What IS that look?

I just survived the annual Art Show, where I spent three days in the sun between a lovely little tourist town and a beautiful marina, selling lapidary art work alongside my sister. As you may have figured out by my previous posts on the subject, my sister and I enjoy Lapidary work and rockhounding as a hobby.

Rock Hounding is when you go wandering about in the mountains/woods/beach/desert/etc and look for beautiful agates, jaspers, minerals and assorted petrified woods.

And yes, there’s a trick to it.

My sister and I gather rock, we also trade with friends who gather rock in other areas, other states, even other countries. Whatever we haven’t collected ourselves, we’ve traded for. Then we cut it, polish it, and voila – Lapidary Art.

During the show every year, we endure some of the most ridiculous questions and remarks you could ever imagine, and then some. We also get some very intelligent questions, lovely remarks, and genuine interest in the hobby itself. At least once during the three-day show we’ll have someone show interest in learning how to rockhound themselves, and we’re more than happy to explain the basics and point them in the right directions to learn more and meet others. Every county in every state has a rock hounding club, full of fellow rockhounders who are more than happy to teach the newbie and bring them into the fold.

This year’s toppers:

“You find these in the ground, shiny and polished like this?”

“You should make cabachons” we prefer freeform, cabachon is a shape. “It’s not a shape, it’s a rock that’s cut in a circle, with a domed top and flat bottom.” Yes, sir, that’s a shape.

“Polish Flint. Where do you find that?”

“Chinese Writing Stone – where’s that from?”

“These rocks feel so smooth! Like rubber.”

“Do you hunt the rock yourself?” Yes, but to be fair, that one was already wounded.

“Why do you polish the rock? I prefer it in the raw form.”

“What’s the difference between a stone and a pebble?”

Or this year’s favorite: “I found an agate the size of my fist!” when I showed her several agates the size of her fist on my tables, she looked frustrated and said “Huh. I was sure I was the only person on the planet who’d ever found an agate that large.” Oy.

But of all of them, one question dominates. And it’s not foolish at all, but the response has me puzzled.

“Do you collect all this rock yourself?”

The answer is Yes. My sister and I collect it, and what we haven’t found ourselves, we’ve traded with fellow rockhounds.

Most nod, some say “How cool.” But now and then — at least twenty percent of those who ask — respond with a “look.”

It’s an odd look, but always the same, and I’m still trying to figure it out but I think I’ve come pretty close. They think we’re lying.

I honestly believe that look is saying “bullshit, girls can’t find rocks.”

Do they think it’s rocket science? Do you suppose they believe you have to own a mine, or be five thousand feet underground chiseling in the dark to bring home a nice piece of Red Jasper or hunk of Moss Agate? Do they honestly not understand that rock hounding is a family-friendly hobby, that anyone with some time to spare and a few simple tools can manage? The tricks aren’t hard to figure out, the good spots aren’t all that difficult to find, and believe it or not, rocks are all around. Agates aren’t rare, Jaspers aren’t all that hard to find. Petrified wood and geodes are abundant.

I just don’t get that “look”.

If you wanna take a look, a small sample of what we have for sale is here.

I give them a P for Persistence

Persistent – adj – continuing, esp. in the face of opposition, etc. See also: Black Death, Hemorrhoids, Dell computers.

You may recall about a year ago, I purchased a Dell Mini, in purple. Cute little thing, hardly worth the trouble of owning, but adorable nevertheless. As in all of my past Dell purchases, the first thing I did when taking it out of the box was remove all of the Dell-specific spyware and garbage they pile on that allows them to track my every fart. Then I removed all the pathetic anti-virus samplers and installed a real-man’s computer condom.

I rarely used it online, since I bought it to use basically as nothing more than an easily accessible media storage and computer backup system.

But if you also recall, that became my rally-cry against Dell purchases, since they insisted on phoning me at work and home once a week, every week, for months at a time, asking if they could assist me in setting up my Dell Mini, did I require help getting it online? Why hadn’t I used it yet? Why hadn’t I turned on Lojack? Did I need their assistance in making the computer work, since clearly I wasn’t surfing the ‘net and reporting back to them my every itch.

