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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sacrificial Blaaag

I have a LOT of writing to do and something has to be sacrificed to get it all done, so I think this blog will go to a two-post week for a few weeks until I get some of these projects under wraps.

There is a scheduled post tomorrow that requires your earnest participation, so I hope you'll stop in and post a comment.

Poor blaaag! But I have to get my other projects in sheep-shape order.

--ya'll come baaaack now, ya hear. I'm going to go look at Lamb-orginis because I'm on the lam-b.

***
Oh, someone stop that pun-ny woman before she makes another baaad joke!

Too late.

See you, tomorrow.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zombie Fun

Because you never get tired of killing zombies. Greg sent me this game. I'm not much for games, but he got me hooked. I'm on level 8 with 73 kills to my name so far!

He also found this icon that I traced back to eBaum's World. Greg said he lovingly thought of me when he read this slogan: You're a great friend, but if zombies chase us, I'm tripping you.

:sigh:

He knows me so well.

Finally...my most favorite party song of all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wise Guy

I was trying to recall my childhood home the other day. I could picture it in my mind, right down to the privet hedge in front of the brownstone, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember the street, so I called my mother and asked her where it was.

"We lived on Dearborn street," she said. "Dearborn and Superior."

It's been a while since we were in Chicago, and I told Greg I just couldn't remember any apartment buildings in that area.

He says: "My dear, entire nations have risen and fallen since you lived on that street."



(Please stand by for the explosion.)


(Ah...there it is.)

He should be able to see out of his right eye by Saturday.


Moral of the story: Never remind your wife that she is older than some world nations.





Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Horror Vacui

Horror Vacui is an art term that means fear of empty spaces.

Many moons ago, when I was at university, we had a young woman who stood in front of her canvas and just stared at it. She was terrified of making a mistake on her pristine board. The blank canvas was so intimidating, she couldn't confront it.

To cure her, the professor grabbed her widest brush, swished it in turpentine then daubed it into a gob of burnt umber. He scumbled the brush all over her canvas until the white was gone.

I thought the poor girl was going to have a heart attack.

Even though I don't suffer from horror vacui, I learned something that day that holds true even today. You're not going to ruin your canvas if you smear wide swaths of paint over it. And you're not going to ruin a story if you write 20,000 words before you know where you're going.

Horror vacui is almost always temporary, but when it hits you, it can be debilitating.

You have to be willing to make your mark, even if it's only a place holder. Cover your canvas with enough paint so that you have a foundation to work on.

The same goes for a novel. Just because you write forty pages of fireplace kindling doesn't mean anyone is going to see it. It's a warm-up session for the good words you'll write later.

The next time you stare at your computer screen, afraid you'll head in the wrong direction, remember that heart attack lesson and throw some words out there. Even if it's sewer sludge, it's better than the alternative.

You can always write over them later.

*

While I don't have a problem starting or finishing a novel (or a painting), I do have a serious mental blockage when it comes to kneaded dough.

Dough hates me. And I hate it back. So I just stare at it...and wait for Greg to show up so he can finish making something with that glob I started. --He's a very useful husband.

Have you ever suffered from horror vacui? How did you recover?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Glad I'm Not a Horse

I have been on overdrive lately. Newsletters to put out, home projects to get done, stories to write. This time of the month is always the busiest for me. That's usually when my deadline projects are due.

I decided to get my knee fixed. (next month) It'll be arthoscopic surgery and the doc tells me I should be able to walk the next day. Yay! Greg, of course, doesn't believe me and he's ready to put me under restraints. hmm...I wonder if he has ulterior motives for those restraints.

Anyway, I'm hoping this surgery will alleviate some of the pain. The surgeon refused to offer any guarantees since that knee also has quite a bit of arthritis, but I figure, the other knee must be just as arthritic, and it hardly bothers me at all. If he could clean up the tear in my bad leg, it's got to offer some improvement.

The knee injury was a parting gift from the last house. We were in a bind and HAD to move out our stuff that day. Worse yet, we still had no house to move it to. We lost the movers we contracted because our move date changed at the last minute. It was up to us to move an entire house full of furniture.

I was doing so well too--up until we moved the giant curio cabinet. I could feel my knee pop and I dragged it behind me like Quasimodo ever after. How I managed to keep going, I'll never know. That darn injury has been my constant companion since then.

