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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Revolution, Hollywood Style

I don't watch a lot of tv, but several of my friends have been bugging me to see Revolution. So I did, gritting my teeth the whole time.

As a writer, I'm appalled by the Hollywood-ness of the whole spectacle. I should've expected it, television being what it is, but if they were so intent on copying The Hunger Games at least throw in a bit of grittiness.

Evidently, after the power goes off worldwide, only the beautiful people remain. And get this, they all have brilliant fashion sense and great boots. Nobody is dirty or hungry. Liquor is readily available, and the bees must be working overtime because they have beeswax candles everywhere. Everyone works together for the good of their community. I didn't see a single person on the dole or homeless. 

The heck with the upcoming elections, if this is how it'll be, let's have dystopia now.

Charlie (the heroine) is so bleeding heart I just want to smack her. Fifteen years she lives without power and she's so soft and starry-eyed, I can't believe she's survived this long.

She's supposed to be this great hunter (hence the bow). Crossbows require constant maintenance and you need a certain amount of upper body strength--neither of which is evident. Methinks it's more a fashion accessory for Charlie. Please someone kill her off before I die from a diabetic coma.

Probably the thing that irked me the most is how idyllic they make it seem. When Hurricane Rita hit us seven years ago, we were without power for 21 days. We worked like DOGS! Everything took longer to do and we worked from before dawn to way past dark. We were dirty. We were hungry. And we were so exhausted from clearing brush and pulling trees that it was easier to go to bed hungry than try to fix something.

I guess Revolution is for people who think drinking an off-brand coffee is a hardship.

There are a few bright spots though. The chemistry between Miles and Nora is good. Nora is my kind of heroine. She's tough, determined and is a great risk-taker. Maggie, the only Brit in the show is also good. I like her low-key style for self-defense. The other character I found interesting was Charlie's mother. Obviously she has more sand in her britches than her husband. Go mom!

I predict Revolution won't make it. Like most television, they try to cater to the widest audience rather than sticking true to the genre. If you're going to write a dystopian tv show, take risks, be contentious, and for pity's sake, get the details right.

The grid is down. Fine. How did our ancestors mill grain, light their homes, or cook food? Do you really think the average back yard is sufficient space to grow your food for a year? And why has no one built a steam engine yet? Or produced lamp oil from sunflowers or pig fat? Surely there are still a few enterprising tinkerers who understand these concepts.

I will be sorely disappointed if they make up some cock-and-bull story on how they made the grid go down. The power necessary to generate that kind of dampening field is immense. It's also not easily hidden, nor is it self-sufficient.

My first novel, Touch of Fire is a dystopian/fantasy story. And you better believe I made sure I understood the herbs my heroine used or extrapolated the outcome of things like zoos and cultural shift. If television can't do the same with the kind of budgets they're working with, they might as well give up now and go back to producing another teen angst show. This is why I watch so little television.

Have you seen Revolution? Am I being too much of a stickler for detail or will the average Joe just swallow it whole? 

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My email has been wonky for a few days. If you emailed me and I didn't answer, try again or message me on Facebook or Twitter.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Oh, Blogger!

Why do you insist on changing your format yet again? Have I not been nice to you, stood up for you, and never coveted another blog platform? Well, there was that one time, but I was only experimenting. I always came back to you.

What was wrong with the old format? Do you want to drive me insane? 

Okay, so I'll get used to this one too, but really, it's okay if you leave things alone for a while. And for God's sake, don't mention this to Facebook or Gmail. There's only so much change I can take.

Blogger users: Has your posting format changed on you yet? I don't think it happened to everyone all at once.

There is one good thing about the new format. They made it easy to see which posts got the most views and I learned something from that.

I got thousands of hits for the flying saucer house. It's one of my top views. The homesteading posts got several hundred views regularly (sometimes into the 1000s) and edged out the dog posts by barely a hundred. Writing posts tended to hang around two and three hundred with higher views for the Killer Campaign posts, while posts on new releases got the fewest views. 

What really surprised me was the Back to Basics blog. Even though it's very new and has far fewer followers, it consistently got hundreds of views for each post. With a little time and exposure, it may prove to be more popular than this blog. We'll see.

I already knew I got a lot of visitors from Google searches and it seems to corroborate with the number of views. People find me specifically for the topics I choose, which is great. It makes me feel I made the right choice for this blog by keeping the range of topics open and variable.

