Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rock the Chalk

Downtown Iowa City

Erin and the granddaughters and I had a “girls’ day” in Iowa City the other day. Iowa City is the home of The University of Iowa and the Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s a college town, and college towns are famous for showcasing our freedoms of personal expression.

One of the things we did was attend an event called Rock The Chalk. Several streets in downtown Iowa City were blocked off for individuals or teams of 2 or 3 to create chalk art right there on the street. 

The granddaughters love chalking and we thought they might like seeing some chalk art. We were hoping they would maybe get a chance to chalk for themselves.

This guy drew his company logo. There were several business and non-profit chalk art advertisements.

This young man created a chalk portrait of his nephew. At first it almost looked like a photograph.

And this one was a self portrait. (I have no idea if it really looks like that guy or not! I just liked the colors in it.)

The fish (bass???) and hawk were so cool. Every serious artist had a small grid-drawing of the piece they were creating in chalk.

Blue Hummingbird Chalk Art
Above is a Zentangle. The creators were part of a Iowa City park and rec Zentangle Art Club. They were impressed that I knew their creation was a Zentangle. They invited me to join them on Friday mornings!

The People's Choice was this puppy-dog curled up for a nap. His hair looked so realistic!

Of course, these two are my favorite artists. The community art square was a hit with all the kids.  Many of the creations by the little kids mimicked what they'd seen. It was cool knowing they were inspired by the art they saw. 

We had a great time! Rock the chalk indeed. Thanks Iowa City!

Go ahead. Step out in your community. You never know what you might find!

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself,


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Silent Corner, by Dean Koontz- A Review Sort Of...

Image courtesy of
Google from Amazon
The first Dean Koontz book I read was By the Light of the Moon, published in 2002. I’m not a big fan of horror, guts, or gore so the fact that this book captured my attention is strange enough in and of itself. 

And the book is even stranger.  Here’s the gist:

It begins with a “mad scientist/doctor” injecting a serum into unsuspecting strangers. He tells them, while they’re tied up, ‘Either you’ll die (from the injection) or you and your world will become astounding.’ 

Well the characters, of course, do not die. (Else no book, right?) They gain some super-human skills from the serum injection that the bad guys are willing to kill them over. (They already off'd the doc.) 

My favorite character in this book is the autistic adult (yet younger) brother of the main character. Unbeknownst to big brother, little brother has also been injected and gains the ability to time travel, which he calls Folding. Their brother-to-brother conversations are charming and take the edge off my “nervous scardy” for a little while.

The Silent Corner, by
Dean Koontz
Fast forward fifteen years. Today I just finished our book club pick, The Silent Corner, recently released by Dean Koontz. FBI agent, Jane Hawk, (Koontz’s newest hero) is searching for some answers. The untimely death of her husband and many other unlikely victims have caused Jane to “go rogue” from the Agency.

This story is scary, not because of zombies, evil spirits, aliens, or supernatural events- there is none of that in this book- but instead because of its possibility of being very, very real.

Point number one: The “dark web” is in this story. – Just this week on the national news a report from Italy about a young female model being abducted and nearly sold into human trafficking ON the dark web. It’s a real thing with real bad dudes. *

 A nanobot on a blood cell. Image courtesy of Google.
Point number two: Nanotechnology plays a prominent part in this book. -Also real. Science, technology, and medicine all wrapped into one. Its implications are nothing short of miraculous. Little machines in our bodies that fight cancer or brain tumors or whatever. Machines the size of molecules. **  

Except in The Silent Corner nanotechnology takes a horrible turn. Bad guys are using the technology to alter the human brain. Make people do what they wouldn’t do.  All sorts of shit hits the fan.

Image courtesy of Google.
As a writer myself, I loved several things Mr. Koontz did in this story. First, every story worth its salt has a protagonist that has a need. Check.
Also, every major character has a back story that motivates what they do. Check. 
Good stories don’t have random characters that  do nothing to move the story forward. Check. (Homeless guy on page 34 becomes a player later in the story.) 
And, finally; Beautiful language does not a story make. Tell the story and the language will emerge. Like this: 

“ Together…they ascended on foot through a meadow carpeted with a variety of grasses and decorated with formations of chaparral lily in early bloom. Rabbits dining on sweet grass hopped away from them or sat up on their hindquarters to watch them pass. Cicadas sang, and orange butterflies with narrow dark margins on their wings took flight.”

Poetic, huh? I can see it, feel it. I know where the characters are. Oh, and I know all hell is about to break loose soon. (Shout out to Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius. Click here to read my post about this book.) 

