Saturday, November 17, 2007

A New Concept - Book Swim

As you can see, I do have ads on my blogs.

Why? Well, honestly, there are a lot of things I'm interested in, and I assume readers are too. So, with the holidays rapidly approaching, I thought I should give readers the opportunity to shop. You know, that one stop concept. Come read my blog, then do a little holiday shopping, then peruse other interesting topics on the 'Net or turn off the computer and step back into real life.

Anyway, I've added a new company. It's called "Book Swim" and the ad is on the very bottom of the page. The concept is very similar to Netflix. You pay a monthly fee and you get to make a list of books you'd like to read. They're shipped out to you, you read them, put then into the postage paid box and send them back. Then the next book(s) on your list are shipped out to you. If you fall in love with a particular book, you can pay for it and keep it.

What a GREAT idea!

I'm actually surprised no one else has come up with this before! This is the modern equivalent of the old bookmobile. Yes, yes, I'm showing my age, that I actually remember the bookmobile. It was always a fun day when the bookmobile arrived. I'd return the books I'd borrowed the last time and pick out new books to read. Being an avid reader, this was a high point of my childhood.

Today, I live in an urban area, so I can go to the library or a bookstore. But there are still a lot of people who live out in rural America where there may not even be a library within a hundred miles. In addition, small town libraries are often limited on their selection of books. Unfortunately, small budgets force librarians to make hard choices on what types of books they buy.

Anyway, I don't often endorse a business or product, but Book Swim is a great idea for shut-ins, stay-at-home moms, rural and small town residents and others who may not have access to libraries and bookstores.

I hope they are as successful as Netflix!

(Ummmm, yes, I know the art for the ad isn't the greatest, but it's a very new company, I'll swap it out when they have a better ad -- OK?)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oh, The Drama!

Oh me, oh my!

Oh, the drama! My darling girl dropped her cell phone at the doctor's yesterday evening, in the bathroom. She didn't realize until we were leaving, so she RAN back and omgosh, it was gone!

The doctor felt bad too, she was just leaving when we were. So she checked with housekeeping, daughter checked with Security.

No phone.

And Mom is broke as a joke this week. Double oh no!

Now, we do have insurance on the cell phone, so off we go to Verizon. Sigh, a $50 deductible AND you have to file the claim with the 800 number, so the phone is shipped to you.

Another oh no!

So, Mom starts thinking outside the box. Wait, Dad used to have Verizon, does he still have his old phone? Call him, quick!

Yayyy, Dad has his phone and is willing to give it to her. So off we go, the mad dash to pick up the phone and get to the other store (closer to his house). We made it in plenty of time. So the nice lady who's going to transfer the number to the old phone starts the process.

Oh no! That old phone is not 911 compliant, so it can't be done. At this point, my head is throbbing and I'm grateful she's scheduled to spend the night at her friend's house.

Sigh. OK, Mom has done all she can do.

Daughter is dropped off at her friend's and I head for home, kinda bummed out for daughter and also because there was this surplus sale with some GREAT old chairs that I missed out on. (Darn it all, they went for only $16 each, and I wanted these for my own house, not for resale on That's Mom's little hustle for extra cash. But daughter is more important than chairs, I can always buy more...)

So now I'm driving home and talking to my sister. She offered to mail us her old phone and we're talking about it. I'm nearly halfway home. The phone beeps. I switch over and it's a young man's voice "Did your daughter lose her cell phone?"

Oh me, oh my! This sweet young man found the phone and forgot to turn it in to Security on his way out! So he remembered and called me. I made a U-turn and headed back. Got lost on the way to his house, but did find it and picked up the phone.

You should have seen that girl's face when I showed up on the doorstep with her phone in hand. She was so darn happy!

"I knew it, I knew it was that white boy with his mom in the lobby!"

LOL, I had to gently correct her. No, it was the cutie pie with dreads. Ooh, she was hoping he'd left his number then, but of course he hadn't, he'd called me on her phone. (Girls!)

My point of this is that you can't tell me that kids today are bad kids, my experience is that today's kids are WAY honest. Probably a little too honest and definitely lacking in tact. But I really believe that the next generation are good kids that will grow up to be great adults.

Last night just completely reaffirmed my faith in God and our teens. I prayed a short one for her and it took a few more minutes, but as always He came through for us. The one kid that was most likely to return the phone is the one that found it.


Thank you, young cutie pie, and thank you God for the lesson!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Published Works

I've written before about how I used to work in book publishing. Well, I'll be honest with you. I've actually written two books.

