Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kit in Paris

Last year I sold rights for my steampunk books to J'ai Lu for translation into French, and they very kindly sent me the art for the first two covers:



This is for the book one.



This is for My Lord Mayhem, a contract I negotiated by myself, so I'm especially delighted to see it's in my favorite color.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Art Space vs. Work Space

This past weekend my guy and I took on a monster spring cleaning project, which involved unloading everything from the kitchen, donating what we don't use to Goodwill, and scrubbing every inch of the cabinets and counters before reorganizing and putting everything back. I have a big kitchen, and after three decades of cooking for this man and our kids, way too much stuff. We made three trips to Goodwill yesterday and I've still got a pile of things to take over today.

I did pretty well, too. I got rid of two sets of old dishes, innumerable gadgets, old flower vases, pans, pots, and three small appliances. I wasn't sorry to see things like the 20-year-old blooming onion maker drop in the donation box (I haven't used it since the nineties.) At the same time, I couldn't let go of my daughter's Where's Waldo plastic cereal bowl, which I can guarantee you she will never use again. That bowl is for me and my memories of her in her high chair, dropping Cheerios for our dog Missy when she thought I wasn't watching.

Cooking is work, but it's also an art. When it comes to meal preparation, the kitchen is both work space and studio. Having a spotless, well-organized kitchen now will help me be a better and happier cook, which will result in more creative meals. Since I'll be cooking only for two starting this fall, I definitely need that, but it's also about respecting myself. I work every day in the kitchen, and it should be a space that allows me to do that comfortably and well.

Next on the spring cleaning list is my office, which I've let slide over the past couple of months because I've been so busy. I could let it wait until summer, or do it a little at a time, which is also perfectly acceptable. Thing is, I have some new, significant writing projects coming up on the schedule, and I need the office to be as clean, efficient and uncluttered as the kitchen is now.

Whether it's cooking or writing, I'm always happy to go to work. I'm not very conscious of my work space when I do. That said, I feel better when everything around me is tidy. I think I work better, too.

What's on your spring cleaning list for 2017? How are you going to tackle your projects? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Clarity

My guy and I both like lighthouses, so when we got the chance to go inside the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime museum, we couldn't resist:



Signs all around the lighthouse property warned us that climbing the lighthouse's spiral staircase was the equivalent of walking up a fourteen-story building. I wasn't worried; while I'm not going to win any marathons my legs are pretty strong.

Looking up from the base of the lighthouse:



So we climbed. We took a few short breaks on the landings (I'm not so athletic that I can climb up 219 steps without stopping.) The staircase narrowed the higher we went, and we had to wait for people coming down the steps, but finally we made it to the top.

The view proved to be pretty spectacular:



There was a little window that allowed you to see inside the lighthouse's gigantic Fresnel lens, too:



And then there was the climb down, which was not half as tough as the climb up:



If you're ever in the area I highly recommend it as a terrific experience, especially for history lovers.

At the top of the lighthouse I experienced some extraordinary clarity, too. While everyone around me looked nervous, excited, and even a little intimidated, I felt right at home. My guy marveled at the small size of the room where the Lightkeeper worked to keep the beacon burning, but it looked right to me -- maybe because it was about the same size as my work desk. I also liked how hard it was to get to the top; you really had to want it to do all that work.

One lady mentioned how dull the Lightkeeper's job must have been, not to have any television or radio or things to do. I could see him sitting and reading by the light of the beacon, or writing letters, or simply watching the boats come into the harbor -- none of which seemed boring to me. If I had been born in 1888, I would have applied for the job.

I've always thought of retreating from the world into my work as going to my ivory tower -- the old chestnut most writers use -- but from now on I'll think of it as manning my lighthouse.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wishing You

Monday, February 13, 2017

Off Again



I'm unplugging this week to have some fun. See you on Friday.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sub Op

I spotted this multi-job freelance op over in the Paying Markets forum at AbsoluteWrite.com:

"Underground Book Reviews is a community of independent authors. We write a new review of an indie book each week, free of charge.

We are looking for reviewers, columnists, judges and blogging partners in 2017. All positions are paid freelance positions, starting at $15 per article, with the potential of earning up to $75 per review. If you are interested, please fill out our contact form with the title “FREELANCE REQUEST”. Include a short resume and a link to an article or review that you have written, as well as a link to your personal website. An online presence is a must, and active involvement in the indie community is a huge plus."