I still haven't found a fix for the soft tissue damage that prevents me from sitting for very long. Drugs don't help and neither has physical therapy. I have two choices left to me. I'm trying the less expensive one first. The other option scares me. That one means a spine surgeon.

One injury at a time, right? Glad I'm not a horse. I'd be glue by now.

***

Judging by the huge spike in traffic the last few days, people must be interested in the return of Killer Campaigns, even though very few of you spoke up. What gives? Don't tell me you're shy! I'm doing this as much for the authors out there as myself. And if this is going to be a collaborative effort I need to hear from you. I'm feeling unloved. ;o)

***

On top of my regular projects this week, I also painted the garage interior. It looks nice and bright. The garage is so weird. Not only did the builders sheet-rock it, but they textured it with a pebble finish then added molding as if it were another finished room. It looks too fancy for car storage. LOL.

This week, I'd like to start some seedlings. I promised myself I wouldn't jump the gun and plant too early. They can take their sweet time growing in their little pots. I won't transplant them until April.

I don't plan on growing anything exotic this year, though if we can get the irrigation set up for the back 40, I'd like to plant corn and sunflowers. I also promised my friend, Mel, that I'd try to grow some ornamental gourds so we can paint them for Christmas decorations. (more on this later) --I just have to find a free spot for a trellis. Gourds take up a lot of room.

So what's new with you? Any plans for the week or are you winging it?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Killer Campaigns is Coming Back! --Maybe

Late in 2008 and almost all of 2009, I wrote a regular column called Killer Campaigns, focusing on the various venues for marketing yourself and your book.

Through my research, I learned along with you, the cost of each marketing strategy and whether I thought it would work.

I didn't always agree with the running favorites, like bookmarks or book trailers. But I gave them a fair shake to see how they held up to my litmus test of exposure and profitability.

And I examined them all, whether I planned to use them for myself or not.

In the end, I learned, both from research and experience, that you had to choose your battles carefully. There's no benefit in running yourself ragged trying to cover all your bases with promotional pens, bookmarks, chat rooms, interviews, contests, etc., etc.

You can't do it all and even if you could, you probably couldn't do it well--not without spending an extraordinary amount of money.

So I concluded that the best promotional plan for us are the ones we're most comfortable doing--and the ones we do well.

Look at me. I live in the middle of nowhere. It takes me an hour just to reach the fuzzy edge of Dallas on a good day. (Don't even ask me how long it takes on a bad day.) I have to rely on the internet to get my name out. I can't afford to go to book signings, attend conferences and give speeches.

Worse yet, I have no talent for chat rooms, no time for Twitter, and no money for loads of goodies. What's a new author to do?

You do what you can, with the resources you have and your natural talents. I like to blog. I think I do it well. So for me, blogging is a way to reach out to a myriad of potential readers.

I like to write articles too. Even though I haven't had one published in a while, I still get visitors from the sites that carried my articles. Google my name. I'm everywhere!

This year, I'd like to do an update on Killer Campaigns, giving tips on how to complement your promotional efforts. I'm thinking we might do a series of what-if scenarios.

What if:

• Money is tight and all I have is $50 to spend on marketing this year. What should I spend it on?

• My book is erotica. What are the best ways to find my audience?

• Ack! I self-published, now what do I do?

These are just a few ideas, but I'm open to suggestions. If you have a particular quandary, you can leave it in comments, or email me if you'd rather keep your superhero identity a secret.

I'll do this series twice a month if you show enough interest. Of course, if no one comments, I'll assume it's not important enough to make it a series.

Drop me a comment, email me a question, or send up smoke rings. I'll bet we can have a lot of fun brainstorming this and getting everyone involved.

I want to color outside the lines and not fall into the same old marketing routine. You ask the questions and I'll start the ball rolling by analyzing it for public scrutiny and putting it up for discussion.

For those of you who are new to this blog and don't know my background, I recently retired as the art director for an advertising department of a major corporation where I saved the world from bad advertising.

My specialty is print advertising, but no matter what you use to market your book or your brand, the elements are the same, and so is the goal.

What do you say, guys? Should I bring back Killer Campaigns as a new series? What questions should we tackle?

For past Killer Campaign articles, go here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Iko and Gentleman Tank

No wonder my knee is giving out.

We went to Petsmart the other day and weighed crazy puppy, Iko.