My first book was published in 1988. Ghost Towns. It's out of print now, but you can still find copies if you search. It was a really interesting project, I worked really hard on finding information about the first ghost towns of North America, then moved on to the various Gold Rushes, from Georgia to California to the Yukon. From the first white settlements, to gold to silver to black gold, the book covers a lot of ghost town history.

My second book was published in 1998. (Note the ten years between -- writing books is HARD.) I did this project for Bluewood Books, 100 Medical Milestones That Shaped World History.

Again, this book was really hard. I don't have a medical background and don't laugh, back then my little computer had all of 2400 bps. So gathering the information was a very, very slow process. Fortunately, my years as a graphic artist/book designer worked in my favor. I had spent many long hours in the past digging up photography and information for the many books I've worked on, so this was just another kind of research. Hard, but not impossible.

There is a LOT of research involved in doing a book. People have no clue about how much work is required.

First, of course, the client decides which projects they're interested in. Whatever was selling well last year is a first priority. Publishers want the same thing -- only different. IE, perhaps the same topic from a different perspective. You can't just copy the competition's books, you have to come up with other ways to present the information. (The movie business is very similar. Note that The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe have done so well, you'll see a bunch of similarly themed movies over the next few years. Some may even be pretty good. Honestly, most won't be that great, they've been gathering dust in the movie companies' warehouses. Now they're being rushed into video to capitalize on the current movie trends.)

Next, depending on the project, you have to familiarize yourself with the style of the book. 100 Medical Milestones is one of a series of books, so there is a particular way that the information is listed and presented. The pages are formatted in one style, with the topic, who discovered/invented/developed it, when that person or persons were born, an image of the person, place or thing. It's very strict, even to the word count on each page.

If the editor is lagging as you send in the text, you can really get screwed on your deadlines. Or, in my case, I had a computer glitch and lost half my text. So I had to rewrite half the book. ARRRGGGGHHHH! Fortunately, I had all the info in a pile next to the computer, so I could recreate it all. And by then the editor had gotten back to me, so it actually was a blessing in disguise. I'd have had to make some major revisions anyway, this gave me the chance to incorporate them during the rewrite. Sigh. It still sucked.

Oh, and both projects were "work for hire". That means I don't get any royalties on the books. I was paid a flat fee. One third upon completion of the approved outline of the book, one third on submission of completed manuscript (that includes incorporating all editorial changes), and one third upon publication. This is standard procedure for many books. (Please note the Amazon search box in the right column, you can do a search for and purchase my books by accessing Amazon from my blog. Please do, it gets me an extra nickel or two to help cover my teenager's cell phone bills. LOL!!)

I'm working on a couple of new projects these days. They're my own projects, so I'm not going to discuss them right now. I don't want to be swooped on the topics. Oh, yes, that happens more than people know. And you know, realistically, you can't copyright an idea, so it's usually better to keep your mouth shut until the project is completed. I really haven't decided if I want to self publish or shop it around once it's done. Self publishing is a lot of work. Plus the upfront costs involved in printing the book.

On the other hand, if I self publish, I can design the book myself. I don't have to argue with someone about the page design. Being a designer, I have strong ideas about the layout of my books.

So, then, here I am. Still writing, still designing. Still researching new projects. And looking forward to the next book. It's been nearly ten years, it's time to write and publish another one.

I think I've recovered from the last book...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Always On The Run

Oh my gosh, do we ever get to slow down?

This weekend, little road trip (1 1/2 hours away) to take my son to see his brother play football. The boys don't get to see each other often, and my son plays roller hockey on most Saturdays. This will be the only chance he has to see his next older brother play this season. So off I go.

Oh, the complexities of relationships. Luckily brother's mom and I are on good terms, despite the fact that the boys' dad is a multiple ex-offender and has a nasty habit of not finishing a relationship before he's moving on to the next. Well, enough said about that!! No negativity today!

Dang. How do we do it? I honestly don't know. I'm tired. Hecka tired. But we do what we have to do for our kids. I am looking forward to watching the game. In fact, need to get that old behind in gear, past time to get ready to go.

Tomorrow, I've committed to docent for two hours at a local house tour. It's only two hours, so it'll be fun for me. I enjoy seeing the beautiful old houses, wonderfully rescued and restored. My dream home is a Craftsman bungalow. Probably never be able to afford one, but a high water bungalow would be ok. Or a nice little cottage.

Of course, my decorating style is pretty eclectic. I like to tell people that my decor is "Future Collectible" and I get everything pre-distressed. Since I have kids, we continue distressing the furniture. So it should be pretty valuable someday. LOL!