Inside the book jacket of
The Silent Corner.
The next Jane Hawk story, The Whispering Room, will be released November 21, 2017.

Jane won some hefty battles in The Silent Corner, but she didn’t win the war. I hope to find out if Jane conquers this particular evil group, if she has it out with her estranged father, whom she’s “called out” after many years of no contact, if Dougal will to be her side-kick or backer, and how her son Travis is fairing.

I'd love some reading suggestions. What have you been reading lately?

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Learning Stuff Like a Kid

Recently I’ve been interested learning more about the habits of hummingbirds, glaciers that moved across Iowa, and the solar eclipse that will happen on August 21st.
Glacier on Land. Courtesy of Google Images
Eclipse Image courtesy of
Museum of Aviation

Outside my window just now!

Several weeks ago I read an article in our local newspaper about creating “hummingbird feeding zones,” instead of just having a hummingbird feeding spot. It went on to say that a zone – several feeders in a small area- attract hummingbirds better than just having one feeder in your yard. I hung 4 feeders in the trees around our yard this summer and see hummers every day rather than occasionally, as I had in previous summers.

Terrace Farming. Image courtesy of USDA
and Iowa Agriculture Literacy
Then, last week we traveled to western Iowa where they have to terrace farm because the land is so hilly. Terrace farming seems so foreign for Iowa to me. 

But it got me thinking. Northwest Iowa boasts the only glacier lake in the state, the eastern side of Iowa features bluffs and cliffs all along the Mississippi River; while central Iowa has the very best soil for growing crops. I’ve heard of The Drift Plain, but what is that really? Glaciers. I want (need) to know more about how they shaped the topography of my fair state.

Courtesy of Google Images
Knowledge begets knowledge, I think.

While all of these can be researched on the internet, I find juvenile fiction books to be a perfect source of basic information. That’s how I taught myself to knit. Children’s books are direct and to the point.

A patron I have at the library is a guide/chaperone for a tour company. I can always tell where she’s going to be traveling by the juvenile non-fiction books she checks out.  Piles of books on D.C., Arizona, and Florida. Quick facts. Easy to read. It’s all there in juvenile fiction. (Don’t worry if you’re not a juvenile, it’s o.k. for you to read them!)

Oh, and about the eclipse? Well, that one is a totally on-line research topic. And it’s fascinating. Free up your calendar now for August twenty-first!

Go to the library! Check out some kids books on topics you’re interested in. Learn new stuff. It’s fun!

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Business 101

Courtesy of Google Images
I talked with Tim, over enchiladas and Negra Modelo at our neighborhood cantina (bar), about hiring an editor for my book, because, you know, five plus bills is a lot of money! Tim agreed that I needed to do whatever it takes to do to get this project where I want it to be, then, being the practical man he is he asked, “Is there any way we can write off some of your expenses?”

Courtesy of Google Images

Hummmm. Very good question, Tim.  We discussed our knowledge of small business ownership (which was very limited) and decided to do more research when we got home.

Turns out the IRS does recognize authorship as a lucrative business. We found out all sorts of good information.

First of all, there's an IRS formula to determine if my writing is considered a hobby or an occupation. Both can have deductions, but of course, an occupation’s deductions would be higher. Also, the IRS gives writers about three years to show a profit before being possibly re-categorized as a hobbyist. I think that’s pretty generous of them.

Receipts for pen, paper, ink, an all other things writing can be deducted (at a certain percentage) from my taxes, as well as fees for conferences or classes I attend. Wow!   I’ve just started a receipt file- see how business-like I am!

My office. My refuge.

Additionally, expenses for promoting my book can be covered, as well as home office use if the office is used for writing only and for a good percentage of the day. (There’s a formula for that too!) Since my granddaughters sleep in my office when they spend the night, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to use it as a deduction…yet.

Courtesy of Google Images
Oh, and about hiring an editor: If I pay someone over $600.00 for any service, I have to ask them for a W-9 and report the payments on a 1099-MISC and on an equivalent form from the state I live in. (Huh? My eyeballs are glazing over..)

I’m so glad Tim asked the question. I’m learning a lot about being my own business woman. (The first decision I made was to offer the job to Tim. He declined.)

My book, THE INK OF TIME, is off to four beta-readers. I will have the binders back by mid-August. I’m researching editors and have a couple selected to contact. 

There’s a lot more to learn but 'Business 101: Make sure you know IRS Requirements' are number one! I’m getting there!

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Damned Old Adage

Image courtesy of Google
“It takes money to make money.” That’s what they say anyway.

