Monday, July 30, 2007

Bum luck and blessings

Sorry--no beige jokes tonight.

It has been a long and busy and none-too fun week. It started with painting half the house beige or white (including covering over the chili peppers and kids' painted hand prints on the wall) and ended with the three-hour mad dash to totally clean a messy house in time for an surprise open house. We'd left the house Friday night with paint cans, paint splatters, three loads of junk to take to the dump, dirty bathrooms, etc. We thought we would have all day to clean, then we discovered at 9:30 am Saturday that our realtor had scheduled an open house at noon. Since she said the ad was in the paper, we hustled to get it done. By 1:00, we were just finishing up and she came in from where she'd been sitting in the front yard to apologize--the ad never went in the paper.

Our great luck did not end there--that evening, bringing two of the kids home from a birthday party, we got hit by a drunk driver. No one was hurt, thanks be to God, but Rob's car (2007 Honda Ridgeline with 2100 miles) needs a new back panel, wheel and alignment--possibly the frame straightened. All before we leave Monday morning. Somewhere in this time, we also need to get the tonneau put on so we can carry our junk.

So the beige jokes I was promising got tossed in with all the other junk I was trying to hurriedly get out of the house for the open house that wasn't, and in light of all the other stuff going on, from getting the car fixed to finding a new realtor, I haven't had time to dig them back out.

So what are my blessings? Our neighbors--wife, husband and kids--all pitched in to help clean up. we'd have never gotten it done if they hadn't. My mother-in-law helped repair and clean, and picked up the kids after the accident when the police took so long to arrive. When we were hit, one person in the neighborhood was already calling 911 to report the drunk driver and stuck around to make his statement to the police and make a copy for us. The EMT folks were there within minutes and stayed with the lady who hit us because they were afraid she was going to run. They came by every few minutes to check on us and reassure the kids. The accident happened on a residential street at a very low speed; had she not hit us, she would have turned onto a high-speed busy road and could have killed herself or someone else.

So tonight, I'm offering up a cyber-prayer of thanks to God for giving us such great friends and neighbors, for protecting us, and for making what could have been major tragedies into merely major annoyances.

BTW--for those who asked, Alex's arm is in a cast now and he feels much better. They think we can take it off when we get to Minot.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Light at the End of the Tunnel... Beige! House is painted, new carpet installed, yard work done, house half-cleaned, child in cast, and a whole slew of beige and realtor jokes have been thought up. I'll share those with your Tuesday, promise. In the meantime, we need to shut down the computers, pack up the last of our stuff and head over to Grandma's. Tomorrow, we finish cleaning our former dear home, and I kiss it good bye and declare it "That House We're Selling."

Anyway, Rob found a great article for those Catholics who wonder about evolution, science and faith:
One last thing: I'm celbrating because my mom, who was looking at heart surgery in August, has responded so well to her medication that they are waiting six months before re-evaluating her. She may not need surgery after all. God is so good!

Tuesday: Embracing Your Beige-ity!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Broken Arms and Billboards

Movers packed out everything yesterday. Then, in the evening, Alex fell of the back porch and broke his elbow! He's fine, but four hours in the hospital put a cramp in our schedule. Over the next 4 days we need to paint the house, clean the house, put in new appliances, and shampoo the carptes--all befor ethe Sunday open house!

Just in case anyone's reading this blog--and if you are, pray for Alex's elbow--here's a cut link Ken Pick (co-author of "Mask of the Ferret" in Infintie Space, Infinite God) sent me.

Billboards Discuss Church

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Robots and Movers!

Movers called and want to pack us out tomorrow instead of Monday! So, here's a cool article to read instead of my blog. I will say that I wish I could have one of these!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Dragon Story Won an Award!

Almost a year ago, I started writing a silly fantasy noir serial for the North Dakota Mensa publication, the Prairie Dawg. Shirley Starke, the editor, had done a translation for me for another Dragon Eye, Pi story, and we'd gotten to talking about Vern and Sister Grace and came up with the silly idea of the two chaperoning the Faerie at a Mensa convention. No heavy mystery, but a lot of fairy and Mensa in-jokes.

