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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Promo Op, Surprise & Oh. My. Diva.

Two Paws Up!

Authors with pets: Looking for a noble cause and a good way to get some book exposure? Head over to book reviewer Jackie Burris and sign up for her blog hop, "Bloggers Help Paws with a Cause". This hop is sponsored by Danielle @ Romance Book Junkies and Laurie @ Bitten By Paranormal Romance.

Jackie is looking for posts spotlighting your pet(s). 

You better believe I'll be there, whether I have a book out in March or not. Hmm...I wonder if the Frugal Dog will be ready by then. You never know.

The hop runs from March 1st through 8th and benefits Paws With A Cause.


Maria Wins a (Sur)Prize

I have to share this news. A couple months ago, I won a contest from Harlequin author, Melissa McClone. (Put her blog on your Reader and comment often because she holds regular contests!) Anyway, this time she was giving a special prize of several books from her recent RWA trip. 

Poor Melissa came down with a plague of biblical proportions and the package sat unsent. I told her not to worry about it. Aside from getting well, she had her hands full with kids, pets, and shelter kitty, Miss Mousie. (Remember Miss Mousie? She's doing great now!)

Melissa never forgot me, and when she recovered, she sent my prize. 

I expected two or three books--tops. Instead, I got this GIANT box full of books from some of my favorite authors. Tessa Dare, Elizabeth Holt, Sherrilyn Kenyon, to name a few. It was like getting Christmas early. I was so thrilled. Thank you, Melissa!


It's true. I've been leading a double life. Ever since I revealed my first cover for The Devil To Pay, I started getting requests to design other covers. I resisted because I was worried about things like art licenses and copyright issues and what I had to do to protect myself and my clients.

But for the past few weeks I've been researching it and seeing how other designers manage their businesses. And I've decided to take a great big diva plunge.

I don't have much in my portfolio yet, but with any luck that'll change soon. Meanwhile, there's a web site and a few pages to wander about and read.

If you have friends needing cover art, send them to the Diva. Do stop by (and then come back) to let me know what you think of the web layout.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Chicken Vacation

Unlike a lot of people who raise chickens, I like to let my birds rest.

The average chicken lays an egg every other day. As the day shortens, it's their cue to store their energy and quit laying for the year. It's not a hardship for me because I usually have enough stored eggs to sustain me through the winter. The only people who suffer are those who have come to depend on my eggs.

Some of my super producers are still giving me an egg every so often, but most of them have quit. I suppose if my livelihood depended on selling eggs I might consider leaving the light on longer in their coop, but I feel they've done their part. 

I don't get rid of my birds yearly like commercial producers, so I like to give them a break and let them recuperate from their hard work.

If necessary, I might start leaving the light on for an extra hour in February to get them re-motivated. It all depends on when my super producers decide to get back into action. I always allow them to go into molt (where they get all scruffy-looking) and let them get their new coat of feathers before I ask anything more from them.

By the way, is it a coincidence that the alleged Mayan end of days on December 21st is also the shortest day of the year? Maybe they were on chicken time too. Or maybe it's a chicken-inspired apocalypse. Just sayin'. 

I feel I should do something to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar, seeing as how they're kind of related to me--on my father's side. My mother's family came from Spain and France.

Do you plan on celebrating the apocalypse this year? I'm going to be alone again that week, so I'm available for warrior dancing and strong drink.

Update: A more complete explanation for storing eggs is up at Back to Basics. Thanks to Marlene Dotterer and Mike Keyton for their questions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble, Gobble, Cough

This is Thanksgiving week in the States. and this seems like a good time to take a short hiatus.

That, and because I've got a cold.

We're actually celebrating Thanksgiving early since Greg has to leave before the holiday, which proves the point that any day can be a day of thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Who's traveling? Who's hosting? And most importantly, what's on the  menu? I'm always looking for new ideas.

Update: How to cook a super moist turkey. This really works!

This year, I stuffed the cavities with cut oranges and onions, and slathered it under the skin with herb butter. I slow-cooked the gobbler in a roasting bag for seven hours at 320 degrees. The recipe I followed suggested eight hours, but seven was plenty for this size bird.

It was beautiful. Just as pretty as the picture in this post. was so tender, it fell off the bone with the slightest pressure. Not good for carving, but who cares when it's this tender.