I couldn’t take it any longer, ranted here, and swore never to buy another Dell computer as long as I lived. Which is irritating because, aside from their annoying phone calls and constant spying, the machines they sell are really good quality.

So today, nearly a full year after I purchased that Dell Mini, and a solid three months since I’d given that computer to my niece as a gift – I get a phone call. Some Indian guy, from Dell Customer Service, inquiring about my Dell Mini. Seems they noticed it’s been a year, and I still appear to be too stupid to turn it on and surf the interwebbies, and he’s here to assist me in doing so.

I hung up.

Sure, it was rude – I could have tried to explain to him that I’m not a moron, and I know how to use a computer. I could have told him that the Mini was a gift for my niece, and that she’s thrilled with the little purple computer and it’s matching neoprene case. I could have told him, politely, that I appreciated his concern, but I was quite happy with my purchase and had no plans on making another in the future.

I could have told him aliens live in my ass-crack — he got off easy.

Am I just a crazed, privacy-whore, overreacting to simple acts of customer service?

After all, I’m the nutjob who refuses to publish directly to the Kindle using Amazon’s Createspace because they require access into my personal checking account, in order to affect payment and ensure proper tax reporting data. Direct. Access. Into my checking account. You’re probably thinking “Well it’s good enough and safe enough for thousands of people who do it every day, what’s your problem? Are you Paranoid or something?”

So what if I am. Everywhere I look these days, a company wants my email address so they can spam me with special sales and coupons. They want me to sign up for their loyalty cards, get on their mailing lists, take an online survey and be entered to win a shopping spree!

My God, people. It took YEARS for the government to put together the National Do Not Call list, about as long as it took them to put a stop to tons of unwanted junk snail mail. And all they did was change their tactics. They modernized for the computer-age.

And worse – because people aren’t even paying attention anymore.

I read an article today about the most highlighted passages in popular books, as posted by Amazon. The article was terribly impressed with the various passages people are marking in their Kindle editions, and marveling at the similar passages readers are taking extra interest in. You see, if you use a Kindle, and underline passages in your Kindle edition books, Amazon makes a note of them, and compares them to everyone else’s.

Does no one see what’s happening here? Or does no one really care anymore?

Slip-Slidin’ away

Silk sheets are one of those things I’ve always wanted to try, but never had. Until this last weekend. My sister and I had gone out to dinner Friday, celebrating — well, Friday — and after dinner we wandered over to the local mall to have a walk-about. It was there, while looking for a new pair of jeans, when we noticed some silk sheets on sale.

Knowing the temperatures were going to head up over the 90’s for the weekend, we decided now was as good a time as any to give silk sheets a try. After all, anything that smooth and silky had to be cooler than regular cotton sheets, right?

So we each bought a set, and that night put them on our respective beds.

Right away, with just the fitted sheet on, I can feel how cool and sleek and nice these sheets are going to be, although I joke that when the cats jump up there, they’re going to slide all the way off.

I get the top sheet on, and it’s slipping all around. I’m not one who tucks in her sheets, mostly because I like to hang my feet out if I get hot, and tucking sheets and blankets in all the time is just more work than I care for. So this top sheet is sliding and slipping all around, but I get it in place, then add the pillow case and step back to admire my work.

These sheets are very shiny, and since it’s far too hot for any blankets, the sheets are all I’m seeing on the bed.

Did I mention I got zebra print? My sister went with a nice creamy off-white, but not me. Nope. I went all out with the zebra print.

Shimmering silk zebra-print sheets. My room looks like a whorehouse now. But by God, it’s gonna be a cooler, more comfortable whorehouse!

So Friday night, it’s 89 degrees outside. The inside of my house is roughly the same temperature as the surface of Mars. I go to bed on top of amazing, cool, sleek, comfortable whorehouse sheets. I think I got about ten minutes of sleep the whole night, but that’s ten minutes I wouldn’t have gotten on hot, stuffy cotton sheets.

