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Monday, April 30, 2012

New Releases and a New Blog

Two of my buddies have books out this week.

Krista D. Ball has Tranquility's Blaze from Mundania Press. Gorgeous cover and brilliant choice of fonts.

“What will I do? What I do best. I’ll find him and I’ll kill him. And then I’ll kill Garran’s murderer.”

Even if the killer is my sister.


A half-breed and a female, Lady Bethany clawed her way to the ranks of the Elven Service’s top military elite. They only knew her as their champion against Magic, and not the daughter of a Goddess.

She’d expected a long, rewarding life protecting those under her care. But that was before her twin sister returned from exile, addicted to brutal Magic and human sacrifice, twisted inside, and abusing ancient prophecies to overthrow their mother and destroy everything Bethany holds sacred.

The world will burn in flames and innocents will die, unless Bethany can stop it. Unless she can take the life of her own sister.

And for all you mystery fans, the fabulous Clarissa Draper is debuting with The Sholes Key.

All across London, single mothers are vanishing. Margaret Hill, mother of two, walked out of her house two months before, never seen again. A month later, Carrie-Anne Morgans takes her two-year-old son for a walk in the park and disappears, leaving him alone in his stroller. Lorna McCauley leaves her London flat in the early hours of the morning to buy medicine for her sick child and does not return.

Newly promoted Detective Inspector Theophilus Blackwell is assigned the case of Lorna McCauley, which on the outside seems to be a simple case of mid-life crisis and child abandonment. Elsewhere in London, MI5 analyst, Sophia Evans, is working undercover to catch an animal rights group responsible for targeted bombings. As Sophia's case (and her personal life) fall to pieces, she receives a strange envelope in the mail. It contains a picture of Lorna McCauley's lifeless face along with a daunting code.

Now the police and MI5 are forced to work together to stop the murders, and Sophia must find her way into the terrifying mind of a serial killer.

Can the reading season get any better than this? Congrats to Krista and Clarissa! You guys hit it out of the park.

***

Drum roll, please...

About that little world domination thing I mentioned. You know how the experts are always saying we should write about our passions? I plan to do just that.

Starting May 1st, the first post on my NEW blog will air. The blog is called Getting Back to Basics and will talk about leading a simpler and more productive life without opening a vein. It'll cover everything from saving money to saving your sanity with organizational tips and tricks. 

For the last couple of months I've been compiling blog post ideas and tweetable tips--enough to take me through a whole year.

And what comes at the end of that year?

The Frugal Way books

I've decided not to put the two completed books (on grocery shopping and garage sales) until next spring. That's because there are other books planned and I want to do multiple releases within a short period of time in 2013.

In the meantime, I hope to build up my reader base with this nifty new blog.

Getting Back to Basics will funnel through the Facebook page, The Frugal Way, Getting Back to Basics. Some of you remember my Prudent Penny posts here on this blog. Well, it'll be just like that--only better.

What you can do: 

• Become a follower at Getting Back to Basics, both on the Networked Blogs and The Water Cooler links.


• Tweet or mention the blog and Facebook page on Facebook or your blog.

Write for me. Looking for an expanded audience from your usual blog tour haunts? I plan to host a small number of authors who can write short, family-friendly posts on food, gardening, pets, and crafts. Go here for more information on that.

The big reveal is tomorrow, but feel free to visit the site today and look around. Tell me what other FAQs and links you'd like to see listed, or what kind of topics you, yourself are interested in.

It's a brand new baby blog! Suggestions welcomed!

Is this a full Monday or what?  Come back tomorrow for more intel on the new blog.

 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Google Reader, Starred items

Did you know that your starred items on Google Reader are gone? I rely on my Reader a lot, and I regularly bookmark my favorite posts with stars so I can visit them later. But the other day, I remembered a very old post I hadn't read yet and it had already been removed from my reading pane.

Fortunately, I had starred it because it was a very good article--on worm farming, don't ya know. But lo and behold, the starred list was gone.

I scoured the page, thinking Google had moved it, but no, it was gone. Yet, it still existed on my smart phone. What was going on here?

After a little sleuthing, I discovered that Google had removed the Starred List to encourage readers to use Google+ which is where the starred items were now stored. 

