Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Writer's Block: Tea Time Edition

Woot. A tech guy from AT&T came out and fixed our internet service this evening. We haven't been able to do any streaming for weeks, and it was a challenge just to get a standard webpage to load without crashing. We thought it was the weather at first, all the rain we've been getting, but when the problem persisted, Hubz got enough of it and called in for service. The tech guy found a line down the street that was almost severed, probably from tractors riding over the ground there or whatnot, and once he replaced it everything was back up and running peachy. Worth the service fee, IMO.

Hubz told me that the tech guy was surprised we'd had any service at all with the line like that. Anyway, I'm glad that's all fixed, because Hubz doesn't really know what to do with himself without his favorite TV series. Now he has something to do in the evenings other than tinker around on his phone. 

As for me, I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Mostly writerly craft books, with some inspirational titles, and older pop fiction books in the mix. A couple were great. A couple weren't worth writing home about. Once the net was back working, I added a few books (from the ones that didn't suck) to my Goodreads, the books that I could remember without going back to Amazon and doing a search through my digital history for the past two months. I'm not as dedicated to reviewing as I once was, especially since I tend to look to Amazon when seeking reviews that might sway my purchasing decisions. But don't get me wrong. I don't mean that in a crabby sort of way. Overall, I'm simply not as engaged with social media as I once was. I figure I'm really not an interesting enough person for social media anyway. But I digress...

Instead of sinking my time into social media, I've been writing a little bit here, a little bit there. Not for the sake of word count, but to rekindle the joy I used to find in writing. Straight up "fun" writing to break through the writer's block. That's a big deal, because enjoyment has been wholly lacking from my process for a several years now.

On top of that, and undoubtedly compounding the writer's block issue, I've been having craft related problems that I couldn't seem to find the answers to. People I've personally asked haven't been able to help me. None of the favorite, top ten list, top twenty list, writing guides have had the answers for me. Then a couple of weeks ago, I listened in on a screenwriting lecture, and there it was, the missing piece of the puzzle. I wasn't expecting it; it dropped right into my lap. The reason why my stories were running out of gas midway through, and why the conflict never seemed to be enough, and why the hero and heroine never seemed to be quite on the same page in the story. All these things came into focus, and all of them go back to weak characterization and failure to properly set up the conflict. So now I'm back in the saddle, playing around with the new techniques I've learned. Not trying to rush, but rather just trying to enjoy the process and master the techniques.

There was another writing guide I read recently with big impact like that (I'll have to check my Kindle notes to remember which one). The author talked about someone who was never blocked as an artist because they'd do the same thing over and over everyday until something changed. That really spoke to me, and I don't know...it's like a huge weight was lifted when I read that. The weight of expectations, maybe. Whatever the case, that little snippet of wisdom made a big difference in the way I view my own work and the writing process.

Alrighty, then. I'm about to go make a cup of tea in the hopes it will kick this headache that won't seem to take a hike. I hope it's just eyestrain related. I've been having eye pains/pressure in my right eye for about a month now. I'm scheduled to see my optometrist soon, and I hope the pain/pressure is something they can address in-office.

I guess we'll have to wait and see. 👀 

That's all for now. Until next time, happy wishes. xoxo

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Answer is 42

Bedford bag and my wallet. I love it.
I wish the pictures (best 1 out of 10
shown) would turn out "true to color",
but the lighting in my bedroom is way
too dark and yellowy. C'est la vie.
Yes, yes, it's the obligatory birthday post. In the morning, a Monday no less, I will be the magical age of 42. *confetti*

I've had a couple of people (including my hubby) ask me how I feel about being over 40, and if I'm cool with celebrating an over 40 birthday, and I have to say I truly don't mind it. I really don't feel any different than I did when I was 35. Maybe that's just me, but there it is. 

Since Hubz has to work tomorrow, we're actually holding off having cake and ice cream until Tuesday. That way everyone can be there at the party. We're having it at my mom and dad's, of course, after Mini gets home from school. 

