Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year in Review

This was quite a year for Jordan's Croft. We put down new floors, finished renovating the kitchen, put in a matching island. My office went from junk storage room to usable space. There were a couple of loads of donations to Goodwill from that.

On the other hand, we had lots of trouble with the dogs. Trouble had parvo virus. Jar Jar needed extensive dental work, then Mocha was hit by a car and survived. Thank heaven the horses stayed healthy.

I finished my first 'real' romance novel, taking it from 30k to 80k words. Thanks to Forward Motion, Karen, Dale and Jeff for that. I would never have done it without them! I've been writing queries to agents, and have wracked up a few rejections. Then I wrapped up the year with NaNo and 25k on a second romance novel. Tomorrow my first flash fiction story will be published "Perfect Bait" goes into the News-Enterprise's Wednesday magazine.

We also got my parent's computers straightened out. Took buying two new computers after extensive efforts to repair the old ones didn't work . In fact, there were extensive computer issues all around, but we have managed to get all that straightened out, to date. There are still web pages to work up, pictures to scan and so forth.

In closing, this year, number three, has been the best year ever. We have been blessed. To quote a Trekkie friend:

May the Great Bird of the Galaxy roost gently on your planet, in 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Progress in Odd Places

Since I've been home full time, I've done the organizing my house desparately needed. The papers in Bob's office have been sorted and purged. I've purged the closets, taken bags of stuff to Goodwill and gotten reciepts. My office is no longer a kennel, I cleared the boxes and purged stuff.

The first batch of Christmas cards went out on time. I've baked cookies, and frozen balls of dough, so I can just pop them in the oven as needed. (Only a dozen on the counter!) The dishes are done, the counters are faily clean. The old island has been replaced by the new one, with the drawers all sorted out.

Thanks to my family, the horses stalls are clean, and the barn is getting there. I put a timer on the chicken coop light, and we are getting two to three eggs every other day, instead of one or two eggs a week. That helps when I'm doing a bunch of baking, I'd hate to have to buy eggs after all this time.

The guest room has the correct mirror on the dresser. (The closet in there is still stuffed with dead electronics.) I have my tender herbs under lights, finally, instead of drying out and dying on a shelf in the den. I managed to save two snap dragons, so we may have flowers in the house in a month or two.

I've been clicking along like a robot programed by Martha Stewart , it certainly feels good. I know it that it won't last. Once I get my laptop back, I'm going to be working on selling my novel again.

I did get the nicest, most encouraging rejection letter this morning. I think it is because I'm writing professional queries. I hope it is because I'm writing professional queries. I've written and re-written the damn things until I hate the sight of them.

In fact, I'm thinking of sending my next query off and asking them directly to help me break into Harlequin's top line. I have a goal, and need an agent to get there. Maybe that will help me get the novel read by an agent. After all, money is money. I need to be a best seller on the first book, I need to get a niche.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Somewhere Out There

I've been gone from Ohio for 18 years. There were no jobs and no hope of ever having a descent life if I stayed. Here in Kentucky, we are comfortable, and I can have my horses and my farm without taking us to the poorhouse.

Yet, there was a trade off to escaping from abject poverty. This time of year, I think of far-flung familly, and wonder where they are.

I have a half-sister out there somewhere. I haven't seen or heard from her for 30 years. The last I knew, she was moving to Arizona. Her son, my nephew, vanished without a trace at the same time.

My sister's two sons have been lost in the shuffle of moving and divorce. Nevada was the last I heard. That was also 30 years ago.

I've also got a number of cousins that I've completely lost contact with. They never reply to Christmas cards, though I still send them out every year. Futile as it may be.

It's far to easy to lose the ones we care about, when "life" gets in the way. Google can get you an address, but nothing can give you contact with those who never reply.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Murphy Strikes Again

Well, it happens to all of us, sooner or later. My laptop hard drive has crashed taking all my data, including my address book with it. I spent 12 hours trying various ways to boot the hard drive. No luck, just access denied.

Besieged was backed up. But I have only half of the Gothic novel. I'm just too bummed out to even try to resurrect "Moon" for now.

So, I think, this will be the last bit of writing I do for a few days.

My husband will take the laptop to a shop, see if they can get my data back.

I don't have a whole lot of hope.

The Company We Keep

I had one of those "Oh Shit" moments at the library the other day. I ran across a Holly Lisle book in the romance section.

I was surprised.

I didn't know that she had anything in print. I read the novel, and found it to be a nice tense romantic suspence.

When I looked I was able to find four titles with her by line. The one that gave me the "Oh Shit" moment was the one co-written with Zimmer-Bradley. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. The mental dominoes fell and a pattern was revealed, Forward Motion is a direct offshoot of the Darkover fan fiction "fanomina."

Which explains many things. I understand the 'whys' of the site. Why the majority of the writers are fantasy writers. Why the site was put up in the first place.

My hat is off to the departed great lady for the opportunities she had provided, and the 'pay it forward' legacy that still exists.

I will forever see Forward Motion in a different light.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Coming to Print Soon

Great News!

