Maria Zannini's Blog

July 21, 2014

My social networking vacation opened my eyes. I learned some stuff about myself and what's important to me.

Some of the things I discovered:

• Pimping books is not the answer. I know. It goes against everything we were told, but I think it's true. My prolonged absence allowed me to observe how I chose books when I'm not surrounded by authors (like most normal people). 

The majority of sales and browsing occurred when a book blogger, BookBub, The Fussy Librarian, or Amazon recommended a book, but only if the cover was interesting enough to make me stop to read the post.

• Since time was limited, I had to slash blog and FB reading to less than 10%. Which blog posts made the cut? The majority of read posts were about the blogger's personal life, or an interesting piece of information that could help me in my life. I commented more often on sad news as opposed to happy news.

• Getting blitzed with mass cover reveals is boring. There are only so many times you can congratulate an author before it starts to sound like corned beef hash. 

• Blog hops are usually boring. You know it and I know it. It's kind of like awkward sex positions. We pretend it didn't happen but you and I both know that's ten minutes we'll never get back.

And the most important thing I learned:

In the end I discovered it really was all about me (the reader). I visited and commented primarily on blogs that gave me brain food in return for my time. They got extra points if they replied to my comment.

What's your evil plot, Maria?

• I'm pulling Back to Basics from public viewing and will start posting frugal posts here once a month. I'll also post short frugal tips on my Facebook Page (The Frugal Way). 

If you're not already following me there, go ahead and sign up. Stupid Facebook isn't going to show my page on your timeline anyway so you've got nothing to lose. Ha!

• I'll keep my once-a-week posting here at least until Greg retires (Note 1) and moves back in with me. After that I'll probably go to twice a week. 

• I might be a tad more irreverent than you've seen me before. Just close your eyes and think of England.

• Blog posts will run the gamut from homesteading, marketing, cover design, and general observations about life and industry.

• I always talk back, so chime in if the spirit moves you.

• What's been your favorite topic on this blog? (Note 2) 
• Do you share any of my conclusions, or am I off my rocker?
• By the way, when do I get my rocker?



Note 1: You won't believe this, but Greg modified his retirement date again. (In)Human Resources offered him a bonus to stay a little longer. Oy vey!

Note 2: If you mention my Tank as a favorite topic, you get a big hug. :o)  The gentle giant is still with us. Despite tumors, arthritis, and the tiredness of old age, he turned 12 last week. A milestone! Very frail, but he still gives me kisses and loves to go for walks.


****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on July 21, 2014 04:30 • 1 view

July 14, 2014

I kid you not. We did a year's worth of hard labor in six weeks at Casa South. It looks really nice now. And sellable, I hope.

We were actually done three weeks ago but we had major flooding in the area, and then the realtor had a death in her family, and then came the July 4th holiday. So we've been waiting on the realtor to come over and take pictures so she could list it.

With any luck it should list today. I know! It's insane it took so long. But I stopped beating myself up and allowed things to unfold at their own pace. (And that's not easy for an A++Tiberius Kirk personality.)

Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably saw the posts I did about barbecuing BBQ, the goat. (He was delicious!)  And how I embarrassed myself by not checking the sex of my rabbits. 

It turned out the one I lost was the male, not the female. In my defense, I took them out often for exercise. I probably returned them to the wrong cages.

Because of all the traveling, I had to turn down quite a few design jobs, but I got a couple in that turned out rather well.

Hopefully, my personal life will stop getting in the way and business will pick up again. I just spent a ridiculous amount of money on new graphics software. As my finger hovered over the 'send payment' button, it jerked into a drunken palsy desperate to keep me from doing anything stupid. 

I have nightmares of me pounding the pavement with a sign on my back. Will Design Covers for Food. 

You should've seen me when I wrote the check for my last car. I'm sure the salesman thought I was a nut as I struggled to write my name.

