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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?

Monday, January 6, 2014

State of the Homestead

It's been a while since we've done a state of the homestead report. It's generally pretty quiet during the winter months, but things have been hopping on the animal front.

Rabbits: Belle is gone. She escaped her habitat right before a hard freeze in early December. She was so tame I doubt she had the good sense to know when something was dangerous. If she was killed, all I can hope for is that it was quick. I still look for her when I roam the woods.

Blue has been lonesome so I'd been searching for a companion for two weeks. I wanted another blue New Zealand rabbit but the breeder who had originally sold me these guys had lost her doe too. 

I opted for a white New Zealand while I wait for another blue to show up. I call her Ruby. She's quite sweet and seems to be acclimating well despite only being with us two days. 

Blue is infatuated and clings to her side of the pen, giving her his best come-hither look, but she's not particularly impressed. She's far more interested in the sunflower seeds I bring to the party.

I'll give them some time to get to know each other before I attempt to breed them.

Goats: Heidi and Lucy are probably pregnant. I say that tentatively because they have not shown any signs of estrus and BBQ hasn't shown his amorous side since October. I'll know for sure in March.

I don't know a thing about pregnant goats so all this could be speculation on my part. The girls look heavier but I don't know when they'll start to really "show". Just to be on the safe side, I'll buy any medical supplies next month in case I need them.

Here's a picture of Lucy from a couple of weeks ago. What do you think? Pregnant or not?


BBQ continues to be a thorn in my side.  Whenever he sees me with food, he charges.

To be fair, it's all my fault. 

When Greg goes into the pen, he postures aggressively and pretends to chase after BBQ if he so much as stamps his foot. In response, BBQ keeps a respectful distance from Greg.

But me, I'm his favorite ramming dummy.

As much as I hate to go through the ritual, I've taken a page from Greg's book and make a big fuss, waving my arms around, trying to make myself look bigger than I am. (I'm pathetically small and nonthreatening.)

The hoopla is helping, but it tacks another 15 minutes to my chores every time I go into their pen. I like being very hands-on and visiting often, so in essence he deprives me of spending time with the girls--who adore me (thank goodness).

BBQ injured me pretty badly in December. I could barely walk and was bedridden for almost two days. So now I do the Greg-bluff and we have detente. Every day is a standoff between us.

I'm torn whether to keep BBQ or not. On the one hand, he's a magnificent specimen and I'm sure he'll produce some beautiful babies. On the other hand, if he ever calls my bluff I'll be toast! ...make that jelly. I'm telling you, the Dallas Cowboys should sign this goat as a linebacker.

We'll see what March brings.

Chickens: We've thinned the flock a lot, but we may sell off all the Marans. Much as I like their gorgeous chocolate-colored eggs, they're not particularly good layers. My other girls have already started laying again, while the Marans eat heartily without earning their keep.

When Greg retires, we might raise some quail. They're tiny birds but as I learned from Shelley Munro's blog, ounce for ounce, their eggs have more iron than chicken eggs.

Da Dogs: I'm happy to report that Tank is maintaining. He's like a little grandfather just tottering along, but an interesting phenomenon has occurred. 

Iko, sensing that Tank is no longer able to function as alpha has moved to the forefront. What makes it unusual is that Iko is NOT an alpha in any way. He's perfectly content to be a minion. I think when the time comes he may even let Nana be alpha when she's old enough. He's simply not interested in the job, but he seems to do it out of loyalty to Tank.

On days when Tank feels stronger, Iko just steps back and lets the old man take charge. When Tank is ill, Iko once again takes over for him.

Maggie too has sensed that Tank is stepping down and she's used that as her chance to move up as head dog. Unfortunately, Iko still sees her as an interloper and will not allow her to take over.

They've gotten into some horrible fights--all of them ending badly for Maggie. She just can't figure out why an old labrador is no match for a rottweiler in his prime. :eye roll:

Worse than that, Nana has decided to back Iko and hurls herself into any fight against Maggie.

Their last altercation may have settled the hierarchy issue though. Maggie has returned to her beta role and has stayed out of Iko's way.

Garden: It's time to start seedlings. I hope this will be a better year for my crops. I'm crossing my fingers that the freeze we had a few weeks ago killed the grasshopper eggs already in the ground. But if it didn't, I plan to be more prepared to fight back. 2013 was a pitiful garden year.

Husband: I'm getting one back in July. :Insert happy dance here:

So whaddya think? Is BBQ worth the trouble or should I invite him to a feast in his honor?