Sunday, October 31, 2010

Everything's okay

When I was out at my parents' house a couple of weeks ago, my mother asked me if I would hem up a pair of jeans for her. She said there wasn't any hurry, and I said I would, of course, thinking I would do them by hand, since I hadn't had my sewing machine out in forever. But I realized that I couldn't do them entirely by hand, I'd need to turn up the edge and sew it by machine so they wouldn't ravel, and I'd been putting it off.

Today I finally dug out the machine and set it up. I probably hadn't had it out in, I don't know, ten years? Maybe. I used to have a sewing station set up where my desk is now, but I put it all away. When I got it out today, I also got out a big box of fabric, some of which I'd cut up into quilt squares, and some that I'd already started putting together, and which I'd forgotten about. I used to do a little quilting--mostly decorative stuff--but sewing is so messy, really. To do it right you have to have a big table to lay things out and cut, and the only big table I have is the dining room table, and while I can't say that it's always cleaned off--it definitely isn't--I don't feel like I can leave a big cutting board on it indefinitely.

Before we left on vacation I had gone to JoAnn to get a circular knitting needle, and while I was there I saw that they had a bunch of Christmas fabric on sale, so I bought some, not really knowing what I was going to do with them, but I loved them, so I bought them anyway. I was thinking maybe some kind of quilt, so I bought a half yard each of about 6 or 7 prints. I know there's no way that I'll be able to sustain my interest long enough to make a full size quilt, but a little one would be doable. Or maybe some ornaments or something. Anyway, since the sewing machine is out, I'd better do something.

I bought a pattern for a sewing machine cover, so I might make that, and I bought a pattern for something that might be good for Christmas gifts, if I will actually do it. I have a lot of ideas that don't actually make it to fruition, but I suppose that's better than not having any ideas at all . . .

When Bob came home tonight he asked me what I did today, and I said I went to the library and returned some books, and got out the sewing machine and cleaned off the desk so I could set it up, and went to the craft store. He said, "I like it when you go to the craft store," and when I askd him why, he said, "because that's who you are, and when you do craft stuff, I know everything's okay."

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Books and yarn

We went down to Bennett Spring State Park for four days last week. I was delighted to have my first opportunity to go out of town with my Kindle, and I had a brand-new book to read--Connie Willis' "All Clear." "All Clear" is actually the second half of a book that was started in "Blackout," which was published earlier this year. I read "Blackout" when I was recovering from gallbladder surgery in March. "All Clear" isn't actually a sequel, it's actually the second half of the book. "Blackout" just stops, and "All Clear" just starts. It's as if Ms. Willis delivered a huge pile of pages, and the publisher divided them into relatively equal stacks and made each stack it's own book. I suppose "All Clear" could be read without having read the first part, but I wouldn't recommend it. Before I started it, I decided to go back and buy "Blackout" (I had read it as a library book) so I could read the last chapter or so before I started the new one.

The two books are set in Willis' time travel universe, the same one as "To Say Nothing of the Dog," that is, it is set both in 2060, and in the 1940's, i.e., World War II.

In this newest installment, three Oxford historians have traveled back in time to observe certain events of World War II in Europe--one to the Blitz, one to research heroism, and one to witness the evacuation of children. Their visits to London were supposed to be short-lived, but something happens, and none of them are able to get back home. There are supposed to be "drops" that open, doors back to their starting places, but they can't find the drops, and when they do find them, they won't open. All three begin to wonder if they may have affected history by their actions, and whether by doing so, they've marooned themselves in history forever.

I love Willis' writing, and I loved these books. They focused mostly on good, compassionate people, people who were brave and noble, and who thought of other people before themselves. I don't, as a rule, read historical fiction, but these are the exception, I suppose because the main protagonists are actually modern day people trying to fit in in a historical setting.

"Doomsday Book" is also one of the time travel novels, but this time the destination is (accidentally) Europe during the Black Plague. I would never have thought I'd enjoy this novel, but it's one of my favorites.

The picture above is of my "spot" while I was sitting on the bank of the river while Bob fished. My bag contained the Kindle, my knitting (you can see the scarf I was working on peeking out of the bag), my iPhone, my camera, a notebook and pen, and a knitting magazine. Oh, and hand cream and sunglasses -- all of the small things that are vital to me and that make my life happy. If I can just have a few books and some yarn, my life is pretty much complete. Well, and Bob, of course. That goes without saying.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When things work out

Last week, I got notice that I had sold an article about "Domain Name and Web Hosting Requirements" at Constant-Content, and I received an email asking if an author could quote a poem I wrote in a book she's writing about spirituality and knitting.

Monday was our wedding anniversary--34 years!--but we weren't really going to do anything special. We had just gotten back from a short vacation to Bennett Spring, and had eaten out every night, so Bob had suggested picking up Chinese food and eating at home, which was fine with me.

But then when I got home, he asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, if I could choose, I'd like to go get Mexican food, and I'd like a Margarita. So he asked me where I wanted to go, and I chose On the Border. We ordered our dinners, and a regular guacamole appetizer, but it turned out that they were out of guacamole and had to make a new batch. So instead of making us wait, the server came out to do their "Guacamole Live" where they build it at the table, and said that we wouldn't be charged extra for it. While she was making it, she was also making conversation, and she asked if we came there very often. I told her that we probably visit a couple of times a month, but we were there that night because it was our anniversary.

So when it came time for dessert, she said they were comping that, and they were also comping the guacamole, and when we got the bill, I think they must have comped the drinks as well, because it was a lot less than it should have been. It was a great night, and inexpensive. Oh, and when she brought out the dessert, she asked our names, and we thought they were going to sing (oh no), but she just made an announcement, and everyone in the restaurant stood up and clapped for us.

