Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Perspective on the Fiscal Cliff


Going rogue today due to circumstances beyond my control.


Fiscal Cliff, dumbed down.

Lesson # 1:
  • U.S. Tax Revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
  • Federal Budget: $3,820,000,000,000
  • New Debt: $1,650,000,000,000
  • National Debt: $14,271,000,000,000
  • Recent Budget cuts: 38,500,000,000
Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budge:
  • Annual family income: $21,700
  • Money the family spent: $38,200
  • New debt on the credit card: $16,500
  • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
  • Total budget cuts so far: $385
Got it?…. OK now…
Lesson # 2
Here’s another way of looking at the Debt Ceiling:
Let’s say you come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood… and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.  What do you think you should do?
Raise the ceiling or remove the shit?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Amazing Michael Offutt


As a writer, committed blogger, published author, and artist, Michael Offutt wears many hats. But the one I treasure most is the label friend.

I met this man – dare I say, Sweetie – last year. Since then, he completed and published Slipstream at Double Dragon Publishing. In November his latest book came out, Oculus, second in the series.

Oculus
Michael Offutt

Genre: Sci-fi

Book Description:

Autumn has arrived in New York, and Jordan Pendragon attends his first classes as a freshman at Cornell. Born with a brilliant mathematical mind, he balances life as a research assistant with that of a student athlete.

But Jordan also has a quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.

October finds Jordan earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the stars.

Free short story that's a lead-in to this book series: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/236636




About the Author:

Michael Offutt writes speculative fiction books that have science fiction, LGBT, and paranormal elements. His first book, "Slipstream" has received some critical acclaim and was published by Double Dragon in the spring. The sequel, "Oculus" came out in November 2012. He has one brother, no pets, and a few roots that keep his tree of life sufficiently watered. By day, he works for the State of Utah as a Technical Specialist. By night, he watches lots of t.v., writes, draws, and sometimes dreams of chocolate.

Michael Offutt graduated from the University of Idaho in 1994 with a Bachelor's degree in English.

He keeps a blog and would appreciate a visit or two even if all you want to do is say hi.





Twitter: @MichaelOffutt



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to Survive Rejection

I love Christmas trees

Persistence + Sense of Humor = Published. That is my theme.


Take heart.

Before an author sells a book and becomes famous, most received enough rejection slips to supply a ticker tape parade in Manhattan.

Like Kathryn Stockett. She got 60 rejections before finding an agent to represent her novel, The Help.

And the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. She gave up and submitted her manuscript directly to publisher MacAdam/Cage. They saw it differently than all the agents that had turned it down.

A children's book was destined for obscurity after 12 publishers rejected it. When the eight-year-old daughter of an editor at Bloomsbury wanted to read the rest of the manuscript, the publishing firm reluctantly took it on. And Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone exploded on the world.

There are many more examples here that give us writers heart. The key is persistence and believing in yourself.

You aren't finished when you're rejected.
You're finished when you quit.





Saturday, December 15, 2012

Peace and Politics

On the day after, I think not of politics but of peace.


Give the innocent ones time to heal. And grieve.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How *not* to Use the Internet and *big* News


The internet is the biggest time suck of them all. Just think if the internet were available when Einstein was around. 

He formulated his theories of gravitational forces and the relationships between mass and energy during his Dude! years, late twenties and early thirties. If he’d had the ‘net, he'd been cruising websites and making Youtube videos of dogs eating peanut butter rather than working on the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory. 

And Heaven only knows where we’d be today if that'd happened.*tongue firmly in cheek*

Time suck aside – or ignored in my case – I love the Urban Dictionary. It is a wealth of timely phrases, crude and rude words, and teenage-speak that sometimes does a flyby.

Examples:
Clicker’s Remorse –
“The internet analog of buyer's remorse, wherein one comes to regret having clicked on a link of interest after they look up at the clock minutes or hours later and realize that they have invested an inordinate amount of time reading an article, playing a game, conversing with someone, looking at photos, etc. which they would not have spent had they resisted the impulse to "check it out"...
Upon looking up at the clock and realizing he'd spent the last 2 hours choosing the cuter kitten after clicking on the link his sister had emailed him Danny developed a strong feeling of clicker's remorse for not having resisted the urge to click on the link.”