This year, I specifically told everyone not to bother with gifts. Rather than have everyone else spend money on me, I treated myself from my wishlist. I knew exactly what I wanted, and it wasn't something I could ask family to buy for me. I wanted a new handbag. Not that I need another bag, but ladies, y'all know how that goes. I wanted a 2005/2006 Louis Vuitton Bedford vernis handbag in the color framboise. Specifically in framboise. I have a French wallet / French coin purse in that color that I use it all the time. I wanted a matching bag to go with it. 

Alrighty then. That's enough of that. A weird blog post so far, now that I've read back over it, but I guess in terms of everything that has been going on lately, blogging about a new handbag is as good as it gets. 

It feels kind of weird that Oldest isn't here to celebrate birthdays together, but he's grown now, living half way across the country, and off doing his own thing. He recently landed a new job, so there's a plus. I miss him, but at the same time, I know he's doing what he wants. That makes all the difference. 

Hey, Bub, if you happen to drop by the blog today - Happy Birthday. I love you. Be safe. 💕 

That's it for now. I hope everyone out there has a good Monday. Until next time, best wishes! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Heads Up, A Rude Letter, and A List of Answers

I've been away for several months due to ongoing health issues, and for that same reason I've put off a lot of things internet wise. This post is just a heads up on what's happening with me, and why I decided to come in and post today.

First things first, I'm blogging today because I received a letter from Grammarly asking me to remove the links from a review I wrote for them in back in 2014. It was easier to just delete the review, so I did. I no longer use the service anyway.

Back in the day, I did open beta testing for Grammarly and was asked to do a blog review. I did. In exchange for the review and the beta testing, I received free service from Grammarly for a year. Thanks, and no prob. Now they not only want me to remove their links, the clincher is that they expect me to email them back to let them know the links are down. No, darling. I'm not emailing you back. If it's important to you, you'll check my blog to see if the links are down. Fuck you very much.

Receiving app/web service in exchange for open beta is nothing out of the ordinary. I've happily worked on open (and closed) beta testing projects for many, many companies and startups since 2006, including website builders, writing software, gaming apps, photo editors, and other grammar checkers similar to Grammarly. However, this is the first time I've been asked to remove links so a company can "clean up their backlink profile."

Oh, I know what it is. Don't get me wrong. That's neither here nor there.

The Grammarly staffer who wrote to me said that they weren't necessarily "questioning the quality of my website" (which is bullshit, since there is NO question of the "low quality" of my website - this is a personal blog.) Oh, and by the way, the whole purpose of cleaning up your backlink profile is to get rid of "bad links" that hurt your Google rankings. (Do you hear that, Blogger?)

While I do still work on open beta projects (I recently fixed a JavaScript error for a company with a platform similar to Grammarly), this is a prime example of why I no longer do independent reviews or link exchanges for startups and companies. I won't be doing any in the future, either. I'm putting this out there because even though I haven't blogged in months, I still get offers weekly from sites just like Grammarly looking to exchange products or services so they can kick off their business using word-of-mouth reviews.

Moving along. As I said, I don't know when I'll be back at it like before. Maybe never. I'm extremely behind on my personal emails, but I'm gradually making my way down the list to the oldest ones. I'm sorry it's taking so long. I've had a lot of people email or message me to ask what's going on, where I've been, and what's going on with my books and my writing.

I've answered as many of those questions as I can via Facebook messenger, although I'm not on Facebook much anymore. In a pinch, it's the fastest way for me to respond to people I know personally. If I don't have you on Facebook (note that I have trimmed my list significantly since last year), it will take me longer to respond via email. It is what it is. If you need to reach me over something super important, you can try to PM me on Facebook, but if the message goes to that other weird hidden folder, I may never know about it. I never check that thing.

