Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Lifetime of Paperwork

A lifetime of paperwork is my current source of frustration with my Mother's estate.

We are talking about critically important papers filed right next to 30 year old utility bills. My mind is boggled when I think of wading through 6 huge file drawers of papers. It's worse when I have to sit down with the moldy, dusty, yucky stuff. It's crawling with dust mites that irritate my asthma.

And handling some of it makes me cry.

I'm grateful that we worked on publishing Mom's stories while she was still able to enjoy putting them into notebooks and making lists. I've got a pretty good index of titles and the notebooks.

It's hard to read them.

I don't want to edit them. Her grasp of grammar and other mechanics is above and beyond mine. I'm afraid her unique voice would be lost.

I look for software translation errors, and spacing errors and take care of those. Otherwise, I let Mom tell her stories her way.

That makes me smile.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Another Rant About Things

Original Paperback Cover

Today is just one of those days, I really want to chuck it all and go hide somewhere. Or at least I want to chuck all the THINGS that are bugging me.

Lawnmowers that have been fixed three and four times, and still the batteries are dead. I can't mow the lawn without the damn things. I can't clean my stalls without at least one of them to pull the damn manure spreader.

Other objects that have way too much value, and power, over me. Just handling some of them leaves me in tears. I can't open my mouth to talk about them without choking up.

When did a stupid object gain so much power? And what does it mean to have to give up something like that? Not that I want to keep it, it shouldn't mean anything to me. But it has all this power over my emotions.

Stupid THING.

Maybe it's the hoarding gene. (There is one, and I've got it.) Where we put so much stock into things that they take over our lives and families. Is this how objects become haunted? They somehow gather energy from the people around them?

I've written about the haunted motorcycle - an object modified by one person to change her life - and coveted by two others because of what she made it. Cora Cobra had the mad artist Van Man Go paint her Hyabusa to look like an albino python so she could use it in her stripper act. She was choked to death by her albino python after she cracked up the bike. All her energy went into her motorcycle when she died, it was the object that defined her.

But I can't see my mother, or my father being defined by any object. No matter what it was. My father's ghost was seen in my childhood home many, many times, which makes sense because that house defined our family at the time he passed.

This farm, Jordan's Croft, has been shaped by me. My energy and effort has gone into this place to shape it more than any other person. The floors, the barn, the porches, the fencing, and the garden have all been shaped by my will. But when I'm here by myself, all I feel is the frustration and stress that I've been under for the last 5 years.

Today, this is just a place that contains too many 'things' all of which are on my last nerve. I'm going to purge these objects out of my life. Maybe they can take some of this negative energy with them.

The Things That Own Us

I've been struggling with other people's things lately, and I'm emotionally exhausted from taking care of...you know...stuff.

Things my mother owned. Things my father owned. Things my husband owns.

Even my own stuff has started to run my life. Or maybe ruin my life is a better term. All of it requires maintenance, in some form or fashion.

First off, my mother was a hoarder. A very neat and tidy one, but a hoarder none the less. There are items in her hoard that were made by my grandfather. Tool boxes, wooden stools, tools, what-nots and thing-a-ma-bobs.

There aren't as many things from my grandmother, my aunts divided those items and passed them to their daughters. Which, since I have no human children, and my sister's children were far away at the time, wasn't such a bad idea.

My biological father passed back in 1966 or 1967, but there are items of his in the hoard. One of them is particularly troublesome. It is subject to regulations and tracking down these regulations and figuring out how to comply with them took up my whole weekend.

The damn THING is a pain-in-the-ass!

There is so much bad information on the internet. Even on websites that are supposedly accurate, you never know if you are getting B.S. or the real deal. Inaccurate information from online sources isn't much of a defense when dealing with government regulations.

I decided to contact a supposed expert on this subject, and got harranged by some ignorant twit who didn't understand what I was talking about.

"Ain't no such thang!" The redneck then tried to brow-beat me into bringing this troublesome 'thang' to them. "You's just brang that thang here and I'll show you what you read on that-there website just ain't so!"

My frustration with things in general, estates in particular and MY MOTHER is, on a scale of 1 to 10, somewhere off the chart.

