Posts

Showing posts from 2009

...and Looking Ahead

It’s the last day of 2009 (good riddance!) and apparently, I’m supposed to come up with some goals for 2010. The whole “goal” thing seems to be coming at me from all corners this week. Everywhere I turn, I’m being told to SET GOALS.

I should warn you…I’m in a menopausal funk, and my cat has been throwing up all over the house all day. She doesn’t act sick. Basically, I think she’s adding her own touches to the d├ęcor. Bleh. As a result, I’m bordering on crabby, so my goals may not be as high-minded and optimistic as I’d like.

But here goes…

1. I would like to stay in closer touch with my friends this year. I think I may have used this one last year. Not sure I did all that well in fulfilling it. I’ll try to do better.

2. As for writing, I want to have my current manuscript’s second draft completed by March and a polished version ready by May. On one hand, that seems like plenty of time. On the other hand, OH MY GOD, I need to spend more time writing.

3. Spend more time writing.

4. After two …

Looking back...

Image
Traditionally, the week between Christmas and New Years is a week of reflection over the past and making goals or resolutions for the future.

This morning, I’m still solidly wrapped up in reflection.

The first half of the year passed in a frenzied blur of conference planning. It was
the biggest task I’ve ever taken on and I feel stronger as a result. I made lots of contacts and new friends. And I learned a new meaning for gratitude: having a major event come together and be a success with no monumental disasters in the process.

And never having to do it again.

I spent the biggest part of the second half of the year playing catch-up. I finished the first draft of my current novel. I wrote and sold two articles to Pennsylvania Magazine.
I spent quite a bit of time with my hubby at our new camp. Family obligations had kept our vacation time to a minimum for the last few years, so being able to escape for a weekend here and a week there was nothing short of bliss. We also tackled some home im…

Photo Friday: Merry Christmas...

Image
...from my home to yours.



Katz Family Saga Continues

Cat Update: All creatures love to make a liar out of me. The kitties put in a return appearance yesterday morning. Four of them, at least. Pip’s back (gray kitten with big eyes), but the black and white mole-killing kitten is not. Torte cat is still missing, too.

It’s Wednesday, so it must be my day to blog at Working Stiffs. I’m giving everyone a chance to dredge up memories (and perhaps ghosts?) of Christmas past. Come on over and share your memories and traditions, no matter how odd.

An Empty Barn

It’s a good thing I posted those pictures of the Katz Family when I did, because they’re gone. All of them. Packed up and moved.

That’s what I want to believe. I don’t want to think of all the horrible reasons they may have vanished. After all, they’ve taken trips before and come back.

But the barn has been empty for days. The neighbors’ cats showed up this morning begging for a handout (yes, of course I gave it to them. I’m a sucker for kitty faces). However, I know where they live and know they’re only trying to make me feel better.

An empty barn is a lonely place.

Trading One Problem for a New One

In recent months, I’ve grown weary of my satellite internet service. Two years ago, I loved it, but back then it was either satellite or dial-up. No sooner did I sign the two year contract than DSL became available out here in cow country.

With satellite, when it rains harder than a drizzle, I lose my signal. If storms approach from the south, I lose my signal. If the dish gets coated with ice or snow in the winter, I lose my signal. If…well, you get the idea. And even when I have a signal, it’s slow. Not as slow as dial up, but close.

Last night, I learned that my order for DSL had gone through, and it was ready to be installed. Notice I said “last night.” I’m not a night person. Nor am I a morning person. I’m more of a two-hours-in-the-middle-of-the-afternoon person. I know these things never run smoothly. So why, you may ask, did I even attempt the installation in the evening instead of waiting for morning? AFTER my coffee, of course. The answer has to be impatience. And the eternal …

Katz Family Photos

Image
I know I owe you all a catch-up blog, but for today I'm afraid the best I can do is provide you with some photos of the Katz family in my barn.

