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Friday, December 31, 2010

And She's Back!

I was never so happy to be able to flip on the lights--and have them come ON. 

We have a very old generator at Zannini South. The last time we used it was five years ago during Hurricane Rita, then ten years before that for some other hurricane I no longer recall. Greg used to be good about cranking it regularly to keep it primed, but that sort of fell by the wayside 20 years ago. So it's always with great trepidation and then relief when the thing starts up again.

The ironic thing is we have a brand new and much bigger generator at my place, but it was too big and heavy for me to carry in my vehicle. Even if my neighbors could help me load it--I don't think my light duty truck could have handled it for such a long trip. 

But all's well that ends well. My only disaster at home was a hose I forgot to disconnect. We had a freeze while I was gone and it burst the hose. I had water everywhere. After what I've been through, this was minor.

Now I have to hustle to finish my edits for Apocalypse Rising before my editor, Deb Nemeth chops me up into bite-sized Maria pieces and feeds me to her zombie fishes. 

I hear she keeps author-eating fishes in a special feeding tank. She waves red-stained manuscript pages at the beasts and it makes them rabid for "deadline-missing" authors.

:Hand to heart: I've never missed a deadline. Besides, I don't want to get eaten.

***
Today is New Year's Eve. A time to reminisce and to look ahead. 2010 has been a good year for me. And I think 2011 will be even better. :o)

What one event, good or bad, was the most memorable for you this year? 

And who's staying up tonight? Of course, you guys on the other side of the world have already welcomed the new year. Did you stay up?

~~~~~

Here is my New Year's wish for you. Whatever your desires, may 2011 exceed all your expectations. And no matter what happens, remember that you are surrounded by people who think the world of you. --I know because I'm one of them.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Still In The Land of Cold and Dark

Still no power, but they're almost done. We just have to wait for the power company to come in and make the final connection.

It's been a rough existence, but we've been in good spirits. Tuesday was the worst day since we couldn't even run the generator while the workmen were making installations and connections. Today, with any luck, Entergy will finish the job.

I'll try to catch up on blogs when I get back to my place. I am trying to avoid powering up the computer so the fuel will last longer for the more important appliances.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best Laid Plans...

For the first time in 35 years, Greg and I couldn't be together on Christmas Day. I was just about to leave the house and make the five-hour trip to his house when he called and said one of our pine trees knocked down our power line. The force was so great, it ripped the meter off the house. Oy!

To add insult to injury, he couldn't come up to me because he is working for the next three days.

Of all the times to lose power, why did it have to be Christmas Day? Our biggest worry was all the food he had bought in anticipation of my arrival. I was planning on cooking a big feast, but with no power, he kept the refrigerator door shut to preserve the cold for as long as possible.

By the second day without power he was losing hope and needed his wife for comfort and support, so I made the pilgrimage down there. Bless Greg's heart, somehow he got our old generator working so we saved the food.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that it'll keep working until the electric company can restore our power--after we call an electrician first to replace the meter. A friend of ours warned us that little expense is going to be pricey, but we don't have a choice. Code demands that meters be replaced by certified electricians.

It's been a very stressful holiday. 

I hope your Christmas was a good one. I know some of you are dealing with some pretty harsh weather. Hope everyone is safe. What's been happening at your place?

Are there any last minute things you plan to do before the year ends?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Tree

Brace yourselves. This story includes mass anarchy, bloodshed and tears. 

Greg and I were newly married and poor as proverbial church mice. Those were lean times, and we were as skinny as our wallets, living from hand to mouth for the first few months of married life.

So when Christmas rolled around, there was very little hope for anything more than a meager holiday meal. Still, I had been saving for weeks and had socked away enough to buy a little tree. 

It was a horrible indulgence for two people struggling to make ends meet, but it was Christmas, and I was anxious to start our own family traditions. This would be our first Christmas on our own. Our families were 1200 miles away and we were all alone in Texas.

Greg, a jolly fellow—even if he was underweight, agreed that we should spend our last twenty dollars on Christmas.

We made a pilgrimage to the land of fir and holly, otherwise known as the local grocery store. The store was packed with frenzied shoppers and the lines stretched into the aisles. They were so busy they pulled the only guy they had manning the Christmas tree lot to help inside the store. 

In the chaos, we finally found the store manager and he told us to go ahead and pick out our tree and he’d send a clerk to ring us up. 

I picked out a thick and sturdy ten dollar tree. To this day I still remember how fresh it smelled. We steered it in the general direction of our little MGB, maiming Greg in the process. I zigged. He zagged. But only the tree came out of it unscathed. As Greg sucked on his bleeding finger, we waited for the clerk to show up. 

And waited, and waited. 