Anyway, it's back to normal for me until the house sells. There's so much to tell you about the homestead and the way things are transitioning. And BIG changes are coming to this blog and to Back to Basics. I'm not talking about redecorating either. I'll tell you more about that next week.

It's good to be back!

Oh, one of my email addresses will be going bye-bye soon. Spammers discovered it and apparently not even Norton could stop them. In the next few weeks I'll contact everyone who uses that address and send you the new one before I delete the old one.

Has your email box ever been mercilessly spammed? What did you do? My provider suggested moving to Mozilla Thunderbird but so far I haven't been able to get it to work. Has anyone tried it?


****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on July 14, 2014 05:00

June 2, 2014

For the first time in the life of this blog, I need to take a prolonged break from blogging. Greg's relocation has become more complicated than we anticipated. I've had to turn down design jobs and favors to friends. 

Worse yet, the dogs have had to wait more than twenty minutes for a cookie. They've threatened to call the SPCA for my tardiness with said cookies.

Tank insists it's a sign of the apocalypse, but I've assured him that it's simply a case of too much on my plate.

Summer is such a slow time for blog traffic anyway, so why not take advantage of it.

I'll be back July 7th. That'll put me past the holidays and just before Greg's retirement. (Unless we don't sell the house, then he has to stay past his expiration date.) I'm glad his company is keen on keeping him. They've told him he can stay on for as long as he likes.

Until then, I'll visit your blogs when time permits.

In the meantime, here's a new picture of the flying saucer a few miles down the road from me. I was excited when they started painting it. First it was gray, and I thought great, they'll end up painting it silver, give it that UFO look. But no, they went with pumpkin orange! What was the owner thinking?


Both this blog and Back to Basics will be on hold until July 7. I'll try to post on Facebook more often so you won't completely forget me. See you in the cyber halls!




****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on June 02, 2014 05:00 • 2 views

May 19, 2014


When you publish a book, it's a big deal to the author. But when you publish 24 of them, it's time for everyone else to stop and take notice. Who is this prolific writer with very photogenic pups?
R. Mac Wheeler, of course!


 Mac is currently celebrating this milestone and you get to reap one of the benefits. Just leave a comment on his blog.
He posts lots of pictures of the Florida landscape on his blog (in the winter, you'll be green with envy and palm trees). His dogs are also frequent targets of his camera. Does that make Mac a puparazzi? Hmm... No wonder his pups try to avoid direct eye contact.
No matter, he treats them well. So stop by and wish Mac well and congratulate him on his 24th. If you leave a comment at his blog, he’ll send you a mobi copy of New Order Apocalypse 1). Not a bad trade, eh?





Mac spins tales around rich, gritty characters with a lot of baggage, and puts them through a bit more grief than they can handle.
               
Visit Mac on his web site where you can peruse his titles or read an excerpt. And don't forget to leave a comment on his blog to score NOA #1

Congrats, Mac! Try to slip in a little sleep now and again. 

***

I'm at Casa South (again) in my world class attempt to see how much more damage I can do to my back. Internet connection is hit or miss out here but I'll try to visit everyone sometime this week for sure.

****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 19, 2014 05:00 • 2 views

May 12, 2014

Relocating Greg has proved more daunting than I anticipated. My online time has been pared to the bone, but it's been too long since I've done a homestead update so here I am.

Bear with me. I'm sure things will get back to normal once we've sold the other house and moved him here. If nothing else, you'll be entertained by watching a grown woman cry uncontrollably, live online.

Garden: Everything is blooming. I've already harvested spinach (and peppers that were overwintered). Parsley and rosemary are always on hand. Grasshoppers have finally reappeared. They're not the plague they were last year, but they're still munching on my cabbages and cauliflower. Da bums!

This year we redesigned the main garden with raised boxes. There's still more work to be done there, but one problem at a time. Right? I'll post pictures next month. The new garden is pretty neat.

Chickens: Status quo. But egg production is way down. There's at least one snake who's made a home UNDER the chicken coop. I haven't been able to catch him yet. He's found the perfect safe haven because he's protected from me and one other predator...