The black and white tuxedo kitty closest to the camera is the same little one who had the mole in the earlier post. The torte on the far right is the newest member of the clan. They brought her with them when they returned from their last "trip."
This one, I call Patch. When I figure out if it's a boy or a girl, I may try to come up with a better name.
The gray baby with the big eyes is Pip. No reason.
By way of an update, there are currently only three of them here. Pip, Torte and Patch. The rest, including tuxedo kitty, have taken off on another of their adventures.

No Photo Friday: The Katz Family

The whole idea of Photo Friday was to keep me out there, practicing with the new camera. In the hustle and bustle of the season, my plan fell flat. I was going to take the Nikon with me to the barn yesterday, but with high winds driving icy snow sideways, and me bundled up like an Eskimo, I abandoned that idea.

So, instead of a photo, I thought I’d tell you about what I’d plan to photograph. Several weeks back, I posted a shot of a fierce little kitten with a mole clenched in its mouth. That kitten was part of a whole cat family (or Katz Family, as I’ve been referring to them) that had taken up residence in our barn. Several of them look alike and they seem to come and go. They dart in to get some of the food I put out and then dash into a hiding spot. So I’ve never been sure if there were initially six or seven.

Regardless, the barn appears to have developed a revolving door. For a time, the number was down to three. I figured the others might have fallen victim to a coyote or a hunter…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

It's my day to blog at Working Stiffs and unfortunately, the news has offered me a ready topic.

Photo Friday: Sleeping Beauty

Image
No, she isn't sick or dying. This filly at Mountaineer Racetrack takes a beauty nap every morning.

Draft Two: Day One

While I had intended on letting the first draft sit and simmer for a bit, I hadn’t planned on the simmering stage to last so long. But life has been happening and I decided it was easier to go with the flow than struggle against it. Therefore, I haven’t touched my manuscript in what seems like ages.

However, today—barring more unforeseen circumstances—that shall change.

Hubby is away with his uncle and cousins at their hunting camp. He left yesterday. I promptly spent the day cleaning house in the hopes that it might stay relatively clutter-free for a few days. Today, with a clean house and a fairly blank appointment book, I plan to snuggle in with the printed version of my manuscript. I’ll have a notepad, several different colored pens, and sticky notes at hand. I will read the entire thing straight through, making notes as I go about things that need to be changed, added, or deleted.

I can’t wait to begin. I’ve been pushing “the voices” to the back of my head for weeks now. But they’ve…

Photo Friday: Krepps Bridge

Image
We went for a drive along the local country roads last week and stopped to grab some shots of this covered bridge about a mile from my home. Once again, I love the contrast of brilliant blue sky and vivid red paint against the drab, November backdrop.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Twas the day before Thanksgiving and gratitude is in the air. We're compiling our annual gratitude list over at Working Stiffs today. Come on over and prepare your own list.

Monday Musings

I thought I’d be well into my revisions by now. The first draft is printed and sitting on the table in my office, waiting. And waiting.

Unfortunately, life sometimes throws monkey wrenches into our plans and such has been the case. I’ll blog about what’s been going on in a future post, but suffice it to say certain things have required my time and energy that otherwise would have been funneled into my writing.

Here we are. The week leading up to Thanksgiving. Where the heck did the year go? The holidays always seem to sneak up on me and slap me upside the head. I think it could be because I tend to plug my fingers in my ears and sing “La-la-la-la-la” when the topic comes up.

Actually, I like Thanksgiving. A lot. And it has little to do with the food. Being a vegetarian, I don’t eat turkey. I’m not crazy about pumpkin. But I like getting together with my family. And I love the whole gratitude thing.

Then comes Friday. Call it Black Friday, if you will. I promise you I will NOT be in the st…

Photo Friday: Quit hogging the feeder!

Image
Taken from my front porch. It took a while for the birds to forget I was there, but once they did, I was able to catch this shot of an impatient chickadee waiting its turn at the seed.

Remodeling the Cave: Conclusion

I've posted before and after photos of my office remodel and reorganization over at Working Stiffs. I'm not sure it qualifies as a true remodel since all we did was lay down new floor. But it feels new and fresh to me.

