Essays, general essay

Time for Dog Pictures (or Not Bashing Who I’d Really Like To)

Seriously. When you’re annoyed with the world and don’t want to run around bringing everyone down by calling out all the idiots, then you need dog pictures. Dog pictures are soothing. And it just so happens that there’s a new dog here at the Old Homestead.

We started out fostering Toby, a 3-year-old mostly basset hound mix. But the little stinker got into our hearts and we couldn’t let him go. It’s been a while since we’ve had a dog that didn’t qualify for senior citizen status, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment. He is a curious little guy, too, and has earned his official name: Toby Wan Is Nosy.

So for your viewing enjoyment, some dog pictures of Toby:

Dog pictures, basset hound, pet adoption

Toby Wan Is Nosy – a rare treat, he’s actually sitting.

 

Dog pictures, basset hound, pet adoption

Rocking his pretty new harness

 

 

Dog pictures, basset hound, pet adoption

We haven’t forgotten Clyde. He’s in the foreground with Toby Wan in the back of the bathroom. It was a hot day and the bathroom floor was the coolest spot in the house.

 

I’ll be back next week with more Stray Thoughts. However, I am avoiding the elections and all of that unpleasantness. I think it’s pretty clear that I back Hillary Clinton because I find her an unbelievably excellent candidate. I might post more, should the situation warrant. But at this point, it’s really about… How to say this? Getting away from the ugliness, the misogyny, the general meanness. One simply must, and having some sweet dogs and cute pictures of them to celebrate. Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Essays, general essay

My Mystery Novel Bring Into Bondage is Due July 31

Bring Into Bondage, cozy mystery, Historical mystery, romantic mystery, mystery fiction, mystery novelIt’s here! Well, almost. My mystery novel Bring Into Bondage is finally ready and will be officially released on July 31.

This is the sequel to my Roaring Twenties novel Fascinating Rhythm, which features socialite author Freddie Little and his editor Kathy Briscow. In Fascinating Rhythm, the two meet and realize they really like each other. In fact, when we leave them, they’re deciding to go on dates together. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler)

As we begin Bring Into Bondage, Freddie’s setting up a very special date with Kathy, but it does not go as planned. Turns out, Kathy’s mother has summoned her home to Hays, Kansas, because Kathy’s father is seriously ill. That’s not the only bad news. Vandals have been attacking the family farm. Freddie talks Kathy into letting him fly her home in his airplane, and once there, the vandals strike again. So Freddie and Kathy decide to try and figure out who’s out to get the Briscow family and put a stop to the trouble.

There are lots of secrets in the tiny town, not to mention an orphaned boy with tell-tale bruises on him. Some of the attacks almost turn deadly. But there’s even bigger trouble afoot. Freddie and Kathy get caught spooning behind the barn and Pa gets the shotgun out.

The fun part about all of this is that the ebook version is available for pre-order both on BarnesandNoble.com, for your Nook or other e-reader, and on Amazon.com. If you haven’t read Fascinating Rhythm yet, you can get it at both places (including a print version) at both sites.

Finally, I want to thank all the nice people who weighed in on my book cover concepts. This is what my designer did with the winning choice. I really appreciated all the input. I think the cover rocks. Special thanks to Helen Kim, of The Think Farm, for all her hard work.

Essays, general essay

Mother’s Day Gifts Suck

Mother's Day Gifts suck, gender roles, gender stereotypingIt started with a press release for scotch. What annoyed me was that it was about buying gifts for Dad. And it really reminded me of just how badly Mother’s Day gifts suck. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen ads and press releases touting pink standing mixers, flowers, chocolates, fashion accessories, and all sorts of ephemeral, often purely decorative stuff.

Whereas the stuff for the guys tends to be useful and/or substantial. Even the scotch. Premium quality scotch is not something you drink in one sitting. It’s something that hangs around a while. Ties may be decorative, but they’re usually worn when you want to be serious about, say, a job interview or an important meeting.

