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November 2015

December Giveaway!

I’ve got some books that need reading. Let’s start with:

A hardback version of The Detective’s Assistant.

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Based on the extraordinary true story of America’s first-ever female detective, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and danger…including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!

 
Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt’s doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it’s the miserable Home for the Friendless.
Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate…and not just by helping out with household chores. For Kate Warne is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.

This contest begins on December 1st, and ends on the 31st. In order to win, we’re going to use Rafflecopter. So please, enter below. You can enter up to once each day! The winner will be announced in January.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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PS-You will have to supply me with a mailing address if you are the lucky winner.

The Best Sweet Potato Casserole Ever

I was recently at a carry in Thanksgiving meal, and the oddest thing happened. I went to the table and saw at least three different sweet potato casseroles, but not mine. My son and I wanted mine. I asked where it was. Someone had taken a big ole bite out of it and set it on the table behind them. I was hurt at first, and then I was told why.

Apparently they thought it looked so good that they had to try it. Once they tried it, they thought it tasted so good that they didn’t want it gone before they got to eat (they being the servers). When they finally got to eat themselves, they nearly cleaned my dish out and then came over to tell me, “Best sweet potato casserole ever.”

I am one of those cooks that doesn’t like to give away really good recipes. It’s a power trip thing. It makes me feel good to know that there’s something out there that I’m better at than at least one other person. Yes, it’s childish; yes, it’s wrong; yes, I’m working on it-hence this post.

I actually got this recipe from my aunt, so that made it a family one, so I had an excuse. But she said she got it from a friend, and that it wasn’t very different from others she had tried. So, I decided to start with this one as far as giving out certain recipes that I hold dear. But I will probably go to my grave with others. Some have been in the family for generations and aren’t going anywhere. Here it is:

mix:
3c mashed sweet potatoes
2 eggs
1/2c butter (you can use less)
1c sugar
1t vanilla
1/2c milk
(I often add more potato and less sugar. Experiment to find your mixture, but I would not cut below 3/4c sugar the first time. I used half once, it wasn’t very good)

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mix topping:
1c brown sugar
1c pecans
1/3c butter (do not use less)
1/2c flour

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Blob (yes blob. It is the technical term) the topping on the other stuff (another technical term) as best you can and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. If you make it ahead of time and stick it in the fridge overnight before baking, bake for a little longer, like 5 or so minutes.

Warning-this looks a whole lot worse than it is. It rode for over an hour in the car before it got cooked, so it was a bit of a mess. But it tasted good!

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The reviews of indie authors on amazon

I have treated my book as a traditionally published book. This means that I act like a professional. Unfortunately, this is not true for a lot of the rest of the self-published community. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear, “I got a negative review. Quick! Run vote it down.” and then the next thing I see is, “I reported it to Amazon as bad and wrote a 5 star one myself.” This appalls me, and I hope you as well.

I joined a review group where we get together and agree to review each others’ works. I agreed to review a book about …let’s say a cat…that sounded adorable. It was not. Every sentence in dialogue had an exclamation point! And on top of that were a lot of sentences that ran on and on without any commas while the author told us about everything the cat did that day which actually turned out to be nothing more than meet another animal! And then we learned the animal’s name! And then…

In other words, there was no plot at all. Furthermore, 3 chapters were about Christmas itself, and at least two others were getting ready for it or recovering from it, or talking about it in general. This would have been fine if the book were called Christmas adventures with Tom the Cat, but it wasn’t. On top of that, the chapters were out of order; it’s made to look as though it were several stories in one book, but it is not; and many words were used many times together many times in a row. I wanted to shoot myself. It was a horrible experience.

But here’s what gets me. It had 5 – 5 star reviews. WHAT!?

Here’s what I found out.

Indie authors get together and agree to give each other reviews. It is considered common courtesy to tell the author you didn’t like the book before posting a bad review. In other words, if they don’t like the review, it doesn’t get posted. Now, there are authors out there that go to Fiverr and pay for 5 star reviews. And there are many that don’t have a problem with this. But even the ones that have a conscience don’t seem to have a problem with the above. I was told that if I posted my negative review, that it might have consequences. Interesting. Let me get this straight. If I’m honest, I’ll be shunned by the indie community. Well, quite frankly, if I’m being shunned by a bunch of people that want to lie to their buying public, then that’s fine by me.

But wait.

That’s not all.

These authors actually use the review system as a way to get their work critiqued! What? Yes. If you have a bad review you are expected to tell the author so they can change their work and make it better. OK, that’s fine and all I guess. But they don’t remove the old book and release a new one. They simply change the old one. No. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least it shouldn’t.

But I can trust the reviews by a “verified purchased” person, right?

Wrong.

One of the requirements for submitting these reviews is to purchase the books and then write a review, that way it says, “verified purchase” under the review. So no, you can’t trust those reviews either.