Twice, each of us went back to find the manager and he kept promising to send someone out there. Twenty minutes later we were still waiting. I went back one more time and the manager met me halfway. 

“Has anyone come out yet?” he asked. 

I shook my head.

He looked back toward the store, the lines as long as ever and then at us, two skinny kids, wide-eyed and anxious to be on our way. 

“You picked out a nice tree,” he said, pointing at a tree that buried most of our little car.

I showed him the color-coded price tag on the tree, then handed him our only twenty dollar bill. “Can you break the twenty for me?”

“Afraid not,” he said. “I guess you’ll have to take it home.” 

I stared at him dumbfounded, not understanding what he meant. By this time, Greg had joined us and asked if we could pay him instead.

“Nope,” the older man said. He shook Greg’s hand and wished us, Merry Christmas. 

I must have had tears in my eyes because everything went blurry all at once. I looked up at the store manager and thanked him. “This is our first Christmas on our own,” I said.

He smiled. “And I’ll bet it’s one you’ll always remember too.”

More than thirty years later I realize now…he was right.

May all your holiday memories be just as warm and kind.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

No matter where you are today, I hope it's with someone you love.

***
This is a rerun of my very first post that appeared at Samhain Publishing's blog in December 2007.

So how was your Christmas? Did you get anything special--or something you really wanted? 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wrap An E-Book, Really

Iko has graduated. And he performed his final exam to near perfection. I was so proud. 

I was a little worried though. We've had a guest dog at our house since Friday and interruptions to his routine sometimes drive him to distraction. You remember my fluffy terror, the chicken chaser, don't you? Yes, Princess is back.

Iko's true test comes next week. We ordered furniture over the weekend. It'll get here on Christmas Eve. This time we picked out two sofas, one in leather with theater-like seating, and the other cloth. That one looks just right for napping. :grin:

***
Jennifer Shirk invited me to blog at her group blog, Passionate Critters where they're hosting the 12 days of e-books. I racked my brains trying to come up with a fun post for this series and I discovered that nowhere in the entire span of the internet has anyone ever written about how to wrap an e-book. 

Eureka! I found my topic. So I came up with a couple of novel solutions that are not only easy to do, but also memorable.

They are super-easy projects that take less time to make than wrapping a gift box. Check it out and let me know what you think.

***

I'm taking the rest of this week off, but I'll be back on Christmas Day. I hope you'll come back and visit with me after you've had your fill of food and company.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Counting Down

I've been holding out on Greg. I know you're not supposed to keep secrets from your spouse, but I had a good reason.

We've hardly spent any time together lately, and when we did, there was always some homesteading project we had to tackle. So when he last left, I decided to show him how much I appreciated all his hard work and sacrifice.

I wasn't planning on decorating because I'll be traveling between houses, but Greg was going to be here for a few days before Christmas. Why not welcome him home with the full spread?

For the past couple of weeks, I've been decorating, shopping and cleaning the house fit for company. We haven't bought presents for each other in years. But this year, I broke our pact and loaded a table full of presents.

He drove in extra early on Thursday and there was a chance he could get here before I woke up, so I got up in the middle of the night and turned on all the Christmas lights on the trees and the garland.

It was worth it just to see the look on his face. He's been shaking boxes ever since. LOL.

***

Iko graduates from doggy school this Sunday. He's still a goof, but he's calmed down--sort of.

As soon as I drive into the parking lot of Petsmart (where he has his training) he starts vocalizing. And then he really gets loud when he sees the trainer. OMG! You'd think she was his long lost friend.

It takes him a good twenty minutes to calm down (which is why I always go in early). Needless to say, he's exhausted by the time he gets home. But Sunday will be it. No more excursions into town. No more seeing his buddy, Dakota. (Yes, Marianne, the dog's name is Dakota!) 

Dakota is a lab/husky mix. He's less than a year old and in the past two months has grown as tall as Iko. Iko still outweighs him by 30 pounds but they take turns being submissive to one another. 

The boys have become best pals. I'm glad Iko had a buddy close to his size and age. Iko can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated.

***

So is everyone ready for Christmas? I still have to bake bread for the neighbors. What do you have left to do?

PS  Be sure to visit me on Monday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Author's Life

Last week, a friend approached me with a writing project that was very intriguing. Was I interested? Heck, yeah. But right on the heels of this offer, two other people contacted me and asked if I would guest blog on their respective sites.

No problem, I said. Those gigs aren't hard. And it's good networking. Then came another request, and then another. Would I like in on a super sekrit group project? Would I review such and such a book? Would I participate in a giveaway? Would I be interested in judging a contest?

Whoa. Stop the train. There comes a time when you are stretched so thin, you have to say, enough. No more projects, reviews, judging, guest posts, contests, and social media. No more herding cats through a gauntlet of drooling rottweilers.