When we honor mothers at church, the women get a flower, which is usually half dead before we get it home. At our church, the guys get a pen, which is useful.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Mother’s Day gifts, in general, or against Mother’s Day. If we’re going to truly stand behind the idea that parenting is the most important work we do, then we should be honoring mothers, however defined. And fathers, too. I’m not even bugged about the gender distinction of the honor, because each gender brings something unique and necessary to the process of parenting and helping our kids build their identities. Please note, this is not a knock on same gender parents or single parents – they do even more work to help their kids build healthy gender identity.

What bugs me is how our advertising community and the larger society insist on reinforcing rigid gender roles, particularly the ones that present women as decorative and insubstantial. We get the flowers, which last maybe a few days. We get the chocolates, which also last a few days. We get kitchen appliances, because we’re the cooks, and we get them in “pretty” colors, especially insubstantial pastels.

In my household, I’m the scotch fan. My husband doesn’t like grain-based spirits. I’m the household geek. My husband puts out the fresh flowers. I may be the primary cook in the family, but my husband cooks almost as often as I do. My dad is the chocolate hound in my parents’ household.

And then there are the power tools. One time, years ago, my husband and I were waiting in an insanely long line at one of those home-improvement centers. I left to find some light bulbs and took quite a while to do it. When I got back to the line, the neanderthal in front of us began poking fun at me for going off and drooling over all the wallpapers and window treatments. My husband just grinned and said, “She was drooling over the power tools.”

And that’s exactly what I want for Mother’s Day – a power sander. I’ll have to wait ’til June, of course, because that’s when power tools go on sale. For Father’s Day. And I’ll probably buy my husband’s Father’s Day gift now, while the standing mixers are on sale. Assuming I can find one that isn’t a pastel color. Because it’s the assumption that’s so annoying. I don’t care if you want a pastel standing mixer for Mother’s Day. That should just mean you need one to do what you do and you happen to like pastels. I simply resent that all women are assumed to want one and that it’s assumed that what we want is largely decorative and insubstantial.

Because the bottom line is, I’m not decorative or insubstantial. And neither is my husband. We worked hard to bring up my daughter to be a responsible adult. We both deserve honors that reflect that work. I’m just saying is that the honors accorded me do not really reflect all that women are. And I’m more than a little tired of it.

 

Essays, general essay

To Rescue a Basset Hound

Pet rescue, basset hounds as pets, dog rescue, dog adoption

Wooly Boy – a basset hound available for dog adoption.

This is Wooly Boy. He’s a basset hound that needs his forever home. We’re fostering him for the Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California, helping to get him re-socialized and ready for a family to give him lots of love and attention.

Wooly’s had a rough time in life. We found out this weekend that his previous foster had worked with him for three years, and when he first came to her, Wooly wouldn’t even let people pet him or other dogs anywhere near him. Someone had been terribly mean to The Woolster – you can tell they cut his ears and he has the odd scar or two on his muzzle.

When we got him, he was pretty cranky about our dog, Clyde, and very, very nervous about everything. The least change in routine would start a hunger strike. He was constantly pushing his limits in terms of getting on the furniture, trying to sneak snacks, trying to pull on the leash when walked, growling at Clyde.

The big thing with Wooly is that we had to be lovingly firm with him. He was pushing his limits to see where he was safe. If the limits held, then he knew he was okay. In fact, his forever family is going to have to be firm in the same way to keep him happy and relaxed.

He’s calmed down a lot. He doesn’t freak out when people want to pet him. He walks really well on a leash. He is beautifully house-trained (unlike Clyde). And he only jumps up on the table edge when he’s really excited, like walk-time. Okay, he will still try to sneak snacks.

Not our basset hound
basset hounds as pets, dog rescue, dog adoption

Clyde in the foreground, Wooly behind him.

Alas, we can’t be his forever home. That’s because Clyde, our original basset hound, got here first. Clyde is a rescue, too. Apparently, he was in a loving home that broke up and his previous owner couldn’t keep him. Clyde is what hooked us on basset hounds – pound for pound, he’s the funniest critter we’ve ever had. And we’ve had some funny, wonderful pets.

Wooly gets along okay with the Clydenocerous, but doesn’t really like him. As the Basset Rescue people put it, life hasn’t taught him yet that his people won’t abandon him or love another dog more. He doesn’t growl at Clyde much, but you seldom see the two of them together in the house.

