan to put in a new irrigation system--just not in the middle of the garden.

It made for a very long day, but we did get a lot accomplished. We tilled compost into the greenhouse and put in a few plants. I'm not too worried about getting the greenhouse covered in plastic just yet because the weather is still in the 70s.

For a short weekend, we got a lot done. We even managed to check out some adoptable dogs.

Petsmart
had a pet adoption weekend going on and we searched in vain for my Australian shepherd. One came close. But it was a boy, and I really want a girl.

While I prefer to adopt a rescue, I am tired of waiting for my girl to show up, so I have relented and put Greg on the hunt for an Aussie puppy. She does not have to be pure bred. What I'm looking for is a dog that likes to be outside with me and has the herding instinct (for the future goats).

Chelly, my beautiful girl was on the shy side, but as tough as nails when it came to herding and keeping me safe (from the other pushy siblings in our pack). I loved that about her. I was her girl and she was mine.

Lately, I've been dreaming about Chelly a lot. I don't know why.

And to make things spookier, a few days ago I was at my desk and there was a distinct dog-sized shadow that hopped over my feet. The boys were in the other room, and the only dog who ever sat by my feet when I worked was Chelly. I sat there staring under my desk, hoping I hadn't imagined it.

At long last I got up to feed dogs. As I walked down the hallway, I called behind me and said: "Come on, Chelly. Time to eat."

I was hoping maybe that would bring her back for a visit. :o)

I still miss her.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Breed Specific Legislation Does Not Work

I found this on Allie Boniface's blog. If you own a dog, especially a big dog, please watch this in its entirety.

We have raised big dogs for well over thirty years; Greg even longer than that. If you think aggression depends on the breed, think again.

Responsible dogs begin with you.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Meta-Description

This could be the reason I get so many hits from Google. Apparently, Google no longer uses meta-tags for its search engine. But they will use meta-descriptions.

Whenever people land here from a Google search, I'll track back and check out what it is they searched for to reach this blog. Usually, what I find is a snippet of whatever I was describing in that particular post.

So I guess the best advice to maximize your search engine standing is to describe things in nice tight capsules.

Take two and call me in the morning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Perfect Gift

Okay all you readers and lovers of readers. Want to find the perfect (inexpensive) gift for your favorite reader?

Introducing, Distinctively DD

DD is a home-schooled "tween" girl who loves crafting. But I think she's also an artiste and entrepreneur extraordinaire. Go to her website and check out the beautiful book thongs and earrings she's created.

DD sent me one and it is EXQUISITE! Just look!



This photo barely does it justice because you can't see the extraordinary detail or the beautiful beads she chose for this design. It hurts my fingers just thinking about all the work she put into it. Try clicking on the photo and you'll be able to see a little more detail.

I love mine! It makes me feel so tres elegante.

And with Christmas around the corner, this is the perfect place to buy a LOT of gifts for very little money.

This is definitely a Prudent Penny move.

Not only are you supporting an independent entrepreneur, you are investing in the future by letting this little girl learn about business from the inside out. And you are saving money on Christmas to boot.

This is a win-win situation for everyone. So go over to DD's shop and buy a couple of presents for your friends and family.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Newsy Stuff

Man, it's been crazy-busy lately. Part of the reason is because the weather is so nice. The other part is because I'm getting ready to send out some submissions and I've been rereading and editing.

In the past week, I have: burned brush, trimmed trees, moved dirt, planted trees, refinished a giant sideboard, cleaned out the garage, and oh yes, write books.

Very. Busy. Week.

It's been so busy I haven't even had time to visit blogs and comment. I will have to redouble my efforts this weekend.

Lots of stuff has happened in the blogosphere too.

KS Augustin came out with her first print book, called Guarding His Body. Can you say, sizzle?
Go here to order. Go on. I'll still be here.

What I like about this book is that it's a role reversal story. She's the bodyguard and he's the client. Chez cool, huh?

***

Lynn Viehl wrote another killer post about the realities of a NYT bestseller. If you're a writer, you need to read this post.

***

Mega good news

It's been everywhere on the web about Angela James, who is now the executive editor at Carina Press. Carina Press is under the umbrella of Harlequin.

Dunk and Score.

***

There's more to cover, but I need to get back to work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Working Hard


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Newsy Stuff

Angela James is looking for your ideas. Angie of Nice Mommy, Evil Editor, Jane Litte of Dear Author, Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches are starting up a cooking, crafts, and sewing blog and they are offering a $50 gift certificate to the person who comes up with the best name for their new blog. Go to Angie's blog for more info.

***

Sherri Meyer (The Top Five Reasons I Do What I Do) wrote a very nice review for Touch Of Fire. My favorite part is when she said her husband read it too and liked it.

That made my day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Da Dirt

My dirt is here!

Time to destroy what's left of my back.


The delivery guy mixed my compost mix with screened top soil, but that's okay. It's going to get tilled together anyway.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I'll Never Be An Idol

Brace yourself. I'm feeling philosophical today.

I don't watch much tv, but I seem to glean enough just by catching the commercials and listening to the news. (Evidently, news people think game shows and reality tv are news.)