A lot of the reorganization can't be seen, as it happened within the closets and drawers. I'm still not sure where everything is (it used to be in that pile of papers, but now where did it go???), but I'll get used to it.

Now, it's time to get back to work.

Apologies

I've been getting hit with spammers! As a result, I've been tinkering with the comments section. I tried using the word verification and still received anonymous comments with links to who-knows-what. So I've removed the word verification (which I hate anyhow), but I've also removed the ability to leave anonymous comments. For my legit commenters who use that feature, I'm truly sorry.

Remodeling the Cave: Part Two

In case you’re wondering, I survived the weekend. Barely.

It took all blessed day Saturday to pack up all my “stuff” from my office and to find places to put it in the rest of the house. Boxes filled the living room. Assorted items edged the periphery of the bedroom. And still does.

I left some things for Sunday simply because I didn’t want to block the side door. Somewhere in the back of my overactive brain, I kept hearing a nagging voice saying, “What if there’s a fire.”

So I saved that space. Until yesterday.

I’d disconnected the computer, but left it in the office until the last minute. Sunday morning, the computer, the cabinet drawers, and any office furniture that was light enough to move out or that was on wheels, headed out into what little space remained elsewhere in the house. The bed was covered as were most of the couch and all the chairs.

My office may be the smallest room in the house (except for the bathroom), but inch-for-inch, it contained the most stuff.

It didn’t take nea…

Photo Friday: Backlit Berries

Image
Once the blaze of autumn orange passes, southwestern Pennsylvania tends to spend the next six months clothed in monochromatic shades of gray and brown. These backlit leaves from what I gather is a wild raspberry bush provided a rare splash of color on my walk around the old farm this week.

Remodeling the Cave

One can only hide in one’s cave, living in denial, for so long. It’s time. I’m being rousted from my quiet, extremely cluttered office in order to replace the last bit of carpeting in our house with the new wood flooring.

I’ve been dreading this. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love my new floor in the rest of the house and I know I’ll love it in here, too. But it’s the process.

My office/cave is small, yet it contains some of the biggest furniture in the entire house. Namely my computer desk, a set of bookshelves, and two sets of cabinets, courtesy of IKEA. There’s also a table that’s supposed to be my writing desk, although I can never find space on it. I started de-cluttering it yesterday and still don’t have enough clear surface to so much as write a check. There’s a small metal file cabinet and a stand that hold sentimental knickknacks and photographs, too.

And there are a LOT of books. How to write books. Writing market books. Crime writers’ reference books. Grammar and style books. Book…

Veteran's Day

It's my day to post over at Working Stiffs and I've gone all sentimental on Veteran's Day, remembering all heroes, especially my dad.

The Definition of Tinkering

Lately, I’ve been using the word “tinkering” a lot. Tinkering with chapter 18. Tinkering with the article I’m working on. This morning, I started wondering about the word. I remember my grandfather used it a lot. He tinkered with his tractors. He tinkered with the farm equipment. He’d go out to his workshop and tinker around a bit. My dad was a great tinkerer, too. He tinkered with his car, his truck, and his lawn mower.

So I feel like I inherited the term and the practice. But what exactly IS tinkering anyway?

I looked it up.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary on my desk, to tinker is to repair or adjust something in an unskillful or experimental manner. A tinkerer is an itinerant mender of household utensils or an unskillful mender. Or a bungler.

Hmm.

I was good with the repair and adjust part. The mender part, too. But I don’t much care for that unskilled bungler thing.

Grandpap kept his tractor and other farm equipment in pristine condition. So did my dad. I would never think o…

Photo Friday: Tiny Hunter

Image
Within the last few days a family of stray cats including this kitten have moved into our barn. I've been trying to capture some photos of them and yesterday afternoon, I found this little tuxedo baby hiding under the Farmall tractor with a mole. It gave a tiny little growl to warn me off, as if I might want to steal it's prize. No thank you.

