Friday, July 26, 2013

Finding The Silver Lining in Being Poor

As finances are again strained for myself and many others, I thought I'd repost this one that I wrote back in 2011. 

Nature is free...and that rocks.

Last week I ran across this heart-wrenching blog post on being poor. So many things...especially in the comments section had me in tears because a lot of it hit close to home.

After a few hours of being depressed by the post, I decided to write an answer to it. Believe it or not, there are some positive things about being poor...and some things of priceless value.

Now, a lot of the perspective I have is being poor in a small city in Northern Idaho. That other post made me thankful for the most part that I never lived in a big city. It seems the only advantages to being "big city poor" would have been more shelters and public transportation. Until recently, we had no public transit system and the only homeless shelters available were one for single men and another for battered women. The men had to jump through nearly impossible hoops, and the women...well, if they weren't battered, then I guess it was assumed they should find a man to live with, or take up stripping, I don't know. What I do know is that many citizens of my town have spent at least a few months either living in their cars or in the mountains.

Okay, now to the positive stuff:

Being poor is learning your strengths and full potential. Through enduring and surviving hardship, one gains unique confidence.

Being poor is learning a variety of skills. My husband can darn socks and rebuild lawnmowers, chainsaws & weed eaters. I can fix my own cars, play darts for money, and we both have quite a lot of experience in construction, home repairs, & some plumbing repair.

Being poor is learning to pinch a penny until it bleeds. I'll use my car as an example. One can save thousands of dollars by 1.) Buying by private sale only, 2.) Learning to fix it yourself, 3.) learning the best places to acquire parts...i.e. you can get decent tires on rims at a junk yard...and it's always best to have your snow tires already on rims because having them changed at a shop costs big bucks, whereas busting out your jack and doing it yourself is free and easy.

Being poor is learning the resources of the land to feed your family. My husband grows a garden which not only keeps us stocked year round with home canned goods, but also has enough surplus so we may help out others. We also gather mushrooms and berries from the mountains, hunt and fish. Our freezer is now stocked with enough meat to last until late summer. And we'll be making a year's worth of jam next.

Being poor is learning to feed a large family with little expense. On the post I read, someone commented that "hot water + free ketchup packets from fast food joints = tomato soup." I'd never gone that far, though I've stretched cans of tomato soup with ketchup. I also know about 100 different ways to make Top Ramen. Also, did you know that it's cheaper to buy a beef roast and have the meat department guy grind it than it is to buy hamburger?

Being poor is finding treasure at thrift stores and yard sales. I often get the greatest compliments on my cute outfits that cost me under 5 bucks. Hell, even if I ever get rich, I'll still go to yard sales. It's such an adventure!

Being poor is discovering that there's still goodness and hope in humanity. There have been many instances in which my family's been saved by the kindness of strangers. I am eternally grateful to them all.

Being poor is experiencing a wonderful feeling when you're able to help someone else. Whether it's giving away food from our garden or a pack of venison steaks, donating clothes to another needy mom, dropping a few dimes in the animal shelter donation jars, or passing on info about a job opening, it feels like I've done something to repay the times I've been helped.

Being poor is having an invaluable community. These last few years, its seems like my whole neighborhood's been going through tough times, but we help each other out. Each summer we'd pool our resources. One would bring burger meat, another had fresh ears of corn, I'd make a pasta salad. Together we'd have an excellent barbecue and eat and laugh like kings.

Being poor is knowing the true joy of family. No matter what, we always have each other.

Being poor is knowing all the free entertainment at your fingertips. Besides fishing, swimming, and camping, there's art galleries to visit, free concerts at the city park, and the company of family and friends. To me, good conversation is priceless, and I'd pass on expensive movie tickets for that experience. And there's the library, which supplies not only books, but music and movie rentals, and activities for children.