Those sheets saw some action, too! Every time I rolled over, that top sheet would slide effortlessly to the floor. I’d reach down and pick it back up, push it all back into place, only to repeat that over and over throughout the night.

At one point my cats finally came in and after some inspecting of the new slippery surface, planted themselves squarely in the center, effectively pinning down the sleek sheet and keeping it from sliding off the bed altogether.

That left me free to pick up my pillow. Every time I grabbed hold of it and tried to give it a bit of fluffing, the damn thing flew across the fitted sheet like a greased pig.

By Saturday night, I figured I was getting the hang of it.

I’d tucked in the end of the sheet, hoping to stabilize it enough to keep it on the bed, at least, and the cats came in right away, to do their part in holding down the corners.

That is, until one of them slid right off the bed.

I didn’t see it happen, and if you were to ask him, I’m sure he’d deny it, probably claim I pushed him. You know how cats are. But I can say that one minute he was walking over my leg, the next minute, thud.

Took the sheet with him, too, but that was okay ‘cause I was busy feeling around the floor for my pillow.

Well last night I think I finally got the hang of it. I switched out my silk pillow case for the standard cotton. Now when I roll over, I can give that sucker a punch-n-fluff and not send it sailing across the room. The top sheet is still exploring my bedroom, but it’s been so hot at night I find the cooling breeze across my exposed legs rather refreshing.

Plus I’m hoping when this heat wave subsides, I can add a blanket to the top of all this slippery zebra-stripped whorehouse-ness and keep them at least in the vicinity of the bed during the night.

That’s my plan, anyway. These silk sheets have a learning curve, but I think I’ll get the hang of it. They definitely feel cooler on hot nights, and my cats finally got the hang of this new indoor waterless slip-n-slide, they were having a party in there by yesterday afternoon.

I wonder what would happen if I added silk pajamas . . .

Another World

This time of year, I get a little distracted from writing. It’s August, and the third weekend of every August is the annual Poulsbo Arts Festival, where my sister and I set up a booth and sell our lapidary work.

I love this time of year. Not just for the weather, which can sometimes be too hot, and once was way too wet. Not just for the people-watching, which is in abundance the entire three days. Not just for the chance to sell my hard work, or chat with tourists from all around the globe, on vacation and happy to talk to the locals. Not just for the camaraderie of my fellow artists or that sense of family you get being a part of these things year in and year out.

No, not for any of those reason. I love this time of year for all of those reasons!

I’ll spend the next two and a half weeks mentally fidgeting about what needs to get done, what hasn’t been done, and what we should think about doing. Do we need new business cards? Did I print enough labels? Should we add another table? Will the new batch come out of the tumblers in time for me to drill?

Thursday evening will be a big headache. That’s when we come home from work and pack the cars, I’ll worry about what I’m forgetting, my sister will fuss about keeping things organized and tidy.

Friday morning, we’ll get up early, pack some food and worry about what we forgot to do, then since we have to take both cars, we’ll pile in and drive to Starbucks, then head to Poulsbo — a thirty minute drive from our house. There we’ll find our spot, which never changes. We’ve been extremely lucky, and were awarded the prime spot our first year, and have kept it every year since. It’ll be early, around 9:00 a.m., and the bay will be calm. The town itself just waking up, businesses just beginning to open, tourists on their boats or breakfasting in the park.

We’ll unload the cars, then move them to another lot and begin the work of setting up the canopy and tables, then the inventory, all while drinking our lattes and eating a scone. Morning joggers will pass by on the boardwalk, and wave hello. Dog walkers will wander by on the same trail and be social. Fellow artists will arrive and set up, all chatting about how good or bad their year has been. The seals that watch us from the harbor will pop their heads up and bark as we all get ready for our day.

The Art Festival officially begins at noon, so we’re all set up by then, but often we’ve already made sales to passersby who had no idea what was going on, or early birds just off their boats, heading out to start their days.