The pressure to get rid of all this stuff, and raise enough money to keep my Dad in the nursing home until Medicaid kicks in, which is AFTER all these things have been sold, combined with my frustration, has done nothing for my piece of mind.

These "thangs" are making me crazy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Festival Selling - A Checklist For Fall and Winter




Selling books at festivals is fun. I've never made any money at one, but my sales always get a spike over the next two weeks. This is going to be a way of life for me until my name gets out. Everybody has to have a hobby, this is the one I've picked,

So, if you are about to go to a festival, or a big flea market, what are you going to want to have with you?
  1. A banner (or sign) of some sort - I got a vinyl one at Vista Print for less than $10 with shipping. It has enough information on it to catch the eye. A hand printed sign will do, if it is large enough. (Standard paper is NOT large enough.) Put in at people's eye level, make it colorful.
  2. A table, with a tablecloth - It makes a big impact to have the table covered. Also in the fall and winter, you can put a tea-light heater under the table to keep from freezing. 
  3. Business cards - book marks, post cards something with your name and website or facebook page on it. Hand them out! They work better than anything to sell my books.
  4. A comfortable chair or two - I don't like those sling chairs, they kill my back. I've got a very old folding wooden chair that weighs more, but it supports my back, which means less pain. Get a rug or horse blanket for the chair. It will hold the heat in so your butt doesn't freeze. Optional is a small dog - they bred lapdogs for a reason. If you've got one, the cute factor makes great advertising, and they're warm.
  5. Canopy with sides and weights - Yes, invest in sides and weights. The canopy makes you MUCH more visible. The sides will protect you (and your books!) from the sun, the wind and the rain. The weights can be made for the tent, or cement blocks, or bags filled with sand. Gallon jugs of water will work in a pinch, but they aren't what you want for the long run. 
  6. Handwashing supplies - I use one of those laundry soap containers with the spout, filled with water, soap and an old towel. Restrooms are always in short supply. Clean restrooms...never really seen one at a festival. Clean hands can keep you from getting sick, and maybe missing work on Monday.
  7. Little stuff - Twine, tape and scissors. Kleenex, wet-wipes, index cards, magic marker. I use shower curtains for my tent sides, so I need shower curtain rings and clips. 
  8. Money supplies - Apron, money clip, cash box with lock and receipt book. I keep my cash in a money clip because it stays together. I have the cash box for change, the receipt book, the magic marker and extra business cards.
  9. Food supplies - Napkins, plastic silverware, coffee cups, and drink cups.
  10. Credit Card reader - I use Square on my phone. It works either with, or without phone reception.
  11. Heater - The 3 tea-light terracotta pot heaters are good enough for the average fall day. Make sure it's sturdy enough to take a nudge from your feet if you forget it's there. I don't recommend the ones that use metal to hold two or more pots together. The metal gets too hot for a busy place.
  12. Drink Heater - I'm looking into metal cups and a small sterno-type stove I can use to keep my hot drinks hot. I've found that a wide-mouth jar lid is the same size as a sterno-can and will hold 3 tea-lights. If I find a metal candle holder the same size, I'll use that instead. It's all about keeping the flame from contact with the tent, table cloth, or your pant legs.
  13. Comfort items - chap stick, sun screen(!) sun hats or beanies, extra socks, water, snack food, and if you bring the lapdog, water dish, food, long leash, dog bed and sweater.
This sounds like a lot of stuff. But the devil is in the details - as my grandmother used to say. Kleenx and napkins can double as toilet paper. Twine, well, 'a world without string is chaos.' Really. I use twine every time I go out for something.

I've only used my Square card reader a few times, yet each time it was the difference between making a sale and no sales. Sometimes just one is better than none.

I might tweak this list, but this is about what I'm carrying after 4 years of farmer's markets and festivals.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Terracotta Pot Heater


The E'town Zombie Walk was tonight. It was raining even this morning, and I didn't really want to freeze my butt off. So I brought along a terracotta pot, two saucers, a little metal grill and some tealights.

I didn't expect a whole lot, but I have to admit that my feet stayed pretty warm. There is only one pot, not a stack of them, and the heat leaked out from the hole on top, so I guess it could have been more efficient.

However, it was safe enough for the day and warm enough to keep us from feeling frozen.

