"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Huzzah to Her Majesty!

We all know I'm a total Anglophile in many ways, and although I need to be posting about the fantastically awesome new Stampin' Up! catalog that went live on Friday, June 1, I need to first honor one of the most fascinating and influential women of the 21st century, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 

While I have much "general living" to be done today and therefore cannot sit glued to the "telly" for the entire day, the TV is tuned to BBC America and the Thames flotilla. 

Today's BBC America programming is devoted to the Diamond Jubilee and is one of the few things that can yank me away from my usual Sunday guilty pleasure (David Venable in the kitchen at QVC).  Sorry, David, you are outranked by Her Majesty ;-)

The celebration of a life well-lived in the service of others is always appropriate, and the celebration of sixty years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II is perhaps grander in scale than most, however, we all can learn to make a difference in our own corners of the world, not to earn a flotilla and world-wide television coverage, but to feel the internal sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

It was pointed out earlier this week that Her Majesty attends 400 public events annually (and a year is only 365 days).  I don't have that type of energy now and I'm three decades younger!  No matter whether you are a Monarchist or have republican tendencies, you have to admit the pace she sets is awe-inspiring...if you don't believe me, take a look at this timeline.

So, three cheers to Queen Elizabeth II and thank you for being a steadfast example of service to your country and an inspiration to people everywhere.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Incoming In Colors!

Stampin' Up! has released the names of the 2012-2014 In Colors and they are so yummy!
  • Gumball Green (a clear green that looks fab for Christmas and St. Patrick's Day)
  • Midnight Muse (a wonderfully rich looking blue with a hint of gray)
  • Primrose Petals (a regal looking deep pink with a vintage air)
  • Raspberry Ripple (a dusky light burgundy with more red than brown)
  • Summer Starfruit (a perfect match to a ripe carambola)
The new 2012-2013 catalog starts June 1st and I can hardly wait!   I'll be placing a sneak-peek order tomorrow and will post about the wonderful new ink pad foam once my new In Colors are delivered.  There will also be a PDF of the catalog posted here June 1st, and if I can get my act together this month, I'll be posting a project or two here once my order arrives ;-)

In the meantime...the Retired products are selling fast so click over to my SU! website for some great buys!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Retired! Huge Changes Coming for Stampin' Up!

The annual Retired Lists posted this week for Stampin' Up! merchandise and there are lots of changes coming--I'm so excited!

First of all, tomorrow is the last day to order from the Occasions Mini:

Some of these products may reappear in the new catalog June 1, 2012, but there is no guarantee, so if you've waited until the last minute, it's time to order now ;-)

Speaking of the new catalog--lots of changes are coming to the way Stampin' Up! catalogs will appear.  Some lines--Simply Adorned and Decor Elements are leaving for good.

Lots of the holiday oriented merchandise will now appear in the newly-expanded Holiday Mini coming August 1.  There will also be another expanded Spring Mini from January to May 2013.  So the annual catalog may seem a bit smaller, but the seasonal catalogs will be larger and last longer--what a great way to help us stretch our stamping dollars!

The new annual catalog, instead of starting July 1 will be available June 1!  Yes, that means the current IB&C will actually end a month early on May 31--and here are the Retired Lists--this merchandise will be available only while supplies last

When you see the list, please don't panic--all the wonderful colors (except for the 2010-2012 In Colors) are staying--but the Classic Ink Pads will now come in a great new reformulated pad that will give you even better, clearer stamped images!  The matching markers will still be available in all our exclusive colors; however, starting June 1, only certain markers will be available singly--the rest will be sold only in color families.

I'm SO excited about the changes--and I'll have more info available throughout May (and I'll be sure to announce the five new 2012-2014 In Colors as soon as I can--I'm on pins and needles waiting until they tell us the color names)!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

FOCUSing on Social Media

Remember how I said my word for the year was "FOCUS"?  Well, between my day job and my part-time job as a Stampin' Up! demonstrator, I am trying to learn more about social media.  Marketing my SU! business more effectively would be wonderful, but the main reason for studying the various platforms out there is because once my novel is ready for publication, I will need to market both the book and myself. 

