I bought a Chromebook. It was $250 and it does everything I need. I’m now writing in Google docs, and surfing the web for information about thoroughbreds and Mexican drug cartels. And how much it costs to fly from Chicago to Lexington, KY, and also how long it takes to drive that if you started in the middle of the night. I can also make a timeline so I don’t forget when my main character went to college on this website called which is free as long as you don’t mind your timeline being public which I don’t because who is seriously going to find it? And if they do, they’ll just think my life includes murdering people.

The Samsung version (3, the one I bought) weighs 2.3 pounds, holds the battery a long long time, fits into a $6.88 neoprene sleeve (wow, I totally forgot how to spell sleeve) and barely gets warm at all. The keyboard is full size, feels a lot like a Macintosh one, which is super nice and very important. The thing fits in a not very large purse.

If I have an idea for something in the book I can be typing it in within 30 seconds, and that includes actually finding the laptop, my son pointed out. We timed it.

This post? I’m typing on a 5 year old Dell I bought for more than 600 that just gave me fits because a control key was stuck down and I couldn’t figure out what happened and I installed Windows 8 on it to keep it running longer… and couldn’t find where the stupid control panel was to see if I’d turned on sticky keys…

Nothing like that has ever happened on my Chromebook. They even took off the CapsLock Key, which I knew about because my brother told me 3 years ago by sending me this Slate article–called Good Riddance.

OH! Google cloud print? Super cool.

I’ve been wanting for years to be done with Microsoft, and I am totally. I’ll hang onto this machine until it dies, so that I can Photoshop my Christmas cards and keep my sturdy Brother HL-5250DN hooked up (so I can print via Google Cloud Print!) but for the most part?

I’m thrilled.

Also, Kroger in Columbus is selling TastyKakes. You’d have to be from Eastern Pennsylvania to know why I stopped and gasped tonight.


My best review ever

A beautiful, lovely, charming person posted my favorite review ever of Nobody’s Hero. Not only is it far more eloquent than the novel itself, she (I assume) totally got it.

I’m working early hours on my next novel like this but different… and this is why I even think it’s worth getting up at 5 AM for. If you want to help (and I’m so glad you were asking) click the link and then choose “Yes” at the bottom of the review where Amazon asks if it was helpful. That will make this review float up to the top of my review list, rather than something that says I’m on drugs and only my relatives like my stories.


And finally (three years later) in Paperback…

An old friend showed up a couple weeks ago and said he wanted a copy of Nobody’s Hero, but he’s not technologically up on the digital reading age (still paying by the text message, in fact). Anyway, I just asked, Why? (Because he’s a guy, and it’s not really a guy-type book.)

He said: Because it’s a book that you wrote. I want to read it.

IMAG0575I cannot explain why that mattered, but I had about two weeks if I wanted to get a copy to him–and it appears that was the pressurized deadline I needed to finally get my shit together and finish the paperback version. One cool outcome is that I re-read this novel for the first time in years and figured out what all the bitching was about in those annoying 1-star reviews. I hope I fixed a lot of it.

Another entertaining development– I also read some things that made me laugh. And I know I wrote them, and maybe that seems kind of funny that you’d laugh at things you wrote and go: Damn, I really like that…

Then yesterday, aforementioned friend and I were editing some stuff he wrote, and he laughed, too. At his own writing. And said things like: I know I wrote that, but damn. I really like it.

Which reminded me of a couple lines in Nobody’s Hero:

Carolyn turned around as ‘Fairy Tale’ played. “How do you like that?”

“I like it a lot,” Rick said. “I’m one of my favorite artists.”

Anyway, thanks for your patience. Sorry it costs so much more, but you know, it’s paper not kilobytes.

Writing with my Son

I think I posted a picture up a while ago of my oldest in his Dress White uniform (uniform opinion from my boy: Itchy. Yeah, he’s ADHD.)

