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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Meet Lucy and Heidi

We have names for my two does. The older one will be called Lucy (in honor of Lucille Ball--and not Greg's old girlfriend) and the younger one will be called Heidi.

The names really fit! Lucy is very curious and always getting into mischief. Heidi sings at the top of her lungs. I can hear her clear across from the next field.

Congratulations to Michelle H and Stacy McKitrick. Email me your physical addresses and I'll send you a signed copy of Mistress of the Stone.

If you didn't win but want another chance to get a signed copy, enter the Goodreads giveaway below. It's only open until July 1st, so get in while you can.

And thanks bunches to all you lovely people who shared my giveaway link. That was awfully nice of you.

Our next assignment is to get a boy goat. I'd been hesitant because of the legendary smell, but I'm told it's tolerable. It'll be easier for me to have a buck ready for the girls instead of me guessing when they're in estrus.

I am learning stuff every day about these guys. It's scary-wonderful.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mistress of the Stone by Maria Zannini

  Mistress of the Stone

  by Maria Zannini

 Giveaway ends July 01, 2013.

 See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Important Notice:  Google Reader is going away July 1st. If you want to be sure to catch every post, sign up for the email subscription (the link is top right).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dog (and Goat) Days of Summer

Have I ever mentioned that my husband is extraordinarily smart? Greg can fix darn well anything. It's left me terribly spoiled because unless it's an emergency, I'll wait for him to get back to me before I hire anyone from outside.

Last week I was without air conditioning all week. The temps were brutal, but I had AC in the bedroom so at least part of the house was livable.

Greg, of course, was a week away from coming home. He insisted that I call someone so I wouldn't be so miserable, but I hated to spend the extra money. We'd already spent enough on floors and fencing, and a vacation for my mother.

Bless his heart, he went over to the AC unit almost as soon as he got home from his 5-hour drive. He diagnosed the problem in less than five minutes. Getting the part took a little longer and we finally found a place who had it in stock. Total repair time took all of two minutes.

Greg said he noticed that every day he talked to me I was a little more irritable than the day before. LOL! Damn, skippy, I was irritable. It was HOT! But I survived. The dogs stayed in the bedroom all day, so they didn't notice a thing.

Nana: We have a graduate! Nana got her certificate from puppy school. The final exam consisted of three trials. She had the fastest time of coming when called and sitting at attention. And she kept the longest 'stay' despite all the distractions that were thrown at her. I was very proud.

This isn't the "official" picture. We haven't gotten that one yet from the trainer. This is the shot Greg took.

Isn't she cute?

Goats: Those girls are going to drive me to drink! Last week, the mama goat (still no names yet) got her horns caught in the welded wire fence. She couldn't figure out how to pull her head out. Then yesterday, she had wedged herself in between a split tree. Fortunately, it was a young tree and I was able to pull it apart long enough for her to break free.

Book news: Mistress of the Stone comes out in print in July. I'm giving away one (or two) copies to whoever names our goats. (You can still add more names here.)

I'm also doing a book giveaway on Goodreads. I haven't heard back from them yet, but I asked for the contest to start Tuesday. I'm pretty sure I gave them enough time, but we'll see. I'll let you know when I receive verification so you can enter.

Greg returns again next week. Aside from a couple of days off to celebrate his birthday, we plan more outdoor building projects. I've got some indoor painting to do too, but I might wait until he leaves again before I tackle them.

There are no dull days at my house. How about yours? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

State of the Homestead

Notice the horizontal pupils
I'm embarrassed to report the state of my garden. It's terrible. Part of it was my fault. I timed it badly, afraid we'd have a snap freeze. (We had a few but they were mild.) It was also my fault for letting the weeds grow faster than I could pull them.

The grasshoppers have returned in force. Nothing we've tried has deterred them. (I refuse to use poison.) If God sent them as a plague, it succeeded. 

The hoppers have decimated many of my plants. I planted the corn late this year. I'm hoping those bugs will be dead before the stalks look tasty to them.

The scorpions have been pretty active too. Makes me wish I lived in Alaska.

Chickens: Mean rooster is still with us, but I'm hoping to send him to the guillotine in the fall when his replacements get big enough. He is the meanest bird we've ever had. I bought him as an adult so that's probably part of the problem.

His chicks are doing well, but we had one fatality the other day. I found her dead in her pen. The only injury I found on her were a couple of red blotchy marks on one foot. The screen is too small for anything to get in. My guess is that it was a scorpion.

I did find a dead snake near the chick pen. He had been tangled in some tree netting lying nearby, but that's not what got him. He had been mauled. I don't know if my dogs did it or someone else. All I know is Nana found its stinking, rotting carcass and she immediately rolled on it with gleeful abandon.

She was so happy with her discovery, she ran up to me and plastered some of that stench on me too. Yuck! We both went straight for a shower after that.

