Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Has the Age of Dinosaurs Ended?

It seems that everywhere I look there are small businesses taking over niche markets. Electric cars, electric motorcycles, artisan cheese factories, independent music labels, bloggers taking on journalism, self-publishers and micro-publishers.

Back some 40 years ago, there were many regional companies, everything from milk to telephone service was local. Then in the 70's came the 'get big or get out' mentality - and the mega-conglomerate was born.

These huge corporations are now world wide - hulking dinosaurs who need to eat large to produce large. They don't do well when it comes to change. (See the automotive industry for details.)

We hear that record companies have imploded. We see newspapers closing, as the old steel factories of the Industrial Age have closed. Yet there are still steel factories - small ones - in the U.S.A. they were thriving until the banking industry giants imploded.

What will the second decade of the new century bring? It really depends on several factors.

If the government is able to leash the Health Care corporations, so the average Joe can have affordable health care - then the U.S. economy has a good chance of rebounding - not from manufacturing jobs, but from the small business sector.

The Dot Com boom - and bust - left a huge open market place behind it. The Internet - the gateway to all niche markets - has spawned thousands of tiny businesses. Some are hosted on Ebay, others have set up storefronts in other places.

But these virtual Mom & Pop shops are spreading to other venues: Independent films, record labels, clothing stores, and more are being born (and often dying) daily. Just as the main three television stations have been cut down to size by cable access - I foresee more industries shattering into fragments. This is not going to be an easy or fun process, for the dinosaurs.

But the wave of mini-industry is starting to carve out niches in many markets. Mostly because somebody has the wit and savvy to plug in to the "Interwebs" and open up a shop.

The baby-boomers many have invented all the technology, but few of them can master it.

The next generation owns Cyberspace.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Wealth of Opinions - Where Are the Facts?

As I have broadened my research into Self-Publishing I find  more and more debate on the subject. But not enough cold, hard facts. As the saying goes we all have opinions. (G)

I found this the other day on Forward Motion: "Forward Motion's core purpose is to help writers become professionally published. We welcome serious writing hobbyists as well, but our purpose and goals are geared toward professional careers. We do not allow fanfiction posts and we don't promote self-publishing."

I have the greatest respect for Forward Motion ,what I learned there, in a scant year, was tremendously helpful. I'm glad to see that they have taken the effort to put their stand upfront.

What does this tell me? The Self-Publishing debate has gone deep into the writers communities. It is not a new issue. The majority of the bloggings I've seen are a year or more old. If the attitude towards self-publishing has changed in the past year, I can't yet tell. I do know that more people are taking this route all the time, and a few of them appear to be doing well with it.

Bottom line - it is much more work that most people realize.

A few links to give you an idea of what's out there:

Podio Books  you can give away free audio versions of your indie book. Each podcast is a chapter. Some are read by the author, others are dramatized. They had their one millionth download the first year. Think about that for a moment.

Self Publishing - 25 Things You Need to Know. This is where I started looking. I'm still following links off this one. There is some great stuff here.

April L Hamilton wrote a Guide for Independent Authors - I'm currently reading it. The edition I have is from 2008 - and a year is a long time when Technology and Creativity merge.  

In case you are wondering I've posted these links - without much in the way of commentary - because I think that each author has the right to make up their own mind about what's right for them. I'm not coping out, I'm still looking into this. But I know that I'm not the last word on the subject. Just another blogger taking up space.

Hopefully these links will prove as helpful to you as they have to me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Jordan's Croft

The house is quiet, except for Christmas music. It is raining softly outside.

It was a beautiful day - got a lot of farm work done. Got hay for the horses, and cleaned up the barn, fertilized the pasture - spread the wood ashes. I found a cache of eggs in the barn today. The ducks are laying - two months early.

This afternoon the young mare came to the back of the barn while I was busy with the tractor. I yelled at her and she made a perfect rollback to leap out of the barn. About 10 minutes later she was back, peeking around the door. I went out to give her a face rub. She stayed a minute, then sauntered off.

Just as I finished my chores, the three of them came up. They grabbed a bail of hay off the trailer and were munching. I came up on the tractor, not wanting to scare them. I called for them to get into their stalls. They obeyed, the old gelding had to push his stall door open, it was funny. Anyways, the mares stayed in their stalls, but the old gelding came back out.

I pushed him back into his stall, went to give hay to the mares - when I turned around, he was out. He went back to the hay, calm as could be, started eating. I had to spread fresh shavings, so I put two flakes in his hay rack - put him back in his stall - turned my back and out he came.

He's 1200 lbs, and taller at the shoulder than I am. I told him to go back in the stall, he did, but when I turned my back to grab a rake, out he came. By this time, I knew he was just doing it to mess with me. But there isn't much room in the barn when the equipment is in the way. So I told him to get back in his stall - this time he sniffed my hair as if to say he was just having fun with me before he walked back in the stall.

I locked the door on him. Mind you, the mare's stalls weren't even closed. But they never give me a hard time like he does. I tell them to get in their stalls, they stay. He likes to mess with me. I think it's a guy thing.

Christmas Eve 2005, we had just finished the stalls that evening. The weather was damp - it was raining - it was a cold miserable night. I was so thrilled to be able to put my three horses in their stalls for the first time. They seemed happy too.

I'll need to get up in the morning and start cooking right off.

How fortunate I am to be home this year. Most of the time I have to work the Holidays. I didn't go out much this Christmas Season - I don't like crowds, and the main drag is nicknamed the 'Dixie Dieway' because the traffic is so bad.

Merry Christmas - Happy Hanukkah - Merry Yule - Peace on Earth

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Researching Marketing Results

I am currently researching the marketing methods used by self-published Authors.

If you have information that you would like to share, please contact me at mcwidow@gmail.com

I don't mind plugging books or websites - but I would like to know the publication date and the number of copies you have sold - or given away - to date.

Thanks, and have a Happy Holiday - however you celebrate the season!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is Fear of the E-book Killing Book Stores?

No, it's the economy, silly.

Evergreen Review posted what could have been a wonderful essay on the closing of San Francisco's beloved bookstores. Unfortunately, the author was bitten by the 'Nazi' bug along the way, leaving much of the essay incoherent and over-emotional.

I quote a passage discussing the $9.99 price tag for a digital novel: "One wonders why Nourrey cannot simply advise E- Book to go fuck itself and produce high-quality reasonably priced books, even if in smaller numbers. But the truth is, Nourrey, like Bertelsmann, like most American book publishers, are linked to twenty first century, late-stage hypercapitalist imperatives predicated entirely upon ceaseless expansion, the inherent belief in Darwinian obsolescence and succession as the lifeblood of successful economics and societal advance."

Ahh – there may be a pony in all that horseshit, but good luck finding it.

"Late-stage hyper-capitalist imperatives" I believe he's talking about the Big Six and their marketing paradigm. Since 'business as usual' was profitable in the middle of the last century it will be profitable in the digital age. (Ask the Auto Industry how mid-century business tactics worked for them. Not!)

Perhaps we can translate as follows: 'big print runs for big book stores' mentality meets Wal-Mart's volume discount book purchase policy. The result is lower profits for everyone.

As I wrote in a previous blog – my Theory of Publishing – the Big Six rely on print runs of thousands of books.
These printings are warehoused – then shipped to a 3rd party distributor's warehouse. The bookstores buy from the distributors, not from the publishers. The fly in this quaint 19th Century ointment is the 'return' policy. The physical books aren't returned, only the covers. Return credit for the wholesale price works back up the chain to the publisher. Alas, since the publisher doesn't get books back, they have to print more books. (Authors are charged for returns against their advance.) The reader goes to the bookstore, paying $28, plus tax, minus any discounts for book. (Author makes less than $2 per book.)

The printer and distributor win. Little old ladies buy coverless books from the flea-markets by the box, for pennies each. (Grandma bought coverless books at the Florida flea-markets by the bag full in the 1970's.)

Which is why all of the independent publishing companies rely on 'Print on Demand.'

This theory cuts out the distributor and maybe the bookshop: Reader hears about book on blog. Reader follows link to Book Site. Reader purchases book online. Book is printed and shipped by PoD company. Reader, author and printer all win. Bookstores can order too, they just need to have demand for the book.*

Now cue the theme from 'Jaws.'