So how do I know if the book’s any good or not.

  1. Read “notes from the author”- When the author writes about themselves, you can tell a great deal by their bio and summary. This one book I did, for example, screamed volumes about how horrible the book was going to be. I foolishly accepted the task anyway.
  2. Being a beginning indie author, I hate to say it, but- Wait for more books. As more books come out, their fan base will grow, and more honest reviews will spring forth on their own.
  3. Read a sample. It takes a week from the actual release date (not the pre-order availability) for Amazon to put that sample up. The sample is the first 10%. Anya goes all the way to the beginning of ch3. If you don’t like what you’re reading by that point, don’t get the book. It’s that simple. (unless it’s mine, cause it’s awesome 😉 )
  4. Is the book offered for free? It has been my experience that only indie authors offer their book for free, and a great deal of the really good ones don’t. They usually wait until they have several books out, offer the first book (or the best book) for free, and then hope. I have seen people in ecstatics because a bunch of people (think 10,000) downloaded their book for free, placing them at the #1 free book list. Big whoop. What did you expect? It was free?
  5. But doesn’t it mean that if it was in the top free it was good? No, These authors pay people to advertise, often spending hundreds of dollars (see BookBub’s pricing list) to get their listing in the right eyes. Now, no names mentioned, but it is very rare to see anyone come back and say that over 10% of what was freely given was purchased. In other words, out of 20,000 free downloads, less than 2000 actually bought one of their books. And more often than not, it’s much less.

So what you’re saying is…

Reviews of an indie book are only useful to the author, not the purchaser, unless there’s a BUNCH of them. “Around 20-25 reviews, Amazon starts including the book in “also bought” and “you might like” lists. Around 50-70 reviews, Amazon looks at your book for spotlight positions and the newsletter.” Please see this post for more information on book reviews and how their numbers effect book listings. In other words, an author would have to shell out some pretty good dough to get 50-70 bogus 5 star reviews. Has it happened? I have no doubt. Is it common? I very much doubt it.

It is not my intention to make readers leery of indie authors and make indie authors lose readers and therefore their livelihood. It is my goal to make the indie publishing game less of a game and more of an honest industry where readers can tell the difference between good and bad eggs. With the bad eggs gone, the good eggs can shine. Readers will become more trusting of indie books in general and buy more, making it, once more, a plausible business. I hope I have done just that.

Happy Book Birthday!!

My first book, Anya and the Secrets of Cupola, came out last Saturday. I was able to have a launch party at The Art Circle Library.

It’s a really nice library. When you first go in, there’s a balcony and all sorts of coolness. The children’s library is off to the side and separated with double doors. It has a computer area, a sitting area (where they often do presentations and things), a homeschool area, and the carousal reading room. That’s where I was.

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A LOT of people (to me) showed up!

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I had the necessary swag for give outs. Bookmarks-

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stickers-

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tattoos-

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I also had refreshments. I brought some potions cubes for Cupola. I let people serve themselves the cubes into a plastic cub, and then pour 7-Up over the iced potion. It was a big hit!  But it takes so long to prepare, I don’t plan on doing it again.

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I also brought the actual wand used by Avaline herself (pictured below) and my feather pen (made it myself). And then I got to sign books! I made a reasonable goal of sales, and surpassed it! Yes!

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And then the coolest thing ever happened-a woman and her daughter came in. She said, “Hi. This is Anya.”

It took me a while, and then I realized that her daughter was named Anya. I ran and signed a book. And then I took a picture because it was so cool!

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All in all, a pretty successful evening. Thank you everyone for coming and supporting me. I loved it!

The traditionally published world on Anya

My first book, Anya and the Secrets of Cupola, is set to release this Saturday. But let’s take a look at what the traditionally published community had to say about it.

Firstly, I got a lot of rejection letters. That’s good. In other words, they didn’t think it was so beneath them that they didn’t even respond. They actually responded.

Which brings me to the secondly. I got personalized responses. Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, a personalized response is a BIG deal. Here’s one from Cate at Corvisierio:

“Thank you for thinking of me and Corvisiero Literary Agency, but this is going to be a pass. While I think you have a unique voice, I just wasn’t drawn into the story the way I needed to request more pages. For me, I felt we are introduced and experience “a day in the life of” a character who is not really the main character. While a whimsical, and well crafted passage, for me it felt like backstory explanation for what really happened to Anya’s father. I would have like to start with Anya and learn about her father through her memories and thoughts. Remember that this is only one opinion and your work may be just what another agent is looking for.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but let me translate. This means she liked it.

What?

No really, she did. In fact, if I had rewritten the first chapter and resubmitted, she would have probably requested more. Now that was no guarantee she would have taken me on for her to be my agent, but she did like it.