Keep in mind, we have come to adore basset hounds, but we’re also realistic about them. The good news is that they are speed bumps with legs. Wooly is a little bit more energetic than Clyde (Clyde is 10 years old, Wooly around 8). Nonetheless, bassets are not high-energy dogs. They do need their walks every day, but we’re not talking a full-on run or the dog will eat the curtains kind of thing.

Basset hounds also drool and that can get pretty gross. They are pretty smelly, too. Some say they smell like corn chips. Finally, bassets are stubborn. They’re bred to hunt rabbits, and I suppose you’d have to be pretty stubborn to dig a rabbit out of its warren. But it does make them a bit of a challenge to train.

Still, they are the most loving, ridiculous, delightful dogs on the planet. And Wooly Boy is a complete lover. You can find out more about him on the Basset Hound Rescue site. And there are other babies who need adopting, too. Please check them out.

Essays, general essay

We Have a Winner in the Pick the Cover Contest!

First up, I want to thank everyone who participated. Not only did I get some excellent data, several folks offered suggestions in their comments to make their fave even better.

We also have a winner in the drawing, but am waiting to announce her name until she gets back to me.

Oh, and the important part – the cover winner is (drum roll, please)

BIB_Cover1

Cover #1 – by a wide margin. Most folks liked the contrast and a couple said that the house added an air of mystery. Oddly enough, one person said the book didn’t say enough about the story. Which just goes to show that we all have different tastes and ideas. And isn’t that a wonderful thing.

Essays, general essay

Best Cover Contest – Time to Pick a Book Cover

Update: We have a new contender… Anne Fine, a long-time friend of mine, did some noodling around on her own and submitted a whole new cover. Would love your thoughts on it, as well. See below.

One thing every author wants for his or her new book is the best cover possible. One that customers will see and decide they must buy this wonderful new story, because people really do judge a book by its cover.

So I’m doing a little crowdsourcing here. The sequel to my mystery novel Fascinating Rhythm is getting close to being ready for release. I’m hoping all the ducks will be in a row for this summer. But part of that is getting the best cover for the book.

It’s called Bring Into Bondage, and my heroes Freddie and Kathy rush out to Hays, Kansas, and the farm belonging to Kathy’s parents during the summer of 1925. The farm is under attack by mysterious vandals, so Freddie and Kathy decide to stay and find out what’s going on. Trying to stay ahead of vandals who don’t seem worried about killing Kathy and her family is scary enough. But Freddie and Kathy may be in more trouble when Pa Briscow gets the shotgun out.

I’ve got three mock ups below and I’d like you to pick the best cover and tell me why you like it. To make things even more sporting, if you reply in the comments, you’ll be entered in a contest to win a small, but reasonably cool prize: a t-shirt with the winning cover emblazoned on the front, some lovely Robin Goodfellow handcrafted soap, and copies of Fascinating Rhythm and Bring Into Bondage (well, the Advance Review Copy). The final cover will be fixed up (with the help of somebody who actually knows what she’s doing), so it may not actually look like what you picked, but it should be in the ballpark.

Best Cover Contest Rules

Well, such as they are. One entry per person, because I don’t need you to pick all three covers. Relatives are okay, mostly because you’re the ones I can count on to actually enter. The winner will be drawn at random and gets to pick style and size of said t-shirt from the options I’ll provide. Please make sure you’re putting the right number on the cover, since they aren’t shown in numerical order.

BIB_Cover1, best cover, book cover

Cover #1

BIB_Cover2, best cover, book cover

Cover #2

 

 

BIB_Cover3, best cover, book cover

Cover #3

Cover #4

Cover #4

Essays, general essay

I’m Prolife and I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016

I usually hate associating myself with the Prolife Movement, mostly because the people in it largely seem to be a bunch of self-righteous jerks. Not everyone, mind you, but the most vocal folks certainly are. The problem is, I do have a little issue with abortion – mostly the part about when life begins. I recognize that not everybody shares my belief about life beginning at conception, nor am I interested in judging anybody who has had an abortion. (If you have had and abortion, I’d love to talk to you about it just so I can better my understanding and hopefully build some bridges instead of walls.) But my stand on abortion is exactly why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton this year – she will do more to end the practice than all of the so-called Prolife candidates together.