But if it was still on my smart phone, somehow it had to be on the desktop too. It was just invisible.

I found the workaround!

If you want to read your starred items on your regular computer, all you do is type: g s. This brings up the starred list. 

I found this trick on this shortcut list that you might find helpful.

Why do they have to make things so complicated? It's not just Google either. It's Facebook, Twitter...my mother. They're all out to make me old before my time.

***
I have some news to share about my Frugal Way books and my plans for world domination a larger internet presence, but I'll save it for Monday. I'm still tweaking my new project and I want to introduce it properly.

Meanwhile I have a question for those of you who indulge in Twitter. How much time do you actively spend on Twitter, retweeting or chatting with friends? And when do you visit most? It seems I keep missing my favorite people. By the time they show up, I'm already gone and vice versa. Is there a happy medium on when to be on Twitter?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day in the Life of Tank

A page from Tank's diary.

Living with an author/homesteader always keeps me hopping. As head dog, I'm required to keep tabs on mom and keep her safe. But as you can see by my daily itinerary below, it's a full time job.

My little bro, Iko is absolutely no help. And now we have a grumpy white dog living with us too.

My work is never done.


4:30am: Oh, lord. Mom's stirring. Go back to sleep. S-L-E-E-P. It's still dark outside for crying out loud.

4:35am: Good girl. She turned over. Wait. Nope. She's getting up. Damn!

5:00am: I don't hear any dishes rattling. Just the tap, tap, tap of her keyboard. Who the heck is she writing to this early in the morning? Iko's gone to investigate. I'll just lay here a little longer.

6:00am: So hungry. And I don't smell any breakfast. More tapping in the distance. Iko is back and he wants to play. I like it better when dad is here. Mom always lets him sleep in and I stay to protect him. :sigh: I better get up. Stupid Iko will just keep bugging me anyway.

6:30am: Time for the Tanky-two-step. Look, mom. Aren't I cute? I give her a big sloppy kiss. She pats my head and apologizes for being late with breakfast. "Let me comment on one more blog," she tells me. I nuzzle her arm and she gets the message. I am far more important than any blog.

7:00am: Yay! Food. It's my favorite. Chicken and rice with a couple of eggs. Mom is the BEST cook.

7:30am: Official daylight. She's off to feed the chickens and she lets me go with her cuz I'm the good son. Iko is such a dummy. If he wouldn't run around like a spazoid, mom would let him go with us too.

8:30am On patrol. Mom invites me to ride with her on the golf cart, but I'd rather walk. She inspects all her plants, digs in the dirt, or gathers logs and branches into a big pile. I sniff for all the animals who traipsed through the property overnight.

11:30am: Lunch time. I drool patiently while mom eats. I don't think she's ever finished a whole meal by herself--not as long as I've lived here. I wonder why that is?

Noon: Lunch time tapping for her. Napping for me.

3:00pm: Dad's on the phone! She has him on speaker and he said Hi to me. I love dad! He ordered mom to give me a cookie. Did I mention how much I love dad?

3:30pm: Dinner. About time! I was wasting away to skinny bones.

4:00pm: Another walk around the property. Drat. She says we have to take Iko with us this time. At least he's on leash.

5:00pm: Mom sits down for her dinner. Yuck. She's having a salad and a potato. Oh, well. I can help her with the potato.

7:00pm: Time for another chat with dad. He always asks about us. Actually he's only interested in me, but he mentions Iko and that grumpy white dog just to be polite. 

8:00pm: I might as well go to bed. Mom will be tapping on that keyboard for a few more hours.

11:00pm: There she is. Now I have to move over. At least I made her spot on the bed nice and toasty. She turns on the tv. I hope there are no dogs on tonight. It's my duty to warn them off, but I'm tired and want to go back to sleep.

11:30pm: Mom shuts off the tv, then gives me a hug and a kiss. "Mommy loves you, baby."  

Aw, shucks. (She says that to me every night.) I love you too, mom. Can we sleep in until six tomorrow?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cut Off at the Knees: Truncated Posts

Do you cut your blog posts off at the knees? Truncating is when you force the blog to show only the first few lines of a post on a reader or RSS feed.