The News-Enterprise is going to publish my first flash fiction story 'Perfect Bait.' I am thrilled! It will come out in Wednesday Magazine. There is no payment, but hey, its a start.

I've never been much for flash fiction. But I'm happy to say that I was able to ferret one out of the data file that I could cut down.

I didn't tell them it was a romance. (G)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Momentous Discovery

I was an avid reader of Fantasy or Sword & Sorcery as it was called in my youth. I was a rabid fan of Lovecraft, Poe, Tolkien, Norton, Zimmer-Bradley and McCaffery. (May they all rest in peace.)

I've been trying to read Fantasy, mostly because the majority of people on Forward Motion seem to be writing and referencing Fantasy stories. But I have yet to read anything that I like. Nothing grabs me, and the very fact that some of these novels made it to print dismays me. One novel actually changed so drastically in mid-plot that I believe the original author died and the novel was passed on to someone else. Someone with a drastically different style!

I have hesitated to rant against against other authors. Since I'm a wannabe romance writer, I've got no room to bitch when somebody else makes good. I posted one rant on vampires, then took it down when the movie came out.

My hat's off to her, she's making a killing writing syrup and sparkle instead of blood and darkness.

Today, however, I am presenting this address as the answer to all my prayers: Somebody who is still reading and ranting about a genre I gave up on, for the very reasons that I gave up on it.

Behold, a reader who thinks: http://limyaael.livejournal.com/559559.html#cutid1

Whoever this person is, they have nailed it. Every rant has me nodding my head and saying 'oh yeah! Tell 'em, baby, tell 'em straight.'

This is a sample quote from some old "Live Journal" rants:

"3) There doesn't have to be a typical Quest Object. As Tolkien's characters themselves note, the Ring is a rather odd Quest Object. The journey in LOTR isn't actually about finding the Ring, but returning it to the place it came from and destroying it. The fantasy Quests that spring from bastardized versions of Tolkien ignore this, however. The Quest Object is just about always beneficent (in fact, some of them can't be used by evil guys at all) and far away, so that the point is getting there and using it. The idea of destroying it even if it's dangerous rarely, if ever, occurs to your typical fantasy moron hero."

Whoever is writing under 'Arin i Asolde' has taken the words in my heart and put them on the web. I have no need to comment further.

We live in an age where the suspension of dis-belief is not a good trait. We need to be critical readers, and thinkers. The world is full of bullshit, and if we can't tell gold from compost, we will always have a handful of compost.

I have a compost pile.

I want to write gold.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Doggy Dentistry

This time it's not Trouble, no it's my Jar-Jar whose got the problem.

I never really thought about dogs and their teeth. But when Jar stopped playing, sitting on my bed shaking, his face swollen, I took him to the vet.

Abscessed teeth was the diagnosis. At least one and maybe more. (It was more.) Dog dentistry is not up to root canals, and I certainly couldn't afford to pay cash for that kind of work. A week of pain pills and antibiotics followed. I figured out that his teeth had been bad for a while, when he was perky and playful again.

We took him in yesterday morning. All the tests came back fine, so they operated on his mouth. Nine teeth had to go. It sure as hell knocked a hole in the Christmas budget.

It had to have been hard on him. I gave him ice cream last night, and elk stew for breakfast this morning. (Yeah, he's the most spoiled of the three. He NEVER eats my earrings.) An hour ago, he got up from his nap and played ball for a couple of minutes.

So he's going to have to get canned food or soft food for at least a few weeks, maybe always.

As any pet owner knows, it's not a big deal to make a few adjustments for an older pet. As long as they are happy, you do whatever to keep them going.

I am a little worried about when he regains his strength. Mocha and Trouble may have to adjust the pecking order. I'm hoping they can wrestle it out. Trouble has been very servile to this point, but Mocha is dominant.

The last thing I'm willing to tolerate is a dog-fight. I may have to discipline my pack. Not sure the best way to stop this nonsense, but I'm watching.

They need to remember who's in charge here.

(I typed, as Trouble was trying to type with his nose. Then he chewed on Mocha's ear, pushing my fingers on the wrong keys.)

This may not be as easy as it sounds.

Drat!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Expensive Meal

He's at it again.

Trouble has now developed a taste for fine jewelry.

Literally.

The first snack was one of a very expensive set of earrings. Baby blue turquoise and opal set in silver. The ear piece appears to have been swallowed. The dangle is mangled.

These were my favorite earrings.

The yesterday he made a meal of an Irish bauble, a shamrock in glass.

I caught him chewing the chain. Before he swallowed THAT.

Brat!

Now he's pressed against my leg, licking my wrist. Giving me those soul-fully adoring doggy-eyes.

This has got to stop.

I may have to change his name in self-defense.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gobal - Warming or Cooling?

Hey -- I looked outside the other day and it was SNOWING. I'm talking real snow flurries, in the sunny state of Kentucky.

What the ----?