I'm preparing to attend my first-ever writer's conference in May, and the classes cover both the writing aspects and the publishing/marketing aspects of being an author.  Since my novel is still unfinished, my focus for this conference will be classes on craft; however, I would be totally remiss if I refused to take any class on the use of social media for authors.

I've posted here before that I don't have a Facebook page or a Twitter account and some of my reasoning behind the decision of not participating in those forms of social media.

Face it, I'm not always the greatest at keeping a schedule with this blog, and I am ashamed of that fact.  It's not that I have nothing to say (my friends will attest I am seldom quiet LOL), but I feel I have too many things I want to share. 

For instance--I managed to cover several notebooks lately, but haven't found the time to get out the camera, take the pictures, crop and edit the pictures, and then post them here.  They are really pretty--I'm not ashamed of my work--and yet they still sit at the table awaiting a post.

I wanted to post something for St. Patrick's Day, and the first day of spring.  On both occasions, once I was off work, general living took precedence over the blog.  Looking back--I haven't posted since my March 1st rant--so we can see no focus on social media here :-(

There are several books I have finished this month that need to be added to my 100-book challenge at Goodreads and also need to be listed here (preferably with reviews)...

Anybody else see a pattern here?  How could I reasonably expect to interact with multiple social media platforms if I cannot even  stay consistent with this personal blog?  So, until I learn more discipline and begin to focus more on improving this platform, I choose not to string myself out any further.

Baby steps...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time Warp or The WABAC Machine? Childhood Memories and Fear of the Future

The WABAC Machine

I started to write a Leap Year post on February 29th and then found myself overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and disjointed disappointments.   WARNING:  Part of this post is my memory of my past, but some is a rant brought on by the news feeds of the day.  Feel free to (respectfully) disagree with me, but I hope what you read will at least make some folks stop and think...

I never read the sports section, but was drawn into a headline regarding Darrell Royal, the legendary football coach for the University of Texas during my youth.  As a die-hard SMU fan (and former student at that school), Darrell Royal was not someone I appreciated at the time, but looking back, he taught many young men wonderful life lessons like, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."  His family has now started the Darrell K. Royal Fund for Alzheimer's Research.  Hearing that he no longer remembers his long career in football is heartbreaking.  May a cure be found for this dread disease soon...

But as heartbreaking as Alzheimer's is, the thought that we are collectively--as a country--suffering historical forgetfulness is scaring the hell out of me.  The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said it much better than I can:
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Why do I feel that way?  Look what shows up on today's news feeds--yet another attack on our President--a federal judge forwarding e-mails to buddies that disparage Barack Obama's parentage and an Arizona sheriff continuing to denounce the Hawaiian birth certificate...come on folks--just admit your racial prejudice and move on.  Attack his political record as President and I will listen, but attacking any human being for his race, sex, religion????  Does anybody really read the Constitution or the New Testament any more--and I mean read for yourself the entire document, not just listen to soundbite versions???????

Speaking of attacks based on sex, Rush Limbaugh is now equating the use of birth control pills with prostitution??????  The same pills are prescribed for multiple health issues today, unlike (dare I say it?  Yes, I do) male enhancement drugs which are covered routinely by health insurance.  Margaret Sanger must be spinning in her grave as we say here in the South.  Despite some of her racist attitudes, her American Birth Control League philosophy gave hope to women that they would no longer be seen as nothing but mothers  (I see nothing here about using birth control equals being a prostitute) :

"We hold that children should be (1) Conceived in love; (2) Born of the mother's conscious desire; (3) And only begotten under conditions which render possible the heritage of health. Therefore we hold that every woman must possess the power and freedom to prevent conception except when these conditions can be satisfied."
And I won't even start on all the new voter's registration restriction laws being passed throughout the country that are no more than thinly disguised poll taxes designed to restrict the electorate...