This is the monster: Kindle, E-book, i-Phone, Blackberry or Nook owner hears about book on Twitter, Facebook, or My Space. E-reader goes to website, pays low, low price of $9.99 for the $28 book. E-reader curls up in corner, taking his/her library of 2 million books with them. Author and reader win. Publisher may or may not be involved in the process. Distributor closes. Bookstore closes. Author in San Francisco loses mind and rants about Nazis.

There is considerably less money exchanging hands in the E-book scenario. The author will get advances against the print books but no advances for the e-book. There is no distributor, or bookstore, just someone hosting a website and a bunch of files. (The Author makes about $2 per book.)

There – it's been spelled out without mentioning anyone from World War II.

Does it have to be this way?

As long as the Author -> Agent -> Publisher -> Distributor -> Bookstore -> Reader (Minus returns) model is in effect there will be less profit for everyone. E-readers, in that case, are the monsters cutting out the middle-men.

If print on demand publishing is going to be the answer, it is up to the publishers to change the game.

Innovation is not part of the Big Six publishing process.

Innovation belongs to the independent publisher.

Back to the Evergreen essay.

But where does the closing of the San Francisco bookstores fit into this?

Don't know – this was the author lost their facts and was bitten by the 'Nazi' bug. Here, too, I quote: "Such was the methodology of the SS who forced their prisoners to run naked races round and round the barracks yard in the Polish winter, a race that no one was meant to win."

WTF?

If everyone in San Francisco had an e-reader the Evergreen author would be right about e-readers killing his beloved bookstores. However, no one has sold enough e-readers to flood the markets of San Francisco (population 800k.)

The Kindle expected to sell 300k units this December, for a total of 3 million units world-wide. Sony isn't telling. They'd be crowing if they had sold more units than Amazon. We can assume they sold less than a million units.

*Marketing is the elephant in the room of e-book, self-publishing and independent publishing. Marketing is a science unto itself. Yet many agents expect the writer to present a marketing plan right along with their synopsis.

I feel a marketing blog coming on.

Later.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Downside of Self-Publishing

Yes, there is one. To give you the short answer: Quality, and the lack of quality.

The person who appears to have the scoop on it is here: The Self Publishing Review

The first thing he comments on is Quality of grammar and punctuation.

The second is poor quality writing.

Here's a quote:

"This sort of overwriting is neither literary nor clever: it's just overdone (and bear in mind here that literary fiction is my genre-of-choice: I am not unaware of its conventions or standards). _____'s writing is far too complicated, and he often favours that complication over clarity and meaning. The text is thick with clever-sounding phrases, many of which make little sense; and I found a lot of clich├ęs buried in his overdone language."

When I look at this very closely – I see the blogger is British – note the 'u' in favours. This would indicate that he is also reviewing British authors.

According to his bio he is more than qualified to judge – "I've worked in publishing for over twenty years, as a writer, a researcher and an editor." According to his rules, he stops reading at 15 errors. One book rated 55 pages. Six books bombed out at 3 pages. The majority bomb out by page 11. He appears to be fair, often he sounds wistful that a book didn't do better.

I believe he has a point – quality is everything – and anyone 'Going DYI' has to have a copy editor.

Max Dunbar over at 3 a.m. magazine thinks the whole song and dance about "Independent Publishing" is – well – sour grapes by folks who can't be published any other way. (Would anybody turn down a nice hefty advance and a 3-book contract?)

He does make a good point that the line between (hiss) 'vanity' publishing and (oh baby) 'self' publishing is blurred – with more companies opening up to blur the lines all the time. Even Harlequin Romance as a vanity-publishing arm – and a digital publishing arm – and an editing service – and…

People are making all kinds of money – though usually not the authors.

So muddy are the waters that he sites this example: "The best example of this scam is the YouWriteOn debacle of this year and last. YouWriteOn is a writers' message board, or 'community', whose admins announced in the autumn of 2008 that they would publish 5,000 books, for nothing, by Christmas." Eventually less than 300 novels were distributed – after the author paid a fee. (Fee = Free?)

Yet, there is Year Zero.

Dan has published his own statistics – er can't find the link – showing us his book sales as an Indie author. Yet, an argument could be made that Year Zero isn't self-publishing because there is more than one person doing the writing. To me that would fall into the co-op or micro-publisher category.

Ah! Here is Dan's link: The Man Who Painted Agnieszkas Shoes As you can see, there weren't that many books sold, but there were over 220 copies downloaded.

It appears that an author on the verge of Self-publishing should invest in a editor.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Progress Report

Writing romance is a bit of a double-edged sword.

People don't take it seriously - on Authonomy the tone of the comments gets a little arch - from both men and women. More than one person has commented using the phrase 'chic-lit' as in I have a good or classic chic-lit story.

Er - well - actually - no.

Chic-lit has a distinct voice, very breezy, self-centered, first person. The main character is a 20-something female with a shoe fetish - for example Jimmy Choos. The plot revolves around her shopping for either new shoes or better sex - and usually drinking a whole lot in the process.

The genre has been pronounced dead by the agent/gatekeepers. (All bow and say 'amen'.)

Chic-lit was hot while it lasted. Like last year's designer shoes - once it's out of style the comparison is an insult. Or would be if I were that sensitive. (I'm not.)

However, on a much better note, I'm getting compliments on humor, dialog and characterization.

But, yes there is one, I don't think anyone is reading past the first two chapters.

The worst side-effect of Authonomy is that the system discourages more than a quick skim of the first couple of chapters. After that, it's off to the next read - gotta read and back a bunch of books to be read and backed in return.

"Lunch" hit number 70 on the romance chart this week. "Moon" hit 90. These are the best numbers I've seen in a while. Currently both book are in the 150 to 200 range. I probably should take both books down now, before they slip any farther backward.

I've contacted two editors - I would like to get an evaluation of "Lunch" before I decide what to do with it. It appears that Black Lyon has passed on it - though I've not got a rejection slip from them. And there are rumors that Carina Press is going to be 'all rights' not just e-publishing rights. There is no reason to sell them a book that can't go to paperback.

That leaves me two options - ABNA or agents.

I did very well at ABNA last year. I have my 3 reviews (posted here - somewhere) and a year's worth of editing. My pitches are better, too.

Querying agents - well - I don't know. According to Litopia it has never been easier to get an agent. Many people who got fired from the Big Six put up an agent's shingle. But that doesn't mean they can sell a book to a publishing company. (I haven't forgotten #query fail - or the flame fest at Militant Writer.)

So I will continue to poke around, looking for an editor for "Lunch" in hope of selling a few hundred copies for a buck each. This may well get me 'discovered' in time to sell "Moon."

There is something else - a RWA conference in Nashville in July. It may be worth looking into.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson

This man is my hero.

He has the simplest plan for world peace that I've ever encountered: "Educate a girl, change the world."

His Central Asia Institute builds schools for girls in two of the poorest countries in the world, Pakistan and Afghanistan. CAI buys the materials and pays the teachers, all for only a few hundred dollars per school, per year. That is a fraction of the cost of ONE missile, tank or airplane.

Think of the money we could save if we donated .001% the Pentagon budget for building schools in poor Muslim countries. The entire world would be a safer place to live if all Muslims could read the Koran for themselves. It would be the end of jihadist lies.

There is no other cause that touches my heart like this one – educate the children in these war-blasted nations to make the world safer for all of us.

Education makes everything possible.

I'm going to recommend this book, and the first book "Three Cups of Tea" to everyone. This one deserves a place on New York Times Bestseller list.

Tibits About Everything

There is a knife's edge of wind battering the farm today. I can smell snow in the air.

The chickens stayed in the barn. Sony, the rooster, brought the stragglers back in before I closed up the door. I spent last evening in front of the fireplace - with the fire going. I had no desire to leave the farm, but we were out of dog food. I bought a 40 lb. bag of Black Gold at Rineyville Feed. The dogs are very happy.