But see, that’s just it. Agents (and possibly publishers, I don’t really know) have what I call the “cookie-cutter mentality” for first time authors. This mentality states that the first chapter must be the main character in an exciting scene. Period. No if, and’s or but’s. (see the “prologue” for Twilight and you’ll notice that it was more than likely added in because it need an “exciting” beginning. But for me, personally, I enjoyed the original beginning and hated the prologue.) But Anya’s different than that. Anya is an ease-into-it book that absorbs you into the world itself instead of bombarding you with flashes of characters you couldn’t care less about because you know nothing of them.

I HATE this mentality. In fact, I hate it so much, that I often skip the first few pages of a book that has it. It’s over done and annoying. Some of the best books in the world don’t do this, and in my opinion, THE best books in the world don’t do this. Take Harry (yes, overdone. But I use it because it’s so familiar to everyone out there-so I don’t have to explain anything). Harry isn’t even introduced until the second half of the first chapter, and even then he doesn’t do or say anything. Take The City of Ember. It doesn’t mention a character at all in the beginning. These books tell the environment that the main character is going to be thrown into, and I love them for it!

And that’s what I wanted for Anya. I was more than willing to change most, if not all, of my work on my other books if an agent wanted me to, but not this one. This one was different. I can only hope others feel the same way I do.

PS-I actually came across this e-mail again by accident this morning while looking for an invoice. I had been concerned about the boring aspects of the first bit of the book (for when I read it aloud Sat.) and couldn’t tell if it was truly boring and I didn’t notice it before, or if it was just where I’ve read it 14,000 times-give or take 1000. But this e-mail made me feel better. It may not have been cut by her cookie cutter, but she still liked it. Called it “whimsical”, “well-crafted”, and with a “unique voice”. Warm fuzzies for everyone!!

The Desire for Sickness

The title sounds really creepy, but if you think about it, this post kinda is. Earlier this week, I thought, “I really need a sick day. Because, when I’m sick, I have an excuse to stay in bed all day and get nothing done. I really need one of those days.”

And then it happened. And now I’m in bed sick.

Yes, I could honestly get up today and do a bunch of stuff, because I feel much better. But guess what, I’m not going to. If I honestly thought that I needed a sick day, I’m taking it!

Am I the only one like this? Am I the only one that wants a day when laying around is what is expected of you?

I’ve been pushing myself a great deal (by now you all should know how much I push myself-WAY too much!) lately. My book launch is next week, and I’m trying to finish the rough for book 2. But that’s a long story.

So, I’m well enough to get up and do some things, but I’m staying in bed, the floor piled high with used tissues and a bunch of other trash. The dog is snuggled up to me. I’m catching up the latest seasons of my shows. And I’m reading if, and only if, I feel like it. No writing. No required social media garbage. No cleaning. No cooking. Nothing.

And I’m loving it!

Taming Your Anxiety

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. This post is not medical advice. It is of my own experiences and you should discuss anything you want to “try” with your doctor. Period.

For those who have followed along, you’ll know I have issues. Mainly anxiety issues, but issues. And here’s what I’ve learned:

First, let’s start with what people told me:

  1. You’re perfectly normal
  2. You’ve tried to handle too much for too long
  3. You’re not weaker than anyone else
  4. You’re faking it
  5. There’s nothing wrong with you
  6. Buck up or shut up

1-None of these are the exact wording of what I had been told, but that’s OK, because none of them are true. Let’s start with “normal” – No one really know what “normal” is, but when you can’t show up at work due to tunnel vision and vomiting, that’s not normal. No, I was not (and potentially am not) normal.

2-Just what is too much? I worked 32 hours a week and homeschooled my child. Yes, that’s a lot, but I didn’t cook and rarely cleaned. So just where was the too much part? Honestly, for me, it was the job itself, my own personal problems, and not having a set schedule. If my schedule had been set, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. I would have had a routine in my life. So no, I don’t think I tried to handle more than others have. I think it was something else entirely.

3-What about being weaker? Well now if any, that one, was true. I wasn’t weaker than anyone else, except that I succumbed to things allowing my anxiety to grow instead of having enough courage to face it. Maybe if I had just marched down to the poor excuse for a school and straightened them out for the third time in a row. Maybe if I had just found a way to switch his school. Or maybe, if I had simply told my dad that I wasn’t paying for any more of his stuff. See, I had originally planned on working long enough to pay off the storm shelter and recoup our savings. That turned into 2 years because by then, we needed more land, and it would take two years to build up enough credit to get a loan to get the land. Then it turned into infinity. Every time I paid off something, and I mean down to the week it was paid, I came home to a new truck, or a new trailer or something else I didn’t ask for or need. I then had to work another year to pay it off, and then it happened again. Finally I told my husband I wasn’t paying for any more stuff my dad bought. And I didn’t. But it was too late. I was already broken.