Now this is something that I had not seen. But let me tell you, the weather is a whole lot colder than it has been in the last 16 years. I've seen snow falling a couple of times since then, like tonight. It's not sticking, thank goodness. But my faith in Kentucky weather has been badly shaken. What happened to the long, lingering fall where there was 60 degree weather until January?
Bold
What happened to global warming? Climate change, the slow baking of the Earth until the poles melt and the state of California is just a few islands. You know, the ocean front property in Nevada that we were promised.

Could it all be an exaggeration? Like Obama being a Muslim? Or Peak Oil and the emanate destruction of all technology with Y2K?

Oh NOOOO, Mr. Bill! How can that be?????

Hmm, well my faith in more than Global warming has been shaken. But like any other of the wild and crazy fears that the media has harped on, this one is loosing it's credibility.

Hype, unfortunately, has it's good points. It sells papers, TV spots and makes a lot of dim-witted celebrities look good. And I'm sure that a number of people got rich over it.

Before I get off on the right(winged) foot, I do believe that we as a species have made some horrible choices. There is no doubt that we, the human species in general and the Nation of the United States in particular, are resource hogs, oil addicts and too damn greedy for our own good.

However, our beloved planet has a few more tricks up her sleeve in the name of climate. There is no predicting the weather. There are supercomputers, doo-dads and weathermen all dedicated to telling us the weekly forecast, and that is not accurate either. Let's face it, some years are colder than others.

My long-term weather forecast happens to be three horses. Oppie has a very long thick winter coat this year. Oppie is usually as slick as -- hmmm -- a politician in an election year, until January. But the last two years she has gotten furry in November, 2 months early. Ned, my 7/8ths Thoroughbred gelding, is once again as soft and furry as a kitten. (I even have a kitten to compare him to, and it is very close.)

Brown woolybears not withstanding, I'm taking a hint from the old mare, and getting ready for another early, cold winter.

So, I will fall back on nearly 50 years (gag me!) of experience to say: This is going to be a cold winter. I'm going to stock the pantry, and have the old fireplace ready to go. The flannel sheets are on the bed, the flannel PJ's out of storage. We have an electric blanket for later in the winter, and three dogs to use as foot warmers.

The crock pot is full of elk-soup, there is a fire in the fireplace. The horses have a round bale of hay in the pasture, and some square bales in the loft.

Let it snow! Let it snow, let it snow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Favorite Sites

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

If you have ever wondered where to find a good laugh, there is one site that always gives me the giggles.

For the most funny cats on the 'intertube' try this site:
http://icanhascheezburger.com/

Or if you are a dog lover:
http://ihasahotdog.com/

Giggles are guaranteed.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Trouble Keeps His Cred

Just as gangbanger must keep up his street cred, Trouble is busy living up to his name. Besides the normal puppy stuff, chewing my slippers and stealing my underwear, he's developed one heck of a horse manure habit.

I got in my car this morning to find a shredded a horse turd in the passenger seat. Three guesses who did it and the first two don't count. I'm wondering when he got into the car. Had to have been yesterday when I was moving vehicles.

Great big nasty horse turd shredded all over the seat cover.

Thank God I put down seat covers!

Sneaky little booger!

He took off with my husband's pills this morning. (I'm thinking we should go to childproof caps, only I don't think either of us could open them.) He will 'leave it' on command, about 10% of the time. Most often he's off to the races. Today I got the drugs back with just a 'Hey.'

But I'm starting to wonder if he's going to wear a bandana and those awful baggy jeans. I've got a – pack banger -- on my hands. An adolescent dog isn't supposed to steal drugs, or leave nastiness in mom's car.

I'm going to have to limit his TV viewing, as well. Last night I caught Trouble glued to the History Channel special on the Warlock motorcycle gang. He may try to get my husband to take him out on the bike.

One biker in the family is enough.

Note to self: Don't introduce Trouble to Roadie, the min-pin. Roadie has a spiked Harley Collar and an attitude. I may never get Trouble back if he joins the biker dogs.

Oh happy day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chicken Feathers

We moved to Jordan's Croft Valentine's Day 2005. I started thinking about adding chickens to the list of critters even before we moved.

One day when I went to the feed store, the metal tubs of peepers stole my heart. My husband rolled his eyes when I started cooing over them. We picked out six little Rhode Island Reds.

These tiny balls of fluffy cuteness grew into a handsome mahogany rooster and four red-blond hens. Rhodies are big dual-purpose birds. The males are big enough to eat. The hens produced an egg a day faithfully for two years. Our Rooster was a gorgeous bird with long gleaming red hackle feathers and dark green tail feathers. I called him Roo-Fasa because of the mane-like hackle feathers, and his Kingly attitude.

By the end of the summer, he had taken over the barnyard. The dogs didn't mess with him. The drakes didn't mess with him, though they outweighed him by several pounds. The duck hens scrapped with him, but didn't win. He had his run-ins with us humans as well. Roo-Fasa took many a boot-ride when he attacked the wrong person.

He took his flock into the stalls, over the hill, into the neighbors soybean field, then into my flower garden. I started to dream of a time when the chickens would have an enclosed pen.

Rhodes are incredible at foraging. They aren't the bug eaters that the ducks are, but they are pure death on sow bugs, crickets and grasshoppers. They lay big brown eggs and a lot of them. The hens don't want to go broody, and they won't take any guff from a medium size dog.