The neighbor is shooting - which drives the dogs nuts. He must be practicing for Deer Season - Kentucky's top sport behind basketball. Even women hunt here. I have a girlfriend who brought us enough elk meat to keep us for a year. Great stuff. I can't tell it from beef.

Christmas shopping? Sorry - I'm not braving the crowds. Our main drag is nicknamed the "Dixie Dieway" which is apt this time of year. I'm going to stay out of the stores a few more days.

The announcement has rippled through the Authonomy community: Amazon has just announced the Amazon Breakout Novel Award for 2010 (ABNA). I'm wondering if it would be worth the effort.

Recycling experiment - turning old drafts of my manuscript, and old newspapers, into chicken bedding. The chick brooder - an old water tub - currently houses 6 little chicks hatched here at the house. I was worried when I took them out to the tack room that they would get chilled and die. So I shredded an old manuscript and some newspapers into little diamonds.

So far it appears to be working very well. There is a two inch layer of material - mixed with spilled feed, hay scraps and some sawdust. When the bedding is nasty, it goes through the manure spreader and onto the pasture. Until then it needs stirred so it will compost. The chicks handle that task very well. 

The big plus is that I don't feel guilty about printing out a copy of the manuscript when it is going to become fertilizer.  This brings me back to the 'hammer*' theory of fertilizer. I'm hoping that one day, all my farm musings will become a non-fiction book.

Stay tuned.

* The hammer theory: If you give a child a hammer, the world becomes a nail. Once I bought a spreader, everything becomes fertilizer.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ms Kitty's Theory of Publishing Industry Economics

An overview of the Publishing industry by a complete novice:

"The Big Six" publishing companies – like all large conglomerates – owe their existence to their very size. This size (big, bigger, biggest) requires large sales from "Best Sellers" in order to survive. Therefore the 'Traditional' publishing market has evolved in response to their size and requirements. This requires a certain type of author – a "Dan Brown," "J.K. Rowling" or "Stephanie Meyers" for example. The role of agents is to slog through the slush-pile to provide the authors of this caliber. This also laid the foundation for big bookstores – go big or get out being the mantra of the last century in all type of business.

The supply (of book and authors) has exceeded the demands of the Big Six, by multiple powers of 10.

The "Reasons" for this are many and varied, everything from word processors to too many schools offering degrees in Liberal Arts has be put up as a 'cause.' Blaming computers is like blaming typewriters for the novelists of the 1920's. Hemmingway never would have written "The Old Man and the Sea" if not for his trusty Royal Typewriter.

The good news is the internet is screaming for content, and more people are putting it out there. The output is probably the same; the media has changed. Fewer trees are dying to feed our reading requirements. But nobody is getting paid for posting musings like mine on a private blog.

The Mid-list Author is an Endangered Speices:

"There are more "mid-list" writers than there are slots in the 'Big Six' publishing agenda." So says nearly ever agent website on the internet. The Rock Star agents (you know who they are) to a wo/man lament that they can only take on books that will sell to the big publishing houses. Small Press, Independent Press, Literary Press and University Press markets don't pay enough to warrant an agent's cut.

Yet, here too, supply has out-stripped demand.

The Survival of the Fittest – or Lemmings off a Cliff?

What to call these people who are beating down the doors of the agents, trying to get a shot at the Big Six? Aspiring Authors, Poor Deluded Fools, the great Vampire conspiracy, the Zombie Hordes?

Some call them the Next Generation of Self-Publishing Pioneers – usually a (vanity) printing company that needs suckers to pay to have a bunch of book printed. How you label them doesn't make them any less real. There is a sea of manuscripts out there, looking for a publisher of some kind.

The Egg Theory

Let me digress a moment here – to the farming industry. Let's focus on a niche market that I'm most familiar with: Pasture produced eggs. Not that long ago, I would pay $.50 a dozen for eggs at the grocery store. I could get my choice of small, medium or large white eggs. The paradigm at the time was 'an egg is an egg.'

Then somebody said "Brown Eggs Taste Better."

Which was true, as far as brown eggs were 'farm' eggs; all factory-produced eggs were white. So the demand for brown eggs was born, from the collective memory of farm eggs. The proof that the chemical composition of an egg follows the GIGO* theory came much later. My point is that now there are small producers, like myself feeding the demand for farm fresh brown eggs – which do taste better than factory eggs of any color, because they are chemically different, therefore of higher quality. The 'egg factories' capitalized on this so the point where you can buy 'designer' eggs for $4 a dozen at any Kroger store. I, however, sell my eggs to friends for less than Kroger prices, yet a heck of a lot more than $ .50 a dozen. This is a win-win: for me, my chickens, my customers, and the folks from whom I purchase my scratch grain.

(*The GIGO theory = Garbage in, Garbage out.)

Yes, Kitty, cute analogy but WTF does this have to do with the Publishing Industry?

Authonomy.com is my window into the British publishing industry. What I see is the mushrooming of the publishing industry as little stables of three and four writers open up micro-publishing houses, and the media giant wannabes likes of Create Space and LuLu open the floodgates to those braving self-publishing on their own.

Like the production of farm eggs in our area, there are signs for 'fresh eggs' all over the place

You can call it fragmenting – or embracing the 'digital' age or the 'advent of Print on Demand' or a bunch of whiny losers who can't get a contract. (I don't recommend the last one, some of this writing rocks.) Anyway you look at it a surge in the small publishing industry has been spawned and the companies who print the books will profit as will the software companies that write the software for the websites. Everybody else (writers and publishers) is on their own. The little fish will feed the slightly hungrier fish that will grow into big fish. The big fish will snap up a few here and there. The readers will read what they can and pay for what they like the best.

The good thing about writers is that they are readers, for the most part they demand better quality.

Like brown eggs, there is a collective memory of something better, in every genre.


If you'll pardon the cliche – it's a 'chicken or egg' dilemma of which comes first, the supply or the demand? The demand for 'a tastier egg' is there, and the authors are determined to supply that demand. Writers are getting organized into little co-ops to get these 'eggs' to market.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taking Another Crack at Authonomy

I may be the only one who gets the pun unless I explain it.

'Autho-crack' is my term for Authonomy and it's ratings/feedback system.

For the last couple of months, I've been seriously thinking of taking my books down and deleting my account because I don't get any work done while Autho-crack is in the back of my brain. I have to remind myself that the site is British and the majority of the books being picked up are by British writers.

Taking a 'run for the Desk' has already put me behind the eight ball once - and I was just trying to hit the top 100. (Which I did make.) I'm still not getting any work done - I just have a new excuse - "Going Kindle." 

This time it will be different? 

I brought "Let's Do Lunch" public and have uploaded five chapters of "Swallow the Moon" but not taken it public yet. I'm trying to be a good 'swapper' giving praise and backings freely.


Already I've read two manuscripts that had issues I could not articulate. Didn't know what to call the issue, or how to point it out. Decided to keep my opinions to myself - because they weren't my genre and I know each  genre has it's own rules.

"Moon" is at 47k - I don't want to get on another Autho-crack run - I want to finish my novel.

We'll see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brave British Authors Taking the Self-Publishing Plunge

America is supposed to be the home of the brave - but there are a lot of British writers taking the plunge into the cold pool of Self-Publishing.

Dragon International Independent Arts is another - hmmm what to call them? Cast of characters, or micro-publishers? I'm really not sure at this point.

Ray of Flogging The Quill is another writer who has a good book that he can't sell because no agent would risk marketing it. "The Vampire Kitty-Cat" is my favorite vampire story because it's funny.

Another co-op that's come from Authonomy.com is Year Zero Writers who seem to lean towards the razor's edge of contemporary literature.

What I find so interesting is they are all top quality writers who normally wouldn't need to resort to Self-Publishing. But the world economy sucks - publishers are huddling in their cubicals - terrified they may be the next to get a pink slip.

I shudder to think how many top-notch editors are tossing fresh new books in favor of finding the next Stephanie Meyers, or god-help-us Laurell K. Hamilton. Worse even than that are the hundreds of editors-turned-agents who are thrashing through their slush-piles also looking for the next SM or LKH to bring to the editors

Like we need more super-sluts or teenage-angst in the Vampire genre?