Friday is usually busy, hectic and fast, since it begins with setting up and settling in. From noon till 6:00 pm, we’ll have customers, lulls, and enjoy good conversations with each other.

Saturday is an easier, but much longer day. Since we don’t tear down at night, we only need one car that day. My sister and I will get up early and head out for coffee, then arrive at the show by 8:00 am to open up the booth and reorganize, then sit and enjoy our coffee with the seals as the harbor sleeps in. There’ll be a morning rush, then a slight quieting down, followed by a mass of customers right when we thought we could sneak in our lunch. After that, another quieting down while one of us runs out to a deli to get some food. Then it’ll pick up again, and before we know it, it’s 6:00 pm and time to close up for the night.

Sunday we’re back to two cars, and the day doesn’t start until 11:00, but we’ll show up at 9:00 to relax with our coffee and the seals. By noon it’ll be pretty crowded, then ease down to a slow but steady pace until around 3pm. By 4:00, the show’s over and we’re beginning the long, slow process of tearing it all down and packing up the cars.

Every year, without fail, we end up making sales while we’re packing up, which slows the process down, but you can’t refuse a customer.

By the end of the weekend, we’ll have sunburns, be physically and mentally exhausted, and barely able to move.

But I can’t recommend this enough. If you’ve ever done this before, or you’re an artist who sells his/her wares at festivals, then you know what I’m talking about. There’s a sense of community that you can’t find online. If you do several shows during the year, you’ll find yourself part of a gypsy mindset, fellow artists you see at regular shows, year after year. You begin to form relationships that update once a year, and make the experiences that much more rich.

And the regular people you meet – – There’s a couple with a dog, Emily, she’s a Giant Bassett Griffon Vendeen, the only one I’ve ever had the pleasure to see in person. They know how much I adore this dog, so every year they make a point of walking down to the show and letting me visit. Last summer we met a couple who snowbird, between Poulsbo and San Diego. They rescue Greyhounds from the race tracks, and spent an hour enjoying the shade behind our canopy and chatting with us.

Being in the lapidary arts, we have the pleasure of being popular with a lot of older men who were rock hounders in their youth, or still enjoy the hobby themselves, who love to chat for hours and have the best stories to tell. Still others are interested in the hobby, and I end up explaining to them how it’s done, and how they can get started.  Some even bring me rocks from their home towns, to polish and experiment with.

Then there are the more colorful aspects. The man who didn’t understand that rocks weren’t trees (I shitz you not), the man who told his little daughter that shiny rocks weren’t rocks at all, but glass made to look like rocks. Or the very nice gentleman who wasn’t sure if they were rocks, or stones.

But ultimately, I think what I love best about doing these shows, is the fact that this form of art is so different from writing. Here, I’m producing art, my sister and I, and offering it up for sale. People who come by don’t ask if we have a storefront somewhere. They’re not interested in whether or not our products have been vetted by an outside authority, or quality checked by a select group of people in the business. I don’t have to defend the fact that I’m an independent artist, selling my own creations directly to the public, with no agent or producer backing me up (or taking my profits).

In fact, that’s the norm. You’re not allowed in these Art Festivals if you don’t hand make your work.

This business is as close to a convention of Indy writers as I can imagine coming. All Indy artists, all producing and selling their own work, standing by their products, promoting themselves, pressing the flesh as it were, having conversations with their customers. Meeting interesting people doing interesting things, and being amazed by the sheer oddness of humanity !

This is life in the trenches, baby! And I can’t recommend it enough.

If you’ve never been to Poulsbo Washington , you’re missing a treat. If you’re going to be there August 20th, 21st or 22nd, stop by and say hello !

Shit MY dad said

Not to be confused with the now-famous blogger’s dad, my own father had his own words of wisdom, most of which can’t really be repeated.

But one thing he always said really stuck with me, and I’ve made it very nearly my life motto. Well, aside from the one on top of his blog.

When I was very young, I had to share one bathroom with the entire family until my father built an addition to the house. After that, he had his own bathroom, and the larger one was for my mother, two sisters and I to share, so you’d understand that as a kid, I didn’t realize the true meaning behind his saying.