Honestly, a cottage probably better suits my color choices, since my favorite color is blue -- in every shade -- and my palette is what I like to call "Caribbean Bright". Yup, all the cobalt, teal, lime, fuchsia, not so much yellows and oranges except as accents. And yup, lucky I have nice neighbors, because I have garden art, painted the house a lovely celedon (on the blue side) with bright white trim. Ah, another project that needs to be finished though, the front looks great, but oh no, the sides and back still need to be finished. I MUST work on that next weekend. As well as the new shed that needs to be put together, the vintage furniture on the back patio needs to be cleaned so it can be put in the house, and so on, and so on...

I'm telling you, a woman's work is NEVER done. Too many projects, not enough time. And thus, off we go to watch football. Because honestly, all of the stuff is just stuff, the kids come first.

And it's all good with me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Party Days Return!

For one night anyway!

Last night was my old roomie's big birthday bash. Oh, man, was it fun! I had a wonderful time. No drinking for me, I was driving, but it took me Back, Back, Back to the old days.

My darling teen would be shocked if she saw us all partying like it was the 80s. Blasting music, tons of alcohol and food, omgosh the food. Ribs and wings and hot links and mac n cheese. People just out having a great time at a house party. It was packed! My old roomie, in so many ways, hasn't changed a bit. He's a great person. Yet another one I probably should have dated.

And you should SEE his DJ system. He still has turntables! (Actually, so do I, and a mixer too!) The music was BOOMING. And the kidlet would be shocked, we were all dancing to stuff I tell her to turn down while I'm driving. But you know, it's different when you're dancing at a party, and when you're trying to have a conversation while you're driving.

Of course I had some guy trying to talk to me. The same one that earlier had told a Brother and I that we shouldn't be Fellowshipping at a party. (Do men really know what they do to shoot themselves in the balls BEFORE they try to "talk" to a woman???) Another long hair fetish kinda guy. And insisted that he'd seen me before at some bar I'd never heard of. LOL. Silly man. I told him I'd check it out, but you know I'll never be there. He was kinda cute, but not cute enough to overlook his control issues...

Funny things happen at these parties. Met someone who works for the same County I do. LOL, that is funny, very nice man. Child Support Division. Super nice guy. He recognized my name, I do a lot of work to promote events and different things, he probably has seen my name on many things. (Or on my child support cases, it's NOT a common name!)

His brother is cuter though. And works right up the street from my job. Pretty hefty guys, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that decent looking doesn't include whether or not they need to lose 50 pounds. Better to be a chunky but funny nice guy than a mean and ugly person.

Ah, it was nice to return to the old days for a minute. And then I drove home.

It was all quiet and dark at my house. The kids were asleep in their beds, peaceful and beautiful as all kids, even teens, are when they're sleeping. The Chihuahua wanted to be walked of course. And then I rolled into bed and dreamed of music and dancing and fun.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Day, Another Nickel

Another day, slogging through paperwork, posting things to the company intranet, planning some special events. Locked in a cube. (Actually, I stay in it as much as possible, better to keep a low profile so when the axes fly, I can duck my head and keep working.)

On the good side though, I got my truck back from the body shop last night, good as new! It looks GREAT. You'd never know someone had clipped me, and it's a black truck, so you know everything shows. They do custom work too. They are good! I've been using the same body shop for about 20 years now. The funny thing is that I haven't been in there for at least 10 years, and the boss remembered me as soon as I mentioned my old muscle car. Dang, wish I still had that car...

Got rear ended in that one too, three different times, the insurance wouldn't pay for it to be fixed the last time. I was SO upset, I loved that car. But let me tell you, never, ever buy an orange car. I'm serious, don't buy an orange car.

Question: How can you miss an orange car?

Answer: You can't, it's a drunk magnet. Might as well paint a big bulls eye on the back of it! They just home in and KA-BLOUW!! Rear ended again.

I've been told many times I had a nice rear end, but that had nothing to do with cars, LOL.

Well, it's past my bedtime, time for the anti-inflamatory for my knees so I can still walk in the morning...

See ya!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hit and Run (Not for fun)!!

Ah man, got ran into on Monday night on the blasted freeway. Had already merged completely onto the freeway, easing along in the slow lane. Slow and go traffic. All of a sudden, squeal of tires and BANG, dude hits me on the back corner of my truck, drivers side.

So I'm kinda like DANG!! He'd swerved, I assume trying to miss me, so was in the next lane over, I'm still rolling, waiting for him to pull in front of me and over to the shoulder. That's when I saw him change to next lane to the left and I realize he's taking off.


So I pull over to the shoulder. There was already a clean up on a previous accident back on the shoulder next to the merge lane, tow truck, cars, CHP. As always, no one is answering 911 on the cell, lines are hecka busy. So I get out, check my bumper. Tail light assembly all smashed, bumper squashed a bit on that side, rumpled back corner to the wheel well. Then started walking back to where the CHP was.

