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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Once More Into the Breach

Rebel that I am, I've decided to take back what belongs to me.

I spent all year contemplating what I wanted to do next in my life. My biggest problem is that I have more interests than I have years left so I really want to make my choices count.

And then there's Greg. We'll be living together again (full time) for the first time in 14 years. There's bound to be some acclimation. My space. His space. My time. His time. ...our time.

So after a great deal of thought, I've decided to stop writing/publishing for at least two years. The next twelve months will be brutal. What with the extra travel, selling the other house, moving Greg here, and getting used to a full time husband again, something has to give.

I want to concentrate more on the cover art business, which brings me enormous pleasure. And then there's the homestead, which requires fewer, though still earnest hours daily. But mostly, I want to spend some long-absent quality time with Greg. 

I'm always reminded about people on their deathbeds. They always say what they regretted most was not spending more time with loved ones. I'm determined not to let work dominate the rest of my time on earth. 

I've done more work than any three mules put together. I deserve some time--not for the world, or posterity, or vanity, or even for money--but for myself.

The writing isn't the only thing going away. I just gave up a long-time freelance job editing a big SFF newsletter.

None of these decisions came easily. I'm more than halfway done with an urban fantasy that crackles with personality and will probably be my best book yet. It'll be put away as soon as I finish it--at least for a couple of years.

Two years is not such a long time. I think it will fly. And who knows what 2016 will bring by then. I may give up writing all together. Or I might write a dozen more books. Either way, I'm satisfied that I reached some level of success in publishing.

If for some reason I don't go back to writing, I can still say I did pretty good, and move on with a clear conscience.

In the meantime I'll keep blogging here and on Back to Basics, telling you tales about the homestead and all the interesting things I learn along the way. And I'll keep designing covers and other graphics, so recommend me to your friends if they're in search of an experienced designer.

It's a little scary, but also exciting. There are so many things I want to do now that Greg will be home for good.

Have you ever made a momentous decision that threw you into unknown territory? How did it work out for you?

Do you have any big plans for 2014? What would you like to accomplish in the next year? 

And how will you be spending the last day of 2013? 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Wanted a Chemistry Set, but all I got was an Easy-Bake Oven

Christmas is over and I hope you're all reeling from the after effects of good food, friends, and presents.

I was alone for Christmas, but that's okay. I'm looking ahead to next Christmas when hubby will be home for good. 

Although we don't exchange presents anymore I couldn't help but reminisce about the rotten presents I've had in years past. You know the ones. We all get them.

Like the crockpot I got from Greg on our first Christmas. Who gives their new bride a crockpot? But boy, I miss it now. Who knew I would depend on it so much? Greg was obviously prescient back then. (Not so much anymore though.)

Or the Easy-Bake Oven I got from my parents. I had begged for a chemistry set. (I had visions of being the next Louis Pasteur and discovering miracle cures with my handy-dandy chemistry set.)

But did I get one?


I was like the kid from "A Christmas Story" who begged for a Red Rider BB gun and was constantly denied. My parents thought I'd be dangerous with a chemistry set. Baking was safer--and more gender-specific. This was the 60s after all.

Oh, if they only knew how wrong they were. It took me years to master any kind of edible food and only because I was forced. I didn't want my husband to starve on my cooking.

In the end I let my sisters play with the little oven while I played with their Spirograph and Thingmaker, a toy that made rubber bugs out of molds. They got the cool toys and I got an oven. 

There's no justice in the world.

It's funny. I've probably had dozens of gifts I've loved, yet the most memorable were the ones (I thought) I hated. 

Today, my tastes are simpler. My idea of a great present is a gift certificate for a massage, some potted herbs or heirloom seeds, or a starter bag of red wiggler worms (for my future worm farm).

But please, no Easy Bake Ovens. One was enough.

What have you always wanted, but never received?  

Did you have a good Christmas?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mini Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

As movies go, this has to be the most complex film I've ever seen. We missed seeing it when it released in theaters and now I'm glad we waited to see it on dvd.

It's a series of six stories nested and interrelated to one another spanning centuries. What makes it interesting yet a challenge to follow is that each story slips in and out of each time period like a stream of consciousness.

This will not appeal to everyone. I've seen both glowing and blistering reviews. I can tell that those who hate this film probably don't (or won't) understand the subtle context woven into each story. I have to hand it to the author, David Mitchell. He was sublime; reminiscent of Richard Matheson.

This will appeal to those who like stories about reincarnation and soul mates. It's actually grander than soul mates. It's an entire soul group that lives and dies in each century.

Google 'soul group' and you'll find countless links describing this phenomenon. But in simplest terms, we tend to travel through time within certain groups. This might trigger that strange feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time yet you seem to know them immediately and even intimately.

In each life, we are not always good and noble creatures. Sometimes we're scoundrels or worse. The movie shows the growth pattern of each of the characters through the centuries.

We will definitely need to see this a couple more times (and with subtitles) to catch the subtler innuendo. But we both deeply enjoyed it. It's been several days since we've seen the film and we still find things to discuss and analyze.

The cast is led by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, but there are remarkable performances by all the main actors. Every actor played many roles. (I still can't believe Hugh Grant could pull off a cannibal.) Although their concentration to character must've been grueling, special credit has to go to the film editors. The way they transitioned from one century to the next and then between stories is nothing short of amazing.