This year, even though it wasn't finished, Shirley entered it in the Mensa Publication Recognition Program contest. I got a rather..yellow..certificate of participation, so I figured nothing came of it.

Imagine my surprise when I received a trophy in the mail today! Stunned silence followed by much whooping and jumping and happy dancing!

It's funny the coincidences life brings your way. As it turns out, we're moving to North Dakota in 3 weeks, and I already have a friend and several acquaintances there thanks to the Prairie Dawg and MM&M. Also, It was such for to write, that I've novelized it and it may be my first Dragon Eye Mystery.

If I can ever find the cable for the camera, I'll put up a photo of the trophy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

To Tickle Your Funny Bone

The movers come the 23rd, and we have someone coming to look at the house today, and I have interviews to write for the August virtual book tour for Infinite Space, Infinite God. (Official announcement coming Tuesday.) In the meantime, here are a couple of things to tickle your funny bone.

2001 Things I'm No Longer Allowed to do in Role-Playing Game:

20 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity
(Thanks to my friend Rhonda for sending me this)

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

4.. Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Smuggling Diamonds"

7. Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy."

8. Don t use any punctuation

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat with a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."

12. Sing Along At The Opera

13. Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party Because You're Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won!, I Won!"

18. When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"

19. Tell your Children over Dinner: "Due to the Economy, We are Going to Have to Let One of You Go"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Websites and Presentation

Do you hate websites that are hard to read? Are you concerned yours is the same?

I've run across some great information about websites and presentations that I want to share. The first is a posting on the MuseOnline Yahoo group. (Incidentally, if you have not signed up for the MuseOnline Conference in October--DO IT! It's free and totally via the Internet.)The other is a hilarious video about PowerPoint presentations. It's parody and applies to speeches, but the principles are sound and apply to websites as well.

On Website Design, by Jan Verhoeff

I often have multiple pages up and music pulls band width, so when I pull up a site with music on the page - it slows my computer and I'll actually not stay as long if there's music on the page.

Another thing I absolutely hate is a bunch of motion on a page. Flashing lights belong on cop cars and Christmas trees.

If you want me to stay on your page long enough to see what it's about, use great copy and high quality graphics that capture my attention.

As a designer, I've learned that if the colors aren't pleasing and coordinated in some fashion, the page ultimately doesn't get the attention it deserves either. So be aware of the colors you select on a website.

If your colors are subdued don't splash in neon Yellows and Greens that slap your reader senseless.

Opposites on the color wheel compliment. Split complimentary is good for a tri-color scheme.

Focus on white space to rest the eye.

While a dark background with white lettering can be read, they eye strains to read it because it isn't "normal" so even if your page needs a reverse color appeal to stand out against the crowd, you might consider a white background inserted behind LARGE amounts of text. I rarely read dark mystery online because it is so difficult to focus on the black backgrounds. If it isn't something I value reading enough to copy and paste into a document, I struggle through a few lines and skip to the next page.

Those who spend a lot of time on the computer are significantly more aware of eye strain than others... so you might want to consider who your audience online will be.

Centered EVERYTHING on the page SCREAMS amateur and unless I find something in the first couple of lines that captures my attention I exit fast. This is another style that is extremely difficult to read.

Font sizes matter.

If the page is a professional page with business information, you'll want to stay in the 10 - 12 font size range (2 or 3 on some design formats). This also applies if you have a lot of text. In print, use a serif font, such as Times New Roman. Online use a block font - sans-serif, such as Arial or Verdana.

Save the large clunky text for headlines and sales letters.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER (did I say never?) write large amounts of script in ALL CAPS online. It is difficult to read, and feels like you're screaming at your reader.

(Think about how you felt reading the last paragraph even... )

Whether you write your website using style sheets or not, organize your pages into 'expected columns' to keep your reader from having to search for specifics.

~Primary site links across the top just under the header graphic or logo.
~Links on the Left.
~Body of text in the middle.
~Ads and Alternative content on the right.
~Banners, Ads, and Important Data lower on the page - center column.

When you use a banner across the header of your page - be sure you label the graphic with the title of your page and your most accessible keyword to maximize the SEO on your page.