What readers need are fresh voices, fresh outlooks, fresh stories - but they won't be coming to a bookstore near you. My local bookstore has only the latest Vampire, Neo-Werewolf or some kind of Urban Fantasy.

Though I did find a nice 'fallen angel' book by J.R. Ward and the latest C.L. Wilson 'Tairen Soul' installment I couldn't find anything new by Nora Roberts. She's in the used books, along with Amanda Quick.

But I digress.

From where I sit - next to the fireplace on a chilly wet December day - the British publishing industry is exploding into fragments. Which they can afford to do, because they have national health care. (Oops did it again.) It seems their free market is taking off - because it can, mainly. Which is going to be good for the economy in the long run.

I'm not done poking around yet, so stay tuned. We'll see what develops 'over there' and if it can be transplanted 'over here.'

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Poking Around the Self-Publishing World

While my manuscript is cooling in the slush pile of the latest e-publisher – I'm poking around the world of self-publishing, wondering if 'Going Kindle' would be a good idea.

(Sorry, Caribou Barbie's book came out and I can't help taking a poke at her. I haven't taken a poke at any of my favorite political figures lately – too busy with farm life, for one thing, and unable to say anything sufficiently scathing witty is another.)

Would Kindle-izing my novel be of any help to me at all? Or would it just become another time suck? Even at $1.99 a pop – it would be a paying time suck. I could go the Create Space – POD, I'd be hooked into Amazon and so forth.

There is the major disadvantage of the 'self-publishing stigma' even today it's a red flag against being picked up by a 'real' publishing company.

So I'm looking and wondering if I should take that plunge – or not.

Meanwhile – my WIP is 46k. I didn't not try NANOwrimo this year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Blog

Odd, how we have set aside one day to be Thankful in a country where most people have an over-active feeling of entitlement. Americans are nuts, aren't we?

Life has it's ups and downs, and it also tends to throw you some curves.This year has had a few - but only a few. I have a lot to be grateful for, as usual, people, places and things - stuff that I have no control over, but that works out in spite of me. 

I saw that, you flinched - getting ready for a sappy list eh? Relax, it's not that kind of post.

As someone who usually ends up working weekends and holidays - I'm actually home for a change. Losing my job has proved to be more of a blessing than a curse. So I'm here, getting ready for the big dinner, and taking a minute or two to blog.

Martha Stewart isn't coming to our house this year, so I'm not going to kill myself getting ready. There is such a thing as 'enough' which is a hell of a lot easier to achieve than 'perfection.' If I could find that Martha Stewart email, I would post it here. It always makes me laugh.

Because I have the opportunity, I'm going to truly ROAST the turkey - on the grill. That's my 'Experiment' in cooking for the year. Yeah, it will have a pan, with a lid and all that. But I'm going to need my counter space, so the oven is going to be used for other things.

This should be interesting.

Wish me luck. I may need it.

Happy Thanksgiving! From Jordan's Croft.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hollowing out the Middle – a book review

The entire country is becoming more and more polarized to the seacoasts and the big cities. This is not the figment of our collective imagination. "Hollowing out the Middle" is a book that explores the plight of the small towns in America's Heartland.

Written by Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas, "Hollowing out the Middle" discusses a phenomenon called 'Rural Brain Drain' where the Achievers, the best and brightest of a given class, are groomed by their teachers to leave home, never to return. The others are Stayers and Seekers. Stayers are mostly ignored, though the future of the small town actually rests with them. The Seekers are self-motivated to flee the crushing grip of small town sameness, many of them join the Military. (There is a class of 'Returners', but most of them are Achievers who don't make it in the big world.)

What I liked about this book is their honest assessment that this sorting process plays out in high school. That validation should make many of us sigh with relief. We weren't hallucinating, high school WAS rigged! The whole community operates in the favor of the 'Achiever' class, grooming them to leave home. As these people do leave and never return, they take all those resources with them, weakening the community left behind.

For a town like Ashtabula the result is clear – the Achievers leave – the Stayers stay – completely unprepared to handle the problems of their home town. So things get worse because the people who stay behind are brainwashed into believing 'they will never amount to anything.' They are not educated to take on the roles most needed in their communities. There are no 'Stayer' doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers or politicians. The Stayer students are left to rot – the compost heap that provides the next generation of High School students.

I wish this book would be useful to solve the problems of Ashtabula. It may not be possible for that beleaguered city to turn around. Main Street is a ghost town, with weeds growing in the cracks of the road. Like the rest of the country – the Brain Drain coupled with the weak economy has put many a small town or city on death row.

It appears that Ashtabula did one thing right – they rebuilt the school system. It was an effort to attract a big manufacturing plant that would put the unskilled Stayers to work. Unfortunately 'elephant hunting' as the authors call it, is not the answer.

Most towns and small cities are content with trying to attract the 'Returners,' those who miss their small town safety net. The real solution is twofold. First to encourage immigration – which means a small town would have to open itself up to strangers. Not likely to happen without a fight. The second is to cultivate what is already there – the Stayers are the town's most precious resource.

Even if the sorting process stopped tomorrow (not very likely since this has been going on for 20 years) there is little left of the middle class anywhere in rural America, let alone in Ashtabula. The poor (for the most part single mothers and their children) are well and truly damned by the dysfunctional system that offers no hope from cradle to grave.

This means, EVERY town needs implement alternative education in order to survive and thrive. Get the people who missed out on education the first time an opportunity to upgrade their education to a skilled trade. That means GEDs for the dropouts and then true education can take place. Not a second sorting meant to send others off into the world, a chance for people to become who the town needs them to be – the parents of the next generation AND the leaders and developers of the local economy.

Education is the answer – though Schools are the source of the problem.

Ironic, isn't it?   

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Digital Publishing Company

I submitted my manuscript to a new digital publishing company: Carina Press. They are an imprint with Harlequin as the parent company. They are looking for Romances that don't fit into the standard categories.

This is the link: Carina Press

Since they are only a week or so old - I thought that this would be a good time to submit to them. Thanks to the folks at Forward Motion for the link.Carina is 100% digital, publishes no paper copies, pays no advances - the advantage of writing for them is that they are connected with Harlequin - who does pay very nice advances. It's the old 'foot in the door' idea. Once published, the second book is easier to sell.

I've worried since I haven't heard back from the other publishing company. I even sent them a follow up note. However, I can see from their facebook page that they are busy with other projects. We all know that 'no news' is a rejection. After 5 months - I figure I've been rejected.

I've also been listening to podcasts from Litopia.com, this website has it's base in England, though they make it sound like the business is so small that they are covering American Markets just as well. Maybe it is that small. I know that I find it both interesting and dismaying to listen to what they say.

I've got to go - phone is ringing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scary Things in the World

Am I the only person who finds certain uber conservatives terrifying? Like zombies, they are trying to eat everyone's brains and they just won't die.

'They' were in office for 8 years, made themselves exempt from all the 'rules' of a civilizied nation by torturing hundreds, if not thousands, of human beings. The worst of the bunch have not slunk off to hide. When I see the sneering face of that trigger happy nut case Chaney, I want to scream. He needs to go up on charges for war crimes. He belongs in some big nasty prison with Bubba, Jose and Big Daddy – if you know what I mean. He should find out what water-boarding really feels like.

Rush Limbaugh is the scariest of the bunch. I mean it, wasn't he arrested for buying drugs over the internet and doctor shopping? Then he's touted as the head of the Republican Party. (Wrong orifice if you ask me.) But real people in Congress and the Senate appear to be taking orders from this creep. Why is anybody listening to this idiot? He's just another drug addict. He should have gone to jail. At the very least he should drop into satellite radio obscurity like the greasy guy who did all the strippers in NYC, then dropped from the ceiling on an awards show as 'Fart Man.'

Fox News is another thing that scares me. They are the evil right-wing extremist propaganda machine. How do those talking heads sleep at night? We all know that it sucks to be a wage slave. Thank God I'm not one of them. I wouldn't be able to look in the mirror.

This is the big night, Halloween – when the dead are supposed to walk the earth. Maybe some restless spirits should visit Chaney and Limbaugh, a private 'Nightmare on Elm Street.' That would even up the scales a bit.

