I Did A Double Take

Saw this in my notifications yesterday. It is kind of shocking to see that I’ve been doing this whole blog thing, in one form or another, for 13 years. There have been a couple of incarnations of this blog along the way and there was at least a year gap in there where I didn’t do any blogging at all.

In one way, what I’m writing and posting about is very different than what I started with, but, for the most part it really hasn’t changed. The specifics may be a little different, but it is still me posting about what is interesting and important to me.

In all that time I’ve played around doing other things in other places, but it seems I will always come back to this. It only took me about 10 or 11 of those years to finally feel like what I was doing here was the perfect fit. It was when I quit trying to separate all my pieces into different areas (one blog for photography, one for recipes, one for books, etc.) and just put them all together that things finally felt comfortable.

It’s been a hell of a ride and I’m no where near being done with it yet. Wonder if I’ll still be doing this in another 13?

Functioning Technology

I’d had my doubts that all my issues with my computer would be solved simply by replacing the power cord. I never knew that a laptop with a bad power cord could impact the speed of your internet connection to the point it was worse than trying to connect through dial up. Apparently that is absolutely what happens if your laptop recognizes that your power cord is bad and attempts to preserve battery through lowering performance. Now I know and I’ve given you a little tech tip for the day.

Thankfully, I’m now back up and running and I no longer feel like I’ve been banished from the world. The short time away did give me some time to think (not always a good thing) and I’ve decided that since I don’t have any review obligations (no open requests or NetGalley books due) through the end of the year, I’m going to just read to read until after the new year. If I manage to pick up something that strikes me as something I just really need to talk about, then I’ll post a review. For now, I’m going to take a reviewing break.

Part of the reason for this is all of the stuff that will be going on around the holidays. I really don’t want to go into the season already stressed with the pressure of trying to get too much done. It wouldn’t take much for me to just not want to put in the effort to do the fun stuff right now and I really don’t want that. I’ve still not been able to completely shake the crankies lately. The last thing I want is to make it worse.

We are also in full on “focus on college” mode with MC. He has been invited to interview for the top scholarship at his #1 school choice (and most likely where he is going to go even if he doesn’t get the scholarship), which I am crazy proud of, by the way. That means I have to take him to get a suit in the next week, something he has never even come close to wearing, so that is going to be so much fun. The kid that has spent his life in jeans and t-shirts with video game characters on them is going to have to wear a suit. He is probably more nervous about that than the interview itself.

I was a little frustrated with the information in the invitation as it also specifies it is a day for the parents to come, but doesn’t give any kind of timing or agenda, only the day. You have to RSVP that you are going to the interview and how many parents will be coming. Since it is a Saturday, it means that I’ve got to balance BG’s dance schedule with the interview schedule, but I don’t have a schedule for the interview day. It is also her last rehearsal before her Christmas program and she can’t miss it. There were too many unknowns for me to figure out if I could drop her off and still make it to MC’s thing (yes, the school is that close), we opted to just have Hubby go with him. I really hate it because I want to be there with him as well.

We don’t see too many conflicts with the kids activities and events often. The times we do, it stresses me the hell out and makes me feel like crap because I feel like I’m having to choose between my kids. When OC first started high school and we started paying attention to when graduation was held, I nearly had a panic attack over what would end up happening a few years down the road because, for a while there, graduation always fell the same day as recital. Thankfully, our district has pushed graduation from Saturdays to Sundays, so we will not have that as a problem this year. We will just have an extremely FULL weekend with Friday rehearsal, Saturday Recital and Sunday graduation.

Yes, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and starting to already stress over it a bit, but when I’m having to think about all the college stuff now and MC hasn’t even graduated yet, my brain is just going to go there.

Can you tell I’m going to be kind of a mess through all of this?

 

Forced Downtime

Sometimes I really hate technology. My laptop is having issues. So much so, it’s only currently useful as an expensive paperweight. I have a new power cord on the way that will supposedly fix the problem (sometime today hopefully), but until then I’m stuck using my tablet with no access to my photos or my book database. So not having fun over here Mercury!