Local yokel sees me and pulls over. I tell him what happened, he radios it in. So I go back to truck to wait. Call insurance. By the time the CHP gets to me, I have the report to insurance made, claim number, telephone number to adjusters, and found out that my favorite body shop is a preferred vendor, so there won't be any problem using them.

Doctor gave me a slip, I can go back to work on Monday.

But a hit and run? And get this, I recognized the truck, I've seen it on the freeway before. Black older model pickup, with a big decal in the back window, big white letters "STREET SMART". With luck, they'll be stupid enough to keep driving it with front end damage and all, and I'll eventually be able to get the plate number. I WILL be watching! And my friends are watching too, when I described the truck, more than one person said, "hey, that sounds familiiar!"

But what really sucks, is that because I didn't get the plate number, I have to pay my $500 deductible. At least I was smart enough to have a fairly small deductible and really good insurance. And rental car coverage. (Another $100 gone from my budget for the deposit on the car.)

Sigh. It could be worse. I drive a truck so damage is relatively minor, initital estimate is only $2600. It was slow and go traffic, so was going less than 30mph. I leave room in front of me, so plenty of room to get popped and not hit anyone else. I sit pretty straight up in the seat, so didn't have a lot of room to get slammed forward and then back into the seat and headrest. With only a little bit of stiff neck and shoulder, I should be fine by the end of the weekend. Truck is in shop already, should have it back in a week or so. And that PT Cruiser that I'm driving right now is a pretty cool little ride. I need to check the miles per gallon on it, I like it, drives well, feels more solid than the last rental I had.

But anyway, as always, the good Lord was watching over me and keeping me safe from any real harm.

Thank you Lord!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Woman's Work Is Never Done...

It's a beautiful Saturday morning. I should be working on my eBay. If I could find any of the stuff I had intended to sell... I still have a room full of boxes to go through.

Or maybe I should be cleaning house. Or weeding my front flower garden. Or painting the outside of the house. Or finishing the painting on the inside (I didn't paint the hall yet, I knew when they moved my stuff back in, I'd have to fix the bumps and bruises anyway).

Or maybe I should build that new shed. Or unpack some boxes. Or get some of that furniture that's supposed to be inside, wiped down and inside.

Or put those shelves up over my bedroom windows, so I can unpack my collection of California Raisins, they'll have a place of honor above my bed. And finish unpacking the M&M toys, they go in the living room on the very top shelves.

Well, I do have some laundry in the washer.

LOL, a woman's work is never done.

Instead of all the things I SHOULD be doing, I think I'll spend a little time and hook up my whole stereo system. Find some of my jazzy CDs and fill my house with music. Fill the hummingbird feeder so I can enjoy the antics of the little darlings. Plant some bulbs before the Chihuahua succeeds in stealing them and chewing them up. Take a little time for myself before my son wakes up and we get busy with the day.

Then I'll be busy, have to go to the recycling plant and drop off a load of cans and bottles. Go to Play It Again Sports for some inline skates for roller hockey. Maybe make it to Home Depot, I need a 1x10 cut to short pieces for some extra supports for my new shelving unit, just to be safe. (Books are HEAVY.) Put some free stuff on Craigslist. Plan the Labor Day BBQ, make a menu and a guest list.

Sigh, a woman's work is never done...

So I think I'll have another cup of coffee first.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On The Road Again

Well, getting ready to leave on a mini-vacation.

Actually, I need to go pick up my son from Grandma and Grandpa's house. He's been having a BALL with his grandparent, aunts, uncle, cousins. They've got him playing ice hockey and he loves it. When he gets home, luckily, while the ice hockey rink is a little far, there's a roller hockey within 15 minutes of the house and the league is on Saturdays. Yayyyy! Perfect for this working mom!

He's been having so much fun, I'm sure he's going to be asking again when we're moving up to Oregon. Hey, can't retire from this job for five more years, so by then he may feel differently. I hope not.

I also hope the housing market is back and rising in five years. My experience here in Cali is that it adjusts every 10 years or so, there's a bad time of about two or three years, then rebounds higher than before. So we'll hope for the best. Otherwise, well, then I guess I'll be renting the house out, since I really won't be able to afford to retire and stay here. Or if the child doesn't want to leave yet, then work for a couple more years until he graduates from high school.

Of course, the plan is to retire from this job, then just move on back into my career of writing and art. But you never know, if I see a good little job up that way with a bit of a retirement plan and medical benies, I may work "for the man" long enough to be vested, ie, get that retirement too. Nothing like double-dipping!