Goats: They've become quite the social butterflies. They're very interested in Nana but run like they were on fire when they see Tank or Iko. Come to think of it, the boys seem to have that effect on strangers too. :grin:

The doeling is eating out of my hand now, but the mama goat prefers a feed bucket. I don't feed them a lot of grain. I use it as a treat at the end of the day. When the doeling sees me coming, she starts bleating like crazy and jumping like a clown.

Greg comes home tomorrow. I'll hand him all the names we've collected so far and he can pick the ones he likes best. I'll probably announce the winner next Thursday, so if you have any other suggestions, go ahead and add them to last week's post.

The dogs: Tank seems improved or maybe that's just wishful thinking. He still has those lumpy tumors, but they seemed to have stopped growing and spreading. For that, I'm grateful.

Iko seems depressed. Nana is always stealing the time I spend with him. I've resorted to taking him on walks by himself. I think he appreciates it. Little sisters can be so annoying.

Maggie, I sense, is starting to have geriatric issues. It's nothing significant, just a gradual slowdown. I'm glad we were able to give her a home in her old age.

Nana knows no limits. She adores being around the goats and chickens. This Sunday, she graduates from puppy school. We have a final exam too. I'll let you know next week how she did. She's pretty good with everything, but she's not interested in shaking hands. They might take points off from us for that one.

Puppy Panic: I mentioned this on Facebook, but in case you missed it, we had a near crisis the last time we went to puppy school. We were teaching the command to come when called. Only this time we had to be hidden and two aisles away (we train at Petsmart) before we called our dogs.

It was crowded that day and the music overhead was deafening so I waited a few seconds before calling her. Nothing. I called again and still nothing. I couldn't believe it.

All of a sudden, she comes up behind me and jumps into my arms. No collar. No leash. She had slipped her collar and bolted from the trainer (who had been holding her leash). The trainer said she raced all the way around the front of the store (it's immense) and circled back to where she heard my voice. 

Scared me to death, but I'm so happy she came when I called her.

Obviously, I was lost and it was her duty to find me. Good Nana.

Good things and bad things on this report. I plan a fall garden, so maybe I can get a decent harvest before the year is out.

How's the growing season by you? Better than mine, I hope.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Networking Etiquette: How (not) to ask for a guest spot

I don't post too many writing/publishing/marketing articles on this blog anymore. There are enough people today giving free advice, but yesterday pushed me over the edge. I've got to say something about networking and self-promotion.

A week doesn't go by that I don't get emails from strangers asking for a spot on my blog, links, promo, and one poor confused soul who wanted me to publish his book.

Really? Publish your book? He even spoke (illustriously) about himself in the third person. Now I understand why agents reject badly written queries. I can't imagine getting hundreds of queries like this one.

For me, the worst offenders are people who keep asking for guest spots, even after I refuse. It boggles my mind how many people assume that I should be happy to host them--total strangers who don't comment on my blog, know what my blog is about, or even write me a proper email introducing themselves.

Lately, the last few emails have been verging on belligerent, insisting that I need them., I don't. If you can't offer me a post that's useful or entertaining to my readers, I don't need you. If someone sounds insincere in a private email, how are they going to come across to my readers in a blog post? You guys are my first concern. I owe you a good post in return for your time.

This isn't a promo circus. I don't host anyone unless I'm assured quality work. This is where the networking part comes in. I know who can deliver the goods because I've been in this playground for a while.

Likewise when I write a guest post for someone else. I never pimp. Never. Those of you who've been with me for a while and have followed me to guest posts know that I always offer something of value, whether it's an insider's look at cover design, or insights into some facet of writing or publishing. 

Even when I do something self-serving like an interview, they're not your run-of-the-mill interviews. I always add entertainment value to them so you don't stab your eyes out with a fork. Good eyesight is a gift, after all.

When I ask for a guest spot or review I always:
 1. Research the site I'm interested in so that I can at least look well-informed.
 2. Offer something of value in return, usually information, entertainment or potential new followers to their blogs.

If you ask for a favor, be it a cover reveal, guest spot, interview, or review, do your homework. Read that person's blog to see if you're a good fit. Write a good query letter--especially if you don't know that blogger. Introduce yourself like a civilized person and be sure there are links to your blog/web site in your email signature. 

Case in point. I got an email from someone who claimed to have written a lot of content for other blogs, yet he neither provided proof or even a link to his own web site. Why should I believe him, right?

I shouldn't be so ranty on a Monday, but last week was a conveyor belt of ill-mannered emails. So this is more of a PSA for anyone thinking of asking for favors from strangers. Be nice. Ask politely. And write an excellent post.


Last week wasn't a total wash. I did get one very nice email from a popular book reviewer. Not only did she review Mistress of the Stone--(I asked her not to post it until after the print release in July)--but she wrote me a personal note telling me how awesome it was. 

How great is that?! I don't know what her review says about the book, but I was awfully touched that she took the time to write me a note. That went above and beyond.


I know some of you have popular blogs. Do you get a lot of requests for guest spots or cover reveals? How do you handle the people you don't know? 