ENVIE! A Magazine for the Literary Curious: Expanding Offerings

I have briefly mentioned this resource in the past in association with a review for my book. At the time, Envie (@enviemagFTLC) was the Writing Community Newsletter. They have changed their name, their look, and are expanding their services, offerings and content of their magazine.

Besides great articles pertaining to writing, book reviews and book promos, they are offering spotlights for VSS, poetry, and flash fiction writers. If you have something you want featured, you can submit it to them and (if space is still available) it will be published in the next edition.

Another new feature they are developing is a services database. If you offer any kind of service to the writing community, you can submit your listing and it will be posted in the newsletter as well as eventually in a more permanent listing on their website. This includes editing, proofreading, book reviews, beta reading, cover design… basically, if you offer something that helps out authors, you can get added to this database. Even if you don’t, but you are an author, this is something you will want to keep your eye on as they get this piece launched.

On top of all of that, they are starting a new blogger feature. If you have a blog, of any kind, you can be featured as their blog of the month in the magazine (@enviebotm).

Did I mention that all of this is offered for free? I honestly cannot push this group enough because they really do a ton of work to support the writing community on all levels. It is absolutely worth your time to subscribe to this amazing resource.

*No, I am not a part of the group in any way. I’m just amazed at all they do and want to do my part to help them grow so they can offer even more amazing things to the community.

It Started With A Rainbow

I was less than 5 minutes from walking out the door to take BG to her assistant class when I glanced out the back window and saw this amazingly bright rainbow. I was shocked because it wasn’t raining and hadn’t been, but the clouds managed to toss enough moisture in the air to create one anyway.

Of course I grabbed my camera, which was the reminder I needed to take it with me, just in case. I am so glad I did (and I really need to remember to take it with me EVERY time as I’m not going to always get a rainbow smacking me upside the head as a reminder).

Red Tinged Sunset Clouds
Red Tinged Sunset Clouds

The start of the sunset tossed some interesting clouds my way, but that isn’t what was so stunning about last night’s sky. It was this phenomenal ombre look to the sky itself after the sun dropped below the horizon.

Ombre Sky After Sunset
Ombre Sky After Sunset

It was such an extreme fade that it made it really difficult to get it to actually register correctly on the camera. Closer to the horizon on one setting would get blown out too bright and another setting would make the darker bluish purple get too dark, so it was fun trying to get it balanced just right for both ends of the spectrum.

Ombre Sky After Sunset
Ombre Sky After Sunset

I think I managed to capture it enough to be worth sharing, though they still aren’t nearly as stunning as what I saw sitting in my car last night. Sitting there with my window down and my camera hanging out the window had to have been slightly concerning for anyone in the offices or restaurant nearby. I kind of looked a bit like a PI stalking some cheating spouse or something. Or, I would have if I’d had my big zoom lens attached instead of my smaller wide angle lens. Oh, well. The people in those business will probably be seeing lots of that over the next several months.

Mom Version Of Drunk Dialing

We have a school day routine. I sleep while Hubby and the kids get ready for the day. Hubby lets me know when he’s leaving and MC sends me a text when it gets to school so I know he made it alive. The last piece is when Hubby calls after he gets to work, also to confirm he is alive and well and the idiot drivers he has to share the road with every day didn’t manage to kill him. For the most part, I’m still asleep through all of this.

This morning was epically weird. All the goings on pulled me into a weird state of sleep and I never dropped back into anything deep, so my brain apparently decided to mess with me. When Hubby calls, I tell him about my absolutely brainless mom moment (of which there have been a stunning amount lately, I really probably need to get my head checked) when I, for some insane reason, felt the need to call MC to check on him. Before his morning text. While he is driving to school. I’m half asleep while I do this and MC gives me the “Mom. I’m driving. I’ll text when I get there” frustrated response.