To try to speed up the process, here are the most common questions, unapologetically answered:

  1. I've been away because I've been ill. I don't know when I'll be back full time.
  2. No, I'm not dying. No, I do not have cancer. Yes, prayers are welcome.
  3. I still have a Facebook, but rarely go there. I mostly use messenger to speak with family.
  4. Yes, I deleted my Cora Zane twitter. No, I don't regret it. 
  5. Yes, my email is still the same. I can also be reached through Google+
  6. Yes, I deleted my website contact form. 99% of the messages I received from it were spam.
  7. Yes, comments on the blog are disabled. I've been away, and I didn't feel like coming back and having to reject 500 spam comments for counterfeit sunglasses.
  8. Yes, I let my RWA/PAN membership lapse. No, I don't have anything against the org or any of the members. I've met some lovely people through RWA. The reality is that I've published more work in genres other than romance. While RWA has it's perks, there are members like me who fall through the cracks. I may rejoin in the future, but it makes no sense to rejoin right now when I'm not benefitting from being a member of the organization.
  9. I no longer write an author newsletter. I haven't for some time. I was doing double duty with a blog plus a newsletter, but the truth is I get a substantially higher number of hits to my personal blog than I do from a newsletter. Blogging is simply more feasible for me. 
  10. For email notifications announcing new releases, you don't have to wait for me to post on my blog or website. It's better to click the follow/subscribe buttons on my Smashwords page, and my Amazon page. These pages will send out notifications when new books are uploaded. It's reliable and spam-free. Note: I'm also on iBooks, but I can't link to my page there because I don't have iTunes on this laptop. For now, I publish more often on Smashwords than Amazon. Everything I post on Smashwords is uploaded to iBooks once it's approved. 
  11. Yes, I'm still writing, but I'm slow about it. Slower now that my health has taken a hit. I'll have new material up as soon as I'm able. Pinkie swear. Thanks for your patience and your continued support.

All that aside, I hope everyone is having a fun summer. I still haven't been able to go to the lake or the beach yet. Now here we are, it's almost August, and I'm crossing my fingers I'll get to make one trip to the beach before school starts again. *ocean waves*

That's all for now. I'll blog again when I have new news. As always, thanks for dropping by.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

RIP J. Geils : 1946 - 2017



A couple of days ago, I heard on the news that J. Geils passed away on April 11th at the age of 71. Few groups take me back the way the J. Geils Band does. I regret now that I never got to see them perform live. I loved the song Centerfold from the moment I first heard it at the Granbury skating rink sometime around 1981 or 1982. My parents bought it for me on 45, and I wore it slap out on our living room console stereo. Great times.

Although we didn't have MTV in the early 80s, the videos for Freeze Frame and Centerfold were popular on the Video Music Break and Video Jukebox type music promo "commercials" that came on between cable movies. The only time I got to see that sort of thing was when I was visiting my grandparents in Ruston. They were the ones with cable tv. Mom, Dad, and I lived out in the sticks where cable wasn't available at the time, so it was a special treat whenever I got to see the videos of my favorite bands. It was total brain candy.

Centerfold used to play in heavy rotation along with songs like Mary Buffett's My Boyfriend's Back, Bob Welch's Ebony Eyes, Mickey by Toni Basil, and You Might Think by the Cars. While I was too young to fully understand the risque lyrics of Centerfold, I loved it, and I loved the video too. Hip band guys, pretty dancing girls, and then there was J. Geils himself - the epitome of new wave cool with his feathered hair, razor-sharp cheekbones, and red striped shirt under a tough-glam rhinestone jacket. I was hooked.

Listening to that song now, it still jams. The video, too, is just as fun as it ever was. If you ask me, the intro to Centerfold is probably one of the top ten catchiest and most memorable song intros ever recorded. I'm terribly sad that J. Geils is gone. Nevertheless, it's safe to say he has left behind an indelible musical legacy, one made ever more influential and enduring due to one unforgettable song. #RIP

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

DNA Testing: 23 & Me Follow Up

My 23&Me test results are in!  They've been in a couple of days now, but I've only posted about it on FB up to this point. I wanted to share it with a couple of relatives I'm connected with there who were curious to see what my results would be.