He called a couple of weeks ago to say that he’d been working on a story. Ironically this is a story he started thinking of when my amazing friend Shaunta thought of hers (to be published this summer Viral Nation)… and around my living room, Danny and I were hashing around the time travel aspect. Danny and I have always loved time travel movies– in fact, when he was home at Christmas, we went to see Looper together. I was saving it to see with him.

Danny’s idea about the time travel limitations wasn’t what Shaunta ended up using, which turned out to be an awesome thing, because now, he’s onto his own story. Except he can’t spell or write a single sentence that doesn’t technically contain three sentences inside the capital and the period. He has a great imagination though. It’s that technical part that gets in his way (see above: ADHD and Itchy).

And that’s why he called me. With all my ability to end sentences where they end and punctuate and spell and what have you.

It’s a good story. I like it a lot. We spent two hours on the phone fleshing out the main plotline and now we’re sharing documents in a google drive folder. I don’t know if this is the best way for everyone to remain connected to their military kid, but I’m loving it. Time travel makes your head spin, but that’s good. I was just praying for something to come to mind that night before he called, and this is more than I could have imagined.

Though he’s slowed down a bit this week… so I’m guessing he must have had the reserve unit on the base this weekend because frankly, I’ve been way more productive. 😉

Fat Chance.

In my never ending quest to figure out what the hell my problem with eating is… I found the book Fat Chance on the library shelves last week. This was a week or so after watching a movie called Hungry for Change (available on Netflix and highly recommended as well).

ImageHere’s the deal: Much as I love the four hour guy and all his craziness, I cannot quit eating all carbohydrates and start eating all protein. It makes me sick. And if it makes me sick, I refuse to believe that this is what my body wants. And as my stepmother says, a life without bread is not a life worth living. I agree. I would also say that neither is a life without apples. On the other hand, a live without white-flour bread is just fine fine fine. And apples.

Here’s what I’ve figured out: If I quit eating sugar–yes, all sugar and all white processed things– except for one teaspoon in the morning in my coffee (one cup only, down from three with a tablespoon each in them)– I stop craving sugar and white processed things. I also stop eating lots of food in general. And wanting lots of food. I started doing this a week before I found this book (after watching the movie) and lo and behold, three days later, went to a party and did not even want to eat cookies. You would have to know more about my relationship with cookies to get how unbelievably crazy this is. Let’s just say that last Thursday after my sugar fast was kind of kerfuffled up by Christmas (though not nearly as bad as it would have been), I ate five of my aunt’s gingersnaps in an hour. Five may not sound like a lot, but frankly, I’d already eaten most of the bag and these were the last five, so I couldn’t technically eat more. I would have. The next day I went back on the sugar fast again and the cravings have gone away again. (Much much easier the second time.)

That’s what this book is about. How sugar is as addictive as alcohol. How badly it messes with your hormones and insulin and leptin responses that frankly, you’re so screwed there’s no way out by trying real hard. How MSG actually is what they inject mice with to make them eat until they are obese so they can test stuff about obesity. Because otherwise mice won’t eat themselves fat. Seems cruel–food manufacturers are doing it to us. And hiding it–guess how many different names MSG is hidden under. Just Google it. It’s crazy. Side story: A family friend took my daughter to the store today and Michelle bought chips and dip to take to a bible study. The dip actually has Monosodium glutamate on the label. I said: “This is exactly why you can’t stop eating this crap.” Michelle said: “Heather called it crack.” (Closer to the truth than imaginable.) Helluva Good, I think not.

Anyway, read the book. Get off the sugar and white processed things for three days. See what happens. And read the book. You want to know this stuff. I have to admit too: I read Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories and his follow up to that, and he says a lot of the same thing. I wasn’t ready to do it then. I wanted it to be about something else. It’s not.

I will tell you about the green smoothie adventure soon. I know you can’t wait for this one.

Big Ugly Frogs

As part of my new attempt to get more self-discipline in my life–under the theory that it can’t hurt to keep trying– I’ve been reading a book called Eat That Frog by Brian TracyThe title is based on something Mark Twain supposedly said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  I, for one, will take Mark’s word for that, but Tracy’s point is that we often procrastinate the very things that will be the most profitable for us, and make lots of time for smaller less critical stuff. Crap. Non-essentials. And then the important stuff gets shoved out.

