Sunday, December 21, 2008

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

I'm home and jet-lagged. The family room is loaded with suitcases full of dirty laundry. The good, the bad and the ugly from the trip will be discussed tomorrow.


Here's hoping public declaration, and the fear of public humiliation, will keep my list of goals from being packed away with the last of the Christmas decorations.

FIONA'S TOP TEN WRITING RESOLUTIONS FOR 2009


10. Write EVERY DAY. I mean it this time. I have made a good jump-start on this and I want to continue it. I'm not giving myself a daily time or word limit. Unrealistic goals tend to be demotivating. Two years of NANOWRIMO, which were derailed by an illness during the month, have taught me that the expectation that I can do x words a day and still live my life is not going to work. I think I'll go with 5,000 words a week. I may not make it every week, but I don't think I'll go crazy, or drive my family crazy.

9. Read outside my comfort zone. I have a jump-start on this, too. My birthday is in January, so I have ordered several books as presents to myself. They are all by authors who I have "met" online through blogs and chat rooms. They range from romantic comedy to cozy mysteries to noir mysteries to one horror book. I'm going to read them each for pleasure then dissect them to see what makes them explode---or fizzle.

8. Go to my monthly writers' meeting. I need the moral support. On-line writer friends are great, but it's not the same thing.

7. Go to a writing conference. I've gone to a national conference, and I want to do a regional one this year. This is my business--my new career--and I need to treat it that way.

6. Treat my writing time as work time. I can not allow unnecessary interruptions to side track me. Nothing short of an emergency--a REAL emergency--will have me stop my writing session.

5. Exercise EVERY DAY. I'm going to be spending a lot of time with my butt in the chair writing, and I'll need to get that butt out of the chair and moving to offset it. I foresee long walks with the dogs. This will be my plotting time.

4. Complete first novel. As in, from the beginning to the end. My Work In Progress is more a Work In Pieces right now.

3. Revise and polish first novel. Not obsessively. Not until I hate every character and want them all to die. But I don't want to send out anything sloppy.

2. Query agents for first novel. I have a list, I've checked it twice. I will recheck and send out emails, or snail mails, as needed. I have a list of 4 agents to get me started. I don't want 20 rejection letters in one week.

1. Begin next novel. This should really come after # 4, but it is my biggest goal for the year. I don't want to complete the first one and then.......wait for rejections. This first novel has been a learning experience, and I want to put that to work in the second one.


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

MERRY CHRISTMAS



and Happy New Year. I'll be back on 1/1/09.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

THE "BEFORE" PICTURES









The camera has decided to cooperate, so here are pictures from the project.

The first room is going to be our family room. The guys are excited about this. It will be a nice place for doing puzzles, playing games, and watching movies. Now that the kids don't need a "play room" we can all enjoy this space.

The second room will be my office. Wow, that feels great to say. DH has not said much about my writing goals; he is a guy of few words. The addition of the office to the remodel plans, however, was a major show of support. It is the greatest gift he has ever given me.

The machinery is out back to drill the well for the geothermal unit. The cold weather has delayed that part, but they are supposed to be back on Monday. We will have in-floor heat in the whole redone area, powered by the geothermal unit. Toasty toes next winter!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And the dogs are gone, too



Scooby and Baby went to stay on the farm this morning. They were so excited to go for a ride in the car, but were not thrilled when left them. Oh well, they'll be in sheltie heaven for the next two weeks with nine other shelties to romp in the snow with them.

I don't know how I'll handle two weeks of no barking. Hmmmmmm, perhaps a week of walls being ripped down and jackhammers tearing out the concrete will give me my daily dose of noise.

I wonder if the jackhammers will get louder when the doorbell rings......

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Kitties are packed



Skitter Kitten and Mr. Whiskers are packed and ready to go. We have never sent them off before, so I'm worried how they will do. At least they will be staying in a home, and not going to a kennel. They'll probably be so spoiled, they won't want to come home. I know they will be happier away from the demolition in the house.

The dogs go to another house tomorrow. I'm so thankful for good friends who will help us out during the worst of the project.

The kids are going to miss the critters. Who am I kidding---I'M GOING TO MISS THE CRITTERS.


