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Friday, February 26, 2010

Spare the Proofing, Spoil the Blog

It must be my inner schoolmarm that makes me crazy whenever I see crimes against blogs being committed.

Sloppiness sucks.

While I place few demands on non writers, when writers blog, I expect a certain amount of technical professionalism, even if all they talk about is the weather on Mercury.

It's been quoted that agents and editors will often gauge the quality of a writer by his blog. I can guarantee you, I do the same thing as a reader. When I come across a new title that interests me, one of the first things I do is look up the author and see what his blog or web site looks like.

If the blog is friendly, interesting, or funny, he gets big brownie points and a spot on my reader, and possibly a sale.

If his posts are riddled with typos and rambling nonsensical sentences, he immediately goes into the penalty box. No sale for him.

I'm not talking about your generic misplaced punctuation or the occasional typo. (I'm not that OCD.) I'm talking about gross errors, the kind even my husband will notice.

What's worse is when I come across a writer who won't even own up to his mistakes. I remember one blogger who kept blaming her keyboard. Well, duh! Either get a new keyboard or fix the errors before you hit publish. How hard is that?

Another blogger, bless her heart, is part of a group blog I follow and like. I am positive she must be a wildly interesting person, but she writes such lengthy posts, I have never been able to finish a single one. The average post was 6000 words. (I checked.) Many were far longer.

If her blog posts ramble that much, how must her novels read?

So it's just not editors and agents who notice. Readers notice too.

I proofread my posts a ridiculous number of times because I don't want to be the cause of undue eye hemorrhaging and spontaneous brain tumors.

Greg mentioned recently how surprised he was at how often I called up the average post just to massage a word or two before it publishes.

Greg: I thought you finished that post.

Me: I did.

Greg: You've called it up eighteen times since you wrote it yesterday.

Me: So.

Greg: Well isn't that obsessive?

Me (rolling my eyes): What's your point?

At this stage of the conversation the smart husband just walks away.

See how easy that was?

How often do you edit before you hit publish? Does it bother you to see nits and typos on other blogs?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Life Interrupted

I've been noticing on several blogs that people are apologizing for being so busy and not blogging. I can totally commiserate.

Life is full, especially if like me, you think being lazy is doing only three things at once.

I try to get things done as quickly as possible because I BELIEVE in Murphy's Law. What can go wrong, will go wrong. The more I can do now will give me more time to take care of life's inevitable emergencies.

Emergencies ALWAYS show up, and sometimes they're dire.

Though I've done some time in Purgatory recently, my troubles have been mild compared to the hell two of my friends are enduring now.

Being a friend, means that you share their trouble. Last night, we spent nearly two hours in traffic trying to reach one of my friends. All we could do was offer emotional support while her poor dog underwent a blood transfusion in an emergency room. We hope to know more today. Meanwhile, I am on research duty, trying to find out more about two of the probable causes for her illness and potential treatments.

So to all of you who regret not being able to blog as regularly as you should, don't beat yourself up. It's more important to embrace life than talk about it.

Wish my friend luck on her poor little dog. They've got a real fight ahead of them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Outwitting Nitwits

I don't get many spammers, but a few occasionally weasel in and I have to guard myself from committing murder.

Nobody likes spammers, not even their mothers. I'm pretty sure all of them were abandoned at birth and were then raised by nematodes--the parasitic kind found in dung heaps.

I have this blog set with word verification. I know a few people find it annoying, but it's the least intrusive form of stopping the robotic spammers. Unfortunately, it won't stop the human spammers.

To slow them down, this blog also prevents comments from being published without my permission after 24 hours of the post being published. The first 24 hours, anyone can see their post, after that, it needs my permission to continue.

This is helpful because some, I mean spammers usually prey on older posts to hide their links to porn and other dubious undertakings.

On Blogger, you can moderate comments for any amount of time. Find the control under Settings.

I haven't figured out how some of them can get in without being seen by Stat Counter. Those are the most insidious spammers, the kind that can slip in under the radar.

And then when they use a foreign language (that I can't read) I get very suspicious. Just why do they think I'm going to leave up a comment that I can't read?

But here's a tip in case you get such a comment and want to know what it is. If the link is encrypted, that is, it looks like a bunch of nonsense, or is truncated, copy it and put it on your browser. Once it's pasted on the browser, it should show up as the actual link.