Year two, Roo-Fasa got to about 8 lbs., his spurs were three inches long and pointed like arrows. He was a walking time bomb. When he started attacking children, he had to go.

The girls and he found a new home with an egg farmer. There were 3o hens for him to lord over. I would imagine that it would be the chicken equivalent of heaven.

We missed fresh eggs. So I started looking for a breed with a better temperament. Heritage breeds are losing ground, many are all but extinct.

I started looking online for a local source.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Agent Search

I talk to people all day, it's my job. I can talk to between 20 to 30 people in a day. All perfect strangers, never bothers me. In fact, I can get a heck of a good feeling from solving a problem for someone who has little or no computer experience.

I've been cruising the internet, fishing for agents in the ocean of publishing. Yeah, deep water, unfamiliar territory, all that and worse, I'm soliciting. Trying to sell when sales is my weakest skill. Worse yet, I'm trying to sell my beloved manuscript, the one that I slaved over all winter with blessedly patient strangers who slogged through the whole manuscript with me.

Karen read it twice. Bless her heart! May a thousand fireflies dance for her enjoyment! I trust the second draft was a 100% better than the first draft. (Had to be, she and the others found every weakness!)

The point (yes there is a point) is that I'm having a hard time pressing that "Send" button. Researching an agent isn't a problem. Writing the letters is more difficult. Assembling it all in an email, and putting that name in the 'to' field. Then pressing that button. EEEKKKK!

I read Romance. I know what's out there. And many times I shake my head (just like Bird) thinking 'I can do better.' HA! Head-hopping until the POV switches have me dizzy! Hero's so dour I wouldn't kiss them with borrowed lips! Alpha males who are poster boys for S&M domination! Now I have put my money (email) where my mouth (manuscript) is.

Has my mouth written a check my *ss can't cash? I should be sending out a dozen of these a week. I'm lucky to get two out a week. Granted I lucked out on Query #2 when she replied SAME DAY, with ENCOURAGING words in a rejection letter.

I'm just getting started. I got people rooting for me. The numbers are in my favor. AND I have my hero, only a woman with a heart of stone could resist him.

Unfortunately the freaking economy is in the toilet.

Can't win them all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The First Amendment on the Job

These are interesting times.

The country is at war on two fronts. The financial sector has crashed and every one is trying to lay blame all the way back to Jimmy Carter. It is an election year; no matter who wins, history will be made.

The media has over saturated both candidates. Emotions are running so high that our company sent out an email telling everyone that talking about politics at work is not allowed. In fact, it hinted that there could be repercussions for people talking about politics at work. An American citizen's most important act is to vote in any election. Just don't talk about it.

Kiss the First Amendment goodbye.

Do they have the right to do that? Can my employer tell me what to say at work? Can they legally dictate my choice of words? We already have the sexual harassment laws that govern behavior at work.

Is that the same?

Some people would say: "Yes, those bleeding-hearted liberal communists have already taken the First Amendment! I can't tell my secretary dirty stories, or grab her butt or anything FUN anymore. So it's all their fault! I'm just trying to keep the managers for McCain from being attacked by the (slur inserted here) workers in their 'Obama' t-shirts."

I call that the 'pinko liberals did it first' defense.

I could almost buy into it. I didn't want some reactionary conservative in my face telling me why my favorite candidate wasn't fit for office, back when she was still running.

Oh, just in case you are curious about my politics, I'm a conservative Democrat. The Constitution is sacred, don't touch it. Gun control is hitting your target, on the first shot. Equal work for equal pay. Education is for every one. Old school, yes, raised in the sixties, yes. Stereotypical "liberal" values, no.

Yes, conservative Democrats exist. Gnashing our teeth at extremists in both parties, paying our taxes, attending church and hunting in season. But we aren't as newsworthy as the 'pinko liberal' so we are invisible.

Let's get back on track.

Freedom of Speech in the Work Place

Does it exist or has the Corporate Dragon eaten it for lunch? We all work for someone. So how many of our rights do we give up to the corporation in exchange for a paycheck. Even a big fat paycheck shouldn't be a gag order from above. Though the majority of workers aren't making a hell of a lot, they still have traded freedom for the same harness as the overworked yuppie with the SUV and the McMansion. It's just not a well-padded harness.

Let's take this a step further.

What about scripting?

Have you heard about the policy of scripting? Customer Service Representatives in many companies have been handed scripted speeches. "This is what you are allowed to say to the customer, anything else will count against your job performance." When you call to complain/purchase/get support for whatever and it sounds like you are talking to a robot, the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are scripted. It's not bad enough that "your calls are monitored to ensure quality service." The CSRs can't deviate from these speeches or they will lose their jobs.

Is this legal? Is it a violation of workers First Amendment rights?

What is the justification? "Scripts work. Sales are up. If you say 'this' when the customer says 'that' then the customer will 'action'. Nothing less than 99.5% obedience will be tolerated." My favorites are the unspoken: "What we need is a robot, but people are cheaper, and more easily disposed of."