Sneeze Freeze –
“The frozen and contorted, usually mildly retarded looking, facial expression one makes for a few seconds before they let out a sneeze or when experiencing a "Sneezus Interruptus".
Check out his Sneeze Freeze. Take cover, it's going to be a BIG one! Dude, you have an extreme squishy face you're sneeze freezing! Bob: You were going to sneeze but it got away, huh?  Dave: How did you know?  Bob: I saw your sneeze freeze.”

Sincerely, the examples would fill a whole city. I could go on forever with these monumental…

Time Suck –
Something that's engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children.
"Ever since I got on Facebook I haven't been able to stay away. I'm spending hours on it each day -- it's a total time suck, but I can't stop! Grocery shopping and laundry will have to wait."

*must resist temptation*

Drum Roll. Time for my *Big* News.

Messy Magic in the Making
It took me over a year to call myself A Writer. Now I can add the label Published Author to my brand.


I signed with Musa Publishing, a small pub in Ohio, for my urban fantasy, The Magic Withheld.

Confetti anyone?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Valor, A Greystone Novel

Book Review


Often readers purchase without reading reviews or back cover. I am not usually in that category. Unless I worship every word the author pens (insert ‘Jim Butcher’ here), I am wary of new authors and investigate thoroughly.

For some odd, fateful reason I fell into reading Valor, A Greystone novel by Taylor Longford without reading the sample chapter, the back cover, or the reviews.

By all that is Holy, I hit the jackpot.

MacKenzie opens a crate sent by her ‘step-person’ (love that btw) and finds a life-size statue of a young man. A gorgeous man. While she eyes the realistic sculpture, MacKenzie is unaware that the stature looking back. He is a gargoyle who turned himself to stone hundreds of years before and awaits only the touch of sunlight to return to flesh again.

Ms. Longford continues with Dare and Reason. Folks, this series is a keeper.

I highly recommend.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cavanaugh Blogfest

Oh, Captain My Ninja Captain. To the writers in this blogosphere, Alex Cavanaugh needs no intro, no hyperlink. He is one of a kind. But who is the man behind the mask? Speculation grows and, more importantly, imagination. And to a writer of fantasy, imagination is a dangerous tool.



What does the Ninja Captain look like? Sandy hair and gold-rimmed glasses. He has eyes that are wide open as if life continually surprises him.


Who could play Alex in a movie or documentary? Easy peasy. Wall-e. Although he might not accept the gig. These big Hollywood actors are a bit stuffy.


Who does Alex remind you of? Hammy, the squirrel starring in Over the Hedge. God forbid he gets too much caffeine.



Write flash fiction using all these prompts:
Cavanaugh
Ninja
IWSG
Cosbolt
Guitar
And the Crowd Goes Wild 
In an unprecedented move, Congress voted unilaterally to carve a fifth image at Mount Rushmore. While playing an air guitar to highlight the day, President Obama proclaimed it a national holiday as Alex Cavanaugh humbly muttered his thanks. His posse known as IWSG threw rose petals in Cavanaugh’s path and cheered as their Ninja scuffed the ground and blushed. Overhead, a formation of Cosbolts, newly manufactured on the America soil, soared in a V formation, honoring their Captain. Hard to see but they were there. Somewhere. Teeny tiny points of light. See 'em?

A comment for Mrs. Cavanaugh.
To the Power Behind the Ninja Captain. Your hubby makes a big difference in this writer universe of ours. Smile and be proud. He is one heckuva guy. But don’t tell him I said so cuz you know it’ll go to his head. 






Friday, December 7, 2012

A Blogfest, Book Tour, TV show, and Let's Rumble

Variety. It's not just a word.


On Monday, the blogfest that I subtitled “Who is He Really" begins.

The Cavanaugh Blogfest sponsored by Mark Koopman, Morgan Shamy, Stephen Tremp, and David Powers King, let's us use our God-given talents to speculate, postulate, and otherwise poke fun at our leader in the blogosphere, the Ninja Captain of all time Alex Cavanaugh. Author of CassaFire, CassaStar, and the upcoming CassaStorm, the man is an enigma, too humbled by the accolades to even post a picture. This gives us writers the perfect chance to embarrass the hell out of him.