Anyway, I'm not really planning on doing any more work-for-hire books, the next ones will be my projects. I may even self publish, there's some very interesting things going on these days in the self publishing world. It's changing so quickly, with the Internet. Of course, that's not all good, there's a lot of really bad "design" work being done. And I'm being charitable by calling it "design". People have NO clue of what good design is, I know I make it look easy, but I've been doing this for a long time. After 20+ years, it should look easy!

Well, finished my cup of coffee, time to get up, pour another, and start getting ready for the six or seven hour drive. Still have to pack, fill all the feeders, load the cooler, etc... Oh, and get the teen out of bed!

See you all next week!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ayyyy, Teenagers!

Oh, man, what is it with teens?

Mine went and downloaded a program the other day. Does she ask? No. Is it her computer? No.

But oh my, did I get the attitude just now when I was removing the program. She acts like I did something wrong by taking her program off the computer. And, on top of that, when I told her for the upteenth time, "DO NOT load programs on my computer," she's trying to tell me that I've never told her that. Huh.


Teens! Really, they're not deaf, they just have selective hearing.

Now she's invited her friend, a boy, to go to Oregon with us. Ayyyyy! And she's saying his mom said yes, he could go.

I didn't say yes, but I didn't say no either, so apparently there's an implied OK in this scenario. Well, guess what, the boy is NOT going with us on my tiny bit of a vacation! I'm not going to be responsible for someone else's son while I'm trying to have 3-4 days off. It's bad enough that I can't even stay the full week because of the plumbing disaster earlier this year, so I don't have enough vacation time to take a proper vacation. But to have to be responsible for another teen? One that I just met today? No, I think NOT.

The girl is totally a DIVA too. OMG, the drama that never ends. Once her cousin said, "When she comes into the room, it's like a light switch is turned on." That is so true of my beautiful girl.

And you know, when she does finally grow up and leave home, I will miss her terribly...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Books, Books, Books

Sigh, some days I really, really miss the publishing business. I miss designing the pages, making the pictures and text and captions all fit together. The thrill of finding JUST the right picture to go with that page of text.

I miss the thrill of the hunt, of going out and buying pictures in Hollywood for the books about movie stars. It was so much fun. Work, yes, but fun.

The smell of freshly printed books, when we'd rip open the boxes, open the books and see the culmination of all our hard work, it was like Christmas all over again.

So many kids don't seem to like books anymore. My kids complain about all my books. I have literally walls of books in my house. It's the feel, the smell, the texture. The look of the words on the page. And a book is portable. We can go off to the dog park or the skate park and I can post up with a book, escape the bills, my little skateboarder (OK, he's almost as tall as I am), my teenage diva, the job, the housework for just a little while.

For a little while, I'm lost in a strange new world, exploring Forerunner ruins, hearing the hissing speech of a Zacathan or the trill of a Trystian, or hiding from a Dark Rider. Alas, all too soon the kids, the house, work call and back I come to the "real" world.

I put the bookmark where I leave off, and put the book back on the shelf.

Soon, soon, I'll be back....

Sunday, August 5, 2007

So Here I Am

Well, it's about darn time I started a blog.

Been a graphic artist and writer for a long time. But since the book publishing business took a fat dump in the mid-90s, I went and got a gov't job. It's ok. It's a living and I'll be able to retire in 5 more years.

So what will I do?

Well, depending on the housing market in 2012, I'll sell and move closer to my parents and sisters. It's cheaper to live there, I'll have family close by, there's a lot of art stuff going on in the area, and so on.

Of course, I'll be another of those blasted Californians moving north, driving up the cost of real estate, contaminating the area with my "liberal" views. LOL, hey, I'm totally a moderate, with major swings on some topics. Like we have too many laws and don't enforce what we already have. Layer upon layer of laws, like the transluscent layers of acrylics I use in my paintings. I do it to intensify the colors, the depth.

But why do we need so many laws about things that, to be brutally honest, are no one's business but our own? What's the deal with that? We don't need laws, we need to butt out of people's medical decisions. We need to butt out of people's bedrooms. And we sure need to butt out of the marriage business.

If you ask me (and no, I know you didn't), we should eliminate marriage as a legal term. EVERYBODY gets a civil union with all the privileges and responsibilities, tax write-offs and so on, and then you can go over to your church and get your religious ceremony if that's what you choose to do.

Oh, man, my first blog post and I'm already ranting. Well, guess it's that artist in me. Or maybe it's the Welsh and Cherokee combination, stubborn, hard-headed, opinionated, outspoken.

So here we go.....