Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I don't do much cleaning. Neither does The Husband. We do the basic picking-up and wiping-down when we're going to have people over, but that's about it.

We just never developed the habit.

I know I had to clean the house when I lived with my parents. I had a list of chores I had to do, which included vacuuming and dusting and cleaning the bathroom mirror and sink.

I don't do any of that now. Maybe once every couple of years. (I do Swiffer-Vac the floors every so often, but I don't count that as vacuuming. I don't know why.)

When times were more prosperous we had a lady come in every other week and clean for us. That was awesome. I miss that. But I don't miss it enough to try and fit it into my crazy schedule. Trash and dishes and laundry and caring for animals take up enough of my time. If I leave the dust on the shelves, then it's not in the air, right?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Get People to Do What You Want

I got an email at work from a customer, wherein he said what a relief it was to correspond with someone who knows how to communicate like a businessperson. Having seen some of my coworkers' attempts at professional emails, I can only commiserate.

Here's the thing....

I've heard from many an aspiring writer that they feel they don't need to sweat grammar and spelling. That's what editors are for, right?

No, not really. Copy editors clean up your manuscript. They don't hold your freaking hand. And their job is not to do your job for you. (I've seen grammar so bad I couldn't figure out what the person was trying to say. The sentence made no sense.)

But publishing industry aside, there is an even better reason for you to learn how to communicate effectively and professionally: it's how you get people to do what you want.

Yes. Put your Machiavelli hat on for a moment.

If your email sounds like a 3rd grader wrote it, I'm probably not going to pay much attention to it. Your ineptness may even offend me, because it's really easy to get the wrong impression when you're reading a letter as opposed to talking to someone. Your lack of punctuation sounds rushed and even annoyed when I read it. I'm less likely to like you if I think you're being snippy with me.

In short, if I think you're a tool, I'm less likely to do what you're trying to get me to do.

Face it, you only write an email for two reasons: to convey information, and to get someone to do something you want them to do.

Written language is the medium through which you accomplish those things. Therefore, just as you might take a class on argumentation in order to improve your ability to get people to do what you want, you should also learn to use written language in the same way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Got bitten by the bead bug recently. I haven't made jewelry in ages, probably at least two years, and then the bead store down the street has a going out of business sale. Next thing I know I'm $100 in on craft materials. So far I've made 3 necklaces and am halfway through two more. (One was going to be two bracelets...but then it turned into a necklace.)

$20 per necklace isn't so bad, especially considering they're stone beads. Amethyst, jade, obsidian, black goldstone, adventurine, amazonite, smoky quartz... And they all go with different outfits I bought recently at Goodwill. So, it all sort of evens out, right? A little more on the accessories, a little less on the shirts, and I have outfits for the day job.

Mmmm, shiny....

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Wills

If you haven't already, I highly recommend popping over to Dean Wesley Smith's blog and reading about his recent trials and travails with being executor for his friend Bill's estate. You might notice a certain someone was kinda active in the comments. I have dealt with aspects of probate often, and it's pretty rare for me to get a chance to warn people where they might actually listen. That aside, Dean's story is also a very touching tale of a deep and lasting friendship, and worth reading even without the cautionary aspect.

But please don't ignore the cautionary aspect. Even if you aren't a writer, you need to have a will. And do it right. Please. Please please please.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Small Town Wisconsin

Spring has hit Wisconsin full-force. It's supposed to be 78 degrees on Wednesday. /boggle

There are several signs of spring for me:

  1. Robins come back.
  2. Red-winged blackbirds come back.
  3. Sandhill cranes come back.
  4. Lake Monona opens. (ie, the ice goes away)
  5. Frostie Freeze opens.

The birds have been back since early last week. Lake Monona is mostly open. And Frostie Freeze opened this week.

I love Frostie Freeze. The Husband and I drive out there all the time. It's a little soft serve place, sort of 50's-style, loads of pink everywhere, and the cheapest desserts anywhere.

