Friday, June 21, 2013

Tips for Staying Cool in Summer Heat without an Air Conditioner

Most people deal with heat waves by staying in air conditioning. This works pretty well, except you have to stay inside and all that electricity gets expensive. For 14 years I lived in regions with triple digit heat and had to manage my electricity costs. Right now I'm living in a milder climate but with an air conditioner that does not really work. I've adopted a few techniques for staying comfortable without ending up with a $500 power bill.

Buy some fans. Get both box fans and oscillating fans. They certainly aren't air conditioners but they will help a lot.

How to use fans effectively:

How you use a fan to cool off depends on the time of day and your situation. When it is roasting hot out and heat is surging in an open window, it can be better to shut your windows. Or, you can leave them open a little for ventilation. Also, windows on the north side or the shady side of a house can be left open because the air should be a little cooler there. Now set up your fans throughout your house to keep air moving.

Venting heat out of windows is very important. This is where you can use a box fan or those smaller fans meant to fit into windows. Set the fan in the window and direct its airflow out. This is especially important in upper levels where heat can build up dangerously.

Once night comes and the air cools off a little, you can cool your house down significantly by putting some fans in windows blowing out and other fans in other windows blowing in. This will vent the house and draw in the cooling air of the night.

If you do this all night, your house will actually be pretty comfortable come morning. Then you will monitor the heat rise for the new day and shut some windows and draw curtains to keep out the rising temperatures.

Sleeping in the heat without air conditioning

Oh the challenge of sleeping in the heat. This is where the crabbiness of sleep deprivation meets the fussiness of prolonged sweatiness. My preferred thing to do is set up an oscillating fan (they tend to be quiet) so that it breezes across my bed. Then I get a wet rag and use it like I have a fever. I cool my forehead, neck, chest, core, and feet. Holding the wet rag over the massive blood flow going through the neck is particularly effective for drawing the heat out of your body. The rag leaves wetness on your skin that will evaporate heat off your body. This gives your body a cooling boost beyond what it can achieve with sweating. And the fan breezing across your skin will accelerate the evaporation and pull out more heat. With this technique I often fall sound asleep within 10 or 20 minutes. Of course you'll need to sleep naked or nearly naked to use this method, but it's a heat wave so what are you doing wearing clothes to bed anyway?

If the night is actually cooling off you can put the fan in the window to blow on you in bed instead of the oscillating fan inside the room.

Another technique for sleeping in a heat wave is to sleep outside. If you have a screened in porch, sleep out there. I occasionally fall asleep on the couch on my screened in porch if it's really hot and muggy. Also if you have a tent, set it up. The cool ground and the outdoors are better than a stuffy bedroom.

Dealing with the heat when you're working outside

You will need to be careful about working outside in the heat. You really have to self monitor and make sure you don't overheat. Step one is (for heaven's sake) put on a hat. The bigger and broader the brim the better. A good, light colored straw hat with a wide brim is an absolute necessity in my book. I swear it's ten degrees cooler under there.

Next, soak a bandana with cool water and tie it around your neck, just like the people in old cowboy movies. The wet rag around the neck helps draw the heat out of the blood moving through your major neck artery and vein. Admittedly this works best in dry heat. Hot humid muggy heat really decreases the evaporation but you'll still get some help, so do it.

Work in short spurts. If some bust ass jobs are necessary out in the bad heat, then take lots of breaks to cool off. Drink cold drinks and keep refreshing your neck rag with cool water. A loose long sleeve shirt to keep the sun off your upper body can help too. If you want to wear no sleeves or no shirt, put on sunscreen. This helps keep the sun's heat from frying into your skin. My skin with sunscreen on it feels cooler than skin without sunscreen.

Use your basement to stay cool

If you're fortunate enough to have a basement, especially a finished basement, then definitely go down there to cool off. (I'm chilling in my basement as I write this.) It is a naturally cooler space because it is insulated by the Earth and has a substantial structure over it to protect it from the blistering heat wave. Taking breaks from the heat in the basement will help you find some relief from the heat.