I have a stack of books on my nightstand that I haven't touched in three months. I distract my husband with X-box games so he doesn't feel so neglected. There are enough fallen leaves on my six acres to start a forest fire. And I can't remember the last time I actually did something just for myself.

For the past three years, my whole life has centered around some aspect in publishing. I'm not complaining. I knew what I was getting into. But it's a little like a Ponzi scheme. The more you invest in your career, the more you have to keep supporting it by means of networking, marketing, reading, editing, and yet more writing.

Those of you who have books on the market know what I'm talking about. The cycle is endless. 

A friend of mine said it best when she said: If you CAN stop writing...stop. 

Easier said than done.

Once you get on this slippery slope, you can't take a break. You can't say: Oh, I'm tired, bored, busy, etc. I'll do the writing, editing, marketing stuff later. 

It doesn't work that way.

If you do take a breather, you risk having to start all over again. I've seen it happen to several authors who took a break to have babies, get married, get divorced, or have a life. Some of them haven't made it back yet. Some never will. 

The longer you stay out of the game, the harder it is to get back in. So you push forward, even if it's little baby steps.

It's especially hard around the holidays when we all have a million more things to do than usual.

How about you? Do you ever think about how much time you've invested in your career? Does it ever intimidate you?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Decorating Tips

I designed and built many a Christmas window during my stint as a display artist for two department store chains. What? You didn't know I was a display artist? LOL! I have many hidden talents. Sometimes they're even useful.

Over the years, I've incorporated a few tricks to my decorating. Here are a few of my favorites.

• Personalize your tree with little frames you can get at hobby shops. Print out photos of family, friends and pets and slip them into the frames.

• Walk through the woods and look for the survivors of winter. Large pods, nuts, moss and pine cones work great for projects. Spray paint pine cones and bare sticks, then lace them throughout your tree for a natural homespun Christmas.

• Stuck with a skimpy fake tree? Here's something I did for years that works great. Buy garland in the same shade as your tree. Before you decorate, wrap and tease out your garland in between the bare spots, going all the way around. It will look fat and lush. Once you put the decorations up, you will never be able to tell the difference.

• Most of the garlands in stores are way too skinny and sparse. Weave two strands together for a fuller, richer looking garland.

• Who says you have to have one big tree? Buy multiple tabletop or small floor trees and put one in each room. Not only does it give you a chance to decorate with different themes but you spread Christmas throughout the whole house.

• Don't waste money on those cheesy tree drapes. Go to the fabric store and scour through their remnants and buy something rich and brocade. You don't even have to sew it. Just drape it around the tree and tuck the raw edges under.

• When you create your tablescapes, go for lush. Fill the space, layering and building up as well as out. I hadn't had time to bring down all my boxes but I made a little tablescape from what I had on hand.


And to keep you in the holiday spirit, stop by and visit Passionate Critters, a group blog belonging to the lovely and popular Jennifer Shirk where they are hosting the '12 Days of E-books'. Every day they are going to post a different article on all sorts of aspects of e-books and e-publishing. You won't want to miss it, I'll even be there next week to throw in my two cents.

***
Ooh, and go over and catch me at LASR today where I'll tell you ten things you probably didn't know about me. Leave me a comment over there and tell me something most people don't know about you.

Now, back to our decorating discussion. Have you finished? What's left to do?

There's only one thing that makes me groan about decorating. I hate having to drag the decorations down from the attic--especially with this bum knee. I've got twelve big bins full of Christmas goodies and I only brought four boxes down so far. How about you? Where do you store your stuff?

***

Update: I'm sad to report I didn’t get enough votes to make it to the next round at RT Reviews. I’m not too upset though. I got what I wanted, the chance to bounce ideas off a much more seasoned writer. Besides I’m already published, so it’s not as if this was my first time up at bat. I don’t think any of the remaining finalists have any books yet, so maybe this will be their chance to get out there.

I want to thank you all for being so supportive and kind. You guys have been awesome. Don’t worry about Mistress Of The Stone. I know I’ll be able to sell that novel somewhere down the road.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Best Gift

In 1976, Greg and I scraped every penny we had and bought an old sea captain's house, circa 1902. The down payment alone almost killed us. If you see pictures of us from back then, you can tell we probably missed a meal or two. (I'll never see that kind of skinny again. LOL) 

Times were hard but we didn't care. We were newly married and having the time of our lives, a grand adventure in a strange new land called Texas.

But Christmas was right around the corner and we both knew there wouldn't be any Christmas presents under the tree that year. (I'll tell you about that magic tree in a future post.) 

Greg knew I was very lonely in Texas. I didn't know anyone. I hadn't yet learned to drive. And our families were far away. I was miserable. 