I took a look at the web site, and it seems pretty interesting. With the huge volume of indie titles being published, the ops might result in steady work, too. Disclaimer: as always with any freelance position, please do thoroughly check out the job requirements, restrictions, and any applicable fine print that might be included before you sign on.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Greenworks

One thing I'd like to do this month is repurpose some cardboard and paper from my recycling bin; this stack here consists of two somewhat dented clothing inserts, a 2017 calendar insert, a lidless chip box and the view-panel sleeve my new laptop skin came in. I have no idea what I'll make out of them, but I figure one project per week should be a decent challenge.

Her are some stats from the EPA on recycling:

In 2014, in the United States, about 258 million tons of MSW (municipal solid waste) were generated. Over 89 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 34.6 percent recycling rate. In addition, over 33 million tons of MSW were combusted with energy recovery and 136 million tons were landfilled.

In 2014, 89.5 percent of corrugated boxes were recycled. About 61 percent of yard trimmings were composted. Organic materials such as paper and paperboard, yard trimmings and food were the largest component of MSW generated. Paper and paperboard accounted for over 26 percent, and yard trimmings and food accounted for another 28.2 percent. Plastics comprised about 13 percent of MSW; rubber, leather and textiles accounted for over nine percent; and metals made up nine percent. Wood followed at over six percent, and glass over four percent. Other miscellaneous wastes made up approximately three percent of the MSW generated in 2014.

Recycling and composting of MSW results in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction. In 2014, the 89 million tons of MSW recycled and composted provided an annual reduction of over 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, comparable to the annual emissions from over 38 million passenger cars."
(You can find the entire report by clicking here.)

My tiny town has started weekly recycling pick-ups, so I could just dump everything in the bin now, but I think it's still important to find new ways to reuse things. Recycling anything costs money for hauling, sorting, storing and processing. Repurposing costs little to nothing, and allows you to make something yourself versus buying it new, so you can also save money.

You don't have to make a huge art project out of recyclable materials, either. For example:

1. Instead of buying note pads or shopping lists, save whatever you print out, flip it to the blank side and stack it in a clipboard -- instant scratch paper. You can also cut it down to a smaller size and stack it in an open box.

2. If you have a shredder, you can shred your junk mail and use it as packing material for the next package you ship.

3. Keep a used envelope to store coupons for your next trip to the market. These also make great holders for lottery tickets, extra bookmarks, sticker sheets, or anything flat.

There are plenty of resources online to help you, too. Here's a blog post by Francesco Mugnai about projects made from recycled cardboard that is particularly fabulous (I love the chandelier and the cat furniture).

In the weeks ahead I'll report back on my repurposing projects as I finish them, and show you what I did to reuse the materials.

Friday, February 03, 2017

7 to 1

In a few weeks I'll be heading to the county quilt show I attend every year, so I'm making a new crazy quilt tote to take with me. This is mostly for fun, but also to show my sewing sisters that I'm not all work and no play.

I have been all about the work these last few months. Along with the new copy writing job, I've been immersed in a big project nearly every day since October of 2016. I'm finally at the finish line, too (I should cross it some time tonight.) This is the largest and longest ghost writing job I've worked on since I went freelance, and it's taught me quite a bit. What I'll take away from it -- aside from the very nice paycheck -- will help me improve my scheduling, how I juggle my work sessions with home life, and how much time I devote to things other than writing.

How much time you work and play often determines how successful you are, but it can also affect how happy you are in general. My most productive ratio seems to be seven to one, or one hour of play for every seven hours of work. I learned a long time ago that if I spend my entire day working (this includes housework as well as writing) I go to bed feeling exhausted and creatively drained. The flip side is just as If I blow off work and play all day I am swamped by guilt and worry over the work I'm neglecting, plus I can't sleep.

Finding my optimum ratio was actually a by-product of my plan to hand-make all my Christmas presents last year. For five months I devoted at least one hour a night to my gift projects, all of which were fun for me. I then noticed how much better I felt in the morning when I went to work. I started tracking my work/play hours along with my mood in my personal journal, and settled on seven to one as the ideal balance.

To find your happiest work/play ratio, here's the process I used:

1. Track the time you normally devote to work (things you have to do for income and/or family) and play (things you want to do for fun) for one week. Be honest, too, because inflating or deflating the hours spent won't give you a real picture of how you're spending your time. Mark the days when you felt at your best and most productive.

2. Take the work/play ratio from the day you felt at your best during the first week, and use them every other day during the next week. Again, mark the most productive days.

3. For the third week, take all your best day ratios and come up with an average, and use that ratio every other day. Keep tracking your best days.

4. Take the ratios from your best days during the third week, average them again, and use that ratio every day for a week.

You can keep doing this until your average ratio figure stabilizes, but after a month you should have a pretty good idea of what your best work/play ratio is.