Cooling centers help people without air conditioning

Sometimes you just need to get into some air conditioning even if you don't have it or can't afford to use it at home. During bad heat waves, find out if any cooling centers have been opened in your town. Even if there are no official cooling centers, you can always go to the grocery store and spend a LONG time shopping for Popsicles. Another free place to relax in a cooled environment is your local library. This is a public space and quiet people can hang out for hours and read magazines and books. Often you can spend some time on the internet as well.

If you can afford a movie ticket, go to the movies. It's been a wonderful place to cool off for decades. This is how a crappy movie achieves blockbuster status during a big heat. People just need some chill time no matter how many car explosions they have to view.

Put on your bathing suit and start splashing

If you can enjoy a water source, then go for it. Also there's no law against an adult running through a sprinkler, but I suppose that it will help you look normal if you have kids in your household.

I hope that my tips for cooling off during a heat wave even if you don't have an air conditioner will be helpful to you.

Happy Summer!

Read a book while sitting in front of that fan.

Tracy Falbe writes fantasy novels available at Brave Luck Books where strong characters take chances.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fortune cookie fun with book titles

My wandering mind has discovered that the titles of novels are just as fun as fortune cookie messages when you add the phrase "in bed" after them. The results range from funny to weird to outright disturbing.

Here's the game with my novels:

Union of bed

The Goddess bed

Judgment bed (Don't want this to happen.)

The Borderlands of bed

Rys bed

Savage bed (Could be fun.)

New bed (I wish.)

Love bed (Happens to everybody.)

Let's try some famous titles:

The Fellowship of the bed (Sorry.)

The bed (We're not related, right?)

Moby bed (This had to be on the list.)

Great bed (Obvious choice)

The Sound and the bed (I heard this through a wall at a motel once)

The Call of the bed  (Sign me up)

Alice's Adventures in bed (She's older than she looks.)

The Three Musketeers....(OK, I'll stop)

What fortune cookie fun with book titles can you think of? Please share in comments.

Tracy Falbe writes fantasy novels available at Brave Luck Books where strong characters take chances.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Join the Rift Healer fantasy book tour with $50 giveaway drawing

Rift Healer Tour  

rift healer 

Rift Healer

Rift Healer is the first installment of the 'Forest Magic' series, a Young Adult Fantasy/Romance set in Central and Western Massachusetts. After a minor earthquake, the enchanted forest in Bidwell, MA, is infested with monster-spewing rifts. Gisele Westerfield's great nephew, the gifted Micah, and his distant cousin, Selena, arrive to assist. Together with Gisele's summer students, twins Haley and Lacey, they will try to heal the magical forest. Much to the consternation of the beautiful Selena, Micah identifies Haley as The One whom he'll share his future. But after witnessing a terrifying display of Micah's Gift, Haley cools to his advances and unexpectedly discovers her own Gift-- she can heal the earth. Monsters, mayhem, and teenage angst follow the small group as they confront evil in the forest and a dangerous prediction that 'one will fall'. Will they heal the rifts in time? Can they save the unicorns? And is Haley really destined to be with Micah?


Author Diane M. Haynes

Diane has lived in Massachusetts all her life where early on, her artistic talents were fostered, though her skills as an "excellent report writer" were often noted in previous employment. On her brother Rick's birthday, November 16, 2004, seven months after his death, she woke from an amazing dream which would not fade. She outlined the dream, made a few quick notes and days later produced a 12 page short story. After deciding her story was interesting but incomplete, she began writing her first novel, using her dream as its climax. She now believes the dream to be a 'Spirit Gift,' sent by her brother. Diane continues to reside in Central MA with her husband and a very naughty Basset Hound named Basil and his new adopted sister-Basset, Ruby, both of whom cleverly wreak havoc on the Haynes' formerly well-ordered lives. She spends her time writing, reading books about writing, talking about writing, painting with watercolors, antiqueing and attempting to train a very reluctant Basil and a willing, but highly comedic Ruby.