Worse than that, we were dog-less!

There's something about being young that makes you believe that anything is possible. Make no mistake, we were poor. And any reasonable person knows that you don't get a dog if you can barely afford yourself. But it just wasn't home without a dog, so we scraped up the ten dollars for the pound fee and went to the local shelter.

The pound was horrific. It was dirty and cramped and it was a fair bet that hardly any animal got out of there alive. I clung to Greg, afraid to touch anything, it was so gross. And then I came across two little puppies with pushed in noses.

One was in the water dish, but the other one came up to us right away. "That one," I told Greg. She's the one.

We took her home and I wanted with all my heart to believe she would turn into a German shepherd. In the early 70s there was a tv show called Run, Joe, Run, about a German shepherd wrongly accused of a crime. I wanted a dog just like Joe.

Being a girl dog, I called my puppy, Joey. 

It turned out she wasn't a German shepherd at all, but too late, the name stuck. 

Here's a picture of Joey all grown up. That's Chicago snow in that picture.

Greg has bought me many beautiful things over the years but my favorite gift of all was a ten dollar dog called Joey. It was a lot of money back then, especially if you didn't have any to spare. But Joey was worth every penny. She made us a family. And I was never lonely again.

So that's my best gift. What's yours?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scourge

Iko. My penance on earth.

Who would have guessed that tiny puppy who whimpered so piteously would turn into a 90 pound heathen with a fetish for leather and expensive rugs?

Iko has chewed the heavy cording of all three pieces of my leather furniture suite, and snacked on three oriental rugs, two comforters and countless pillowcases. I don't even want to discuss what he did to my entire season's worth of 8 week old seedlings. I'm still in therapy for that.

He is profoundly sorry when he's committed these crimes and will lay his head on my shoulder or offer me his paw. 

But he has no long term memory. When I show him the shreds of my rug, his eyes widen in abject horror. "Who me? No. No. It had to be someone else. I've never seen that rug before in my life."

I've raised dogs well over 35 years and I have NEVER met so chewie a beast. But the more I study him, the more I doubt it's deliberate. 

When I catch him, it's like he's exercising his jaws. He likes things that give him a challenge, and he needs variety because he switches from leather, to wool, to his giant Kong toy.

Someday, I'll have to post a picture of his 'rock collection'. That dog will go out and FIND rocks to chew whenever I've forbidden him leather furniture.

Rawhide bones occupy him for less than an hour. The average dog toy is an insult to his mandibles of death. And his crate is a common companion when he's been bad. I have spent HUNDREDS of dollars in chewies, Kongs and cookies. More play time with him seems to bring out his cravings rather than lessen them. (I think it's the excitement.)

That dog may be only part rottweiler, but his teeth are definitely the rottie half. He once sawed through a solid leather leash in less than three seconds.

It's getting better. He doesn't chew as often as before, but I can never let my guard down. He's like a nicotine fiend. He gets cravings. Doggie school has helped in that he's so tired when he gets home, he has no desire to do anything but sleep. (Me too.)

He knows to sit at the door until I'm ready to let him out. He knows not to chase chickens--though I can see the lust in his eyes. And of course, he knows all the basic commands. In short, as long as someone's with him--he's perfect.

Iko is very bright. We housebroke him within a couple of weeks, and he learns commands almost immediately. He's no dumb bunny.

But he's still a chewer. In a month or so I'll be getting new furniture and that dog will have to spend the rest of his life at my feet. Not a bad life sentence, but what about poor Tank? He's going to think I love 'Buzzsaw' more than him. Poor Tank.

Misery loves company. So I'm opening this up to the floor. Have you ever had a misbehaving pet--or child? What's the worst tragedy he's ever committed?

Years from now, I might think on Iko fondly, but today he's still my penance on earth. Whatever my sins, surely I must have paid for them by now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Editing & Facebook

A writing post today! I know. Weird, right? Try not to faint.

For the last couple of weeks I've been neck-deep in edits for Apocalypse Rising. I was so focused on edits I barely visited blogs, Twitter or Facebook.

I'm always so impressed with editors. Sometimes when I read their suggestions, I punch myself in the head. 'D'oh! Why didn't I see that?'

On Apocalypse Rising, I was shocked and amazed to have found one typo. Just one. Not bad for a manuscript that's only been edited once.

The edits were actually pretty easy, but between working on homestead projects and my paying gig, I really had to struggle to find enough quiet time to work. Edits are one of those things where I have to talk to myself. I read some of the copy out loud. And for that I need quiet.

Sometimes I use text-to-speech software to read certain scenes for me. I don't use it often, just on areas where I can't pinpoint what's bugging me. The program is slow and the voice is annoying, but I find that if I listen closely, I can catch the part that needs smoothing.