Here’s what I liked about this book the most: No theory. No psycho-therapeutic inventories to find out why I put off the very things that will matter the most in the long run. I know why I do that– they aren’t as fun as the other stuff. So I bought a date book. Really. It’s my first one. (I got it for a dollar at Big Lots because apparently date books aren’t hot sellers in March.) Now when the dentist’s secretary books the kids’ next appointment, I won’t pick a day in the middle of summer camp. And I won’t have to rely on my daughter to be listening so she can say, Mom, we’re going to see West Side Story that night. (Which we are. Woo hoo. It was her Christmas present. To me. I mean from me. For her. That’s right.)

The best thing about this so far has been something I didn’t expect. Once I lined up my big frogs, and ate them all week as early in the day as possible, it meant that my weekend was largely free. (As I’ve tended to procrastinate my work and then have to do it all weekend, this was a feeling of great freedom.) Then Friday night, when a good friend texted me asking if I had time to get together, I said, Why yes! Anytime! And when I got sick with what I hope is the last cold of the season, I could lay around stress free, praying to recuperate faster.

I’m liking the frogs. It’s not rocket science. One of his main keys is to make a list of everything you need to do each day, the night before, because a few minutes of planning will save hours of aimless activity the next day. I know, it’s like a lightning bolt of obviousness. But for someone who’s completely undisciplined, this has been terrific.

Much of the book is business related, but applying it in a whole-life way has been extremely helpful. For example, it’s brought me here, finally writing another frog entry. I mean blog entry. (It was on my list.)

It’s like a food nerd thing, I think

At the ripe old age of fourteen, my youngest finally had her tonsils out last Thursday. She’s doing fine, and having a nice recovery, with the aid of narcotics and chocolate ice cream. I’m doing fine as well, even though I’m not a terribly good nurse, and I am spending far more time in the house than I usually do. In fact, I have been out for exactly 3 hours since we got home on Thursday, and most of those hours I was running. It’s the only thing I can’t ask someone else to go out and do for me.

The homeboundedness means that I’m catching up on a few things. Reading the latest draft of my friend’s manuscript, soon to be a huge YA bestseller. The final 2 Harry Potter movies, also. Watched part 1 today, saving part 2 for tomorrow. I read the book in the two days after it came out, which was … hold on, Googling… 2007?? Good God, wow. Although, now I feel much better that I remember absolutely nothing. And the movie is surprising, too.

I also have a goal of cleaning out the freezer. That’s not going as well, but today I pulled out the gallon bag stuffed with chicken carcasses. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but I’m sort of a food nerd. I’m not a foodie, because I don’t even know what that means, and I’m sure it also involves wine, which I don’t like, except to cook with, of course. Anyway, I ran out of chicken stock this week, and was forced into using the very cloudy stuff I made out of the turkey carcasses last Thanksgiving… came to a bad boil, and they’re right, if it boils, it gets cloudy and yucky. Or it’s because I didn’t get all the bits of stuffing out of the insides. (See, no way I’m a foodie.) Although they did put all the Julia Child episodes on Amazon Prime, and that’s super fun.

With the stock situation at emergency levels, and my recent discovery of this salon article here, I changed up my methods, and roasted the chicken bones first. I’ve never done it this way, and I’m never doing it any other way from now on. I may not have roasted them a long time–as is the case with most projects, I did not start until evening, even though I could have begun at noon–so perhaps it’s not as brown as it could have been, but nonetheless, I was impressed with the results.

Not at all cloudy this time, as I was quite alert during the first hour to make sure nothing actually boiled. This was made from a total of 3 chicken carcasses, one after roasting originally, and the other two from cutting up whole chickens. (Secret to cutting up whole chickens–a super-sharp knife and instructional Gordon Ramsay video on YouTube.) All chicken bones go into the bag after eating them. I’m sure that’s restaurant standards, but I kind of figure after my son’s eaten off the thigh bone and then it’s been roasted for an hour at 400 and then simmered for 3 hours, I’m fairly sure it’s safe enough. At any rate, this is the best tasting batch I’ve made. 6 quarts of free delicious chicken stock. And room to put them in the freezer. (Those aren’t legitimate canned jars, they’re just storing in there. No pressure canner.)

