Tag Archives: books

Mixing it up and using the creation option

18 Aug

I tend to get single minded about things sometimes.  While that can be a good thing, there is also a tendency to go overboard, perhaps.  The truth of the matter is, too much of anything is not a good thing.  So, focusing on variety being the spice of life, I have mixed up things a bit more around more.  I do at least two things every day, and which two things can vary.  I write, almost every day, in one form or another.  Other days, it might a whole list of options that are considered.  One that has been at the forefront has been the act of creation.

Something about creating something, whether it is written text or an object  of some kind, seems to give me joy.  It’s even better when it’s something that gives other people pleasure.  This act of creation is a fantastic outlet for me.

So I have been busy with that creation stuff.  Like I made a trio of simple skirts for my niece’s oldest, along with matching hair barrettes.  I altered the pattern to be more creative and use that creation option too.  Several skirts for my granddaughter have come out from under the needle of my machine.  I tried my hand at a bit more fussy sewing with a set of mother-daughter aprons (shhhh!  She hasn’t gotten them yet, it’s her birthday gift, and I’ll deliver them tomorrow!) and a lined messenger bag with specially sized pockets, also for my daughter’s birthday.  The messenger bag was an act of determination, multiplied by dynamic creation, and infused with love too.

I don’t know if I’ll ever sew another apron requiring miles of bias tape.  I also don’t know if I will EVER make another lined bag.

Now I know from years of sewing that free patterns, whether from magazines (in the old days) or online (the modern day), does not mean quality patterns.  Anybody can post a pattern, and that does not mean it’s a good one.

This wasn’t a particularly good one.  The directions gave me headaches, and the finished example used to illustrate the article looked somewhat…sad.  I should have known better, right?

Yeah, well maybe I missed the brain train.  Lord knows the pain train pulls into my station regularly, I may have been confused that day…

I’ve also had serious computer issues.  I use a laptop (long story) and my “new” one took a dump and quit on me about 6 months ago.  Without being able to afford a repairman (it’s not a simple issue, it won’t power up at all) it has sat, waiting, after Greg removed the harddrive and cloned it onto another one, which ultimately went into my old laptop, which he had repaired from it’s near-fatal blow from some kind of malware attack I had received via a chat client I used to use.  (I don’t anymore, btw.)  So, I was happily working away, although regretting the loss of the faster computer with more RAM and thus better able to cope with my continual multi-tasking, and just dealing with the occasional freezing that such a tendency induces in older and underpowered computers.

On Saturday morning, I had a notice on the laptop that it had received a Microsoft update and had restarted.  Okay, no big deal, right?

It told me it was personalizing my desktop, and stayed that way.  Nothing we did resurrected it—it would not boot up.  I was on the verge of a melt down and we’ve not managed to drink our first cup of coffee yet.

Greg’s pretty patient, except when I’m melting down on him, then he’s not a very happy camper either.  He managed to pack me off to the office with my sewing machine, and he proceeded to try and solve the issue.  I took a nap.

A really long nap.

I guess melt downs wear me out?  It also gave him the peace he needed to work on solving the problem.  According to the flashing light on the cap lock, it was telling him that the CPU had crashed and burned.  That’s not a quick fix either, especially since it’s a laptop, which is really hard to work on.  We have no parts, nor do we have diagnostic tools to work on a laptop.  With Greg though, there is no such thing as defeat.  He also says there is no living with me without a functional computer AND my files, so he had a plan b to work on while I was snoring away.

He dug out his old laptop, which he had finally managed to repair.  (It was also damaged, but much more severely, by malware via the same chat client.)  It was the same brand as my old one—a Compaq.  He popped the harddrive from the laptop I had been using into the new one, added some RAM, and booted it up.  There were a few things to tweak, but soon, I was awake and had a computer I could use again.

But it had a really odd looking screen, and that was a clue as to what was coming next.  The video card driver on the harddrive was not compatible with the actual video card in the new old machine.  Should be an easy fix, right?

Nope

HP’s repair gizmo won’t install. Drivers for the video card don’t seem to exist.  Okay, I can live with an oddball looking screen, distorted pictures and all.  But that wasn’t the end of the video card driver problems.

The blue screen of death.

Yeah, we’ve all seen it.  The trouble was, I was seeing it often, and then the new old computer wouldn’t boot up either.  I was starting to feel like some kind of computerized jinx.