Friends are easy. It's the people who just show up at my doorstep that make me scratch my head.

How do you ask for a guest spot/review from someone you don't know?


The Name the Goat contest is still going on for another week. Enter as many times or as many names as you'd like. I've been bowled over by the suggestions. This is going to be harder than I expected. Greg will make the final decision next week.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Name That Goat

They're here! It was a lot of trouble, but I finally have my goats. Two female Boer goats. One is 11/2 years old, and the other is 6 months old. (Ha! Same age as Nana.)

From the moment they arrived, I started worrying. In the back of my mind I kept hearing the lament another goat owner once expressed. From the moment they're born, a goat is looking for a place to die.

Oy vey.

These two look sound though. I was very picky with my selection. I put them on virgin ground too, so hopefully they won't pick up any parasites. Goats need to be regularly wormed.

All the dogs have met them (one on one) and so far no one seems to mind the other too much. Iko is probably the only one who's a little annoyed with the interlopers. (Iko hates change.) Tank and Maggie couldn't care less. But Nana wants to herd them. She runs circles (outside their pen) trying to keep them in the center.

Even though these girls haven't been handled much, I managed to get them to follow me with a little pelleted food. You'd think I had offered them crack!

It was a long time in coming, but I hope they'll have long and happy lives here. The only predators I need to worry about are coyotes and parasites.

But, wait! They each need a name. Something short and easy for me to yell from across the pen.

Any ideas? Leave your suggestions in the comments below. Enter as many names as you like.

If we pick your name, I will send you the print edition of Mistress of the Stone, coming out July 2nd. This is open to anyone on the planet.

If two or more people pick the same name, we'll put the names in a hat and pick a winner that way.

We've raised chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, rheas and emu. And now goats. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Readers Revisited

I've finally had a quiet couple of hours to check out all the options I listed (here) as a replacement for Google Reader.  I was not happy.

I'm not sure if I haven't investigated them fully, or they're just woefully inadequate for my needs. I am so going to miss Google Reader. It goes bye-bye July 1, 2013.

What are you using as a replacement? Is there one that most closely resembles Google Reader?


I am rushing to catch up after a week of company and entertaining. I've got two cover art assignments waiting for me. And I've been terribly negligent at visiting blogs (and weeding gardens). It was impossible to get online with so much company underfoot. Now I'm exhausted. Am I a wus or does having company tire you out too?


Still no goats! My goat guy keeps promising to deliver but it's been raining every time he's been off. Good for the garden. Not so good for rounding up galloping goats on a hundred acres of pasture.


I made some hard decisions for 2014. I won't be announcing any changes until the end of the year. By then I hope to have ironed out any loose ends. I think the changes will give me more time to socialize and expand my horizons, but some tasks will have to be sacrificed. More news in December!

Help, please. What most closely resembles Google Reader? My obsessive-compulsive self doesn't want to give up the clean ordered list I've created with Google.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Burden of Premonition

I have a rather unique and cruel gift for knowing when someone is about to die. I've had this gift most of my life, but the cruel part is that I rarely know who it will strike.

The following story began three weeks ago.

For two solid weeks I hadn't been sleeping well. At first, it started as restlessness. I'd wake from a sound sleep, upset, but unable to remember why.

Every night it got worse. By the second week I started remembering the nightmares. I will not share the details with you because they are too gruesome to repeat. Suffice it to say, Stephen King's idea of horror pales in comparison to what my subconscious can conjure. This is normal for my brain, trying to tell me something is terribly wrong.

By week two, I was frantic, trying to figure out who was going to die on me. My guess was Tank. He is frail and deteriorating steadily. I braced myself for the inevitable. But despite his weakened condition, he is a happy boy who still enjoyed his meals and walks. If the omens were true, he should've shown some sign of worsening.

Night after night this went on, each nightmare more disturbing than the last. Someone was going to die, but I didn't know who. I even phoned my elderly mother and asked if she wanted to come down and visit me--afraid it might be her. (She's with me now, spry as ever.)

Sunday morning at 3am, I woke up in a cold sweat. Another nightmare, worse than all the others. Unable to return to sleep I got up and answered email, waiting for daylight. As soon as it was light out, I went to the garden and started weeding.

At 9am, I got a call from my best friend. Her dog, Princess was showing signs of distress. From what she described, I speculated that the little dog's body was shutting down.

I puppy-sat Princess many times and she had become part of our family. Tank and Princess were like an old married couple. They enjoyed each other's company immensely and I'd often find them sleeping next to one another.

Within hours of getting the call, Princess died in the arms of the people she loved most. For that I'm grateful. There is no greater gift than being with those you love.


I didn't realize this until a few days ago, but I have not had another nightmare since Princess passed away. Apparently, the omens were for her.

Rest in Peace, dear little Princess. You had the best life and were surrounded by people who loved you with all their hearts.


Have you ever had a premonition? How did you handle it?

UPDATE: I'll be off the rest of the week. Talk to you Monday!