What was once a little, bitty, 9lb bundle of whimpers and whines is now 70lbs! He's barely nine months old. What happened? I know I didn't put growth hormones into his food.

Fingers crossed, Iko has not chewed up anything but his chew toys in several weeks. I shudder to mention this, in case I jinx myself and he decides to decimate something new. But he's been good. No accidents, no chewy fits and no excessive barking. Is it possible, he's grown out of crazy puppy stage?

The first photo shows Iko at two and a half months old.

The second photo was taken yesterday. Iko's not a little bitty puppy any more, but he still adores Tank and looks to him to lead.

This is right before bedtime and they were none too happy to put up with me and my camera so late at night.

They got a cookie for their trouble though, so all was forgiven.

Gentleman Tank, also known as Saint Tank, came in at a whopping 137lbs. We really need to take a few pounds off of him. Although he gets around great--he can leap extra tall beds in a single bound--I would like to see him trimmer as he gets older so it won't be so much of a strain on those old bones.

He's such a gentle giant. So calm and intelligent. (If only Iko was that smart.) Tank is about 8 years old now and his muzzle is graying. Our past rotties have all lived until 12, but Tank is so big, we're not sure if he'll be with us as long as the others.

Tank has been exceedingly patient with Iko, and he's been good for crazy puppy, teaching him his tasks as guardian and protector.

Iko's been good for Tank too. Given his druthers, the Tankster would be content to snooze all day. Having a puppy around has given ALL of us a lot more exercise.

***

And now I have to point you to Kaz Augustin's blog so you can take a look at her crazy puppy, Sausage. She's adorable! Seeing her post yesterday made me realize I'd been remiss at posting any new photos of 'da boys' together, so obviously I had to make up for it with this one.

Go over and visit Kaz. See cute puppy. And make silly human noises.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How To Steal With Class


Thievery is an art and done well, the result can even be original.

Some of you might recall a post where I mentioned being scraped, that is, my blog posts were copied, more or less verbatim. It still happens, but a lot less often now that I attach my rss notifier that tells them they are copying original content.

Nowadays, the worst I see are suspiciously similar blog titles or unique content points I'd written earlier.

Fingerprints are easy to find when it's a pilfered post. Try Googling parts of your blog post and see where else it has traveled.

That's not to say all thievery is evil. I get a lot of my blog ideas from other posts, from the news, and from what I hear on the radio. That's how I got my idea for this blog post. The trick--or I should say, the honorable thing to do is to give credit where credit is due.

In this case, my idea for a thievery post came from Romance Writers Revenge. The original post was called, We're All Thieves.

While it could be said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, it ticks me off when it's done on the sly.

Everyone wants to be recognized for their contributions, right?

The only time I won't link to someone who's given me an idea for a post is if the original conversation that birthed the idea was private, or if it threatens to tell more about someone than I know they'd feel comfortable sharing.

Linking is a good thing, and it's a great way not only to introduce new blogs or writers to your audience, but to introduce yourself too. Sometimes I find people who I didn't even know read my blog, just by following a Google alert to their blog when they mention me.

It makes me feel appreciated to see my name on their blog. And in return, they've earned a new reader too.

Link well and link often. Karma pays you back either way.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How Do You Pamper Yourself?

Recently, I was on Dru's blog and she mentioned getting a manicure. I have never had a professional manicure in my life and I often wondered if it was as nice an experience as it looked.

I work with my hands. Whether it's digging in dirt, painting on canvas, or refinishing furniture, my hands are always into something, so a manicure feels like it would be lost on me. As a matter of fact, I have a badly damaged middle finger that will never look normal again. (I lost a fight with a giant workshop door.)

My other problem is my inconvenient work ethic. I was taught that reward comes after the labor. Unfortunately, (and all mothers know this too) work is never done. There is always something to do around here. So in my twisted sense of logic, I never earn the right to pamper myself.

But I am willing to mend my ways. Honest! I just need to do it in baby steps.

My mother admonishes me constantly about not taking care of myself. She regularly partakes in massages, facials, manicures and fine wines. The woman is near 80 and looks absolutely fabulous. Her skin is luminous, she can walk at a pretty good clip, and her wit is sharp.

All I got going for me is my wit---and I only have half of that left.