The whole thing has me flabbergasted. I haven’t a clue why I felt the need to make that call. Why it was imperative in that moment that I do so and that I recognize that I wasn’t entirely coherent in the process. I’m thinking that MC had to have thought that is what I sound like if I were to drunk dial him because it is certainly what it felt like. Hubby mentions that he is surprised MC even answered his phone while driving and that maybe in the future I need to message or call BG instead (since MC drives her to school with him). My son probably thinks his mom has lost her ever loving mind at this point.

In all honesty, I even have a hard time remembering much about the whole conversation with MC. I get off the phone with Hubby and promptly fall back asleep like I’ve taken some heavy duty meds. This is because I slept for crap the night before because I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t fall asleep until probably well after 2 am and after I caved and got up to take something for the headache and sore muscles.

It wasn’t until I woke up much later and saw my normal daily “I’m here” text from MC and realized I’d slept right through it without responding that I examined the whole situation. I decided to go and look. Sure enough, there is no call to MC in my call history. I did not, in fact, sleep dial my son while he was driving to school and he did not answer and talk to his sleep calling mother. My brain did, in fact, mess with my head in an extreme way this morning. I did have the conversation with Hubby and he laughed his ass off when I called him again after I was fully awake and told him it was all a dream.

I really need to get my head checked. I apparently also really needed sleep.

Fall Colors

About all that is left of these gorgeous colors are images and a few flying around the yard. We still have quite a few leaves on our tree, but they’ve started to dry up in preparation for their final drop. The majority of the trees in our area are now bare.

It really hasn’t felt like much of a fall. We’ve only had a few fall like days and the rest have felt like deep winter. That feeling is only added to by the fact that I now have most of my outdoor holiday decorations up. I still have a few left to do today and that part will be done. I’m standing firm on the fact that they won’t go on for at least a few more weeks, though.

Today’s Project: Outdoor Decorations

I’m breaking a bit with my normal tradition, which is to put up decorations the day after the US Thanksgiving. I decided I didn’t want to risk trying to do this in sub-zero temps when I have a nice, mid 50s day to work on them now. Nothing will get turned on until the normal day and the inside is going to happen as usual, but it will at least be up and ready before it gets too miserable. This also breaks it up a little so that I don’t have as much to do all at once, which is nice.

We aren’t the only ones with this idea as most of the people along my street are outside working, taking advantage of the small warm break we are getting. Now, I’m off to work my butt of.

Oh! I’m also going to get to see BG’s pointe costume for this year, which I’m insanely excited about because they are doing a piece from Swan Lake. I’ve seen glimpses of a stunning black and white piece, but I get to see it in person today, so I’m over the moon excited, even if it means I have to stop in the middle of my work to go watch them unveil it.

It’s going to be a good day.

My Brain Hurts

Yesterday’s frustration with the school stuff blew up into a cluster and I just cannot understand how it ended up that way or why the school made the decision to take some of the actions that they did. Those actions irrationally put some students in a position of potentially not being able to do their assigned work and created a butt load of stress and worry and frustration in the process. I understand some of the underlying motivations for why, but the reality of the follow through…

I think I’ll just say that this whole mess is a great example that technology is far, far from perfect and people don’t often think of all the more obscure issues that can pop up. There will always be a loophole that someone will exploit if they can find it. There will always be glitches. There will always be problems because it is so heavily a part of our lives that it is nearly impossible to be active in the daily world and not have access to it, especially when what you do requires that access.

It truly makes my brain ache to think of how far reaching and damaging the actions of a couple of ignorant kids can be.

It is a lesson and a reminder to everyone to stop and think long and hard before you click send or publish or post or pretty much anything that doesn’t have an undo button.

Responsibility And Consequences

Who bears actual responsibility and who should suffer the consequences of certain actions? In this situation, I’m talking about kids in general, but more specifically, teenagers. There are so many scenarios and times when a kid does something that the fingers start pointing everywhere. The parents. The schools. Video games. Music. Other kids. Pretty much anything and everything that can be pointed to other than just the kid.