Does it matter? It's not WASP yuppies being scripted, not managers, supervisors (unless we count the 'yes men'), or the Board of Directors. Just ordinary Joe's and Jane's who need to keep their jobs, no matter which of their rights are violated by the Corporate Dragons.

We are subject to censorship. The year 1984 has come and gone (TVs are getting bigger!) Big Brother has the phones tapped, and is reading your email. Media monopolies filter our 'information/entertainment' content. Only the 'right' images are put into our brains. We are programmed by Madison Avenue to buy certain items at inflated prices.

The Corporate Dragons are stealing our rights. Nobody cares.

Where is Saint George when you need him?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Romance and Obsession

I'm still working on marketing my novel. I had to rewrite the synopsis because it didn't reflect enough of the plot. It is hard to cut 80k words, 3 plot threads, and 8 characters to 3 pages. It takes the voice right out of the work.

Been reading a commercially successful romance writer, this was a 'western' type, 160k words long. I noticed how many of those words had nothing to do with the plot. Most of it was him obsessing about her, not her problems, but her appearance! The plot wasn't advanced by this, it just made him look like a fool. A fool in love, I suppose, as it was all about her being plump and how he didn't mind. (Bulletin: men aren't that picky.) Scarcely a thought for the villain lurking in the background, though the man had whipped a horse half to death.

The operative word is "commercial" as in women's commercial fiction. It was just like a Harlequin only 3 times as long.

I didn't write a traditional romance. My focus was on the plot, not what she looks like. (Can you focus on the POV's appearance when she's not looking in a mirror?) I may not be able to market it as 'romance' first. I didn't dwell on the obsession of 'love' Heroine is too busy trying to keep ahead of her employees.

I'm so glad that I kept the POV changes to a minimum! If he spent all his time mentally undressing her, the plot would be strangled. And the book would double in size. (Yikes!) Especially with the hero's back story, I don't want him to appear unbalanced. As Hero says to Heroine: "I'm not a nutcase."

Oh there is so much to learn! I suppose it all comes down to writing what I want to read, and can't find: Intelligent, well plotted fiction, with two adults who fall in love and solve a problem. A story that avoids both the 'dour alpha-male' who is brainless brawn, mentally undressing the heroine because he's driven by his hormones. As well as the shallow self-obsessed heroine who spends all her time looking in mirrors and wondering what clothes to wear.

Is there a market for such fiction? Or am I the only woman who browses through the book stores thinking: "I could write so much better than that!"

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Looking Ahead to "Interesting Times"

Have you heard of the old Chinese curse? "May you life in interesting times." Worst curse in the culture. Yep!

Are we scared yet?

What is scarier, the financial meltdown or the election?

Hmm, I'm not really sure. I'm plenty scared.

This will be a historic election. Some kind of record will be made. A black president or a woman vice president. The last of the old guard and the first of the new will battle it out. Winner take all. All the glory and all the problems.

Close your eyes, hold your nose and vote.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! The great and wonderful OZ has all the answers. One way or another, we're off to see the wizard. 700 billion dollars of yellow brick road, our grandchildren will be paying for this.

Thanks Wall Street! Take a week at the spa on us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

700 Billion are They Crazy?

Which is crazier allowing the greedy sobs on Wall Street crash and burn, or to bail them all out, give blanket amnesty to the evil geniuses who engineered this mess?

It's not like any of them will go to jail (like Martha Stewart did) they are dyed in the wool MALE evil geniuses. They will have to stop swilling Starbucks for a few weeks, God forbid they should have to suffer.

As sure as Apples are green, there will be thousands of evil geniuses profiteering off any bail out. Since we already have thousands of evil geniuses profiteering off two war zones, I think the cash cow should get off the milking stand.

Yes, the economy will flounder. Duh! Its been floundering since before we went to war. Only sufficient pain will keep Wall Street from repeating this behavior.

Nobody bailed me out when I lost all my money in the stock market. Why should the evil geniuses who fleeced me get bailed out?

Let them swing for it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Current Events - Economic Chernobyl?

I have been watching with increasing horror as the economy melts down.

I'm not sure which band of brainless bags of hot air is responsible for this mess. I know that it is either the Senate or the Congress who tinkered with the regulations that SHOULD have been left in place. So now, with our nation at war on two fronts, we have our very own economic Chernobyl here at home.

When we can least afford to have two bands of brainless posturing fools clouding the waters with elephant and donkey doodoo, we also have an election. Knee-deep in ZooPoo we can kiss any rational solutions farewell.

Ah, the good old days, 1998 A mere ten years ago, the Government had a surplus, Social Security was secure, and while Americans were universally scorned, we were tolerated because we had money.

Well, I've got enough land for us to feed ourselves. Three horses to use as transportation, should "Peak Oil" prove to be reality. We will survive.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Parvovirus - One Nasty Bug

Our dog Trouble is making his second appearance. Last Sunday, he vomited up some nasty ricy stuff, and a segmented worm. So I made a note to get him to the vet. Monday I called up the vet and made an appointment. But I noticed that Trouble wasn't playful.