  Book Blast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 7/4/13  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Day excerpt from Savage Storm: Rys Rising Book II

In observance of Father's Day, I'm sharing a little father son reunion from the novel Savage Storm: Rys Rising Book II. 

Fantasy novels tend to have father figures who divulge advice, usually garbled with mysteries and prophecies, and then die tragically. In my novels I don't always dispose of my characters' parents. Sometimes I keep them around so I can explore the relationships.

In this scene from Savage Storm, Cruce has come home for the summer after his first seasons of militia training and combat patrols on the frontier. Cruce's father Zehn did not agree with Cruce joining the militia, but perhaps many months of separation will have softened his attitude.

Across the hall, Cruce heard the familiar roll of his father’s wheelchair. He jumped up and his spurs jingled as he rushed out of the room. Viv was pushing Zehn, but she stopped when Cruce appeared. She thought it best to pause and let father and son have their moment of reunion.

Upon seeing Zehn, Cruce wanted to embrace him and nearly cry with happiness as he had with his mother and sister, but something held him back. He had seen a flash of genuine joy and relief in his father’s sunken eyes, but it had quickly been extinguished by his stubborn animosity toward Cruce’s militia career. 

“Father,” Cruce said hesitantly. 

“Welcome home, Cruce,” Zehn said and as he lifted his hands some of his hostility melted. 

Cruce rushed over to him and gave him a tentative hug. “How have you been?” he asked.

Zehn patted his son’s cheek. “That’s a stupid question, son,” he said.

Cruce nodded, a little embarrassed. Of course his father had not been well. Straightening, he stepped aside so that Viv could push Zehn into the parlor. 

May all fathers and their children remember to let their disagreements fade. 

Happy Father's Day. May your children rain gifts upon you and stay out of your wallets for 24 hours.  

Savage Storm: Rys Rising Book II by Tracy Falbe

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rys Rising review blog tour with $25 Amazon gift card starting July 8th

I'm happy to report that all 5 slots on the Rys Rising review-only tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions have been filled.

I'm quite anxious about what the honest reviews from book bloggers will be. People tend to love, hate, or not get my novels. I suppose that range of reactions would apply to most any novels, but I'm still very nervous about it all.

The tour will include a prize drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. A review of Rys Rising will appear at each of these blogs:

July 8:  Writer Wonderland
July 9:  Author Rose Wynters
July 10:  Lindsay's Scribblings
July 11:  Deal Sharing Aunt
July 12:  Sharing Links and Wisdom

Visit these blogs to discover new reads anytime.

Follow my blog for updates about my book tour, future tours, and other events and promotions.

Rys Rising is currently a free ebook to introduce the complete 4-book epic fantasy series. It is available worldwide in multiple ebook formats at Brave Luck Books.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Went strawberry picking today and canned jam

After a quick trip to a local farm, we came home with 8 quarts of fresh strawberries.

Canning season officially opened for me today with my first canning project of the year. June means strawberries, and I can't miss my chance to make homemade strawberry jam. Since I started making my own jam and canning it, nothing from the store tastes as good.

Eleven half pints of strawberry jam are now cooling on my counter. 

If you are interested in learning how to preserve delicious food and add the important skill of home canning to your sustainable lifestyle, please read my learn-it-fast guide to home canning. 

From Falbe Publishing 
Printable PDF ebook $0.99
Audiobook $3.95

Or at your favorite retailer:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cover Art Job Posting for Werelord Thal, a Renaissance Werewolf Adventure

I have a new novel in development and naturally need cover art.

Technical requirements for deliverable:

300 dpi resolution
Greatly prefer TIFF format but can accept jpeg
Image size approximately 1800 x 2700 pixels or 6 x 9 inches.

This size and resolution will give me the quality and flexibility to produce small digital cover images or produce a cover for print.

The novel will be titled Werelord Thal. It is a werewolf novel set in Renaissance Bohemia. 1561 to be precise. I’m open to either illustration or photo manipulation.