Kreativ Blogger!

Image
I owe a big thank you to my fellow Guppy and critique buddy VR Barkowski (I know what the "V" stands for, but I'm not allowed to tell) for honoring me with a nomination for the Kreativ Blogger award. VR's blog chronicles her journey toward publication, from the manuscript onward and entertains its readers in the process. VR is also participating in Nanowrimo this month. You go, girl!

Now comes the fun part. I get to nominate seven other worthy bloggers (who must nominate seven other... and so on and so forth). Here are the rules:
1) Copy the pretty picture and post it on your blog.
2) Thank the person that gave it to you and link to their blog.
3) Write 7 things about yourself we don't know.
4) Choose 7 other bloggers to pass the award to.
5) Link to those 7 other bloggers.
6) Notify your 7 bloggers.
Let's see... Number one done. Number two done (thanks again, VR!). On to number three. Seven things about me that you don't know. And probably don't care.
1) One…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm at Working Stiffs today talking about bringing back the dead. Not really. But I do included my grandparents' old house and bring a few of my deceased pets back to life in my fiction. Come over and join in the discussion of Sentimental Settings.

My First Editors

My “finished” first draft has been sitting quietly in its computer folder. I’ve been told to leave it alone for a couple of weeks. Of course, I’m itching to get back into it, and I really haven’t completely kept my hands off it.

I’m not sure what your definition of a first draft is. I think we all have different ideas on the topic. For me, just because it’s a first draft doesn’t mean it hasn’t been retouched a bit. I tinker with chapters as I go. And that’s why I put “finished” first draft in quotes. It isn’t. Finished, that is. I’ve typed “The End” but I’m not satisfied with it, even as a “shitty first draft.”

Right now, it has a total of twenty-nine chapters. My tinkering is taking place back in chapters 17, 18, and 19. Here’s why:

My critique groups.

I love my critique groups. I belong to three. Well, two and a half.

The first eyes, beyond my own, to see a chapter is my face-to-face group. Four or five of us get together and present a chapter. The author reads their own work out loud …

Photo Friday: Too Cute

Image
My pick for my favorite picture of those I shot this week was easy. This portrait of my youngest grandniece is just too cute.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

After last week's big announcement of reaching "The End" of my first draft, the days that have followed have been rather low key. Which is my excuse for not having posted anything here yet this week. My brain has shifted into neutral. Or gone into hybernation for the winter, even though it's not at all cold. Yet.

So after staring at a blank screen for most of yesterday afternoon, I finally decided to dust off one of my favorite rants and update it, courtesy of those two Northwest Airlines pilots. The result is posted over at Working Stiffs, because it is my day to blog there.

Photo Friday: Reflections

Image
Since the best way to learn how to use a new camera is to get it out and USE it, I've been shooting a lot of "stuff," lately. And as an enticement to continue practicing, I've decided to post my favorite photo of the week here each Friday.

This week's photo is the result of my attempt to play with reflections and was taken along the Montour Trail while I was out walking earlier this week.

Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home

Image
I thought I was looking forward to Indian Summer. Those last few days of sunshine and warm temperatures before we plunge into those cold, gray, wet, and snowy days of late fall and winter.

But I was not alone.

Lady bugs (or Asian beetles or whatever the heck they are) were also anticipating the burst of sunshine to make their last ditch search for a winter home.

Thousands of lady bugs. Hundreds of thousands. Gazillions of lad bugs.

Apparently, they especially like log houses for all the nooks and crannies in which they can hide.

The swarm began Tuesday afternoon. The bugs looked like snow flurries outside, except they weren’t white and they didn’t simply fall down. They buzzed up, down and sideways. They started ticking against the windows of my office, which face south and receive all that sunshine. Then they started finding their way through the window frames, through cracks and gaps that I can’t see.

Obviously, my house is not airtight. Note to self: MUST CAULK BEFORE WINTER.

At first the…

The End

Well, I did it. I finished the first draft. Yay! The party is being held at Working Stiffs today, so come on over.