Shows like American Idol and Dancing With The Stars, among others, rate talent by popular vote and the show's judges. The scores are combined and they end up with an average.

In publishing too, we have small and big contests to rate book covers, excerpts, trailers, blogs, web sites, magazines, agents--you name it.

I made the mistake of entering one such contest a couple of years ago for best blog design. My goal was pure. I wanted to win free advertising with this company, and I felt I did indeed have a good blog design, but in hindsight I can see the means of getting there were less than noble.

You see most, if not all these contests rely on popular votes. The contest host is hoping to increase the web site's exposure by luring you in with your readers.

On a level playing field this is perfectly acceptable. There are so many competitors for visitors that you can easily miss a good site. Hosting a contest is an excellent way to get more eyes on your site.

But my real concern is not the purpose for a contest, but the process.

I can't begin to tell you how many contests I've seen where a winner is chosen by popular vote--NOT for talent, creativity or cleverness, but by how many friends you have.

Friends are wonderful and it's good to have people who will stand by you, but should you win by popular vote? Did you really win or are you merely well liked? How does this validate your work?

Today, even big publishers host contests whereby the author is 'judged' by his peers and whoever makes the cut are then judged by professionals in the industry.

I suppose that is one way to cut down on the work of reviewing so many proposals. And I think for the most part they do choose a worthy winner.

But I wonder. Did they miss other good choices solely because someone didn't have enough friends to push him through to the next round?

It's a law of averages, I suppose, with a healthy dose of luck.

There's even an old saying to confirm that: It's better to be lucky than good.

This is most certainly true and the smart money would stick with lucky. --But I'd still rather be good.

So ends this Socratic post.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Iko, The Scorpion King

Iko, the wonder puppy has proven his worth.

Ever since he was a little bitty puppy, Iko's been very aware of his surroundings. Nothing escapes his notice. He's called my attention to frogs and turtles in his dog run and the wild guineas that race through the forest.

It's a unique bark and I've learned to pay attention when he uses it.

Yesterday, he earned his place as an honored member of the family. I had the back door and the garage door opened a good hunk of the day since yesterday's job was to clean out the garage and empty the last three boxes left from my move. (I know, they should have been emptied months ago, but there was nothing important in them so I just left them by the wayside.)

That night as I chatted with Greg over the phone, Iko started barking. It was his usual warning bark that says: Hey, mom, look at this. I don't think he should be in here.

And he was right.

Like the turtle, the frog and the guinea hens that have crossed his path, this definitely did not belong. He barked without stopping and followed dutifully after a scorpion that was racing across my studio floor.

Bad scorpion. Maria must kill you now.

I'd show you a picture of the scorpion, but he's all flat and squishy. So instead I'll show you a picture of my Scorpion King, Iko. My hero.

I need to get him weighed this weekend. I'd say he's at least 50lbs now. He's the first dog we've ever had that hasn't gone through that gangly teenage stage. The little guy is a solid mass of muscle.

Tank still handles the BIG bad things, but Iko is now my go-to guy for the poisonous little things.


Of course, he got a cookie for his trouble and an open invitation to sleep on my bed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stock Up On Calendars

Every year I am given free calendars by my bank, my employer, or specialty store. I usually kept the prettiest one out (most likely with dog pictures) and put the rest in a drawer.

But this year I've decided to put the others to use.

2010 calendars are beginning to make an appearance and I'm going to make specific ones do special duty.

One calendar will be used to monitor weather. While I might put major weather occurrences in my journal, quickly penciling in the temp and rain chances is a good reference for next year when you decide to sow, reap or plan for major events. If you discover that most of October was rainy in 2009, you'll try to plan around the rainy season for next year.

Another calendar is to remind me when I gave the dogs their heartworm and flea preventative. I generally try to do this at the beginning of the month, but in the past due to life's interruptions, meds were delivered later.

And I don't need to remind you ladies about charting your menses, either to get pregnant or avoid it. It's good practice even when you're on the pill since it gives you a barometer of your health.

One of my neighbors always kept a calendar with notes about impending doctor visits.

Put your calendars to work. And here's a freebie from Eukanuba. Go to their site and get a free 2010 calendar mailed to you. (the button is on the right side of the content box)

Do you use your calendars to record events?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chicken Talk

I've come in for a break. The weather is just too perfect to waste being indoors so I was out as soon as it was daylight thinning limbs, piling brush, raking up leaves and shoveling charcoal into the compost bins.

Last week, when Greg was here, it rained--almost everyday. It was horrible because I had plans on turning him into slave labor, but there you have it, even ogre slave mistresses get the shaft from Mother Nature sometimes.

Greg dodged a bullet because we were going to raise the chicken coop and re-drape my naked greenhouse. All we could manage were the four posts to the chicken coop. It's not much right now, but I can promise you, it is going to be AWESOME.

Since we were housebound most of the time while he was here we brainstormed some future projects and drew out various plans for a chicken coop and yard.