My main idea for the cover (and I am open to suggestions) is to make the main character Thal the focal point. He is a young man with thick reddish brown hair and a goatee. If you look closely his hair color is odd because it contains several colors, like an animal’s coat. And his eyes are a blend of all colors and are strikingly different. He would be depicted in Renaissance garb, but nothing fancy. He’s not wealthy. He would need a wolf hide over his shoulder or around his shoulders. This is his enchanted fur that he must use to cast the spell that changes him into a werewolf. Thal also needs one or two antique looking pistols in his belt, an old sword, and knives in the top of his boots. He is described as an attractive man. His shirt can be open with scratches showing on his chest.

It would also be great to include his dog. He is a scrappy small brown and white dog named Pistol.

The background should blend woodsy mountains and the skyline of a Renaissance city. Perhaps even find a way to faintly work the silhouette of a woman being burned at the stake.

I realize not all of these details might be achievable in the final composition. I’m looking for a clean and striking image to use to design the ebook and book covers. I’d mostly like details to shine on the main figure of Thal, especially his wolf fur and accouterments and have the background be suggestive and abstract. Leaving some blank background space for title and author text is good.

Please let me know your questions. I am still in the process of writing this novel, but it’s my 9th novel so this is a serious production. You can see more about my 8 previously published novels at Brave Luck Books

I can make available chapters of the manuscript to assist an artist in helping me develop this cover art.

A 4-chapter sneak preview of the work in progress is already available.

Click add to cart to download it for free. 

I prefer to work with freelancers through the Guru freelance system. I like to use the escrow system so you can see that the project is funded when you begin work. Also we can use the project messages to track all correspondence, and Guru takes care of the 1099 tax form for me.

To bid on the project please go to Guru.

Please be patient for a response. I will be going on vacation in late June and will not be making a decision until mid to late July.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fascination with wolves summons both love and the desire to kill them

Image from Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources.

Because I am in the midst of writing a werewolf novel, I have naturally been doing a lot of research about wolves, their lore, and the lore of their supernatural spawn: the werewolf. Unexpectedly a real world controversy about wolves in my home state of Michigan has impressed upon me the continued relevance of humanity's relationship with wolves. Our ancient love and hate affair with them remains unresolved and is pitting voters against the legislature that ignores them.

Wolves have only recently been removed from the Endangered Species list in my state. According to the organization Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, the wild population is at about 700. In late 2012 during a lame duck session and over the holidays when politicians do things people don't want, the legislature authorized a sport hunt for wolves. By March 2013 Michigan voters had submitted over 255,000 signatures to put the new law to a referendum vote with the hopes of overturning it. Immediately after the petition was submitted, my state government use a regulatory procedure to list wolves as a game species for hunting. This regulatory move is supposed to be beyond the ballot initiative and is therefore a direct assault on democracy. In summary: Many people don't want wolves hunted for sport and government blocks this desire at every turn.

Of course this dodgy democracy-gutting stuff happens across all issues, but this one about the wolves is fascinating on so many levels. Why are hundreds of thousands of people opposed to sport wolf hunting? Why are politicians so dedicated to making a sport hunt happen?

Historically wolves have been feared and demonized in literature. The Big Bad Wolf must die! And yet people have a relationship with wolves that goes far into the past when we co-evolved as hunters. Our dogs came from original wolf stock in prehistoric times. The similarities in social behavior between the species builds a kinship. The beauty of wolves entrances many people. But mostly in this modern day and age when so much of Nature has been beaten down and destroyed, the wolf embodies freedom. Wolves live life. They follow their instincts and their hearts.

Biologists have also learned that wolves function as an important part of their ecosystems. By keeping larger animals in check, like deer and elk, trees and shrubs are able to mature instead of being over-browsed. Studies within Yellowstone National Park where wolves have been reintroduced showed substantial improvement in the woody growth along streams once the elk were thinned by natural predators. Shadier streams were better for fish. The ecosystem was improved from top to bottom because a top level predatory was once again in its natural position in the ecosystem.

Let me tell you that Michigan has lots of extra deer. A viable population of predators, especially in Wilderness areas, is badly needed. I'm not suggesting that people let wolves kill their livestock or threaten their families. Landowners with nuisance wildlife have the right to shoot them. I imagine this unfortunate activity would even train some wolves to shy away from human areas.