Do you have pets? Have you had to send them away for vacations or house projects? Will I get all the pet hair cleaned up before they come back in two weeks?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

when a house is not a home

We went to an awful Christmas party last night. It was at the house of someone my DH knows from work, and it was the weirdest home I've ever been in. It looked like a model home for a new housing development, totally sterile, but even a model home tries to look "homey". Perhaps this felt more like a stage of a house that needed the finishing touches to make it authentic.

There were NO BOOKS IN THE HOUSE! Can you imagine? Even in the "study" there were no books on the shelves. They were filled with tastefully placed "things" that only a decorator uses. They were not mementos from family trips or art projects by the kids. The shelves beside the fireplace --which was unlit even though it was 5 outside--were empty and faux poinsettia trees were placed in front of them.

The other thing that struck me as odd was the absence of photos. These people have kids, for goodness sakes, and have been married years. Where were the wedding pictures and baby pictures? What about the snapshots from the family vacations?

Then there was the art--or lack of it. All of the "art" pieces on the walls were giant metal scrolley-things that are there to take up space on huge walls. The house had vaulted ceilings in every room on the main floor and lots of wall space.

The "picture" over the fireplace looked like something you'd see in a high-end furniture store as a display, but not for sale--just there to take up the space. It was an abstract flower in blotches of dark burgundy and black. Burgundy was the "unifying color" in the house, as a decorator would say. The picture was obviously picked because the colors "matched" the decor.

All of the Christmas decorations looked like displays moved from a department store. The tree in the living room was one of those tall, super-skinny ones. Just little white lights and---are you ready?--burgundy and gold butterflies, six inches across, were perfectly spaced all over the darn thing. There must have been a hundred of them. They should have had price tags and a sign 3 for $10. Nothing hand-made by the kids was on the tree or anywhere else. Where were to popsicle stick ornaments, or the little balls decorated with glitter-glue?

We were there for 4 hours and I don't think anyone sat down the entire time. The chairs in the living room had multiple, perfectly arraigned little pillows with painful-looking beads on them. A sure sign of "don't sit here" if I've ever seen one. The couch had a cashmere (yes I checked the tag) blanket fanned over one side. The other end of the couch had a wooden serving tray on it. The tray wasn't used all night and no one moved it to sit down. It reminded me of a photo from a magazine or catalogue.

I feel so sorry for the kids.

I found this blog and think that picture looks like it came from a house I'd like to visit. It looks like someone LIVES there. It may not be my color scheme or style of decorating, but it is lovely, and it looks like a home.


So, what makes you feel at home in a new place? Is it the decorating, the furniture, the pictures, BOOKS? Have you ever been in a house that feels like stage, not a home? What do you think it takes to make a house a home?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CHAOS ABOUNDS

Our major home-improvement project has begun. "Breaking ground" doesn't even BEGIN to describe the mess. AND, my camera died, so no pictures. I have to figure out how to upload camera-phone pictures to the blog.

Today, a red monster truck, complete with large drilling attachment, rumbled into the back yard, scaring Skitter Kitten and sending the shelties into a barking mania. It was that loud. There are three more days of drilling.

I know, drilling in Minnesota, in December, we are out of our minds. The reason is great, however. We are putting in a geothermal heat pump, and in-floor heat in the bottom story of the the house.

It sounds great, and will be when it's all finished, in March. Until then, we will have a week of jack-hammering up the basement's concrete floor before we get out of Dodge for Christmas.

When we get back, the walls will be ripped out, the floor dug down to the dirt, and the furnace suspended from the ceiling. Then the rebuilding begins.

I've got to get the camera fixed before then. I'm sure the sight of my house in ruins will delight many.

The end result---- heating and cooling, hot water and warm floors, all for a few dollars a month. And, green energy. Even with the cost of oil low, it should pay for its self in 8 years. The entire floor will be tile--easy to clean with two dogs, two cats and two kids trying their best to keep it messy.

BEST OF ALL--- a new office for me. Not a space in the dining room, not a corner of the guest room, but my own room. *sigh*

WHAT COLOR OF THE RAINBOW ARE YOU?