My side dishes were braised asparagus in wine vinegar, Brussels sprouts, garlic mashed potatoes, croissants and cranberry sauce as a topping for vanilla ice cream.

Then we fell into the traditional turkey stupor. Great dinner! This morning I sent Greg home with plenty of leftovers. He won't have to cook for a week!

PS  My cold is nearly gone too. Huzzah!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kicking the Author in the Teeth

Craziness abounds.

Facebook has been giving me fits with their latest skullduggery. Apparently, if you have a Facebook Page, only a small percentage of people ever see it. It doesn't matter if you have ten followers or ten thousand. In order for everyone to see your page, Facebook will cheerfully charge you every month for the privilege.

It is no longer enough to ask someone to "Like" you. If they want to be sure to see your updates they must also add you to Interest Lists. Pull down the arrow next to the little star burst (shown in a blue tab when you click on it) and you'll find a list of options. Select "Add to Interest List".

If you hover over the Liked icon, it also gives you options like Get Notifications or Show in News Feed, but I'm told that's not enough.

It's a pain. I'm at the point now where I'm seriously considering deleting my Frugal Way Page. I usually just feed my Back to Basics blog and the freebies I find along the way, but there's not much point if only a small percentage of followers see them. And seriously, how many people are going to remember to click the extra buttons?

Anyway, if you want to see my updates, please add it to your "Add to Interests List".


Amazon is getting into the circus by deleting reviews submitted by authors to prevent phony 5-star reviews from polluting the system. How do they know they're phony? They don't. So rather than leaving well enough alone, they punish everyone regardless if the review was legitimate.

I don't think I've lost any of my reviews, but I've had friends who've lost their reviews and that sucks. If you still have your reviews, I suggest copying and pasting them on a document file so you can at least put them on your web site for your fans to read.


Apparently, insanity runs in my blood too. I had a chat with hubby and another friend who I've always counted on for sound business advice and I think I'm about to do something foolish. We'll see.

If I don't get any farther behind, I'll be able to make an announcement in a couple of weeks. If you really want to know what it is, you can write me privately. Just remember, I'll have to swear you to secrecy. I'm serious.  Iko has the duct tape.


So what's new? Has Facebook or Amazon annoyed you lately? 

How do you feel about that Penguin/Random House merger? What do you think it will mean for our industry? 

The NYT had an interesting article on the topic. Personally, I think the consolidation was done to keep their market share from shrinking. It may be too little, too late, but time will tell.

Monday, November 12, 2012

State of the Homestead

It's been a season of cleaning up and prepping for the winter. Our winters aren't very harsh, but it still gets cold. And I'd rather not be chopping and dragging trees in the cold.

We've dropped maybe ten good sized trees that died due to last year's drought. That was only on one side of the property. We still have three more sides to go. But we concentrated on the side with trees leaning in the wrong direction.

Below is a video of one of our 'little' jobs; cutting off a dead branch from a huge oak.

Garden: You'd think the garden would be done, but no. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are still thriving. We've had a few blasts of Canadian air, but our temps stay in the 80s most of the time. It doesn't really get cold here until January.

I started a few pots for indoor gardening, but I need to start more. 

My potatoes (in pots) did well, and they're ready to harvest. Hmm...I wonder if I can grow potatoes indoors too. By the way, I did a post on using vegetable scraps to start new plants on Back to Basics. The potatoes I'm harvesting now were the buds from some potatoes I bought at the grocery store. 

As long as you include a little flesh to get it started you can grow your own potatoes. I've heard stories of people during the Depression who planted potato skins (with the buds) and they did indeed get potatoes from these leavings.

Processing the Harvest: Newsflash! I think I found the best way to put up my bountiful tomato harvests. This year I dehydrated a big batch of tomatoes as a test. It was fantastic!

The dried tomatoes were sweet and full of flavor. I toss them into my spaghetti sauce and chili. I am definitely dehydrating more next year. All the fruits and veggies I dehydrated this year are almost gone. That's how good they were. 

Chickens: We've been dispatching a few chickens every time Greg comes home to visit. We have to make space for the new hens. Some chickens we're keeping, but most of the old ones will go in the pot.

Dogs: I made a grievous error in judgment on Tank. If you follow me on Facebook, you might've seen the story where I found shredded bread wrappers on the floor. I naturally blamed Tank since he is the tallest and can easily snatch something off the counter.