I didn't screen grab the biggest read out with the genes all color coded. It's TMI, but not only that, the read out is waaay too big for my laptop screen. I have to zoom out to see the whole thing, and at that size, a screen grab makes it unreadable. That's okay, though. I actually prefer the ancestry timeline that shows when the relatives you inherited genes from where alive, and in roughly what generation. That makes it easier for comparing with my family tree on the FamilySearch.org site.

Out of my ancestry composition, I'm mostly British and Irish. That was my largest "slice" of any grouping, and not surprising. Mom's paternal side of the family is Irish and Scottish. The second largest percentage was French and German. The French is from Mom's side, the German from Dad.

I expected to see waaaay more German in the mix since we can trace Dad's side of the family back to the original village the family line originated from. But it was only around 14%, combined with the French markers.


Next in the mix was Scandinavian. That was kind of surprising but not really. I'm guessing this comes from Dad's side of the family. Unless, this somehow counted toward Mom's Scottish roots. My Scottish great grandmother was a Murdock, and allegedly there are Viking origins to that name? I'm totally guessing, so take that with a grain of salt. At any rate, I'll find out whether it's from Mom or Dad soon enough, since they're both getting kits for their birthdays. Dad's kit is already on the way.

Eastern European showed up in my results after Scandinavian. That undoubtedly is from Grandma on Dad's side. Half of her line was from Czechoslovakia. (Which is now, separately Slovakia and Czech Republic.) I believe there was some Irish and Hungarian mixed in there as well.

Next on the chart was South Asian, which is definitely from Mom's side of the family, although I haven't found anyone in my family tree who was specificially South Asian. The markers shows up in even stronger percentages in some of the GEDMatch databases, and breaks it down even further as something like 20% Caucasus Region/Baloch/Gedrosia/Near East/India.

I think I know which ancestor the South Asian refers to, but she was allegedy Native American. She had several sons, which are mom's grandpa and great uncles, etc. The family lived on and beside the Kaskaskia reservation in Jackson County Illinois, and after the land was taken away, they moved to Missouri and lived on and around the Peoria reservation. When that land was taken away, the family branched off. Some relatives went to the Peoria reservation in Oklahoma, where it is today. Others moved to Texas. It's all fairly well documented.

23&Me didn't pick up any American Indian results or traces, but I don't know if that's because they have smaller reference groups of that type to work from, or what. Using my raw genetic data downloaded from the site, I uploaded it to GEDMatch and got positive hits from two of the World databases. In one of the oracles, the admixture was 6% AmerIndian and the other was 2% AmerIndian, and that's separate from the Caucasus/Gedrosia which triggered the South Asian results at 23&Me. All that said, having 2-6% AmerIndian makes sense if framed in a birth/living timeline estimated between 1710 to 1830 for my ancestor.


Lastly, I'm not sure what the aqua colored wedge from the World9 is. It's listed as "Southern". Maybe Southern European? In my 23 & Me results, I had a very tiny mix of "Broadly Southern European" that doesn't even show up on the Ancestry Timeline. However, if that's what Southern is in the GEDMatch stands for, that particular database pulled a much larger segment of Southern European from my raw data. Maybe they just had a larger resource population to reference from?  I'm not sure.

Moving on to other elements from the DNA results, I ended up with 54% fewer Neanderthal ancestry than most 23&Me testers. That's how it served up the information, as compared to others who have been tested. Anyway, apparently, this neanderthal DNA is where my height comes from (I'm 5'ft / 5'ft1" thereabouts), and it is the reason why I don't have a hairy back. (In case you ever wanted to know, lol.)

One of the GEDMatch databases has a fun eye color predictor (based on genetic information from my raw data). It returned that my eyes are a mix of brown+amber+gray with a gray limbal ring, and starburst pattern around the pupil. It even gave me a little picture of the prediction...which I can't seem to find at the moment. But it was fairly correct, minus a few small details.