A JRT that won't play is a sick dog. Trust me, I know from experiance that Jack Russels will play from dawn until midnight, with only occasional breaks. I got home at midnight, Trouble wouldn't eat, or drink. I offered him peanut butter, then the puppy milk we'd gotten for the rabbit. One lick then he turned his head.

Red Flags went up in my mind. I promptly force fed him 10ml of formula, and set my alarm for 7:30 am. We were at the "usual" vet promptly before 9 am. We were turned away. It was surgery day, they wouldn't take a look at my pup. To be fair, I was still under the impression he was wormy and sick.

They pointed across the street, to a rival vet's office, as the place for me to take my pup. This really isn't good business, but the "usual" vet's office has behaved oddly in the past.

After an exam, the Vet, Dr. Jenny informed me that Trouble was sick with Parvovirus. That it was life threatening (50% chance that he would make it.) It was going to be expensive. I had suspected the expensive part, and brought the checkbook. I hadn't expected the contageous part.

So Trouble went into Intensive Care at the New Vet's Office. I made a quick run back to the house to pick up the other two dogs for their booster shots. The check book was much lighter by the time I got home. Both JarJar and Mocha passed their exams, though they are scheduled for a longer follow up visit this Friday.

I was tickled to get updates from Dr. Jenny that night (Trouble was stable) and the next morning. The morning report was a surprise, Trouble was showing every sign of bouncing back. The next morning, I brought him home, low on energy, but gaining in a hurry.

We were lucky, Trouble is very lucky.

I will be switching Vets, yet again. This doesn't please me, to have my animals' records scatter over four vet's offices in the same county. But the usual Vet was terrified of JarJar's (admittedly creepy) habit of smiling when he greets strangers. Dr. Jenny was prudently wary of all the teeth. Still she gave my smiling dog the benefit of the doubt.

I learned my lesson about canine vaccines. I tend to sluff off the house dogs when I give my horses all their shots. The family wallet will suffer, but we will remain the proud owners of Trouble, Mocha and JarJar.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Writing, Technology & Murphy's Law

I've been working on a novel for a couple of years now. And I've finally gotten 'done' to the point where I'm working on the synopsis.

I actually had it done, once.

Then the file disappeared. An entire day's work, gone. And I don't know how that happened. I could have sworn I saved it. And in all my years of working with computers, this is the first document that's vanished like that.

Figures.

I'd cuss a bit, but I'm not sure if I'm the only person reading this blog or not. So I'll keep my vitrol off cyberspace. Of course, now that my work is gone, I checked to see if my backup utility was in place. Not configured.

Otherwise, the project has shaped up nicely. I don't expect this novel to make me any money. But I do believe it will get my name around to agents. The goal is to get at least three agent requests for the full manuscript, in 2009.

If not, I will send it to category romance houses, and see what they think. Most of them want Agent Submissions for the higher lines. I'm going to shoot a little higher this first time out.

Publishing isn't an easy process. Agent searching isn't either. But this is what I want, and my other "somedays" have all been taken care of, except for this one. So, I shall read the submission guidelines carefully and act like a Professional Writer.

Why is "Besieged" better than the average category romance? It's an emotionally touching as well as suspenseful story, the characters have dialog pertaining to the plot. They don't jump into the sack. There is an attraction between them, and they acknowledge it.

No fake denial here.

Tag teases Lindsey, like any smart guy (with sisters) would. He kids her and encourages her, but he slowly comes closer, still worried that she will reject him because of his injuries. He's also worried about the effects of PTSD on his mental health. Jim Bennett acts as a stabilizing example as someone who made family life work.

Lindsey is naive, admits that she's naive. She's in denial, distracted by her mother, her sister then Tag. She eventually finds out that Brandon and Mychou are up to something, she just isn't sure what. Or what to do about it.

Brandon doesn't think anyone is as smart as he is. He makes few attempts to hide his trail, the drugs have taken any sense he may have had. At the end, he's beyond sanity.

I've learned a lot from this novel. The next one will be much better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Addition to the Farm

We have a Jack Russel puppy named Trouble.

(I can see the grins already.) He is about 5 months old, and feels more than able to live up to his name. He gives 10 year old JR and 2 year old Mocha a real workout.

This morning I was sitting on the front porch, enjoying the breeze and my morning coffee when I saw Trouble and Mocha racing down the hill. Trouble was carrying something that was making a lot of noise.

It was a baby rabbit. Eye still sealed shut, the poor pitiful creature was screaming. It would take a harder heart than my marshmallow ticker leave the bunny to the dogs. On command Trouble obligingly spit the bunny on the ground, and got a good boy ear rub. Mocha got her ears ruffled too.

I cringed as I picked up the now silent bunny. It was breathing, and it tried to burrow into my hand. Two years earlier another set of pups had brought a bunny home, that one had lived for a week. It was much, much smaller.

I don't have much hope for this one. But I did show it to my husband, and put it in a nice warm sock, in a basket, on the kitchen counter.

I called home several hours later, my husband had tried to feed it. It leaped out of his hand onto the counter. Lucky rabbit, the dogs would have gotten it for sure.

