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Monday, April 14, 2014

One More Push

This week is my LAST chance to get things in order at Casa South. To say that I'm stressed out is putting it mildly.

It makes me angry beyond words that the house still isn't ready. My only option now is to give it one more Herculean push and hope it's enough.

I nagged Greg for YEARS--years, mind you, knowing these last few months would be hell on earth even under the best of circumstances. But you can't convince a procrastinator that chores clone themselves when you're not looking.

Don't get me wrong. It's ridiculously hard to keep a ranch running all by yourself. We're running two ranches simultaneously pretty much by our lonesome. That's all the more reason not to let the little things pile up. I'm not as strong, bright, or mechanically adept as Greg is, so I'm always busting my keester trying to stay one up on problems when they appear.

Putting a house on the market is serious business and everything has to be perfect. I'm depending on him to keep the house and acreage immaculate once I'm gone.

It's a rotten job to be the nag, but I can't be in two places at once, and it's not like any of this was unexpected. We both knew the timetable.

At least most of the big chores are done. My biggest concern right now is painting the house, which I'll do this weekend, and mowing the acreage so it looks nice and neat.

I'm already dead tired from moving a mountain of dirt (by hand), birthing baby goats, and jumping up in the middle of the night every time Tank so much as makes a whimper. My shoulders are one giant knot from putting in the garden. And I haven't even had the chance to mow and rake my place yet. It'll have to wait until I get back.

I tell myself that it's just one more week of giving it all I've got, but I gotta be honest, I'm not sure how much I've got left in me.

My goal right now is to empty Casa South as much as possible. Less clutter will make it easier to keep neat and presentable.

All I want right now is to put this behind me. Wish me luck--or send me a truck full of hardy elves!



Monday, April 7, 2014

Taxes

It took four hours and two brain tumors, but we finally finished our taxes. We were way later than we usually do them, but we had to find a time when both of us were at the same place at the same time.

Taxes take all the joy out of freelancing. I'm pretty good at keeping accurate records but it still takes forever to document each and every job. And let's not talk about the deductions.

When we were near the end, I found two more deductions for Book Cover Diva, but Turbo Tax (the software we used) wouldn't let us go back to my business deductions. We could access all the other deductions but not the ones for the business. 

I finally gave up and let it go. It wasn't worth a third tumor.

Do you do your own taxes?

***

I'm really beginning to get a sense of Greg's retirement. Next week, my favorite house and dog sitter is taking care of the homestead while I do last minute updates at Casa South.

It's all starting to get very real. It's already made some changes in how the rest of the year will pan out. One of those changes is the newsletter I planned to put out. I think I'm going to wait until Greg is truly retired. Right now I'm doing a dozen things at once and I don't want to get distracted.

Tank is constantly on our minds too. He's slowed down some more, but still in good spirits. When that second part changes, we know we'll have to make some hard decisions. But not today. He still wants his cookies!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Fishes, Marian Perera


Marian Perera writes some killer fiction (no pun intended) but this time she went all out with a sharkpunk tale--a story about a girl and her bonded shark.

Only a writer could make the connection between pet bettas and sharks. Check it out. Anyone out there with an aquarium?

Fish Tales

Demon was the most aggressive fish I ever had.

He was a betta, a Siamese fighting fish about two inches long. But he wasn’t afraid of anything. When I put my fingers in the tank, he would try to bite them with his tiny mouth, while flaring out his gill covers to make himself look bigger. He terrorized all the other fish. He was my favorite, and I always saved the freshest brine shrimp for him when I bought them.

He was lovely, too. Sapphire scales, long trailing fins tipped with crimson, and evil little red eyes, hence his name. But one morning I found him floating belly-up. I think the other fish finally had enough of his bullying, ganged up on him and beat him to death somehow, because he wasn’t diseased at all.

I dug a little hole in a flower bed and buried him there, because I couldn’t bear the thought of flushing him. And I never had another fish quite like him.

