Surprise Freebie Friday!

Okay, looks like by 9 pm EDT this is no longer a free book. Just saw it’s back to $2.99, folks(I. have no idea how long this book will be free) but wanted to post about it for all the people who’ve enjoyed the free adult coloring books and pages I’ve been posting about lately. Just saw where Not Only is the Kindle version of this The Art of ZenDoodle book free at the moment at Click Here for The Art of Zendoodle by Jack Reed, but this Extra Special Note is included that everyone should be sure to check out:The art of zendoodle


KINDLE USERS – We Are Thinking Of You. Since you can’t download this book from your Kindle device – We put a link of a printable PDF version at the end of the book.

Can’t get much more user friendly than that, right? Happy doodling and coloring everyone! There are about 200 4-star and 5-star reviews on this book.  I have editing work to do on the third Bodies of Art Mystery this weekend. Once I finish I may have to kick back and do some “art” of my own 🙂


Weeding Out and De-Cluttering My Facebook Pages

For the past couple of days I’ve been taking a hard look at all the posts I’ve left up on my Facebook pages, and I’ve been giving my Activity Log a workout. If you’ve never looked at your Activity Log, it’s a handy tool that makes it easy to review and remove posts on your pages that may not be relevant anymore. You can get there by clicking the upside down triangle on the FB toolbar, then select Activity Log, or in the lower right corner of your page’s banner click View Activity Log.WOW meme

I post a lot of new release and sale price books for author friends, and that’s one of the things I weed out periodically anyway. But there’s a lot more that the Activity Log can do when a more major overhaul is necessary. While it may seem a little overwhelming at first–the Activity Log does list EVERYTHING you’ve posted and people have tagged on your posts/photos and so on–there are some handy tricks to make these weeding-out tasks easier.

In the left hand-column of the Activity Log page is a nice list of filters. Take a look and maybe select the Your Posts link, or click on Photos. You can even check out just the things you’ve Liked or the Comments you’ve made. Find the link that looks like what you want to check out and give it a click. Then you can decide which of these to keep, and which to delete.

Back on the left toolbar again, see where it gives the list of Photos, Likes, Comments? Below that is a “more” link that opens up additional viewing options. You can check out the things you’ve followed in the past, your groups, and even do searches. Click Search and you’ll see all the search histories you’ve made on Facebook. If you want to delete some of them, you can systematically click the delete icon (the circle with the slash through it) or you can clear your whole history by clicking Clear Searches at the top of the screen to wipe out everything.

One of the options FB offers is to post the location of where you are when you’re posting or commenting. I don’t personally use this option because I’ve heard about people tracked in this manner, and stories about people getting burgled when it’s known they’re out of town. If you want to get rid of this historical information, click the Location History link and remove any references you don’t want the public to know about.

The last thing I’ve been considering–but haven’t pulled the trigger on yet since I won’t be deleting anything–is the option to Limit Past Posts. I pretty much keep my online posts public-friendly and limit personal information, but there are some things I let post to Friends of Friends and Public. If I ever want to limit that info to just my Friends, I wouldn’t want to have to go wading through all my posts and change the past settings on each post individually. Instead, FB gives the option in Privacy Settings and Tools, in the top section marked Who Can See My Stuff, and the last option in that section is for a quick click on Limit Past Posts. If that link is clicked, everything in your past posts will automatically be set so only Friends can see. While that’s a good security measure if you don’t want to take the time to go post to post, if you have any Custom Audience settings, where you only let certain groups see certain posts, those specialized postings will now be accessible to all your friends too. Since I use Custom Audiences, as well as Friends of Friends and Public, I’m holding off on limiting for now.

I’m about finished up with my de-cluttering FB project. I’ve deleted a bunch of Happy-Whatever-Holiday posts & pic I’ve posted, sale books and specials that are no longer valid, and photos that simply aren’t important anymore. I still have way more on my FB pages than I expected, but things I do look for are a bit easier to find. Until I started this project I didn’t actually realize all the handy tools FB offers for this kind of spring cleaning. Makes me wish I’d thought about doing it sooner.

How about you? Do you have any spring cleaning or de-cluttering projects you’ve been putting off because the task seems a little overwhelming?



Save Today with These Tuesday Budget Tweakers

Tuesday Budget Tweakers

Thought I’d share a handful of budget savers I’m using or recently heard about. The first is one that will go away this evening, but the rest are ideas that may save you some $$$ in the coming months.

Have a nearby Dairy Queen? Tuesday, March 15th is Free Cone Day at DQ, and everyone can get a small soft serve cone. At the same time, for anyone who wants to donate to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in the US and Canada, you can make your donation there.

Just noticed my closest Aldi store has avocados on sale for 49 cents each, bananas 39 cents a pound, gala apples 50 cents per pound, navel oranges 45 cents per pound, and 16 oz packages of fresh asparagus for $1.39–BUT, only until the new ad comes out tomorrow. That closest Aldi store is a 50-mile round trip I don’t have time for today, but my hometown Walmart will match those fresh produce prices. While most Walmart checkers will take my word on price matches, I always print out the online ad page to take with me when I shop. You can, too, if you go to Aldi online, and if you pick your nearest store’s ad you may find other great pricing that’s special to your location.