I use NaturalReader which is free, but if you buy the paid version, you get a bigger range of voices.

Writers: Do any of you read your manuscripts aloud?

Oh, and speaking of reading aloud. I found out True Believers will be coming out in audio December 7, 2010. 

I'm curious to find out what the narrator sounds like--and crossing my fingers that he/she will pronounce everything correctly. I'll update the link when it goes live, but you'll be able to find True Believers at Audible.com.

With first round edits under my belt, I'm breathing more freely and I'll be able to visit more people. 

I've been a little dismayed with Twitter. It's still hard for me to keep up and I don't even follow that many people. The posts aren't particularly interesting either. Some are. But most aren't.

Facebook, I am shocked to say, is not as aggravating as I thought it would be. And I've enjoyed quite a few conversations lately, including a recent thread on zombie chickens.

Some people send me games, or treasure, or something like that. I don't play along, mostly because I can't afford to add any new distractions and secondly because I don't want to get too sucked into Facebook quicksand. I still thinks it's evil. LOL.

So don't be offended if I don't play along. (Most of the time I don't understand what the invitation means anyway.)

The one thing I wish I could figure out is how to follow specific friends. I tried doing that list thing, but it just lists them, it won't let me view their comment threads alone in my feed.

Sometimes there are so many people updating that I miss the people I really want to follow. What I want is for FB to notify me when these friends post, so I can comment on their threads.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Facebook has updated their privacy settings again. (I told you it was evil.) It's called 'Instant Personalization' and it shares data with other web sites. Be sure to check your account settings. Some accounts are set to 'Enable'. Mine was not, but other people have told me, theirs were.

Go to Account > Privacy Settings> Applications and Websites> Instant Personalizations> Edit or Customize Settings. From here un-check "Enable".

If your friends don't do this, your info can still be shared through them. Pass it on.

*So, Facebook experts, back to my 'following' problem: how can I create a personalized feed of your threads alone without jumping through a lot of hoops? Is there a way?

Are you on Facebook? Leave me your exact link, or just friend me here

Note: Yeah, I know all you FB fiends are just chortling at me. Every day you drag poor Maria a little bit further into the dark side. What will you do once you have me under your complete dominion--sacrifice me to some FB golden idol?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Worst Gift

Earlier this week we talked about gift ideas. But the discussion quickly disintegrated into laughter when Krista Ball commented that she once gave a box of tampons as a gift to the ungrateful girlfriend of her brother-in-law. (The year before said girlfriend dissed her cookies.) 

It got me to thinking about the gifts I've received over the years. So today, let's dish together. What is the WORST present you have ever received in your life? (Next Friday, we'll do the best gift.)

I am not fussy about gifts. It doesn't matter if they're handmade, re-gifts, or from the secondhand store. As long as it's clean, I'll take it in the spirit it was given.

But the worst gift I ever received was at an ornament exchange party. I'd never been to one before and was intrigued. The rule was we were to spend no more than five dollars on an ornament. 

At the party, we set out our ornaments and the hostess starts off by exchanging the ornament she brought with someone else. We go down the line, exchanging ornaments, regardless whether the ornament had already changed hands more than once. This continues until everyone ends up with a different ornament.

In a perfect world this would have been great, except we had one guest who brought in a slap-dashed ornament. It was a clear plastic globe with a tarnished cap; inside she had filled it with shredded paper. (We even knew where she got the paper.)

When placed next to all the other ornaments, it was clear hers was a last minute thought. No one wanted to exchange with her, but of course we had to. Everyone was required to pick an ornament and keep exchanging until all had gone through the process. 

Guess who got the shredded paper globe?

It was kind of sad because everyone else at the party brought in beautiful works of art, a couple were even handmade. I cheated a little and bought a very expensive old world German glass Santa which I got on sale the year before for 75% off. But it met the $5 limit, so I felt safe in bringing it.

Anyway, that turned out to be my 'worst' gift. When Krista said she gave tampons to that ungrateful woman, I thought to myself, it could've been worse, honey. You could've ended up with a shredded paper ornament. 

Oh, yeah, did I mention the plastic globe was cracked?

So what's your worst gift ever?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bring 'em To Your Blog

That flying saucer house I mentioned a few months ago continues to get mega hits. Recently someone from the UK sent me an email requesting permission to use one of my pictures for an upcoming publication on composite materials in UK housing.

In an age where people are constantly swiping art, photos, and [sigh] books, it's refreshing to have someone contact you and do the right thing.

The arthritis raisin remedy also gets a lot of hits. Followed by various Google searches for homesteading, hot virgins, and *my* name. 

I'm not sure I like where this is going. LOL.