Being poor is getting a good laugh...and sometimes a twinge of pity for rich people. Another comment in the sad post said something about bumping into someone's Prada bag and realizing the bag is worth more than their life. I, on the other hand, would probably be all, "HAHAHA! You paid (exorbitant sum) for that ugly thing that you won't be able to carry next year because your "friends" will make fun of you for being out of fashion?" To me it seems the rich are judged by what they have more than who they are as people.

So, despite being momentarily dejected by the that other post, I've come to a realization: I may be poor, but I am blessed in so many ways. If things get worse, I know I have the courage, skills, and strength to survive. If things get better, that would be great! But, I'll still eat Top Ramen for lunch...though I may have king crab legs for dinner. :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Avon Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop

I got tagged by the lovely Ashlyn Chase in the Avon Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop. Here's her post and how it works:

Each author invites up to five other authors to answer five questions about their

current summer release or WIP and a tasty recipe that ties into it!

Then give a short description of your WIP/Release including the date of release. Then answer these five questions:

1)When writing are you a snacker? If so, sweet or salty?
2) Are you an outliner or someone who flies by the seat of their pants? Are they real pants or jammies?
3)When cooking or baking, do you follow the recipe exactly or wing it?
4) What is next for you after this book?
5) Last Question...on a level of one being slightly naughty to ten being whoo whoo steamy, where does your book land?

And then your summer recipe!

Okay, here goes: I'll soon be doing final edits on my 2nd Regency Paranormal romance, ONE BITE PER NIGHT which releases March 4th, 2014. It's available for pre-order on Amazon

Here's a quick description: When Vincent Tremayne, Earl of Deveril and Lord Vampire of Cornwall, becomes guardian to Lydia Price, he vows to get her off his hands as soon as possible. But once Lydia sets eyes on the enigmatic earl, she is determined to win his heart …for eternity. 

The first book in the series, BITE ME, YOUR GRACE, is available now.

Now for these fun questions:

1) When writing are you a snacker? If so, sweet or salty?

Usually I drink Red Bull, tea, or hard cider while I write. However, if I snack, it's definitely salty. Peanuts, sunflower seeds, rice cakes, and chips are my faves.

2) Are you an outliner or someone who flies by the seat of their pants? Are they real pants or jammies?

I work from a basic outline that I steadily expand, but many scenes are written by the seat of my pants... or jammies, or fuzzy bathrobe.

3) When cooking or baking, do you follow the recipe exactly or wing it?

I cook to taste so when I read a recipe I usually know right away that it needs more garlic, butter, herbs, etc. Recipes are usually just a base I use to expand my culinary creativity.

4) What is next for you after this book?

Book 3, BITE AT FIRST SIGHT releases September 2014. For fans of my series, I am pleased to tell you that it is Rafe's story. When the scarred, surly Spanish vampire encounters a grave-robbing Countess, sparks fly. 

5) Last Question...on a level of one being slightly naughty to ten being whoo whoo steamy, where does your book land?

I hate to sound trite, but I think mine are somewhere between. It really depends on the characters. I'm pretty sure that Book 2 is steamier than my first. Even though the Lord Vampire of Cornwall is way more of a sweetie than the Lord of London (the hero of book one), he is WAAAAY naughtier when the clothes come off! I blushed so much writing those scenes! 

Now for my summer recipe!

Japanese Pickled Cucumbers: A sweet n' tart treat to cool you off in the hot weather:


Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Sesame Seeds

Peel and half cucumbers.
Using a spoon, scoop out seeds then slice the cucumber halves.
Place cucumber slices in a bowl.
Pour in enough rice vinegar to reach halfway to the top of the cucumbers
Sprinkle a bit of sugar and salt
Drizzle w' sesame oil
Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Adjust oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt, to taste.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Okay, now to tag 5 authors.

I'm tagging Shona Husk!

Friday, July 12, 2013

10 New Things I've Learned as an "Experienced" Author

After having written eight novels, multiple A-grade academic papers, and a couple award winning short stories, I feel I have the right to call myself "experienced."