Bettas manage to be both beautiful and fierce fighters; pit two males in an environment they can’t escape, like a tank, and one is likely to die. It was probably a fondness for them which made me curious about sharks too. I’d call those the bettas of the ocean, except they’re much less showy and territorial. Then again, they do have more impressive teeth.


Jaws first made me interested in sharks, but by the time Deep Blue Sea came out, I wanted something different, something other than the usual trope of sharks swimming around with a kill-all-humans mentality. The more I read, the more variety there seemed to be among them, not just in shapes and names—megamouth, angel, cookiecutter—but also behavior. Grey reef sharks, for instance, are social and gather in groups of up to twenty. So if you see one fin breach the surface, don’t look below.

Sharks can sense magnetic fields, learn to press a target to get a reward, and understand who’s who in their pecking order. I decided to use all these in a story, though since most sharks can’t be successfully kept in tanks—they’re not Demon—I needed a fantasy element. In my story, a secret organization called Seawatch captures sharks young and mentally bonds each to a trainee—also young, seven to eight years old.

The link calms the shark, so it doesn’t dash itself against the walls of a pool in a panicked attempt to escape. After that, each pair is trained in scouting and sabotage.

Not that this makes the sharks safe. They’re not Flipper. More like Ripper. Seawatch operatives never feed the sharks, so they won’t connect humans with food, and because the sharks sense emotions through the link, the operatives quickly learn not to become angry or afraid. But there’s nothing quite like riding a huge apex predator through the sea—or under it. With their speed and strength and instincts honed over millions of years, they’re unstoppable.

Except Seawatch’s enemies have killer whales.

The Deepest Ocean, a sharkpunk romance, was released by Samhain Publishing on April 1st and the sequel (shark vs. kraken) will be out in August. There are so many tales to tell about these bad boys of the sea—and the people who entrust their lives to them.

What fish do you find scary? Barracudas, deep-sea anglerfish, piranhas, megalodons? Shout out in the comments—you might give me an idea for another book!

Bio : Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States and lives in Canada. For now. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog, and Twitter (@MDPerera).



Monday, March 31, 2014

Mini Update

Maybe because too many things kept going wrong, or maybe because it was my birthday week, but I found myself at a point where I just wanted to be nice to myself for a change.

I'm a martyr. Well, not really. But I tend to suffer in silence for a long time before I'll complain. Over the weekend, I met my Waterloo. 

Once Greg got here things improved greatly, and that's when I decided to stop pushing myself and treat myself kindly.

The best thing that happened was that he fixed my water lines. No more hauling water to the animals. Woo Hoo!!

It's funny how the simplest of pleasures can mollify me. I want to turn over a new leaf and spend a little time (and money) on myself for a change. Nothing drastic. Just a few new clothes and maybe a day at the hair salon once in a while.

I have a bad habit of doing without and I'm starting to scare myself in the mornings.

A little mini update of the last three days...

• We left the back door ajar allowing Tank and Nana to make their escape. Tank did his old man wandering, but Nana came to find us (we were in the back forty) and tattled on Tank. We nearly had heart attacks when we realized the door had been left open. Fortunately Tank didn't go far, and Maggie and Iko were unaware of the open door. Crisis averted!

• The baby goats are doing so much so much better. They are jumping and running around like normal little goatlings. The blind goat can see now! They are exactly two and half weeks old today.

• Both my heaters in the house went out at the same time. Greg hasn't figured out why yet. It's not a big deal since we haven't needed the heaters in a while. I only noticed it when I flipped the switch on accidentally and noticed it didn't come on.

• We bought custom blinds for the last remaining windows in the house. These things are expensive but I couldn't put it off any longer. Greg is happy. His den will finally have proper window coverings.

• Half my garden is in.

• My birthday was nice. Despite the lightning storms and losing power, it was good to have Greg home. Tank was so happy to see him. We stayed home and I made dinner. Greg brought me a cake from my favorite bakery in SE Texas.