Did you know that Blogger has its own stat counter now? It still can't count how many people read you on RSS or Google Reader, but it sounds like it'll give you a fair indicator on what your hot topics are.

If you use Blogger, go into Draft mode, (where you create your post). To the far right, there's a new tab called Stats.

Here, it'll parse it out between Overview, Posts, Traffic Sources, and Audience. I never think to look at this tool, but it can be useful to see which topics bring the most traffic.

So how about you? What's brought you the most traffic? And if you follow stats, what is the most bizarre keyword that has ever brought someone to your site?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gift Ideas

Looking for an easy way to fnd the best gift for anyone on your Christmas list? Google it. Describe the recipient in five or six words and drop the keywords into any search engine.

For example if Greg was looking for a gift for me, he might use these keywords: dogs, writing, reading, gardening, decorating, and gifts.

Out pops out 1,140,000 results. That's a lot of possibilities right at your fingertips.

Too much work for you? There's a British web site that does even more. GiftGen not only gives you suggestions based on sex, age and price range, but also tells you where to buy it. The currency is in pounds so you'll have to convert, but it's still great because it gives you ideas that you might not have thought of on your own. 

Want something fun and unique? Try Distinctively DD. Book thongs, earrings, bracelets. DD's business has really grown. The book thongs are especially nice.


And if you're looking for something with an artisan flair, check out Form & Funktion. Stacy Low hand-makes  beautiful metal jewelry, like rings, pins and necklaces with a heart motif.




 
And FYI, books never goes out of style. 

This week, the always delightful Kimberly Nee is out with her latest, Playing With Fire, a very sexy Regency historical. Kimberly really knows how to put a girl in a compromising position.
 
At Carina Press, fab Aussie author, Jenny Schwartz is releasing Angel Thief today! The story is about a djinni and an angel. You can't go wrong with that.

I'm telling ya, if you have trouble buying gifts, just get them a book. Better yet, get them an e-reader AND a book.

The other day Amazon held a Black Friday special selling the Kindle for $89. I was this {close} to buying it, but I can't justify buying something that won't read all formats. Right now, it seems I'm better off buying a notebook and downloading the appropriate app. But boy, I was teetering on the brink.

What do you want for Christmas this year?  And if anybody says world peace, I'm going to sock you. LOL. 

Leave lofty out of this. We're into big-eyed, gimme stage. 

I'd like an e-reader this year. ...well, what I really want is an i-Pad, but Greg already called dibs on that. He says I might get visiting rights, but I'll never get custody. 

Can I get any meaner a husband?

How about you? What do you really, really want?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Day To Vote

Let's take Mistress Of The Stone to the next round! This time, you're voting for Best Hero and Heroine. This month's challenge was to describe the hero and heroine in under 150 words.
If you thought my heroes were hot in True Believers and Touch Of Fire, you ain't seen nothing yet. :grin:

With the holidays begun, it's hard to reach everyone so I appreciated all the extra mentions for the contest. Sherri Meyer, Dru Ann, Linda Leszczuk and my mentor, Terri Brisbin who started it all, were kind enough to post and share on Facebook. 

***
I've had my hands full working on edits. I finished the first pass and adjusted everything my editor suggested. This week, I'll read it again and see if there's anywhere to tweak it.

Apocalypse Rising is a sequel, so I'm particularly nervous about not losing new readers and keeping past ones. I think I succeeded, but we'll see in 2011. 

This time my post-apocalyptic heroes time travel to the 21st century, to a time without magic. You can just imagine what they think of indoor plumbing. ;-)

Friday, November 26, 2010

State of the Homestead

It's been a crazy week and not always a happy one. The homestead has been rife with drastic climate change, savage attacks and even death. Several deaths. But only one was murder.

First off, Greg has joined the club that until now only Iko and I were members. A grumpy scorpion, angry at being disturbed, stung Greg on the foot. Many colorful cuss words and smashing ensued. 

I know Greg thought I was being a drama queen a few months back when a scorpion stung me while in bed. He doesn't think that anymore. ;-)  Fortunately, the pain lasted only two days.

This week we also sent five roosters to chicken heaven. I had hoped to dispatch them over a month ago, but I didn't want to butcher them alone and we always seemed to have something else to do while Greg was here.

Being older birds, I figured they were tough so I boiled them for the dogs. (I regularly cook chicken for the dogs anyway.) As it simmered in the pot, the aroma was heavenly, so I took a little bite to see how tough it was. OMG! It was the best chicken I had ever tasted.

The dark meat was really dark and the white meat actually had flavor. Unlike store bought chickens, the legs were long and straight and the skin was a beautiful white with pink undertones. Greg is already making plans to build an automated chicken plucker so we don't spend so much time plucking next time.