He named it "Bugs" making it an official Croft Critter. He also called some rescue shelters, but they were all full up. Someone recommended puppy milk replacement, and feeding it twice a day.

I stocked up at Walmart. Puppy milk, kitten bottle, we have lots of old socks. I'm not holding out much hope for it, but who knows?

Stay tuned.

8/23/08 -- Bugs was too young to leave his mother. He didn't survive. Baby rabbits are notoriously hard to raise in captivity.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hope for the Hopeless Case of Ashtabula

My last blog was a commentary about a beautiful, but hopeless place on the shores of Lake Erie, Ashtabula Ohio.

Is there any hope?

I've been reading about "The End of Poverty" which focuses on Africa and the problems that fester there. The parallel with Ashtabula seems to be quite obscure.

It is, I think, a question of capital, instead of a question of government. Since there is no monetary capital to be found, and precious few skills for technical assistence, I have decided to get to the heart of the matter. Big industry isn't coming back, there are only going to be small businesses, very small cottage industries, in the county.

Little cottage industries could make a big difference, if there was a market place. Yes, I know, sounds lame, but what else is Ebay for crying out loud? Hundreds of thousand of cottage industries that became the giant market place.

"Build it and they will come."

A farmer's market and a flea market would do a great deal to help the 'average' person get some extra cash in their pockets. If it was located close to the Geneva Line, there would be access to the tourist trade. That would open up some real opportunities.

There are craftsmen and artists hiding in the woodwork. A fleamarket would bring out the junk collectors from as far away as Eire and Cleveland.

There are plenty of farmers to fill the farmers' market. The Amish would certainly come to the farmers' market. Every little town in Kentucky has both a farmers market and a fleamarket. We have 3 in our area, one is a big one with frozen chicken and fresh cheese as well as all the normal veggies.

Of course, it will never happen. It is so much easier to whine 'the government should save us' then to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Looking Back at Ashtabula

Recently my husband and I drove through the town I once called home. I was saddened to see that nothing had changed. Same old houses, same crumbling streets, and I've been told, the same crushing loads of poverty and hopelessness.

I spy on Ashtabula, keep in contact with a few relatives. Peek at the online newspaper to see if there is anything at all positive going on. Beside the fact that Lake Erie is blue instead of the somber brown of my childhood or the green I recall from my teens, there are no visible changes.

All along the lake front, from upstate New York downward there were little mom & pop shops, wineries, farms and so forth. But those petered out from the Ohio line until Geneva-on-the-Lake. As if there was a line of demarcation at the state line.

"Abandon hope all ye who enter here."

The big plants are gone. There are a few, jealously guarded, high-playing jobs, but not many. Not enough to give anyone any hope of better days ahead.

The schools limp along, churning out students, but what quality of skills do these hapless graduates possess? What of the dozens of drop-outs? There aren't enough fast food restaurants to employ them all. I know of one woman, a college graduate in her 50's who worked part-time at McDonald's because that was the only job she could get.

The Mall may have opened up hundreds of minimum wage jobs, but who wants to raise a family on minimum wage with no benefits? Thousands of ill-educated, often drug addicted residents don't even try anymore. They exist in the gray twilight, working some and stealing some, wheeling and dealing to keep their habit going one more bleak and hopeless day.

Tourism is touted as the big fix, but why come to Ashtabula? Geneva-on-the-Lake is pretty and has wineries. Ashtabula proper has nothing to draw in the tourists besides a few marina's on the Ashtabula River. (Just don't drink the water or eat the fish or go on to Bridge Street after dark.)

The lake is cleaner, but the myriad of toxic waste dumps are still oozing poison into the drinking water. Birth defects, mental retardation and cancer are higher in this county than another place besides the infamous "Love Canal." The EPA was gutted ages ago, there is no cleaning the toxins out of the river.

The local paper has no hope to offer. In fact The Star Beacon talks about an attitude they give a cute euphemism for it. but the attitude can be summarized by the rallying cry: "So what's the government going to do about it?"

Though some claim the attitude was imported from the hills of West Virginia, I can attest that it was alive and well in the 1960's thru 1992 when I left town. It permeated my high school in both the black and white students, teachers and all the people I came in contact with.

It is a sign of times, I suppose, that the average Ashtabula 'hillbilly' expects some government fairy god-father to come in and undo what nearly a century of corruption has done to the county. But short of having some FBI g-man, like a re-incarnated Elliot Ness come in to assasinate the "god-fathers" the status quo is not going to change quickly.

Does that leave me meeping the blues like some dying songbird?

No, because I never thought that "the government" was competent enough to save it's own backside, let alone that of some 30k lost souls.

What Ashtabula really needs is a dose of TRUE hillbilly attitude. Independence and self-reliance are neither prized nor taught in our society. They are the skills of the Depression's children, not the skills of the baby-boomers.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Applied Technology

What a beautiful day! Hot, dry, breezy, a perfect day to use the solar clothes drier.