Do you ever reach a point where enough was enough and you make a conscious effort to change it? If you could change anything about your circumstances right now, what would it be? I'll see if I can send a little extra Karma your way.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Taking Some Time Off

Still dealing with critter issues, plumbing issues, and Tank issues. I'm playing the long-suffering, abandoned wife beautifully though. :grin:

This Friday is my birthday. Another chance to blow raspberries at the devil.

Talk to you soon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

State of the Homestead

Lucy's baby girl
It all started with a bunny foundling...and ended with baby goats.

I don't even know what day it is (this happens when you get very little sleep) but I'll try to run down what's happened in the last few days.

Thursday morning I went out to feed animals with Nana riding shotgun in the golf cart. As I made my turn, she jumped out to investigate something in the brush. When she didn't return I had to find out why. I go over there and she has this sopping wet pile of fur in her mouth. I make her give it to me and it turns out to be a wild baby rabbit.

Bad Nana!

I feared for the baby's life so I took it in determined to nurse him back to health. My internet search said that domesticated orphans can drink kitten replacement milk, but wild bunnies should only drink goat's milk. Lucky me. I happened to have two goats with udders full of milk.

I make him a nice warm bed and go off to finish my chores and get a teaspoon of milk from one of the goats.

That's when I found Heidi going into labor. I led her to the birthing stall and gathered my supplies. Hard labor lasted two hours but that kid wouldn't budge. I slathered Heidi in KY jelly. In the next contraction the head finally pushed out.

Seconds later, the rest of the baby came out. Whew!

video


I barely had time to clean him off when I started hearing a grunting noise in the outside pen. Now Lucy was in labor! No time to get her in the shed. She was having her baby NOW. 

Lucy was amazing! That birth was pure textbook delivery. The first baby barely wobbled on its legs when the second one decided to come out.

Meanwhile, Heidi was not doing well. I scoured the internet and contacted my experts on the goat forum. A shot of penicillin and Vitamin B and she started to feel better. But baby had not improved. 

I trust my gut when it comes to animals. That newborn just wasn't right. He  should've lifted his head and followed his mama but he didn't. That could mean one of two things. If it was a selenium deficiency his muscle tone would be impaired, but the other prognosis floored me.

He was blind. 

My friends on the goat forum assured me that it was possible it could be temporary if it was caused by trauma in the delivery. In the meantime, I have to help him nurse every couple of hours. He's maintaining but still not as active as his cousins.

By the time this post airs I'll be at a vet's office to see if they can sell me a drug I couldn't get elsewhere. It's next to impossible to find a vet who treats goats, but I'm going to try the equine vet down the road.

Da Dogs: Tank has been having a bad few weeks. He's lived far longer than we expected, but some days aren't as good as others. It breaks my heart when he's not feeling well. I am not going to take his death well.

Me: I'd been sick for a while, recovered, got sick again, recovered.... I'm well now, but in dire need of a good night's sleep. I've been on call around the clock with the goats since Thursday.

Orphan Bunny: More web surfing informed me that wild baby bunnies are often left alone almost all day by the mother. She only comes back to feed them at night. I waited until dusk to return him to his nest. When I did, one of his litter mates made a run for it. Good thing Nana wasn't with me. 

I also learned that it's a myth that a mother will reject a bunny if it has human scent. I feel relatively secure that the bunny will be fine--as long as he stays out of Nana-radar.

The Homestead/Casa South: On top of everything else, my main water line leading to the animal pens blew out. There was water EVERYWHERE. So now I'm hauling water to everyone.

Casa South should've been put on the market by now, but we've had endless delays. I need to be at both places at once. I am way past stressed about the other house. It haunts me even in my sleep.

The Husband: And where was hubby when disaster after disaster kept crashing down on my head? Not here, that's where. I'm resourceful, but sometimes what you really need is another pair of hands. Try giving an injection to a goat who doesn't like needles.

Despite all my woes, lots of things went right. We had good weather when the girls went into labor. The bunny returned to his mates. Lucy has two healthy babies (1 girl and 1 boy). Tank still gives me kisses every time he sees me. And although I'm exhausted, I survived all by myself.