With that happy thought, I shall sign off.

Happy Halloween – or Samhain if you prefer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's a Guy Thing

This is the link to a weird little video of a guy 'running the Dragon' on a kid's HotWheel Tricycle. It's the kind of thing that makes a woman shake her head and hope the duffus's mother never sees the video.

I think it is a good illustration that men don't think like women do. And that young men - well - they just don't think. All that testosterone and nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

Another way to run the Dragon

Friday, October 23, 2009

Healthcare – Now We’re Getting Somewhere

I've been silent on the issue of healthcare, though I've been listening avidly for signs of progress. We are finally seeing some forward motion. Even though the 'Party of No' is dragging their butts like a spoiled puppy, leashed for the first time.

I have only written one letter to my Senator, back when he insulted Judge Sotomayor during the confirmation hearings; I went from TV to PC and expressed my outrage at his rudeness. I also told him that healthcare needed to include a public option – God knows Kentucky needs one.

Half the people I know are going to the free clinic because they can't afford to pay $150 up front to a doctor. I couldn't afford that back in 1994 when I was working and had insurance. I went without healthcare for several years until I got deathly sick, a savvy friend took me to the mini-ER here in town. They fixed me up with prescriptions and I was back on my feet in 3 days.

I'm looking forward to the day when 'Medicare part E' covers people in itty bitty businesses. I think our economy will explode with one and two person businesses. I can't tell you how often I've heard "I'd quit this rotten job if I didn't need the health insurance. I could ____ full time and make more money than this."

That's my point for the day. If so many people weren't chained to their desks by health insurance there would be more small businesses, hundreds of thousands of small businesses. Even in God-forsaken places like Ashtabula (one of the most depressed places in America) every Italian restaurant would be able to offer health insurance. (Of course there they would have to find a doctor who wasn't chemically impaired, or incompetent. Who knows, if there were enough people complaining maybe the quacks would get run out on a rail. Tar and feathering would be more effective than suing the idiots.)

This president is pretty darn smart – the poor man is going gray already – he's had so much crap dumped on his head. But maybe, just maybe, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not the train.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Set back for Smudge and Patty

Smudge and Peppermint Patty


Sometimes with farm animals, it's one darn thing after another.

I had Patty settled with Smudge. The two of them in the flock with the rest of the poultry, everything appeared okay. But two days ago Smudge was attacked by something, perhaps an over-amorous drake, that laid her back open.

We treated the wound. (Vet's don't see chickens under any circumstances. Which pisses me off.) Put her and poor bewildered Patty in a nice, safe, clean cage. They are doing very well on a diet of chick starter, scratch and kitchen scraps.

One of the things that frustrates me about farm life is that animals seem to get stressed, then something worse happens to them. Stays tuned on this one. I'm looking into options for keeping Smudge and Patty safe. These plans include taking the drake in question to the flea market.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Duck Hatched Chick - Update

While we were off playing on the motorcycle the duck and chicken stayed in a pen by themselves. Monday while I was catching up on my barn work, I let them out. I could tell right away that things weren’t going well. Panda the duck was off with the other ducks, not paying any attention to the chick.

Since the yard was full of poultry I didn’t get excited about it, the barn cats have learned to stay away from little babies, because moms are quick to attack. After a couple of hours I could hear the chick peeping outside while Panda was in the barn eating. I went out, chased the little black chick into the mint patch. She came out with a name – Peppermint Patty.

Then I put Patty in with Panda and the others. She milled around, still peeping loudly. I debated if I should let her be, or chase her down to put her in the brooder. While I was working on the chores she seemed fine. So I let her be, wondering if she would attach herself to another bird, or stay with Panda.

By the time I put the horses to bed, there was no sign of Patty, but Panda was strutting around with the drakes. I got out the flashlight, looked in the usual bedding places, but couldn’t find her, and couldn’t hear her. I was afraid she’d gotten eaten by something.

This afternoon, the weather is raw and wet. I’m out with the dogs when I heard Patty peeping her loud distressed call again. Sure enough, she was following a disconcerted duck. I chased her around the pens, not able to catch her until she darted under Cookie the barn cat. Cookie looked embarrassed, her feline dignity compromised by this little scampering fluffy ball she couldn’t swat. I scooped the struggling Patty up, she was cold and shivering. Not a good thing for a two week old chick.

So Patty went into the brooder, under the big warm light bulb, while I finished letting the horses out. When I returned to the tack room, there was silence. Patty was under the light, quiet for the first time since she’d left the nest.

I checked her an hour later; she was making happy chicken noises, pecking away at the food.

I’m not a poultry expert. Therefore I’m calling off the experiment. I don’t think that Patty was happy as a duckling. She was constantly making unhappy peeping while she was with Panda. Now she’s warm and making happy chirps. That’s good enough for me.

Patty will stay in the brooder until she’s big enough to survive in the big pen, or until Smudge hatches her brood. Panda is not a good enough mother for this little bird.

10/07/09
Odd things happen - like Smudge's entire nest of eggs has vanished. They were all marked with green food coloring, which has made the mystery even wierder. However, setting 'new' eggs would mean Smudge spending another month with little food.

So, I've taken the opportunity to give Patty to Smudge. Yep, took the old eggs and slipped Patty under the clucking hen. This should work out for both of them. I noticed that Patty wasn't happy at first. She kicked up a fuss. I finally turned off the lights and stuffed Patty back under Smudge's wing. That shut her up.

Poor little chick is confused already.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Dragon of Deal III

Pinstripe Day

We had breakfast at "Our Daily Bread" again. The place was packed with bikers, and of course, Carl. Talking to him is half the fun of breakfast. He's been to California, freely admits that he got homesick and came back 'home' after nearly 40 years of kicking around.

Robinsville is very small. It's built in a valley, surrounded by mountains. I'd guess the year-round population is under 20k.

This is not a good day to go riding; it is cold and overcast with occasional showers. So today we are back at Deal's Gap with the PT Cruiser. Dennis is going to pinstripe it. I was able to get the cash to do 2 colors. He is going to use blue and red on my silver Cruiser.

He asked me if I was going to let him go crazy. I asked what he was going to do, and he walked around the car saying 'I'm going to put something here, here, here and here.' I could only nod my head because I couldn't speak. My car is never going to be the same. This is going to be FUN! I'm so excited!

We've got the video camera and the digital, as well as this laptop, so I'm going to document the process. I'm having a hard time behaving. I want to follow him around like an overexcited Pomeranian puppy – yap, yap, yap, yap. Instead I walked to the restaurant where I'm going to stay for a few more minutes.

This is the finished flourish for the back of the PT Cruiser. As you can see it turned out very nice. There are more pictures, but I'll have to do a complete workup later.

I love this. He must have put 14 separate flourishes on the car.

Bob left to run the Dragon again.

This was supposed to be my day to shop for goodies. However, it doesn't get any better than these beautiful flourishes. Every time I look at the car I will remember where I got these.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Dragon of Deal’s Gap II

Hubby was up by 4 am – damn the military!

I got up around 8 am. He has been gathering ideas – mounting the movie camera on the bike – and generally behaving like a hyperactive child on chocolate. The mountains are misty and it's COLD! I've got long johns and other cold weather gear. I'm cozy for the moment, the room is warm. I hear voices, better get a move on.

We went into Robinsville for breakfast. There is a little house tucked off the main road called "Our Daily Bread". They have wonderful breakfasts, good coffee and occasionally serve Squirrel Gravy. (No, we didn't taste it, though it was highly recommended.) We got to chat with Carl about local life.

Then it was back to the motel to suit up. The mist has burned off to a light haze and the roads are dry. Hubby's chomping at the bit to get going.

Our first destination is Fountana Dam – the second largest dam in the USA at 500 feet tall. We climbed to the top, its amazing. The water off the other side is a deep dark blue. There is a line where the water line has fallen, that looks 10 feet high. This is a TVA dam, one in a string of lakes that follow the mountain curves like dark blue/green jewels.




In places the juxtaposition of road and water make it look like the water is running uphill. The trees have yet to turn, so we don't have the glorious autumn painting the mountains. But the sky is that autumn shade of blue that backgrounds the green trees and the dappling of sunlight on leaf, trunk and road.