Your rainbow is shaded green.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What is says about you: You are an intelligent person. You feel strong ties to nature and your mood changes with its cycles. Those around you admire your fresh outlook and vitality.

Find the colors of your rainbow at spacefem.com.


Another cute quiz. It's gray and cloudy here, so green sounds nice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

THANK YOU FOR GETTING YOUR FLU SHOT

To the woman who shook my son's hand at church on Sunday, thank you for getting a flu shot. My son has asthma, and even a mild case of the flu can make him sick for weeks. He will have a much better school year because he did not catch the flu from you and have to miss a month of school. People with lung illnesses are at a high risk for complications from the flu.

To the man who visited his grandmother for Thanksgiving at the assisted-living home where my grand father lives, thank you for getting your flu shot. My Grandfather is in his nineties, and will get to enjoy Christmas with his first great-great grandson because he didn't catch the flu from your grandmother and die before Christmas. The elderly, living in senior housing, can be especially vulnerable to the flu.

To the coworkers of my friend, who is allergic to eggs and has diabetes and cannot get a flu shot, thank you for getting your flu shots. My friend's juvenile diabetes has made her life very difficult. Anyone with a chronic illness has so many more things to worry about than those of us who enjoy good health. When those of us who are healthy get our flu shots, we are practicing "herd immunity" and protect many, many at-risk people.

Thank you to everyone who has gotten their flu shot. You have given your community a gift.

If you haven't yet had your shot, it's not too late.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

COMFORT READS

Inspired by Janet Reid’s post today, I was thinking about my "comfort reads" those books I curl up with when I'm sick, or feeling overwhelmed.

Sometimes I want to revisit old friends and enjoy the flavor of the characters more than the story. For this, I will pick up a Rex Stout or an Ellis Peters. Then there are times I have read, or tried to read, an awful book and I need to cleanse my mental palate with something familiar.

I like to reread LITTLE WOMEN around Christmas. I often dip into a Jane Austen in the spring.

There are also books I reread every year. One, my favorite book, is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I know the book hasn't changed, but I hope that I have and will get something new out of it.


What about you. Do you have a "comfort read" or a favorite reread for a certain time of the year? Or do you read once and pass it on? What do you do to forget a bad reading experience?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

COMFORT FOOD FOR THE EYES

The internet is a blessing and a curse. Wow, how original, I know. With the touch of a few buttons, I can see how the markets are tanking all over the world (well, not NOW, they're closed thank goodness) and I can read about crimes and natural disasters all over the world.

On the other hand, I can find whimsy and a smile in the most unlikely places. I check out some blogs when I need a smile. These days, I'm, writing about a suicidal mass-murderer, and I need to get her out of my head and see something nice.

Here are a few things that never fail to make me smile.

These are not laugh out loud sites, but they do give me little cheer.

The first is John Scalzi’s bacon cat which is funny just because it is.

As a foodie, this blog is a daily stop for me.

And last,
this is just too sweet.


Do you have a website you visit just to make you smile?


Happy winter to everyone. We have 4 new inches of snow, and we’re off to go sledding.

Monday, December 1, 2008

WRITING AND READING COMMUNITY HELPS AUTHOR



Author Jo Leigh’s husband died after a long illness with cancer. They had no health insurance, so some generous writers are trying to help her with an auction. Items to be listed for bidding on 11/28, 11/29, 11/30, & 12/2.
(Individual item auction links updated November 30, 2008 12:00 p.m. CST)

You can email for more information.

Holiday shopping + helping someone at the same time= Christmas cheer.

Please pass this on.

Now go shop!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If you're reading this, you're a genius!

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

Of course, this is just WRONG, but fun.

OK, you can stop laughing now. Try it and let me know what your blog rates.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Furry Family

These are the furry members of the family. Our home comes with the guarantee that you will leave with cat or dog hair showing.

In the center is Skitter Kitten. The only person in the family she likes is youngest son. He got her last year for his birthday (our old cat, Angel, had died the month before and our old sheltie, Angus, had died the week before). We took Scooby with us to the shelter to get the sheltie seal of approval. Skitter Kitten nuzzled the dog. We should have noticed that she didn't nuzzle us.