4-6 – I wasn’t faking it. Wish I were. Same goes for the next part. And the latter, if I could have, I would have.

But I’m better now, not perfect, but better.

How?

I realized a few things:

  1. Anxiety is an emotion
  2. You can control your emotions
  3. Medication doesn’t and won’t help
  4. I push myself too hard
  5. I’m lazy
  6. I’m afraid

1-Anxiety is an emotion. Recognizing it is the hardest part. Not all emotions are easily recognized. You may not realize you’re depressed until your friends ask you what’s wrong. Why? Well, when you’re a baby and watching Sesame Street or you’re parents are teaching you smile=happy, tears=sad, there is no “this face=depressed” or “this face=anxiety”. For one, those emotions don’t have faces, and are thankfully rare enough that children don’t often ask what’s wrong with someone to learn. For example, if Mommy cries happy tears, little Bobby may ask what’s wrong. It is then that he learns that sometimes tears mean happy. But when Mommy mopes due to depression or cries due to anxiety, he assumes or isn’t answered truthfully because she doesn’t know herself. She thinks she’s tired, sick, worn out, etc.

So first of all, I had to teach myself what anxiety feels like. It wasn’t easy, and I still have trouble sometimes. Have you ever been angry about something permanently? Like a political issue or something horrible someone did? It can set you in a bad mood by smell, a song, a word someone says, and you may never realize you’re in a bad mood and getting short with people. Same goes for anxiety. That feeling snowballs in you and grows because, let’s face it, anxiety is a primal feeling. And primal feelings often feel good, at first at least. By the time it’s grown out of control, it’s too late.

2-Once I learned what it felt like, or how to recognize its imminent birth, I stopped it. I told myself to stop feeling that way. How? Ever made yourself calm down when you’re angry? Ever try to stop crying? Sometimes it doesn’t work, but with practice, it gets easier.

3-Medication did nothing to help me and everything to make matters worse. Period.

4-I expect perfection from myself. That’s bad. No one’s perfect.

5-Yet I’m lazy.

Now wait, how can you be both? Simple. I don’t want to do things, and when I’m forced to, I get anxiety, so I wind up doing anything but to keep from having the problem. This inevitably makes the problem worse, for the thing never gets done, causing the anxiety to grow. But by golly when I do do something, I DO it. And I don’t stop until it’s perfect. This is especially true with physical fitness. In fact, the only reason I’m not working out right now and am overweight is because I was killing myself eating 1200-1500 calories a day and working out 1-2 hours a day, 4-6 days a week. I was still at least 10-15 pounds overweight, and 2 sizes too big. Finally one day, my husband looked at me and said, “Stop. You’re killing yourself.” I wound up having iron deficiencies and had to stop. My levels still aren’t where they need to be, so I’m still not working out. Hopefully, in the future, I can control myself in my workouts. So like I said, I push myself too hard.

6-And finally, fear. I was afraid of things that hadn’t happened yet. One of my biggest fears is getting fired. Long story. But whenever a supervisor wanted to talk to me, I knew it was to fire me. They talked to me a lot at my last job, and it was never to fire me. But my fear made me react differently than best, and caused anxiety that didn’t need to be there.

So what can be drawn from this?

  • Recognize what triggers your anxiety, not so you can avoid it, but so you know when to expect it.
  • Learn to recognize the feeling
  • Then stop the feeling. Say, “I don’t want to feel this way.”
  • Stop analyzing. Stop trying to figure it out. You’re anxious. Big deal. Now make yourself stop being anxious just like you would make yourself stop crying or calm down.
  • Understand that it takes time. A lot of time. When anxiety has infiltrated every aspect of your life from getting up in the morning to going to the bathroom to even checking the blooming mail, it’s going to take time. Do you cry when you answer the phone? How about when you have to write an e-mail to someone? No, of course not, but these are common anxiety sources for people. You will feel anxious 100X more in a day than sad or angry. So it’s going to take time.
  • Stop being afraid. Are you afraid that you said the wrong thing in the e-mail? What’s the worst that could happen? Probably not life threatening. Usually the worst that could happen isn’t as bad as you think. For example, I’m having a launch party coming up. I have one relative coming. As far as my fears go, that’s all that’s going to come. So what? How is that any different than if I didn’t do it at all? It’s not what I hoped for, it’s not a good thing, but it’s not a bad thing. I got a review from someone that I thought would love my book but didn’t, and I haven’t heard back from any of the other reviewers. Therefore, in my mind, my book is a flop. So what? Well, yes, that could mean I will never recoup my investment. It may be so horrible that I don’t even finish the series. But my friends are still going to be my friends. I know that much. And my family will still love me. I will have pursued a dream to learn the outcome. Better than not ever trying and never knowing.

You can do this.

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