Are you happy with your blog's agenda of topics or would you like to mix it up more?

Monday, September 17, 2012

State of the Homestead

Update: No post for Thursday due to mounting technical difficulties. But do stop over at the Back to Basics blog Tuesday and Wednesday. And if you're not a Facebook follower of The Frugal Way/Back to Basics, whatcha waitin' for? I post freebies and blog updates, and I have a cute goat as a mascot. So, there.


***

The seasons are changing--even in Texas! It feels so nice to have cooler temps. We've had a little rain, but we could sure use some more.

I like the transition phase of each season. It gives me a chance to take stock and see what I could do better next time.

Gardens: Both gardens are pretty much done. I transplanted several pepper plants without a problem, but my tomato transplants didn't make it. Fortunately, I had a few standbys waiting in the wings. I don't want a lot of tomatoes this winter, just a few fresh-eating ones. I probably should've started them a few weeks earlier but time will tell. I've never grown tomatoes indoors before. It'll be a real test.

I started several new pots of potatoes. This was also a test, but they seem to be doing great. If I can keep them growing until they flower, we might get some fall potatoes out of this.

Loofahs in the raw

Loofahs did fine, even if I didn't get many. Next year, we plan to flood the row with water. They seemed to do better with a dump of water once a week than regular short-timed sprinklers. The important thing is we got lots of seeds for replanting next spring.



Seeds: I saved a lot of seeds this year. Aside from the loofah, I kept back some dwarf okra, pimento, and Brandywine tomato seeds.

Mangels were a huge disappointment. I got some, but not enough to feed the chickens through the winter. I'll try again next spring.

Volunteer tomatoes
Tomatoes were the prolific champions this year. They grew like crazy. There were even volunteers in the compost heap. The chickens used that as their buffet. I credit the extra crushed eggshells for that.

The asparagus survived our summer! Now if it can only survive the winter. It sent up a few shoots but I just let them grow and flower. You're not supposed to pick them until their second or third year.

I picked up a bunch of blackberries, blueberries, and small shrubs for 50 cents and a dollar at Walmart. They were getting rid of their stock and I got some great buys. I've been waiting for the weather to cool down so I can plant them. I would've done them this past week but I was burning brush and that's an all weekend affair.

Clearing Projects: Last year's drought and this year's triple digits killed several large trees. I've been clearing brush so Greg can get to them easier and cut them down. 

I got a lot done until I picked up an old log loaded with ants. You never saw someone get naked so fast. Fortunately, I only got a few stings. I'll survive.

...or so I thought. 

After clearing and burning brush, I decided to treat myself to an evening of writing. Because of my piriformis syndrome, the only place where I can sit comfortably is on a hammock. I brought my laptop out and let the dogs roam loose on my breezeway (a long, enclosed patio). I no sooner got situated when Iko jumped up on the hammock and snapped the bolt holding the hammock in place. I fall backwards and hit the back of my head on the windowsill. 

Oy. I had a headache all night. And now I don't even have a hammock. So much for best laid plans of homesteaders and giant lap dogs.

Chickens: I was a little worried about the Marans rooster. For the longest time he refused to mate with his hens. He finally made himself a stud, only now he tries to chase me out of his pen. He's a huge coward though. As soon as he realizes he can't bluff you, he takes off. (Greg must've tipped him off about me.)

It won't be long before I'll have to cull the majority of my older birds. One set has already lived a year longer than they should. They laid poorly this year and that was my fault for not dispatching them sooner. They'll have to go to chicken heaven in a few weeks.

The dogs: You know about Iko. He nearly murdered me. And Mama had her own post last week. Tank continues to worry me. He's elderly and doesn't snap back as quickly as he used to. Lately, he's been fighting allergies which is unusual for him. It's one thing to hear a dog sneeze, but Tank gags and sometimes it turns violent. Poor old guy. 

He doesn't gag a lot thanks to his meds, but I've resorted to giving him smaller, but more frequent meals so he doesn't inhale his food and restart the gagging. Once a day, I give him a little plain yogurt with honey. Nothing's too good for my boy.

And that's about it.

My only plans for the fall is to go to the State Fair this year. We haven't been in years and I miss it. Now if I can only convince Greg to fight the crowds.

Do you have a state fair near you? Have you ever been?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Soul Dog

If you remember back a few months ago, two Labradors, an old lady and a puppy raced into my driveway and refused to leave. I tried for days to find their owners, but then the puppy (Biscuit) fell sick with Parvo, and eventually died.

The old lady remained. No one claimed her and none of the no-kill shelters would take her. We couldn't just toss her away (like I suspect someone else did) so we kept her and called her Mama.

Mama is gentle, quiet, loyal and obedient. But she will NOT let me out of her sight. At first I thought it was a fluke that she followed me so diligently. Now I see that she makes it her mission.

No amount of pleading will make her stay if I walk out of a room. She'll obey any command but that one. She has to follow me. 

This wouldn't be so terrible, but I move very quickly from room to room, especially when I'm cleaning. I feel bad that she no sooner makes herself comfortable that I whisk off somewhere else.

Greg even tested her. We were out in his shop and he covered her eyes while I hid. The poor old girl went wild with fear and she bolted from the shop to look for me. I had to race to catch her. You should've seen the look of relief wash over her.

I'm a pretty good reader of dog psychology, but I have yet to figure out Mama. From day one, she acted as if she knew me intimately. And she is deliriously happy when she sees me. Not just crazy-dog-happy to see me, but relief-and-hallelujah-happy.

Greg and I had been discussing her bizarre behavior when he mentioned he had read something about soul mates. Supposedly, our life's journey includes many soul mates.

Soul mates are not necessarily lovers, but kindred spirits that travel together from lifetime to lifetime. Friends on the same journey. According to the article, we gravitate to certain people because we subconsciously know them as our soul mates (soul friends).

Greg wondered if Mama was one of these soul mates. Maybe she'd been looking for me all along.

Mama has been with us for more than five months. In all that time, she's never changed. I cannot leave a room without her following me. Even when I go out, when I return, she is right where I left her, dutifully waiting for me at the door.

For a very brief time, I had hoped it was my Chelly come back to me in the guise of a Labrador. But I don't think that's true. I don't see Chelly in Mama. If my girl ever comes back to me, I'd recognize her in an instant.

Obviously, Mama is another soul from my past. But why does she keep such close tabs on me? And why even after all this time hasn't she accepted the fact that I'm not leaving her? Even Tank and Iko think she's goofy.

Any guesses?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Keeping Up With the Holsteins

More publishing news. This one is fantasy romance with a lesbian twist. The Pyramid Waltz is Barbara Wright's debut novel. A first novel is like your first time--it's extra special  so I wanted to give her some author love.

Please welcome Barbara and thank her Holstein neighbors for putting her on the path to writing. Keep reading. You'll see what I mean.

Keeping Up With the Holsteins

My neighbors were cows. Literally. When I was a small child, the only signs of civilization around our house were a broken-down barn in the neighboring pasture, the power lines that ran up to the distant road, and the barbed wire fence that kept the neighbor cows off our lawn.

The rolling pasture dotted with forest ran all the way to the horizon, and at night, any cities were so far away that they were mere smudges on the sky's black bowl.

Such emptiness fills up a young mind, and in the grip of loneliness, imagination is born. It thrives there, making characters to act out childhood dramas as well as vast cities, civilizations, worlds. I wrote so many stories, almost none of them making their way to paper. I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with myself.

Even though I have no wish to live in such a lonely place again, I owe my creativity in part to such a lack of chatter. I often had to make up my own playmates (the cows weren't interested), so I figured, if I could make up characters, why not a setting? Once there, we would need something to do, an obstacle to overcome, a plot. When it became too hot to fill up the whole outside with my imaginary worlds, they'd get smaller, indoors, with Barbie to help me act out my stories of bravery and adventure, love and sacrifice, and good triumphing over evil. I was over tea parties as soon as I found out they didn't involve pirates or space marines or Scooby Doo.

Now I revel in real people, real adventures. After all, no one can stay in her own head forever, can she? Unless this is that iconic episode in every TV series where someone tries to convince the main character that she's really in a mental institution and that old house in the country really drove her crazy.
Either way, now you can see the products of my imagination for yourself. My fantasy romance, The Pyramid Waltz is available now in paperback and e-book from Bold Strokes Books. After all, out on the farm, we need plenty to read. Cows are terrible conversationalists.

Bio: Barbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not adding to her enormous book collection or ranting on her blog. Her short fiction has appeared twice in Crossed Genres Magazine and once made Tangent Online's recommended reading list. She is a member of Broad Universe and the Outer Alliance and helped create Writer's Ink in Houston. The Pyramid Waltz is her first novel.

Visit Barbara's blog
Buy The Pyramid Waltz in paper
Buy The Pyramid Waltz in digital 

The Pyramid Waltz
To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdom’s greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the king’s monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play.

Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive.

Do pop in and congratulate Barbara on her debut.  It's a big day for her.

A question for you: Holsteins may have started Barbara on her journey, but what about you? What was the catalyst that started you writing? 

My catalyst was the day I had NOTHING else to remodel in my home or garden. Living 300 miles away from my husband and with no other activities, I started writing after I came home from work. (Selling was a different karmic jump.)



Friday, September 7, 2012

A Practical Arrangement

Okay, historical romance fans, Nadja Notariani has a new book out. Check it out. Isn't it a beautiful cover?


Miss Evangeline Grey, intelligent and sensible, has no desire to marry, her reluctance born from the dire warnings of her overly emotional mother.  Her father has other ideas, however, and decrees that unless she weds by the spring, he will choose a husband for her.  

Prim and proper Evangeline accepts her father's issue with little more than mild alarm.  Knowing herself plain of face and sharp of tongue, she believes herself capable of warding off any perspective suitor.  Her plan goes awry when the scandalous seducer, Mr. Thomas Masterson, visits her family's home, for Thomas has learned that he must procure a wife to receive his full inheritance.  

When he discovers Evangeline's predicament matches his own, Thomas determines to orchestrate a practical arrangement.  A war of wit and word results, and Thomas finds himself ever more beguiled by the soft heart he discovers under Miss Grey's stern, inhibited exterior.  Patiently, he endeavors to gain her respect and awaken her passions.  As tenuous trust blooms between the rake and the reluctant, unfortunate events – and Thomas' past reputation – threaten to destroy the peace and happiness he has found within the bonds of his Practical Arrangement.

***
I wanted to wait until the book went live to share the cover and blurb.  As always, be a pal and Like the book on the Amazon page and click or add tags. This helps the book show up on Amazon's algorithms.

As a matter of fact, let's help each other out right now. If you leave a comment for Nadja, include the link to your book(s) on Amazon.

Make sure to like and tag Nadja's book (and mine!) and I will do the same for you.

Here are Nadja's:

Claiming The Prize

Her Dark Baron

The Third Fate

A Practical Arrangement


Here are mine:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Money For The Kitty

I normally don't blog here today, but I'm making an exception for a very special post. I need money. Not for myself or even for one of my furry kids, but for a cat who is in dire need of an expensive surgery.

I made two donations to Miss Mousie, one monetary and one story. Pop over to Miss Mousie's blog and read how I acquired The World's Ugliest Dog, the Chronicles of Kitty. It tells the story on how we were adopted by our one and only cat.

If you're an animal lover and can spare a couple of bucks, Miss Mousie could sure use your help. Pop over, read her story (and mine) and leave a donation if you can.

Other things you can do to help: Link to my story, tweet Miss Mousie's post, or share her plight with your friends. Let's give this poor kitty the chance she deserves.

Do you have a cat story? Contact Melissa on Miss Mousie's blog and get featured too.

***
I also have a post up on Back to Basics about the risks of BPA in plastics. If you use plastic food storage containers, you'll want to read this.

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If you read my post on Miss Mousie's blog, you might think I took a big risk with that kitten. Would you have tried it?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blog Tours: Pros & Cons

I'm a veteran of blog tours and learned the ropes one hard knot knuckle at a time. This time I decided to experiment and see what would happen if I relied solely on word-of-mouth for Mistress of the Stone.

Strangely enough, word-of-mouth required just as much planning and setup. While I might have to write ten or twenty original posts for a blog tour, I still had to gather a multitude of resources and book-bites for people to use if they wanted to do shout-outs for me.

Blog tours are still more time-consuming. It's not just the post, but answering every comment (of which you hope there are many).

First, you have to approach potential bloggers to host you. Then you have to promise them a truly terrific post. Sadly, this is where most people skimp.

It takes an enormous amount of time to write original and entertaining posts at a time when you are at your busiest. This is why it pays to write these posts at least a month in advance.

Although I don't see as many blatant promo posts as in years past, there are still plenty that barely qualify as interesting. That's sad because it really is an opportunity to shine.

Giveaways: Along with the post, many people offer prizes as incentives. I've reconsidered giveaways over the years. I still offer prizes from time to time, but nothing lavish. The prize shouldn't be more important than the content, otherwise you run the risk of drawing just the prize junkies.

Sellability: I'd like to set the record straight on a misconception I see often. No matter how much you want it to be so, blog tours are about name and brand recognition. It isn't about sales. 

A blog tour done right will show people you are clever, entertaining, or interesting. Hopefully all three. This is why I never bother pimping my books. If you're interested, you'll find them. My only responsibility is to make sure the links work.

Conclusions: So what have I learned between a blog tour and just plain word-of-mouth?

Both require effort on your part. I had several really good friends offer to tweet and post on my behalf, but I still had to give them the resources. I didn't want them to be inconvenienced in any way.

Never ask a friend or fan to do something for you without supplying the goods. It aggravates me to no end when someone asks to be on my blog, but they expect me to dig up the cover art and links. I used to do it in the early days, but not anymore. 

If you want someone to help you out, you do the legwork for them.

When people started offering to help me spread the word, I sent each of them a package of art, links, blurb, and tweetable snippets. Everything was already prepared and formatted. All they had to do was copy and paste. They could use as much or as little as they wanted.

I had only one regret. I wish I had asked people to post on a certain date. Most everyone posted on the day the book released. It might've gotten more bang for the buck if it was spread out more.

I also wish I had given people a snippet instead of the same old blurb, that way visitors could read something different.  There's only so many times you can congratulate someone for the same thing. It gets dull.

If you rely on word-of-mouth

• Keep it extra short. You don't want to hog someone's blog if you're not there to actually make an appearance. It's a mention, not an actual post.

• Never inconvenience the person doing the shout-outs.

• Mix it up. Don't let people use the same material.

• Don't assume people will want to share their social media space for your book even if you're friends. Ask, but don't take it personally if they say no. I might tweet a little and put a mention on this blog, but I keep Facebook for myself most days. Everyone is different.


If you do a blog tour, here are some tips:

• Keep it short. 500 words is the maximum for the average attention span.

• Keep it interesting. I'm serious. If you wax poetically about your struggle or how much you love your adorable new baby book, people will tune you out.

• Don't place your book on a pedestal. That's not up to you. Write it and let it go.

• Ask a question. I always recommend this. If you're constantly "lecturing" people, you're not giving them a chance to interact. Give them a reason to comment.

• Add links. If people are interested, they'll click on them.

• Don't pimp. Pimping ain't pretty. You begging them to buy never works--unless you have a cute dog--then I might click.

• Use art. Just make sure it belongs to you.

• Giveaways: Be judicious. You'll get lots of comments if you give away an e-reader or other expensive prize, but will that translate into sales? Probably not.

So which worked better? I think I enjoyed the control of a blog tour more, but I was very touched to find people going out of their way to promote me. It was nice to know karma hadn't forgotten me.

Whether you do a blog tour or have friends do shout-outs for you, concentrate on just earning new social media followers. If you're personable and interesting you'll grow a relationship. If you write a good book, you'll grow an audience.

Note: If you're popular on social media, it might sell your first book, but if it's amateurish, nothing you do will sell the second book. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don't suck the first time--especially important in this era of self-publishing. Readers have better memories than you think.

Be patient and be honest. Write a good book first. Then move on and write the next one.

Can anyone add other tips from your experience? 

***
A couple of shout-outs of my own:

Raelyn Barclay has been tweeting and cheering me like crazy. I love this woman! Since she joined the writing community, it's been all about what she can do for others. I never forget a kindness and I won't forget Raelyn. Add her blog to your watch list. She's always got interesting topics.

Mike Keyton has been my CP and writing buddy for many years. If I've done anything right, a lot of it is due to his tempered skewering of my work. He gave me the BEST compliment on Mistress of the Stone the other day on Facebook. He said: Pirates, ghosts and sex, the perfect antidote to Fifty Shades Of Grey.