Tragically, it is never going to get the least bit cold this winter, so whenever the temps dip below forty, we have to make soup quickly and eat it as fast as we can. (Fifties this week. It’s crazy. One would think you couldn’t get enough running time in Columbus, Ohio to train for a half the first of May, but not this year. This year, there are no excuses.)

So here’s the next cooking trick. After reading the aforementioned article, I learned a new word: Remouillage. It means Re-wetting– in French of course. Essentially after you drain the stock off your pot of bones, you cover them up with water and start all over again. It makes a weak stock, but I’m fairly certain it’ll taste a million times better than the stuff in the Campbell’s chicken soup can. I have a picture of the pot, but it looks really gross. She says you can also reduce it into a demiglace which would be nice. I might try that instead.

The only trouble is, remember that whole deal where I started this whole process at 6 pm rather than at noon? Now the remouillage is supposed to simmer for 3 more hours. This would be fine if I lived in Oregon. I do not.

But alas, simmer it must. So besides the stock, Harry, and me finally washing a couple loads of towels, we are also catching up on some old seasons of The Office my daughter somehow missed, thanks to oldest brother’s Hulu+ account. The current episode is “Injury.” One of the entertaining bits about this catch-up is that Michelle continuously calls out to me: “What is wrong with Michael?”

I’m not sure why she misses that being the whole theme of the show. Perhaps it’s the drugs.

How about if I take the pictures instead?

In Tina Fey’s book, she says that she loves photo shoots. Beyond the free coffee bar, and the make-up artist and hairstylists, apparently Tina’s photographers are always saying things like, “Perfect!” “Beautiful!” “Amazing.”

Here’s what my photographer says:
“Stick your chin forward a little because otherwise it looks like you have no chin, which makes you look fat. Unless you want to look fat. Do you want to look fat?”

Joe Biederman

My awesome photographer, who ironically hates to have his picture taken. I'm not yet sure how he likes being written about.

I’m sure this question was rhetorical, and also he started laughing, but I said “NO!” just in case. And I admit, he was not paid nearly as highly as Tina’s photographers likely are. In fact, all Joe got from this particular gig was a paid ticket into the Franklin Park Conservatory, which was where he chose to take the pictures of me. (I know that sounds cheap, but it’s $8.50 more than I paid him for the cover photos on Nobody’s Hero.)

This afternoon was an attempt to produce one photo of me that I’m willing to put on the back of paperback copy of previously mentioned novel. Joe took pictures for an hour and a half, in practically every different greenhouse, Himalayan Mountains, Tropical Rainforest, the Desert. The desert was the most fun, due to all of the cacti you can poke with your fingers to see how sharp the needles are, even though I’m sure this is against the rules, but we did not read the pamphlet very closely, so maybe it’s okay. (I did make sure there were no little kids watching when I tested how cold the waterfalls were in the Rainforest. I really don’t want to be a bad influence.) We’re not even totally sure we were allowed to be taking pictures here without a permit– not for commercial reasons at least. So we tried to be inconspicuous, which I don’t think is something I do well.

The whole thing would have been a great way to spend an afternoon– the conservatory is wonderful, especially in the winter because it feels like summer, and off the top of my head, I can think of no one I’d rather break rules with than Joe Biederman. Except for the horrible horrible experience of having my picture taken. This is torture. I can think of nothing more capable of creating severe anxiety than having a camera pointed at my face. From a very close distance. (I kept my chin out.)

The truth is, I’m not very photogenic. My middle son will often say to me, wow you look really good today– I’ll take your picture. Click. Then: “Oh. Ew. Sorry, Mom.”