Lordy, it's beginning to feel I've warped back to the late 50s and early 60s.  These are the same civil rights my heroes struggled, marched and fought for--and we are struggling all over again...thank the Creator we are living longer so even us Baby Boomers can continue the fight for equal rights for all Americans!

Whew.  Breathe, Linda, breathe.  Before I let my blood pressure go through the roof at the insanity taking place as we slip and slide backwards, I will close with a pleasant memory of my girlhood:

My first crush, Davy Jones, died yesterday of a heart attack.  He was only 66 (just a decade older than me).  I still remember owning his solo album for Colpix Records (now unavailable) when he was called "David Jones", and his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show as the Artful Dodger...

Yes, I loved The Monkees on TV (Mike Nesmith is a Texas icon), but Davy had it all--the great height (I'm short LOL), the hair, the accent, the smile--they were (and still are) wonderful performers.  RIP, Davy, while you sing with the angels.  Thanks to you, Mickey, Peter, and Mike for all the wonderful memories of simpler times.

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day, a celebration of reading that is a part of UNESCO (soon be followed by World Book Night on April 23, 2012).  Hooray for reading!  Whether physical books or e-reads, reading is the most frugal way I continue my education, plus the cheapest entertainment I know (I subscribe to both the Kindle Daily Deal and the NOOK Daily Find since I have both a Kindle and the NOOK Tablet, so I find new reading for very little cost).  Paperback Swap is still a favorite place to find great books, and I cannot say enough about my wonderful local library.

I have a TBR mountain of physical books, plus loads on I-Books, Kindle, NOOK, and let's not forget Audible, LOL.  My 2012 Reading list is already way too full, but I am enjoying the challenge of working thru mystery, fantasy, history, politics, self-help, current events--you name it.  Outside of sports, childcare, horror and a few other genres, I read a bit of everything, and encourage others to do so as well. 

Do you enjoy reading?  What genres?  Have you succumbed yet to e-reading?  Do your children enjoy reading?  I cannot imagine a life without the written word...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras!

I didn't live in New Orleans long enough to experience a Mardi Gras parade as an actual attendee, but I certainly got caught up in the feverish excitement along Canal Street and throughout the French Quarter.  When I started my novel, I was somewhat surprised to find out that there was seemingly no Mardi Gras celebration during the Civil War, since the first krewe, Mystick Krewe of Comus, was established in 1857.

The colors of Mardi Gras are Purple (for Justice), Gold (for Power), and Green (for Faith).

Other areas of the world acknowledge today as Shrove Tuesday and instead of king cake, the food of the day is pancakes...

Want more info on Mardi Gras in New Orleans?  I've no affiliation with this site, but Mardi Gras Unmasked has some wonderful info in an engaging fashion on a crisp, clean site ;-)

"Laissez les bons temps rouler!"  (Let the good times roll)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire"

(all due props to Johnny Cash for the post title above--it's a great song)

I have seriously needed some escapism lately, and as much as I love studying the Civil War, I also needed a break from research, so I've time-traveled back to 1632-1634 courtesy of Eric Flint and his phenomenal Ring of Fire series of alternate history during the Thirty Years' War.

1632 starts the series (and many volumes are long enough for the Chunkster Challenge if you are looking for great, long reads).  Although I read this about a decade ago, when I decided to read other books in the series, I realized that the old memory was a bit faulty with some of the characters and I needed to start from scratch to really enjoy this alternate universe.  Basically--to prevent spoilers--a group of West Virginia miners end up in the German States in 1632, and boy howdy, do Americans have a different idea of how to treat people than the Europeans in the seventeenth century LOL.  It was a totally rollicking read this time around as well--I still give it 5 stars out of 5!  And since the book itself (not counting the author's afterword) is 592 pages, it definitely counts as a chunkster :-0

This is my second-favorite time travel series after the beloved Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, so when I finished 1632, I dove straight into 1633.  Eric co-wrote this book with David Weber, another wonderful sci-fi author, and before the afterword, 1633 is 665 pages of purely delightful escapism fiction for any reader who enjoys history, politics, war, adventure, fantasy and romance all smashed together into a fast-paced storyline (another 5 stars out of 5).  By this time, the setting is the United States of Europe (and no, that is not a typo)...