Floored again!

Image
It took all day Sunday, but we completed another room. No more stained, dirty, faded, ugly blue shag carpet in the bedroom.


We also moved the furniture around a bit. This totally freaked Skye out for a while, but as you can see, she has located a sunspot on the bed and is happy once again.

This leaves my office, also known as THE BLACK HOLE. I’ve begged and pleaded to put it off until after I finish my first draft and the article I’m working on for Pennsylvania Magazine. If I have to pack up all my mountains of notes and research now, I’ll never find them again.

So I have a momentary reprieve.

Unfortunately, I also still have the stained, dirty, faded ugly blue shag carpet in the office.

Zoning Out and In the Zone

I have found myself largely distracted all week. By what? It doesn’t matter. You name it. The pattern of rain drops on my windows, YouTube videos, Facebook, watching Skye kitty sleep…

Finally, I came to the conclusion that, while my body is stuck here at home, my mind went on to Bouchercon without me.

I was supposed to go. Had the reservations. Was saving my pennies. But my travel companion and B-con roommate Joyce had to back out. Economy. Finances. Pay cuts. All the usual crap effecting us all.

Joyce, if you’re reading this, I really AM over it. Honest. Do NOT feel bad.

Heck, it took all of ten minutes to spend all that money I’d saved up and then some on the Nikon.

But I’m reading blogs and Facebook accounts from those who are there and, well, I guess I’m a bit wistful. Hey, it’s a heck of a party. Authors. Books. Readers. Agents. Bars.

So, yes, I’ve been something of a body without a brain all week.

Until yesterday.

Disgusted by my lack of production, especially considering I am so very c…

Working Stiffs Rocks

It's Working Stiffs Wednesday and today I'm over there sharing some of my favorite classic rock songs.

After Shots

Image
I've finally managed to clear out all the boxes, so I guess it's time to post some AFTER pictures of the home improvement project.

Here are a couple of the living room with its new floor and rearranged furniture:




And here is the bathroom with new floor and new tile:


Two more rooms to go!

The Week in Pictures

Image
I love my new camera, but I have to admit, most of my successful photographs have been the result of a combination of luck and the fact that the camera is smarter than I am. In an effort to change that, I started a series of photography classes this week.

They came with the camera, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d get out of them, but I really enjoyed the first one.

In a further attempt to get better acquainted with all the bells and whistles and buttons and knobs, I’ve decided to shoot at least a few photos each day, experimenting with different settings and options along the way.

Since several days have been rainy, Skye has been my main model. I think she’s getting sick of me pointing that thing at her.


Here’s shot of my downsized to-be-read shelves.

Please note the lamp stand next to the books has not been de-cluttered yet. It’s a work in progress.

Finally, today there was a brief break in the rain showers. The sky remained as gray as my cat, and these pictures of our property behind our ho…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm back at Working Stiffs today looking back at the G-20 Summit now that the dust has pretty much settled.

Pumpkinfest!

Image
It feels like only a few weeks ago, we were setting up our camp in Confluence. We had some great times there this summer. But this weekend was our last hoorah of 2009. We winterized and closed up the camper until next spring.

But before saying farewell to my new home, we had one last event on the agenda: Confluence’s annual Pumpkinfest.

We arrived too late Friday evening to watch the frog jumping contest. Darn.

Saturday held lots of fun for kids. The wee ones “competed” in the Pedal Power Tractor Pull.


And these youngsters are braver (and less scared of heights) than I.

If you managed to climb all three sides of the wall, you won $100. Me? You’d have to add a few zeroes…QUITE a few…to get me up on that contraption.

This band was pretty good. Thanks to them I’m still humming the tune to American Pie.


If you wanted to take out your frustrations, there was this reject from the defunct Cash for Clunkers program and a sledgehammer. Have at it.


What’s a Pumpkinfest without BIG pumpkins?

