January 29, 2013

Life and my Chairs

It’s been a crazy week in the Jenner household. It’s been so crazy, in fact, that instead of writing my post on Friday, I’m writing it on Monday to post tomorrow.

First, my father had an appointment with his primary care doctor January 11th. This week we discovered that almost all of the referrals and prescriptions my father’s doctor said she would write for him have not been written. They told me they were waiting on the insurance to approve them, but then, they told his case manager the same thing…and he’s the person that does the approving. He has an urgent need to be seen at a wound clinic, and other somewhat urgent needs, and they are not being met. In fact, there has apparently been no attempt to meet them. I get to spend tomorrow at the doctor’s office staging a one-woman sit-in until they hand me the three prescriptions (one for blood work, two for equipment) that he needs. I will then get to run all over town hand-delivering them. Grrr!

Second, the weather all week has been cold and wet. The wet is good for the desert environment I live in, I know I’ll be drinking all this rain this summer when the temps top 100. On the other hand, cold and damp is not good for my arthritis. I’ve spent a good amount of time holed up with my electric blanket and a good book.

I recently got an email from my library, telling me about free classes I can take online. The library gives me authorization numbers, and I pay nothing. I’ve signed up for classes in InDesign and Dreamweaver, in the hope that I can improve my book interiors and ebooks (with InDesign) and my website (with Dreamweaver). I’m learning a lot, but reading the lecture, doing the follow-along practice, then completing the assignments for both classes takes large chunks out of my week.

I’m still working on edits of The Castle Project and Just a Name. I expect to get Mind Touch back from the readers in about a week, and then I can start on those final edits. I’m also doing research on a new book for the Kwennjurat series, tentatively titled The Queen is in her Counting House.

On the miniature front, I’ve replaced the round chair parts with square ones to give me more surface area for gluing. I’ve also replaced low-temp hot glue with high temp, after actually reading the directions and discovering that low temp is for paper and delicate things, and high temp is for wood and metal. I didn’t realize there was a difference in the glue or its performance; I just thought low temp was a safety measure for the fingers of klutzy people who were tired of wearing hot-glue blisters. I made one chair, painted it, and wove the seat, but when I looked at the finished project, it looked a lot shorter and squattier than I wanted. I measured and did some math and realized that if it were blown up to full size, the seat would be 30” square. That’s really huge. Most chairs of this sort have a seat 18” square. So I cut smaller pieces and made a second one. You can see the difference in the two seats. The soda can is there for scale, not because I’m a sloppy photographer. I’ve got eight more chairs cut, glued, and painted; now I just need to weave the seats and they will be done. Hopefully I’ll get them finished this week.

January 22, 2013

Chairs and Creaky Joints

As many of you already know, I have osteoarthritis throughout my entire body. This makes a lot of simple things that most people don’t think about into challenges, sometimes monumental challenges. For example, it’s now winter. Yes, I do live in Arizona, and I know that people who live with several feet of snow sneer at the idea of Arizona even calling a season winter. I used to be one of them. I would even wear shorts when we visited my grandparents for Christmas.

However, Arizona does have winter. It does get cold here, even in the desert part. The low deserts have spent the last week with a hard freeze warning. Warning is weatherman speak for “it’s happening now or going to happen”. Even the Phoenix area where I live had a freeze warning. I saw pictures taken not more than an hour’s drive through city traffic, of a volleyball net with icicles hanging from it. I haven’t seen icicles of any size since I moved from Utah.

For most of my life I have preferred cold weather to hot, because you can always put another layer on, but in taking layers off, there are certain guidelines of how much you can take off and still go out in public.

As the arthritis has attacked one joint after another, I’m finding that more of my life is being controlled by the weather. Heat feels good. Cold hurts. Even indoors in a temperature controlled environment, I hurt more on cold days and on cloudy days. When it’s cold outside my joints all ache. Moving anything hurts. Even typing hurts; the arthritis has spent much of the past year moving into my hands and wrists.

That’s the bad news. I don’t share it to evoke pity, only to let you know what is happening in my life. There’s also good news. Ibuprofen is a wonderful drug. On most days, it’s able to chase away enough pain that I can concentrate on what I’m doing. I also have both a cane and a walker I can use on really bad days. Working on my books is something I can usually do even when I don’t feel in top form, though every task demands more time and concentration.

This last week has been difficult, physically, but the weather is slowly improving and I’m really looking forward to those hundred-degree-plus days that will be here soon. From where I sit, the sooner the better.