I'm still engrossed in the Ring of Fire universe, but once we get to the year of our Lord 1634, the universe breaks into multiple books in separate locations with concurrent stories.  The final book I'll list here for now is 1634: The Baltic War.  Somehow, I ended up kinda out-of-order on 1634 by publication date, I think, but since the timeline coincides with events occurring in 1634: The Galileo Affair, I suppose it matters not which of the two gets read first. 

Just a warning--from this point forward, the list of characters (both historical/factual and fictional) increases tremendously, as do the settings.  The maps and charts thoughtfully provided by Flint and his co-authors help, but the reading necessarily slows in order to fully absorb nuances.  I'm still enjoying the series--The Baltic War gets a solid 4.75 stars--but I do feel that this book was a bit wordier than possibly necessary; some scenes could possibly be edited a bit tighter.  On the other hand, it is another chunkster, weighing in at 718 pages (not counting maps, genealogical charts, and a character list).

Since I want these to count for the Chunkster Challenge, so far I'm reading the series in either paperback or hardcover (I already own these four and several more--this is a keeper series for me).

I'll be back soon with a review of The Galileo Affair...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sale-A-Bration Starts Today!

Stampin' Up! has a super-duper sale each year called Sale-A-Bration--an opportunity to be rewarded with free products.  Earn a free item for each $50 in purchases (including from our Occasions Mini and the Clearance Rack).  This sale only runs until March 31, 2012 so check it out soon for your Spring crafting needs!

And if you have been waiting to order the 2010-2012 In Color items, don't wait much longer...our catalog year is changing.  The current Idea Book & Catalog will be ending a month earlier than originally scheduled as we are lengthening the time frame for our Mini Catalogs later this year (and making them bigger as well!)

These are exciting changes, but it does mean early retirement for Blushing Bride, Concord Crush, Peach Parfait, Pear Pizzazz, and Poppy Parade :-0

On the other hand, the 2012-2014 In Colors will be available in June (and I can hardly wait to find out what they are)!

The Occasions Mini ends April 30, followed by the current Idea Book & Catalog on May 30 (rather than June 30).  The new Annual catalog will begin June 1, and will be valid thru May 31, 2013.  Our Holiday Mini will be released August 1, 2012 and run until January 2013 (concurrent with the Annual catalog).  Confused?  Please don't be--I'll post more details as they are available.  For now, enjoy earning free product with purchase during Sale-A-Bration!

Friday, January 20, 2012

One O'clock Jump by Lise McClendon - finished 1/17/2012. EB, HM. 3 stars

I really wanted to like this book.  I love the time frame (WWII), I love Kansas City, I love historical mystery, I love swing music, I love (most) cozy mysteries...but this book just cannot rate over 3 stars with me.

So, the question is--what did I not like?  Why only 3 stars (and that's generous)?  Maybe too many secondary characters that really contribute nothing to the plot but take up space.  Now, this is the first of a series, so who knows--could they take a bigger role in later books?  Perhaps, but why not introduce them at that time instead of having them walk in and out of scenes for no apparent reason?

I understand red herrings, and I think I "get" the reason to have characters interact enough to get a sense of the good guys versus the bad guys, but some scenes seemed unnecessary for the book--I don't want to post spoilers, but some of Dorie's "dates" felt like filler to me--like when we would write a lot of description (in big, loopy handwriting) in school to pad our word count or page count.