It is a very handy device, quick and quiet. I can load it down with two washer loads of clothes and they dry in no time. If I'd been in a laundry I'd have to pay a buck a load. So I saved three bucks already this afternoon. I may be able to save more money yet today.

It's hard to believe that this incredible invention is illegal in parts of the country. Yep, try to use one in a sub-division and see what happens. You'll have the owners association breathing down your neck the minute you try to use it.

People just don't understand technology. The simplest devices are scorned, then made illegal to own or operate. Granted, setting one up can take some time and ingenuity and quality replacement parts can be tricky to find. But the money I save justifies the initial investment.

The technology isn't perfect. It's OLD, but it's not perfect.

If it ever breaks down, I'll have to spend some time finding what I need to fix it. Getting the smaller replacement parts has been a real pain.

They just don't make good clothespins any more.

What?

Did you think I was talking about some high tech appliance?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Wireless Router, a Love/Hate Relationship

The thought of drinking my morning coffee, writing and researching on the front porch, has haunted me for years. One glorious fall weekend years ago, in a cabin by the Nolin River I was able to realize my dream.

It was raining. The porch was covered and screened from bugs. I sat cross-legged in a rocking chair and typed away for hours. Paradise found, I thought, this is the way it “Should be.”

Last year we put a roof over our deck, turning it into a comfortable front porch. This winter I resurrected a dead laptop, installed wireless router, and bought a wireless card; all in pursuit of the Dream. I got it all set up, working with wires, and then unplugged the laptop. While I sat at the office table, I had internet. So I carried the laptop into the den. I was able to get new web-pages sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace.

That night, I carried the laptop into the living room, plopped down beside my husband, fired up the laptop, waited for the popup to announce that I had a wireless connection. Nothing! The laptop bogged down so badly I couldn’t get Word to come up. I rebooted the laptop, the popup popped, it said I was connected, but I couldn’t get any pages. Argg!

Being a tech savvy person with a degree in IT, I knew that the problem wasn’t my trusty DSL connection. It hadn’t wavered in three years, bless its little gizmo heart. I went to the source of the problem: the router. I pulled the plug from the back, counted to ten, plugged the router back in, and then went back to the living room. The wireless network came back up, behaving itself the rest of the evening. I had conquered!

Unfortunately this was the opening shot in my ongoing war with my router.

My wireless network, like most of the rotten little gizmos, is finicky about connecting. My house is 70 feet long, hardly a McMansion, but there are three walls between my office and the living room. A network connection in the living room is a crapshoot at best. If I carry my laptop to the next room, my bedroom, I can’t get Internet at all.

In fact, if I want to use the laptop at all in the bedroom, I’d better disable the wireless card or the laptop will use all its memory to connect to the network. Under those conditions I can’t use Word at all, it freezes solid.

What to do?

Routers like my Linksys are stupid little boxes. They run on firmware, software by any other name still has bugs galore! I knew from my IT job that updating firmware fixed a lot of router problems. So I went to the Linksys website, checked the FAQ page for directions, then downloaded the packets to fix my beastly gizmo. Everything went fine. There was only one thing to do, test it.

That first night, I had Internet in the bedroom.

I don’t know why it worked that one night, but it hasn’t worked since. Rats, foiled again! But now I can get internet in the living room, as long as the TV isn’t on.

Go Figure!

Technology is only fun when it works. The rest of the time, it sucks!

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Beginning - The Story of Jordan's Croft

The Story of Jordan's Croft.

If this house was a person, it would have put an EOP against me.

I stalked this place like a pop-star.

We came here when it first came on the market. I fell in love. There were 5 acres on a main road. Not far from town, but out where it was quiet. They wanted too much money for it. So much, in fact that the realestate agent wouldn't take our offer to the owner's.

So the house sat empty.

Whenever my husband would take me for a bike ride, I would ask him to bring me to see the house. I would sit on the back of the motorcycle and sigh. I wanted this house, so very badly.

The property went into foreclosure, then it went to the courthouse. Meanwhile, I kept trying to find out who had it. Finally I got in touch with the original listing agent. She sent me to the bank who financed it, the woman there sent me to the VA.

Then the vandals came in and stole everything that wasn't red hot or nailed down. Appliances, light fixtures, counter tops, some of the doors off the cabinets.

So many people have come here since, said that they looked at it, liked it, but weren't willing to put in the work to make it livable once again. We were lucky. I had the time and my parents had some energy. Bob and I had a strict budget.

We lost the first bid. The property came up for sale again. And thanks to a dynamite Realestate agent, we got the property. It was a last minute deal that nearly fell through, but Providence was watching over us.

There were problems with the deal, problems with the titles. I kept praying. We had a key and started working. Everything was ready, all the measurements made. The deal dragged on to the very last day. We signed papers for the property the end of January, 2005. We took the next two weeks to get everything completed, ready to move in.

We moved in on Valentine's Day. It was the happiest day of my life.

I have detailed this elsewhere, on our home page, we had a heck of a time getting things set up. But the basics are in place, the shed, the barn, the rock garden, the front porch.

Some day I will post the before and after pictures. Until then you will have to take my word for it. We've taken this place from nothing, and made something of it.

Our home.