That is to say, there’s a Literal translation, and there’s a Bigger Meaning.

The Literal translation would be, well, literally what he’d say:

Either shit or get off the pot.”

Lately, I’ve adopted that as my life’s motivation, in both publishing, and simply living. Either shit or get off the pot. Don’t just talk about it, don’t go on and on about it to friends, family and acquaintances endlessly, over and over again, as the years go by – – DO it.

Just as I came to realize we’re all mortal and people we love will die, often unexpectedly, and once they’re gone, all the chances and opportunities to say and do things you’d always meant to are over – I also realized I didn’t want to be one of those people forever talking about something, forever pointing to a goal, and never reaching it.

A part of having gone Indy is the shit or get off the pot motivator. But that simple yet meaningful phrase is in all aspects of my life, and growing daily.

Just this past Monday, my sister and I started learning how to Belly dance. I can hear you snickering, you there in the back, but I care not! We’ve spent years contemplating it, and got really jealous when our oldest niece took a course while at Princeton, then finally just the other day (well, two weeks ago) I said “Enough! We either Shit, or we get off this pot.”

So we’re belly dancing. Four nights a week, after work. We’re not wasting another minute sitting around speculating on how interesting it would be to learn how to belly dance.

We’re both getting more and more determined to make our father’s saying our driving force, and the results are fantastic. We’re trying new things, instead of endlessly wondering about them. We’re getting things DONE that we’d always just talked about.

I’ve wanted to write a contemporary, non-SF literary novel for years – now I’m doing it.

We wanted to belly dance, now we’re doing it.

Et cetera, etc.

I know what you’re thinking – How on earth are belly dancing and writing a literary novel alike? Well I didn’t say they were. Except that both are things I’d wanted to do before, had even talked about with various people, and now I’m doing. Both are a challenge, both are stretching muscles in ways they haven’t stretched before. Both require patience, and endless reminders to concentrate, go slowly, and take care not to strain anything.

One requires a pen and paper, the other a nice coin hip scarf and harem pants. I can’t say which I like better. The coin hip scarf and harem pants come in more colors, and make lovely sounds when I dance, but the pen has an incredibly primal feel to it, and the smell of paper makes me giddy. Both are physical acts, which require more effort and offer far larger reward. Both are more comfortable to do in bare feet, and both require liberal doses of Aspercreme afterward!

Oh, and I can do both on the back deck, although one is more apt to garner me glances from passing cars than the other.

And both are giving me more child-like pleasure than I can express in a blog. So, okay, they do have similarities.

My father had another saying he used often, typically while we’d be out boating, whenever he saw a larger, fancier boat go by. “I wish I had that, and he had a feather up his ass, then we’d both be tickled.”

I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate THAT saying in my life . . .

OMG what’s the BFD?

Okay, so I blew a gasket – I freaked out, flipped, got hot under the collar.

It all started on Friday, a very hectic Friday wherein I had to leave work early to meet the plumber, go grocery shopping, run errands, and I was facing a weekend FULL of work and stress . . . did I mention it was a very hectic Friday?

So, when I tried that morning to log in to my Lulu account and was told I did not exist, you can imagine how frustrated I became. Right? You can imagine it? I’d tried and tried, using every method there is, even tried to make their system send me my password, or reset it even, only it kept insisting I did not exist, and never had existed, though I was welcome to set up a new account and get started.

Well, what really pissed me off was Lulu’s famous lack of customer service. It truly is lacking, but that’s never been an issue before. I didn’t care that you can’t contact anyone for help because I’d never needed help.

Oh, you can search the forum, regular people like me and you will be there to offer assistance, but just you try and contact Lulu ! What’s worse, if you can’t log in, you can’t even talk to the forum, you can only read the posts and wander around, unseen and unheard, like a ghost.

Anyway . . . Frustrated, I had to stop trying and put it out of my mind for a few days, all the while hoping it was simply a techno-fart that would clear itself up. If not, I was prepared to rant till I turned blue and never use Lulu again.