I keep promising myself that I'll get a massage or a facial. I look longingly at my couch and think how nice it would be to take a nap in the middle of the day. I even bought bath salts once in the hopes I'll take a nice hot soak. But do I do any of these things?

Phhhhht!

Physical labor is pabulum to me. Greg will tell you (we argued about this only yesterday) that about this time of year I start bouncing off the walls because I am not as active as I normally am. During the winter, I am more sedentary. My jobs consist of things that can be done indoors. Good for writing. Not good at relieving my pent-up energy.

So help me live vicariously through you. What do you do to pamper yourself?

What can I try that will only take 10-15 minutes of my time? Maybe I can start slow and work my way up. *g*

Dogs know how to relax anywhere, any time.
They are way smarter than me.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Prudent Penny: How to Figure Supplies

Whether you store your items in a full walk-in closet or a little cupboard, how you stock it can mean the difference between a successful pantry and one with expired food.

Every couple of years, I play the 'menu game'. Basically, I plot out all the meals we regularly eat, then scour my homemade cookbook for new recipes to add to the list.

My homemade cookbook is a binder with all the recipes I've clipped from magazines, online or from friends that we either ate or thought looked good.

I usually end up with at least 60 good recipe ideas, things I know we will eat. Look down your list and put a 2x, 3x, 4x, or however many times you think you might make that meal in a month.

For example, we probably eat cheeseburgers two times a month. 2 x 12 is 24. I double the total (24) because I am cooking for two. I end up with 48. That tells me how much ground beef I'll need, how many buns, cheese, condiments, etc for this particular meal in a year. I might not have room in my freezer for 48 patties in one go, but I can probably fit 24. That's a half year of burgers I don't have to worry about. It's already pre-measured and ready to defrost.

Try doing something more complicated now. Like pizza or a casserole.

Do this with every menu idea on your list.

The numbers do not have to be exact, but it helps. A ball park figure is good enough to get you started.

***

Cook once, store for the week.

I adore pasta and would gladly eat it three or more times a week. Rather than heat the stove up for every meal, I cook one big pot of pasta. I prefer mine in olive oil and spinach so I transfer the cooked pasta into a pan drizzled with oil, crushed garlic, and sauteed spinach and mix it into the pasta.

Heaven!

Since I live alone a good deal of the time, it makes an easy meal for me to reheat and eat on the run. I don't mind cooking for other people, but I hate to cook for myself.

***

Want an easy way to know how often you use up paper towels or toilet paper? Save your empty cardboard tubes for a month. Multiply it by 12. Voila! You have your shopping list for TP for the year.

Recycle the tubes by making fire starters out of them for winter. To make fire starters, stuff them with shredded paper or dryer lint.

Or make three short cuts at one end and fold the pieces under until it sits flat.They make the perfect seed starters. Plant the whole thing in the ground where it will disintegrate to compost.

Tips on what to store:

• Buy only what you'll eat.

• If it's a new (to you) brand, try the smaller size first. You don't want to be stuck with something no one will like.

• Paper, plastic, aluminum: If it's a smart price, buy it. These products do not expire.

• Careful with stocking up low acid foods like tomato products. Buy only what you can use up before the expiration date. If the lid bulges, no matter how slight--throw it out.

• Do a sniff test with seasonings. If it's lost its punch, toss it. Most experts tell you to toss them out in a year. They could be right, but I trust my nose more.

Do you have any tricks for figuring out how much to buy and store?

For more Prudent Penny topics go here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Psychic Dog

I've become a believer. Iko is definitely psychic.

I didn't want to believe it because he's generally too goofy to predict meal time let alone something random. But ever since he was five months old (he's 8 months old now) Iko has been able to predict when Greg's arrival is imminent.

About four to five minutes before Greg pulls into the driveway, that silly dog will go nuts, bouncing off the walls, running to the door and barking at absolutely nothing.

Sure as sunshine, five minutes later I hear Greg driving up on the gravel road.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. But he's been uncannily accurate, going through this routine every single time Greg is minutes from coming home.

It can't be due to hearing the car because at five minutes, Greg's at least five miles away. And Iko can't time it to our phone calls because Greg's calls and arrival times are random.

So what sets crazy puppy off? It's a mystery.

The little heathen is growing like a weed. I feel sorry for him sometimes. He goes through these huge growth spurts and I know it must hurt his bones to grow so fast. Greg won't see him for a couple of weeks at a time, and when he does, he can't get over how big he's gotten.