Don't click it. Most of the time it will have a word or two telling you it's a sex link or what not. If you click the link, you run the risk of infecting your computer with malware or a tracking cookie from that site.

My recent spammer left a message entirely in Chinese, but no clickable link. I copied the first line of the message and put it into Google. It brought up plenty of entries, including a translation. The translation, it was no surprise, was another sex ad.

Poor nematodes. Maybe we should get together and send them all the junk from our spam email folders so they can find a good sale on viagra or a nice sex toy.

May their hell include partners with no working parts and sex toys with corroded batteries. And spam. Lots and lots of spam.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Proud Owner of a Chipped Kneecap

Had my knee surgery Friday.

This is how I walked in.

This is how I hoped to walk out.

This is why I'm somewhere in between.

Apparently, I've got a groove gouged out of my kneecap which was what was causing much of the pain. He cleaned out the debris, but the only way to repair the kneecap is to replace it. --not something I'll be doing any time soon.

I can live with the pain a while longer. At least I know the extent of the damage now.

All's well that ends well, but I am bored waiting on my gam to heal well enough for me to get back to work. There is brush to burn, dirt to move and rooms to be painted. I am getting antsy as the list keeps growing.

The first day after surgery was not particularly pleasant, (side effects of the meds) but I feel fine today--other than that chipped bone. Greg, the warden is watching my every move because he doesn't trust me to stay put. I think he stole my to-do list too.

The only funny moment came pre-surgery when the attending nurse asked me if I had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. I laughed and said no, but added: "Now if my husband comes around and says, do no resuscitate, don't believe him!"

Them husbands are wily.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Scent Of Roses

I have a ghost story for you in honor of the month of love.

Stop over at Patricia Altner's Vampire Bites to read a true story about soul mates whose love transcended even death.

When Pat asked me for a post that dealt with the paranormal and romance, this was the first thing that came to mind. It happened many, many years ago, but the memory has stuck with me.

Leave me a comment and tell me your ghost story.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who Loves You, Baby?

Who reads you? Do you ever wonder?

Most of us know some of our followers to one degree or another. Some read me daily, others weekly, and others even less frequently.

Members of my family occasionally read me, which always surprises the heck out of me. Writer-friends, of course read me because we all started in the same gelatinous goo of publishing purgatory. But I also have homesteaders, dog lovers, gardeners and book lovers who read me.

And then there's a huge chunk of traffic from people who come here strictly out of a Google search for some topic I've covered somewhere along the way.

The raisin remedy for arthritis is a big draw here as are many of the Prudent Penny topics for saving money or homesteading.

But the ones who really surprise me are the readers who occasionally post comments here, people I didn't think knew me, let alone read me. This got me to thinking about all the blogs I peruse daily--particularly the ones where I only comment occasionally.

I mentioned on Tia Nevitt's blog that a blogger has to get my attention within the first paragraph just to get me to read their post. And if they want me to comment, they then have to ask my opinion or say something so outrageous that I need to comment.

I rarely comment for book giveaways or prizes. It's not that I don't want to win, but I figure someone else could use the book or freebie more than I could. I don't want to deprive someone else of their chance.

Which reminds me... I once commented on a BIG, BIG blog and I did win something. (Amazing because I was one of over 300 comments.) It was an entire set of books from this author, whom I won't name because she NEVER delivered, even when the host of the blog contacted her.

Why would anyone offer a prize and not deliver? I did give her one more chance thinking she might have gotten sidelined, but this time she just ignored me. Guess whose books I won't be buying now?

A good blogger has responsibilities to his readers. And part of that responsibility means when you promise something, you should deliver or at least give an apology when you can't.

Good blogging also means good content or at least an interesting story to tell. You have to make it worth a reader's while.

I'm really grateful for those of you who stop by, those of you who read me regularly, and especially those of you who comment. Especially those who comment. Because when you comment, then I know you're out there and I try to follow you too.

I'm not an elitist in any way. Blogging to me is a lot like hiking. You never know who you'll meet along the way. And I'm the kind of person who is interested in everything. Truly. If you read this blog, chances are good we probably have something in common, and I want to know who you are so I can follow you too.

