Sunday, July 31, 2016

False Hope

Just returned from an author's event.  You know the type - somebody organizes the event by getting a bunch of author's together to hawk their book(s) and allows them to meet/greet the public. It's just like a book signing, except in a larger scale.

There is a lot of work getting prepared for one of these. It isn't just a matter of slapping the book on the table, sitting back and raking in the do-re-mi as buyer after buyer throws cash in your face.

Okay, I do stand corrected. There was one gentleman who came to the affair, had a whole table to himself - an eight-foot-long table.  He had ONE book title, three copies spread out in a small arc in the middle of the table.  He sat back in his chair, feet up on the table, and rested for the remainder of the event. At the end, he picked up his 3 books, put them in a satchel and left. Done.

Others, like me, put up a display with books tastefully displayed, colorful announcements, handy business cards, and 'gimmicks' to draw the attendees to the table.  I normally use candy but am thinking of something else... maybe I'll discuss that further on.

Here's a picture of one of my events just a few weeks ago at the Findlay Author's Fair.

You can't see them, but there are about 100 small LED lights under the white cloth.  I used battery operated ones, not knowing if there would be an electrical outlet handy.  Do you see the white-on-white conduit against the wall?  Yes, I would have been the only one with electricity in the room.  Since then, I take along the electric LED lights that can change to any color of my choice, and/or rotate colors and/or flash, too.  No electricity most of the time, but they don't weigh that much.

As stated, the Findlay event was almost a month ago and there have been two other events since. 

The attendees come through, browse the books, talk and talk and really seem intrigued and very interested in the books.  You'd be amazed how many "gush" about how they just love a good Amish story to read.  Uh, but no purchases.  No, but they do ask if it is available online. They want to purchase the electronic version.

Of course, it is online!  Well, DOH!!  No, I don't say it that way to their faces but smile and give them the link(s) to the book(s) for them to check out at a later date.

Okay, not a book purchase at the show, but a potential purchase via Amazon or elsewhere online. It doesn't matter, it's called royalty and it all counts.  I'll take electronic purchases.

I keep checking my online stats for my books - both those I published and those of my publishers. I'm a hybrid author, having some books via several different publishers and some books I have self-published on Kindle/Create Space and at Smashwords.

Need I say?  Yes, the numbers continue to plummet into the abyss.  No online purchases.

Ah-ha!!  Call it the lightbulb going on above my head... OR getting hit by lightning.

It is a ruse by the potential customer.  By stating they want it online, they're not caught in the dilemma of telling me no to my face.  They can give me false hope of a sale and continue on their merry way without feeling terrible.  Maybe they will buy a copy online, but more likely, they won't.

I'm open to suggestions of how to get an event attendee to commit to a purchase.  I've offered beautiful metal bookmarks,  I even had some crocheted bookmarks.  I've offered buy one, get another one at half price. And, I attempted to lure them with candy. Oh, yeah, and I smile a lot.

About the candy.  Someone suggested gum cigars, similar to those the proud dads buy at the birth of a new baby.  They can be purchased, specialized with events or other words to denote, let's say, a book.  Of course, one could buy specially marked M & M candies.  

What else could be given away?  My friend offered a free book drawing. She would give away a copy of her latest book to one of the attendees.  She got four people to sign up.  Not what would I call a real good return on the investment since she didn't sell any copies, either.

Short of knocking the attendee to the floor, ripping the purse open or pulling the wallet from the hip pocket and digging out the money for the book ... any suggestions to help with sales?

My Amazon ratings continue to plummet.

False hope sucks.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Raped At The Farm Market

We've all been to them - those quaint, little 'ma and pa' farm markets where you get all those great farm-fresh vegetables and fruits.

In our little community, they have one set up on a corner of a 'chain' drugstore parking lot.  Yes, they've got the big tent and tables with all the produce and some nice Mennonite young ladies to serve you.  I think that is part of the wholesomeness one expects.

My wife picked up 3 nice tomatoes since we both had a hankering for some and our tomatoes are still just a tad too green ... okay, they are just green rocks right now -- to eat.  And we got a baker's 1/2 dozen of what they call Indiana sweet corn.  Some of the best around.  For seven ears of this sweet ambrosia, the price was a mere $2.75.  Cough. Hack. Cough.  Our local WalMart is selling sweet corn for $.12 an ear.  Hm?  7 X $.12 = $.84.  Not even ONE dollar.  And, yes, the WalMart sweet corn is usually pretty good and fresh.