Hey, if Linu…

Downsizing

I would love to post some photos of my completed living room with its rearranged furniture and new floor. I would, but I can’t. I’m still unpacking all our stuff from boxes. We threw everything in them in about ten minutes. I’ve spent HOURS pulling bits and pieces of my life back out of those boxes.

One reason is the rearrangement of furniture. I can’t simply replace knickknacks and electronics where they were before. So I’m seeking new spots for lots of these doodads and thingamabobs.

Another reason is I have a sudden aversion to clutter. I discovered I liked the looks of wide expanses of open floor and sparse shelves and tabletops.

Here I am, married to the king of packrats and I’m turning Shaker. Aren’t those the people who hang their chairs from pegs on the wall when they aren’t using them?

As a writer, I love a good conflict. But I don’t care for this one so much. Mostly because I don’t stand a chance of winning it. Nature and my hubby abhor a vacuum. I clear out a space and stand ba…

The Character is Always Right

I spent almost a week struggling through two lousy pages of my current manuscript. Some days, words flood onto the page. Some days, writing is like hiking through knee-deep mud.

Yeah, it’s been a muddy week.

I finally figured out the problem. I was rushing one of my characters. I’m building up to the BIG CONFRONTATION scene and I was trying to convince the antagonist to show up. Seriously. A BIG CONFRONTATION scene isn’t worth much if the protagonist has no one to confront.

But it wasn’t working. The scene felt forced. I was stuck in mud.

And wouldn’t you know it? The character was right. It was too soon to bring the antagonist on stage.

Why did my character know that and I didn’t?

When I was in sales, the motto was “The customer is always right.” Sales people gnash their teeth at that one, by the way. Just between us, the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes customers are total idiots.

But I digress.

My new words to live by are “The character is always right.” You simply cannot force them…

The Floor Project Continues

Image
Progress. Back aches. Sore muscles. New floor. Such is my life.

When I last checked in, we had some of the carpeting removed. Here is a little photo essay of what has transpired since then:

The first row of flooring.


We had to do it twice. This is SOP for any Dashofy home project. At least the problem was discovered after only one row.

After two days of work, we had made noticeable progress. I could tell I liked the wood choice. It’s hard to picture from a four-inch-square sample. Or even when it’s in the box. But with this much done, I knew it was good.

Skye thinks there’s too much commotion going on in her house. She was fine with the way things were before. Now with all the furniture shoved first one way and then another, she’s feeling a little lost and confused.


By Sunday night, the living room was done. The furniture is still all askew. My “stuff” is still in boxes. I plan to spend this week getting things sorted out.



We still have the bathroom, bedroom, and my office floors to do yet. …

Adventures in Home Improvement

Image
We usually only tackle one DIY home improvement project per year. I’m learning why. We need time to forget the aggravation of the previous one.

With the memory of this summer’s bathroom remodel still all-to-fresh in our minds, Hubby and I have begun ripping up our 25-year old carpet in anticipation of putting down new laminate wood flooring. Technically, this project started on Tuesday, but so far, not a plank has been installed.

Day one consisted of packing. I have moved a sum total of ONCE in my life. That was when we married. I moved all of two doors away from the home I’d grown up in. Since then, we have accumulated “stuff.” Lots and lots of stuff.

I recall hearing that people should move every few years just so they can throw out all the junk. Good advice, I’ve decided.

I boxed all the books on my to-be-read shelves Monday night and created a huge pile that I now wonder why I bought. I’ll never read them. Those will go to the used book store. Everything else was packed in a rush Tues…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

The G-20 is in Pittsburgh this week and I'm at Working Stiffs today blogging about it.

The Weekend in Pictures

Image
My main goal this weekend was to take a lot of practice photos with the new camera.

Saturday, I headed to Mountaineer to spend the day with my friend, Jessi. I got some shots of horses on the track. This is one of Jessi’s.




So is this.

This one isn’t.



This is Jessi with “Jacob.”



Today, Hubby and I took a drive to Greene County for these.


Then we stopped at White Bridge for the Covered Bridge Festival where I grabbed these shots.



I love my camera.