But here's my question to you. How many times does someone have to comment on your blog before you'll stop by his and comment? It usually takes me a couple of comments from people I don't know, that way I'm sure they're not fly-bys but rather people who have really taken an interest in this blog.

So who reads you? And do you read (and comment) them back?

Have you ever been surprised by who reads you?

PS Stop by Wednesday. I'm going to be visiting Patricia Altner and sharing a real life ghost story.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow in Texas!

We had a record snowfall in north Texas. Over a foot in some places. It'll probably be gone next week. The weatherman says we'll be back in the 50s.

Despite the snow, it's not particularly cold. But it is very pretty. Greg and I had the obligatory snowball fight. He started it! And who am I to back down from a challenge of war?

The snow blanketed everything, and the entire countryside was quiet and peaceful. My favorite pastime has been watching the birds at my feeder. I filled it for them before the snows came. I also had some old bread I was going to freeze for croutons later, but I decided to toast it and smear some peanut butter on it. That was for the squirrels, though a couple of crows found it too.

The crows were amazing to watch. They would sidle up to the toast like they were oblivious to it, then snatch a piece and fly off. My feeder has had some incredible traffic from dawn to dusk. Some of the birds stage themselves by watching from a nearby branch or my clothesline, then swoop down as soon as a perch on the feeder opens up.

My surgery had to be postponed. Apparently, I can drive more than sixty miles to reach the surgery center, but the staff couldn't manage ten.

It's a huge logistics problem for me because now poor Greg has to take more days off so he can drive me. If they hadn't already gotten some of their blood money, I would've canceled.

The Olympics: I've never been a big fan, but I do like to watch the opening ceremonies. This one was a bit disappointing. Supposedly the creative director wanted to make something intimate. I'd say the best he accomplished was anti-climatic.

The caliber of many of the athletes has changed through the generations too. One athlete, (I forget her event) wanted the media to know that she sustained a serious injury. That's perfectly understandable, but so what? If you can't compete, don't compete, but don't go around whining and making excuses. That, in my opinion is not a true Olympian.

This is:

1976: Shun Fujimoto Hits His Ring Set with a Broken Knee

The Japanese built a dynasty in men's gymnastics in the 1960s and 70s. By 1976, Japan had won the team gold in the last four Olympics. In the team finals in Montreal, however, Japanese team member Shun Fujimoto injured himself on floor. Fearing that the team would not win if he withdrew from the meet, Fujimoto hid the extent of his injury and competed his final two events of the day, pommel horse and rings.

On rings, Fujimoto scored a 9.7, after landing his full-twisting double back dismount onto a broken kneecap. His score helped the Japanese earn their fifth consecutive team gold, and he is still revered in Japan for his selfless commitment to the team.

That, my friends is an Olympian. I remember watching this event and thinking he was the most perfect man in history. Hugely fit, self-sacrificing, dedicated and unstoppable. I still think of Fujimoto as a hero.

Whenever I get sidelined by an injury or personal setback, I think of Fujimoto, and try again.

Click the link to see his amazing performance.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How To Hunker Down When It's Cold

I am still in the middle of a massive writing blitz so I will continue with two posts a week for a while. The good news is, I am finding some very good words in between the dribble. And I am writing rather quickly too. A rarity for me.

On Friday, at o'dark thirty, I'll be having a little knee surgery. It's arthroscopic and basically all he's doing is snipping away any torn cartilage and flushing away debris around the joint. With any luck, it should help me out a little.

For today, given the blizzards the poor north is facing, I decided to write about hunkering down for frigid weather.

If you live in the north, you know the drill. Stock up on pantry supplies, veggies, fruits and dairy. But it pays to prepare for lengthy cabin stays or something worse, like a power outage.

I don't like to suffer. Call me a wuss, but if I am stuck indoors, I don't want to feel deprived. This is especially important if you are prone to depression. You don't want to face hardship when you're already battling the blues.

This is why I always stock up on goodies. I splurge on good chocolate, alcohol, and new (to me) DVDs. Stock up on things that make you feel good.

I also make sure my house is very clean and tidy. In case of trouble, I don't want to be looking for my flashlight through a pile of laundry. A clean house also makes you feel more in control. Crazy, but true.

As an aside, I find I write more fluidly when my house is clean too. If I've got things covered it makes me feel confident that I can tackle anything else that comes down the pipe. There are no pesky brain worms reminding me the fridge needs cleaning, or the shelves need dusting.