I see where people want to use them inside the homes for supplemental heat. I don't know about that. But if you are at a craft fair or festival and you're feet are cold, this might help a bit.

Personally, I think it could heat a cup of coffee, or a small pot of tea as well as your feet. And putting a third saucer on top might make it heat faster.


Of all the things people used to prop up the pot, I think this makes the most sense. A loaf pan or bricks don't strike me as very stable. This was sturdy enough to not wobble.


I put another saucer inside. This was because the metal tealight cups get hot. I didn't want to melt my plastic table or burn my fingers if I had to handle it.


So I light the candles, making sure everything was as sturdy as I could make it.


Top it with the pot, an 8 inch pot that fit inside the big saucer. Again, I didn't want to risk getting burned, or have something blown into the flames, or the flames blowing out. They never appeared to waver, even when it rained. The bottom saucer wasn't hot, so it didn't crack when the bottom got wet.


We used it this way, with the hole open. It may have given out more heat if either the hole had been closed or there had been more pots. But I was looking for a SIMPLE heater. It heated up in about a half hour and the candles burned for about 3 hours. Our feet stayed warm. In fact, my friend's husband huddled close and seemed to stay fairly comfortable. I just wanted warm feet and a touch of heat to chase the raw chill from the air.

This didn't work. Not enough air for the tea-lights.

If I was going to use it with the idea of keeping a cup of coffee, or a pot of tea warm, I'd have used another saucer to close the hole, like this. (Nope, didn't work. There isn't enough ventilation this way.) 

The top was too hot to touch, but the rim at the bottom was merely warm. I could feel the heat on my legs, which was enough to keep my feet warm.

I lighted it at about 2 pm. The outside temps were in the low 50's. We were under a canopy tent, with shower curtains on three sides. The breeze was brisk at times. It did a good job of chasing the chill off, and giving us some heat for our feet and legs.

I bumped it once, it didn't tip over.

The candles never wavered, and burned about 3 hours. We noticed the difference between one candle and three in just a couple of minutes.

This isn't the answer for home heating by any stretch of the imagination. However, if you have a tent on the road, in the rain, with 3 sides, it will radiate a bit of heat to keep three people from being cold and miserable.

People radiate a lot of heat on our own. It may just be the fact that the tent had a windbreak that kept us from being chilled. Wind chill factor is a force to be reckoned with.

I want to continue experimenting with this simple heater. The winter I was a the farmer's market twice a week selling eggs, we had shelter, and a windbreak, but we really could have used a simple heat source like this.

I'll report back if I use this again at Steamboat Days.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Tales From The Leeward Lounge'

Irene at 77 years old

'Tales From The Leeward Lounge' (US) is the first collection of my mother's short stories. I've had a dozen titles over the last few years, but this one is the one that seems to define my mother's life the best.

There's many, many more short stories where these came from, hundreds in fact. I'm working on another collection, and I'm just debating how many of these I should publish as singles then collect into a single volume.

In 'Tales of the Leeward Lounge' (UK) Volume I:

Volume Two is in the works and these three are on deck.

A word of explanation is required as to why I've published the collection via Amazon. Especially as the Traditionally Published Villagers of Hachett are out with pitchforks and torches.

Since Sony closed down the doors to it's e-book store, my primary market is Amazon, as is true for hundreds of other Indie writers. The best way to get a book noticed, as I found out with 'The Emissary - Journey' and proved true again with 'The Emissary - Arrival' is to launch it with KDP Select, upfront.

That's right - I proved it again with 'Tales From The Leeward Lounge' the best way to launch a book is to let it 'simmer' a week in Select to make sure it gets to all the Amazon sites, then to burn those 5 free days.

The pre-order process didn't do a thing for 'The Emissary - Arrival' on Smashwords. The only pre-order was my own on Barnes and Nobel. On Amazon, there were three, none of them mine.

The pattern is clear:

  1. Publish to Amazon first
  2. Use KDP Select for the first 90 days.
  3. Wait 5 days.
  4. Blow all 5 free days, starting on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
  5. Email newsletter to Mailing List for the first free day.
  6. Spend up to $10 on Face book ad.
  7. Breaking up days will yield less than 30 sales.
I'm going to check to see if I can use the Smashwords pre-order for something already on KDP. That way KDP can act like the advertising for the Smashwords edition.