But death also came in fur this week. I was working on edits when a coyote sprinted not six feet in front of my studio window. I dashed out as soon as I saw him, but he was gone in a heartbeat. So were one of my hens. I looked for her several times yesterday, but there was no sign of my poor chicken anywhere.

I'm glad Tank wasn't with me. I don't think I could have stopped him from giving chase. I might have to carry a gun from now on though.

We'd been in the 80s most of the week, but yesterday in the space of five minutes, it dropped down into the 40s. I still have tomatoes, peppers and eggplants on the vine so I covered them up and hope they'll make it for a few more weeks.

Our project for most of this week was a remodel of the greenhouse. The plastic sheeting didn't work, getting torn off with the first big winds of the spring, so this time we riveted hard plastic sheets together. 

One half of the greenhouse will be an actual greenhouse. But we're turning the other half into a second chicken yard. We'll be separating by breed in 2011 and we realized part of the greenhouse would be the perfect size for a smaller chicken yard.

The weather turned on us before we could finish though. I'll post pictures as soon as it's done. It looks pretty cool so far.

***
Today is Black Friday. Will you be out today? Let me know how the crowds are. I'm going to lie low until Monday. Meanwhile, I'm going to look for that dastardly coyote.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stuff(ing) of Legend

With all the heartwarming messages of thanks and warm wishes across the blogosphere, I thought I'd do something different and BEG for help.

My cooking is nothing to brag about. It's okay. It won't kill you. And sometimes it even looks nice on the table. But I have no finesse, none of the pageantry my kid sister puts into her meals, or the gourmet magic my father used to inject into his food. And my best friend? She could rival Martha Stewart with one hand tied behind her back.

Let's face it, despite being surrounded by good cooks and culinary fashionistas, I'm a washout.

Even my mother-in-law showed me up.

I'll be honest. I did not like her cooking. It was too dry for my taste and most of it too lightly flavored. Greg liked it, but that's what he grew up eating. Today, he'd never touch the stuff because God bless him, he got used to my cooking. LOL.

But there was one thing my mother-in-law excelled at. Stuffing. So help me, in 35 years I've never been able to duplicate it. And my mother-in-law died before I had the sense to ask her for the recipe.

I've tried savory stuffing, sausage stuffing, and crunchy stuffing. Last year I even made my own cornbread to make the stuffing. None of them could compare to hers.

I'm thinking she used a particular spice that really brought out the flavor in her stuffing. I mean it's bread, right? How hard could it be?

Yet, I've never been able to reproduce it for my table. Every Thanksgiving, I ask Greg if it tastes like his mother's and every year I fail. It's good, he says. But it's not Mom's.

Rats! There's always next year.

So fellow friends and hearty eaters, if you get a chance, can you share your stuffing recipe? Or at least tell me what seasonings you use. I'm tired of my mother-in-law's ghost snickering at me over my shoulder.

Regardless of when you celebrate, the sentiment's the same. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Big Reveal

It's been a heck of a tour, hasn't it? I wasn't sure I could pull it off. Most of it was fun and that was due to you guys. I was tickled so many of you visited me at all my stops.

I hope you found some new blogs to visit and I hope those host blogs added you to their friends list too. I wanted this to be an interactive resource for everyone.

I know you're all anxious to find out who the winner of the big giveaway was so I won't keep you in suspense. But am I ever glad I didn't have to choose! I let Randomizer.org do it for me.

The winner for the True Believers Blog Tour is Dru of DallNotes. Congrats, Dru! I'll email you for mailing information later today.

So which was your favorite post? The Tank and Iko Show interview? Greg Tells All? The photo journal? Or was it the business posts like the ones on networking and promo tips?

I think the photo journal and Greg Tells All earned the most comments. But I got a lot of additional comments here about the interview with the dogs.

It was all good. I earned several new followers along the way and I hope you did too. In all, I can safely say the blog tour was a success.

By the way, if you followed me and I haven't followed you back, be sure to leave me a comment so I know who you are.

***
For some reason, I thought the Kensington contest was over today. I checked the web site and it's actually going on through November 28. So more days to vote for Mistress Of The Stone if you can.

I really need to keep better track of that thing. Between the blog tour and working on edits for next year's release of Apocalypse Rising, I don't know what day it is anymore. We're still in 2010, right? :grin:

We're celebrating Thanksgiving today since Greg is leaving me tomorrow. I'll probably post a Thanksgiving tale tomorrow depending on how my edits are going. Stop by and visit if you get a chance.

Off to start the turkey and wake the husband. We're still working on our latest 'sekrit' project and I'll be in and out all day checking on big bird.

Talk to you soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blog Lite

It's going to be a light blog week since (US) Thanksgiving is this week, so we'll make this Announcement Day.