But why all this political action for the sake of a sport wolf hunt? It's not to eliminate threatening animals. People in the communities that include wolves can already do this if and when they feel the need. In my judgment only very wealthy and influential people can cause this level of political action. Think of all the important things millions of people want but are told are politically impossible? But magically the Michigan State government will do anything to make a wolf hunt happen even when hundreds of thousands of voters actively oppose it.

I have not heard anything in the news explaining why this wolf hunt is such a priority for the government. The unnamed people behind this unnecessary sport hunt for wolf trophies are making an expression of dominance over the land and people. If wolves are running free, then perhaps the land is too free. If the land is at liberty, then perhaps the people upon it might start to feel free too. Better to squash the freedom, especially its furry symbol. Land populated by a revered species might be harder to log and mine and frack and destroy in all the nasty ways so precious to our hidden rulers. If people can control if and when wolves are hunted, then they might also be able to exert control over their water and minerals and timber and soil.

Always the theme in our young country has been to tame the land. Lay it bare. Mount the heads on the wall. The greed of the few outweighs the spirits of the many. The wolf hunt delivers the message that freedom and self reliance are not to be tolerated. Such wildness must be hunted down and put down.

For centuries as civilizations advanced, the wolf was put forth as a symbol of the dangerous wilderness. The land would not be safe until all the wolves were shot, poisoned, and trapped. If the top level predator of a place is destroyed, then the spirit of the place is broken.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Just Published! My Grandma's Vintage Recipes: Old Standards for a New Age

People challenged by tight food budgets and busy schedules gain timeless taste from the simple ingredients in 1920s vintage recipes. The new ebook My Grandma’s Vintage Recipes by Tracy Falbe presents recipes for daily enjoyment and delightful holidays.
$2.99 Ebook
Download at Falbe Publishing (choice of 3 formats, available worldwide)

Amazon Kindle

Etsy (worldwide)

Last year I discovered a handwritten cookbook in a closet that my Grandma had started writing in 1926 when she was in vocational school. She grew up in Chatham, Ontario, Canada and her recipes reflect the food of that time and place. Over the past six months I've been lovingly restoring and updating her recipes. I was able to publish 64 recipes for a modern audience and I believe they have a lot of value and yumminess to offer.

About the Cookbook:

Regain the wisdom and creativity of our ancestors who were experts at whipping up something special with tight budgets and limited supplies. You may not be able to find the “10-cent bag of marshmallows” anymore, but modern cooks can still benefit from this collection of 1920s vintage recipes collected by my late Grandmother. In 2012 I discovered her handwritten recipe notebook from 1926 and developed this cookbook.

While updating the directions for modern cooks, I maintained the vintage charm of her original notes. Generations ago people did not have a bunch of fancy ingredients, but they still came up with a variety of yummy quick breads, cakes, desserts, pies, salads, main dishes, canning recipes, and fruitcakes. This cookbook has a special emphasis on fruitcakes. I share my mood-altering experiences with her fruitcake recipes. Bakers who love the holidays should definitely add a classic Christmas fruitcake to their list. All jokes aside, fruitcake deserves a place among elite holiday desserts.

And people into urban farming and homesteading can harvest delicious value from these vintage recipes meant to use up all the dried fruit and nuts you can pick. Plus find a variety of classic uses for all the tomatoes, cucumbers, and apples you can grow with marvelous canning recipes for sauces, pickles, and chutneys.

My Grandma’s name was Edna Oldershaw Irwin and her recipes reflect the character of the food in 1920s Canada where she grew up in Chatham, Ontario. After months of effort, I’ve prepared 64 of her recipes for publication. I no longer have my Grandma, but I still have her cookbook and now you can read it too.

$2.99 Ebook
Download at Falbe Publishing (choice of 3 formats, available worldwide)

Amazon Kindle

Etsy (worldwide) 
If you are a food or book blogger you can republish the press release about this vintage recipes ebook and get materials including a free recipe from the press kit