Also on Monday, it is my turn to host Unicorn Bell, a critique site for writers in all stages of their careers. From newbie to published, we are your source for news and advice. Looking for the junction of Traditional Street and Published? That’s us. How about small publishers and self-pub? We got ‘em.

This week, my theme comes from the movie, Michael:
‘BATTLE!’

December 17th stars another Michael and the beginning of his book tour for Oculus, his second in the series, A Crisis of Two Worlds. Michael Offutt is one of my most favorite bloggers. I consider him a good friend and, more importantly, a real sweetie. My blog is set for a promo stop on the 20th.



Lastly. January 8th, a whole month from now, Justified starts another season. Easily the best, most underrated show on television.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The World of Dresden



In 2007, the Dresden Files premiered on TV and introduced me to the world according to Jim Butcher. As with all good series, the studio muckety mucks canceled the show but it was too late for me. I was hooked.

Jim Butcher wrote the first of his Dresden series, Storm Front, in 2000. Cold Days, published last month, is book number 14.

Cold Days follows Harry Dresden from the grave back to the living as he begins learning his new role as the Winter Knight to Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness.

I could say it has plot twists that make you nearly rip the paper off as you turn the pages. I could say the surprises and mysteries make you gasp audibly. And the humor. My Sweet Babboo wondered what that the heck was going on when I’d LOL while reading the book.

Any good novel has all of that. The difference is in my reading style. I read fast. And if the storyline or writing turns blah, I mostly skip ahead. Like whole paragraphs. Then pages. Sometimes I snarl and go to the end to see who dunnit. My highest recommendation is for those books that kept me on the page, reading every word.

That is Cold Days. Jim Butcher delivered again.

**
Books I Can’t Wait For in 2013:





The end of Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson. A Memory of Light – Jan 2013










Patricia Briggs’ seventh Mercy Thompson book, Frost Burned – March 2013








Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, her last in the Sookie Stackhouse series due in May.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Is there any language as confusing as English?


I’ve heard that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Most times, I don’t notice the weirdness of my native tongue but every now and then…

Wind. As I wind the dial, the wind threatens to blow me off the dais.

Read/Reed/Red. The reed turned red as I read the reader.


The Moody Blues released Nights in White Satin in 1967, a rather provocative title. Lots of emotional value.





Change Nights to Knights and a completely different image is created. (No *kidding*, I thought it was 'Knights' until just a few years ago)

John Fogerty wrote and performed Bad Moon Rising with his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Maybe my speakers were defective or CCR slurred the words because I thought they were telling me ‘…there’s a bathroom on the right…’ for long time.

Do you have favorite examples of lyrics or words that make it into the Epic Fail category? 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Best Holiday Ever


I'm expecting twenty *gasp* for my dinner, with turkey, ham, stuffing, veggies and fruit, hot rolls, german chocolate cake, apple pie, and a boat-load of Tums.

How about you?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Disciple


No fire. No camp. The overcast sky blanketed us in shadows quickly as the sun set, and the fount’s glow was soon the strongest light under the trees. I wrapped my cloak tight around myself, and sat atop one of the bedrolls we had left. Should the final attack come, being bundled up was no safer than trying to run. Better to not be tangled in a blanket, better to run and be pulled down. A quicker death, perhaps. 
What would they tell my mother?

Review of For Want of a Piglet. 

It begins like a slow burning fuse, sparks and flares that compel the reader onward. A bond forms and twines us to Kate from the start. Tension builds and I expect a good story line but the quiet steam lulls me into approaching the peak of the volcano. I mean heat and the rumbles under my feet doesn't mean it’s about to blow, right?

Then the story exploded catching me in the lava. And I couldn't turn the pages fast enough after that.

My saga with L. Blankenship’s Disciple began thirteen months ago after she submitted her first page to our writer’s critique site, UnicornBell. For Want of a Piglet, caught my eye first. I mean who could resist that title. Her writing sealed the deal. LB - my designation for her - is one of the few writers that I asked, no begged, to read her wip. She graciously submitted to my groveling and, wow, is it ever a one-sided deal in my favor.