The bobcat: I only saw him once in the woods behind the garden. There are a few other clues to his whereabouts such as a paw print in some soft ground, and a rabbit feeder that had been forcibly smacked to one side. He probably terrified my rabbits. Greg's going to invest in a game camera to see if we can spot where the varmint is going and who else he's after.

In the meantime, I'm trying to make as much noise as possible, and allowing the dogs to scent the area more often in the hopes that it'll persuade him to go elsewhere.

The goats: BBQ has gone to goat heaven. He was a mean goat and I'm not sorry he's gone. I still bear the scars of his time on Earth.

Interestingly, the first thing I noticed once he was gone was how calm all the other goats became. He bullied them too so they must've been just as relieved as I was. 

And no, we've not had a taste of him yet. There's not been a moment's downtime since the retirement countdown began.


Ray Charles snackingBaby goats: As of this post, the babies are now 8 weeks old. There's Ray Charles, the baby born blind (who has since regained his sight), Pandora, the girl baby, and no-name goat (her brother). The no-name baby will probably be sold when he's a little older and weaned, but we'll likely keep Ray Charles and Pandora.

Ray Charles has been sick. I suspect a bacterial infection. Penicillin would probably clear him right up, but I'm trying to get him to resist the infection on his own. Penicillin is so overused that most bad bugs are resistant to it. I'm trying for more homeopathic remedies to help his body combat the infection on his own. It's been slow going, but I think he's improving.


Pandora (blue collar) and little broPandora is the most vocal and skittish, probably due to her taking on the world from the moment she was born. Her no-name brother is very passive. He just follows along with whatever the herd wants to do. But Ray Charles, who had so many problems when he was born and consumed my every waking moment to keep him alive, is my shadow. He follows me around as if I were his second mama. I hope he always stays this sweet, but I know testosterone can make a boy goat do mean things. We'll see.

I'm trying to decide whether to keep these guys at all or switch to smaller dairy goats. It just depends how our joints and muscles hold up. Big goats can be hard to control. It's something I didn't take into consideration when we got these guys. They're young though, so I know even if we have to sell them they'll still have a long life on some other farm.

The dogs: My poor Tank had another toenail snap at the quick. The same one as last time. Lots of blood and pain. I'm going to have to keep his nails closely trimmed from now on. He slips and falls a lot which makes it easy to break a toenail. Poor boy. He suffers so much but he never complains. Greg drove 300 miles on his off weekend to be with him.

Nana has officially taken over as alpha leader, but she's a brash and obnoxious leader and I want to curb her arrogance. The trips back and forth to Casa South have been good for her. We see so few people where I live that she needs to be reminded of the world at large--and that she's not the only one in it.

Question, stemming from Ray Charles' treatment: I have a friend who's married to a doctor. Unless it's a major illness, he refuses to give his kids antibiotics. I, myself try not to use antibiotics unless I'm in a bad way. If my body hasn't fought off the infection in two weeks, I'll go in. How do you feel about this? Do you see a doc right away or try to fight it off on your own?

****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 12, 2014 05:00 • 3 views

May 5, 2014

I'm back, but I hope to make another trip to Casa South soon. Although the house is in pretty good shape, there's still some major clean up in his workshop (which is bigger than the house).

For the most part the only thing left to do at the house is to make it 'sale-pretty' which is my department.

I've got the house about 75% empty. Greg still needs some furniture to keep living there, but it won't be quite so daunting to pack up what's left. Everything is freshly painted. I've scrubbed the floors and all the cabinetry. It no longer looks like a 'slovenly bachelor' lives there. I've threatened death and dismemberment if he doesn't keep it neat from now on.

This trip, while exhausting was way better than my last trip. Last time, there was so much to do, it was hard to know where to start. I just kept hopping from one project to the next. This time it was more about packing and throwing stuff out.