Don't get me wrong--this is not a bad book.  The main characters are somewhat interesting, although they each seem to suffer from a neurosis of one kind or another.  It seems all have something troubling in their past or something they wish to hide.  I was caught up enough in the mystery that I wanted to finish it to see "whodunit".  I may read the second Dorie Lennox, Sweet and Lowdown,  to see if the series improves, but I don't have the overwhelming desire to jump straight from one to the other like I do with other series.  And I'm quite glad it was a Kindle read because I certainly would not want it on my keeper shelf.

I did actually learn a lot from reading this book.  I learned my novel-in-progress has too many extraneous characters who take up space but don't help advance the plot...and that inserting either factual history or back story needs to be done very carefully to prevent the "big, loopy handwriting" syndrome.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big?

Okay...I've been an abject failure at the 100 Books Reading Challenge for two years in a row.  But I have read chunksters both years--actually, many of my favorite authors write books big enough to hurt you if you drop them on a bare toe (the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, anyone?)

So, in an effort to "FOCUS" my reading this year, I'm not signing up for multiple challenges.  Here's my only reading challenge for 2012:  The Chunkster Reading Challenge.  I'm going for the "Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big?" level, because I have several huge non-fiction tomes to read this year regarding the Civil War (as well as Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, The Scottish Prisoner by the aforementioned Ms. Gabaldon, and Rebels and Traitors by Lindsey Davis, and several volumes of the Wheel of Time series started by the late Robert Jordan and being completed by Brandon Sanderson).

I'll keep everyone posted on my progress and my 2012 Reading page will always denote which books count for this challenge.  If you love to read "big" books, come on over and join us! One note:  E-reads and audiobooks are not allowed unless a disability requires the use of adaptive devices (the rules are posted over at Chunkster, along with a great list of "big" books).

Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the reader who can't resist bigger and bigger books and wants to commit to SIX Chunksters from the following categories: 2 books which are between 450 - 550 pages in length2 books which are 551 - 750 pages in length2 books which are GREATER than 750 pages in length (for ideas, please refer to the book suggestions page for some books which fit into these categories).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King--What Would He Think of Politics Today?

(Warning--I'm getting political here, so if you want to skip this post, feel free.)

I love history, so I watch politics closely.  I'm a native Texan in my fifties, so I remember the Civil Rights movement, although I was too young to join in and my parents, staunch supporters of Governor George Wallace, would have murdered me if they had known I did not agree with their white supremacy (it was bad enough when I insisted George McGovern would be a better President than the aforementioned Governor Wallace).

As a student of the Civil War (1862 is the time frame for my novel-in-progress), watching South Carolina and other states try to revise voter rights and listening to Governor Rick Perry and others advocate states' rights makes me sometimes wonder if I have not traveled back in time to either the 1950s or worse yet, the 1850s. 

Maya Angelou, the noted poet, playwright, and civil rights activist, once said, "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." 

Karl Marx, the German philosopher, was once quoted regarding history:  "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." 

George Bernard Shaw, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature, had this sage comment on history:  "If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience."

Something tells me we are walking a tightrope between "doing what is right and doing what is easy" (that's Albus Dumbledore talking to Harry Potter after Voldemort's return).

There's no problem in my mind with states' rights, as long as the state does not marginalize its citizens on the basis of race, age, sexual orientation or religion (I am talking legal citizens here, whether born in the USA or naturalized--I'll save my thoughts on immigration for a future post).  HOWEVER--If the premise for removing government from the federal level and returning it to the states is a ploy to revoke our individual rights as human beings, I fear a regression in our country back to the days of "separate but 'equal'"(?), "Irish (or whoever) need not apply", back-alley abortions, health care only for the rich--okay, I need to stop now--if you have read this far, you see my point (even if you don't agree).

So, on the legal holiday celebrating the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I suggest we all take a long hard look at where we as a nation have come from and which direction we wish to move towards.  For me, personally, I choose to move forward, not backwards.