We’re always looking for ways to make extra cash in our house. Recently, a neighbor on a fixed income told me about the website where she found a lot of good advice on ways to supplement her income using skills she already has.

This time of year I love starting container gardens. I grow herbs like peppermint, chamomile, rosemary and basil. My house not only smells terrific, but I save money pinching off the herbs I want to use for cooking and evening cups of tea.

A friend of mine was having trouble with her computer’s WiFi dropping out as she changed locations in her home. She didn’t want to have to buy a signal extender or a new router, so she tried a hack her brother suggested and found it worked perfectly. She used scissors to carefully cut off the top & bottom of an aluminum pop can, then sliced it down the side and unrolled it, placing it behind her router to create a freebie signal amplifier. Her brother said an aluminum cookie sheet would work just as well, but recycling the can for this use appealed more to my friend. She said Netflix is streaming better than ever!

Finally, I want to talk about the clothes dryer. I have one, but I don’t use it to dry everything all the time. I got so tired of cleaning out loads of lint whenever I dried towels and sweatshirts, and knew the fabric was wearing out a little more with each load. Also, all the athletic and yoga pants my family loves — their great elastic waistbands got a little less stretchy with each round in the dryer. So, about ten years ago I quit drying things so often. I use plastic hangers to hang each item straight (and help reduce wrinkles) and drying racks to let smaller items air dry. Then, once they’re dry, I pop the clothes into the dryer for just five minutes to soften them (makes a huge difference on towels and jeans and sheets) and to help knock out any wrinkles. While this helps my clothes buying budget, it also help reduce energy costs too–especially in summer months when the dryer would heat up the house and the A/C would have to work harder to cool it back down.

These are a few things I do or know that friends do to help the family budget each month. Would any of these ideas work for you? Or do you have some dollar stretchers you’d like to share? Feel free to add any info in the comments section 🙂

What’s New and Free Wednesday

Cannot believe the week is half over already. But am kinda glad it is, because I have a handful of great contests, freebies, etc. to report on.WN&FW

The first is an Amazon giveaway going on right now for several free copies of Counterfeit Conspiracies. Winners are picked at random by the Amazon prize machine, and the contest runs through March 17th. Click here to try for a Kindle copy of the book

Another fun free thing comes via one of my favorite author friends, Jennifer L. Hart. The first books in two of her cozy mysteries series are free at the moment on Amazon: Murder al Dente and Skeletons in the Closet. Grab these bargains while you can!

Julie Mulhern is offering a Spring Break Contest on her FB page like the one she did lastContest Julie year for her Guaranteed to Bleed release. But this year the prize is a signed advance copy of Clouds in My Coffee. click here for the info. Look for the picture & post near the top of the page showing the bikini with the copy of Guaranteed to Bleed that references the contest so you’ll know what to do to try to win the new release.

Contest JennFor her Wednesday Giveaway, Jenn McKinley has a cupcake apron, book, and bookmark. check it out in the post at the top of her Jenn McKinley FB page.

And finally, a contest I’m running on my own FB Author page–pinned to the top for easy discovery–due to the generosity of a selfless fan. You can get all the details and enter to win a 7″ HD Kindle Fire if you Click here for my FB Author Page. Like my page (if you haven’t already) and you’ll get the announcement when I post the winning name on Saturday, March 12th.CounterfeitConspiracies-on Fire

Quick Organizing Tips to Gain Minutes Each Day

It seems like everyone I know is looking for ways to save time right now. Between regular tasks, upcoming spring schedules, the chore of getting everything together to complete our taxes (I know, bad word, I’m sorry), opening the garden or freshening the landscape, and SAS memejust general spring cleaning because we’re finally able to leave the house without having to brave the cold every day — there’s a lot to do at the moment. I quipped this morning I might farm out some of my tasks to the dog. And while she’d likely try to do her best, I think I’ll leave that as a joke between us.

While we can’t actually create time, we can save it and use the extra minutes each day in efficient ways to seem to do more things without giving up sleep or fun.