I am one of the fortunate few who've read the fourth installment of this series of six and lemme tell ya Writers, this is the Real Deal. It only gets better. And if you live and breathe Fantasy as I do, you won’t be disappointed.

Worldbuilding. LB is the master here, written so well that you’d swear she’d teleported/time traveled into her world for a firsthand look.

Easy reading. As a writer, you’ll appreciate the quick pace and building tension. 

Genre. Call Disciple hard fantasy, epic, or ‘Gritty Fantasy Romance’, the key word here is ‘fantasy’. It is set in the medieval world of horses, castles, battlements, and kings. It might fit the sub-genre of Swords and Sorcery but that is debatable.

A little bit about LB. As an author who self-published rather than follow the traditional route, L. Blankenship is part of a growing trend. Traditional publishing, i.e. agents, are not the force they used to be and finding one who believes in your work is another catfish entirely. 

In LB’s words: “Ebooks are a huge boon to self-publishers. I would not have done this without the ease of distributing ebooks.”

Control over the author’s work is another strong point in support of self-pub.

LB: “I wanted control over how Disciple is presented to the readers…”
 Who can argue with that statement?

Please note that ‘self-publishing’ is NOT the same as vanity press. I’d avoid those bottom feeders at all costs.

Summary. For Want of a Piglet is the first in the series of Disciple, L. Blankenship’s fantasy novel. It is rare day when I experience a full gamut of emotions after reading a tome, but this one has it all; mourning a character’s demise, anger at another’s attitude, worry when I realize no one is safe. This is the book that you can’t put down. This is the book that makes you blurry-eyed the next day at work from reading until 2 am.

Find it at these outlets.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Cool is This?


As I look out my kitchen window
Renovating a 93-year-old house ain’t fun. We hit many snags like crumbling plaster and rock-wool insulation. Discovered lead pipes and *shiver* an ungrounded outlet I used for the clothes washer for 30 some years. Chipped, scraped, and cleaned off ancient wallpaper. From a Indiana Jones standpoint, seeing the styles of wallpaper and the original stenciling underneath (very cool) was fascinating. That led to one unanswered question though:

Why in heavens name would you want to paper a ceiling?

But I digress.

When we decided to use the south half of our porch to join our old house with the new addition, I left part of the beam. This led to my biggest discovery, Martha Stewart and her precious metals paint.


Quit laughing. Right now. Because this little 10 ounce jar of paint that I bought at Home Depot for about 7 bucks is incredible. It gave a sheen to everything I painted. And I used it a lot.


This little jar put two coats on the beam, a bathroom niche,





two small heart-shaped shelves and added highlights to wall d├ęcor







old door knobs and hinges








covered a sooty deposit by the chimney. I painted some of the bricks as an experiment.




This little 10 oz jar also put two coats on a step leading from the old part of the house to the new addition, an old wooden beam that is approximately ten inches wide by twelve feet long. I put two coats of Martha Stewart, metallic Copper Red, then three coats of polyurethane.

I waited and bit my nails off worrying about the durability. Boy howdy, was I ever pleased. It seems resistant to scratches, fading and looks darn good.

Once again, ONE jar did all this.

Martha, I am your biggest fan.
***


In summary, I want to thank Lowes for backsplash, Home Depot, Menards, Ron the manager at our local lumber yard who helped me with the floor plan, the Legacy cabinet company who offered hickory doors with all the bird pecks and knot holes, and Hineline.

And my sweet Babboo who said, “God forbid we ever add onto the house again.”

Addendum

And another thing. Alicia reminded me of a very important detail, a thread that colored all the work on Our Old House: the blame game. 

Is the wall uneven after filling cracks and sanding? Blame the previous owners. Did someone paint over a mud daubers nest? The last guy did it. WhyTH did someone put the drywall on backwards? Not me.

In short, with an old house, any problems or taste in design that seems, um, unique, my answer is, Who me? Heck no.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day Four of This Old House


I don’t want to pay one dime more than I need to for Anything. And taxes? Loathe ‘em.