Only it was.  A techno-fart, that is.

All cleared up. I couldn’t log in, but it finally recognized me as someone who’d been there before, and allowed me to reset my password and get back in to my account.

So . . . crisis over.

For now.

Yanno, in case anyone was keeping score.

LuLu

Anyone else having issues with POD service LuLu?  I think they’re going tits up right before my eyes – and it’s impossible to reach anyone there for help. They go out of their way as a company to hide from their customers and avoid any and all customer service or help functions.

More later  . . . thank heaven for Smashwords !  I want to delete my account with Lulu altogether and go elsewhere for hard copies, but now I have to figure out how to remove my work from Lulu, since the issue is with the login, this could be problematic !

For now – if you’re considering Indy, or simple POD, run as far from Lulu as possible.

More to come . . .

On account of the Boobies

I hate heat waves.

Granted, I’m not on the East Coast, and I’m sure as hell not in Arizona, but we’re having our own little heat wave up here. Yesterday it was 94, today’s hovering around 96, tomorrow should be 94 again, with a slow decline through the weekend back to our typical – and far more comfortable – highs of 74.

But today, it’s gonna hit 96 easy.  Feels like 115.

I’m not complaining, as such.

Well no, I am.

I am complaining. But it’s because we don’t have AC at work, and I don’t have AC at home either. Sure, there’s AC in my car, but getting a solid 6-7 hours of sleep while driving is harder than it sounds, and believe me, I’ve tried.

The office is tolerable, until I have to go outside in the sun and heat – after being out there for a bit, coming back inside is miserable, and then I’m hot and crabby for the rest of my day.

But the worst of it – the bit that only women (and men sporting a solid set of Moobs) understand – is the sweat and constant discomfort only a bra can create. You guys have it so easy. If you get truly miserable, you can peel off that shirt in a shady spot somewhere and cool down, maybe strip to your waist and stand in fountain, get all nice and misty.

Bastards.

We’ve gotta sit at our desks, or stand at our jobs, fully covered and strapped in, with a tight band of elastic running around our bodies (or a wire!) and cotton or spandex clinging tightly to our chests. We can’t just whip’em out and cool off during break, or frollick in a fountain on our lunch hour. (without being arrested, that is).

Nooo, we gotta wear this friggin’ things all day long, sweating and itching and feeling miserable until we finally get off work and can get home and get these damn things off! (the bras, not the boobs – although some of you do have removable boobs and I’m so jealous right now!)

Taking these things off (again, the bras, not the boobs) drops the body temp — or at least the perception of body temp — by a good ten degrees. That, plus the slight breeze caused by the swing of these now free-to-romp tatas is heaven-sent. Yes, you can put the bra and panties in the freezer overnight, but that coolness doesn’t last very long after you get them back on again.

And YOU think we’re pissy from hormones!

It’s the HEAT! I’d like to strap one of these things on some of you guys and make you wear it under your shirt all day long, in the heat – see how “hormonal” you get.

And it’s all your fault. We’d be happy if we could cool off in public now and then. Maybe take off our shirts at work, or stand in a fountain during lunch, while our tops stay dry on the park bench. But Noooo.

Sheesh

SOMEBODY BRING ME SOME ICE!

The Legend of Darkness and Light

Hear-ye, Hear-ye – get ’em while they’re hot !

That is, my latest novel is out now The Legend of Darkness and Light. You can get it as a FREE eBook, read it online for free, or purchase a nice pocket paperback from Lulu.

So fly, be free, and enjoy a light summer read, on the house.

Summer Sale !

Throughout the month of July, there’s a huge Summer Sale at Smashwords, where you’ll find my eBooks (with the exception of Ether) on sale for 50% off the original price!

That’s a buck per book, people!

With a new title coming out in just a few days, for free!

So hustle on over there and get yourself some Summer reading, be it my own work or some of the hundreds of other books on sale this month, and support your favorite Indy Writer!

Power to the People, People!

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