Power Outage: If you lose power for a few hours, no biggie. Don't open your refrigerator or freezer and shut off all the lights and other electronic gadgets. You don't want to risk a surge when your power comes back.

When it's a prolonged outage, you need to move quickly unless you're willing to lose all the food in your fridge and freezer.

The longest we've ever been without power was 21 days during Hurricane Rita. Let me tell you, if you want to know what hardship and isolation feels like, turn off your power for three weeks in the middle of a sweltering heat--or numbing cold. You'll learn very quickly just how tough you are--or aren't.

Kids and Dogs: Keep them occupied. Giving them tasks and games and chewies help a lot. Idle hands (and paws) make for grumpy spawn.

Elderly and Handicapped: Check on your elderly and handicapped neighbors and family. They might not ask you for help, so make sure they're okay.

Light: Check your batteries and have a lantern for each person in the house. I keep candles for desperate emergencies only. It's important not to create undue fire risks.

Fire Hyrants: Speaking of fire danger, if you live in the city, do yourself and your neighbors a favor and keep your closest fire hydrant from getting buried in the snow. In case of fire, you don't want firefighters trying to figure out where the hydrant is under several feet of snow.

Heat: A fireplace is wonderful if the electricity goes out. But oil and electric heaters are cleaner, more efficient, and less expensive (unless you have a woodlot available for your hearth). When feasible, have multiple sources of heat. Also close off rooms so you only have to heat the most important ones.

Food: Casseroles and stick-to-your-ribs food is psychologically beneficial. I like to prepare a few things ahead of time--just in case we lose power.

Travel: Avoid going out if possible. Use public transportation if it's available.

Communication: Let people know where you are. And keep those cell phones charged. By the way, the next time you see one of those old rotary phones at a garage sale for a dollar, buy it. They work even when the power is out.

Attitude: Weather forecasting being what it is, you know when you're going to get socked. Get your mental focus on and plan accordingly.

Stay warm, eat well and make sure everyone has something to keep them busy.

Good luck, Northerners. Hope it warms up soon for you guys.

Off to make some chili and cornbread.

PS The photo I posted above is just stock art. Stop over at Dru's blog and see some really good snow pictures.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Best Job

While I've held a lot of high profile and lucrative positions, the job I loved the most was the one where my pockets smelled of dog cookies and my lab coat was etched with permanent drool trails.

After that horrible week as a telemarketer, I found a job that was tailor-made for me. For several years I worked as a veterinary technician. I came aboard initially as kennel help, but it seems I made an impression on the cranky old vet known for his fiery temper.

Like all the others who came before, he ran me through the ringers. He was renown for driving young women to tears with his gruff demeanor, but I realized early on that he was testing his employees. He wanted to see what you were made of.

Every day was a battle of wits between us. Every time I mastered something new, he'd throw another gauntlet down, just to see if I would crumble under the pressure of added responsibilities. Call it kismet, but I'm one of those idiots who thrive under pressure. Maybe it's because I was young and felt I had something to prove.

Before I knew it, he had invited me into his surgery to watch and learn.

I started with the menial tasks of cleaning up after surgery, then pre-op, and finally administering anesthesia. I loved it all. Who could have guessed I had an aptitude for medicine?

My greatest victory was the day he found me poring over one of his veterinary books. Thinking I was loafing, he grilled me to see if I had accomplished all my duties for the day. He rattled off one task after another and each time I assured him it was done to his specifications.

Frustrated, he grabbed one of the surgical packs, (a wrapped packaged of surgical instruments already sterilized and ready for use) and unwrapped it to see if I had screwed anything up in putting it together.

He examined each instrument with the scrutiny of a hanging judge. Finally, he tossed the opened pack on an examination table and said in his loud, booming voice, "Well, I'll be damned."

I had passed his last test. We got to be friends after that and more than once he offered to sponsor me at A&M University's veterinary program. It was a tempting offer, but I was still a new wife and A&M was many miles away. I couldn't see leaving my husband for that many years while I earned my doctorate.

I loved my job though. It was the kind of job I couldn't wait to start every morning. And I had learned more from that cranky old man than I ever did anywhere else. He was my mentor and I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me.