The last chicken health club Greg built was pretty cool for our first time building animal shelters. Greg made a large coop with a cement floor and beautifully built nest boxes of the kind I've never seen replicated elsewhere. The guy just has a craftsman's touch with everything he builds, even if it's just a box. It was a snap to clean and disinfect and I always had nice clean eggs since the hens loved their nest boxes and would lay nowhere else as some chickens are apt to do.

After being taught a lesson by a particularly ravenous raccoon, we turned the chicken enclosure into an aviary. We lost several chickens to that rascally raccoon but it took us a while to figure out what was killing our chickens. Thanks to Greg's inventiveness, he rigged up a silent alarm so that we could catch him in the act. I swear to you that coon was so shocked to see us, he stuck his hands up in the air in surrender.

Since there are even more predators where we live now, a completely enclosed yard is already in the plans for our future chickens.

Our fowl enclosure should be ready this year, though I doubt I'll be getting chicks before January. We'll see. I am debating between several breeds since I want them to be dual purpose--eggs and meat.

I am partial to americaunas, barred rocks and australorps. But I'm also game for trying new breeds to see what they'll produce. While I'm partial to green, blue and brown eggs for aesthetic reasons--the quality is no different to white-shelled eggs. The difference comes from how they're fed and raised. Yard chickens will produce supreme tasting eggs compared to commercial egg producers.

Expect to see future posts on chickens as we prepare for a lot more clucking (not necessarily my own).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to Get More Comments

The short answer: Blog about what you like and interact with other bloggers.


This past week I held an experiment to see who would comment --and who wouldn't. My plan was to repost links from the comments and generate some activity within the search engines. Don't ask me why, but Google loves my blog--or at least the links and keywords I provide.


While the last post only received 11 comments, many were from people who normally don't comment here. The other fascinating tidbit of information is that Stat Counter showed double, and at one time triple the amount of unique visits to this blog. No doubt the lurkers were curious as to who would step up to the plate.


Lastly, three people mentioned this blog by name and link. Kaz Augustin wrote an entire post about my post and commentary in general.


Call Me Catie has started a link-a-licious series where she posts the links to any helpful blog posts she saw that week.


And Marianne who hosts Reading, Writing & Stuff That Makes Me Crazy wrote a post asking for new blogs to follow. She followed up with her first blog hopping post here.


My thanks to those of you who wrote an actual blog post on the state of commentary, and more importantly fed the search beast with what it needs most--LINKS.


As promised here are the links to those who took the time to comment this week.


Sherri writes The Top 5 Reasons I Do What I Do: An avid reader and writer who discusses family, writing, and reviews the books she's read.


Sandra, who writes Dual Citizenship in SpecFic and Mundania discusses writing, her gorgeous little boy and a stuffed orca who seems to travel more than I do.


Roni @ Fiction Groupie is a book junkie who actually lives in north Texas. (Small world! Maybe we'll meet someday.) She writes a lively blog on writing fiction and her journey toward publication.


Angela James…well if you don't know who Angela James is, you've been living under a rock. Angie is an editor extraordinaire who writes Nice Mommy, Evil Editor. I had the distinct pleasure and privilege to have her as my editor for Touch Of Fire. Follow this woman. She knows her stuff--and she also posts great recipes too.


Kaz Augustin writes Fusion Despatches. Kaz is like an Asian Lone Ranger for social injustice. She's also a super genius when it comes to all things IT. This angel called me from the other side of the world and helped me get my gmail working again, even when the gmail help desk couldn't fix my problem. Kaz also writes for the group blog, Novel Spaces.


Damselfly, aka Deborah Kalin, author of Shadow Queen writes the funny and quirky blog about her life down under.


Marianne Arkins is a regular here and one of my favorite people because when she writes about her dog, Dakota, it makes me feel there is still hope for crazy puppy, Iko. Marianne writes about everything, from family life, to writing, to guest author interviews. She is a woman of many talents and obviously never sleeps.


Melissa McClone writes for Harlequin! She writes for her readers rather than other writers, and she adorns her blog posts with the cutest cat pictures.


Mike Keyton is one of my CPs who amazingly still talks to me even after I review his work. Mike writes Record of a Baffled Spirit another quirky blog (why am I drawn to quirky blogs?) that gives you little snippets of his wildly colorful life. Mike was a recent guest on this blog and in my emails to him I continually try to lure him back to the states in my devious plot to find someone who will teach me how to cook.


Dru writes Notes From Me. She's an avid reader and creates the most amazing quilts. I am surprised when I can thread a needle so you can imagine my rapt attention when she shows pictures of her quilts.


Marian Perera writes Flights of Fancy and her posts cover a wide range of topics, from publishing to writing. I especially enjoy her dissection of writing tropes. Smart and articulate, I suspect we'll be hearing more about Marian in the near future.


***


So what will happen on this blog? I think Markets may be going away. It's been getting harder and harder to find legitimate markets that pay a decent rate. With few exceptions I don't like to encourage markets that offer a token payment, or worse no money at all. Prudent Penny and the continuing saga of homesteading when you reach the age of decrepitude will continue. In between I will post any newsworthy posts that involve the publishing world. Writer or reader, we live in interesting times.


Thanks to everyone who commented. You gave me a lot to think about.