Believe it or not, this was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to crises. If I listed any more I'd have to break down and start crying. It's been a bad few weeks.

Hopefully Greg will be back next week. I could use a break.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Getty Images: Free with Catch

Oh, Copyright. You taunt us again.

Getty Images, one of the giants of the stock photo galleries is now offering free images to non-commercial blogs.

Let me repeat this part. Non-commercial blogs.

I read on Real Lawyers Have Blogs where they concluded that it wouldn't be farfetched for Getty to sue if the blog was used for networking to grow business.

No question that law blogs being used to grow relationships and reputations to grow business could be construed as commercial in nature.

Just like author blogs

Our blogs, regardless whether we discuss chickens, children, or our newest releases are basically networking tools to grow relationships with our readers and SELL our books.

Over the weekend I read tweets about what a boon this new change would be for authors. But I don't think people are looking beyond the rim.

Not only would you have to give credit back to Getty, (which is perfectly fair and reasonable) but you'd also be subjected to those images being changed or deleted at Getty's discretion. There's also talk of them embedding their advertising in the image at a future date. 

Getty controls the embedded art because the actual file stays on their server. You have to use a special code to upload it to your blog.

If this doesn't jade you, PCWorld has provided simple instructions on how to embed Getty's stock into your blog.

I am so paranoid about copyright and copyright infringement, I go to great lengths not to allow any art to appear before it's purchased. I don't want any trouble with the law or with the rightful owner of that copyright.

I don't plan to use Getty. Something tells me their honey pot deal isn't as sweet as they pretend. 

Buyer (and Borrower) Beware.

Will you be using them?


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mortality Interrupted

I feel like I've been running from one fire to another, most of my own making. But I had a curious epiphany that probably won't matter to any of you under 50. Just remember this post when you get there.

A year doesn't go by when I don't take some sort of continuing education. But lately, I've had to temper my indulgences with my eventual mortality.

Deep down I still think I'm going to live forever...though all the signs seem to indicate otherwise. Drats!

The other day, I mentioned to Greg that I'd like to take a certificate program in digital design. It would be an advanced set of courses in all the latest software. The price tag is high. The university offering this program is one of the best in that field.

Let's not forget the price of the new and improved software. Tack on another $1500.  Oh, and my present computer is reaching its memory and speed capacity. Add another thousand or more.

Now Greg denies me nothing. (It's a fatal flaw with him.) But even I had to admit that enrolling in this program has limited potential for me. If I was 20 years younger, I'd jump at it because it would open all kinds of doors. 

It would open the same doors for me at my present age, but I don't plan to be doing this 20 years from now. ...I don't think. (I've learned never to say never.)

Chances are good I'd go back to writing or back to my canvasses and oils. Once I hit my 80s I'll probably be more interested in saving the planet than designing a holographic cover for anyone.

My mother is in her mid 80s and she's as spry as they come, but I've noticed as she's slowed down that her interests have changed. I suspect it'll be the same for me.

Is it strange to think ahead 20-25 years in the future? I do this regularly but I wonder if it sounds peculiar to others.

How far ahead do you plan your career(s)? What will you be doing at 80 years of age?


Monday, March 3, 2014

Under the Weather


Who the heck ordered sinus headaches with a side of sore throat? I start to feel better and then it slaps me down again. Common sense says to take it easy for a couple of days, but you don't have that option when you have animals to tend. 

The fickle weather has made things even harder. My guess is all the fronts are responsible for the constant ups and downs of the pressure in my head.

It would be easier if Greg was here, but I'm on my own, battening down the hatches for another freeze. It was in the 80s on Saturday, but it plunged below freezing on Sunday, and currently 16 degrees this morning. Yesterday, we had an ice storm and lost power. Ah, the joys of country living.

During freezes like this I lug buckets of hot water several times a day to all the pens so everyone can get a warm drink.

My poor fruit trees are bursting with little buds waiting for Mother Nature to make up her mind. 

Soon, I hope.