If you do, chances are good I probably miss your posts regularly.

As far as I know there are only two reasons to truncate your posts.

• you might be trying to prevent robots from scraping your content. (Though if you think about it, if some automaton did want your content, all they'd have to do is go to your blog and take it.)

• you want to force people to physically visit your blog.

If you say something in those first few lines that compels me to comment, I'll pop in, but I won't do it just to read a post. On any given hour, I have a hundred other blogs to check out first.

There was a very good group blog I used to follow, but they truncated their posts both on Google Reader and even email. So I contacted the blog owner and asked them why they did that. She never answered.

She then posted a Q&A on the blog and I asked that question again. Once more, she ignored me. For all I know maybe I was missing the larger issue and I was very curious. But since she never answered, I have to assume there was some ulterior motive involved. As much as I liked the blog, I didn't want to be manipulated, so I took it off my reader. 

If you do feel you must truncate your posts, here are some tips to ensure click-through.

• get to the point. If it takes you a while to say something meaningful, you're probably losing readers.

• use sparkling action verbs to draw attention. 

• have a good headline

• use strong SEO keywords so at least the bots will think the post is important.


Am I missing the point of truncated posts? Are there other good reasons to truncate? I'd really like to know. Readers: Do you regularly click through to read truncated posts or do those first few lines have to wow you?

*** 

Homestead Update: The grasshoppers are winning. Now I know why they're considered a plague. I read somewhere that I can dust my plants with flour and it'll gum up their mouths. I might try that on my strawberries. They're getting hit the hardest.


Writing Update: First round edits for Mistress of the Stone are done! I want to read it one more time before I send it back. Easiest-peasiest edit ever.


Monday: Guest Blogger, Tank will be taking the podium.


Monday, April 16, 2012

State of the Homestead

If it's spring, it's rock and roll time on the homestead. That's normal for this time of year. The season stops for no man and no drama. Despite all the heartache we've endured, the work has to go on.

Goats: We finally finished the goat pen from hell. It's big and roomy and hopefully secure enough to keep the coyotes out and the goats in. We started "window shopping" for goats last week, but so far we haven't found the right ones.

We're looking for Boer goats (bred mostly for meat), but they don't have to be registered, which is what everyone wants to sell you for more $$$. All I want are good, healthy foundation stock.

Gardens: If you follow me on Facebook, you caught a short video of Greg trying to pull out a stump in the middle of Garden II. The second garden is mostly for our root vegetables, corn, and sunflowers. I call it the critter garden because I'm hoping it will supplement the chickens and goats so I don't have to buy as much commercial feed.

The main garden has the more traditional veggies: several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, peas, beans, and eggplants. I'm also experimenting in shadier parts of the property with big planters where I'll grow berries, lettuces, bok choy, and asparagus.

Harvest time around here is going to be insane. I ought to consider taking applications for harvest-interns to help me put up food this summer. LOL.

So far everything is growing well--but the grasshoppers have returned. Since I don't use chemicals, I am killing them by hand left and right. They decimated my potted plants last year. I'm determined not to let them get the upper leg on me this year.

Chicks: If all goes well, we should welcome a new flock of chicks the first week of May. I'm not hatching many. Mostly, I'm trying to breed for more green egg layers--and fried chicken. :o)

The homestead is coming along. Every year we get a little more done.

Looking out my window


Surprises: I had a NASTY surprise Saturday night. This is one of the windows surrounding my office. And that, my friends is a snake! Around the corner is the doggie door, so I shut it in case he managed to push his way in.

I was chatting with Greg on the phone when I looked out the window and saw this fiend looking in. He's a good snake (in that he hunts for rodents) but I don't want them anywhere near me. They give me the creeps.

All my life, I've had the uncanny luck of always running into snakes. It doesn't matter where I live. They find me. I must speak parseltongue in my sleep.

View from the outside














Non-homestead stuff: Working on edits for Mistress of the Stone. My editor says this is the cleanest manuscript she's ever worked on. Color me proud! Her suggestions were simple ones and I should have this finished in a couple of days. 