I want quality, durability, easy installation, low cost, and variety. And don't want to pay taxes or shipping. Is that too much to ask?

The solution? Online purchasing.

Buying direct from dealers has all the above advantages plus a few scary extras if you don't do your homework; crappy service, no return policy, shadowy business reps, and fly-by-night companies. To avoid the skanks of the industry, I researched every dealer from their socks to their hair follicles. I dodged the unknowns and focused on some great online businesses.

AC Wholesalers. I bought our Mitsubishi from this dealer. Great prices, super products. An all-around good experience.




Overstock.com.  Kitchen hardware is freakin’ expensive. On a lark, I checked out this well-known site, my first time dealing with them, and was I pleased! Bought for a fraction of the cost at a home improvement store, these handles and knobs were heavy, well-made, and the exact color I wanted.



Selectblinds. I wanted huge windows, 66” x 96”. For that size, I needed vertical blinds. After finding nothing locally that came close to the color or style I wanted, I went to this company. I did have to pay shipping this time, but got these blinds already sized and ready to install. Worth the money.

Amazon sells everything under the sun. I’ve hit a few speed bumps with them but generally satisfied with their dealings.

Bottom line, check the companies before doing business with them. Use reviews, Better Business Bureau, and research thoroughly. If I can buy quality products online and avoid giving Uncle Sam the money I earned, I’m willing to take the time to do my schoolwork.

Tomorrow, our coolest discoveries.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day Three


 January 2012 - Chainsawed cedar tree. It breaks my heart to cut down any tree. This one however was damaged and about to fall on the house.

The stump in middle ground is exactly where our Lazy Boy sits now!



Bare lawn south of the house. Note porch to the left. This played an important part in our plans.











Initially, we intended busting out the window just to the right of the porch and creating an archway. But that involved cutting the trusses. Not a sound idea.


To add space and save the trusses, we tore down then re-built half of the porch. This is a view from the front of the house. The three windows were removed for entry into the main part of the house. No need to demolish a wall or the trusses.










From the main house, step into the old porch, turn left and...







...the steps down to The Addition, as we call it.
















Review of our Mitsubishi Ductless Heating and Cooling unit.

“How do you plan on heating this sucker?” our contractor asked.

The hubby and I looked at each and shrugged. “Um,” was the best answer we had.

He suggested a ductless unit manufactured by Mitsubishi. Their ad is hilarious, btw.
Essentially it is a heat pump, one unit on the outside connected to one or more units on the inside. We chose one unit for the addition. 

Cheaper than a furnace and ductwork. And quiet? A fan is noisier. Sincerely, you cannot tell the thing is on except for the light on the front. It cleans the air, quickly heats and cools. Later, when winter really hits, it’ll be interesting to find out if it does the trick. But so far, Man Alive, it is something.

In the future we might add another unit to the north side of the house but for now...

Highly, highly recommend this unit.


Tomorrow, buying major purchases online.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day two of This Old House



In all our travels on this crazy journey, we found some great products and services. This week I'll review the good stuff.

Today, Countertops.

I didn’t give a second thought to concrete or metal. Just not my style. And laminate? Been there. Done that. Tired of it.

Initally I wanted solid surface or a Corian type. This manufactured product is impervious to bacteria, comes in a wide variety of colors, and can have a molded sink made of the same material for a seamless look.

For all of the above reasons, I thought my choice was easy. But darker colors showed marks. I almost went for a light beige color but something stopped me. Could be it was the dealer who said, “Don’t worry about scratches. It’s easy to fix. You just buff them out.”

Hm. Well my next thought was, easy to fix, easy to scratch. I decide to pass. Besides I did want a darker color.

Granite sounded nice but Wow, the price. Yikes.

I went one grade down and investigated quartz. This product has every color imaginable, impervious, 93% stone, easy to clean, no maintenance like sealing, and is less expensive than granite.

I chose Copper Patina, a rich brown stone with bits of coppery-colored glass scattered throughout the surface. It feels silky, not cold like stone or tile, and the hubby has caught me petting my countertop every now and then.

Tomorrow I’ll review Mitsubishi Ductless heating and cooling

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