Iko's still a clown though and he hasn't outgrown his chewy stage yet, but I think we're nearly there. He'll go a couple of weeks as a complete angel and then he'll disembowel a perfectly innocent toy.

There is no denying his sweetness though. If he got any sweeter, we'd fall into diabetic comas.

This psychic stuff has me amused and baffled. Is he that tuned in to Greg's presence? Does it have anything to do with Greg's prolonged absences? We've never tested him with my arrivals since he lives with me all the time.

Has anyone out there ever had a psychic pet? What does he predict?

Hmm...I predict a story out of this. Hey, maybe I'm psychic too!

Nah.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Do You Check Out Your Friends?

I'm a bit paranoid when it comes to social networking. Facebook is riddled with viruses and malware, and I'd heard even Livejournal had corrupted a few operating systems recently.

I've never trusted Facebook, especially since that scandal when they said they "owned" your stuff. And while I don't have anything against Livejournal, it's just not professional-looking enough for my needs.

But my biggest peeve with social networks is the software they use to "help" you find your friends. This software goes into YOUR address book and invites whoever is in there. It's supposed to ask you if you want to invite them, but my research shows that's not always the case.I'd rather go friendless than risk receiving a virus or sending out mass invites like a spammer on steroids.

I like Goodreads. I've met a lot of people with similar interests and I've found quite a few new books. And it's not particularly intrusive, though it does use that same software to look at your address book.

To play it safe, I methodically invite people the slow and careful way. If I know them only superficially or through another friend, I make the extra effort to check out their web site to make sure we'd be compatible.

If someone sends an invitation to me, I always research them to make sure they aren't creepy or insincere. I make it a rule not to accept friends just because I'm asked. On Twitter, which I've pretty much abandoned, I have blocked probably a couple dozen people for suspicious behavior.

What looks suspicious?

Clue #1: They follow a lot of 'friends' but no one friends them back.
Clue #2: Their handle or avatar appears pornographic or pedophilic .
Clue #3: They list no web site, group site or affiliations.

I make every effort to know who is friending me and who I friend back. I think it's a respectful thing to do if I want to friend someone, and it's a safe thing to do before I accept an invitation.

Do you check out the people who send you invitations? Or am I being abnormally cautious?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Housekeeping Note

On Friday, 1-8-2010, between 3pm central until Saturday at 4am I did not receive any emails on my regular accounts. If you emailed me and I did NOT answer you, please contact me again. I sent several test messages during that time so I know nothing ever appeared after the thing started working again.

Also, I am off again to Zannini south for the week. I anticipate continued email access problems, so please contact me through my gmail account listed under my profile of this blog.

Going south where it's a tad warmer.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Steamed Like A Clam

FYI: Since I get this question a lot.

For the last ten years, my husband and I have lived 300 miles apart. We see each other every other weekend, with each of us taking turns driving from one home to the other. This time Greg came to me...complete with injuries.

***

A few days ago Greg sent me pictures of wounds he received after he'd been hit by a burst of steam from a pressure valve. Horrible! He received 1st and 2nd degree burns on his face and arm.

He refused to go to the hospital, then refused to take the rest of the day off. The man tests my patience at every turn!

Here's what happened: Greg is a supervisor at a chemical plant. He accompanied two of his operators to check on some equipment and just as he passed a steam pipe, the damn valve bursts, scalding him with pressurized steam.

They're doing an investigation, but right now it looks weather-related. (Long story, so I won't bother explaining the technical aspects on how it's weather-related. But at least it wasn't human error.)

I went rabid on him as soon as I saw the pictures. This is why he sent me the photos after he had me on the phone to assure me he was all right. I think he prefers to control my reaction to a rolling boil.

As usual in situations like this, I yell at him. --Just to let him know I care. *g* Then I baby him. But the yelling has to come first. That's my rule.

After I yowled and made a fuss when he refused to go to the hospital, I made him send me new photos of his wounds for the next couple of days so I could see its progression.

He came up to see me yesterday and I got to see the war wounds for myself. They're horrible burns, but I guess he'll be okay. Just a few more scars to give him character.

Poor guy, he had real trouble sleeping last night with those burns. I do feel sorry for him. I wish he had gone to the hospital, but at least his boss made him see the plant nurse and she stocked him with a big bag of bandages and salves.