The Frugal Books: I know I promised them in April, but the homestead has to come first. The books are done, but since I need to do some auxiliary marketing for them, I can't put them out just yet. I don't want to slap-dash them out without a proper send-off. It's important to me that I do it right the first time.

Soon, though. Soon.

And how was your weekend? Anybody want a snake? (I'll bet they eat voles, Marianne Arkins.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sold!

Several months ago, a friend of mine asked whatever happened to that paranormal historical that finaled in the Brava contest a year ago.

Oy. I completely forgot about it. We volleyed ideas back and forth on where it might find a good fit and settled on three likely prospects. Each of these publishers have something outstanding going for it and I would've been happy with any of them.

I picked one I had never worked with before because another friend had insider information and knew they were good about promoting their authors.

Maybe it was Fate, but I don't think my submission went through their electronic submissions portal. It kept buffering and never gave me a message that it had completed the transaction. (It was one of those weeks I kept having internet problems. --like that's anything new around here.)

I should've tried again, but that's when my royalty statement came in from Samhain. Touch Of Fire is old by publishing standards, yet it still brings in more revenue than my other books. Tweaking the nose of irony, I decided to submit the manuscript to them.

The editor offered a contract within days. And she said nice things, calling it "stellar writing", and how much she loved the characters and the high adventure. You know. The stuff that makes an author feel all warm and fuzzy.

I accepted for a multitude of reasons. I like Samhain's covers. (I hope saying that doesn't jinx me and doom me to a rotten cover now. :eye roll:)

As publishers go, Samhain's operations seem more transparent than others. They constantly keep their authors up to speed, and own-up when things go awry. I like that.

But there was a more important reason that made me choose Samhain. Even though True Believers (Carina) won top pick in two "Best of" reviewer lists, Touch of Fire continues to out-earn TB.

Getting all those kudos for True Believers was nice, but all it meant was that a couple of high-profile reviewers liked it. Whereas the book with higher sales meant more readers bought it. Given the choice, I'd rather have more people reading my book than getting critical acclaim.

I'll bring you more details as they emerge, but Mistress of the Stone finally has a home. They've even given me a release date already: August 28. Huzzah!

I'm glad I finally got off my tookus and submitted it.

PS  This post was actually written a month ago. That's how crazy my life has been. Sheesh.

Authors: How much do great reviews and accolades mean to you? Could you live without them if it meant more royalties, or do you wish for both? 

And I gotta know...does anyone out there forget about their manuscripts after they've written them or is it just me? I know I've had a lot of my plate this year, but really, this is bizarre even for me.   

Tank Update: The old man is going to be fine. After the terrible viruses took the two puppies, we were very worried when Tank started gagging. It turns out his tonsils were inflamed. The vet thinks it's allergy related. He's been on antihistamines and it seems to have helped. Thank goodness! 


He was a big hit at the new vet's office and behaved like a perfect gentleman despite all the poking and prodding.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Third Fate

Attention all Highlander lovers! My buddy, Nadja Notariani has a new book out. It's called The Third Fate. Isn't that a gorgeous cover?!

Cautious and quiet by nature, Paige Kinnell watches life unfold from the sidelines, maintaining her simple existence as a shield to hide behind. But underneath her shy, careful ways, Paige senses a disconnect with the world around her, indulging instead her ever curious interest in the legend and lore of time nearly forgotten.

One chance encounter with an ancient of the undead begins an unraveling of reality as Paige knows it, leaving her to sort through dreams and enchantments, discovering along the way that one's Fate can be mere illusion, and that the consequences of opening her heart to another may cost dearly.

Cael Maccinnis, the handsome Highlander she's met, seems the answer to every unspoken longing of her heart, even as he awakens dark, secret desires buried within her soul. As strange and unnerving changes begin occurring in her mind and body, Paige has no choice but to face her life's unnatural turn and confront the frightening implications. For within Paige's past a secret lay dormant, hidden even from her. This truth, guarded well and wielded by the Fates themselves, becomes the catalyst invoking the power of The Third Fate.

Now be good people and pop over to Nadja's Amazon link and Like the page and click on the book tags to give her a little more visibility. 