Then, on Tuesday I found a pair of jeans that I had forgotten I'd bought, and they fit! And on Tuesday I got an email from Lee Jeans that everything was half price, and they had those exact jeans, in the right size and color, for $20/pair, so I ordered 2 pair.

And what else . . . oh yeah. Today I got my Amazon royalty check for "Fallen Angel." It's not a lot, but every month I sell more copies--about 40 so far in October and around 100 in total--so I'm grateful for that. It's nice when things work out, even on a small scale.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What I've been reading

I've been enjoying setting up my Kindle, getting it loaded with all the books that I already owned, downloading lots of samples of books that I want to read--or might want to read--and just generally getting it set up the way I want. One thing I like about the actual Kindle as opposed to the Kindle app is that you can organize books in categories, or "Collections," as Amazon calls them. I currently have:

  • Currently Reading (2)
  • To Read (38)
  • Read (77)
  • Slushpile (172)
  • Reference (26)
  • Samples (39)

"Currently Reading, "To Read," and "Read" are pretty self-explanatory--although "To Read" is mostly made of of books that I've actually purchased and know that I want to read fairly soon. I have a lot of books that I downloaded for free that I don't really know whether I want to read or not--that's the "Slushpile." I couldn't think of a good name for it--does anyone have any better suggestions? I don't download every free book that's offered, but if it sounds like I might like it, I do. It's easy enough to delete them if I don't want them, after all.

"Reference" is dictionaries, the user guide, a Bible, and a bunch of knitting patterns that I converted to Kindle format. I had originally created a "Patterns" collection, but that forced the list of collections to go into two pages, and I didn't like that. (See: OCD) The reason the list is too long is that I also got a subscription to Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, and you can't put those into a collection, for some annoying reason. So the current edition stays on the homepage, and previous editions are saved into a "Periodicals: Back Issues" collection that is automatically created once you have more than one edition. And then there's the "Archived Items (119)" collection which is currently all the books that I'm pretty sure I don't care about, and that I haven't bothered to download.

So that means I currently have, or have immediate access to, 473 ebooks on the Kindle. That ought to keep me busy for awhile . . . About 5 years, I guess, if my current rate of reading continues, and of course, that doesn't take into account any new books.

I know I've mentioned Swagbucks here before. Since June 1, when I joined, through searching, a couple of online shopping awards, a few "special offers" and several referrals, I've earned about $150 worth of Amazon gift cards. And somewhere along the line I lucked into a medical focus group forum that pays in Amazon cards--$10/month plus an occasional $25 for a special project--so I haven't spent any "real" money in quite awhile. The gift cards give me free rein to buy pretty much what I want, although I still do spend quite a bit of time deciding what to buy.

There are a lot of good independent authors out there, and I've purchased quite a few books for a dollar or two; mine is one of those, of course! It's currently selling for $1.79, and I've sold something like 80 copies so far, which isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things, but as Bob says, "how many people do you know who've written a book and sold any copies?"

Lately I've been reading mostly paranormal, urban fantasy. I just finished the third book in a series that I consider the best thing I've read in a very long time. It's the "October Daye" series by Seanan McGuire. The first book is "Rosemary and Rue," the second is "A Local Habitation," and I just finished "An Artificial Night." The books center around October ("Toby") Daye, a changeling, that is, half human, half faerie, who lives in San Francisco. In the first book, Rosemary and Rue, she has only recently been released from a curse that caused her to spend 14 years as a goldfish. She's lost her husband and her child, and she's trying to stay away from magic. She works in a grocery store and tries to have a normal life. But she's pulled back into the magical world when a friend--a faerie--is murdered, and she has to find the killer or lose her own life.

I love Toby and all the secondary characters that populate the books. I've read a review that compares the books to the early Dresden files books by Jim Butcher, and the early Anita Blake novels, and I would have to agree. They have the same feel of a world just a little off kilter from ours, a place where, if you look hard enough, and know what to do, you can walk into another dimension, one populated by magical creatures that, in the end, aren't really all that different from ourselves. There are the aforementioned faeries, plus selkies, a sea witch, and a very interesting relationship with The King of Cats. She also has a couple of cats (Cagney and Lacey), plus a rose goblin, Spike--a cat-shaped and -sized creature made of thorns.

In the second book, "A Local Habitation," Toby has pretty much given up her hopes for having an ordinary life, and is working full time as a private investigator. She is asked to find the daughter of her liege, who owns a computer company, and who hasn't been returning his phone calls. Most of the action in the book takes place at the computer company, creating a "country house murder" of sorts.

Children are being kidnapped in "An Artificial Night," the third book in the series, and two of them are the children of Toby's good friends. Upon investigation, it turns out that the children were taken by Blind Michael, a figure from a children's nursery rhyme, and he plans to change them into either "riders" or "ridden," i.e., magical horses. This book is much darker than the previous two, I thought, and Toby finds herself in much greater danger, much of it self-imposed. She can't abide the thought of any children being in Blind Michael's control, so even though the quest seems suicidal, she has no choice but to try to rescue them.

I really love these books, I think they're wonderful. They're both fantasy and mystery, and both aspects are very well done. I had originally picked up "Rosemary and Rue" at the library, but loved it so much that I purchased it for the Kindle, too, so that I have all of the books on it. There are two more under contract, and at least three more to come. Late Eclipses will be released in March, followed by "One Salt Sea."

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