I’m testy, and I’m sent back to the office to talk to my sewing machine and play with my Kindle.  I start dreaming of embroidery machines and new laptops, but Greg manages to save the day despite my frazzled nerves.  He also attaches an external harddrive so I can back up the critical files: documents & pictures.  We even worked out a way to get it done easily without me freaking out and getting frustrated over complicated procedures.

Like the Cloud.

He couldn’t understand my objection to using the Cloud for backing up files, but Comcast, in their usual manner, managed to illustrate it in living color.

Our intermittent outage issues had been plaguing us all day on Sunday.  Sunday night, however, it’s a total no-internet-at-all situation resulting in a call to Comcast, where he started off the experience with a 30 minute wait to get to a human.

Keep in mind, we’re paying by the minute for this privilege, despite Comcast’s continual offers of telephone service (they can’t get the internet right, how would they get telephone right?) and then he gets “service is out in your area due to an accident.  It should be restored by 7 am on Monday morning.”

Now he knows why I do not like my files on the Cloud.  I cannot access them when the internet is down.  Just like I couldn’t access anything when I had no way to get to my harddrive and the data it contained, only with no cloud access, my computer is working just fine.  Sure, the cloud is fine for a general back up, but that’s not where I want my files kept.

He was thrilled.  Seriously thrilled.  But now, he understood what my objections were and why they were something that I was so adamant about.

But that sent my brain off onto another tangent too.

If a woman could sue McDonald’s for a cup of hot coffee scalding her, can I sue Comcast for frustrating Greg to the point of giving him another heart attack via their crappy customer service?

That’s the kind of thing I start to wonder in the wee hours, as I look at a screen that thinks it’s really a 16” CRT monitor but is really an LCD laptop screen…I think it’s a 17” one? (Heck I can tell you the model number, and have no idea what size the screen is.  Sad, huh?)  So, now I’m going to mix it up, wander off, and try to take a photo of the lovely messenger bag.

Or not.

I might wait and do it tomorrow, along with the aprons, when I have a model.  Actually 2 models.  Beautiful Daughter & her Mini Me, the spitting image of her mother, only with better hair.

See that’s another side of me too.  I am an official grandmother and I’m every bit as gaga as any grandma could be.  Plus, she’s my one and only, so I am seriously gaga about that little girl.  I have to keep a firm hand on myself to prevent me spoiling her excessively.

Yep, there is an “excessive” point when you are grandma too.

But she is a darling, most of the time.  When I see that less-than-endearing version, I am so disappointed too.  After all, as MY granddaughter, she is supposed to be perfect, right?

And since I do have to get up early to go see my darling, I’m going to leave it at that.

So tune in again tomorrow…or listen to me on the radio from 8-10 pm Central at bit.ly/uprn365  Oh, and go buy a book or two at bit.ly/giabooks  I’m trying to fund my project development for the next book, and could use some extra sales.

Just don’t forget–I really appreciate everyone who reads my blog posts, and for that, you deserve an atta-boy and a creation bonus point.  Create something, even if its something small.  It can be food or art or crafts or a really great poem or the best lawn mowing job that has ever hit your neighborhood.

Creation can be many things.

Here’s a cover of one of my books–my daughter and granddaughter were on the cover.

Kindle Parent handbook cover

You can find it right here.

Don’t forget–I’m moving my blog to www.exogenynetwork.com at the end of the month!

 

Connecting with authors: the fan letter

4 Jul

Writers are a solitary lot.  They work alone, and while the picture of a solitary hermit hunched over their keyboard, chugging down vast quantities of beer or wine as they agonize for hours over every little detail is probably no where near the truth, they do in fact work alone in relative isolation usually.  Even those that manage to write with the chaos of their family swirling around them like the incoming tide around a rock are still working alone, without being able to interact with their peers. They pour their heart and soul into their manuscripts, then they are polished up, dressed in their finest cover, and sent out into the world. It’s a traumatic moment, sending that innocent and shiny new book out into a big cruel world, where it will be handled with carelessness, potentially tossed into a pile of books and forgotten.   That writer is its parent, and as a parent, agonizes over the launch of their efforts, until one day, it just happens.  It’s gone, forever condemned to the cruel pens of book reviewers.  A writer then prays for its salvation, that it is strong enough to withstand their assault. But despite this, the writer is compelled to begin again, and a new story is begun while the previous one is still involved in its own birth.  Still working alone, the writer may begin to feel that isolation, and wonder if anyone has really ever read their work, if it matters at all in the overall scheme of things, and even whether they are wasting their own time. Baring your soul and pouring out your heart is painful, and leaves so many writers feeling vulnerable.  After all, the world isn’t known for being kind and considerate, is it? But the fans are out there.  They read the book, they like the book, and they would like to connect with the author somehow.  But, all too often, there are a few things that prevent that fan letter from being sent.