You see, the problem with the Prolife movement is that they focus on trying to make abortion illegal, which is completely counter-productive to their stated aim of ending the practice. Making abortion illegal isn’t going to stop squat. It may even encourage the practice, with the added fallout of countless young women dying from botched procedures.

What will end abortion is education, child care services, birth control and increased government spending on those things to both prevent crisis pregnancies and make it easier for a woman to keep her baby. Yet the very same politicians who are so rabidly insistent that we make abortion illegal are the very ones who refuse to vote in spending on those things that will help the babies they’re so insistent they’re saving. Where does any of that make sense?

The real Prolife candidate

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton does support all those things. Yes, she supports abortion rights. So what? Her policies make it easier to prevent crisis pregnancies and will make it easier for women to keep their babies. Will some women still choose to terminate their pregnancies? Probably. But making abortion illegal isn’t going to change that. Providing services to both prevent crisis pregnancies and make it easier for women to keep their babies will certainly stop more abortions than not.

And, yes, I’m aware that Bernie Sanders also supports those things, but he does not have the breadth of experience Clinton does. Nor does he have her special link to the issue.

If you really want to vote prolife, do you want to vote for a man who will insist on burdening a woman with an unwanted child, then refuse to lift a finger to help her? Or do you want to vote for the person who will do the most to prevent the problem, then will help with the result should prevention fail? I know who is really the prolife candidate and it’s Hillary Clinton.

 

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: New Year Thoughts

New Year thoughts

Clyde is so over last year.

We’re not exactly feeling the pumped up rush of a New Year at the moment. Maybe a trickle of excitement, but that’s it. For a lot of folks, it’s all about a fresh start, getting your goals in line, figuring out how you’re going to get to where you want to be.

I’ve got my goals set. In fact, they’ve been set for at least six months (actually, even longer), since I’m still working on projects that I started around this time last year. It’s not like I didn’t get stuff done last year – I launched two books, sold a fair amount of soap, and pretty much built a mini-recording studio. Well, that last part isn’t completely done, but this is new to me work. I’ve also got a final draft (minus edits) on another book. I’m trying to refine my social media strategy to compensate for the fact that I’d rather just sit around and comment on other folks on Facebook. When I’m not playing solitaire on my computer.

And I have to confess, much of my current grumpiness has to do with almost an entire month lost to some nasty back pain, which is much better, thank you. Still lingering and waiting to pop out and wreak havoc again, but much better than it was.

So instead of a fresh start, I’m keeping on keeping on. I’m doing the work that I need, even want, to be doing. Which is what I was doing last year. And the year before that. Just because I haven’t reached my goal of becoming a best-selling author and in-demand speaker doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy goal.

I am having a slight problem, though, with the blogging. Now, I understand that it’s important to reach out and connect with my readers (all three of you). But there are times when I’d really rather be learning how to edit voice recordings. Or finalizing edits on my next novel. Or doing the layout. Or figuring out what update next needs doing on my website.

And here we come to the rub on this blog, specifically. There are some changes that are going to be made. I just don’t know what they are yet. I think I will continue my Tuesday rotation of Thoughts, cooking, sewing and living as green as possible, but I’m not sure I want to be tied to those themes, either. I also want to start posting more serialized fiction here. I do have WhiteHouseRhapsody.com, a sweet romance about a president and his aide trying not to fall in love with each other. That, I think, will eventually land on this site, perhaps on Wednesdays. I have a series of cozy spy novels that I wrote back in the 1980s, and I think I’m going to post them as a serial one day a week here. And there’s also the time travel epic that I’d like to do the same with.

Another thing I want to do is focus more on OddBallGrape.com, the wine site I do with my husband, because, well, I like writing about wine and interviewing winemakers.

I know, I know. It’s a lot and I really should be focusing on getting more novels out and building my speaking gigs. But that’s who I am. I am all over the place. Focus is not going to happen, no matter how hard I try. I might as well try to make being scattered work for me.

So here’s to the new year. Rah. I’ve got work to do.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts: How to Write a Review

If you liked any of these, please go to Amazon.com and write a review for it.

If you liked any of these, please go to Amazon.com and write a review for it.

This is a re-post from last summer. Hope you enjoy it!