We threw out TONS of stuff. Appliances, electronics, outdated technology, lamps, motors, grills, luggage, even a well with pump. People snatched them off the curb almost as quickly as we put them out there. We were never going to use those things again and it was too much trouble to take any of it with us and sell at some future garage sale so we gave it all away. Better than letting it sit in a landfill.

Right now I'm sorting through dozens of boxes, trying to decide if I want the minutia in my house or if it's better off in someone else's house.

It's really tough merging two households. I'm finding stuff I haven't seen in almost 40 years.  There are embarrassing pictures of me in hideous '80s fashion, and a 19-year old Maria in a sweatshirt I still own today. (I also had the '80s disaster dress, but I had the good sense to donate it during the last closet purge.)

The most exciting thing we found when we were boxing stuff up is almost $400 in cash! It was in one of Greg's old duffel bags. Neither of us remember taking the money out of the bank and we have no idea why it was in that little bag, unless Greg took the money out right before our last vacation (Washington, DC). 

I know we're old and decrepit, but you'd think one of us would've missed that much cash. Sheesh!

For now, I'm glad things are calming down to baby hurricane strength instead of the Category 5 we've been experiencing.

A lot has happened on the homestead too but that post will have to wait for another time. Gardening is in full swing in Texas, but because of all the traveling, I only put in one garden this year instead of two.

And for those of you interested, I've got a guest blogger on my Back to Basics blog this Wednesday. He's going to pique your green thumb interest with hydroponics. This guy lives in Chicago with a tiny yard! If he can grow food there, you can grow it anywhere. Stop by and visit this Wednesday.

I'm tired! What have you guys been up to? Have you ever found money in a pocket or old purse?



****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 05, 2014 05:00 • 3 views

April 28, 2014


 















****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 28, 2014 05:00 • 3 views

April 14, 2014

This week is my LAST chance to get things in order at Casa South. To say that I'm stressed out is putting it mildly.

It makes me angry beyond words that the house still isn't ready. My only option now is to give it one more Herculean push and hope it's enough.

I nagged Greg for YEARS--years, mind you, knowing these last few months would be hell on earth even under the best of circumstances. But you can't convince a procrastinator that chores clone themselves when you're not looking.

Don't get me wrong. It's ridiculously hard to keep a ranch running all by yourself. We're running two ranches simultaneously pretty much by our lonesome. That's all the more reason not to let the little things pile up. I'm not as strong, bright, or mechanically adept as Greg is, so I'm always busting my keester trying to stay one up on problems when they appear.

Putting a house on the market is serious business and everything has to be perfect. I'm depending on him to keep the house and acreage immaculate once I'm gone.

It's a rotten job to be the nag, but I can't be in two places at once, and it's not like any of this was unexpected. We both knew the timetable.

At least most of the big chores are done. My biggest concern right now is painting the house, which I'll do this weekend, and mowing the acreage so it looks nice and neat.

I'm already dead tired from moving a mountain of dirt (by hand), birthing baby goats, and jumping up in the middle of the night every time Tank so much as makes a whimper. My shoulders are one giant knot from putting in the garden. And I haven't even had the chance to mow and rake my place yet. It'll have to wait until I get back.

I tell myself that it's just one more week of giving it all I've got, but I gotta be honest, I'm not sure how much I've got left in me.

My goal right now is to empty Casa South as much as possible. Less clutter will make it easier to keep neat and presentable.

All I want right now is to put this behind me. Wish me luck--or send me a truck full of hardy elves!



****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
1 like · like  • 
Published on April 14, 2014 05:00 • 7 views

April 7, 2014

It took four hours and two brain tumors, but we finally finished our taxes. We were way later than we usually do them, but we had to find a time when both of us were at the same place at the same time.

Taxes take all the joy out of freelancing. I'm pretty good at keeping accurate records but it still takes forever to document each and every job. And let's not talk about the deductions.

When we were near the end, I found two more deductions for Book Cover Diva, but Turbo Tax (the software we used) wouldn't let us go back to my business deductions. We could access all the other deductions but not the ones for the business. 