(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., in 1963. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Honored By One of My Mentors

Liebster, in German,means "darling" or "beloved" but I gather that in the blogging world, it is an award given from one small blogger to another in an effort to spread friendship, knowledge, and readership.  I couldn't find the exact start of the tradition, but receiving this award is an honor.  It evidently is designed to be passed to bloggers with less than 200 followers and since I currently have less than 20, I feel even more Blessed to have been chosen.

My crafting mentor over at GottHeartArt for some unknown reason decided today to honor my blog.  Beverly, I appreciate the thought very much.  Watching you develop your blog and enter challenges and become a member of various design teams has been a true inspiration to me.

By accepting this award, I am to link back to Beverly's blog and thank her for choosing me. Now, I need to choose five other bloggers I follow who each have under 200 followers and provide them with their own Liebster.  I follow about fifty blogs on different subjects (although I tend to lurk on virtually all of them), and some bloggers I follow choose not to accept or pass on these types of awards.  I've tried to choose bloggers who have not published that restriction on their blog, but if any of my awardees choose not to pass this on, please know I have chosen you for your inspiration and there are no strings attached.
  1. Sue at random.on purpose.  Inspiring crafting and more inspiring thought process.  She posts on many different topics and is truly a Renaissance soul.
  2. C. W. Gortner at Historical Boys: Historical Fiction for Men and Women.   This is a great blog for readers of historical fiction--lots of guest posts from authors of the genre.
  3. Kim at Jenkins Journal.  This is a super Stampin' Up! blog, and Kim barely makes it under the 200 followers wire (she's at 198 right now, LOL).
  4. Neet, Von and Zoe at Just for Fun.  A UK-based artsy challenge blog with tons of inspiration (all three ladies also have individual blogs that are cool to read too).
  5. Suzanne at The British are Coming, Y'all!  Not only does Suzanne write fantastic historical mysteries set during the American Revolution, but she also hosts other writers who discuss relevant history.
These five blogs are only some of my favorites and are listed in no particular order.  I'd love to honor more bloggers--writers, crafters,  historians, cooks, readers--check out the blogs listed on my sidebars if you want to see the many paths my mind travels (that is, if you enjoy eclectic LOL)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Making of A Royal Romance by Katie Nicholl - finished 1/10/2012. PB, NF. 4 stars

This is the updated edition of William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls, revised to include the courtship of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, but still released before the wedding plans were even finalized.  It was a quick read; the author has followed the two Princes for many years and presented a pretty straightforward biography of both young men.

I'm an unabashed Royal watcher and was in the mood for something akin to comfort food.  For me, biographies often fit that bill better than mysteries because with a mystery, I'm having to think to follow the plot, whereas with a biography, I can simply sit back and learn.  This volume fit that need fabulously.

Silver Lies by Ann Parker - finished 1/7/2012. EB, HM. 4.5 stars

#1 in series--SilverRush Mysteries
It's 1879 and Colorado, especially Leadville, is booming with miners and the necessary commerce surrounding a silver rush.  Inez Stannert and her partner Abe Jackson are still running the Silver Queen saloon despite her husband having deserted both his marriage and the business.

As the town's businessmen try to civilize the region enough to bring in the railroad (and also consolidate their own power), the seedier side of human nature flourishes where it is least expected. Ann Parker writes very well developed characters.  Their pasts are parceled out only as necessary and the female characters (especially Inez) may be strong-willed and independent, but don't come across as 21st century women in petticoats.  I look forward to revisiting Leadville's residents because their actions are indeed true to the time frame.

Likewise, the portrayal of Leadville and the silver rush was well researched and Ms. Parker manages to educate without taking the reader out of the story.  I appreciate the sources she lists at the end so that I can read more about Leadville.

New Orleans Ghosts by Victor C. Klein - finished 1/6/2012. PB, NF. 4 stars

A slim volume but lots of info on the ghostly happenings in the New Orleans area; good bibliography and written with enough skepticism on the paranormal to present a balanced viewpoint.  Got this thru Paperback Swap and I believe there are updated editions available if you search.  I'm using it for background color for my novel (and will credit it accordingly).