The air is still chilly so the heavy leathers I wear over turtle-neck and sweater are welcome. So are the long johns that I'm hiding under my jeans. We meander beside the river or lake depending on which side of the many dams we're on at the moment. Soaring up and down the dips and switchbacks that lead us back to the Dragon we duck in and out of shadows. We stop again for lunch at the Restaurant – Gas Station. This time I've got sense enough to say no to the Onion Rings that kept me up half the night. The pulled pork is fabulous again.

Okay, I lied about the onion rings – I finished off Hubby's. (Which is why I'm still up writing.)

I bought a dragon patch for my jacket, a stuffed toy for my sister and two stickers for the car. When I get the patch sewed on I discover that Dennis does pin-striping. I watch him paint for a while. He's good, the designs are 'old school' he says. I admire and start asking prices. Hubby's not interested, but I want to make my PT Cruiser look just a bit prettier. He says he'd love to get his hands on a PT Cruiser. We talk about colors. When the patch is finished Hubby and I depart, with a 'hmmm' in the back of my mind.

We suite up, ass-up and take off up the mountain into the maw of the Dragon. The M109 has a deep-throated growl that is far different that the whine of the sportbikes or the patented blasting rhythms of the Harleys. This huge machine has more to give than we care to take on this swelling series of swoops and dives that is the Dragon. He's careful on this ride, I don't have to tell him to slow down, so I can kick back and enjoy myself.

We recorded the day on Video – but it's a format that needs to be translated and edited before I can upload it anywhere. I briefly miss the Def Leopard sound track that I was listening to yesterday. Only briefly, this kind of driving doesn't need a soundtrack. The wind makes it's own music through the trees, the muted echo of motorcycle engines and car engines, the static noise of streams. The experience is richer than the most decidant cheesecake!

The air smells of Fall – chilly, with undertones of river, occasional snorts of diesal or bike exhaust. There is no scent of old fish or molding anything today, the air is scrubbed clean and waiting for lungs to breathe it. The mountains are breathtaking, the dappled road snakes before us. Occasionally some young buck passes us on a curve or a big pickup crosses the yellow line. There a plenty of young bloods wanting to break the speed record of the Dragon. (Nine minutes to travel 11 miles and 319 curves.)

We take a break at the lake side gas station. Nice folks here, too. Then we suit up for the return over the Dragon then onward back to the motel. It's been a great day. We're looking forward to Saturday since tomorrow is supposed to be cloudy. I get my email and fuss around d/ling video before I settle in for the night. Hubby crashes out, while I start typing all this up. Since the car is likely to get a custom pin-striping the laptop got the stickers, it looks nice.

I'm yawning – tomorrow is another day.

We

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Dragon of Deal’s Gap

Bikers dream of twisty roads that go for miles up and down mountains, like Highway 129 in Tennessee. It is known as the Tail of the Dragon – 319 curves in 11 miles. That’s right, 11 miles of twists, turns and a few switchbacks. Fate throws in the occasional Semi-truck just to get the old ticker running real fast.

It’s a blast in my PT Cruiser – I can’t wait to see how it feels on Hubby’s Bike.

Let me tell you what we’re up to this time. It’s our anniversary – 8 years of marriage is a milestone for most couples. For us – well, it is a shock and a surprise that a horsewoman and a – arm – motorcycle enthusiast have made it this long.

We started with the M109 on the trailer, but as soon as we got into Dragon territory Hubby unloaded the M109. Temps were in the mid-60’s so he refused to wait to put on jeans and a leather – he grabbed gloves and helmet then assed-up (that’s biker talk for putting rump to saddle) to take the Dragon on – dressed in thin shorts and a t-shirt. I snickered then followed in the car.

We weren’t 20 minutes down the road when he pulled over. Guess why? It was too damn cold to ride without proper gear! Gotta love those ‘I told you so’ moments, they are better than cheap jewelry any day!

So we rode the dragon in separate vehicles. I was talking the curves at a good clip, until I was run off the road by a semi-truck. What a buzz kill. Luckily I’ve still got a full set of reflexes – not bad for darn-near 50. The semi missed both car and trailer, so I continued on.

Hubby was waiting at a nice stopping place. Don’t recall the name; the nerves were a bit stretched. We arrived at our base-camp after about 6 hours of travel.

We are spending this weekend literally in biker heaven. NO – not a strip joint! It’s an ingenious little place called “The Two Wheel Inn” where the average biker can have a cute little room AND a garage for that all-important motorcycle, at an affordable price. The same key opens the room and the tightly locked garage that keeps the bike safe from straying.

Bless her heart – the manager left us an anniversary card. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Maternal Instinct Wins Again


That's right - take a close look. That is a duck who has hatched a chicken egg. Mom is still sitting on a few eggs. I can't tell how many because she'll bite the heck out of me.

Still, I saw this and had to take pictures.

September 22, 2009

There are now two chicks in the nest!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Love is the Drug - Dark Harbor

The Iroquois Club


He stands on the stage at the Iroquois Club - belting out a Doors cover with all the sass and sex appeal he's got. He's got a lot. He's lean, wide shouldered and slim of hip, with dark, tousled, rock-star hair, blue eyes and a young man's chiseled features.

The young woman across from me is all but drooling. She wouldn't get a second glance from him, in spite of the bright blond hair, she's got 'mouse' written all over her. She sips her Morgan and Coke, talking softly during the break, but her eyes never leave him.

"His name is Teddy; he just got back from three years in Iraq." She sighs, her name is Kaylynn. She was National Guard and served with Teddy. "He swore up and down he wasn't coming back here, but - you see where he is."

He moves to the bar, flirting with every female in range and downs some shots. I wonder how much booze he can take before he can't sing standing up. It looks like he's pushing his luck. Teddy has an easy smile as well as a roving eye. He is well liked, I can tell by the indulgent way the bartender is pouring shots.

His band mates don't look happy with the way he's knocking back shots. The lead guitarist makes a cut off gesture that Teddy ignores.

"I work down the street, day shift at the restaurant," Kaylynn smiles. "He comes in at noon for breakfast."

"We are friends, during the day. At night, he's like this, I hardly know him." She bites her lip. "He was my best friend in Iraq. I don't understand why he's like this now."

"He wanted to go active duty, make a career out of the Army or go into the Air Force. But he's wasting his life drinking and drugging, playing rock star and screwing everything that walks."

What she isn't saying is pretty clear - she's in love with him.

There is a collective pause, and heads turn. The woman walking into the bar is a stunner. Black hair to her hips, scantily dressed in a red leather mini-skirt, she's either some biker's wet dream or a dominatrix escaped from a brothel.

My money is on the brothel. She's not a young woman and she's got a hard look to her that should send any smart man running for home.

"Destiny," the name is said with distain. "Well, we know who Teddy's going home with tonight. He sings that song to her, you know."

Teddy plants a lip-lock on Destiny that makes my companion's eyes fill with tears. The break is over; he is hip-to-hip with the woman as they walk to the stage. He mounts the stage giving her smoldering looks that should have caught the ceiling on fire.

Destiny wanders over to the pillar next to us, leaning on it as Teddy wails out a Roxy Music cover 'Love is the Drug' as if she is the only woman in the crowded room. This close to her, I get a look at the tattoo on her shoulder, an upside-down pentagram. There are a couple more tattoos, roses, thorns and bleeding hearts. Her earrings are dragons. She's thin, always has been, being thin is a good thing when you're a cougar - hunting after young bloods.

Destiny is mighty attractive for a woman pushing fifty. Yeah, I know her age, as well as what she did to keep her figure. The signs of aging are muted at night; I wonder what she looks like in the harsh light of day. A lifetime of taking speed and snorting coke can be covered by makeup and hair-color, but to really look young takes more drastic measures. You've got to sell your soul, either to a plastic surgeon or to Satan himself.

Destiny doesn't have money for a plastic surgeon.

"That song is posted on Create Space," Kaylynn dries her eyes. "People are downloading it like crazy. They are getting a lot of attention, and good reviews. Enough to where they are putting together an album."