No, this is not a simple, cut and dried concept. There are times when it is more than just the kid that is responsible, but so many times I see the finger pointing and the blame come out instinctually without anyone ever looking that the circumstances of the situation and putting that responsibility where it legitimately belongs. I’ve seen it first hand throughout my kids’ school years, both the blame and the praise.

Sadly, that finger pointing can lead to even bigger problems and consequences. I’ve been watching this unfold in our school over the last week. An incident involving some pretty ugly, awful words being shared around the school by a couple of kids has ended up in the news. The district has always been upfront, notifying parents about any incidents immediately, then following up later with more information if investigation was needed. This incident was no exception. They’ve investigated and issued punishments to the students involved, but the fingers have come out.

I read an opinion article in a local paper that points those fingers at administration and saying they didn’t do enough and that they should issue an apology and included some misrepresented facts and details about the situation which painted the entire school, including the student body, in a nasty light.

My kids are now concerned for their friends that play sports. Those kids are talking about being worried about the upcoming football game and how the other team is going to treat them. They are worried that the other team will view them as tainted by this situation and target them even though they had nothing to do with it and those words do not reflect who they are. All because the district is being called out for those students’ words and actions.

As volatile as things seem to be in this country, I don’t blame them for their concern. Those innocent kids are paying the price in stress and worry, and potentially their own safety. Not just for the actions of a couple of truly ignorant kids, but because people are dumping the responsibility for those kids’ horrific behavior on the district as a whole and the administration.

Is it fair to place blame on the administration and the district? I honestly don’t know. I only know bits of this from what I’ve gotten from the notices and the things the kids have told me. It seems they reacted immediately to shut the incident down and are taking some pretty extreme measures and actions with this. They have fully communicated the entire situation with parents and students along the way. This is apparently not enough for some. Is it their responsibility to apologize for the actions of a couple of kids intent on spreading some vile things? I really don’t know if that falls on their shoulders.

I do wonder how pointing the finger at the district instead of the kids that are at the heart of this does anything to make this situation better in any way. I can see that the finger pointing and blame is filtering down in a way it never should.

Stunning Striped Sunset

Last night’s sunset has convinced me I need to keep my camera bag with me when I take BG to dance. The entire sky started out in these amazing orange/gold stripes across a vibrantly blue sky when we were leaving the studio.

Blue, Red, Pink, and Orange Striped Sunset
Blue, Red, Pink, and Orange Striped Sunset

I watched those colors shift and darken over the 20 minute drive home and would have pulled over and pissed off other drivers just to get a chance to take a shot of what I was seeing. I was so worried I’d lose all color by the time I got home, but lucked out in getting some of the most brilliant colors of the night, though in a really shitty location, so I didn’t get a good wide shot of the whole sky.

Blue, Red, Pink, and Orange Striped Sunset
Blue, Red, Pink, and Orange Striped Sunset

As soon as I put my car in park, I ran in and grabbed my camera. I managed to get a few good shots from the front of my house.

Blue, Red, Pink, and Orange Striped Sunset
Blue, Red, Pink, and Orange Striped Sunset

I will now have my camera bag with me when I take her to dance. At least the early classes anyway.

Some Stats and What Next?

With my recent Amazon ad seeming to be a complete and utter bust, not to mention a huge waste of precious advertising dollars, I sort of feel like I’ve hit this insurmountable wall and I honestly don’t know what to do from here which is insanely frustrating and discouraging. There are all kinds of parts and pieces to my current mood and frustration with regards to the whole self publishing thing.

One of those issues is the need to get reviews (and a range of star ratings) to even get people willing to pick up your book. I’ve really debated for a while posting about this topic because it feels like I’m calling out book bloggers and reviewers and I really don’t want to do that. I’ve gotten some great response and support from some, but others… well, take a peak at my stats (yes, I’m certain the overall numbers here are way lower than what some people see, but I’ve attempted to really target bloggers that have read books that would potentially be in range with mine). I will not be naming anyone, just giving general stats.