However, I am still a newbie in the grand scheme and I have learned a ton of things in the last few years. Some are laughably simple, especially the ones involving formatting manuscripts. Please don't laugh at me, more technically inclined people.

After all, the first one and a half books I wrote by hand in large notebooks because I couldn't afford a computer. So of course when I finally got one, I had to learn how to use the thing along with Microsoft Word. And let me tell you, after nearly five years I am still learning Word. So about half the things on this list will deal with that. :)

Without further ado, here's a few things that have improved my job.

1.) Holy Crap there's a difference between "enter" and "tab?"

Apparently hitting tab instead of enter not only adds an extra space, but it also screws up the format. Paranormal Romance author, Terry Spear, directed me to the little paragraph symbol on my MS Word toolbar. Tabs are revealed as arrows and extra spaces....

2.) Whoa, a better way to find extra spaces without relying on eyesight alone?

That nifty paragraph thingie also reveals extra spaces as dots. When you have them before a paragraph break it looks like the paragraph symbol has a nipple and that makes me giggle. Then I sigh in gratitude that I don't have to rely on my eyes alone anymore.

3.) I will always need fresh perspectives on my work. 

No matter how many tips I've received from other writers or how much I think I've improved, there are still times when I think I've written my best work ever and have others reinforce that belief...and I still need to be struck down by those who know better. Because one's work can and should ALWAYS be improved.

4.) More in depth outlines really help me.

I'm like a hybrid between a "plotter" and a "pantser." I always have the characters and at least a scene or two in mind before I start a project. Then I slowly make placeholder notes of scenes between whatever I'm writing.

However, once you're contracted with a publisher you need to have the synopsis and other plot details figured out often BEFORE you write the first sentence. As daunting as it is, I've noticed that doing so makes writing the book go a whole lot easier as it clears a path away from too many rabbit holes.

5.) Habit words will never cease to haunt me.

Like a persistent and constantly mutating virus, habit words infect EVERY manuscript. Most recent ones have been "Was," "That," "And," "But," and "Now." Critique partners and beta readers are priceless for spotting these buggers. The "Find" feature in Word really helps too.

6.) You can set your preferred font.

I don't know how many times I reopened word to have it automatically reset itself to Calibri 11 and exploded into screaming expletives. I mean, who the hell uses that stupid font? I think I manually reset it and shrieked, "Times New Roman 12, bitch!" for over two years before someone, not even a writer, pointed out, "Hey, you can go to 'set default font' y'know."

It was too much of a happy day for me to kick myself for being a moron. Speaking of which...

7.) Inserting page breaks REALLY helps!

Seriously, I spent 8 manuscripts and countless revisions scrolling up and down entire documents and manually tweaking stuff so each chapter is neatly centered on the top of a new page. Then someone's all "Insert Page Break is a lot easier, y'know." This is another D'oh! moment.

8.) How to center stuff like chapters and scene breaks.

I am so grateful for the times I brought by laptop to the bar. Especially the time my drinking buddy leaned over and said, "Control E."

9.) Other authors are incredibly supportive!

Seriously with everything from promo help, advice, and a shoulder to cry on, other authors have been there for me in ways that have me overcome with gratitude. I hope to repay the favor whenever I can.

10.) How to be assertive about my "I need to work" time.

Being a writer is a work at home job for the most part. Some are lucky to have an office to lock themselves in. I am not. My writing area is the couch with my laptop sitting on a TV dinner table. Couple that with 3 kids, a husband, 3 cats, a dog, and surprise guests and it's damn near impossible to get anything done.

Over the years I've had to learn how to make it clear to others that writing is my job and when I'm on my laptop, I am AT WORK!!! Sometimes it gets through their heads. And sometimes I need to have the feline overlords guard me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dill Cream Pasta Salad Recipe

Because people keep eating it before I can get a pic!

People have been asking for this one forever!
Okay, I give in!
I lost the original but I've made it so many times that I think I can remember it.