When I look back at all the jobs I've held, that's the one I point to and say: That was the best. It was the most fulfilling job I ever had.

What was your best job? Why did you love it?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gone Hollywood

I always knew Tank was Hollywood material.

This software allows you to become the hero in your own movie. The movie itself is in Swedish with English subtitles. I used one of my favorite heroes, Tank.

It is definitely tres cool! Be sure to watch it all the way through. Here is the link to the site.

Addendum: I've had to delete the embedded video because apparently, the song plays every time someone visits this blog. I don't hear it, but you guys do. Sorry about that! You can still view the video with the link above.

Thanks to Mike Keyton for the head's up.

Thanks to The Generator Blog for the software link.

Tomorrow: Your Best Job

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's Not About You

I wasn't going to get into this silly free-for-all between Amazon and MacMillan but I am sick and tired of the grousing and hand-wringing.

There has been some good analysis and then there are the dilettante observers who just regurgitate whatever they hear from their friends or eavesdrop from Twitter, and then get it wrong.

There are some important questions that are NOT being answered from either behemoth.

Authors: Amazon picks the price point. MacMillan doesn't like it. They want to raise it. Ooh, good for authors, right? Can someone tell me what MacMillan is currently paying its authors for ebook rights? I'm betting it's not the 35-40% that other e-publishers are paying. The last author I spoke to who was published with a NY publisher (not MacMillan) told me her contract offered 12%. Boo-rah!

Who is pocketing those other percentage points now that they don't have to worry about returns, or printing, or remaindering? These are huge costs that thanks to e-publishing are no longer an issue. Where does that money go?

Amazon demands a $10 price point. They're not out to help authors either. They are doing the WalMart quick step to draw in customers.

And guess what? It's not about the authors at all. All you drama queens, get off your fainting couch.

This is a business. Neither one of these giants care how it affects you. They care about what goes back into their coffers. So all this outcry about supporting this cause or that does little in the way of supporting writers other than in their little world.

But back to Amazon. Despite their low-ball price point. Is it really low-ball? I'm not sure I want to spend $15 dollars for an ebook, or even $10, not when I can get the paperback for $7-$8. When I get tired of it gathering dust, I can resell it or donate it. An ebook has to be cheaper than the paperback. That's my price point.

The writer community is getting itself in such a lather about this camp or that one, they'd forgotten the most important camp of all--the READER.

I am still a reader, and given the choice between a high profile author at a $15 price point and two low profile authors whose publisher is selling their books direct for five bucks a piece, guess where I'm going?

When I'm browsing a book catalog, that's only my first stop. Once I find a premise that sounds interesting, I then Google the book to find out who's selling it the cheapest. If it was originally debuted as an ebook, you can find all sorts of 3rd party sellers.

If the author was smart and had his rights reverted to him after the book went out of print, you might find that book even cheaper from the author's web site. A double-bonus: buying directly from the author returns all the profits back to him.

This war is far from over and I can't justly declare either side the winner. All I know is that despite Amazon's less than noble sucker punches, they are still endearing themselves to the average reader who is not a writer.

Writers have a tendency to isolate themselves and never look beyond what their other writer friends are saying. I make it my mission to step away to see how the rest of the world reacts.

And you know what? They are hoping Amazon wins.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Worst Job

When I moved to Texas, my first goal (after I learned how to drive) was to find a job. We really needed the money and I was willing to do anything.

I came to find out, anything, wasn't entirely true.

For one week, I was a telemarketer. And I HATED every damn minute of it.

Partly because of the selling, though telemarketing was in its infancy and we weren't required to be as pushy as they are today, but mostly because nearly every one of those goobers smoked in that office. (This was back when smoking was permitted.)

Every night I drove with the windows open and I'd strip naked before I walked into the house proper. Fortunately, I could come in through the laundry room and throw my clothes into the washer before I came in. Then it was straight to the shower.

I did this for five whole days. If I ever come down with lung cancer, I am going to blame it on that one horrid week of my youth.

After I got home the first day I was frantic to find another job. Sweet Greg urged me to go ahead and quit that same day. He knew how miserable I was. But I stuck it out so I could earn a week's paycheck. No one was happier than I was when I quit that job.

Worst. Job. Ever.

What was your worst job? How long did you last?

Next week: Best Job