As I look down at my feet I'm surrounded by dog-mines. Each of them perfectly positioned so I can't leave the room without an entourage. They've been good hounds though. I haven't had the energy to walk them like I usually do. I think they realize I'm not at 100%. 

Well...all except Nana. She thinks the world should revolve around her. Rotten kid.

The bright side is that my power is back, and it'll be warmer tomorrow. We'll be back in the 70s by the end of the week.

What do you do when you're not feeling well? Live like a hermit, or have the spouse and/or kids wait on you? (Maybe you can lend me one of them.)


Monday, February 24, 2014

I'm Not Minion Material

Sometimes I see people call their followers/fans: minions, tribe, or street teams. Tribe or street team isn't too bad, but minion annoys me. The one I hate the most is when they call their followers 'bitches'.

In what world is that okay? Where I come from we treat the people who love our work or follow us loyally like friends--treasures. They should be esteemed, not relegated to grunts who rise up at the call of their master.

I realize some people use this ploy to be funny but it's always had the opposite effect on me.

Maybe I'm too old. Maybe I lack a funny bone. Well...too old anyway.

 
Attribution to Gentle Giant

It's all perception, I suppose. If I follow an author, blogger, or artist, it's because I'm an aficionado of their work. Don't treat me like a flying monkey. 

Remember, flying monkeys can poop on your head.

Has a label ever bugged you--even if it was meant in jest?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Old Reader Resurfaces

Let's all bow our heads in remembrance of Google Reader. Nothing else has come close to its simplicity and efficiency.

The mantle was taken up by Old Reader, Google's original reader, but now it too is being revamped so as to earn revenue.

Old Reader is charging for anything over 100 blog subscriptions. The fee is pretty reasonable, but I still hate the idea of paying.

I use Feedly as my main reader, but I like Old Reader for reading blogs on my smart phone. Since Old Reader will suspend service for anything over a hundred blog feeds, I decided to do some serious demolition work.

I had over 900 blog feeds on Old Reader and I hacked away until there were only fifty. Who was left?

Mostly friends' blogs, and blogs that contained useful information that was presented in a casual conversational tone.

I spent hours deciding who would stay and who would go. In the end, it all depended on how human they sounded. I was surprised how important that was to me.

People who ranted, whined, or were long-winded were deleted immediately. If I'm reading on my phone it's because I'm away from home, waiting for my turn in a queue. I don't want to be bored or annoyed on top of being inconvenienced.

It was such a relief to chip away all those excess blogs, I might use next Sunday to delete blogs from Feedly too. 

Before I deleted anyone, I scrolled through a list of a dozen+ posts for each blog. If most of their headlines started with "Release", "Queries", or "Buy My Book", I deleted them. It was tedious, but I didn't want to delete anyone just for having two or three bad posts in a row. You can't be sparkly every time.

Do you use a reader for your blog feeds? Are you happy with it? I've never been able to load Feedly on my phone without adding blogs manually--and I'm not going to do that!


Monday, February 17, 2014

We're Getting Closer

BBQ, pushy as always



Lucy, 4 months pregnant
This time next month, (God-willing) we should have baby goats. The girls are filling out fast. Even their udders are expanding. The term, I learned is called, bagging.

I want very much to milk them, (I have visions of cheese making) but not before I know the babies have had their fill. I could bottle feed them, but I don't think I want that much extra work.

I am terribly nervous about the upcoming births. I belong to an online goat group and to hear them talk, all kinds of terrible things can happen.

We've been lucky. The only casualty in our goat operation has been me. Last week, BBQ got me again. He was in a smaller pen while we trimmed the girls' hooves. As I walked by, I noticed there was an empty bucket in his pen and I wanted to pull it out before he trampled on it. 

He was at the far end looking away from me. The little pail was within easy reach, so I slipped my hand past the slats on the gate. That cranky, old goat did a 180 and smashed my hand against the gate panel before I could pull it out. I thought he had broken my hand!

Thankfully, it was just a bruise. My hand was small enough that when he smashed it, it collapsed into the grooves of the slatted panel protecting me from any further damage.

I can't win with that goat! No other animal in my lifetime has given me so much grief.

The Other Home Front: Preparing the other house to sell is going slowly. We got most of the big things done, but there are still so many little things to do and we can't seem to make headway.

I'm a big worrier and this has been weighing heavily on my mind. You feel so helpless when you can't physically go out there to get the job done. 

I'll be glad when we can put the house up for sale. That'll be another millstone off my neck.

Marketing Notes: For those of you interested in doing your own newsletters, I read something interesting the other day. The blogger suggested not wasting space on greetings or other fluff because the majority of people won't read it. 

That made sense to me and it's advice I plan to follow. I noticed when I peruse newsletters, I never read the fluff. I scan for items that might interest me and read only those things.  If the newsletter has some good articles, I save it to a subfolder in my email box. Otherwise, it gets deleted as soon as it's read.

For those of you who get newsletters: Do you scan them briefly or read them end to end?

***

...so is anyone taking side bets on whether I'll survive Greg's retirement? I'm wondering if I should lay odds. 

How about BBQ? The odds are better I won't survive him. Grumpy goat!


Monday, February 10, 2014

A Newsletter...Someday

If you don't know this about me already--News Flash--I'm a cross between Martha Stewart and Sheldon Cooper when it comes to how I do things.

Ask Greg. I don't do anything without exhaustive research and experimentation. And I never do reveals until I'm satisfied with the end result.

February saw me bite the bullet and I decided to design a newsletter for Book Cover Diva. I finished a dummy of the first newsletter yesterday, but I'm still tweaking it, trying to make it as lean and useful as I can.

But even then I won't release it for a while. Before it goes live, I want to write my columns for the next year. This way I'll always have good content without worrying about what I'm going to write about for the next issue.

I'm also designing a few freebies for anyone who signs up. I'm still brainstorming what other kind of giveaways I can do for later too. I'd like to plan all the details far in advance so I'm not doing a headless chicken dance later.

All this comes about after years of receiving countless newsletters, giving me the luxury of seeing what worked and what didn't about each of them.

Since this is a vehicle to promote my business, it's going to be less about showing off and more about giving an insight into the nuts and bolts of good design.

I think the content will be the real selling point. My mantra is to make it interesting and short.

And just to put it out there, I'm using Mail Chimp as the delivery system. But honestly, I don't find their web site all that intuitive. It's been a slow learning process. I'm still trying to figure out where the newsletter widget is hiding. I heard they did a recent remodel and moved some task tabs around.

Once I get the first one out there, I know the whole process will become second nature, but right now, I'm hunting and clicking all sorts of buttons. I wish they offered clearer instructions. (That's the Sheldon part of me coming out.)

If I were to predict the newsletter's official release, I'm going to say April. I like the idea of spring and and new beginnings.

Do you do a newsletter? Do you use Mail Chimp? 

I'll be brave and say I think you're going to like this newsletter. I'm designing it as if I were the recipient, filling it with tips and ideas authors might find useful.

Come April, you'll have to tell me if I did all right.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Productive Weekend All Around

On the home front, we prepared for another cold snap. I wish Canada wasn't quite so generous with their winter weather. I'm not complaining. They have it far worse, but it's a lot of work for me to drain the water lines and water all the animals by bucket. At least Greg was here to help me before he left. 

Over the weekend, we made a little pocket money too. I put a Craigslist ad for the Marans chickens and sold almost all of them. We still have 5 roosters left, so they'll be going in the pot. And at the last minute I decided to keep two of the hens.

We had a lot of calls and the hens went fast! I think posting a picture of the dark brown eggs that a couple of them are already laying did the trick. 

I don't run Craigslist ads unless Greg is home just to be on the safe side. You never know what to expect. But mostly we ran into people like us, retired and doing a little homesteading on the side. It was nice to talk shop and compare notes. 

We got a lot of clean up and repairs done on the property so it was a pretty productive weekend. 