Am I the only wife who gets angry when her husband gets hurt? Do you make a fuss or do you baby him right away?

Personally, I think yelling helps. It helps me, anyway.

And he'll be fine. Well...maybe a little deaf now. :o)

It's always an adventure at the Zannini household.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Prudent Penny: Pantry Patrol

I think my favorite room in the whole house is the pantry. It's not huge, but it is a walk-in, with shelves that soar high above my head.

Living out in the boonies has forced me to become an even better planner than I already was. I hate having to drive 30 miles just to buy a bag of sugar. The cost of gas, fighting the crowds and having to pay a premium for something that was on sale the week before all figures into my mission for keeping my pantry stocked.

But with a stocked pantry comes responsibility. You have to rotate your stock and more importantly, you have to use up your stock. 56 cans of tuna are not going to help you any if they just sit there. (and no, I don't have 56 cans of tuna.) But you get the idea.

I used to store all my dry goods in big plastic bins, but with the BPA scare, I've repurposed the bins for non-food items and started buying glass only. I use extra large glass containers for the dry goods I buy in bulk: rice, flour, pasta, sugar, and salt. The items I buy in smaller quantities are things like brown and powdered sugar, oats, cornmeal and powdered milk.

Everything is labeled and dated so I know what to use first. If I buy something new, I make sure to put that at the back of the line.

This year, I am trying to use less processed food, but I still keep a few ready-made items in storage for days when I am too busy or sick to make it from scratch.

Organizing your pantry:

• Keep the heavy stuff on the floor or at chest level.

• Store lesser used items or light stuff like extra rolls of plastic wrap or plastic baggies on top. If they fall on your head, at least you won't see stars.

• I'm short, so I keep a dedicated step stool in the pantry so I don't have to look for one.

• Date EVERYTHING. I don't rely on the store's expiration date because it is really a "best by date", rather than a spoil date.

• Date it again. Want to be extra efficient? Jot down the date when you opened that jar or bag. That will give you a better idea on how fast you used up an item.

If I see that a jar of jelly lasted me two months, I know I can buy six jars and that will keep me in jelly all year. (A good homesteader would have made her own jelly, but I haven't planted my berries yet.)

• Store everything by variety. I keep my cooking supplies on one shelf, can goods on another, etc., etc. Doing this will keep you from hunting all over creation for that tiny jar of wasabi.

• Whenever possible use glass containers. I buy gallon sized mason jars, and recently I found extra large jars that can store up to 10 lbs of sugar, flour, etc.

I love my pantry. It always makes me feel I'm home.

Tell me about your cupboard or pantry. Do you enjoy stocking it, or is it a necessary evil?

For more Prudent Penny posts, go here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hobby-Love

The heating guy came!! He's my new best friend!

It turns out the igniter switch burned out. One little electronic gizmo fails and a $10k system becomes a pile of junk. Unfortunately, the part had to be ordered. (I swear, there is nothing in this house that is not custom-made.) We're hoping it'll get here today or tomorrow.

To reach my heating unit, the repairman had to go through my garage and he remarked on my latest project, a large French sideboard with a carved front. "Do you sell antiques?" says he.

Uh...no. Refinishing antiques is my hobby. It never occurred to me to try and resell my lovelies.


This is the piece he was drooling over. I'm still not happy with the top. I think it could be more even-colored, so I'm going to redo the top one more time to see if I can get it perfect.

It's such a long surface that one half dries before I can finish the other side--hence the uneven tone. I'm going to try using some retarder in the stain to see if I can keep it from drying so fast.

The trick to a good refinishing job is not to skimp on the prep work. Strip the piece of all its stain and varnish, then sand it until it's as smooth as talcum powder.

In between sandings, I'll damp wipe it with a little thinner or water to raise the grain, then buff it with fine steel wool and then sandpaper. To give you some idea of the process, I start out with 60 grit paper and end up with 1200 grit for the final finish.

It's a pretty extensive process but it gives me professional results. People always think I've spent a wad of money when in fact it's just elbow grease and a little gentle artistry.

Here's a little curio cabinet I refinished last summer. The carved details are really a pain, but it looks so good if you put in the extra effort.