I will give it this...the results were especially true of my eyes when I was younger. They looked very much like the site reference image when I was in Kindergarten, but now, in my 40's, I'm losing some brown pigment. My eyes are more of a dark honey color now, and I have several dark freckles on the iris, many yellowy nerve rings, and faintly greenish color pockets when looking extremely up close in good lighting. The pigment loss is almost certainly genetic. My mother, and her mother's, eyes went through the same change late in life. I can pretty much look at Mom's eyes and tell what mine will look like 10 to 20 years or so down the road as the pigment loss progresses.


That's a macro of Mom's eye I took last year. That's her natural gray limbal ring - no circle lenses worn. I have it, too, but my limbal rings are thinner, possibly due to the fact my eyes are still relatively dark where hers have lightened considerably. Her irises are no longer dark brown like they used to be. They're more of a hazel/amber now with green rings.

For now that's all the DNA results I've managed to pull together. Dad's kit is on the way, and I'll be picking one up for Mom in a month or so. I still need to pull together some funds to order it. I can hardly wait to link up all our kits. 23&Me will allegedly be able to tell me what genes I pulled from what parent. Also, we'll get to see what Dad's haplogroup is. Since I'm female, I can only test for my maternal haplogroup.,.which, as it turns out, is T1a1.

I've researched T1a1 since the tests came back, but there's little written about it outside of  handful of sites. The info from one of the larger sites seems to be duplicated in other places. Apparently, it's not as common a haplogroup, so it's not written about as often. Maybe that will change as more people have their kits done and the reference pool grows.

Anyway...fun times!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the results. The test was totally worth it. The wait time for results, which for me was from the first week of February to the last week of March, was a real doozy though. There's a time marker on the 23&Me website that lets you check up on where you are in the testing process, but even as it was moving along, mine never went through all the plot points on the time graphic. That could be why it seemed like such a long wait. Then again, maybe it was just me and my eternal impatience. I've never been a very good sport when it comes to waiting. Maybe that's a genetic thing. ☺

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Waiting Impatiently

March is only days away. Can you believe it? That means spring cleaning is coming up soon. I'm eager to roll up my sleeves and tear into it. My closets and bookshelves need major culling, and I want to do some painting and remodeling in the kitchen and dining room before the weather gets too hot. I just hope I have the energy to do all the things I want to do!

I went to the doctor on the 23rd. A standard visit to get my yearly meds for blood pressure and thyroid issues. The initial check up went well, and afterward, she sent me to the lab for routine panels, EKG, and urinalysis. That, too, went well... until the results came back.

My thyroid and potassium looked fine, and the EKG reading was tip top. My heart and lungs sound "fantastic", and my blood pressure reading was excellent as well. However, my white blood cell count is almost non-existent. It's below the lowest rung on their scale. My platelets are low, too, as well as my sodium level. I'm also vitamin deficient in just about everything including zinc, calcium, magnesium, B6, B12, and folate. My bilirubins are too high, and EOS as well. I guess some of that in there could explain the general fatigue I've been feeling?

I'll find out more on March 3rd, which is the soonest I could get a return appointment to go over my results. On top of the vitamin deficiencies, I noticed on my chart that the doctor mentioned my pallor. That was kind of sad for me to see. Realistically, I am naturally pale. In outdoor lighting, I'm vampire pale. No big deal. But I think maybe she's linking it to possible anemia, which I have had on and off in the past.

At any rate, my labs seem to point to possible anemia, and an underlying infection. I'm hoping it's nothing worse than that. I have a lymph node under my jaw that swells from time to time. My doctor's aware of it, and I've been to a couple of doctors and a specialist about it, but they've always written it off as allergies. But... Swollen lymphs paired with low wbc can be a bad sign. I guess we'll have to wait and see. I have a sneaking suspicion that my results are about to lead to more testing. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

In the meantime, I'm trying to keep busy so my mind doesn't get caught up in the waiting game. I'm not a patient person, and I'm terrible at waiting. lol  Not only am I waiting for lab results from my doctor (meh), I got a notice a couple days ago that my 23 & Me ancestry test is in the analysis stage. Woohoo! So I'm a little closer to seeing what kind of American mutt I am!