Reviewer Stats

Requests sent to bloggers: 24
No response at all: 18
Response, but reject: 0
Agree to review: 6
Reviews written from above: 1
Of those that agreed to review, 1 is still in their projected time frame and 1 has taken the time to post on their blog notifying everyone that they are having issues (which is so massively appreciated). I’ve gotten zero communication from the other few that agreed to review, some of which are from as far back as May on their projected time frame.

Reviewer requested/provided copies (from general call for anyone wanting a copy): 2
Reviews written from above: 1

Book tours approached: 2
Tours responded/accepted: 1 (decided they may not cover my target audience after talking to them, so passed, but left open for future option)
Tours with no response: 1

Other approached review sources: 2
Envie (Previously – Writing Community Newsletter) – 1 review
BookSirens: 2 reviews (requested 10, still running, but no new readers)

Overall, I’ve approached, or been approached by, 30 different sources for reviews and I’ve gotten a total of 5 reviews (and not all have been posted to the bigger sites like Amazon or Goodreads). Is this a reasonable ratio? I have no clue. This is just my experience and numbers.

Another huge part of this is the whole networking thing. I’ve mentioned before how excruciating this is for someone as introverted as I am, but I really made the effort no matter how uncomfortable and stressful this was. I’ve even attempted to be helpful in sharing my experiences along the way. Effort or no, it doesn’t seem to do much more than make me uncomfortable and stressed.

In my last post about my ad, I mentioned the concept of books having a saturation point in the market. That you will eventually reach that point where you’ve been exposed to most of your potential readers and buyers. I’m wondering if I’ve reached that point.

I think some of my frustration also comes from having this really amazing run with my last ad and then suddenly dropping off into nothing. The surge changed some of my perspectives and expectations from where I initially started, but now I’m forced to adjust my views and goals with this and what I consider “doing well” for having self-published my one and only book.

I’m approaching the point where I’m feeling burned out with the work to reward ratio lately. With the frustrations, the poor ad performance, the struggle to get reviews and that big saturation point question, I’m wondering where I go from here. How do you recover the lost momentum? Is it even possible?

 

My View Today

And it is stupid cold. If it weren’t windy, I could be out trying to photograph frozen bubbles. It is snowing heavy enough that it was a challenge to get a pic of my front Maple that wasn’t blurry. I didn’t quite manage it.

Snowy Fall Maple
Snowy Fall Maple

I’m hoping the snow stops soon and gives the streets a chance to melt off because MC drove to school today and he has never driven in snow. It wouldn’t bother me if he were a few short miles from home, but we live really close to the farthest edge of the district, which means a good 20 minute drive on 50+ MPH highways and a few side roads. We did tell him to take the bus home if it was still bad when school lets out. Now we get to see how well he listened.

Oh, and a bit of a brag moment… MC got accepted into his top 2 colleges. We are now in wait and see mode on any scholarships.

It’s The Quiet

Have you ever been sitting around when the power was out and been stunned at how quiet it really is? You only notice how much noise you are surrounded by on a constant basis when that noise is gone.

It has been the lack of those subtle, background noises that has been the thing to trip me up the most since saying goodbye to Izzy the other day. I never expected it because she had always been a really quiet dog, unless she was drinking (anyone who has ever had a dog knows about the extended, repetitive slurp that lasts for ten minutes). She never was one to bark or whine. The most you would get was the occasional whimper when she was dreaming of chasing bunnies.

But yesterday, I noticed all the sounds that should have been there that weren’t. Mostly her nails clicking on the wood or the tile as she walked or shifted her position. She always chose the hard surfaces to lay on, so even something as simple as her moving would get at least a small click of a nail. That absence was so unexpected and shocking because it wasn’t something I ever really noticed or paid attention to.

You would think that as used to the quiet as I am since I’m home by myself the majority of every day that something so small wouldn’t be so noticeable.