I think most people in the US were watching the Superbowl, but I'm not a sports fan, so I don't have a clue what went on Sunday. The only thing I look forward to are the commercials. Budweiser almost always hits its mark, but this year Kia and Jaguar produced some spectacular commercials too.

How was your weekend? Did you do anything interesting?


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Followers, Schmollowers

Agent, Janet Reid hit the monkey on the head with her recent post about book promotion on Twitter. The biggest reason I don't spend a lot of time on Twitter anymore is because people are always shilling something. Once in a while is fine. Too often and it becomes noise, forcing people to ignore it completely.

Her ratio of one shill post to every ten is more than fair--and easier on my brain.

I also liked what she said about 'followers'.

Reid said: Don't talk about this stuff at ALL. No one following you cares how many other people are. They ONLY care that you say something of interest to them.  

So true! The number of followers is only important to the person asking for the followers.

That said, there are good reasons to have followers. I had a conversation with someone recently about contests. She wasn't going to ask for people to be a follower in order to enter her contests. I suggested she reconsider it. I've found that people willing to follow (to enter) are less likely to be contest trolls and more likely to be true fans of the genre or author.

Follow because you WANT to be a part of that person's world. And those asking for 'follows' should be doing it because they have something marvelous to offer in return. No one cares how many people are in your posse. That's just ego talking. Real followers care about your content.

I still add myself to other people's follow list, but only if I truly enjoy that person's blog. I want to show my appreciation and that's one small way to do it.

I just think we need to move away from that high school clique mentality. Social networks are really crowded and noisy with spam. To stand out, we need to be a little less self-centered and more genuinely social. 

Touch us where we live through pictures and anecdotes. Talk about other people. Quote them. Link to them. Expand your scope beyond selling yourself and you'll find a more receptive audience.

Reid had so many good points in her post. I highly recommend it.

Have you ever tried to gauge which posts or tweets worked best for you? What did you discover?


Monday, January 27, 2014

Facebook's Shell Game and Some Questions for You

There's been a lot of grumbling about Facebook's shell game--whereby you may or may not see friends' updates.

I don't post on FB often. Aside from the automatic feeds for my blog posts, the only other times I post are for funny personal updates or when I find useful info my friends might like to see.

I try to avoid promo posts unless I'm offering something free or nearly free.

Lately, I've been getting emails and popups on FB asking me to run ads to increase my visibility. And that right there is why I won't do promo on FB. The bottom line is that Facebook limits who sees your updates. And how do I know more people will see my posts?

I have to pay to play and I'm not going to fall into that trap. I've heard several people say they've seen no distinct advantage (read: sales) from advertising on Facebook.

Still it bugs me when people can't see my posts--or I can't see theirs. Sometimes, Greg will ask me about a mutual friend's update, surprised that I never commented on it. When in fact, it never appeared on my timeline.

I like Facebook for little conversations and funnies, but that's about it. Ever since they changed the playing field, I feel they can't be trusted, which is sad because I enjoy chatting with my friends on FB.

How about you? Do you use Facebook for promo? Have you ever paid for one of their ads? Did it work?

***

Twitter: And just when I was ready to wash my hands of Twitter, I get an email from them telling me they have suspended the account of that fraud who was using my personal information.

It took them nearly two months, but that slime ball has been suspended. Thanks to all of you who wrote and pinged Twitter about that imposter. I can't tell you how much I appreciated it.

***

Design Freebies: While I won't be promoting my books anymore--other than static displays--I do need to promote my cover design business. I'd like to come up with some design freebies, but I haven't decided what to give away yet.

Maybe a widget or a blog icon. Maybe a bigger drawing for a web site header.

I'm trying to get past January and the heavy shadow of getting ready for Greg's retirement before I commit to anything. But I'd be interested in your suggestions.

What kind of design freebie would you like to score?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Walk Before You Run

I peruse the Craigslist freelance postings on occasion and an ad for an editor caught my eye. At first, it sounded sincere and professional. Here was someone looking for an experienced editor to help him polish his writing.

