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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fire In The Hole



We see all sorts of things when Greg and I drive up/down to see each other (we live 300 miles apart). On his way back to Zannini South, he caught part of a fire.

Fortunately, his route took him to the side of the blaze and he didn't have to fight through it, if they would have let him go through at all. He said the base of the fire was at least five miles wide. That's how long it took him to get past it.


I looked it up and evidently the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas were deliberately
burning approximately 3200 acres that day. You see these regularly about this time of year. Burning the deadwood and spent grass of the year before prevents uncontrolled fires from lightning or careless fires.

As you can see everything is greening up around here. We'll be in the 80s the rest of the week. That freak snow storm on the first day of spring is now a memory.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't Call Me Precious

There's a blog I took off my reader recently after giving it several months to prove itself. It was a gorgeous blog. Every picture looked like a piece of art, every entry, poetic.

And every time it popped up on my reader, I ended up clicking 'delete'.


It's not that I don't appreciate beautiful posts. Far from it. After all, I am a classically trained artist. I eat this stuff up.


But the blogger never gave any useful information (supposedly her blog was about homesteading). It never invited me (the reader) to interact, or share, or learn. If she would have thrown in a few good informational posts along with her warm-fuzzy posts, I would have visited happily.


Instead, her blog was performance art and my only function was to clap and approve.


I don't think so, Sparky.


From the postcard perfect scenery shots to posts about objects that were of a specific color. It all felt so contrived. And while many of her readers oohed and aahed about the beautiful place she called home, I couldn't help feeling deceived. It was staged. Choreographed so that even the ugly bits looked artistic.


It was
precious.

That's not what homesteading is about. Not to me anyway.


My writing isn't precious either. I don't wax poetic, nor do I immerse you in so much description that you forget what I was talking about.


I try to make you feel what I feel without going all Baroque on you.


I simply can't do precious.


It is entirely possible that Greg is right and I don't have a human heart, therefore I can't appreciate 'precious' for the warm-fuzzy bunny that it is.


So what say you, guys? Are 'precious' blog posts that appealing or is Greg right, and I really do have the heart of Medusa pumping in my chest?


hmm...that might explain the snake-hair.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

They Say It's Her Birthdaaaay...

And she doesn't look a day over fifty(ish). :grin:

I had planned on saying something insightful, but I was bowled over by phone calls and visits today.

I received some lovely cards and e-cards (thanks, Mike!) and then some friends called and said, "We're coming over!"

There went my quiet weekend. LOL. We had a great visit though and it's all the more thoughtful because it was such a very long drive for them.

(right) A few of the presents my friends brought. I got six pots full of different herbs and this adorable cast iron duck /sprinkler.
I'll take a better picture of it later. It's really cute.

My finished manuscript is with my CPs, the house is clean, the dogs have been angels and my husband has doted on my every whim. It's been a great birthday!

Oh, and I think I have a title for the sequel to Touch Of Fire. I am calling it: Apocalypse Rising. I thought of it 30 seconds before I turned it over to my CPs. The more I roll it on my tongue, the more I like it.

And I love this story! It's inspired me with so much energy to write sequels and maybe a few short stories along the way.

I'll catch up on everyone's blog later tonight. Right now, I think I feel like having sushi with my favorite guy.

The birthday girl is hitting the road.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Updatery

The week got away from me.

Part of the reason is because Greg came back...and we decided to spend some time getting reacquainted. :smile:

The other reason is because I am still polishing my latest manuscript. I don't like to burden my CPs with simple editing. They are too important to waste on that.

I am so pleased with the story. It is a little more epic than I originally envisioned, but what can you expect when you create Armageddon? It has spurred all sorts of side-story ideas and possibly another sequel.

Note to CPs: I'll post to our circle by Sunday.

Meanwhile, I have a question for my writer friends.

How polished do you get your manuscripts before you turn them over to a critique workshop or individual CPs? I know some of you are really 'editors in disguise' and your stuff is always prom-ready, but is it that way right out of the gate or do you make several passes over it before your CPs see it?

***

PS Come back Sunday, cuz I'm going to do the chicken dance and whoop it up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Was Having Technical Difficulties

I meant to post yesterday but I've been running around like headless poultry. I haven't even had time to visit blogs. --sorry. I will catch up.