I don't know what I did wrong, but I can't use KDP pre-orders for a year. I think I got confused about how to mark the 'hot' copy and missed the deadline. Frankly, I don't think it helped a bit.

So this is my new business plan for 'Tales From The Leeward Lounge, Volume 2."

Wish me luck. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse #2

The day has arrived!

The long-awaited release of the second book in the Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse has been released!

The series begins with The Emissary - Journey an e-book. Also is just released is The Emissary - Journey in Paperback.
Not all women are helpless Zombie-bait. The daughters of Ken McLeod certainly aren't. Armed with bows and mounted on Spanish mustangs these girls ride like Huns, sweeping across the world in ruins. Bethany McLeod is the Emissary, bringing together the scattered remnants of humanity, in an alliance that might just save the human race. 
Three years after the Zombie Apocalypse, a handful of settlements communicate by ham radio. When the Davidson clan asked for help, clan McLeod answers. Bethany McLeod must take her sisters Alexis, Dani and Julie on the dangerous journey to Fort Chatten, Kentucky to form an alliance with the Davidson clan.  
Alexis McLeod is a healer, eager to prove herself. Led by Bethany, the four sisters risk their lives to help the struggling Davidson clan. Armed to the teeth, the sisters are light cavalry, quiet enough to avoid the walking dead and fast enough to outrun them. 
Militia, marauders and mad-men abound, the dead walk the land, eating everything in their path. Can four women and six horses make the hundred-mile journey to Fort Chatten?
This story is suitable for all ages.
September 15th was the release date for The Emissary - Arrival.
Bethany McLeod, with her sisters Alexis, Dani and Julie, make the dangerous journey to visit the Davidson clan at Fort Chatten, Kentucky to form an alliance. Armed to the teeth, the sisters are light cavalry, quiet enough to avoid the zombies, and fast enough to outrun them. 

They've arrived at Fort Chatten — to find just how dysfunctional the Davidson Clan really is: Livestock is running loose, there's no organization, no crops and no gardens. 

Beth must do what she can to help Alexis fix the problems, but there's only a few days before Beth, Dani and Julie have to return home. 

This story is suitable for all ages.
 The series is meant to be a celebration of the bond between women and horses, as well as a very 'Girl Power' series about the Zombie Apocalypse.

My primary motivation in writing this series is the scene from TV's "Walking Dead" where Rick rides a horse into Atlanta. Man and horse are attacked by Zombies and the horse pretty much just lays down and dies when bitten.

That scene really ticked me off.

I've got three horses, and not one of them would lay down and die if bitten by a Zombie. They would be alerted at the smell and I expect them to either flee or fight the first stinker that bites them.

I know my old mare would kick, scream, fight and strike until she fought her way free. I also know that she will protect me, her very own human, from dogs. So I felt I had to set the record straight.

Throw in the 'Airs Above the Ground' - classical dressage movements invented by the Romans a couple thousand years ago, add a bow and arrow, and you have the equivalent of the Huns who sacked Rome and took over the known world.

The idea was too delicious to make into a short story or even a novel. I had to make it a series. Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse was born.

I hope this series catches on, not just because of the time and effort I put into it, but also because it's about time somebody wrote the Zombie Apocalypse from a feminist point of view.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Recovering From Life and Change



From time to time I've been tempted to blog about my 'wasted youth' in more detail.

It's fun, really, to look back on that time in my life, the early 1980's as long as I don't get too close to the heart of the matter. I was broke, but I managed to look good. I had fun, and I managed to keep from being raped or killed, not all the women who partied at the time, or in the same places, can say the same.

I had a serious drug and alcohol problem then.

What I did about it was so mundane I hardly give it a thought any more - I joined a 12 Step program.

In some ways, that was the answer. However, for the first two years, just surviving the pitfalls of that particular 12 Step program was a bigger challenge than staying alive in the bars. Those Meetings were attended by a lot of old guys who didn't like young girls cluttering up their sobriety with questions. They didn't like drug addicts (some because they were doing drugs and didn't want to be challenged.)