Going clockwise, at 12 o'clock is Scooby. She is 8 and was from a sheltie rescue group. We have had her 4 years and she has almost recovered from the trauma of her previous family. She is a great guard dog.

At 3 o'clock is Mr.Whiskers, our 8 year old tabby. He had 7 families before us--really. I think his problem is that he is too smart. He gets into everything. We had to install child-proof locks on the cupboards to keep him out of things. Now that he has toys and a playmate, he doesn't make confetti from the toilet paper and paper towels.

Our newest member of the family is Baby. He was rescued from a puppy-mill in the spring. I won't rant about puppy or kitten mills except for this: please, please make sure your breader is reputable before you get a pet from them. Better yet, get a rescued dog or cat. *stepping off soap box*
So, who are the creatures in your life and how did they find you?

Post-Thanksgiving Post

We had a great Thanksgiving with friends on Thursday. DH had to work that afternoon, so we ate at 11. We finished at 2. As soon as I get the recipe for the stuffed mushrooms , I'll post it.

Yesterday, we did Thanksgiving at our house. We had to have the leftovers. I just did turkey thighs, because the four of us can only eat so much. We all prefer dark meat, anyway. We sometimes have pheasant for Thanksgiving, but DH & oldest son didn't go out pheasant hunting this year.

I tried Neil Gaiman’s cranberry jelly, but it turned into cranberry syrup. We ate it anyway.

I was going to try sweet potato souffle but I decided to try that this week, and if it works we will enjoy it for Christmas.

We will have venison for Christmas, but we will celebrate a week late this year. My DH only gets Christmas week off once every 5 years, so our family gift is to go to Hawaii (we've been planning & saving for this for years). The kids know THAT IS IT for presents this year. They'll get stuff from the rest of the family, so they will have something to open when we get back.

OK, I lied, they WILL get a couple of books to read on the plane. I couldn't resist a couple of books each. It's really more for my sanity.

Tomorrow, the tree goes up. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beautiful photos

I found the most amazingly beautiful bird photos while doing research. I never did find what I was looking for, but I'll settle for a new blog to visit which is sure to make me smile.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

Have you ever stumbled on to something amazing on the web while looking for something else?

Too Cute

BOOK REPORT

I read a charming book this weekend. ALEX AND ME is the sweet, true story of Alex, an African Grey parrot and Dr. Pepperberg, the scientist who worked with him. There needs to be a kleenex alert on the cover, though.

It is rare for me to find a nonfiction book this moving. As an animal lover (we share our home with two dogs, two cats & 10 fish---I wish I could have a bird, but I have a strong allergy to feathers. ) I found the relationship between Dr. Pepperberg and Alex to be amazing. She spent so many hours, for so many years, with him. I don't want to spoil the book for you, so I'll leave it at that.

If you love animals, get this book.

It is a quick read and would be a thoughtful gift for the animal lover on your gift list. I know my oldest son will want to read it, and I think it would be perfect for a friend who trains guide dogs.

As an aside---please buy it at an independent books store, if possible. Over at MURDERATI they are encouraging book buying in general as a great way to do your holiday shopping and support the industry. A plug for supporting all small businesses is on PLOTMONKEYS today. BOING BOING has a list of kids' books, for the SF & tech-minded.

With the economy as difficult as it is these days, we can vote with our dollars and support the businesses of our family, friends and neighbors by buying from the independents of every type of business. Yes, I know I blogged about this on Friday, but it is worth repeating.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. We will be over at a friend's house for the big meal, because my DH has to work that afternoon. We will do it all again, with just our family, on Friday. How can we put up the tree on Sunday, without turkey and rice casserole for lunch?


So, what are you reading? Do you have a special book for animal-lovers? Is there a small business in your area that you love? Where will you be spending this Thanksgiving? And what will you make with the leftovers?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Comment Moderation is ON

Due to a spam post, comment moderation is ON. If I go for a week or so without more spam posts, or if I just get fed up with the moderation thing, I'll take it off.

I'll let you know when it is turned off.


Thanks for your patience. I don't want my blog to be someone's billboard.

Independent Bookstores

Today over at SISTERS IN CRIME there is a strong appeal to support local, independent bookstores.

One great example of an author who does this well is John Scalzi . He has a great idea for supporting his local bookstore, and making autographed books available to his readers. Everybody wins.

I wonder why more authors don’t do that. They would have the undying devotion of the booksellers, and the reading public. They wouldn’t even have to do this year round. One month a year would be a great start.

New Year’s resolution, beginning about six weeks early, buy form my local, independent booksellers. I already do that for Children’s books and I need to do it for my Mystery and SF/F books as well.

Hmmmmm.....Christmas shopping starts for me on Monday, and I have these stores bookmarked and ready for my ordering.

Do you have favorite independent bookstore? Do you hunt through a favorite used bookstore? Do you seek out a bookstore on vacation?
You ARE giving books for presents this year, aren’t you? What book do you want to receive as a gift?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Writer's Roadblock

My NANORWRIMO experience has not worked the way I planned this month. A sick child (he's better now) and a home remodeling experience--which can best be described as MUCH FODDER for the writing grist--have left me with less time to write than I had anticipated.

It has, however, left me with snippets of time I have spent "procrastinating" on the web. I put that in quotes because each day has left me with a new insight on craft (see my last post) or some new research for my WIP, or some personal inspiration. Rachelle Gardner has a great post on working through these frustrations, when I have questioned my reasons for writing and my ability to succeed.

I found that link from a link on a blog which I visit daily. Under the comments of the not-named blog, however, I found some very rude comments on the spiritual nature of Rachelle Gardner's post. I can fully understand people having other beliefs, or no religious beliefs at all, but I can not understand someone being mean about others' beliefs. I'm not sure if it is the anonymity of the blogosphere, or if the poster is regularly an unpleasant person, but it left an unpleasant e-smell. Maybe it's because I'm in the midwest and we are a little nicer here about differences.

I can feel sorry for the person, and whatever hurt they have in their lives that they feel it necessary to inflict that on others, but it does make me wonder about being published and how open that will leave me to unkind words, or worse, from strangers.

I don't mean about my writing---that's subjective and if you think it's awful, that's your opinion. Just don't read what I write and you and I will both be happy. What really concerns me is that someone who disagrees with a (real or perceived) political or religious slant to my work will see it as something PERSONAL, and try to respond in a personal way.

I'm very protective of my family (no pictures of my DH or kids on this blog) so that makes me concerned.

Of course, I may never get anything else published, and this will all be a meaningless worry. LOL


Do you have things in your professional live which affect you and your family on a personal level? Do you find it difficult to separate the two aspects of your life or do you feel more comfortable combining the two?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

LESSONS IN CRAFT

Over at MURDERATI today, there is a excellent post on craft. This is one of several (they're linked in the post) lessons on structure and pacing.

I reread all of the posts today, and figured out something that was very wrong with my WIP.

I am behind on my word count for NANOWRIMO, but I thought this needed sharing.

Where do you get ideas on craft? Do you have favorite books or blogs that help? Have you taken any classes thathave made a difference inyour writing?

*slinking off to the office to get my BIC*

Name that character

I can't write about a character until I give her a name. As soon as she has her name, she comes alive. I see her, hear her voice, and begin to live her story.

This has been a HUGE problem for me. I scour the net for names. I read lists, check obits and go through directories. UGH. A time suck, and not a fun one. I usually love doing research, but the name game was one I dreaded.

Until now. I just discovered
this cool writing resource.

Now I can search a name and find a similar one, or a variation, so everyone isn't Jennifer and Jason.

How do you name your characters?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day One

Good news/bad news.

The good news is that I made my word count for the day--- 1,710 words. Yippee.

Bad news it's only the first day and nanowrimo has already disrupted my life and made my DH angry.

My outline (hand-written) disappeared. I had been working on it off and on for a couple of months. Last month, we had house guests two weekends in a row and it got stuffed somewhere. I spent 6 hours today doing a rough outline and starting my writing. I simply CAN'T start writing until I know the names of my characters.

*sigh*

Word count goal met today, now DH & I are going out to dinner. We will talk about something other than my WIP.

Who knows, I may do better writing this thing without an outline. I have one completely new scene already.