One thing many people don't realize is how important it is to tag, Like, tweet and post the book title and author, especially in the first couple of weeks of release. It really helps to put them on the map and makes the algorithms that Amazon (and Google) use think it's something that needs to go to the top of the leader board.

So help a pal out. If you love Celtic mythology, you can't go wrong here. If you've read the book, don't forget to leave a review. For that matter, leave a review for any book you were excited to read. It's all good Karma. I know I always remember the people who've reviewed me.

***

Update from our recent tornadoes:

I was very pleased to see how everyone in our area helped pick up the pieces. One high school football team, of their own volition, hauled off debris that devastated their small town. 

Another older lady seemed to wander aimlessly, picking up an assortment of papers. In fact, what she was doing was collecting photos that had scattered all over her neighborhood. She was trying to save them from getting rained on or destroyed until she could find the rightful owners.

In my neck of the woods, someone fired up a giant grill and served meals to all the emergency personnel while they were trying to restore power and secure homes.

We have some really good people in our area. Generosity begins with the individual. How nice the world would be if we all did something for someone without being asked.

Thursday, barring any more catastrophes, I will make an announcement of the happier variety.


PS: Blogger has returned "Subscribe to comments" to the pop up window, so I have switched back to pop ups. It's squeezed in tightly under "Choose an identity". Thank you, Blogger!

Friday, April 6, 2012

What Else Can Go Wrong?

When life keeps knocking you down. sometimes it's better to stay down for a little while until the mortar fire dies down. Even then, Fate finds a way to kick you in the teeth.

You remember a couple of weeks ago, two strays landed on our property. I put out flyers, contacted vets and every shelter I could find, but no one claimed the poor dogs, and the shelters wouldn't take them. We had decided early on we would keep them if no one wanted them.

R.I.P. Biscuit
The puppy (who we now called Biscuit) came down with Parvo a few days ago. Unlike Murray, Biscuit didn't have the stamina. Even though he had turned the corner and started drinking water on his own, the damage was too great on his little body. It makes me angry because we caught it early and started treatment immediately. But survival depends entirely on the dog's immune system.

We kept vigil over Biscuit as storms ripped through Texas. At the height of the rage, I noticed the pitch of the wind had changed. Greg stepped outside and saw a funnel cloud form. That's when the lights went out. 

We gathered the other dogs and put them in the only interior room we had without windows, then went back to Biscuit. We waited with him. He was too close to death to be moved.

If you've ever watched someone die slowly, it's a peculiar event. The heart races, struggling to keep the body alive, but the breaths grow shallower. In the end, the dying will give several short, deep gasps, a last ditch effort to keep breathing, and then...nothing. The heart continues to beat for a few seconds more, and then it too stops.

The winds grew harder, and the rain and hail came down like bullets. The storm crushed us in a fist, but we stayed put. As it reached its howling pinnacle, Biscuit breathed his last. Like some great Karmic irony, the brunt of the tornado and Biscuit's life ended at the same moment.

We grieved as if he had been with us all our lives. We had grown to love him that much.

Notice the gas price sign on the right. Yet there's no gas station in the area.
Only the edge of the tornado clipped us. Within an hour, the rain had stopped. With no power, and my cell nearly dead, we had to go out so I could recharge it on the car charger. We followed the devastation to the next town.

I don't have to tell you what a twister can do. Fortunately, most of our homes are set far from one another, so there wasn't as much damage as the folks further south of us suffered in Lancaster and Forney. 

At least I saw why we had no power. There was a metal shed twisted around the top of one of the power poles. You could see the path of the tornado as it flattened buildings in one great swath.

Here's a link with video of the tornadoes in action. Texas Tornadoes: Amazing Images of Storm


***

We have power again, but we don't have Biscuit. We still have who we think was probably his mother. She's an old lady and we'll be taking her to the vet today to get her vaccinations and heartworm test. 

She's been hard to name. I call her MaMa or Old Lady and she responds to those names more than anything else we've tried. The old girl has a home with us for as long as she lives. I wish we could have done as much for her baby. 

We're still hurting, a well of grief and anger. I am so tired of all this bad luck. There's a limit even for me.

Thank you for all your emails and phone calls over the past few days. We're still here, picking up the pieces.