But then I read the blurb and realized at once that this was a newbie. All the telltale signs were there. The characters were cliche, the premise was recycled, and the stakes were vague and decorated with equally nebulous adjectives. 

I commend this author for wanting to get an honest appraisal, but it troubled me that he felt ready for an editor so early in the game. Judging from his blurb, he needed critique partners, not an editor.

Part of me wanted to write him and suggest he find a critique group first. But I was afraid he'd probably snarl at my insolence. Authors are inherently very protective of their work.

It's the same with cover artists, editors, and even agents. All of us have to start somewhere, but it shouldn't necessarily be front and center until we're ready for our closeups. There's no dishonor for starting at the bottom.

I don't blame the author of the Craigslist ad. I'm sure all of us have been in that position where we thought we were ready, only to find out later we weren't. It's just that in this day and age, it's hard for me to believe there are still people who don't take advantage of the many writing communities, classes, and agent blogs out there. You can't help but trip over all the resources available.

Much as I grouse about the internet, it's provided a wealth of education and experience, free for the searching.

Do you still run into people who seem clueless about this industry or do you think this was an isolated incident?

***

Is traditional publishing in the middle of another firestorm? It started with a cached post about an author at Harper Collins who disclosed the pitiful amount she earned. (Cached because she had to take it down from her blog within hours.)

The Passive Voice linked to it--but the kicker was when the CEO of Kensington, Steve Zacharius commented on the post, repeatedly trying to make his case. 

It was then another author posted about his experience about the poor business practices applied by Kensington. 

JA Konrath entered into the fray the other day when he answered some of the questions Kensington's CEO posed during his comment stream to indie authors. 

It's a lot of reading, but some interesting insights from everyone involved.


Addendum: Harper Collins must have some clout. The link to the cached post has been pulled as well. I had sent the link to friends privately, but now I wish I had copied the post in its entirety. It was very revealing about the state of traditional publishing and how it treats its authors.

Addendum 2: Apparently, there's more than one way to skin a cat. I noticed that Feedly never updates (or deletes) a post once it's been published the first time. So I added Wendy Higgins's blog to my blog reader and there it was. You can only see it in the archive, but it's there. I don't know if other blog readers work this way, but Feedly does.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Polar Opposites

Greg is home and as usual we've been rushing from one chore to the next. The weather's been beautiful--and warm (sorry northern North America). We've been taking advantage of the good weather, trying to get as many outdoor jobs done while we can. 

Whenever Greg is home I have to wonder what it'll be like when he's home for good. For fourteen years (out of 39), we've had a part time marriage.  Sparks fly when we're reunited--and not necessarily the lovey-dovey sparks, but the fire and damnation kind of sparks.

To be fair, it was like this when we lived together too. We're both just naturally hot-tempered--him with his loud and very Italian personality, and me with my quiet "I'll kill you with my laser-vision" wrath.

When we agree on things, there is no stopping us. We can move mountains. But Lord help us when we disagree. 

I've threatened several times to start a new blog series called: "What my crazy husband did THIS time". Personally, I think it would be a hit. Every time we start a project together, it never turns out the way we had planned.

For one thing, we work differently. I'm very straight-forward. We do this, and this, and this, and don't stop until we're done.

Greg is more of a, hey, I didn't know I had this tool. Cool! And, oh look, there's that frankenheimer I've been looking for, but darn, it's broke. Let me go fix this NOW because it's obviously more important than the task Maria has been planning for more than three weeks.

You get the idea.

I think my penance on earth is to keep Greg on track. I send him emails weeks in advance, telling him what's on the agenda when he gets home. I used to wing it, but I've learned the hard way that my darling husband remembers things far differently than how I thought we discussed them. 

Much as his working style drives me insane, I can't fault his results. No one I know is as brilliant as he is when it comes to figuring things out--especially of the math and mechanical variety. I don't have those kind of smarts.

But lest ye think I bring nothing to the party, I pride myself on being an excellent mule...with a clipboard.

Do you work differently than your significant other? Do sparks fly for you too?