But when it happened the second and third time, I knew it wasn't him. He'd been framed! Iko is not food motivated, but Mama is. She stole a piece of bread off Greg's plate when he wasn't looking. Who knew an old arthritic dog could jump high enough to pull stuff off the counter? Bad Mama!

Hurricanes, city vs rural: My heart goes out to those people devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I've been in your shoes--more than once. 

Two things surprised me about the people who weathered Sandy.

1. The media has been harping for DAYS about prepping for the storm, yet so many people seemed unprepared. (At least the people they filmed.) 

2. Sandy survivors who had power offered to let people recharge their cell phones on extensions. I thought that was wild! I mean it's great that, 1) some people had power, and 2) the city had working cell towers. 

After a big hurricane, our first priority is clearing debris. Communication was last on the list because cell towers were hit or miss, and there was no power for regular land lines anyway. We were on our own. Most of us came back with water, chainsaws, gas, and generators.

I think the differences have a lot to do with the density of the population. There are a lot of apartment dwellers up there. Their needs are definitely different than someone on acreage who just has to worry about getting the trees off her house. With nothing else to do, tempers are probably on edge, waiting for city services to get back online.

Power loss erodes morale. Because of how we live, it's a lot more serious than it sounds. We went without power for 21 days. Believe me, it sucks.

I'm just glad the worst is over and they can concentrate on rebuilding. Sandy survivors, hang in there. It'll get better. Promise.


Has Hurricane Sandy changed your attitude about how to prepare for disasters? Would you do anything differently now?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank

History buffs, historical writers, lovers of the arcane: You must buy What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank and add it to your library.

I suppose Krista Ball asked to appear on this blog because she's a glutton for punishment. Or maybe she figured since enough of you like my homesteading posts, you might get a kick out of hearing about a whole book dedicated to old timey ways of doing things.

Unlike the poor unfortunate woman in her example below, I have running water (and sweet-smelling soap) which keeps me from reeking of smoke, animal guts, or manure--unless you catch me at the wrong part of the day.

Short of spending the day with me on the homestead, you can stay clean (and smell better too) by reading this book.

Here's Krista now to save you from getting your education the hard way. And if there are any diehards left after you read this, you can still visit me. I'm sure I can find a shovel that will fit your hands. :grin:


Regency romance novels typically feature a wealthy man and a middle-class woman. It can be easy to forget about the people who scrubbed Mr. Darcy's chamberpot or washed Geogiana Cavendish's stockings. Those aren't glamourous people; they have coarse skin and are ruddy from spending too much time in the sun. They smell like coal soot and latrines. But how on earth could a young widow with four kids under six years old make ends meet?

Assuming she did not want to engage in prostitution, which many poor women - married or single - ended up doing on a part-time basis, she could work as a wet nurse if she still had milk. Plenty of women would need to leave behind their children to go to the factories, fields, and kitchens; the wee ones needed a nurse. She would make a few pennies doing the job and, if she was sober, careful, and good with sickness, she might even get work assisting invalids, elderly people, and convalescing individuals whose families can afford a full-time nurse.

If she's living in a city, she might not even own a stove. If she's living in a cramped one bedroom apartment with her children, she might not have the money to have wood or coal for the hearth to cook. Never mind the long cooking times. She'd made use of the hundreds of fast food joints on the streets, where she could buy boiled eggs at a penny a piece or a cup of coffee or chocolate before rushing off to a job, little ones in tow. 

If our poor unfortunate woman has a day off on Sunday, perhaps she might stop by the used meat store to pick up a ham bone. She might not be able to afford the fresh cuts, or even the salt and pickled cuts, but she might be able to pick up the "wash" from a rich house or maybe even an gentlemen's club. The bone would have been cooked a couple of times at the club before it was sold to a shop owner to sell. Hopefully it would have a small amount of meat left on it and hadn't been chewed on by a dog at some point.

Butter, especially fresh from the farm, might also be beyond her reach. She could make due picking up a pound of salt pork fat instead. The pork could be fried up and used in various meals for fat and flavour, while the drippings could be saved in a jar. When her children needed a snack, they could have a slice of bread smeared with animal fat.

It’s hard to imagine anyone paying money for trice-boiled bones. However, when faced with absolute poverty, people will do just about anything to survive.