It is part science fiction, part historical, part post-apocalytic, part dystopian, but all preternatural. 

We live many lives and share them with many people. We are good and evil, and sometimes the smallest gesture can change a world.

If you like epic stories that make you think in four dimensions, I recommend this movie.

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Decide What to Do with Your Life

I read a blog a few weeks ago that pondered the age-old question: How do you decide what to do with your life?

That's actually harder and yet simpler than it seems.

The benefit of a few extra decades has given me the wisdom to know that if you want to be happy, you should venture into wherever your passion leads you.

For me, that can get a little complex because nearly everything fascinates me. Since we're all granted only a finite number of days, I've had to choose carefully.

The blogger cited someone wiser than himself and offered this advice: Look at the books on your bookshelves. What topics come up most?

On my bookshelves, I have books on ancient history, art, animal husbandry, dogs, gardening, simpler living, archeology, the paranormal, painting and writing. I also have a lot of romance novels (heavy on the historicals). I used to have a lot of science fiction but my tastes have shifted over the years.

So if I were to disseminate my interests I have any number of careers to choose from--many of which already appear on my life's resume.

I think looking at your library is a pretty good indicator on where your passions lie. We read what interests us most.

What's in your library? Is there something you'd like to try (or write about) that you haven't yet?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bad News Comes in Threes

I got a Google alert telling me "I" was tweeting a bunch of hog swallow so I checked it out and it was someone who had stolen my profile picture, logo, and my web sites. He set up a second account called @7MariaZannini

I immediately changed ALL my passwords and contacted Twitter. They weren't much help. They want me to send them a photo ID to prove it's me--even after I filled out their form. 

I mentioned it on Facebook and several friends went to that site and clicked on the drop down box to report that site as spam. It looks like he's been blocked. If you go there and see it unblocked, do me a favor, and keep reporting his content as spam.

This was the topping of an already bad day. 

We're expecting 6 days of bitterly cold weather, which might not elicit much sympathy from northern states, but our infrastructure isn't geared for really cold weather. I've hunkered down all the animals and water lines as best I could. Times like these I could use a husband. 

But the worst news of yesterday is that I lost Belle, my girl rabbit. Somehow she pushed her feeder out (it slides through a hole in her cage). I can't imagine how she squeezed out of that hole, but somehow she did. I looked for her in every possible hiding place.

This is a video of Blu nuzzling Belle. They were always very sweet with each other.

I'm afraid a coyote might've snatched her during the night. I've seen a coyote grab a chicken without so much as breaking his stride, so it would be no sport to catch a tame bunny.

I am heartsick. She was such a nice girl. Very friendly. If she's alive, she'll have to brave the winter storm on her own. And if she's dead...

Like I said, it's been a very bad day.

I'll keep leaving food and water near her habitat in case she comes back, but I don't hold much hope. She couldn't have picked a worst time to make an escape.

On a lighter note, if you want to help a friend of mine, Maureen Betita's cover (one I designed) is entered in a cover contest. If you can give it a vote, I know she'd really appreciate it. The winner gets a nice prize. You have to subscribe to InD'tale ezine, but it's a pretty cool magazine (and it's free) so look around while you're there.

Monday, December 2, 2013

One House Too Many

My trip to Casa South was especially rough. I went in with my eyes open though. I knew packing up an entire house (then readying it to sell) was not going to be a cakewalk. This is a monumental effort that we'll be dividing into pieces over the next three months.

Meanwhile, back at Casa North, my friend, Mel had her hands full with BBQ, the goat. I had put him in a smaller pen while I was away, even going so far as to penning him up every few days weeks in advance to get him used to "captivity".

Apparently, by the time Mel got here, he was ready to commit mutiny. He had rammed the gate so hard he had nearly pulled it off the hinges. Mel was terrified that he might hurt the does since he seemed so violent, but BBQ was just being a typical male goat. Obnoxious.

I deliberately penned him up because he's a handful. You don't realize how aggressive a male goat can get until he rams all 200+ pounds of himself at you.

Mel, resourceful as ever, managed to double-wrap the gate with chain and rope. BBQ wasn't going anywhere.

He was annoyed, but when he realized he couldn't get through, he settled down.

To thank my friend, we invited her and her husband for an early Thanksgiving dinner. This year, Greg smoked the turkey. It came out great! There was lots of food to go around and send home with my friends. 

Even my pumpkin pie was a hit. This always surprises me because I don't like pumpkin. I make it every year for Greg but I have no idea how it tastes. I must've done all right because I got two thumbs up. It was a nice ending to a very long week.

All in all, the animals did fine without me. Even more importantly, Tank did well. I left him and Maggie with Mel. I knew she'd take good care of them. She's had a lot of experience with geriatric dogs which gave me great peace of mind. Tank doesn't take long trips well anymore so it was a great relief to leave him with someone he loved and trusted.

Later this month, I'll talk about some upcoming changes in my career. I alluded to it about six months ago, but I'll spill the beans this month. It'll be shocking, terrifying, and all together typical for me. Things are about to change in my life. On purpose. Wish me luck.

For the rest of this month, I'll be switching to blogging only on Mondays. I'll still post on Back to Basics on Wednesdays. This Wednesday: Hostess Gifts.