"Cory and Tony are working really hard on the album, but Teddy blows them off. He won't lay down the vocal tracks." Kaylynn shakes her head. "I don't know what's wrong with Teddy. He won't make up his mind to do anything. Not the Air Force, not the album, he's just partying with her and her creepy friends."

"You know who I'm talking about." Kaylynn takes her eyes off Teddy to look at me for the first time. "That creepy artist - Van Man Go. Teddy is over there all the time." She shudders. "What a skank! But Teddy acts like Van and him are best friends - all the time he's screwing her, and she's been with Van for years."

I have to smother a laugh. Van Man Go’s name has popped up once again. I give the girl some encouragement before I get up to leave. As I walk passed Destiny we make eye contact.

“Kitty, how’s it going?”

“Good band, hot singer.” I smile at her, raising my eyebrows. “Cindy’s son, isn’t he?” We partied with Cindy, before Cindy departed to places unknown. She came back with Teddy, stories of a groupie’s life and AIDS; without money for healthcare, Cindy lasted only a few years. Nobody knows who Teddy’s father is.

Destiny doesn’t like to be reminded of the fact that we go back many years, that I know the age she carefully denies. Her eyes sweep over me, I’ve been on the straight and narrow for more than 20 years; that knowledge bugs her, too. She takes a drag off her cigarette and blows the smoke at me. I smile and walk away.

There is a couple sitting in the corner, a long lean man in a sport bike leather jacket and a slim woman with long dark hair, Eric and June. As Teddy announces “Lights” by Journey, Eric takes June’s hand, inviting her to dance.

They take over the dance floor. Teddy’s voice is pure and soulful as Eric gathers June to him with a tenderness that glows in the smoky light.

Destiny rolls her eyes in disgust. What is between those two is very real, and she can’t stand being in the same room with that kind of love. She brushes passed me. Teddy’s watching the couple dancing. There is a longing in his eyes that comes out through his voice.

Kaylynn has her eyes closed, pretending that Teddy is singing to her, no doubt.

I take that image with me – thick smoke, neon lights – a singer silhouetted in red and blue crooning to a couple, slow dancing their way to falling in love; in a bar, in the Harbor, in Ashtabula.

Yeah.

==========================
Barnes & Noble: 'Swallow the Moon


Smashwords: 'Swallow the Moon'


Amazon US: Amazon US: Swallow the Moon - Dark Harbor


Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Swallow-Moon-Dark-Harbor-ebook/dp/B005CX8OKS

Amazon DE: http://www.amazon.co.de/Swallow-Moon-Dark-Harbor-ebook/dp/B005CX8OKS

Amazon FR: http://www.amazon.co.fr/Swallow-Moon-Dark-Harbor-ebook/dp/B005CX8OKS

Monday, September 14, 2009

Horsing Around with a Manure Spreader

Cleaning stalls is a dirty job - for the core muscles and as an upper body workout - there is nothing like it. (rolling eyes) However, I've got three horses and limited energy. Then there is the lovely issue of where all that bedding goes. Nobody really likes to have a manure pile, even though it's fabulous fertilizer, in the back yard. (Besides the chickens, rooster Sony is King of the Manure Pile.)

We solved it all last week - bought a 'newer' spreader - as in manure spreader, here is the link. If you have horses or any animal that requires bedding with daily/weekly changes - check this gizmo out.

It grinds up the manure and bedding, spits it on the grass in a thin coating, that looks like it will dry up and rot immediately. Its only been a couple of weeks, so I can't claim that manure is the miracle fertilizer that we needed to get rid of ragweed or any of the dead spots. Nor does the thin layer fill in the holes that make mowing a nightmare.

This manure spreader wasn't cheap at $900 - though the nearest thing I've seen locally cost $2.5k. The construction and assembly is in line with the price - I'm impressed so far. It's handy, I can move it empty to the stall, clean up, move it by hand to the next stall. Hook it to the mower and go spread the wealth. (G)

In fact, it chewed up the chicken bedding, a mix of straw, shredded paper, feathers and manure, as well as all the old manure pile, easily. I spent three days filling and spreading just to see if there was something that would clog it up. So far, I haven't found anything.

What impresses me the most - everything my animals eat and all the bedding has become fertilizer. The manure pile that was a dozen feet long and three feet high is a thing of the past. I bought a bag of grass seed to sprinkle on each load.

Disney didn't visit my pasture, darnnit, no overnight 'shazam' but hey, it's not a two or three hour chore any more. I don't have to trundle huge heavy loads of soiled bedding to the pile and wrestle them to the top, then dump the mess.

In my mind, the wheel barrow emptying was always the hardest part. Try it in 6 inches of mud, where the mud sucks your boots off. We'll see if my lawn mower can slog the winter-time mud any better.


Honestly, I can't imagine winter without a sprained back or pulled leg muscles from cleaning stalls. I've spent the greater part of the last ten winters nursing my back and despairing while the stalls become a horrendous nightmare.This winter, when Ned broke my toe, I was laid up four weeks. Can you imagine the mess?

Will I be able to clean stalls, fertilize and seed the pasture all winter without getting hurt? I don't know. Will I have time to find out? Oh yeah.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Misty Morning Musings

A chill September morning, the sun isn't up. The mist is thick, a gray veil of chilled air that starts at the fence line and muffles the sight. The horses are mere shapes by the gate. They must be sleeping because they don't look up as I come out to feed the cats.

The chickens are already up, of course, with the rooster crowing his darn fool head off. A few ducklings are pipping 'where are you' as they follow the drakes out of the barn. They must be late sleepers because the momma ducks have already headed up the hill where the grass (and ragweed) is still high.

I've been working outside, since the weather cooled. Mowing and weeding, stall cleaning and spreading, planting trees and flowers until I can't move another inch. There are forsythia cuttings in pots, herbs drying, flowers still blooming and the porch needs to be uncluttered.

I trimmed the Japanese maple, though I wonder if it will ever be a tree again. A cold snap two years ago killed the slender branches, so now it looks like a sheared shrub. 

Last year's oak tree is a pitiful mess. It looks worse than the maple. Four feet tall and leaning despite all my efforts to straighten it. At least the redbud trees shot up this year. They were pitiful one foot tall twigs for years. They steadfastly refused to grow an inch. Maybe there is hope for the oak?

All the trees will be fed well this fall. We'll see if they decide to grow come spring. I've always heard that the roots grow first, then the tree grows into the roots. Also 'the first year it sleeps, the second it creeps, the third year it leaps.'

As I look at the horses, grazing in the round pen, I realize that I've got only two major projects left. One is turning the round pen into my primary garden, but before I do that - I have a horse to train.

I'm going back to my yard work today.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Top Ten Reasons why I won’t read Vampire Books

10. You think last year's shoes are out of date – this guy’s clothes are 200 year old!

9.   Men over fifty are male chauvinists – this guy was born when?

8.   Blood breath! Are you really going to kiss me with that stinky mouth?

7.   French kissing a corpse – with that breath? A carload of Tic Tacs won’t be enough.

6.   Tell me what is sexy about spending all day in a coffin, buried in a graveyard.

5.   Men with pale skin and burning red eyes – sexy? No, that’s the reason I stopped dating musicians and drug addicts.

4.   I can barely stand to shake a cold clammy living hand – I’m supposed find a cold, clammy embrace sexy?

3.   Road kill smells bad after 24 hours, HOW long has this guy been dead? And you can’t SMELL
that?

2.   Necrophilia (wanting to have sex with a corpse) is a mental illness – I don’t have it.

1.   Live men have erectile dysfunction – you expect me to believe that a corpse can get it up?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Baby Ducks on the Move

Fuzzy and ever so cute – the baby ducks twitter as they spread out in the grass. Hard to believe they are insect assassins, snapping up every last bug in their paths. Forty of them, spread out at six-inch intervals, combing the grass, picking out every fly, grasshopper and beetle.

I come out to the barn and they twitter louder, excited because my appearance means they get their fill of grain. They follow me, little feet patting, twittering, into the barn. They avoid the hens, watch the cats warily. The cats affect dignity and ignore the stream of fluff.

I toss some grain to the hens, keeping them away while the ducklings come right to my feet. Brownit spars with the chickens until Sony the rooster comes to his harem's defense. I swat him with a bamboo cane to put him in his place. This is duckling time.

Brownie stole the hatchlings of two other females to get this huge brood. I wonder if the ducklings aren't imprinted more on each other. They move about in fits and starts, more like a school of fish than birds.

They're a restless, twittering stream of hungry brown and gold fluff; eating from my hand, shoving and scarfing as much grain as they can hold. I can trail my fingers over their backs; they're so absorbed in eating. Once full they plop in the dirt, little bodies top-heavy.

Forty hungry little ducklings make short work of a pound of grain. They stream over to the water, drink, twitter some more as if discussing the weather then patter outside. A couple who are left behind chirp the signal that says: "where are you?" Soon they are all back for another meal of grain.

The hens chase the ducklings off eventually. The duckling flow outside, to nap in the grass. The rooster Sony, sulking from the swat, calls his hens back to the manure pile they are diligently turning into compost.

He's still king of the compost heap.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

PT Cruiser - It's Really Love

I love my car, from the sleek round front end, the push-button doors that never snap off my fingernails, to the hatch back rear with it's shelf. It looks retro - but is completely modern inside. So comfortable that we can drive it to Albany, New York or Miami, Florida without hurting our old backs.

Heavy enough to never skid on icy roads, high enough to be easy to get in and out of for my senior citizen parents - my little four-door buzz buggy suits my family to the proverbial "T."

I hear that Chrysler is discontinuing the PT Cruiser. I think that's a crying shame. There aren't many cute SUV's out there. There aren't many that get 22 miles per gallon in the city.

I was in the market for a Cobalt when I first saw my car. (I secretly wanted a Mustang, not a good idea when I've got a serious lead foot.) The Cobalt was too low to the ground. It hurt my back to get in it and the seats weren't comfortable.

I wanted to drive a PT Cruiser, just out of curiosity. It was so cute outside - and SO comfortable inside. Once I felt the smooth ride and sports-car handling I was hooked. No Mustang for me - I've got a cute little silver bullet.

This summer my husband bought the ultimate accessory - a hitch so we can tow his motorcycle, or my little Snowbear trailer.

I just got back from Madrid - where I picked up to fence panels, one of them 16 feet long. We strapped them to my 8 foot trailer and I brought the rattling caravan home without a problem.

Try that with a Cobalt.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Motorcycle Ride

It is a cool day - feels more like autumn than late summer.

We set out on Rt. 920 a twisting back road that leads generally south. My husband's Suzuki purrs like a contented cat at 60 M.P.H. as we twist and turn.

The sky is cloudy - the breeze is cool. I suppose we can thank the Alaskan volcano for this cool, sweet summer.

We had a biker's picnic planned - but it fell through. Maybe one weekend yet we can get the guys together - get their families down to North Fork and let the kids romp while the adults relax.

Until then I'm looking forward to the return trip home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Throwing in the Towel – Part II

I'm going throw something, and it's not a towel.

Why the hell would you spend months chasing after a review from HC – then shrug off said review as being from a 'junior editor' when it comes?

They pointed out the flaws from an HC editor's point of view and you run off whining because...It didn't come from Disney?

I have not one, but two, five page reviews ripping my writing style apart. I printed them, discussed them with my F2F group. I've poured over these documents, not because they are brimming with hearts, flowers, singing mice and fairy dust, but because there is something useful in there.

I took my "bait and switch" opening to 'Flogging the Quill' knowing it sucked, but I wanted help figuring out a good opening. Ray gave me his honest assessment of my overall style. (Bless him! He said my 'voice' was 'seductive.') He pointed out some things that I eventually turned into the current opening. (I have yet to thank him personally. Better get on that.)

Weeks later - The Editors said "We loved the opening pages and…" They also finished with "…cut 1/3 of the first 3 chapters and resubmit."

Of course I sniveled a bit – then ran a word count to figure out how many words needed to go. Then – guess what? – I started cutting.

It is abso-lutely (ehem) useless to compete for something – then dismiss it when you finally get it. I mean really, did you expect them to say? "Loved it! Shelved it! Here's your contract."

I really need to get away from Authonomy. If it wasn't writer's crack I would. "Let's Do Lunch" is 90 on the general chart, after two weeks. I'm going to leave it for another week – while I finished editing "Lunch."

PS - If Leo doesn't leave me alone – I'm going to feed him to Van Man Go. I've got a dozen pages of "Tempest in a Teapot" which I was saving for NaNoWritMo. Shut up, Leo! Take a cold shower, get a shave and a hair cut!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Invisa-Dog

As it gets hotter outside, the AC starts feeling colder. The dogs play outside for a few hours every day - then come back to the cool air.

Well, it's getting harder and harder to do a 'nose check' without poking the cushions or the lumps under the blankets.

I've got an invisible dog.

I can't see him most of the time. He's usually under a blanket or behind the couch cushions. Lately it's been under the blankets on the bed, or the quilts on the back of the couch. He often slides between the back of the couch and the cushions there, too.

Last night I was snacking, I thought I had a pillow under my head. Turns out that pillow wanted a bite of chicken finger. I ended up with a little black nose on my shoulder.

Captain Jack Sparrow may have a parrot on his shoulder - but I've got Trouble the Invisible Dog.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tempest in a Tea Pot

A hot August afternoon – on the porch drowsy from the heat after a long morning in the barn, I'm stretched out in my chair with Mocha in my lap. A copper Harley Screaming Eagle pulls up to my driveway.

Ah crap, there goes the day.

He walks up to the porch, and let's himself in. The dogs cluster around – sniffing but not barking.

Predictably he doesn't sit, but paces the porch like a caged lion. He lights a cigarette by striking a barnburner on his pant leg. Men should not wear pants that tight. It just isn't right.

He's wearing his cut – a tattered denim vest – it has patches all over it. Some are "In Memory of" patches. The rocker under a golden eagle says "Jesus hates pussies."

He's got a copper tan, sun-bleached hair and needs a shave. His eyes are blue, and he's got that mature strength that comes from long years of hard living. The view is worth the hassle he's about to give me.

"What's on you mind, Leo?"

"You need to get a move on." The level gaze he gives me would be threatening, if I didn't know him.

"I'm in the middle of a re-write. Then there's 'Swallow the Moon' to finish."

"Forget them, Van's a freak and Eric's a puss."

I didn't need Van or Eric showing up, taking exception for the insult. I'd have to explain this to the neighbors. How do you do that when they are all figments of your imagination? I'd never get any writing done if I end up in a 'love-me' jacket.

Leo takes a drag off his smoke and leans on the porch rail. Did I mention that he's wearing nothing under his cut? Or the tattoos? "Besides, you hate paranormal."

"Just vampires." I grin at him. "The plot isn't finished. I've got half a plot. Can't go on with just that."

"Sure you can. You've written a bunch of books, never outlined jack before."

"They all sucked." I reminded him. He thinks he has the upper hand does he? "You want to be trapped on the hard drive forever?"

"No," Leo the lazy tomcat, with his red beard and his aquamarine eyes, gave me a come-and-get-girl grin. "I want to thrill a hundred thousand honeys."

I laughed, he's a charming cad – he might just do it.

"Look, Leo. There are only so many hours in a day. You are going to have to wait your turn. I'm planning a big push for NanoWritMo."

He swore. The dogs started barking, my husband was home. When I turned back Leo was gone.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Letter from the White House

I'm posting this because I'm tired of the 'wing nut' propaganda that I've been getting from the people who oppose health insurance reform. This is the other side of the story.

Dear Friend,

This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, “where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.”

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.

Thanks,
David

David Axelrod
Senior Adviser to the President


P.S. We launched www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health
Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.

Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.

Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.

Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.

Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.

Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/health-insurance-consumer-protections/

8 common myths about health insurance reform

Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.

We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the
President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.

Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.

Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.

Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.

Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.

You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.

No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:
http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck
http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck/faq

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html

Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html

Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/women/index.html

Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes

Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/helpbottomline

The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction

Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction/diminishing/index.html

The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform.

Learn more: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf