Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring!




March, in like a lion, has not been a roaring success. However, spring is here!

Against all odds, I'm making bits of headway. A few more things out of my way, a few more papers thrown away. The weather is better, which always helps my mood.

I had minor surgery, so I'm laid up. But that gives me time to work on Mom's collection of short stories. I've got to get an announcement post written, to promote the links to the new stories.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Paring Down Moves to Cyber Space

A few weeks ago I was ranting about the way things had taken over my life. (See Things That Take Over Our Lives) I was very frustrated because there was so much stuff - mine, my parents and my husbands - that I wasn't enjoying my life at all.

That put me in the mood to purge, and man, I purged the entire house. There are just two closets to go, the rest of the stuff is gone. Furniture, electronics, books, clothing, things small and large were taken out of my house. Last to go was the fish tank I've had for almost 30 years.

Yeah, it was a huge undertaking.

Now I'm struggling with the hoarding gene again. It wants me to fill my house back up. My husband isn't helping - he's gone on a buying binge that's filled his office with enough rockets to have his own Star Fleet. But I degress - this blog isn't about him and his stuff.

The next step was to pare down my social media sites. Three blogs, five Facebook pages, three twitter accounts and a half-dozen email addresses. I've deleted and unpublished and abandoned nearly all of them.

This is the only blog - there is the Icy Road Publishing Facebook page, twitter account @IcyRoadPubs, and it's email list. All the rest is gone.

Oddly enough, that's made it easier to start posting again because my energy is now focused on a smaller number of projects.

Who'd have thunk it?

So, the mailing list is going to become the next priority. I'm going to need to tweak it, because I've got Mom's short stories and my books all lumped together. But that is still easier than scattering my energy all over the internet.

Yahoo! Let's see if we get anywhere with a better focus.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Advertising In The Age of Social Media - 10 Tips

This is not really a timely post. Facebook is about to change their rules for business pages, and I'm not sure what that means yet.

However, I want to go on the record for saying that my social media skills up until now, sucked. I found it tedious and not at all effective. But now that I've got at least a vague notion about how it should work, the rules are going to change.

Drat that!

However, I've managed to put together 10 tips for Facebook usage.


1) If you don’t have a Facebook for specifically for your author page – I recommend that you create a page. I’ll explain more as we go along.

You don’t need to open a new account. You can go over to the right and under ‘pages’ you can ‘create a page.’ There are a few things you need to tell Facebook about your business. What this does for you is simple, and powerful.

When you have an author page, you can like the pages of businesses and they can like your page back. Right now, Facebook allows the Icy Road Publishing page to ‘like’ a personal page. This might change on the first of year.

2) Visibility is the key to Facebook advertising. We ALL need people to find us, and the way to do that, without spending any money, is to network with local businesses. Yes, local to you, dear writer. Because local authors and their books are interesting to the people who live near us. I've seen this every time we do a local festival or on Second Saturday.

The more local Facebook pages I connect with, the more people see my posts. The people who ‘like’ our posts show our posts and pages on their newsfeeds. So their friends see us, our page, and you, and your page. We're looking for READERS, after all, so start with the library closest to you and branch out from there.

3) Taking advantage of extended “reach” by posting or commenting on that page’s posts. This will make your author page show up on the timeline of that page. “Likes” on posts don’t have the same impact, but they get counted in the overall statistics for your page.

4) Cooperation is the key to success. Once you "like" a local business, comment and "like" their posts. Your activity will show up on the business pages, making it likely they comment and like the posts you publish.

5) Measuring progress. When you have an author page, you also have access to a page called “Insights” that will show you how your page is doing over time. This will also give you an idea of which posts and photos are working the best for you. 

6) What to post? This can take some thought and planning. At work we get the most activity on photos of merchandise. This generated more page “likes” which extended the reach of our page a little bit more.

7) How does this help everyone? Facebook is a powerful tool for promoting your business. The more networked you are to your community, the more people will be aware of your work. We’ve all heard that word-of-mouth is the best advertising. Currently Facebook is one way to get people aware of your existence, and ours, without paying thousands of dollars for advertising. Hopefully this won't change.

8) Facebook ads. For those who do have even a modest budget for advertising, Facebook can promote individual posts or ads. You can spend as little as $5 to promote one of your posts for up to 3 days. However, the number of people who will see the ad is limited by the number of people you can “reach.” So unless you can “reach” several thousand people, it is not in your best interest to pay to promote your posts. You will be better served by ‘liking,’ ‘commenting’ and ‘sharing’ the posts of other people as your author page for free.

9) Keep pages active with posts and ‘Likes’ for best results. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time on Facebook. I know you have better things to do, so I recommend scheduling posts. This is a function Facebook provides on all pages.

Take a few minutes to scan your author page newsfeed every other day if possible.  Share anything that catches your eye. Like posts or comments that amuse you. Comment or reply to any posts that interest you.

Once a week, sit down to write a few brief posts concerning your business. Is there a new project you can photograph? Did something great happen that you want your business to share? Do you have a pet that likes to watch you work? Don’t stress out if you can only think of one or two posts for the week. Type them up, upload any photos and schedule the post for later in the week.

Check the Insights tab on your page to see what activity your page has generated. Which posts generated the most activity? How many overall ‘likes’ has your page generated? How many people follow your page? Can you tell where  the most activity came from?

10) Don’t stress over the daily numbers. Activity will rise and fall during the day, and over the course of the month. You are looking for TRENDS over a MONTH of activity. Modest changes of less than 1% are common on a weekly basis, which is what Facebook looks at. A 0.1% rise in a week is a 0.5% rise over the course of a month. This is a respectable increase in the world of Facebook.
I'm sure there are plenty of authors who do this already. However, are they targeting other authors, or targeting your local community?
I've spent four years targeting other authors. The results have been...zero. It wasn't until I started doing this for a local business that I got it. One of the first pages I had my work page "Like" was my author page as an experiment. The numbers didn't rise by much, but my author page got a few more hits the first week and every week thereafter. Just a couple, but a couple more than before.
Meanwhile, the reach of my work page nearly exploded.
That's when the light dawned. I can do the same thing.
Stay tuned, we'll see how well it works.

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.

October 20, 2014 

Two things, first the top saucer put out the candles. They went out as soon as the air was used up. 

So don't put the top on it.

Second, yes, I took the heater to steamboat days and slid it under the table to keep my legs warm. I lowered the table cloth in front so the heat didn't get blown away. It was enough to keep my feet from feeling frozen and miserable.


I really needed it on Saturday, it was chilly and windy, a bad combination.


It was so chilly that I didn't go back on Sunday, I was worn out from fighting the chill. I didn't want to get sick. 


Keep in mind that this is just a little bit of heat, 3 candlepower isn't that much. But since it radiates, you do get some relief from the chill. And as the tea-lights are small enough to fit completely under the dome of the pot, it is much safer than an open flame.