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 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 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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Tales From The Leeward Lounge'

Irene at 77 years old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pattern is clear:

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

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

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

Wish me luck. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse #2

The day has arrived!

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

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

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

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

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

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

That scene really ticked me off.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Recovering From Life and Change

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

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

I had a serious drug and alcohol problem then.

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

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

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

There are some things about Those Meetings that really suck.

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

Tough shit. I earned my seat.

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

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

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

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

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

One road down and three to go.

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

These are dark times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone needs a plan of last resort.

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

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

Stay well.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Nursing Home Horrors

The system has been created to devour our elderly whole.

The old man sat through his lunch with his pants down around his ankles, while confined to a wheelchair. Every time he hailed a Nurses Aid to get help, he was ignored.

When I came into the room, he greeted me and asked if I'd seen his Aid.

I asked him why his pants were around his ankles, he looked embarrassed.

"The girl went to get some help."

"When was that?"

"Before lunch."

I hit the button to summon help. It was ten minutes to 2pm. We tried to get his pants back on, but he wasn't able to stand. Every time he tried, his fall alarm went off.

Twice an Aid looked in to turn off the alarm, and vanished. Finally, I left the room and brought someone back. She called the Aid, they came in to, to find he was sitting on a soiled pad. It was 2:30 pm.

I was furious.

I'm still furious, because time has run out on his 'Golden' 20 days of Medicare. There is no way to care for him at home, and no other nursing home will take him after 20 days. Because after that, there's a steep co-pay. The nursing home has swallowed him, now it's coming for all his assets.

It's legal.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wise One-Liner

We're all a little nuts.

"Few things are more self-destructive than a combination of high entitlement and a lazy work ethic." Read more

The above is related to the mental illness manifested by the compulsive taking of 'Selfies.' They're talking about Narcissism. A nasty form of mental illness that appears to have taken over the population, as expressed by 'Selfies' in this case.


I think there's a lot of truth to the above: High entitlement and a lazy work ethic makes for a very harsh and lonely life, full of frustrations, because "having it all" is a hell of a lot of work.

In the 1970's women were told "you can't have it all. Go back to the kitchen and have another baby if you're bored."

In the 1980's women were told "Yes! You can have it all!"

In the 1990's women busted their asses trying to "have it all" but there wasn't anyone home to take care of the kids.

Now, the economy is in the toilet, still! and people are broke. The changes to healthcare have helped some people get out of corporate Amerika, but the jobs are 'trickling down' whatever that means. 

The 1% and the Wannabe 1% are out taking selfies. One of those strange women whose only job appears being famous (how does she get paid for that?) is publishing a book of some 2k selfie photos. 

Well, at least we're TOLD she took them. LOL You can't tell with that crowd. 

Let's look at the 12 traits of the Narcissist, which I have just lifted from Wikipedia:

Narcissists typically display most, and sometimes all, of the following traits:

  • An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
  • Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships*
  • A lack of psychological awareness* 
  • Difficulty with empathy*
  • Problems distinguishing the self from others 
  • Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults* 
  • Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
  • Haughty body language*
  • Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them* 
  • Detesting those who do not admire them* 
  • Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
  • Pretending to be more important than they really are*
  • Bragging and exaggerating their achievements*
  • Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
  • Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
  • Denial of remorse and gratitude 
I've put the traits of this budding author in itallics, and the really fun ones I've made bold.

Hmm...with traits like those, I suppose the book isn't any good. However, if she gets any bad reviews, she's going to be vindictive.

Meanwhile, back at the Croft...Let's Do Lunch is still free. Just in case you were looking for a GOOD book, instead of a printed collection from some bimbo's Face Book pages.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Setting Up Shop

People change. It can be for the better or for the worst. I've moved and my life is about to change, I hope this will be for the best. 

The new farm, which is currently known as Talbot Hill is my Dad's place. I could change the name, going to blog over at Mom's blog "Icy Road." Or I can just start over. 

There are so really great perks about the new farm. For one thing there are three more acres of land and an orchard. There's an office/studio in a huge garage. There are wings to the garage for the animals, and there's a spring at the bottom of the hill. 

I'll take over Mother's studio, and continue to publish her stories from there. Just got to get it cleaned up and painted.

This isn't really a farm, yet. There's a garage, but no barn for the animals. There aren't any critters here, just me and the mice. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Family History

My family has lost touch with the past. When my mother died, she took the last of the family history with her. I know nothing of my father's family, because all his brothers and sisters have passed. There are no sons to take care of the name.

This leaves a gap in the family saga that will never be revealed...unless I post the documents I've got online.

My father's brothers have daughters, or granddaughters. My sister has sons, and grandchildren. I have no children. But I have a fistful of documents.

I'm wondering what I should do with these documents. is an interesting website. I've already uploaded a few old photos there for the sake of posterity.

However, there are more documents.

I'm thinking about what I should do with them. There's a family tree on the Gypsy side. I don't know where that came from, Mom had it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mailing List and Paperbacks

I've been struggling with the email list - I've been told, over and over, that it's the one tool I need to really sell books.

I'm not convinced.

First it was a blog, then it was MySpace, Facebook, Twitter...Twitter...Twitter and more Twitter. While sending out a tweet will get hits to Smashwords, sales are another story. As far as getting thousands of people signed up for a mailing list...somehow I just don't see it coming.

However, there HAS been enough local interest in my paperbacks to make me want to publish 'The Emissary' to paperback.

Paperback sales ARE up - thanks to Second Saturday where we've been hawking books for the last 3 years. We've been joined by two other authors - D. A. Lawson who wrote 'Always' and a children's author who's name escapes me at the moment. (I hate it when that happens.)

Going to Create Space is a super, super easy choice. I've had nothing but good luck with them. It's my formatting skills that I'm not so thrilled with.

These are novels of the Zombie Apocalypse, not High Art Literary works.

Actually, this could be great fun.

I need some fun.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sign Up For Our Mailing List & Why

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I will not sell your email address to anyone. This is to inform you of new releases, like the new "Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse" ebook coming out soon.

Why on EARTH have I posted the Sign-up Form?

There's a method to this Newsletter madness -- and it has to do with the new Publishing Company I just started. I'll have more time to write my own stuff and publish Mom's stuff if Icy Road Publishing can get a mailing list of readers.

When there's a New Release - if it's one of Mom's or one of mine - I can tell our readers directly - with the addresses from Amazon and Smashwords (Author Pages, not invididual e-book pages.)

My goal is 50 email addresses. 

That's not an arbitrary number - that's the number of e-books that sell when there's a new release. That's the number of hits this blog gets when there's a new post. It's the number of people who've asked to be notified when the new books come out.

So please sign up - I know you are out there.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Icy Road Publishing

I think this is the next logical step - to create a publishing 'brand' via Smashwords instead of pushing each book on it's own. So I've dusted off 'Icy Road' for the purpose of making the new 'system' work for me.

After yesterday's bad case of the Jitters my visit with my Dad went pretty well. He's in good hands, and I don't have to worry about him.

So I'm taking this time to set up Icy Road Publishing on Smashwords. I may have already made a mistake in the way I set it up. I sure hope not.

In a nutshell - this what I'm doing:

Sales of my ebooks have been dismal at best. Mostly because of the turmoil in my life over the last four years - unemployment, family illness, moved parents in, Mom's passing, the grieving period, more illness, more illness, more illness and now - a few days of peace before Dad returns from Rehab.

In a week of relative calm, I've finished 'The Emissary - Arrival,' sent it out to the copy editor and speculated about how to launch it.

Pre-Orders appear to be the best way to go - Apple, B&N and Kobo support pre-orders (as well as freebies) via Smaswords. I can't get that on my own.

For whatever reason, my ebooks don't sell via NookPress and WritingLife - but they DO sell through Smashwords. So I'm slowly removing them from publication on those two sites because I get paid that way.

Apple is my 'money market' so I'm working them as a catalyst. You'd have to either read, or listen to, Mark Coker talk about Pre-Orders and catalysts to under stand them. I fell asleep during Mark's talk, now it's imprinted in my brain. I suspect my Id and my Ego had a fight and Mark won.

The game-changer has been getting acurate sales data from Apple and B&N in a timely manner. Instead of 90 days after the fact...there's a chart that shows daily data.

This way, if something happens on Apple or B&N - like when my e-books go free - I've at least got a chance to make it work out in my favor. That will keep me from second guessing myself five or six times in a month.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Jitters Strike!

I don't remember having the jitters this bad when I published 'Swallow the Moon.'

For 'Let's Do Lunch' - I had a staggering case of the jitters because it was Self-Publishing in 2010 - when there was no such thing as Indie publishing - Self-Publish was Vanity Publishing which was for losers.

Part of the problem is being a Finalist for Best Novella at the e-Festival of Words.

The majority of the problem is my father is in the hospital with a broken hip and intermittant demensia. I can't concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.

Spent all day yesterday listening to Mark Coker of Smashwords talk about signing a book up for Pre-Orders with Apple iBook Store, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

I haven't had more than a sale on B&N or Kobo that wasn't via Smashwords in more than 2 years. Kobo owes me money from 2 years ago that I will never see.

Apple, vai Smashwords is my biggest market with B&N via Smashwords second. (The irony of the situation does not escape me.) This is since Sony shut it's doors. My understanding is Kobo took over the Sony market place.

That's the data I have to keep in mind as I decide how to launch 'The Emissary - Arrival' which is sitting on my hard drive as an ARC.

What to do? What to do?

Can't pre-order on Amazon and have no history of sales there for 'The Emissary.' (There was a spike of freebies, but no sales after, nor was there a 'halo' effect on other books.) KDP worked once (for 'Let's Do Lunch') but having my ebooks vanish off other markets for 90 days is asking WAY too much for 1 or 2 sales a month. (It killed my B&N sales - they've never recovered except via Smashwords.)

I launched "The Emissary - Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse' via KDP to the loudest sound of crickets EVER.

The way forward appears to be through Smashwords Pre-Order Program.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Now, excuse me, I need to visit my father at the Rehab hospital.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Amazon vs Hachette - Pits Author Against Author - Why?

I'm not understanding why the spat between Amazon and Hachette is any different than Barnes and Noble against Simon and Shuster.

New York Times headlines on March 22, 2013 say: "Orders Cut, as Publisher and Retailer Quarrel"
A standoff over financial terms has prompted the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble to cut back substantially on the number of titles it orders from the publishing house Simon & Schuster, raising fears among other publishers, agents and authors that the conflict may harm the publishing industry as a whole.
Industry executives, as well as authors of recently published Simon & Schuster books and their agents, say that Barnes & Noble has reduced book orders greatly, to almost nothing in the case of some lesser-known writers. They contend that the move is damaging their sales. Authors say the retail chain has taken other steps, like not giving them display space or allowing book tour appearances in its stores.

So where was the angst? The name-calling? The panels of breathlessly terrified agents and writers waving pitchforks and torches.

I don't know.

According to the above - those hurt worst were 'lesser-known writers' though there is a picture of Judi Picoult's 'The Storyteller' on the page. She's hardly an unknown writer.

Stephen Colbert never flipped Barnes and Noble the bird. (Sigh) I could have used the 'Colbert Bump' then, too. James Patterson never made a peep.

I guess they weren't concerned - as they are Hachette authors not S&S.

A couple weeks ago - 'Swallow the Moon' went free for a glorious run on the Bestseller's List. It's still free at Amazon UK and getting a few downloads every day. That's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

I guess that makes me a minon of the Evil Amazon Empire.

I spent years on enjoyed the comradery and reviewed a lot of books. Same with Kindleboards, spent a lot of time and enjoyed myself. Now it's where I drop in a couple times a week to socialize with other authors. I don't think that makes me the minon of any of these boards, or of Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.

If anything, I've had more sales on Sony and Apple in the last 2 years, does that make me a minon of Smashwords?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

'The Emissary' - Finalist for Best Novella of 2014

I need your vote!

'The Emissary - Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse' needs 20 more votes to win. Right now, it has 5 votes. 

In order to vote, you'll have to register, and sign in here: e-Festival of Words, Welcome, Award Hall, Best Novella.

You are welcome to go to Smashwords, pick up a free copy and read the story before you decide if you want to vote. 

Like all my stories, 'The Emissary' is entertaining and a quick read. But, if you want something a little 'chewier' then you can read it slowly, or re-read it.

"The Emissary" is a horse story as well as an adventure tale. The McLeod sisters use their horses to fight, as the Roman's did, and as sentries with a keen sense of smell. I have always thought that horses were a better choice for the Zombie Apocalypse because of their instincts and the fact they eat grass not gasoline. The bow is the weapon of choice for the McLeod sisters because bows are quiet and arrows are reusable. The McLeods prefer stealth and agility over loud engines and bullets. 

"The Emissary" is about how women could survive the Zombie Apocalypse - without the sterotypical roles of helpless-female or heartless Amazon. It's my way of exploring the Apocalypse from a completely female point of view - cooperation, team work, empowering the weak and protecting the helpless, with a touch of humor. 

The McLeod sisters are down-to-earth girls who have complete confidence in their training, their horses and each other. The Davidson clansmen who think they're superior with their trucks and machine guns are in for a surprise.

Please feel free to get the e-book here: 

In a world where the dead walk the land, Bethany McLeod must leave the safety of her fortress home to take her sisters Alexis, Dani and Julie cross-country to Fort Chatten, Kentucky. Alexis McLeod is a healer, nurse and pharmacist, eager to prove herself at Fort Chatten. Led by Bethany, the four sisters risk their lives to help the struggling Davidson clan.

It's just three years since the Zombie Apocalypse. The McLeod and Davidson's clans survive in a world where the muerto viviente - walking dead - infest the cities and towns. Armed to the teeth, the sisters are horse archers, a light cavalry quiet enough to avoid the muerto, or fast enough to outrun them. Militia, marauders and mad-men abound, the stinking dead walk the land, eating everything in their path.

Can four women and six horses make a hundred mile journey through the Zombie Apocalypse and arrive alive? What will they find if they get to Fort Chatten?

This story is suitable for all ages.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Saccharin for the Mind

The old mare and me

Just got done watching an old movie - a gooey saccharin horse story.

You know the kind - Wild Black Stallion can only be ridden by Sweet Young (virgin) Girl. Family farm under attack by the Evil Business Man who will cheat to win.


I've been around horses all my life. Had my first pony at four and still have horses five decades later. In five freaking decades, the story's plot hasn't changed. The tropes are ALWAYS the same.

Wild Horse, Evil Man wants to Break the Wild Horse. Only the Virgin can Tame the Wild horse. In many, many ways this is the Tale of the Unicorn. You know, where the Wild Unicorn can only be Tamed by the Virgin.

I wrote 'Impressive Bravado' because I was sick of the Myth of the (Magick) Horse Whisperer. Well, I'm just about as sick of the Magick Horse, too.

Pop culture has reduced the relationship between human and horse to Magick, where the horse is a Unicorn in disguise. Humans have become so detached from nature, in my lifetime, and horses so Disneyfied, that a true relationship between our species is nearly impossible. (I will stop there with the Disney Rant, I promise.)

The average person can't comprehend the complexity of equine/human relationships.

They are a prey animal. We are a predator. In order to have a relationship, there has to be trust. In order to have trust, there has to be communication.

Words are great, when the horse is trained to recognize words. Most horses don't even know their own names. What horses understand is body language.

They read us, like we read books...or computer screens.

A horsewoman, who has passed now, used to call it "Black Stallion Syndrome" which references a series of books by Walter Farley about a boy shipwrecked with a 'wild' black stallion. The boy 'tames' the stallion - they get off the island and they have an unbelievable racing career that isn't possible for a 'wild' horse.

The only horses who race in Thoroughbred races are...guess hard now...Thoroughbreds.


Later in the series, it's revealed that this 'wild' stallion is actually a registered Thoroughbred, the pampered pet of a Sheik.

Okay...all better now.

My point, and I always have one, is that by passing horses off as 'Magick' creatures we sell them far, far short...and set humans up to get hurt mentally and physically when we interact with this powerful, complex and fundimentally gentle species.

Here's something I wrote after an encounter with a "PETA" person.

A Real Horse Story – What PETA Doesn’t Know


I was reading a PETA pamphlet about horses in a store the other day. A nice young woman came up to me, seeing the pamphlet, started to talk. She echoed the pamphlet's wrath about the treatment of horses by humans. There were a few issues that I agreed with her. But then she said something I found really foolish:
          “Horses are so beautiful, they should be allowed to run free, without humans bothering them. Humans are so cruel. Riding horses is torture! Did you know that they actually pound nails into a horse’s foot? How horrible! Horses are such timid animals, they never would harm a human.”
          I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.
Horses were timid?
They should run free?
Being ridden was torture?
Horses never hurt humans?
I was nursing a couple of small bruises on my thighs where my mare Oppie had tried to buck me off. I’d been thrown into the kneepads of my saddle. I considered myself lucky, the last time she had managed to dump me, I’d gotten a concussion and broken two teeth.
There was a rope burn on my hand where her year old 500 lb., baby Tanamara had tried to drag me down the pasture instead of following me like a lady. I also had a bruise on my leg where my gentle old gelding Ned had objected to the way I tightened the girth around his belly so he had cow-kicked me in the leg.
          I was nice to this innocent person. I swallowed my laughter. “Have you ever owned a horse?” I asked her, already guessing what the answer would be. She was happy to bubble over with her experiences with horses.
         No, she hadn’t. Nor had she ever ridden a horse as an adult; but a pony ride as a child of five had made her fall in love with horses. I guessed it had been one of those carnivals where very, very gentle ponies were put in a walker to go around in a circle. But she had read a lot of books about horses.
In the face of such an expert, I was hesitant to open my mouth.
          At the same impressionable age, I had been given a small, untrained pony as my very own. It took all my eight cousins to train him to accept a rider. As the canny little beast tossed one of us, another had climbed aboard. It had been a rodeo on a very small scale. Only by sheer numbers and adult supervision had we been able to survive the carnage. After a week, the pony had learned to tolerate a rider, while most of my cousins were turned off horses for life.
         Then there was my herd of three registered Quarter Horses. If my horses had been "allowed to run free" they would die horribly.
Ned who stood 66 inches at the shoulder, ate 40 pounds of good hay, a gallon of sweet feed, all the grass he could chew, PLUS drank 10 gallons of water per day, would waste away to a skeleton in a week on a diet of just grass. Who would carefully tend his brittle hooves? He needed special plastic shoes, dietary supplements and twice-weekly treatments with expensive oils to stop his feet from cracking so badly he couldn't walk. Turned out on grass, without my care, he would die.
Oppie, fastidious as any Queen, would be highly insulted if I wasn't around to keep her bedded down properly in straw or shavings. She went so far as to do her "business" in her stall so her pasture wouldn't be dirty. Her kidneys would rupture if she hadn't had a place to potty in descent privacy!
As for our 500 pound yearling Tanamara, she was known to throw tantrums if not the center of attention. She would even try to chase off her "uncle" Ned, twice her height and weight in order to get a human to pet her. She could also be a terrorist; snaking her head and threatening to bite if she thought she would be shorted a treat.
Timid was not a word that I could use to describe any of my pampered herd. But the horse expert from PETA was still talking.
I wondered if she knew how many bales of hay a horse ate in a month or how much grain or how many loads of manure one produced. My herd ate 30 bales a month while on winter pasture, 300 pounds of grain, drank 900 gallons of water, they got their feet trimmed or shoes reset every 45 to 60 days. They also produced about 3 - 100-pound wheelbarrows of "compost" that forked out in 30-pound increments every week.
My life revolves around horse care, feeding schedules, shoes, and vaccinations then once every couple of weeks; I get to ride for an hour or two. I returned to college to get a better job so I could afford to keep my horses. I have worked as many as three jobs to support my horses.
I never told that young lady that I owned horses. It would have been a lie. I am their servant.

The truth is always much messier than fiction.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Scrivener - Making Order Out of Chaos

I've written about Scrivener before. You can get it at Literature and Latte a UK site for writers and this marvelous software.

 Scrivener isn't just a word processor. It's a document database - an organizer for the flotsam and jetsam of the mind. I've got 30 odd years of flotsam, all over the place.

We're talking 5 or 6 copies of different directories and umpteen copies of some things I'll never use again, in software that couldn't be translated by a modern computer.

I bought Scrivener just to put my fragmented story files into some kind of order.

It works!

A week ago, I started over with some my mother's short stories. As I loaded in previously published stories, I realized that a few small changes would make publishing easier.

If I made a folder for each story, I could mark that story "To Do," "First Draft," "Revised," or even "Finished."

Since the bio and back matter would all be the same, I put those in their own folder, instead of in every story. That way I could use it over and over.

It now looks like this:

Irene's Volumn One
    Story Folder
       Story 1
          Copyright Page
          Short Story 1
   Back Matter Folder
       Author Bio
       Editor Bio
       Other Works

This has tamed the nightmare of files on my hard drive AND I can compile to an epub file and load it all directly on to the vendor sites. The investment of setup time has paid off in frustration.

Each volumn of short stories will have it's own folder - and I can update the backmatter of all of them in just a few minutes, not running through 20 stories. One update and compile - upload - done.

Wow! This is more like it.

Now, if I could just get 358 e-book covers!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Fabulous World of Backlist

Sometimes it is highly amusing to be old enough to remember ‘the good old days’ of certain genre. “YA” as a genre is very, very old.
The only thing new about Today’s YA is the names of the people writing for it – many are far too young to recall the old, glory days.
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there was an author named Robert Heinlein who wrote something called “Heinlein juveniles.”
According to Wikipedia these were “aimed for what would now be known as the “young adult” market. The core group are the twelve Heinlein novels published by Scribner’s between 1947 and 1958.”
Many of these novels were written for young males and were also classified as ‘space opera.’ The Fabulous World of Backlist contains jewels that have been out-of-print for years. I’m thrilled to see more and more of these jewels making their way to e-books so modern readers can find them.
Since ‘YA’ can be traced back to the 1940′s there ARE classics out there. Books worth re-discovering and cherishing, even though they are no longer to be found, in print, at affordable prices.
It seems to me that anyone who loves ‘Hunger Games’ might also enjoy Andre Norton’s books. If not her, then dozen of other ‘YA’ authors of years gone by.
Modern ‘YA’ writers (self-include) are in competition with the life’s work of writers like Heinlein and Norton – not just with ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Twilight.’
As a Reader, I’m stocking up on ‘the good stuff’ as it becomes available. As a Writer, I’m looking at all my favorites, thinking ‘I’ve got some serious work to do.’
So I agree that there are some classics out there that “adults should be reading.” I don’t agree with how she PRESENTED that conclusion.
There’s nothing wrong with today’s ‘YA’ – just don’t miss the classics!
Andre Norton 
Robert Heinlein
Issac Asimov
Anne McCaffery
E. E. "Doc" Smith
There are more, I'll add them as I think of them.