  • The reader assumes that all authors receive a lot of fan mail.  (Not true!)
  • The reader assumes that authors are annoyed by fan mail. (not true either)
  • Readers do not want to be regarded as a creep or stalker.  (Most people aren’t going to take it to that level, but if you think you are doing that, maybe it’s time to back  off.)
  • Readers don’t know how to contact an author.  (more about this part later)

The fact is, fan mail is one of the greatest moments in a writer’s life.  Nothing compares to that first fan letter, unless it is the second one! So how to write the perfect fan letter?

  • Tell the author what you liked most about the book.
  • Explain how the book affected you, such as it made you laugh or cry, you had to stay up all night to finish it, you built your own space ship from the included directions, or whatever effect the book had.
  • Tell the author how and why you had originally bought the book.
  • Keep it short.  Authors have busy lives too, and it often includes things like a full time job and a family, with their writing done in their “spare” time.
  • Tell the author where you left a review.  (If you hadn’t left a review somewhere online, go do that before you write the author!  Authors love reviews!)
  • Type it up and send it by email.  Fan letters that are never sent or received don’t count!

So how do you find how to contact the author?

  • Start with the book itself.  Is there an “about the author” section? It may include contact information.
  • Search for the author’s website.  Many authors have a website.  Searching may be easiest if you use the author’s name and the title of the book.  Their website is likely to contain a “contact” page or form.
  • Look on Amazon for the author’s profile.  Many authors have an author page on Amazon, and it may include contact information.
  • Goodreads.com, a popular book review site, may also have an author profile page.  Some authors interact directly through Goodreads as well.  Other book review sites may offer the same or additional information.
  • Email the book’s publisher, asking where a fan letter to that particular author can be sent.  Often, it can go directly to the publisher, who will then forward it appropriately.

So, go do something constructive, like put a smile on an author’s face.  Make their day with a connection to the real world–their fans.

2012, the Beatles, knifemaking, moldmaking, and folk art

25 Aug

How’s that for an assortment?

What could these things possibly have in common?

I don’t have a clue.  Do I have to?

I guess the real core of the matter boils down to some simple facts.

  • I’ve never been a Beatles fan.  Sure they had great music, but…there’s a lot of great musicians out there.
  • 2012…nobody knows if it means a danged thing, we all have to wait for its arrival to find out.
  • Knifemaking…a hobby I have never personally been interested in.  Sure, I use knives, but making them?
  • Folk art…that’s one area I have had a life long interest in.  Textiles, carving, painting, woodcraft, outsider art…yeah, I’m there.

Outside of that, these have been recent areas of study for me.  Along with Audubon, modern painting techniques, traditional Native American motifs, and plants.

It is as though my mind has become a dry sponge and I’m desperately seeking the moisture of knowledge.

I think the local library has my number on speed dial.  I’m either there or they are calling me to let me know new material I have requested has arrived.  I think that’s one of the best innovations in libraries I’ve seen since micro-fiche (yeah, I’m old…)  I can go online and request books from the county library system.  Now…if I can only figure out how the inter-library loan system works…

But first, the county has a lot of materials for me to absorb.  I’m working diligently on it too.  In addition to skimming 3-4 books on paranormal topics, reading an average of 1 per week, I’m also reading an average of 20 non-fiction books per week plus I’ve recently decided to add at least one fiction book per week to my repertoire.

I guess all of that absorbing is why I’ve also been online less, writing less, and just plain goofing off less.  Why this sudden starved-for-knowledge state?  That’s the real mystery.  I’m reading like its my last chance to learn this stuff, and I am going to need a very broad base of knowledge on which to stand.

Why do I need this base to stand on?

Who knows.  We can get all paranoid about the upcoming changes in the world, and lay the blame at its feet.