KristaD. Ball primarily writes gritty science fiction and grittier fantasy. However, on occasion, she’s been known to belt out a comedy or two. She’s decided to put her history background to use in her latest book, WHAT KINGS ATE AND WIZARDS DRANK. 

At Amazon
More sale sites to come

From the publisher's site

Equal parts writer’s guide, comedy, and historical cookbook, fantasy author Krista D. Ball takes readers on a journey into the depths of epic fantasy’s obsession with rabbit stew and teaches them how to catch the blasted creatures, how to move armies across enemy territories without anyone starving to death, and what a medieval pantry should look like when your heroine is seducing the hero.

Learn how long to cook a salted cow tongue, how best to serve salt fish, what a “brewis” is (hint: it isn’t beer), how an airship captain would make breakfast, how to preserve just about anything, and why those dairy maids all have ample hips.

What Kings Ate will give writers of historical and fantastical genres the tools to create new conflicts in their stories, as well as add authenticity to their worlds, all the while giving food history lovers a taste of the past with original recipes and historical notes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mini Review: Torchwood

Call me the last person on Earth to have even heard of Torchwood. (I really need to get out more.) Anyway, we found it on Netflix so we put it on the queue and started watching while Greg was with me for a rare extended visit.

Torchwood is a secret organization that hunts aliens and is based in Cardiff, Wales. It's headed by Captain Jack Harkness, a man who can't die, which as I learn along the way, can be a cruel punishment in itself. 

The rest of the team is comprised of: Gwen, a policewoman who didn't let anything as feeble as an amnesia pill make her forget Torchwood when she discovers it accidentally. Ianto, driver, errand boy, and apparently Jack's quick squeeze when he has the need. Toshiko, computer genius, and Owen, the doctor.

It took me a while to like them. Gwen was likeable from the start as was her ever-patient boyfriend. But Jack irritated me through most of the first season. Slowly, and I don't know when, they started to feel like family, albeit a dysfunctional family. By the end, the writers had me caring about what happened to each of them.

But...the one thing that really annoyed me was the way the characters were forced to fall in and out love lust so quickly. In one episode Ianto tries to save the love of his life, and in the next, he's humping Jack. I don't care that they're bisexual, but if you're going to write a relationship, people can't go bouncing from one person to the next without some context.

I really felt they were sensationalizing bisexuality rather than treating it like a real relationship. It cheapened it. They didn't get their act together until Torchwood: Children of Earth mini series that followed.

Aside from the terrible plot holes and lapses in logic and scientific fact, Torchwood had one redeeming factor that kept me watching. The stories. There were little nuggets of gold in the stories. While the relationships were 'meh', the premises were fantastic. Episodes like Ghost Machine, Out of Time, and End of Days were haunting and intriguing. 

While I tended to find fault with parts, it was the whole that kept me hooked.

I recommend this series for science fiction and fantasy buffs.


And to prove my total ignorance of television history, we had watched nearly the whole series before I discovered that Torchwood was a spinoff of Dr. Who. (I  wondered why Jack kept saying the Doctor will fix things.)

I've never watched Dr. Who, though Greg did, back in the early days of Who. We've put it on the queue for the next time he's in town. I don't know that I'll like it because while I've known about Dr. Who for decades, it always looked a little cheesy in the promos. But since I like Torchwood, I'm willing to give it a try.

Have you watched Torchwood or Dr. Who? What did you think?

Is Dr. Who similar in flavor to Torchwood?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mormon Diaries by Sophia Stone

Mormon Diaries is not the kind of book I normally feature on this blog but I'm rather fond of the author. (See, it does help if your readers like you.)

This is a series of essays, a memoir of sorts on how Sophia Stone when stuck between a rock and a hard place full of questions, pushed back. Smart and well written, you'll be drawn into the book just by reading the sample pages.

I have to give kudos too to the cover art. At first, I thought the Christmas ornament was too limiting, but it's the frayed thread that gives the cover and the book its tension. It speaks volumes. 

Well done!

Mormon Diaries

Brought up in a religious home, Sophia believes the only way to have a forever family is by following church leaders and obediently choosing the right. She goes to the right school, marries the right man in the right place, and does the right thing by staying home to raise her children. But when she starts asking questions about grace, love, and the nature of God, she realizes her spiritual struggles could rip her family apart.

I hope you'll check it out. At the very least, go to the Amazon link and click "Like" and some of the tags at the bottom of the page to show a fellow writer your support.