Maximize keywords in the page (at least to a 3 - 6%) to optimize search engine placement of your pages.

NOTE: For more about web page development, be sure you've signed up for my ezine at because I'll be giving tips for site development all week this week in that ezine.


Video on PowerPoint "Tips"

Saturday, July 07, 2007

It Runs in the Family...

Today, my 13-year-old Steven took a "test" where he was shown some photo and asked to make a story about them. I have no idea what the evaluator will say about his answers, but as a writer and his mother, I was quietly rolling in the waiting room. (In fact, once I had to leave the building to laugh.) With his permission, I present you some of the snippets from Steve's storytelling. (And I'm sure anyone who knows me will know where he got it):

Picture (as described by Steven): A man and woman sort-of embracing. He has dark circles around his eyes. She has her hands on his sides. (I don't think he was hugging her back.)

Story: The man has been protecting something precious. A sacred artifact like the spear that pierced Jesus. Even though the girl is attractive, she wants to steal the spear. She's not hugging him. She's searching him.

Picture: Short man at an operation. There's a man on the operating table and surgeons around him. There's a gun in the picture.

Story snippet:
The midget is an assassin for a rival gang. He shot the guy dead, but they had to remove the bullet because the bullet has a spacial marking because the gang leader gave them to him. The operation was a success (Mom: I'm thinking, "even though the patient was dead..") but little did they know there was a secret eyewitness. The eyewitness told the police and they all went to jail.

Picture: Boy sitting in a cottage doorway in a thinking pose.

Steven: This boy has been grounded for eating all the cookies and he's thinking of a way to get out of it so he can go to his friends' bachelor party--no, slumber party...

One character was described as "works in a factory making Sunshade retractable awnings." The evaluator had to make him repeat that a couple of times slowly.

Another character was described as "a guttersnipe most of his life. He spent his time dodging the gangs who wanted to force him to do crimes, waiting in line at the temple for his daily bowl of soup, doing odd jobs, lemonade stands and such..."

One story ended with "Knott accidentally kills the wizard by taking it a little too far with the rage thing, so they get the reward for his head--literally. They bring back the wizard's head on a stick..."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Vacation Wrap Up

Hooray! Finally, we're on our way home from vacation. I'm typing this as we're doing our best to make it to St. Louis before quitting for the night.

We'd spent the last two weeks in Colorado. It was definitely a working vacation. Rob has a squadron commanders' course to attend at Peterson AFB, and I attended the squadron commander's spouses' course. My parents live in Pueblo, just south of Colorado Springs, so we stayed there and Grandma watched the kiddies while we went to the classes. The class was interesting; for us spouses, it was mostly about the different services on base that we can refer folks to should the spouse of the spouses of our husband's troops came to us with a problem.

On Sunday, we had a fundraiser book signing for our old Parish, St. Paul the Apostle of Pueblo West. The congregation had overflowed the parish building, and they have been trying to raise funds for a new church for nearly a decade. They have $2.5 million raised, but cannot begin construction until they raise 3.2 million. We sold every book we brought, which, even if it was a drop in the bucket, was still exciting. (Incidentally, if you'd like to contribute to a very worthy cause, please contact me and I'll send you information on how to help.)

The second week, Rob had the second part of his class, so I played with the kids, visited some old friends, and finished the manuscript for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem! This is my first novel in the Dragon Eye, PI universe, and I'm pretty excited about how it turned out. It's always fun when a character surprises you, and several of the Faerie decided to surprise me: Valkyrie Brunhilde falls in love; Coyote gives good advice. Vern considers becoming a Floridian "snowbird." Lots of laughs and of, course, twisted clichés. I've already read it to the kids. That's one of the great thrills of writing for me--reading my stories. My mom stayed up to listen, too. English is her second language, so she's not much of a reader, so that was an extra treat for me.

Rob prefers to drive, so I do a lot on car rides. I've been working hard on the interviews for my August virtual book tour, and am thinking of my next story. It's been a terrific vacation, but I'm glad to be home and ready to gear up for our next adventure--moving to Minot AFB, ND.

But that's another blog.