I still can’t see why the Beatles would have been important, other than they were a reflection of the times, a public symbol of the things that were going on from WWII until the 1970…and even beyond.  At the same time, when you truly LOOK at the Beatles, those 4 young men were sadly isolated from fun, from the world, and from interacting normally with anyone.  They were imprisoned within their popularity, and the masses would literally have torn them to shreds if it wasn’t for the efforts of security and law enforcement. Perhaps the message is there.

As a species, we destroy what we love the most.

Right there, we have a message about our own fate.  Supposedly, if we are not right with the world, if we are not living as we should, if we aren’t of higher consciousness…we won’t make the transition, instead being left to live out our days on this planet as it turns into a living hell.

If we look at the Beatles in a symbolic sense, one that I’m sure those four men would have found absolutely hilarious, but nonetheless, it works uncannily well…they were consumed by their own passion, their own capacity to express love, and as an act of self preservation…came apart at the seams.

Today, Ringo Starr is 72, and Paul McCartney is 69.  Somehow, even I wonder how they got that old, even though when I was a teenager, they were already “old” in my generation’s eyes.  Rock now has its seniors, and I’m snapping at their heels as I bring up the rear of the baby boom generation.  The other two Beatles are dead, one by violence, the other by cancer.  The two survivors, by some odd coincidence, happen to be vegetarians.  I look at video clips of them performing, and I wonder if that isn’t a key to their senior vitality.

Makes me wonder about a dream sequence I had long ago, in reference to my being an “eater of flesh.”

A look at my budget makes me wonder about the financial implications of remaining an omnivore, and the reality of the matter is that meat no longer forms much of our diet, and when it does…it’s normally fish or poultry.  Living on the coast, it would be easy to abandon red meat and poultry, and stick to solely consuming fish and seafood as our “meat.”  Then…my mind pops off to the BP Oil Spill, the dispersent chemicals, and the continuing debate about the safety of the Gulf waters.  I go back and forth between its safe and it’s not so safe.  I look at the bayou as we ride in our little flat bottomed jon boat, and watch the birds and grasses too.  They look pretty good to me.

But what do I know anyhow?

But back to the Beatles…

As part of their late-Beatles history, there is the fact that they all came into contact with Eastern religions and mysticism.  Do I think all of the answers lay with these ideas?  No, just like I figure that if all of the ancients were so darned smart, why are their cultures all dead?

Nothing lasts forever.  Not even the Beatles did.

But at the same time, those who fail to remember, and learn from, their history…are doomed to repeat it.  This world has seen one culture after another rise and then crumble away, sometimes to linger in memory and fable, and other times, perhaps never be remembered at all.  What have we learned?

I’m afraid its not a darned thing.

We think we’re better than the Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Czars, the Toltecs, the Mayans, the Incas…and even Atlanteans and people of Mu.  We’re civilized and technological and so advanced…

Maybe I better set aside more time for meditation.

Then again, do I want to progress…and leave those I love behind?  I mean…how can my grand daughter possibly raise her consciousness?  She’s still working at getting food to her mouth, raising her consciousness isn’t an issue yet.

I tell people often.  I’m getting pretty darned good at questions.

I also tell them, I wish I was still as smart as I was when I was 18 and knew everything.

Sometimes, this whole living thing is crazy, just about the time we start making progress, start figuring things out and which way to go, our bodies start to fall apart and our minds start getting sluggish.  It’s not FAIR.

So I stomp my feet and rage at the Ladies of Fate, up there in the clouds in their jury box ala Ironsides.  They can quit pitching stuff at me any time, I’m needing everything I’ve got now just to go the distance with anything resembling grace.  I’m getting old too, and I wasn’t ready for that.  I can’t run a mile to save my own hide.  I tried swimming, and discovered that I can’t do that anymore either.

I still remember when on a dare, I swam across the lake, just to prove I could.  Of course, I also remember that terrifying sensation when as a teenager, I leaped into a canal to swim across…and discovered a current that was horrifyingly powerful was sweeping me downstream faster than I could have ran alongside.  I made it, and swore I’d never do anything so stupid again.

The lesson there?  Fear is sometimes a wise adviser, and Fear can also be your worst enemy when you ignored its first warning.  Let the fear go, and just keep kicking.