1 package radiatore pasta (or shells, rotini, or penne)
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons parmesan
1 diced cucumber
1 diced tomato

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta while mixing all other ingredients in a large bowl.
Strain pasta under cold water to cool down.
Mix pasta in the bowl
Season with more herbs, ranch, or mayo as desired.

Chill for at least an hour.

Sprinkle with more parmesan before serving.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

5 Reasons Why Dave Mustaine is Sexy

I can't resist suggestive guitar poses. :)

As I'm wrapping up revisions on my heavy metal romance, temporarily titled, HIS ROADIE, I have sexy rock stars on the brain. And though the hero of my current project more resembles 90's Trent Reznor (more on him another time), I couldn't help looking back at my previous post on what makes a sexy hero and realizing how much the leading man of my favorite band, Megadeth qualifies.

So here's a list and demonstration of what makes Dave Mustaine yummy.

1.) His hair. 

Okay, I think that image is supposed to be a joke, but it's so true. That man has magnificent hair.

I mean look at it!!!

Seriously, LOOK AT IT!!!

I wish I could plunge my hands in those luscious locks.

Yes, I have a hair fetish. :) Anyway, moving on.

2.) He has passion, drive and determination.

For the non-metal-heads out there, Dave helped start a band you may have heard of called Metallica. He was the lead guitarist and wrote most of the music for their debut album, "Kill em All" as well as a significant chunk of "Ride the Lightning"

Anyway, due to multiple misunderstandings, (Btw, contrary to internet memes, James kicked Dave's dog, not the other way around) some warranted, others not, Dave was kicked out of Metallica and handed a bus ticket from New York to LA.

Instead of quitting, he started Megadeth, a band that has rivaled and ultimately surpassed Metallica since its creation in 1983. Both bands are now in the exalted "Big Four" in thrash metal. If you knew of all the first and only time members of famous bands that dropped into obscurity, you shall have an inkling of the magnitude of such an accomplishment.

And both have mended fences and are friends again.


3.) He is extremely talented. 

Dave Mustaine is one of the best guitarists in the world. Holy mother of metalness, he employs the most epic blend of shredding thrash, blues, jazz and classical riffs that I am overcome with awe.

He also holds black belts in Karate and Taekwondo.

So he LITERALLY kicks ass.

He's a brilliant lyricist who has a point: Example: "Luck deserted me and the truth beat out my brains. Men rise from steppingstones of themselves from higher things. I've stepped over lots of bodies on my way..." (From Youthanasia). I aced a short story citing the lyrics from that song.

And I believe he's a brilliant vocalist. Many disagree, including Dave himself. He never intended to sing. He only wanted to play guitar, but he has such passion, mischief, rage, and individuality in his voice.

Holy Wars gives me chills while Sweating Bullets just fills me with maniacal glee. (It takes awhile before you realize he's actually singing about something serious.)

4.) He's intelligent. 

I love how he went on CNN  to explain this album cover

The guy expected Dave to be a complete dumbass and was flummoxed when Dave explained everything more clearly than any CNN report. The only metal artist to beat him at that is Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. He turned the senate on its head here!

He also wrote the best memoir I've ever read...probably because he was smart enough to work with a good editor.

Dave's book surprised the hell out of me. For a guy who's notorious for being arrogant and short tempered, he displayed a shocking amount of humility, heart, and modesty.

5.) He REALLY gives a damn about his fans.

Megadeth was among the first bands that embraced the internet and actually interacted with their fans. Every live show he plays it is clear that his audience is his first priority. I am going to show a clip from Megadeth's 2005 performance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Holy crap you gotta see that crowd. And I especially get the warm fuzzies when he sings the chorus in Spanish for them. (During another song they sang in French for him.)

The joy and energy is mind blowing. And when I saw them perform in a tiny venue in Spokane during a low point in their career, that same joy and energy was there. Just WOW.

My husband's been to way more metal concerts than me and this still blows his mind.

This is why whenever I am sad, throwing on some Megadeth cheers me up.

Who are your favorite sexy rock stars?