I taught myself to refinish furniture back when we barely had two nickles to rub together. We used to haunt this local antique auction house and wait until the end when the crowds had thinned and furniture went for dirt cheap. $40 for a mahogany wardrobe, $15 for a Queen Anne dining table. $5 for a box of small antiques like lamps and glass. I learned by trial and error how to bring them back to life.

I still enjoy refinishing furniture. I'm sure when Greg moves back, we'll have to sell some of our duplicate pieces. And I hope the new owners will enjoy them as much as we did.

What are your hobbies? Have you ever turned your hobby into a moneymaker? I'd love some advice on that. Maybe I could start a little side business.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Combat-Ready

I forgot to mention...the very awesome CJ Cherryh did an interview for the OWW newsletter. (OWW = Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror). She gave some terrific advice.

***

I'm rather pleased with the interview line-up I have for OWW this year. And I love that we now have a full team with a single-minded purpose to put out the best newsletter we can. Everyone works well together and I can always count on them to turn in their work before the deadline. It makes my job much less stressful.

I once edited another newsletter that was an entirely different experience. It was so stressful, I grew to hate that job. Every month would see me tearing out my hair trying to get people to turn in their articles on time.

This explains my bald head and the manic look in my one good eye.

To me, a job, no matter how mundane is like a combat mission. You do it no matter how nasty, dull or difficult it is. If I wrote only when I felt like it, tidied up when the mood hit me, or worked on my marketing whenever it was convenient, I'd never get anything done. So this mindset works for me.

Although, it could be argued I apply dogged determination toward everything I do. LOL!

One thing I started doing again is writing daily to-do lists. I used to write lists religiously in the old days, but I've slipped off the wagon the last couple of years.

But this year, I started out on the right foot by quickly jotting down all the things I want to get done that day.

It works for me. And every time I cross something off, it makes me feel like I accomplished something that day.

Do you ever write to-do lists? Does it help?

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Itinerary

I spent the weekend doing a last minute polish on one novel and then made serious headway on Touch Of Fire's sequel.

I've been thinking, too about blog post topics for this year. Prudent Penny will be back and I might add a few more marketing articles too, only because it's a subject close to my heart. Now that I've had the experience of a couple of years behind me, I've reached a few conclusions on the best promotion tactics for new and not-as-well-known authors.

What I've learned actually surprised me, but I feel strongly enough about it that I am willing to take my own advice, so we'll discuss some of those things this year.

I've already been asked to guest blog in February, so I must think of something clever for that one. If you are looking for a guest blogger in 2010, feel free to contact me. I'm always interested in making appearances. (And I promise no sales pitches either!)

Homesteading articles will continue too, more as a working diary for me than anything else. Sometimes, when I'm not sure how or when something happened, I do a search on my blog, knowing I had recorded the event here. Very helpful.

I feel a little more organized this year, probably because that horrid year of house searching, buying and moving is over, so I'm anxious to plan a real writer's schedule for 2010--including some mongo-size writing time. My goal is to finish the book I'm on now and start a new one. I normally like to plan at least three months ahead with plenty of free blocks of time for things that come up all of a sudden.

This year, since I don't have a book coming out (that I know of) I'd like to concentrate on building my author brand and plot my projects to that end.

Are you a planner? How far ahead do you plan your schedule?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Email Mountain

I am never going to catch up on these emails. Even when I was whittling them down, more kept coming. But I think I answered all the important ones. If you wrote me and I haven't answered, please write me back.

Believe it or not, sometimes cyber space will eat your email. Two weeks ago, an editor emailed me AGAIN to remind me she still wanted to see my science fiction manuscript. God bless her for checking up on me. I never saw her first email.

I still don't have heat, but I'm on a list. I can't complain. It's not that cold. This house is pretty well insulated. Greg offered to drive up here to fix it, but this is why we have warranty insurance. He'll be back in another week anyway.

Ironically, the last time he was here he was going to test the chimney but he never got around to it. I don't feel comfortable starting a fire without him checking it first, and I don't know the first thing about fireplaces.

Today I made a list of all the things I'd like to get done at this place and at Zannini south. It's a full load, but I think I can swing it. The hardest job and the one that requires Greg's participation is the fence. Man, I am not looking forward to doing that job. It's miserable work when you're an old lady.

Come to think of it, I didn't like it much when I was young either. LOL.

I am looking forward to gardening this year. I'm anxious to see if the new compost and raised soil level will give me a better yield.

So what are you looking forward to this year?