That advice served me well when a former boyfriend tried to strangle me one night.  He nearly succeeded.  When I kicked him the last time, I had long since lost the ability to see or hear, everything had gone black, that last kick was the very last movement I was going to make on this planet, so I better make it the best damned kick I could.  It worked, and that was the sweetest breath of air ever drawn.

No, I didn’t go to the police…it would have been his word against mine, and an overwhelming “she must have deserved it” sentiment.  After all, I was alive, so he couldn’t have been too serious about it.  A lot of things have changed since those days, and for the better.  “The Good Old Days” had their downside too.

So, I’m back to my books.  There’s a lot more to learn while I can.

Reality and the Jackson-George Regional Library System

6 Aug

I live in a fairly conservative county in Mississippi, right on the Gulf Coast.  Our public library system includes two counties…Jackson & George counties.  The branches located in Pascagoula and Moss Point are very nice branches with very nice staff.  I love that I can reserve materials online too, and then just go pick them up.  It makes it so much easier for me to coordinate things when my brain is in hyperdrive and going 17 directions at once.

I have to admit it, I could kick myself when I end up with book fines because I was overdue in returning the books.  I wish those book fines would apply towards the purchase of new books, but I’m sure that they have a lot of operating costs to cover, and like most public offerings, is struggling for funds.

But I’ve discovered something in the last few months when I’m doing research.  They don’t have much in the way of books.

I know they lost books to Katrina.  Moss Point and Pascagoula lost a lot of things to Katrina, but the non fiction (the most important portion of the library to me!) section of the library is as sparse as leaves on a tree in Iowa in December.  Paranormal and metaphysical topics? Virtually nothing.  Alternative religion material?  Same thing.  Want something by Martha Stewart?  Afraid not…

Outdated books, limited offerings, shelves that should be over flowing…and they are empty.  I don’t think they have a single copy of a book by any author I have ever interviewed, and I don’t mean the two branches located near me…but in two COUNTIES.

I’m not sure what is located in the juvenile non fiction and fiction areas–they haven’t been inspected by me for the simple reason that I’m looking for adult non-fiction materials.  I suspect that it is in much the same condition–starved for topics to interest the young mind and tantalize their quest for knowledge.

I remember my own “prizes” from my pre-teen years.  Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and the books by Erik von Daniken.  The reason I am on the radio and blogging about crazy stuff is really all their fault.  They planted a seed in my mind that dared me to continue to “fail to conform”.  Even earlier, in elementary school, I was thrilled by books by Jim Kjelgaard and Marguerite Henry, among others.  These books came to me through the library, which fed a voracious appetite for reading.

Today, I don’t read as much as I would like to, and rarely have time for a novel anymore, but I still read a lot.  Books are still important to me.  I read them for research and entertainment and knowledge.

Sometimes, I am thrilled to find that vintage book–not all things I’m looking for are necessarily “new” books or “new” topics or “new” treatment of a familiar topic.  Some non fiction books are timeless too.  Other times, I’m looking for a book that will be up to date, with information I can use now.

Sometimes I wonder…what will happen to libraries as we move to digital books.  How will that impact the services they deliver?  Will I be in a situation where I can only read what I can afford to pay for access for?  It just might be so.  Considering the average novel takes me 4-6 hours to read, that could get very expensive for a rainy weekend of marathon reading.

In the meantime…what about our libraries?  Are they relics of the past, doomed to go the way of Alexandria’s Great Library?  I hope not, there are a lot of kids out there that really should have a chance to discover Big Red and Misty and Bright Angel still.

And while most of the USA makes fun of Southerners, as they cling to familiar ways, and too many fail to realize their full potential in terms of their own education…

We need our libraries.  We need them to have books, books on all kinds of topics, from all kinds of authors.  Books that expand our horizons, and let us see the world from different points of view.

So, I inquired.  I often receive copies of books from authors to read and/or review.  I guess it’s time for me to really get busy with the reviews…because I was told by library staff that IF the copy was in very good condition and a topic/title that they did not have in the library system, they would retain donated copies for the library.  I’m also going to call the main branch and check to see if they would accept copies from authors as well.  It seems that I have a hard time giving away copies on the air during the show, and if I ask…many authors may be willing to donate a copy of their book to a two-county library system, right?

Let’s get our ducks in a row.

I can’t do much in terms of improving the world, but I can start by planting a few flowers in my own corner of the world, can’t I?