Sunday morning I woke up to this. Snow--on the first day of Spring.

Yet all that snow disappeared before I went to bed that night.

The Friday before we had lovely spring weather and we filled the bird feeder to the brim. Nobody came to lunch. Nobody!

Humph! Ingrates.

Sunday comes and we get a freak snowstorm. Who's your favorite friend now, huh, birdies?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Obviously, they're only interested in my niblets when the weather is bad. The rest of the time they're off making baby birdies. Yeah, I heard you out there. Don't think I don't know what you were doing up in those trees.

Sheesh. I hate it when my neighbors get more sex than I do.

Oh, and Tuesday, it'll be 78 degrees.

Come to Texas. We have all kinds of weather here. Morning, noon and night.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cheepers!

My little cheepers are here!

I bought ten Australorps and ten Buff Orpingtons. The Australorps are a tad older and some are already beginning to feather.

We have long range plans for more exotic breeds too. Greg really wants to get peacocks and maybe pheasants. We think there might be a market for them out here. For now, we're starting slow. Our setup can handle quite a few birds, but when we get into more exotic breeds, we might have to expand to something more generous.

I can't wait to show you the chicken coop Greg is building. It's like the Taj Mahal for poultry. It's been an expensive investment, despite the fact we built it ourselves, but it will definitely last the rest of our lifetimes. We hope whoever comes after us will say, "Man, this is fantastic! I can keep the mother-in-law in here."

The nice thing about raising birds is that we still have much of our equipment from when we raised emu and rhea, so it will be a piece of cake to repurpose the stuff to these smaller birds.

We had an amazing success rate hatching emu and rhea (and chickens). In any given year, we had 98% of all eggs hatch successfully. Chickens always hatched, but emu and rhea were tricky.

Many breeders we knew lost huge clutches of eggs and we discovered humidity played an important part in the process. Greg built a specially designed 'clean' room where we could monitor and maintain temperature and humidity by tenths of a degree. --That guy is just too damn smart. :o)

For our little operation now, we chose Australorps and Orpingtons because they are are very calm birds. I also like the way the adults look. Gorgeous birds! The only breed we're still looking for is the Araucana/Ameraucanas (Easter egg chickens).
I have yet to find a local breeder who sells them, but when we do, we'll add them to the flock. For more information on these breeds and why they're cross bred, go here.

With as slow as we're getting things done, it may be another year before we get goats. But at least the chickens are here. I'd forgotten how much fun they were.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Know Thyself

One of my friends wrote me recently and said:

Maria, you're the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says:

"Oh crap. She's up!"


...my friends know me so well.


How would your friends describe you?


Monday, March 15, 2010

Blog Design, Promo and The End

Le sigh...

Some people were not able to view the blog with the new template. It seems to be related to IE7, but it's irrelevant because even if a couple of people can't see it, it defeats the purpose of posting.

A friend of mine who taught me the ins and outs of web design told me a good web designer will take a mid to old version of a browser and work around that first. If it works with older versions, chances are your design will show up on the newer version. Evidently, the designer who created the template I loved so much didn't get that memo.

So I am back to a basic design until I find something more stable.

***
I had a great girl's day out with the fabulous Maya Reynolds. We chatted about books, dished about publishing and she fussed over my babies, who adored her in turn. If only all Saturdays were so nice.

***
Sunday was BUSY. Greg and I worked on the chicken coop and we stopped by some nearby folks who were selling day-old chicks. They had run out of the breeds we wanted, but they promised to have some more this week. They were such nice people. They even showed us around their place. Gorgeous!

***
Monday, the lovely and talented Marian Perera invited me over to guest blog at her place and I talk about one of my favorite topics: promotion on a budget. Stop by and visit. And if you have any questions, ask away.

Go over and visit. I'll still be here when you get back.

***
And if you've wondered why my posts have been so limited lately, I'll tell you. For the past six weeks I've been working on edits as well as new manuscripts. The one I'm very excited about is the sequel to Touch Of Fire.