When the Recovery Backlash surfaced with the rising of the Internet, I read a lot of the blogs and silently agreed with a great deal of what the 'AA Bashers' said. The number of sexual predators (of both genders) that I encountered, as still encounter when I'm around Those Meetings, is astounding. The way the program of recovery is used as a weapon against the newcomers is really distressing.

There are some things about Those Meetings that really suck.

But I stuck it out, because I wanted to stay sober. Still do, for that matter. There are some people who welcome me with open arms, others who really hate having me in a meeting with them.

Tough shit. I earned my seat.

But 27 years of Recovery has really changed my mind about the 12 Step fellowships. They are flawed, some of the people in them are really sick, some are dangerous. (Rumor has it that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was an AA member in good standing.) However, I've always been able to find people who would pull their heads out of their butts to help me.

There are some wonderful people hiding in Those Meetings. The problem is getting past the crazy and the predatory to find them. It's kinda like a video game, you gotta slay the monsters to get to the treasure.

Maybe everybody wasn't a Robin Williams, but I've found some angels whose wisdom I will cherish and spread every chance I get. There are people with whom I've butted heads in years gone by that I miss deeply. Some are still alive, some are dead.

It is the principles that remain, the 12 Steps are the most useful things I've ever learned. They are the building blocks of my sanity, especially at times like these when my life is chaos.

I'm writing this because I'm at one of those godawful crossroads. I hate them with a passion. But here I stand, with a road ahead, a road behind, one to my left and one to my right. For the life of me, I can't tell which one to take, except that going back looks pretty shitty.

One road down and three to go.

Acceptance may be the answer to all my problems today, but it's where my feet take me in the future that matters. I have goals today, I don't make plans, write plays and expect everyone to act their part. Clowns be clowns, some times the best thing to do is watch the show. But goals are things that keep us going forward in the midst of dark times.

These are dark times.

What I'm doing is taking inventory. Of myself, my books, my life as it stood two months ago when I left Jordan's Croft for Talbot Hill Croft. What I've found is that it's best if I take the inventory now, and allow my Higher Power to provide the guidance I need. That's come when I needed it the most. Though never in the shape I think it will take.

One of my 'paths' is to stop writing and marketing my books. I've spent every spare minute on that since I started down that path. The return on investment has been dismal. I get a lot of satisfaction from the process, and no cash to speak of. However, the process is time-consuming, energy-consuming and I have limited amounts of both right now. I have to make a choice.

I've decided to give it one last crack, but I've put a time limit on it.

My paperback books will become my focus for the next 90 days. At the end of the year, I'll look over the hard data and make some new choices. There will be four paperbacks by then, possibly two more if I finish another Emissary book and convert a collection of my mother's stories to print.

I've found that face-to-face market pays better, when you have paperbacks to sell. The Emissary #1 is on sale now in paperback and The Emissary #2 will be ready by the end of next week. 

I've got a box of each of the books coming this week. I've decided to throw my lot in with a large author's group in my area. I've hesitated to join this group because I'm afraid of the amount of alcohol and drugs that may come with the territory. It is always something I need to be careful of, other people's addictions can reek havoc on my recovery.

I have a plan to expand my publishing efforts, that could turn in to a wrap-up and shut down if need be. I have a plan to go back to work, using my writing and my fiber arts as hobbies. I have a plan that brings my wheelchair-bound father back to Jordan's Croft, but that plan is full of 'what if' and 'maybe if' to the point where I hate to put it forward.

There's another plan, the 'fall-back-and-punt' plan that I DON'T like one bit. It involves selling everything I own and going north again. Not to Ashtabula, but to Cleveland or it's suburbs, or to Louisville even. This could require the sale of my horses and my alpacas, not something I want to think about, but so be it.

Everyone needs a plan of last resort.

There are commonalities these paths. They start out looking the same. Going back to Jordan's Croft for a time. Cleaning out Talbot Hill Croft, no matter what happens with the books. Selling books in September and October, tweeting and marketing limited amounts. Purging my house, barn, shed and porch of everything I don't need.

The next four months will be busy ones. If I'm not blogging here, at Jordan's Fiber Arts or on
Facebook, you'll know why.

Stay well.