So that’s the knowledge I’m starting with here. And the first fifty or so shots did not help. I will say that after a couple hundred and figuring out how to get my eyes to to stay open while I’m smiling–it’s tricky– we may have two that are good enough. At one point, I asked how many gigs were on his SD card, and he said, don’t worry, a lot. And I brought an extra. And an extra battery.

It would make a good cereal bowl.

It seems I wasn’t the only one concerned.

The most fascinating thing I learned this afternoon was not about plants or biospheres, but that the photographer does not like having his picture taken. At all. So of course I made him switch with me and took his picture with his camera–though those shots are probably deleted by now. Good thing I had my cell phone.

On the way out of the conservatory, we did find the appropriate payment, should I ever write a best selling novel. Only $5,100, so right now I can’t even pay the sales tax.

But one day, Joe. One day.

Slip Sliding Away

If you hear that title as a song in your ears, it probably gives away how old I am–or maybe how old you are? That’s the line my mom used to sing in the car when the wheels would start to spin on the ice. Tonight, as you’ve probably guessed, was my first night to hit the brakes and find that nothing was actually happening, if you were defining “nothing’ as “oh, shit, I’m about to slide off the road and into the side of that building.”

My 16 year old son is not home yet, and I’m thinking of calling him to say please be careful–except for a few things. I’ll list them in the nonsensical way my sister would:
A) He drives more carefully than me most of the time,
and 2) Doesn’t that just sound stupid–do I want to be a ‘duh” mom?
And Finally) I’d probably call while he was driving and him being on the phone with me would completely defeat the point of saying be careful on the ice… while you’re talking to me on the cell phone.

It’s a lose lose situation. (Note: I just now heard his car door and the dogs went running for the front door. Appears that he didn’t need me on this one.)

Speaking of running, I’ve mostly decided to shoot for running a half marathon on May 5 this year– the Cap-City Half it’s called, here in beautiful, scenic, and, best of all, super-flat Columbus, Ohio. Barring injuries or potential flu, I have just enough time to work up to it. My kids think this is totally bad-ass, so it’ll be well worth it. (If you have to run 13.1 miles so your teenagers think you’re cool, you do it, that’s my policy.)

When I say mostly, I mean that I have not yet ponied up the money for the registration. Cash= commitment. So I’ll let you know when I’m committed.


My daughter complained that I hadn’t blogged since October, which I totally agree is unforgivable. (Side note, I’m watching the Golden Globes Red Carpet thing, and the dude just told Madonna she looked beautiful, and Madonna said: Really, do you really think so? He said, yes, you do, you look beautiful, and then she said thank you. Which frankly I think is quite tragic and sad. Also, I didn’t know it was Madonna until they put her name up on the screen. Before I saw that, I thought oh, she’s insecure. Then I thought, how much fame and fortune do you need to fill that need? End side note.)

Back to my daughter’s complaining. I kept trying to come up with things to write about, and was drawing a blank. And Christmas was coming and my oldest came home on leave from the Navy to hang out for two whole weeks which was really just awesome… And frankly Madonna was not helping with material.

But it’s the end of my birthday weekend, where I’m currently celebrating all my years of experience at being 20 years old (I saw that on a T-shirt) and to kick off the year and the anniversary of my 29th birthday, I decided to do a free weekend for Nobody’s Hero. (If you’re unfamiliar with this book, click that tab up top of this page.) At any rate, the unbelievable part is that I broke the top 100 in the free Kindle store. In fact, I just broke the top 50.

I have no idea what will be the end result of this, but I’m interested to find out. What it has proved to me is that being near the top feeds on itself. Once you crack that, you then get more exposure and keep climbing up. I don’t know what that means either, but I am generally just rambling.

This free deal will be on till midnight, and no, I don’t know if that’s midnight Eastern or midnight Pacific. On the other hand, the book doesn’t actually cost much more than nothing when it’s not free. Seriously, not as much as a small fries at McDonalds. And probably better for you.

(Last note: Just saw Morgan Freeman on the Red Carpet. He did not need to be reassured that he looked truly handsome.)