The winner of a copy of True Believers from those who entered over at Bitten By Paranormal Romance is Lia Bal. Lia, if you'll let me know whether you want that in pdf or Kindle, I will email it to you promptly. 

The grand prize blog tour winner will be announced on Wednesday.

Followers: 
I was thrilled to see several new followers add themselves to the Friend Connect list during the course of the blog tour. Thank you! 

Blogger, belligerent beast that it is doesn't email any sort of notice. Most of the time I glance over to the right hand column and see that the number has risen. But unless the new follower leaves a comment and tells me, I have no way of knowing for sure who it is.

If you followed me recently and I haven't followed back, leave me a comment with your blog url so I can add myself to your list.

I have been incredibly blessed with some amazing friends and thoughtful readers. Recently, Dru, Linda Leszczuk, Jackie Burris, and Ronda Tutt have written beautiful and heartfelt pleas to their readers to vote for my entry, Mistress Of The Stone.

I don't know what I did to deserve such selfless acts of kindness, but I will strive to make sure your confidence in me is not misplaced. 

I don't have a huge following so you can imagine how moved I've been by your support. I mentioned your posts to Greg the other day, and he said: You have good friends.

You better believe it.

~Thank you.~

Yes, the contest is still going on until 11-28-10. If you haven't already done so, please vote.

***

The blogosphere will probably be pretty light this week. We'll have to depend on the rest of the world to keep us entertained while we're marinating the turkey--and ourselves.

So American friends, are you traveling for Thanksgiving or keeping it local? How do you feel about the TSA debacle? I'm hearing the TSA is 'reconsidering' its touchy-feely stand.

See you on Wednesday for the BIG reveal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The End

Today is the last day of the blog tour and we end it with an interview at Embrace The Shadows. Susan Blexrud asked me a couple of questions about my favorite subject, the dogs.

This final interview is bittersweet because I finally tell the story about why I chose to use the picture of me and Chelly as my author photo and avatar. It's very special to me.

Be sure to stop by and visit me Embrace The Shadows for the full story.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. And I hope it was fun, unique and interesting. I worked very hard at it and I've learned a lot which I'll share on later posts.

In the meantime a lot of other topics have come up that I'd like to talk about, but I think I'll take the weekend off first. I'm tired! LOL.

Feel free to visit and comment on any or all the blogs where I stopped. All comments are welcomed and every comment, tweet, and blog mention will be tallied up and put into the Randomizer. I'll announce a winner on November 24th.

Oh, and if you'd like to win a copy of True Believers you can still comment on Bitten By Paranormal Romance. I won't draw a name for that one until November 22.

To see everywhere I've been, here's the rundown. Was I busy or what?

Blog Tour 2010

10-20  Carina Press  
10-21  Brava: UNSTOPPABLE 

10-22  Marian Perera: The Nephilim
10-23  Jackie Burris: A Photojournal 


10-24  Lia Booke: Dr. Maria and the One-Two Punch
10-26  Cate Masters: Interview


10-27  Marianne Arkins: Dog Dish!
10-28  Cheryl Tardif: Cover Art Confidential

10-29  Tia Nevitt: Don't Panic
10-30  Ian Healy: Promo Quick Tips

11-5    Ellie Garratt: Are You SF Romance Author Material? 
11-8    Jayne Ferst: Greg Tells All
11-9    Kait Nolan: Full Circle


11-10  Samhain: What's Your Sign?
11-11  Liz Fichera: Blog Tour Tips
11-12  Krista Ball: Networking Made Easy


11-15  Novel Spaces: Old Books
11-16  Maya Reynolds: Computer Armageddon


11-17  Jaunty Quills: Ask The Right Question
11-18  Bitten By Paranormal Romance
11-19  Embrace The Shadows: The Final Interview



**Round Two: Best Hero and Heroine. 
Please vote for Mistress Of The Stone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Secret Life

True Believers is all about secrets and apparently so is my husband. Recently, he shocked me with a bombshell that shattered everything I ever knew about him.

Bitten by Paranormal Romance, which gave True Believers an alpha howl rating (thank you!) asked me to guest post on today's blog. What better place than to reveal Greg's secret?

Brace yourselves. It was far worse than I imagined. I may need therapy after this.

Go over and visit me at Bitten By Paranormal Romance and let me know if you have any deep, dark desires and if I should be worried about Greg.

And today we'll also do something special. One commenter over at Bitten By Paranormal Romance will win a copy of True Believers. I'll pick a winner on November 22nd.

Visit the Blog Tour Page to see everywhere I've been.

**Round Two: Best Hero and Heroine. Please vote for Mistress Of The Stone.