I don't even have a name for it yet! Can you believe it? But I've finished the draft and I'll probably take the next two weeks to polish and flesh out any skinny scenes. I can already hear my critique partners sharpening their blades--er, I mean red pens.

Have I mentioned how much I love my CPs? They are priceless. I can count on them to give me their absolute honesty and advice.

Anyway, the sequel is DONE. One of the things that is very important to me in a story is the ending. Everything has to fall into place and everything has to feel right, but it also has to end on the right words.

Story openings come fairly easily to me, but I was doubly thrilled to have found the perfect ending for the sequel. It gave me that "oh yeah!' feeling when I reached the end. My fingers couldn't type the words fast enough because I knew exactly how I wanted it to end.

Immensely satisfying. That's the only way I can describe it. With any luck, my very patient editor will like it and offer a contract.

It's an adventure story from start to finish. And note to my CPs: expect your glasses to fog up during the romantic scenes.

A productive start to the year!

How about your year so far? What kind of news do you have?

PS--Expect the obligatory CUTE chick photos when I finally get my little peepers! Probably by the end of the week.

It feels like spring! And I'm excited. Heck, I even started my garden--nothing tender yet, just the cool weather plants.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh, no! It's Ohno

I finally know somebody who knows somebody famous. LOL!

My niece, Becky, works at the corporate office of Walgreens, and recently she got the chance to meet Apolo Ohno when he partnered with Proctor and Gamble and the drugstore giant.

One of the few Winter Olympic events I really love is speed skating. Ohno was phenomenal, more so because the other competitors were equally formidable. I was on the edge of my seat as those athletes skated the ring at breakneck speeds.

And I loved the way Ohno kept yawning before each event. Some people speculated he was tired, but my guess is he was trying to force more oxygen into his lungs and bloodstream.

Here's a picture of my niece with oh-so-cute Ohno. He's a busy fella. I seem to see his face everywhere, and he comes across as a nice all-around guy. I wouldn't be surprised if his career skyrocketed even higher.

Who is the most famous person you know?

I need to find more friends who know famous people because God knows nobody famous ever stops by to see me. I will have to live vicariously through you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Bebe Wants, Bebe Gets

One of the programs we used to watch regularly was Frasier with Kelsey Grammer. During the course of the series, Frasier ends up with Bebe Glazer as his talent agent.

Her catchphrase was: What Bebe wants, Bebe gets.

Texas native, Harriet Sansom Harris played Bebe Glazer, and we roared whenever she was on. I still think she's one of the funniest and best actresses around. Her voice, her timing, and her over the top persona nailed this character.

Greg and I were talking about the series recently and he said, you need an agent like Bebe.

LOL! Heck, yeah.

This is my favorite episode shown in three parts on YouTube.





Here are parts two and three. (Hint: go to time stamp 6:22 on part three for the show stopper.)

And one of my favorite quotes.

Frasier: What kind of a woman are you? You seduced me, you lied to me, you nearly got me killed. You've shamelessly manipulated not only me but the station, the news media, and the entire city of Seattle. What do you have to say for yourself?

Bebe: Aren't you glad I'm on your side?

Yeah, Bebe!

I don't know if there are real Bebes in the world, but wouldn't it be delicious? At least for a little while.

***

More Bebe on smoking.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mini-Review: 2012

Warning: Potential Spoilers.
Move along if you don't like it.

We bought 2012 on dvd the other day and I rather liked it despite some mega-watt plot and logic holes. Anyone who follows my mini-reviews knows that I am a stickler for logic. You might remember how I bashed the much-loved
Star Trek movie. :shudders:

2012 is about Jackson Curtis, an author who wrote his own apocalyptic novel and sold 500 copies of his book (in hardback, no less). (Yeah, I couldn't stop laughing either.)

To supplement his income, he makes his living chauffeuring an obscenely wealthy Russian and his two brat kids.


Piecing together the evidence, which includes increasing number of earthquakes, assurances from the government that the worst is over (that would've been my first clue), conversations with the two Russian brat kids, and a conspiracy theorist who is also warning people about a cataclysm, Jackson is convinced the world is going to end, but there are secret ships available for a lucky few. He grabs his two kids, his ex-wife and her boyfriend as they race time to beat the tectonic shifts of the earth's mantel.