Friday, October 31, 2008

NANOWRIMO

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/basics

I've signed up and I'm ready to go. Hopefully this year I'll make it through. I had a little health thing last year (gallbladders are SO tiresome.) Hopefully, no other minor organs will need to be extracted this November.

I pledge to refrain from emailing, blogging & surfing and reading of any kind until my daily 1,700 words are done, AND I am up to date on my total word count. I don't know which is going to be harder, not checking NPR, the NYT and BOING BOING every morning, or doing the actual writing.

Since I'm a political junkie, I know the first five days I will quickly meet my writing goals.


Happy Halloween, and good luck on your November goals.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Memeory of Tony Hillerman


The first Hillerman novel I read was "The Ghostway." My DH & I read a review of the book (I ALWAYS read local newspapers when I travel) when we were on our honeymoon in NM. We had just completed a week-long rafting & camping trip and were lazing around Taos. I wish I could remember the name of the little bookstore where went to buy the book.

Of course, we fell in love with the book and over the years we have read every one of Hillerman's novels. It is so sad to know that there will be no new ones.

He well and truly broke the rule of beginning his books by describing the weather, the landscape, and the light. Of course, with his books, the setting was as much of a character as Leaphorn or Chee. The dry high desert air, the stars upon stars in the clear night sky, the smell of dust, and sage, and pine, and the song of a coyote ----being there and reading one of his books for the first time was the perfect way to appreciate the setting.

My TBR pile has been preempted, and I will reread his novels beginning with the Ghostway.

Monday, October 20, 2008

books, books, BOOKS

My never-ending, and often futile quest to become organized has another ally----LibraryThing.

Note the cute book widgit on the right of my blog. Miss Snark's late-lamented blog gave me the idea.

Here's the link
http://www.librarything.com/

OK, so it's also a great way to procrastinate. So is blogging. ;-)

What amazes me is that so FEW authors are on it. It's easy to use and is another great forum to reach the public. In this case, a truly book loving public.

I am curious about the things that shape the minds of the authors I read. I would LOVE to know what is in their TBR pile, and what they have read in the past year.

So, do you LibraryThing? And if not, why the heck not?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

EXCITING NEWS

My short story "The Most Successful Surgeon" will be published in the WINTER 09 issue of SPINETINGLER ezine.

http://www.spinetinglermag.com/

I'll post a link to the issue when it is published.

Excuse me now while I go have a celebratory libation.

MORE ON VOTING

Voter fraud and disenfranchisement and how to end it.

During the last presidential debate, the ACORN issue was brought up several times. There has also been a lot of discussion about voter roll purges and ID requirements. I think I have an idea that would help with both concerns.

How about a federal government ID for voting, receiving entitlements and organ donation preference (a much-needed increase in registering, I expect) all rolled into one? The one extreme group, who think that all voter registration drives are out to perpetuate fraud will be placated by the verification process, as will the other extreme group who feel any requirement to vote will unfairly exclude voters.

As for those who quiver at the thought of any type of national ID, well get over it. This would be voluntary.

I know that there are some elderly people who lack the documents to get this form of ID, so they can be grandfathered in. Say, everyone over 55 or 60 is exempt at the beginning and phase out the exemption over the next 25 years or so. Make them renewable every 10 years, on the person's birthday (20th, 30th, ....) and start every new voter at 18, when they first become citizens, or when they first register to vote, with one.

Sure, it will take time to phase it in, maybe over the next 6 years, so it does not "go live" during a presidential election. Make it paid for by the government (meaning ALL OF US) so there is not an undue burden on the poor. It will create some new jobs and help speed up the process on election day.

If you want to vote, without the fear of being accidentally taken off the rolls, get the ID.

If you want access to federal entitlements, get the ID.

This would be a big plus with the far right who believe every person getting entitlements is trying to defraud the government. I think it would help with tracking trends and give those studying the needy in our country valuable data.

The ID could be used to cash checks and board airplanes, too. It would not replace the passport or drivers license, but would be a third valid form of ID.

OK, so this is not the last word on voter fraud and disenfranchisement, but I hope it gets people thinking about solutions.