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day, pointing out that when someone reads a book they like, the nice thing to do is to go to Amazon (or Goodreads or Nook) and write a review. And, let’s be real, most of us won’t. Mostly, it’s because there aren’t enough hours in a day as it is. But I suspect it’s also because many of us simply do not know how to write a review.

I can’t do anything about the time problem. But I can show you how to write a simple review that will be reasonably helpful to others thinking about buying a book and keep the bots happy at Amazon.com.

As to why you should, well, the simple truth is that we authors live and die by reviews. Statistically, books don’t really start selling until they have around 35 reviews. For some reason, buyers think that if a book doesn’t have a lot of reviews, it must not be that good. Either that, or the bots on Amazon figure not enough people are interested for the book to show up in their recommendations, which makes it harder to find. Nor is Amazon making it any easier to get those 35 reviews. I’ve heard from several sources that Amazon is taking down reviews made by people it has determined are friends of the author. Which is really annoying, since the first bit of advice you get when marketing your book is to ask all your friends to write a review. That being said, what Amazon is trying to prevent is authors getting their friends to post a stack of five-star reviews for an otherwise only okay book. It has happened.

So, if you want to do good and build up your Karma, in general, here’s an easy way to write a review for that last potboiler you liked. And remember, this isn’t about being graded or writing great literature. All you’re trying to do is help someone else decide whether they want to buy the book or not, and the best way to do that is to just put down your basic impressions. In fact, it helps if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re writing. Just write.

Pick your star rating. I’ll usually post three or four stars, seldom five, unless the book was genuinely life-changing.

Then, in the box, what you want to write are three to five sentences about what you did and didn’t like about the book. Basically, answer these three questions:

1.) What did I like about the book? Was it funny? Did it make me cry? Did I like a character? Was it really interesting? Did I learn something new? Even if all the book did was make you feel good, then that’s what you write. It was a fun, relaxing read. It really brought an issue to life. Things like that. You can write about two sentences. If you’re having a hard time thinking of something specific, close your eyes and think of the book. The scenes that leap to mind are probably what you liked best about it. And unless they’re the end, you can describe those scenes. If you really liked how the book ended, just say that because we all know spoilers are no fun.

2.) What didn’t I like about the book? Was it hard to read? Did a character really get on your nerves? We’re none of us perfect, so if there’s a small flaw, you may want to note it.

3.) How did the book make me feel overall? Was I satisfied? Did I want more? Did something feel left out? Was the book relaxing? Intellectually stimulating? Just plain silly? So wonderfully sad, I can’t stop crying?

Answer those three questions and the next thing you know, you’ve written a review.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts – Coming Soon

fascinating-rythym-01-v4-small

UPDATE – Looks like this past month has been a bad one for blog productivity. Mostly I’ve been focusing on chasing dollars and getting the final edits done on my next novel Bring Into Bondage, the exciting sequel to Fascinating Rhythm. Next month is looking pretty crazy on the commitment front, but, hopefully, I’ll get back on board with the blog schedule. At least, Bring Into Bondage will be ready for beta reading. I’m taking applications now. Either use the contact form at the right or sign up for my monthly missive, The Robin Goodfellow Newsletter for more details. Thanks so much!

It’s one of those things they always say when it comes to marketing your writing – make sure you post about coming projects.

Frankly, I’ve been too busy trying to make enough money to pay for the production of said coming projects to do much about producing them. However, I did put up a couple notices on my Fiction page – you’ll have to scroll down to see them.

One is for the audio book of my novel Fascinating Rhythm. I even have the first Chapter (without music or anything, just me) posted. I also have a quick advertisement for the sequel to Fascinating Rhythm that I put together a couple, three weeks ago for what reason I cannot now remember. The book is Bring Into Bondage, in which Freddie and Kathy hurry out to Kathy’s parents’ farm and try to figure out who’s been vandalizing the place before someone gets killed. I expect to have Bring Into Bondage ready for beta reading by the end of September. Send me a note via the contact form if you’re interested in being a beta reader.

And that’s all I’ve got for today. Thinking about (and cleaning up) my website has pretty much wrung out my brain for the nonce. And I really should be doing final edits. I’ll be back next week with Salad Basics II on the cooking part of the blog.