I promise you, you will be tired from escaping one near miss after another. If you're normal, you won't mind the glaring logic flaws, like pyroclastic clouds that never seem close enough to asphyxiate our heroes, nor does it bring down the planes, limousines or recreational vehicles they drive. Yet, people who are a stone's throw away from them die miserably.


You won't care that not only is the planet's mantel super-heating and collapsing at an immense rate, but it then cools and settles at an even faster speed.
And while every satellite in orbit is telling them the whole planet is falling apart, somehow an entire continent survives almost entirely intact. Please! (I was THIS close to throwing popcorn at my tv.)

And you won't care when they tell you this whole thing started from solar flares imbued with neutrinos which then mutated.
umm...Neutrinos decay. They don't mutate.

If you're normal, you won't care about any of these things.


On the other hand, if you're like me and Greg, you will repeatedly pause the movie and yell at the writers for not doing their homework.


I have a soft spot for apocalyptic fiction and movies. (That's obvious, since my first book,
Touch Of Fire is post-apocalyptic.)

My gripe with most apocalypse movies (and some fiction) is that the writers always want to tie up the loose ends and give it a happy ever after.


No matter how gritty or how honest the portrayal, at the end they always fall back on giving us the 'Skittles' rainbow at the end of the story.


That irks the heck out of me. I like apocalyptic stories that offer hope, but spare me the sugar-coated, 'and we all lived happily, morally, kumbaya-ly ever after'.


Life doesn't work that way. It never has.


2012 threw in a few undeserved pink bow ties at the end, but they also showed great sacrifices by good and bad guys so it did redeem itself in that regard.


It's worth renting if you like thrilling, disaster movies. It's worth buying for the special effects alone. I'll probably be having surreal dreams for weeks now. LOL.


Despite the logic gaps and a little too much moralizing, it had enough adventure to want to see it again.

Did you see this movie? What did you think?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What's Your Song?

Yesterday, while I was out and about, OUR song came on. And it reminded me of the story on how it became our song.

Greg and I were already married and we were watching a movie where the couple in love were serenading each other with
their song. And I turned to him and asked:

Hey! How come we don't have a song?


It just never occurred to us, but after this catastrophic realization it seemed imperative that we find one. We had to find that quintessential essence of musical dialog that described our wedded bliss.


So we listened to the radio for days afterward. tossing up contenders for the title.


Nada. Zilch. Zippo.


We needed a sappy love song that illustrated our marriage in a four minute warble. And then this song came on.


Typical.


Yes. We're silly people. But it does have Paul McCartney. Look how young he is. Just as young as we were. LOL.






What's your song? How did it come about?

Come on. Dish. If I can admit to the world that Silly Love Songs is our song, you can be brave too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Well, Duh!

That'll teach me for thinking too hard.

I kept wondering why I was the only one who was bothered by the transparent background that the copy sat on.

It turns out, I had the window set small and it pushed the copy over the lighter half of the graphic (hence making it hard to read).

I am notorious for keeping only small windows on my monitor.

The other thing I discovered is that a couple of people told me they had to click on the screen for the copy to show up. The only thing these two people had in common was that they were using Internet Explorer as their browser.

Does anyone have any suggestions for the layout? I adore the graphic, but it is more important that it's easy to read. I've got a couple of other templates that are a little more plain vanilla that I can try later.

If you get a chance this weekend, would you post a comment or email me to these questions: Were you able to see the posts and the graphics right away, or did you have to click on the screen? What browser are you using?

In a couple of months, I'll tell you the reason I changed the background and will make a couple of other changes you'll see soon.

I can't tell you now because it's just too... (sob) painful.

More to come.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nobody Panic

I changed the background to this blog. I like the mood it creates because I think it reflects the kind of books I write.

But...

The background where the text lies should have a darker transparency so it will read more easily. I have the code in front of me, and I've changed a few numbers here and there but I haven't yet found the string that will make the transparency less transparent.

Are there any HTML code writers out there who can help me? Email me at mariazannini AT gmail Dot com.

What do you think of the graphic?

Feed The Right Wolf

I've always liked this Cherokee legend.

The Wolves Within

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."

***

Makes you think, huh?