During this week I started editing The Castle Project, bugged one of my outside editors to finish and return Just a Name, and sent Mind Touch out to beta-readers. I also looked into some methods of being able to update my website more easily, and make it look more spiffy at the same time. The program I use on my writing association's website is very easy to use for updating the site, but I found it very difficult for setting up my own site. I inherited control of the association's already set-up site. A second program which I own but had never even opened was considered, and I signed up for a free class through my library that will teach me to use it. I'm already loving it, so watch for changes on the website as I learn more about how to use the program. It's a six week class, and they won't let me work at my own pace, so those changes are coming, but don't expect them in the next day or so.

Also this week I worked on the chairs for my dollhouse project, but discovered that dowels don’t hold together well when secured by hot glue or by Elmer’s glue. At least, they don’t hold together well enough to stand any sort of strain, such as being held by one leg and painted. I got nine chairs cut out, four chair frames constructed, and watched them crumble apart as I painted them. I’m now devising a plan to make sturdier joints. If the chairs were full-size, I would simply drill holes in the uprights and make the crosspieces have pegs on the ends of them, but that doesn’t work when the entire chair is only two inches tall. I need the chairs to be able to stand enough pressure that I can take thin jute and embroider seats onto the frames, and pretend it is woven wicker. Because they all fell apart there are no pictures, but hopefully I’ll have some pictures of half-completed chairs next week.


January 15, 2013


Bookcases. Nice, aren’t they? Where else would you put a book? In my home, bookcases are not just a decorative item, they’re put to use. Every bedroom has a bookcase “for personal use”. There are bookcases in the office, the kitchen, the living room, and about 20 bookcases in the library. My official author bio isn’t kidding when it says I live with around 5,000 books. I can’t be more specific than that, because I only have about half of them cataloged. I have a lot of ebooks too, but they don’t take up nearly as much space to store, and are much easier to catalog.

Before I resume the cataloging, though, I need to finish my huge filing project – in between the time I spend on…making more books.

During this week, I released a new short story collection, Bits and Bites. More info on that is over on the “Other Books” tab at the top of the page. I also finally got back to working on my dollhouse project.

What’s my dollhouse project? It began initially with the intention of creating several photo sets which could be rearranged and decorated to make my website a photo interface. The first piece that was going to be made was a book shop with a flat above it. Designs were sketched, the walls constructed, and interior wall treatments begun. Then I realized that what I was building wasn’t going to suit my needs for the website, so that part of the idea was abandoned. However, I was having a lot of fun creating a dollhouse on a small budget, and decided to continue with it, just for fun. The bottom floor is a book store with a small office in the back, and the upper floor is a small flat with a kitchen, sitting room, and two bedrooms. The house is meant to be owned by a middle class person in a small town in rural Europe in the mid 1800’s – so the lack of indoor plumbing is deliberate in this “hundred year old building”.

At this point, I have the book store and office hardwood floor in. The book shop walls have wainscoting and a chair rail beneath a plastered surface, while the office walls are just plastered all the way up.

The next step is furniture. For a book store, that means bookcases. Lots of them. I’ve got four made so far. The picture at the top of the blog is of my book cases. The picture at the bottom is more zoomed out so you can see my computer behind them and get a sense of scale. Each bookcase is 2 1/4” wide, 4” tall, and 1/2” deep. Each of those books has been individually made, painted, and glued into the book case. I think I’m still going to need three more of them for the book shop, but this week I’m working on making chairs.

January 08, 2013

Dollars to Donuts

We’ve all heard the phrase, but where did it come from, and what, exactly, does it mean? My online friend wry me asked me about the phrase “dollars to donuts”, and I thought I’d share my research with everyone.

In searching (and re-searching) for the answer to wry’s question, I found a wonderfully entertaining and educational website called the Phrase Finder.

There, I learned that the phrase "dollars to donuts" refers to something that is certain. It’s such a sure thing that you would be willing to bet your valuable dollars against your opponent’s worthless donuts, because you are that certain you are going to win the bet and not have to fork over the money.

It’s an old phrase, from the mid-1800’s. Other phrases with the same meaning are “dollars to buttons”, “dollars to cobwebs”, and the (older) English “a pound to a penny”. Apparently the donut version has had the longest staying-power because it’s alliterative. And cute.

This week has still been busy with all the stuff that has to be done after you get out of the hospital. Of course, it was Dad in the hospital, not me, but I get to do all the follow-up stuff for him. I’ve been running all over doing various errands, sitting on the phone on hold making appointments, waiting at the pharmacy for prescriptions and so forth. I also am in charge of setting up his medications for him, and with new prescriptions, I had to take out some of his usual pills and put in the new temporary ones.

The weather in Phoenix has been colder than my body likes, and I’ve been struggling against my arthritis all week, as well. Although I only briefly succumbed to the icky sore throat stuff, I just can’t seem to get warm unless I burrow under my electric blanket. Interestingly, you don’t get much writing done from under an electric blanket.