  1. Find 3 to 5 minutes every time you’re in the kitchen. We likely spend more time in the kitchen than any room in the house–and the most time waiting. While waiting 3 minutes for the microwave:
    1.  clean out the refrigerator and update the shopping list.
    2. plan a dinner menu and check for ingredients to add to the shopping list.
    3. go through recyclables and take out anything that landed in the wrong bins.
  2. When on the go, don’t stare out the window and wonder when traffic is going to move or the doctor will finally call you for your appointment. Instead “discover” an extra 10 or 15 minutes by:
    1. keeping pens and a notepad handy to jot down reminders.
    2. making a grocery or to-do list.
    3. dashing off a couple of quick thank-you notes (yes, we all use email a lot for this, but some things still need a personal touch).
  3. Let natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda cut cleaning time in half:
    1. fill a water bottle with white vinegar and leave for everyone to spray on the shower door and walls after each shower to help reduce the buildup of soap scum and hard water deposits, and make bathroom cleaning a breeze.
    2. leave baking soda sprinkled in a damp bathtub to sit for a short time, and dirt and scum wipes right off later with a rag–no hard scrubbing and minutes gained.
    3. instead of dealing with lint still on clothes after drying (and having to look for the lint roller or masking tape), add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to reduce lint buildup on clothes.
  4. Spend 15 minutes once a year to make self-stick notes to label cards/envelopes with names and birth dates, then file them by-month in an accordion folder so no birthday is ever forgotten. Another trick that a friend uses is to create a “personal” event page for herself on Facebook for birthdays and anniversaries she never wants to forget. Then Facebook alerts her each time she “has an event this week.”
  5. I love using colors to organize, so every project, every family member, every year has it’s own color, because:
    1. using specific colors for each family member means I can see with a glance at the calendar who has some event or appointment each week–without having to get close enough even to see the name–just by seeing what ink colors are used to mark in the days’ boxes.
    2. using colored baskets in the mudroom for each family member means it’s easy to sort out all the personal things for each person that get distributed far and wide in the house, and then family members can take the basket full of items and put everything where they need to go.
    3. when I use specific colors to label projects and years, it is much easier to find things later, as I can immediately disregard files, boxes, notes or notebooks that aren’t the right color.

These are just a few tips for creating time by using it in new ways. Right now, I’m working on a two new Organized Mysteries projects–a new novel and a new short story. And, yes, each has its own project color.

Do you have a tip you want to share that keeps your life balanced and a little better on-track? Feel free to add it as a comment.


Giveaway Chance and Excerpt

          Want to win a Kindle copy of Counterfeit Conspiracies? New contest going with 10 copies up for grabs in an Amazon giveaway. Click this Counterfeit Conspiracies giveaway link and see if you’re one of the random winners. Good luck! Contest ends St. Patrick’s Day–March 17th. 
FP&OF meme
          In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt if you want to check the book out first.
          On this return visit—my acquisition finale—I slid into the darkened gallery. The circular space, lit only by the minimal luminosity filtering through a half-dozen narrow arched windows, allowed my shadow to mix with those already in residence. Night vision goggles allowed the glorious set of Rembrandts and French Impressionists to glow alongside the beauty I came to liberate.
          It was a vibrant seascape, circa 1821, and a breathtaking scene of energy and clear passion. A little known work by a well-respected artist, which had been cherished by the family of its previous owner before eventually falling into the hands of the billionaire’s father. Gazing upon the work, I could almost hear the buoy bell ringing in the distance, but the room’s current illumination left the scene too dark to see beyond the receding foamy water. I shivered as if the wind picked up; the painting was that powerful.
         I heard a noise. A human-moving noise.
         I had to hurry. I slipped a blade from my belt and ran it along the frame’s edge.
The moment the canvas was free, I heard the master of the house bark, “What are you doing?”
         I spun to find him standing behind me. Holding his gaze, I sheathed my knife and dug into another pouch, then threw a capped vial into the darkness between myself and potential capture. The glass broke, and when the chemicals inside hit the air, a dense smoke obscured all vision. But I had already calculated the distance to the nearest window, moved to it, and affixed a suction cup with a braided nylon line to the wall. The painting protected in one hand, my remaining gloved fist, now fitted with brass knuckles, shattered the narrow pane. I slid through the turret’s slit window, taking a few shards of glass along for the ride. Then I rappelled down the rough stone wall to the manicured lawn.
         “Zeus! Apollo! Robbery! Attack!” my impotent enemy screamed.
                                                                                   *  *  *
         Next morning, the painting and I slipped into the back of Greg’s shop for the new frame constructed per my specifications. A close facsimile to photos, and infinitely better than the garish gold number that restrained the seascape during its turret imprisonment, the burnished brass frame even evoked a nautical theme that conjured the look of a spyglass.
         I changed into blue coveralls and left his shop with the newly framed painting wrapped in brown paper. Magnetic signs attached to my van implied a courier service, as did the faked breast pocket insignia on my uniform. The drive to Mrs. Lebowitz’s tiny home was quick.
        “Yes?” she said, answering the door. A Holocaust survivor, the only one in her family to make it out of Europe alive, she was a child when the Allies freed her from Auschwitz.
My brown-wrapped package once graced her grandmother’s dining room. Before it was stolen by Nazis and purchased with fictionalized provenance by my adversary’s father. One of my pro bono projects to not only return the art to its true owner, but to insure masterpieces such as this one did not get locked away from public sight.
        “Mrs. Lebowitz, I have a very special delivery.”


About the Book

Title: Counterfeit Conspiracies
Author: Ritter Ames
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
Laurel Beacham may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she has long since lost it digging herself out of trouble. Her father gambled and womanized his way through the family fortune before skiing off an Alp, leaving her with more tarnish than trust fund. Quick wits and connections have gained her a reputation as one of the world’s premier art recovery experts. The police may catch the thief, but she reclaims the missing masterpieces.
The latest assignment, however, may be her undoing. Using every ounce of luck and larceny she possesses, Laurel must locate a priceless art icon and rescue a co-worker (and ex-lover) from a master criminal, all the while matching wits with a charming new nemesis. Unfortunately, he seems to know where the bodies are buried—and she prefers hers isn’t next.