I’m being shockingly reminded of that old adage these days. If you have been following my journey to become a published author, you know I’ve recently set some personal self-publishing goals to get this project to fruition.

Image courtesy of Google
My most recent foray into reaching my goal was to learn about hiring an editor. A pod-cast I listen to recommends that even self-published authors need to hire a professional to edit their work before publication. So I’ve done some research and I’m in sticker shock at the cost of hiring a professional editor—they get paid per word. (!)

One cent to 2.8 cents per word are on the low-to-reasonable end of the rate scale. My novel, THE INK OF TIME, is about 54,000 words long. You don’t even have to do the math. I’ll do it for you.

.01x54,000= 540.00 dollars       .028x54,000= 1,512.00 dollars

Image courtesy of Google
$540.00 to $1,512.00 dollars is a hell of a lot of money to put toward an unproven venture! I would make a terrible entrepreneur because I’m very unwilling to take risks with money, and yet if I want to sell a book I guess that’s exactly what I would have to be and do. I seriously doubt if I’d get my investment back in sales of the book! (It is a good story, if I do say so myself, but I’m a little fish in a big, huge ocean-like pond.)

And yet. And yet, I am a goal oriented person who expects my personal very best. If I publish a book, I want it to be the best that it can be. I’m pretty good at editing the written word, but I know nothing about editing a whole novel. What to do, what to do???

Here’s another adage: “You get what you pay for.”

So true, oh so true.  We’ve all been there. Buy something inexpensive (cheap) and it falls apart in no time. Spend a little more money and you get a product that is worth the price.

Here's a perfect example; I posted this picture on Facebook a couple of years ago. On the left are the cheap crackers I bought at a big box store very well-known for their low prices. On the right are crackers I bought at our local well-known grocery. Same brand. Two standards at two price points.

Image courtesy of Google

So here I am. Trying to decide if I spend money to see what a professional thinks of my work, and more than likely not make any money off the project, or do the best I can with the skills I have (which are free) and self-publish anyway.

Image courtesy of Google
For me, writing is not about making money, it’s about the creative process and having other people enjoy what I’ve created. Like this blog, I write it to hone my skills and get people accustomed to my writing voice. If they like it, they’ll read more. That’s it.  

What should I do?

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Knee Tear vs. Me

Courtesy of Google Images
I’ve always thought I was not a very active person and have struggled to try to meet the “recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily” goal. But I’ve found out that I really am more active than I thought.

Courtesy of Google Images
I found out the hard way. I have a torn meniscus in my knee and will be having surgery by the time you read this blog post. 

And the crazy thing is, I didn’t tear it doing work or exercise, it just tore from time and use. I guess sitting in six-year-old size chairs and squatting down next to little desks for so many years took its toll.

Joni Mitchell sings in her song Big Yellow Taxi : “ don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…” So true.

Courtesy of Google Images

Gracie running through the tall grass.
I didn’t realize how much I walked and biked until I couldn’t.  I used to walk my dog a couple miles a day- sometimes twice a day. Poor dog, she’s getting so bored. I took her in the car the other day and she was so excited to go somewhere she ran circles around my car.

Old bike and new bike rack.
(Both Christmas presents from
my honey.)

Tim gave me a great bike carrier for Christmas, and since this injury started before biking season, I haven’t used it at all!

Davenport riverfront trail
(MRT-Mississippi Riverfront Trail)
I’m ready to have this surgery done. I’m ready to heal my knee and get back to my regular activities. I’ll probably make up for lost time this summer and spend the rest of it on a bike path!

Wish me luck. Say a prayer for speedy recovery!

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Travel. It's Good for You

I’m very fortunate to have the ability and opportunity to travel.

I believe going to other places, seeing how other people live, learning about area history, and getting a glimpse of the majesty of the earth God created would help all of us see the world from other perspectives. 

Maybe there would be less hate in the world if everyone could visit the oceans, the mountains, deserts, and, of course, miles of Midwest cornfields.

I just returned from a "girl’s trip" to Florida on the Gulf coast. Here are some of my favorite things from that trip.

The sun sets over the Gulf.

Four adult dolphins help the baby (in the center) learn how to dive and breathe. It was fantastic to watch!

This picture is a favorite because of the old pylons. The birds seemed unconcerned by all the people and boats buzzing around them.

Flora and fauna are always my favorite things to explore. How about a few red, white, and blue flowers in celebration of Independence Day!

911 Memorial outside a local fire station. Never forget.

When given the chance, travel.

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself!