Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fleece, Fiber & Fuzziness


I've still got quite a yarn habit. The top photo is some Mohair fleece that has resisted all my efforts to clean it. You might be able to tell that it is almost clean, the ends are fluffy and everything is great...right to the cut end.

What I'm looking to create is more of the bottom photo. Soft yarn in nice colors that spins like a dream.

Not gonna happen with the Mohair, as far as I can tell. The skin-side is stuck together with something that acts like glue. Since this is goat hair, it's not lanolin, which is actually good to have in a fleece. 

There are two schools of thought on washing goat hair. One is LOTS of hot water, but don't touch the fiber because it will felt in a heartbeat. Heavy use of Dawn detergent is recommended. Some people say borax, some say not to use borax.

I've tried hot water & detergent. I've tried cold water & detergent. I've tried cold water & borax and a vinegar rinse. I've tried cold water & detergent soaked for 24 hours. I've tried hot water, detergent, borax & rinsing. I've tied epsom salts, which worked better than plain detergent. Hot water must be kept hot, which makes rinsing a challenge. 

Today, I soaked a big batch of Mohair in a dye bath and a bit of vinegar. I cooked the whole thing in a crock pot for 4 hours. I added green, blue and yellow dye to the pot. The blue vanished, it ether didn't take or it mixed instantly with the yellow, because there's no sign of it.

I've been fussing with this mohair for a week. I also washed two batches of burgundy suri alpaca that came out really nice. So I opened up a bag of Grumpy's fleece and washed a batch of alpaca today. 

I've got very little Mohair and a BUNCH of alpaca fleece. So I've decided to just let the goat fleece soak in it's own 'brine' of potassium. The process is called Suint Fermentation. The link is to one of the better websites on the process. 

I haven't got a greasy sheep fleece to kick start this mess. So I bought some potassium pills to kick start the process. So far it looks like it's working. 

We've got a run of nice weather. I'm allowing the fleece air dry in the back yard. All my washing stuff is set up back there, and the fleece washing project is coming along nicely. 

Tomorrow I collect a few gallons of rain water for the Suint Vat and I'll let that ferment in the back for a week or two. Eventually, I hear tell, the fleece will produce the microbes needed to get the sticky stuff out of the fleece. 

Meanwhile, the stuff I dyed today will be come a crude yarn with tales and stuff sticking out. Like the orange yarn below. 

We'll see if it works or not. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Yarn Ala' Llama

100% Alpaca, dyed with Koolade

Jacob wool, dyed and plain

A peek at the stash

Left to right - Alpaca in yellow & green, wool alpaca blend, llama dyed with cherry Koolade, natural wool in brown

It's time to celebrate something fun and festive...my yarn! I've been spinning, because it relieve stress and experimenting with Koolade dyes.

There's citric acid in the yarn, I get a Koolade aftertaste when I knit. It's kinda creepy, really, to taste Koolade for hours after you put the yarn down. I didn't lick the yarn, or my fingers. It gets into your pores. Makes me glad I didn't use any harsh chemicals to dye the yarn.

Still the colors are bright and cheery. They are likely to be fairly close together when you dye in batches. (One package of Koolade per ounce of yarn.)

If you want to learn more about dyeing yarn with Koolade start here.

I'm currently working on a hat (of course) and might try a set of fingerless mittens, with the green and yellow alpaca. I loved my stumpy-looking llama wool mittens from two years a go. I might give that another try,

Monday, August 31, 2015

Picking Up The Slack

Mom had a thing about saving Kleenex boxes.

Weeks of drama are now behind us, and I'm starting to draw a breath.

The Hoard is slowly finding it's way out of my house, back into the Peddler's Mall booth #329.  A couple hours work tamed the mess inside the house and on the porch. We took a load to the flea market booth and made a bit more breathing room. There's much more that needs to go!

Something will need to be done about the studio, but not today.

There's been some interest in the little farm, not a serious offer, just a low-ball to see if I'm desperate. As much as I'd like to see the farm rented, it would have to be to people who can afford to keep the place up.

Dad is doing as well as can be expected. Dementia is a bitch, strokes make it worse.

The books are selling better now that I've switched from Smashwords to Draft 2 Digital. It's amazing the difference in just changing vendors.

I've got more mowing to do here at Jordan's Croft. The bush-hog is running VERY well.

Time to get back to it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Hoard - An Ongoing Project

Oh man, I wish there was a faster way to get rid of #TheHoard.

The majority of it is mid-way between "too useful to pitch" and "too valuable to pitch" so I'm putting a buck on the average item and stocking the booth with it.

I know, I could have an auction.

That's what normal people do.

But I don't know what's there, so I can't just let it all go. There are a few valuable items, somewhere in that mess. I wouldn't get anything for them at an auction.

Three months, I'm going to do this for 3 months. I should be able to dispose of hundreds of items in 3 months. Some of the stuff I'm offering for sale is mine. That's what's selling the fastest.

But I keep bringing in a load of stuff a week. Cleaning it up at the house and pricing it. And it's selling.

I'm taking another load to the booth today. Tomorrow I'm going to get another load from Talbot Hill. We finally put a dent in #TheHoard. I'm seeing progress as I go back to the farm and walk into the barn.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Announcing: Book Stop Central

Got A Newsletter?

No? Join Our Newsletter Co-op

As writers, we're told that we need a mailing list with at least 1000 fans in order to be successful. Then we're told we need to send that newsletter out monthly or even (gasp!) weekly.

But most of us are woefully short of time and short of the magic number of fans for our list.

HOWEVER -- if enough authors band together and pool our precious mailing lists, we CAN produce a monthly newsletter than can be sent to enough people to make a difference for all of us.

THEREFORE - We at Icy Road Publishing are inviting you to join our co-op list. 
Your book(s) will be added to our newsletter "Book Stop Central' for 3 months.

Each ad will require
  • $10 set up fee per book
  • your email addresses
  • a copy of the book's cover in JPEG format
  • the blurb for the book 
  • the vendor website links you want included in your ad
The $10 will cover the creation of the ad, adding the cover, text and links you send us. If your book is available as a paperback, provide us with that link, or the website of the books store where the book is available.

At the end of 3 months, you have the option of leaving our list, or you can sign up for 3 more months.

You will be required to add 10 emails to our list each quarter. You're welcome to keep copies of the addresses you collect. The success of this venture will depend on the number of email addresses we get. We need the addresses of readers, people who will want to buy our books. Random addresses are not going to give us the same results.

We ask each author contribute email addresses from your readers. Most of us don't collect email addresses because we don't have a newsletter. Remember, this is your newsletter, to your fans, let them know about it.

Feel free to forward this message to anyone who would be interested in joining us as a reader or a writer. 

If you would like us to send out a special Newsletter, we can do that if you send us the information, cover art and links. The price will reflect the time required to produce your press release: starting at $10.

If you provide services to authors, or run a bookstore, you can join us as well. We'll be sending out a quarterly newsletter to authors and will advertise your services.

READERS: To join our newsletter, just fill out the form to the left of this page.

WRITERS: If you want to join the newsletter co-op contact us at:

Saturday, July 4, 2015

#The Hoard & the Hoarding Gene

I finally rented space in a consignment mall to help get rid of #TheHoard. A month of very busy yard sales didn't make a dent in it.

It took three of us to get the shelves and a load of stuff moved. I thought I was doing great, until the price tags went on and I had to take my hands off the items. 

Holy Hoarders Captain Marvel!

I cringe a bit every time I get a sales report. I've got to get a grip on this before I end up on AMC's TV show. This is NOT what I expected to feel.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Tale of Two Subscriptions - Kindle Unlimited and Scribd

There's been a pretty big shake up at Scribd. They've cut an estimated 90% of their best-selling Romance titles, according to this post on the Smashwords blog.
Mark of Smashwords had this to say: "It's ugly. The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books."
There's been a good bit of screaming going on, none of it screams of pleasure. (Sorry, couldn't help it.) Here's Selena Kitt's take on the subject:
"Look, if we don’t stop this ride now, we may never be able to get off. And this particular ride ends at welfare-ville. So let’s not go there. There are plenty of erotica authors who have made a nice living from writing. And we are satisfying a very voracious readership. Why shouldn’t they have books they want to read, too? And why shouldn’t we get paid for them?"
Selena points out that the Erotic Romance genre has taking a hell of a hit in the wallet.

What has just rung a big bell for me is this: the average Erotic Romance author is female. Their readers are also female. This means there are hundreds of women (readers and writers) who've just been cut off at the knees. And having been sliced and diced from two different directions in the same week, these women are truly reeling.

I could, but that's not what I think it really is. Both programs are suffering from too much success. Women are reading the erotic shorts as fast as the writers can churn them out. There's money changing hands at a faster rate than either Kindle or Scribd can handle.

In all honesty, I think erotica is going to go full circle, back to sites exclusive to the genre. We're gonna see a new book vendor, or two, or three pop up and the erotica writers are going to thumb their noses at Amazon and Scribd. Their going to take their lucrative business elsewhere, and both Amazon and Scribd are going to notice.

Both of them might heave sighs of relief. (rolling eyes)

I know that Smashwords and Mark Coker are ready, willing and able to pick up the slack. The site will handle the traffic. It will need a nicer interface. Readers need to know the site exists and will cater to their reading habits.
Fortunately, none of this has any impact on my e-books.

My e-books are still up on Scribd, and haven't been in Select in two years, or Unlimited ever. Three of Mom's short stories are in both programs on Amazon. 'The Secret of Aleworthy Acres' is free today and tomorrow on Select. 'Character Flaw' was supposed to come out, not sure how I missed that. 'Shelter from the Storm' was free two weeks ago. It had a pathetic free run of 12 downloads in two days.

'The Secret of Aleworthy Acres' had 11 d/ls already today. So it's doing a bit better than the other two.

I'm not sure where I'm going to release the next short story. I've put a lot of time and effort into it. It's a sweet, senior romance, and I've been toying with the idea of putting it up on Smashwords as a pre-order.

Ninety days is too long when my main markets are somewhere else.

PS - Please buy my Mom's e-books. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Scribd Shoots Off Own Foot?

This just came off the Smashwords blog:
Scribd, the fast-growing ebook subscription service, today announced dramatic cuts to their catalog of romance and erotica titles.

Effective immediately, I (Mark Coker) estimate 80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles.  Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog.

Based on what I've been able to glean, the lower the price and the higher the word count, the better the odds the book will remain.  Few books priced $3.99 and above will remain.  Scribd is not publicly revealing the formulas for what stays and what goes, probably because much of this is still in flux. They're cutting all publishers and distributors with the same blunt knife.

It's ugly.  The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books.  In a letter to publishers and distributors delivered earlier today, Scribd said:
Dear Publisher

As you know, in starting Scribd, we bore the majority of the risk when establishing a business model that paid publishers the same amount as the retail model for each book read by a Scribd subscriber. Now, nearly two years later, the Scribd catalog has grown from 100,000 titles to more than one million. We’re proud of the service we’ve built and we’re constantly working to expand the selection across genres to give our readers the broadest possible list of books for $8.99 per month.

We’ve grown to a point where we are beginning to adjust the proportion of titles across genres to ensure that we can continue to expand the overall size and variety of our service. We will be making some adjustments, particularly to romance, and as a result some previously available titles may no longer be available.

We look forward to continuing to grow subscribers, increase overall reading, and increase total publisher payouts in a way that works for everyone over the long term. We of course want to keep as many of your authors and titles on Scribd as we can, so we’d love to discuss our plans and how we can best work with you going forward.

Thank you for your business.

Bottom line, romance readers - readers we love dearly at Smashwords - are reading Scribd out of house and home.  Scribd's business model, as it's set up now, simply can't sustain the high readership of romance readers.  They're not facing the same problem with readers of other genres.
WoW! Read the rest HERE

Never thought I would see this.

Okay, I admit I've never been a fan of Erotica. I've slammed them as pornographers and rolled my eyes when Erotic authors brag about their earnings.

I've already noted that B&N weighs the rank of Smashwords titles by about 100k points. They've done that for years now.

But I never, ever thought I was going to see this.

I don't know if Swallow The Moon and Let's Do Lunch will be affected. Both are short and under $3.99. Neither of them is going to Scribd via Smashwords. (*Which doesn't matter, D2D sent out a similar notice. The difference is they aren't looking at 90% of their catalog.)

I'm going to test the links. Yes, the books are still up.

Perhaps I will get a few more sales because of this. But I'm not going to hold my breath. This is a very, very strange thing to watch happen.


There have been rumors that the purge is aimed at the content, but I've also been told that Erotica has never been part of the subscription service. So I raise an eyebrow at Mark's assertion that the Erotica titles are going too.

Perhaps we will never know why this is happening.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Points To Ponder

As I withdraw from the World of Social Media, I'm feeling less stressed. I've stopped lurking on every writer's site on the web, and I'm getting more active around the house. As a person with an addictive personality, I find that I've been addicted to being online. 

I'm sure that my attempt to liquidate #TheHoard will pull me offline quite a bit. It might be enough to shake it off.

I'm making quite a bit of progress with the latest short story. It's twice as long as what I started with, Mom didn't do dialog. I've centered it in the Harbor, where I believe she intended it to take place.  I've decided NOT to release it via Amazon, Select/Unlimited -- as I have with the recent e-books,

Since Amazon announced changes to it's Select/Unlimited programs, I've taken a long hard look at my results.

Frankly, from where I stand, Amazon is no longer a viable market.

Two days of freebies resulted in 12 d/ls for "Shelter From The Storm" last weekend. Two days for "Character Flaw" gave 2 d/ls, 1 a day.

I can do better than that on both B&N and Apple's iBooks and get a few sales on other e-books after the giveaway.

It's time for me to drop out of Select/Unlimited for good.

Oh, and PS - buy my books. :-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Sky Is Falling! Kindle Select Pays By The Page

First of all, I need a Puppy Break.

Aren't they cute? That's Trouble (with the slipper in his mouth) and Mocha the Great Watch'em Dog.

Now that my breathing has returned to normal - let's talk about Amazon's newest program in Kindle unlimited. The Blogosphere would have us think it was designed to make us Indie Writers insane.

Remember, these changes only apply to e-books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Look at the puppies, and breath. (Make sure Carole isn't around.)

My mother's Short Stories are released in Kindle Select. Usually I put them in Select, wait a week, crank out all the free days and when the 90 days are up, I go ahead and release them from captivity.

I do that to give them a boost. I might get 1 or 2 halo sales, but not too many.

So I understand why ANY changes are making other people crazy. The whole WORLD is in chaos! The economy stinks, mad-men with guns are walking into churches and killing middle-class citizens, Steven Colbert has vanished and Jon Stewart is quitting. (Ulp, back to the puppies.)

The fact that Publishing Bloggers, like The Little Red Hen, are screaming "THE SKY IS FALLING!" doesn't help me a bit.

It's okay, really, it's all click-bait.

Look at the puppies. (Carole isn't around, it's safe.)

Maybe Amazon is trying to lure the Novelists back to Select/Unlimited. If that's true, then it's going to pay to be a Novelist again. At $0.60 a borrow, Select and Unlimited don't pay a lot, so longer works shouldn't be trapped in the system.

I used Select when it first came out, hit the Amazon UK Best Seller's List and rode that pony for 10 long and lovely weeks. Then the algorithm changed, and that pony didn't go as fast or as far after that. My work settled deep in the mulch layer, and has never been able to dig it's way out. Yikes!

Here's another pretty face:

That's Grumpy, in full length fur. Ain't he squee-worthy?

We work hard for our sales. Some people have success, others don't. It really sucks to go from Best Seller to micro-seller. But that's what happened to me. When Amazon changed over to Kindle Unlimited, my sales tanked. I went six months without one damn sale on Amazon.

Publishing is a craps-shoot. It's worse than D-n-D. You roll the dice, pay the price and there's nothing in the world that will give you a +1 bonus.

The Honeymoon is long gone.

For me, the advantage, when there was one, of releasing Mom's short stories to Select/Unlimited is pretty much gone. Amazon's lowest price, $0.99 yields $0.35, which is better than $0.01 or $0.10. With an average of 12 d/ls for 2 free days, no halo sales and no lift in sale's rank, why wait 90 days to hit a dozen more markets?

I can get a better run on Apple's iBook with either Smashwords or D2D, WITH halo sales and a bump in sales rank.

The playing field levels out.

For a rational examination of Amazon's new policy, I recommend this post The Great Amazon Hysterian...Part 31 by David Gaughran. 

For a gentle scolding if you've already become hysterical Elizabeth Hunter posted this gem: For Indie Writers: You Have The Control. Own it!

PS - Please buy my books.*

* (They say Barry Eisler ends his posts with 'Buy my crap.' I figured 'what the hell?')

Dawns The Light

Last night a some of our local authors gathered together for a Meet-&-Greet, it was a small gathering, like the Reading on Saturday.

The wonderful thing was we got to put our heads together and share information.

It freaks me out when someone says they can't afford to publish a book because it costs thousands of dollars. I realize that communication, between writers, isn't as lightening fast as email.

It is easy to forget that I'm plugged into the World of Indie Publishing in ways that other people aren't. The hundred or so hours I've spent every week since 2009, learning all I can, is stuck in my head. (It wants out.) I want to pay it forward, and haven't had a clue on how to do it.

My books rode the cutting edge for a few sweet, fleeting, weeks, and dropped into the mulch layer, like thousands of books before and after mine.

I see myself as a micro-publisher, on the fringes of a vast industry that doesn't know that my itty-bitty company exists.

I live in a region full of talented writers. The more I hear and see the work of others, the more in awe I become.

These books are incredible.

On Saturday I heard four authors who wrote completely different genre, in different styles, and they all touched me with the quality and craftsmanship of their books.

Craftswomanship is a better term for Saturday, but yesterday there were two guys there, and they were craftsmen, too.*

These authors and their books don't belong in the Mulch Layer. The bookstore that was kind enough to host us should get recognition as well as the gallery/pub who hosted us last night. There are supporting craftswomen and craftsmen, editors, proofreaders, cover artists toiling in obscurity who deserve some kind of recognition.

Together, we can achieve, or ascend, to heights we can't reach alone.

It's a matter of finding the way to dig ourselves out of the mulch layer.

This blog might make a good starting point.

* Gender is such a sticking point. Using either pronoun leaves out half the population. Using both sounds stilted. (sigh) I'm gonna use both.

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Cover For 'The Emissary'

My proof of the new book cover came today. I'm pleased to say that I approved it and ordered a number of copies.

We have another event tomorrow, however, I'm almost out of books.

I'm Pleased With D2D Today!

Remember a couple days ago, when I mentioned that 'The Emissary - Journey' had a higher rank on Draft 2 Digital than 'Impressive Bravado' did via Smashwords, that was also a freebie and being d/led briskly on iBooks and B&N?

Check this out:

Product Details
BN ID: 2940152209761
Publisher: Icy Road Publishing
Publication date: 7/14/2013
Series: Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse, #1
Sold by: Draft2Digital
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 93,410
File size: 3 MB

Product Details
BN ID: 2940011320446
Publisher: Icy Road Publishing
Publication date: 5/17/2011
Sold by: Smashwords
Format: eBook
Sales rank: 113,405
File size: 2 MB

Crazy! Isn't it?

The D2D file has 22 d/ls on Barnes and Noble in two months, when 'Impressive Bravado' is just 2 e-books behind, but has been free since 2014. 

Yet 'Impressive Bravado' is still ranked 113k, after a year or more of 8 to 10 d/l a month.

'Impressive Bravado' is doing really well as a freebie on iBooks and iTunes with 47 d/ls last month and 60 in April. There's the prologue and first chapter of The Emissary inside it. The highest monthly d/l for the year is 87.

Of course, since they're both free I've missed out on $200 in royalties. But if they weren't free...I'd get zip anyways. (rolling eyes) That's just how the publishing cookie crumbles.

Visibility -- there just doesn't seem to be any way to pull myself out of the mulch layer and into the bottom-tier of the mid-list. 

I've been kicking the tires on the ideas for the Icy Road Publishing mailing list. I sold a buncha fence posts the other day, I'm hoping it will cover getting some help with the Mailing List. 

I'm going to see if my writer friends want to share email addresses for a slot on the August Newsletter. I'm thinking Drew, Juliet, D. A., Briget and Debra might be interested. (The links are to their books on Amazon.)

We need a thousand addresses by Christmas. So we can send out a New Year's Special Edition to kick off Reading Season.

There's so MANY talented authors around here, and we ALL need a break.

It seems that a co-op mailing list is the way to go.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Draft 2 Digital - Update

I'm pleased to say that I'm getting some results from Draft 2 Digital.

I've had books on the site for two years now, and had ZERO sales. But I'm a bit more than frustrated with Smashwords. Half of my frustration is their content, every pornographer in the world uses them, the other half is the fact they hold earnings for 3 months before they pay.

So I switched over to D2D. They post faster, and the books appear to have better visibility. (They aren't being filtered for content, which helps.)

The results are encouraging.

My B&N downloads of free books are double what they were from Smashwords. Or at least the reporting is twice as fast. On Smashwords I get one or two d/l of Impressive Bravado a day, but The Emissary might as well be invisible.

On D2D, I've already had 20 d/l of The Emissary this month.

Why the difference?

Content filtering, is my guess. As Smashwords panders to the pornographic, B&N is forced to blanket filter their content - it all goes into the mulch layer and stays there. They don't have time to sort it, so it all gets about 10k 'points' added to the rank to keep it from dominating the charts.

Since D2D doesn't carry that content, the files have an even chance of being seen, which is a BIG boost to a small-fry like myself.

Why do I say this? Impressive Bravado (via Smashwords) has been a steady give-away on B&N for 3 years, it has a rank of 113k. The Emissary, Smashwords version, is invisible. I can't find it with a simple search. However, the D2D version is sitting pretty with a rank of 101k.

My work has always sold better on B&N than on Amazon. Smaller venue, better chance to be seen. But the NookPress website offers no advantage, and is being curated by Author Solutions; of all the drek vanity publishers in the world, Author Solutions, under all it's aliases, is the worst.

Unfortunately, I can't close the NookPress account, just like with KoboWritingLife, there's no way to close the account as an author and no way to get your money out if you have them do it. (Both sites have owed me $9 for years, I'll never see that money.)

In case you are curious, I'll clarify my methods. I uploaded all my short fiction to D2D two years ago, where it did nothing. I've been getting a smattering of d/ls of freebies on Smashwords, but only about $10 of sales per year. (Most of those were Sony Sales.) This February I uploaded Mom's short stories to D2D, made a couple of hers free and one of mine (Impressive Bravado) her's started to get some action when I re-did the covers.

The Emissary started getting hits on B&N via D2D with the new cover. I couldn't even FIND the Smashwords version on B&N, so I pulled it. They report 2 months in arrears on Smashwords, while D2D has promised to report daily starting yesterday.

Oh, what a difference a day made.

I'm showing 11 d/ls of The Emissary in May and 10 for June. The Emissary has FINALLY been discovered on B&N!

I'm handling the switch-over very carefully. First, I've raised all Smashwords prices to $.99. I'm handling all the freebies via D2D. Then I started pulling all the Smashwords files from vendors who have hooked up with both companies.

The wild card is Apple, currently my best vendor for Impressive Bravado. Switching over to Apple has proven trickier. First off, they require ISBNs from Smashwords. However, they do not appear to require ISBNs from D2D.

I may not switch over on Apple. Upsetting the Apple-cart is not in my best interest. We'll see what happens with freebies vs dollar-dreadful on Apple.

If I can start making money on Apple, I'll leave Smashwords alone.

IMO Kobo is a black-hole. Kobo is a black-hole even if you have an account in Writing Life. I've found it impossible to get any ACCURATE sales information out of them since Day 1. (Shrug) They never update covers, or files, or prices and they never pay.

Meanwhile, I earn a dollar or two from Amazon each month.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to make this announcement: I'm pulling out of the e-book business at the end of 2015. 

I had two books hit the Best Seller's List - it was fantastic - but it didn't last. Since 2012 my best month was $14 last year. I can't justify all the time I spend online for zero return.

I'm going to finish up all the current projects in time for the Winter Reading Season, in my spare time. I'm pulling e-books from every market that has zero return at the end of 2015.

I intend to get rid of The Hoard, get Talbot Hill sold and get a Real Life.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Irene's Birthday

My mother would have been 91 on the 22nd of June this year.

Time flies, it really does.

I've been working on the Newsletter for the last 2 days. There are two short stories out so far this month. I posted the links in the posts that announced the releases.

I might get one or two more story stories posted before the end of the month. It depends on how things go with The Hoard this weekend.

I've been fussing up a storm about The Hoard this week. I've got a book signing with several other authors this Saturday, which means I have to have the Hubs babysit the yard sale for me. He's agreed to help me, and I'll be back before dark on Saturday night.

But this isn't working for us. I can't be in two places at once, and I've got another book signing coming up on Tuesday next week. Time is running out for The Hoard and Dad's farm.

I've got to find another way to get rid of all this stuff.

I know I can sell it all, lock stock and t-post clips to an auction house - but if I do that, I might be selling important papers that will be lost forever. There's a genealogy for the Gypsy side of the family that goes back a couple hundred years. I need to find it and send it to the rest of Anna Androcovitch's grandchildren. It's the X-chromosome that all us girls have in common.

So I'll keep sorting it out. I'm feeling better about it, because I've made a lot of progress in the last month. As soon as I burn all the dirty boxes and papers, there will be room to walk around in the barn.

To have both room to walk around AND room to sort things is going to be a big step up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It's All About The Trolls

Watching the general meltdown over 'The Good Reads Bullies' I'm sitting at my computer, shaking my head as I read more and more of this LOLERcoaster.

No where have I seen a single sign of remorse - as in 'gee, maybe I shot myself in the foot when I compared that author's work to dog vomit?"

For my usual readers - in case you have just tuned in - it started out like this:

Trollette #one: "I'm a mean-girl. Look at me trash this writer. Trash, trash, trash...hehehe...trash, trash, trash." Types furiously. "They are JUST authors. They HAVE to take it. They can't strike back...hehehe."

Trollette #two: "OMG! Isn't #one a real bitch! Hehehehe...I wanna be just like her! SOooo I'll trash, trash, trash, too. Look girls, we can trash these writers, and they can't say a word! HAHAHA...trash, trash, trash!"

I found this on my hard drive. Thought I would post it just for kicks and giggles.

And the trollettes had a wonderful time, trashing writers, competing to out snark each other in perfect safety - because writer's are wimps who can't fight back.

UNTIL one day:

Trollette #one: OMG! That BITCH! how COULD she trash me back? NO, NO! BAD WRITER! You can't TRASH BACK! TRASHING is for TROLLS!" Runs to the Troll Cave. "TROLLETTES, Report! Some stupid writer who doesn't know they can't fight back is ACTUALLY FIGHTING BACK! We must STOP THEM!"

Trolls race to where they can menace writer - they spam the writer with nasty comments, huffing and puffing vitrol as fast and as far as they can. They happily drop docs and troll-on - getting heavenly lolercoasters going - and it's always 10 trolls to 1 writer.

ALWAYS the TROLLS WIN with superior numbers!

For a time, the Trollettes are happily turning a site for book lovers into a trashy troll cave. They have a wonderful time saying mean things they wouldn't want their families to know about. They say all kinds of trashy troll things on all kinds of social media - because they are MEAN-GIRLS and no one is allowed to fight back.

EXCEPT - one day a writer or two turns the tables. They open a website, calling out the Trollettes and dropping ice cold docs on their steaming hot asses.

"BWAAAANNNNNAAAAAA!!!" Scream the trolls. "YOU CAN'T DO THAT! You're writers and you can't fight back! BWANNNAAAAAA!"

Now this is bad. The trollettes aren't safe in their happy trashy cave any more. They have NAMES - and addresses and houses, bosses, husbands and pastors who don't like trashy troll-bitches. Suddenly it's not so safe to be a trolls - they're butt-hurt because they've been outed as trolls for all to see.

So do these trolls look at themselves and say "HOLY SHIT - I shouldn't have done that!"

Of COURSE NOT! That would mean they are human - these are MEAN-GIRLS. Mean-girls are NEVER, EVER wrong!

So they travel FAR and WIDE over the interwebz to make sure that EVERYONE knows they are the Wronged Party.

There was a mention made on the Passive Voice comparing internet Trolls to  anger/excitation rapists. The more the victim struggles, the more frenzied the attack.

At first, I scoffed, then I thought about it.

Really - in all these frenzied posts, there is a feeling of animal blood-lust. At first going in for the 'Kill' on prey that 'couldn't reply.'Now they appear to be running scared - 'bwannnaaaaing' all the way back to their cave.

Back Into The Hoard

One corner of The Hoard

This is a photo of The Hoard from just inside the door. These shelves used to be piled all the way to the rafters, with boxes and boxes of stuff. 

There's still plenty of stuff there, I took a photo to show that I made some progress. Not a lot of progress, but some. 

This weekend I'm going to take another shot at getting rid of some more. This time, since there's some room, I've got a couple shelves set up with items for sale. I've got the opposite corner cleaned out as well. 

The progress is slow, because there's SO MUCH stuff. At least there's room enough to move around. I'm going to burn a bunch of files and old boxes, to make more room in the barn. 

One more weekend, one more yard sale, a few more boxes emptied and gone.

This is gonna take all summer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Two New I. C. Talbot Stories on Amazon

I've just finished posting two new short stories by I. C. Talbot to Amazon.com

The Secret of Aleworthy Acres, by I. C. Talbot
Cara Novotny gets a letter from Amy Aleworthy, an elderly relation that takes her on a journey to the old family farm. But someting isn't quite right, Amy isn't what she seems. This short story is 5.5k words.

Shelter From The Storm, by I. C. Talbot
Hurricane Georges is coming to the little Florida farm belonging to a loney widow. Amy knows her house and barn can handle the storm. Meanwhile two cars break down on the road, a mother and her children are trapped in a ditch. Short story 3k words

I'm glad to be back on track with releasing these short stories. I've been working on the Estate since April, and gotten behind in my publishing.

If you click the link on the first line, it will take you to the Amazon US, I. C. Talbot Author Page. 

If you would like to know when new e-books are released and when they will come on sale or free, sign up for the Icy Road Publishing Newsletter. The link is on this page.

Also, I would like to announce that 'Tales From The Leeward Lounge II' is in the works, as are 8 more short stories. 

I would like to credit my friend Karlin at The Country Clerk for her help in getting the short stories ready to publish. The stories needed to be formatted and proofread because they've gone through at least 10 different word processing updates and 6 operating systems. There were strange little glitches in all the files, so she had to seek them out for me. 

If you are an author and need a hand proofreading, I recommend her highly.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

State Of The Estate

The result of 2 weeks of clearing.

This weekend I have again joined the battle against #TheHoard. This is my pet name for my mother's estate, a collection of things acquired over 89 years.

There are so many things. Most of them have some small value, but not enough to make hauling it to a flea market worth the effort. Although, I'm going to have to do something to get rid of it all. Now that I have one small section of the barn cleared out, I can see this is going to take all summer.

I was afraid that my own inner hoarder would be jumping up and down clamoring to keep the majority of it. So far it's only been a few tools, a couple of rugs, a brass ashtray, two shot glasses (from the bar we once owned) and a copper nick-knack.

But it's in such an out-of-the-way area that I'm thinking I'm going to have to haul all this to the flea market. It would be a tremendous amount of work. Everything is priced, so THAT much is done. 

It's tempting to trash it all.

However, every last bit of this stuff is useful on one context or another.

I did have one very interesting customer, a Mennonite family from Lancaster Pennsylvania. They bought a lot of stuff that I was selling at rock bottom prices. (There are hundreds of small items that I'm selling 5 for $1.)

Here's the fun part -- rumor has it that my father's mother was Pennsylvania Dutch...also known as Mennonite...from Lancaster county Pennsylvania.

A very interesting article I found in my wanderings says that we tend to like people who have similar genes. (This could be pure BS, but who knows?) All I know is this -- I really liked the family.

They could be my cousins.

My life is strange like that.

Using Scrivener To Manage A Series

An ongoing series is a massive creature that takes on a life of it's own. It requires an expanding cast, villages, farmers, mad men, villains and more supporting cast than this aging brain can hold.

So I'm using Scrivener's Research folder to hold and track the expanding cast.

I started with a single folder of notes. Names, ages and a few details of the inhabitants of Fort Chatten and Dunvegan. That was enough for the first two books.

But Homebound presented a problem: The people squatting in StoreMore, a 3 acre storage yard. I needed names, ages and a few words of description.

Then a series of fires burned people from their homes. They needed shelter...and names, ages and a few details.

This is what I'm going to do -- the details are going to change with the books. I'm going to need to expand my universe, but until I do, the individual book files can contain what I need for that book. Which character are where and what they are doing, for that book. Then, since I rename a file when I'm starting a new book and remove the old information, I have all the information I need for the next book.

So far, I've expanded from a single file to a folder under "Manuscripts" named "Horse Women" that contains a folder for the new manuscripts. I've got "McLeod 1 - 2" "McLeod 3" "McLeod 4 - The Healer" and "McLeod 5" each file has it's own copy of the world to that date.

Under 'Research' in each Scrivener file, there is a folder for 'People,' the characters most used in that book, 'Places,' the fort, the castle and the villages,  and 'Things' my general information on the Zombies, rate of travel for horses, food requirements and links to information that I need most.

Zack and Hector are at Fort Chatten in book 2. All their character information for that time and place are listed under Fort Chatten.

They are on the road in Book 3. Their information is stored under "People" in that file. I have a list of what gear they are carrying while on the road.

In Book 4, they are in Dunvegan and so is their information. But I've got the active characters in the 'People' folder.

It becomes easier for me to track characters.

I just need a similar system for dates.

Is this ideal? No - eventually I'll need a separate Scrivener file for the world. It will have to be on one monitor while the main story I'm working on is on another monitor.

Did I ever post that I use two monitors while I'm writing? 

My laptop monitor has a browser open so I can research, and the secondary monitor has my current story up. If this series and it's system expands any more, I'll need to have the World file open on the laptop at all times. 

I wonder how George R. R. Martin tracks the Game of Thrones? That feels like a nightmare task to me.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Author Earnings 1st Quarter 2015

Huge Howey is not only a best-selling author, he is also a prominent figure in the Great Publishing Market Disruption. He came to prominence via the Author Earnings Report published quarterly.

I've been silent on this subject for several reasons, most of them are family issues. But also because others have said it better. I enjoy blogging, and I enjoy charts, so I'm going to say a few words about the chart at the top of the page.

There is a trend, a very interesting trend, as shown in this chart. The purple line is the money earned by authors published by the Trade Publishing Industry, or the Big Five. The blue line under it is the earnings of Indie Authors. Notice where the two lines cross? That shows the extent of the (continuing) loss of earnings for authors who are Trade Published.

The marketing techniques that worked in 2010 with little effort are now an 80 hour a week, soul-sucking black hole. I gave it up and refuse to go back to it. But that doesn't mean I don't care what happens to others.

In brief: The Big Five fought with Amazon last year in order to stop Amazon from discounting the prices on their e-books. Amazon wants e-book prices to hover in the $2.99 to $9.99 sweet spot, so they discounted e-book prices at their own expense. The Big Five want to raise prices on e-books to discourage sales, with the idea that it's better to sell paper at brick-and-mortar stores, like they always have. This is known as 'the agency pricing model.'

As the Big Five raise prices under the "agency model" they have suppressed sales, their sales. So they trumpet that e-book sales (as a whole) have fallen by 8% and it's no longer The Growing Market.

Which is true, they've lost 8% of their market $ share to Indie Authors, plus their gross unit sales have slid a whopping 17%. I think a some of this is the fact that everyone who wants a copy of '50 Shades of Twilight' has one.

Now, if the gold diggers continue to drop out of the Indie Book Biz, micro-selling authors like myself might see a few more dollars come our way. We aren't going to see  big bucks, because the Tsunami of Mommy Porn isn't going away any time soon.

Mommy Porn sells. '50 Shades of Twilight' made enough money to give the janitors of the Randy Penguin a $5k Christmas Bonus. But the Next Hot Book (of any genre) has yet to be found.

If there is to be any hope for micro-sellers, this is it. We need to get our Works In Progress finished and ready to go by fall. January is peak of the Reading Season, if your e-book is to have more than a snow-flake's chance in Hell, get it published in the fall of 2015.

I'm going to spend this summer selling paperbacks at every book-signing I can get to. My personal best month is August, which is the best time for me to launch a new book. This year, I hope to have 'The Emissary' trilogy finished and in paperback by October's Zombie Walk, here in E'town.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Banner Day!

This fantastic banner came from Vista Print. They spam me like crazy since I bought cards from them, but they do FAST work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spotlight on Local Authors

Had a lovely day in Radcliff during the Spotlight on Local Authors. It was warm and very breezy.

Learned something I want to share.

My friend had just purchased two signs on foamboard. She set them up on easels.

The wind had it's way with them. We tried securing them with tape, which only worked for a short time. Then we switched to string, which worked to keep them on the easels, but the easels blew over.

I keep an assortment of small bungy cords. We used the bungies to secure the easel legs to the tent poles, then used the twine to secure the foam board to the tent pole. This worked, only had to adjust the signs after big gusts.

However, the canvas banner I bought via Vistaprint moved with the wind. I merely secured the top grommets to the frame of the tent. Once it was up, I only noticed it when it hit the back of my chair.

My suggestion is to spend a bit more for the canvas banners and signage. When I purchased my banner, I was a bit worried that I'd spent too much. However, after chasing the foamboard signs all afternoon, I think the extra money was well spent. You can see the two different signs above.

Notice the curtains in the background. They provide shade, make the booth more visible and cut the breeze back. When the sun comes around the booth, I move the curtains to block it. That way I stay cooler and my sunblock works better. I still wear a hat to keep the sun off my face. They just don't make a sunblock that will keep my face from swelling up after a day in the sun.

Guess I'm half vampire.

The white curtains in the background are shower curtains, so they are waterproof. If we get a light shower, they block the rain from sneaking in. I put grommets in the corners so I can tie them down. I need to get a set of weights to hold the center down. My book bag wasn't heavy enough.

I want to buy a four-sided tent. When I do, I'll put the shower curtains on the inside, to jazz it up. My sister has a large tent, and she decorates hers extensively.

I also have a stand to bring my books up off the table.

It's all about being visible, and being different, to attract attention.

I'll post more as I learn more.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Covers, Covers and More Covers



Here are six of the new covers.

I've found a photo site I can afford, so I've redone all the old covers and am uploading them to Amazon, Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I have to say, this is the first time that Smashwords has allowed me to upload new covers without having to upload the entire work.

I'm very pleased with the new covers.

I should thank Bradley Wind for chiding me about the old covers. (He's a cover artist and author I met during my days at Authonomy.)

Daniel Roberts for posting a website with photos that I can afford.

And Andre Jute for his lesson's in cover creation that I was finally able to put to use.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shouting In A Crowd II

Yesterday there was a post "Please Shut Up" by Delilah S. Dawson on The Passive Voice.

There was this rebuttal from S. J. Pajonas Stop Being A Robot and Start Being You she makes good points. She stresses that using time-saving short-cuts turns out white noise and 'buy my book' tweets and posts. Her solution is 'be yourself' which means interacting with friends and tweet-followers.

But how many hours are there in a day? Hundreds of tweets cross my twitter feed every day. Someone with thousands of followers...reply to them all? Be 'yourself' to them all? Seriously?

Face Book -- imagine trying to read and reply to every post that crosses your feed. All the time spent 'connecting' to hundreds or thousands of followers.

The only way to do that is to be glued to your phone, one of those dazed and disconnected souls who never look up from their phones to see the world. I've seen them at author fairs...glued to their phones or tablets, never looking up from the device to connect to the living humans around them.

They never sell any books. They never speak to readers. They spent good money and time to be at a fair, but stay online selling books to people selling books. They missed the opportunity to connect with real readers.

Isn't connecting with readers the whole point?

I spend enough time at my laptop already. Blogging and reading...I'm already getting frustrated with Real Life left un-lived. I've done this since 2009, during that time, my mother passed and my step-father broke his hip and his leg. Each time I turned from my laptop to 'Real Life' I felt guilty because I was neglecting my 'marketing on social media.'

Then the question arises: If I'm not living life on life's terms, how will I write about other people living life? Won't I be stuck in my office, typing away and leaving my own life un-lived, except through the glowing screen in front of me?

Haven't I done enough of that, working in Tech Support for the last 30 years?

I'm not buying the Kool-Aid. I'm getting more frustrated every day because Real Life is calling and I've put my life on hold to "market my books on social media."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shouting In A Crowd

I'm a great fan of The Passive Voice.

This post "Please Shut Up: Why Self-promotion on social media doesn't work." is not the first time that someone has made this point. But Delilah S. Dawson said it this way:

“How do I build a platform and make money with my blog?” a woman asks.
“Build a time machine and go back to 2005 and start your blog then,” I say. 
This is it -- the time when the internet was SHORT on content is over. The time when there were only a few thousand kindle books on Amazon is over. The day when you could tweet "Just released a new book." and get thousands of sales is over.


Should I repeat that in larger, darker letters?

Maybe not. I think you get the point.

We can stop spending all our time trying to sell our books on Twitter and Face Book, Tumbler and whatever else is out there. It just keeps us from having 'Real Life' time with family and friends.

I, for one, have spent every waking moment either writing, or marketing or planning the next book or next marketing move. For the most part, it's been wasted time and effort.

I like going to fairs and festivals. I like talking face-to-face with people who like to read. I'll talk to them all day and go home feeling refreshed. Unlike most days when I feel obligated to compose tweets, messages, like and friend and follow from dawn to dusk.

My books have always sold more in the summer -- because I'm out and about, handing out cards and enjoying being an author.

Guess what I'm going to do more of -- social media or socializing?

I like Kentuckiana Authors, I'm going to continue going to their book fairs.

I'm going to be at the Spotlight on Local Authors on Saturday.

I haven't stopped upgrading covers, blurbs and uploading ebooks. I'm not going to take my books down and slink off into the sunset. To prove that I'm not giving up, here's the cover I created today for my first collection of I. C. Talbot short stories.

But I think my twitter days are over.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marketing At Fairs and Festivals - Summer Time

Authors must do their own marketing. The easiest way is to sell books at fairs and festivals. If you are about to go to a festival, or a big flea market, what are you going to want to have with you? This is a fairly comprehensive list of the things I have packed in my truck.

  1. A banner (or sign) - I bought a vinyl banner at Vista Print for less than $10 with shipping. It has enough information on it to catch the eye. 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 your feet from freezing. 
  3. Display items – business card holder, book display, signage. Up off the table is better than flat.
  4. Business cards - book marks, post cards something with your name and website or Face Book page on it. Sites where your books can be purchased.
  5. A comfortable chair or two – folding sling chairs may not work if you have a bad back. I've got a very old folding wooden chair that weighs more, but it supports my back, which means less pain.
  6. 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.
  7. Hand-washing supplies. Wet wipes work great and can be bought in small quantities. I use one of those laundry soap containers with the spout, filled with water, a dash of soap and an old towel. For all day events this is perfect.
  8. Water – thirst becomes a problem when you’re talking all day. Soda is great, but there’s as much sugar in the average soda as there is in a candy bar.
  9. Sunscreen – a full day the sun and wind will leave your skin sun and wind burnt.
  10. Hat & Sunglasses – The hat protects your face and shades your eyes. Sunglasses prevent headaches.
  11. Little stuff in baggies - Twine, tape and scissors. Trash bags, Kleenex, wet-wipes, index cards, magic marker to sign books. Aspirin, band-aids,
  12. Shower curtains rings and clips. If your tent didn't come with sides, a shower curtain will work to shade you from the sun or the rain.
  13. Money supplies - Apron, money clip, cash box with lock and receipt book. I keep my cash in a money clip so the wind doesn't blow it away. I have the cash box for change, the receipt book, the magic marker and extra business cards.
  14. Food supplies - Napkins, plastic silverware, coffee cups, and drink cups.
  15. Credit Card reader - I use Square on my phone. It works either with, or without phone reception. There are other companies, find what you like. They work on phones, laptops and tablets.
  16. Heater - The 3 tea-light terracotta pot heaters are good enough for the average spring/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.
  17. Small cooler – cold drinks taste better. And it can be used as a side table or just a place to stash things so you aren’t tripping over clutter. Snacks help to keep fatigue at bay.
  18. Comfort items - chap stick, bathroom tissue, sun screen(!) sun hats or extra shoes. Temperatures vary over the course of a day. An extra shirt or sweater, a pair of sandals for a day that starts chilly and heats up. Or if the day cools down, or it rains.
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.' I use twine every time I go out for something.

Everyone has different requirements. But after 4 years of weekly markets and festivals this is what I carry.

Care to add anything?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Changes In The Background

I am changing distributors. I've gone through several. When I was direct to Kobo, B&N and Sony my sales started good, but soon I had outstanding balances that I had no hope of collecting.

By using Smashwords, instead of going direct, I thought it would make everything easier. But, alas, The Meatgrinder kept chucking my files back at me, and I was unable to find the errors in their FAQ database. Any changes to the files, new covers, new back matter, new ebooks, anything at all and it became a Help Desk issue to get my files approved. Even switching to epub files didn't stop the errors and the delays.

Meatgrinder has become rightfully infamous, once you've run an ebook through it, there isn't any way around it. Anything once run through the Meatgrinder lives forever, untouchable, in formats that can't be updated, corrected or deleted. Worst of all, all potential customers will see the dozens of corrupt files, and could down load any of them at any time.

Then there was the lag on getting these changes published; on getting new ebooks approved; the lag in price changes. Testing and tweaking becomes agony when there are logistical problems. Yet, with falling sales, testing and tweaking is necessary, even critical, for any writer.

Then there was the reporting oddities - a week long 'glitch' that showed I had another $50 in sales last year. Sales and money that mysteriously vanished one day. I got frustrated.

I have nothing personal against Smashwords. Marc's made a huge contribution to Indie Publishing. It's just the software glitches in the site drive me nuts.

So I went back to testing and tweaking once again. First I opted out of Kobo and Scribd in mid-February, and didn't check on the status of the files until this week. They are down, they are all down.

I started tweaking covers in mid March, and updated quite a few of them. But I have yet to fight with the Smashwords site. Instead, I switched some ebooks over to D2D. Every one of the files I loaded went through without a hitch, the same day.

That's right, they shipped the same day.

Now we'll see what will happen with the new ebooks. I will, of course, have to take them down at Apple, via Smashwords. It will take a very long time.

Eventually I'll get my mother's ebooks switched over. Eventually, I'll get all the Smashwords ebook covers updated. Hopefully, there will be improved sales because of the new covers.