2012 Reading Page--Revisiting The Idea

Talk about getting ungainly and out-of-control quite quickly--I've only read three books this year and the posting of those reviews onto a separate blog page has already become unwieldy and unattractive.

Somehow, I was hoping that each separate "page" on this blog could have individual posts just like the home page.  After studying the (sometimes honestly confusing) Blogger Help pages, it seems that each blog page is designed for static information.  Therefore, adding book reviews as each book is read rather defeats the purpose because if I don't want to scroll downward constantly, how could I expect my visitors/followers to do something I'm unwilling to do?  LOL

So let's revisit the idea.  Using my word of the year--FOCUS--I will re-focus that page into a simple listing of the books I read this year.  Before it gets any crazier on that page, I will move the actual reviews onto my home page as separate posts (which will also allow for each to get labelled appropriately--another way to FOCUS information).  I can also add cover photos at times with direct links (and no, this blog is still not monetized--whenever possible, the links will go directly to the author's website and you can choose purchase options from there).

I hope this makes more sense for you dear readers, because it certainly will be easier and more sensible for me.  As always, feedback is welcome.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Year and New Reading Goals

Since my reading the past few years has not met the massive challenges I have joined for 100+ books, I've decided to not publicly humiliate myself by setting my 2012 reading goals that high again. 

I read a lot--especially while researching the Civil War for my novel-in-progress.  I also read a lot on the art/craft of writing.  Much of this reading is piecemeal--magazine articles or certain chapters from various texts.  As an example--I currently have seven partially read Civil War books and five writing guides all in various levels of completion and I work back/forth and between them as I need the particular chunk of information.  So, these are not yet added to my "Books I've Read" pile on Paperback Swap because they aren't yet finished...yeah, I know, I'm an obsessive-compulsive nerdy geek LOL (and let's not talk about the software manuals I am currently wading thru since upgrading to Office 2010 and Windows 7).

So, I'm doing something new with my TBR mountain and reading list/book reviews this year.  Let's see how this works (and I'd love feedback either now or later on as the year progresses).  I'm adding a new page to my blog for my 2012 Reading.  As I start a book, I'll add it to the list.  As I finish it, I'll add a review (or at least a star rating).  If I post a review on Goodreads, Paperback Swap, Amazon, or anywhere else--and if that review is not a copy/paste of what I post here--then I'll add a link to the review.

Although I think the definitions I use are pretty standard among readers/writers, here's a quick glossary of my (personal favorite) acronyms:
  • DNF - Did Not Finish: this seldom happens for me and I always give a book 100+ pages before giving up on it, but if I rate something DNF, I'd rather have surgery without anesthetic than finish this book--YMMV so I will always give specific reasons why I could not read to the end
  • YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary: most people's opinions and tastes are quite different from mine, so please remember that I am only expressing my opinion and I'd love civilized discourse if you have a different experience with an author/title/genre
  • CTT - Crime Thru Time: not only is this a great website devoted to historical mystery as a genre, but there is a very active Yahoo Group associated with the site.  Members are both readers and writers and my membership there is one reason I have a TBR mountain rather than a TBR pile LOL.  If you love historical mystery, come join us!
  • TBR - To Be Read: these are books I currently own, either as an e-book (and I'm trying hard to purchase more of these, especially for pleasure reading) or as a physical tome.  My master lists of these are on Paperback Swap and my Kindle account and I try to keep the lists current to keep from buying duplicates unawares (some books I have in both formats for a reason, and some I also have on Audible so I can listen while doing other things).
  • HM - Historical Mystery; HF - Historical Fiction: I read a lot of both, but since some readers enjoy one but not the other, I will always try to note which genre a title fits into best (IMHO)
  • IMHO - In My Humble Opinion: an alternate for YMMV
Since this post has become a novella in itself, I'll post my system for assigning stars soon.  And once I learn how, I'll try to link this post to my 2012 Reading page as a reference (guess I'm pulling out the "Google Blogger for Dummies" guide again LOL).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Occasions Mini Catalog is Now Available!

Find the Mini as a PDF here
I placed a preview order on Sunday and am anxiously awaiting a few of the goodies from the Occasions Mini catalog, especially the You're My Type stamp set and the Labels Collection Framelits Dies.  I have some new notebooks just waiting for that typewriter to be stamped on the front LOL.  The Framelits will really have me giving my Big Shot a workout, and you can look forward to seeing many of these products in the next few months (if I intend to send Valentines to my office mates, I need to get started on the design...I'm considering using the Candy Conversations stamp as a starter; what do you think?)

And although the Clearance Blitz is over, there are still some great deals to be had on the Clearance Rack including a lot of the retired whale-style punches (while supplies last).  My online Stampin' Up! store is available here for shopping 24/7.

Readers and Book Lovers Unite!

Just saw this on my January Goodreads newsletter:  World Book Night 2012

On April 23, 2012, readers in the US can hand out free books to encourage others to read!  Thanks to the generosity of publishers, authors, bookstores, libraries and others, thirty different titles of various genres and reading levels will be provided to volunteers free of charge to distribute.

I know my metropolitan area has homeless shelters, orphanages, nursing homes, bus and train stations, and many other places where people may get lots of attention during holidays but not so much at any other time of year.  Stopping by after work for a few minutes on a Monday night to hand out a few books to people who might need the escapism that reading offers seems like a slam dunk way to pay it forward for those of us who love the written word.

Some of the titles are:
  • young adult fiction (The Hunger Games--soon to be a major motion picture)
  • non-fiction (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks)
  • memoir (Just Kids--winner of the 2011 National Book Award)
  • mystery (Q is for Quarry)
  • science fiction (Ender's Game--won both the Hugo and Nebula)
I'm grateful I was encouraged to read--it has enriched my life for over fifty years.  Who taught you your love of books?  I challenge you to join in World Book Night 2012 to honor that person or persons in your life who helped you become the reader you are...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Word of the Year = FOCUS

Main Entry: focus  
Function: intransitive verb
: to concentrate attention or effort -- "she was already focusing on her next role"
"focus." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged
Merriam-Webster, 2002. 
http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (1 Jan. 2012)

The last 56 years have taught me that I am not a person who needs to make a lot of New Year's resolutions (see yesterday's post to understand some of the reasons why).  I do need to set yearly goals or guidelines so that I'm not floundering around willy-nilly for the next 365 days.  When I recently read somewhere of the idea that a single word could help me concentrate my efforts, I decided my word for 2012 would be "FOCUS".

In 2012, I want to focus on:
  • My Blessings more and my disappointments less
  • Creating items, not collecting supplies--even though the new Stampin' Up! Occasions Mini that starts January 4th is the best Mini ever, and 2012 Sale-A-Bration begins on January 24th, LOL
  • Shrinking my TBR mountain, not increasing it--and as I complete a book, I want to post reviews in appropriate places
  • Writing more and researching less--the first TGAN draft needs to be completed by July
  • Blogging more consistently--this blog will continue its multiple purposes (crafting, writing, and my life in general)
  • Networking more with other writers
  • Eating healthy foods in smaller portions
  • Increasing my retirement savings as I decrease my debt
And now a caveat for my readers:  2012 is an election year in the United States, and my friends know I'm a political junkie.  So far, I have kept politics off this blog primarily because I feel the election cycle has become way too drawn out.  Although I will try to maintain a balance here, part of learning the art of focus means also that I must be even more true to my inner self than I have been in the past.  Hopefully, any discussion occurring here as a result of a post will be respectful and calm.  I do reserve the right to edit or delete comments containing any form of hate speech or excessive expletives.  I don't expect all my readers to agree--I do expect them to be respectful of others' opinions.

I may or may not post specific goals as the year progresses, but I will keep track of my need to focus on the subjects listed above.  Do you have a focus for 2012?