Well, I kind of already know my mutt status, since our families are pretty well documented through census, birth/marriage records, Dawes, etc. going back about six generations on Mom's side, and five generations back on Dad's side. Which is a good thing, since it should allow me to confirm what was going on in some branches of the family tree.

I've read online that the ancestry dna goes back only so far generation wise, then the results can no longer tell if the findings are linked to other people by family trait, or just random chance. (Don't quote me on that, though.) Waiting for the results of that testing is killing me! It's sort of like anticipating Christmas knowing that you have an awesome present you really wanted waiting for you under the tree.

My parents are eager to know more about the dna results as well. Mom especially, since the result will tell me more about my maternal line than my paternal. (Can't get dad's haplogroup from me, what with me being female and all.) Mom's side should be fun to see. That side of the fam is a spicy gumbo mix of all the things. Dad is pretty much a mix of Prussian, Northern European, and Jewish. Like I said, we're American mutts. lol  Since Mom & Dad have both stated they want to take the 23 & Me test, I'm going to order kits for their birthdays this year. In the end, it will be fun to connect all our results online and see what we can see!

As for writing, I've been working on two projects. One is in the pre-writing/early drafting/outlining & re-outlining stage. The formulative stuff before I sit down, dig in, and write the first draft start to finish. I have a few discovery scenes written for that one, but I'm still not totally sure about the first two scenes. I keep going back and forth between two potential opening scenes...both of them lead to the same second scene, so I may end up seeking out a couple of test readers for that one.

The other project is Chasing Moonlight. I'm still making editing passes through that one. The going is sooo slow, but I know it's almost there. 🐌🚦 Just when I think I'm finished with it, I find another thing to smooth out. Then I end up making another pass. Meh. But it shouldn't be much longer now before it's wrapped up and ready for uploading at Smashwords.

Alrighty, then. I'm out of time, so I'll leave it there. Here's to March, endless impatient waiting, and (hopefully) good news!  I'll post again when I know something for sure. Until next time, happy wishes! 💟


Ps. Today's graphic is Woman Writing a Letter clip art by SnipsAndClips, courtesy of OpenClipArt.org

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Candy Hearts Day


Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

There's a ton of stuff going on for me right now. I've been in the editing cave all week. I recently wrapped up the relaunch of Connection, which is now on Smashwords. I'm happy to have that one back on the shelf. I'm now a couple chapters into copy editing Chasing Moonlight.

Winter Break begins this Friday for MiniBeast, so I'll have a long editing weekend ahead of me - from Saturday through Tuesday - to wrap up the revision and reformatting job. I need to get this one out of the way so I can get crackin' on the next project.

At this very moment, there's a DNA test kit waiting to be sent off on my desk. It's one of the ancestry kits from 23 & Me. I already have an extensive family tree mapped out, but it should be interesting seeing the test results. I hope it will give me what percentages of American mutt I am.

I have no idea how long it takes to get results back, but I'm sure the whole family will be interested in seeing what's in the mix. I told Hubz a few days ago, before my kit arrived, I wanted to order one for my dad for his birthday. He's super interested in our geneaology, and with his DNA mapped, we'll know the family's - or rather, dad's - halpogroup. Exciting stuff!

One last thing before I close, I want to give a special shoutout to one of my favorite people on the planet, my godfather, Uncle AG. It's his 89th birthday! 🎉🎈Every year when Valentine's Day rolls around, he's always the first person I think of, so I'm sending him a big virtual hug, and many Happy Birthday wishes! 💟 

That's all for now. I have errands to run, so I better get going! xoxo