What I also love about Frostie Freeze is the feeling of community. I'm not even from Fort Atkinson, but when I'm standing in line outside in the sun (or at night in the bugs--oh, and the bugs are back too, darnit) it really feels like a community in a way I find to be rare anymore.

The town I live in is slightly bigger than Fort Atkinson, and granted I don't live quite near any gathering places for kids, but I do walk The Bulldog through a lot of parks and empty lots. And I don't see kids much. We saw a couple of boys throwing a football around in the old church lot last week, and I pointed it out to The Husband, because it was such a rare sight. The only places I see kids these days is in their own yards, or walking to and from school. Whereas in Fort Atkinson, nearly every time we go to Ken and Betty's Philly Cheesesteaks (yum!) I see the skateboarders, and the kids on bikes, and of course at Frostie Freeze all manner of kids. There are even annoying teenagers revving their engines past the soft-serve shop.

I think having a local all-ages watering hole like Frostie Freeze really helps foster that sense of small town togetherness. When you see each other more often, maybe people don't feel like they need to hide...er, I mean, protect...their kids as much. I'd like to see more roaming packs of preteens, more kids on bikes, more playing at the parks. And so, Danny Lecher, my hat is off to you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Early Bird

I've been having a devil of a time lately getting my writing time in. I'm just so exhausted when I get home from work that trying to do something requiring mental energy seems a herculean effort.

At my writing group on Tuesday, Zombie Joe mentioned that he'd starting getting up early in the morning to write before work.

I've never tried the early morning thing, myself. I love my sleep, and I have a hard time going to bed before 11pm. But I decided to give it a try this morning and got up at 5am. I took care of the dog and settled down to write.

And got almost 1000 words of outlining done.

Granted, outlining is not the same as writing fiction, but even if I settle at my usual 500/hour I will call that a win. I think what I'll do is write down the night before what I'm going to be working on in the morning. That way I don't lose time to making that decision, plus it gives my brain time to work stuff over in the background while I sleep.

But yeah, so far definitely a win. I was productive, and it came pretty easy, no struggle to get started like I often have later in the day. Plus I feel good knowing that I've already got my word count under my belt and I don't have to beat myself up over it for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Well Said

All the people screaming about Amazon lately have me ready to tear my hair out. But rather than rant about it myself, I will instead point you all to Sarah A. Hoyt's post. Sarah is also tired of authors getting overly emotional and riotous without first bothering to examine what's really going on, and she says it much better than I probably would have.

The whole post is very entertaining (have I mentioned that I like snark?) but here's the crux of it:

You want to make yourself useful? Start doing things like protesting the rights-grabs of publishers keeping bringing things out in ebooks YEARS after they have BY CONTRACT lost right to those properties, or bringing out things for which they never bought ebook rights. You want to make yourself useful? Start going after the exclusivity clauses in contracts. You want to make yourself useful? Start going after some of the agency clauses which give the AGENCY copyright rights for the life of the property.

If you’re not doing all of that, stop shaking your little fist and screaming that Amazon is controlling your thoughts. Amazon can’t do that, because it has yet to be shown that you’re capable of independent thought. You’re only so many trained seals, ready and willing to serve the interests of publishers and distributors, even those who’ve been screwing you for years. You’re good circus animals, ready to jump on your little bandbox and slap your hands together and arf for the rotten fish you’ve been fed for years – even while fresh fish are swimming all around you.

My blood pressure thanks you, Sarah, for writing that post so I didn't have to.

Image: Karen Shaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Release: A Kiss Before Coffee

This month's short story, A Kiss Before Coffee, is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords!

When Karen is diagnosed with inoperable cancer, she travels to the ruined Asclepion on the Greek island of Kos with a vague idea of leaving an offering for the god of healing. With the help of a sympathetic tour guide, Karen gets the chance to make her petition in person. Contains explicit sex.

Originally published in Rendezvous. League City, TX: Passionate Pens/Twin Trinity Media, 2011.