I finally gave up and let it go. It wasn't worth a third tumor.

Do you do your own taxes?

***

I'm really beginning to get a sense of Greg's retirement. Next week, my favorite house and dog sitter is taking care of the homestead while I do last minute updates at Casa South.

It's all starting to get very real. It's already made some changes in how the rest of the year will pan out. One of those changes is the newsletter I planned to put out. I think I'm going to wait until Greg is truly retired. Right now I'm doing a dozen things at once and I don't want to get distracted.

Tank is constantly on our minds too. He's slowed down some more, but still in good spirits. When that second part changes, we know we'll have to make some hard decisions. But not today. He still wants his cookies!


****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 07, 2014 05:00 • 3 views

April 3, 2014


Marian Perera writes some killer fiction (no pun intended) but this time she went all out with a sharkpunk tale--a story about a girl and her bonded shark.

Only a writer could make the connection between pet bettas and sharks. Check it out. Anyone out there with an aquarium?
Fish Tales
Demon was the most aggressive fish I ever had.
He was a betta, a Siamese fighting fish about two inches long. But he wasn’t afraid of anything. When I put my fingers in the tank, he would try to bite them with his tiny mouth, while flaring out his gill covers to make himself look bigger. He terrorized all the other fish. He was my favorite, and I always saved the freshest brine shrimp for him when I bought them.
He was lovely, too. Sapphire scales, long trailing fins tipped with crimson, and evil little red eyes, hence his name. But one morning I found him floating belly-up. I think the other fish finally had enough of his bullying, ganged up on him and beat him to death somehow, because he wasn’t diseased at all.
I dug a little hole in a flower bed and buried him there, because I couldn’t bear the thought of flushing him. And I never had another fish quite like him.
Bettas manage to be both beautiful and fierce fighters; pit two males in an environment they can’t escape, like a tank, and one is likely to die. It was probably a fondness for them which made me curious about sharks too. I’d call those the bettas of the ocean, except they’re much less showy and territorial. Then again, they do have more impressive teeth.

Jaws first made me interested in sharks, but by the time Deep Blue Sea came out, I wanted something different, something other than the usual trope of sharks swimming around with a kill-all-humans mentality. The more I read, the more variety there seemed to be among them, not just in shapes and names—megamouth, angel, cookiecutter—but also behavior. Grey reef sharks, for instance, are social and gather in groups of up to twenty. So if you see one fin breach the surface, don’t look below.
Sharks can sense magnetic fields, learn to press a target to get a reward, and understand who’s who in their pecking order. I decided to use all these in a story, though since most sharks can’t be successfully kept in tanks—they’re not Demon—I needed a fantasy element. In my story, a secret organization called Seawatch captures sharks young and mentally bonds each to a trainee—also young, seven to eight years old.
The link calms the shark, so it doesn’t dash itself against the walls of a pool in a panicked attempt to escape. After that, each pair is trained in scouting and sabotage.
Not that this makes the sharks safe. They’re not Flipper. More like Ripper. Seawatch operatives never feed the sharks, so they won’t connect humans with food, and because the sharks sense emotions through the link, the operatives quickly learn not to become angry or afraid. But there’s nothing quite like riding a huge apex predator through the sea—or under it. With their speed and strength and instincts honed over millions of years, they’re unstoppable.
Except Seawatch’s enemies have killer whales.
The Deepest Ocean , a sharkpunk romance, was released by Samhain Publishing on April 1st and the sequel (shark vs. kraken) will be out in August. There are so many tales to tell about these bad boys of the sea—and the people who entrust their lives to them.
What fish do you find scary? Barracudas, deep-sea anglerfish, piranhas, megalodons? Shout out in the comments—you might give me an idea for another book!
Bio : Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States and lives in Canada. For now. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog, and Twitter (@MDPerera).


****This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please report any violations to Maria Zannini.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 03, 2014 05:00 • 5 views