I had a meeting with the communications director of my writing association, and she taught me “all I need to know” about the association’s web site, where I will be doing the maintenance from here on. It shouldn’t take a lot of time, at least once I get to the point that I don’t have to look up each step and refer to a cheat sheet as I go.

I had a lovely visit with new letterboxing friends Mighty Oaks of Barlow and Hot2Molly who were in town for the Fiesta Bowl and came over to my home to meet me.

Interestingly, I only got a little actual writing done this week, and that was at the store. Mom and I had gone to CVS looking for some stuff we needed for Dad. Y back started hurting very bad while we were there, so I sat down to wait while she finished the shopping. I have been trying for almost two weeks to get a certain conversation written between Bunny and Carrington in my still-unnamed book, and all of a sudden the right words flicked into my head. I carry a small notepad and pen always, for quick jotting of ideas, but it wouldn’t do for writing of dialog. However, I was at CVS. I hobbled over to the stationery department, grabbed a notebook, hobbled back to my seat, and started writing like mad. Five pages later I finished the conversation, and the chapter, just as Mom walked up to retrieve me. We paid for the notebook and were on our way to other destinations.

With luck, next week will be a little better organized, and I’ll have more time for taking care of the website, doing the updates on my website, and actually making progress on my book.

January 07, 2013

Hey Look, Chocolate!

Bits and Bites is officially published. It's my first short story collection. It's a nice big collection, holding thirty-six stories securely between the covers. Believe me, some of these stories you will want to know that they are being securely held and can't come out to get you.

Some of the stories were written as early as 1982, while others were as recent as 2010. Some of my friends may (or may not) recognize themselves in the pages. One of the stories has a small incident in the life of Lt. Jenna, who also appears in Assignment to Earth.

Find out why a bookworm is not always a good thing. Find out where the missing socks go. Find out why having an identical twin is not all it's cracked up to be. Amuse yourself when you only have a few minutes for reading. Enjoy the dying art of the short story. Adventure and answers await within the pages of Bits and Bites.

How did I come up with the name? A short story isn't a huge chunk of reading. It's like eating a box of chocolates, there's a little bit of this, and a little bite of that, but no matter what flavor is hiding under the chocolate, it's tasty on the tongue. Except for the maple nut crunch. Does anyone actually eat the maple nut crunch?

At any rate, here's hoping you enjoy my small bits and bites of stories, perfectly sized for any amount of reading time, from a few minutes to an entire evening.

You can buy Bits and Bites here:
Print: $11.99
Kindle: $2.99
Nook: $2.99
Other ebook formats: $2.99

January 01, 2013

Welcome to the Future!

Today is the first day of a new year. The year behind has closed, and the year ahead awaits, a blank slate to write upon. It can be sort of scary to contemplate a whole year, knowing that every day I will be making choices that affect the contents of the rest of the year. Choices I make in January can mandate what choices will be available to me in November. It's also a lot awesome, knowing I have the power to make those choices!

In December I read 9 books containing 1218 pages. My year-long reading total was 210 books, most of them novels, containing 45,844 pages. I have to say that before this year my only experience with "Victorian Authors" was Charles Dickens. While I had read - or tried to read, some of his works in the past, I hadn't succeeded in finishing any of them and had written of all of the authors of the era as extremely wordy, inordinately fond of long words which have now fallen out of use, and utterly boring and depressing.

This year, thanks to the wonder of ebooks, I've been able to read a goodly chunk of the works of Mark Twain and H. G. Wells. Not all Victorian authors are of the same stamp. I finally understand why Mr. Twain is called a humorist. His observations of the human race and the manner of his sentence construction had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. I love his fiction; his essays are entertaining, and his travelogues absorbing. I'm very much enjoying Mr. Wells' fiction. His guesses on where technology will take the human race in the future are entertaining. What is amazing is how many of his predictions have come true, and which things have largely not changed, as I look back on his looking forward. I'm not so fond of his political, philosophical, and religious writings (which are sometimes all mixed up in one essay), so I have to admit that I just skimmed them. He does use more words unfamiliar to me (and also unfamiliar to my nook's dictionary) than Mr. Twain does.

I didn't get a lot of work done this week, chiefly because my Dad was in the hospital from December 22-30, and our entire family's routine was disrupted as a result. However, he is home now, we had Christmas last night, and although there'll be a few more medical things for me to coordinate, things will be more or less back to normal.

My public goals for 2013 will keep me very busy this year, which hopefully will keep me out of trouble. I plan to publish seven books of my own. January should see the short story collection Bits and Bites published. I have four short novels planned that will be ebook only, whose titles will be announced later. I expect to publish the suspense novel Just a Name sometime in May, and the fantasy Mind Touch in the fall. I'm working on an updated website for myself.

In addition, I am the newsletter editor for my church congregation, and I might be working on the website for my writing association.