But, this was Indiana sweet corn and I'm willing to fork out a few more dollars for ambrosia.

The young lady smiled at me and said, "That will be $9.25."  Without thinking, I forked over a $10 bill and graciously accepted the 3 quarters of change.

As we drove away my mind started thinking and my wife also came to the same conclusion... uh, exactly how did 3 tomatoes and 7 ears of corn come up to over nine dollars?

Seems the tomatoes were selling for $2.65 a pound.


I remember when I could buy three pounds of tomatoes for a single dollar.  Now it is almost three dollars for a single pound.

Suddenly, I knew what it felt like to be raped.  That young Mennonite girl smiled at me and took my money with not so much as a blink.

Now I like farm-fresh veggies and all.  I'm not a fanatic where it has to be all organic or anything like that, screaming for pesticide-free veggies.  I just wanted fresh - something that hadn't been packed 2 days ago in a state maybe 3 or 4 states away and then transported to my local store to make me think it was plucked from the vine/tree/ground/etc only moments before I got it.

I like to think I live in the real world.

Uh, is $2.65 per pound for tomatoes too much?  I mean, if that is a 'fair' price, I've got a literal gold mine growing in my garden.  Next year I'll plant even more tomatoes and should be able to make my first million by October 2017.  Whoo-hoo!  My tomatoes are grown from seed.  I have about 100 seeds left ... uh, that could easily be 100 plants and at almost a pound per tomato... you do the math.

As I have had a small amount of time to reflect on this incident, I think I've realized why the pricing is the way it is.  They allow senior citizens to use free tickets from the government to purchase fresh products to eat.  As I see it, once more, it is the case of the $200 Army hammer that anyone else can buy at the local hardware store for $5 to $8.  Government money abuse.

Think about it.  The senior citizens get the tickets for free.  It didn't cost them anything.  So the vendor, Mr. Happy Farmer, can charge whatever he wishes ... somebody else is picking up the price of the tickets.  I'd like to say the government, but in reality, it will be you and me via our taxes.

As many people don't realize.  The government is not a real business.  It hands out free money to people but that money is not profit from some business. Uh, for those who really don't understand, every government employee - including your Senator and House Rep, gets her/her salary from your taxes.  Yes. It is tax money collected.  It is ALL tax money from somewhere - either via a large/small business or each person.  The government does not earn profit  (money) but they give away money as if they were printing it.  Oh, wait, they do print it.  My bad.

But, I digress.

Enjoy the harvest of fresh veggies from the farm - just be sure to watch the prices.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Doing Nothing

We went camping a week ago and had a great time. While I was sitting there, near the awning, and in the shade of a lovely maple tree and by the firepit, I had an epiphany.

Doing nothing while sitting at a campsite and doing nothing while sitting on your front porch are two totally different forms of relaxation.  Actually, one is relaxing, the other is more of 'taking a break' event.

What do I mean?  The answer is simple.

When I sit on my front porch, doing nothing, relaxing (or so I think I'm relaxing) I tend to let my mind wander to different things like...

  • Moving the yard
  • Weeding the garden
  • Taking care of the chickens
  • Trimming the bushes
  • Running the weed-whacker
  • Cleaning the shed
  • and the list continues...
When I sit in my chair at the campsite, doing nothing, relaxing, I tend to do... well, nothing. I relax. I enjoy the breeze and the heady scents of other campfires, listing to the birds, watching and talking to other campers as they walk the campground, passing by my RV.  I let the mottled sunlight caress my face, I might snooze, daydream about a writing project or just let my mind wander.

Did you notice the difference?  I'm retired, I basically run my life like 6 Saturdays, 1 Sunday.

BUT, it was a shock to realize that when I'm camping, I actually do relax more than I do at home when I attempt to do nothing.

Of course, I do have a 'busy' lifestyle on my Saturdays. LOL.  I have my 18 hens which are now giving us a daily total of 10 eggs.  I'm expecting that number to increase over the next couple of weeks to an assured even dozen or more every day.  I'm discovering, much to my wife's chagrin, my hens enjoy watermelon.  They really enjoy the red fruit but most of the time they get the rinds which I cut up into small 1.5" X 3" pieces.  This way, everyone gets a chunk to peck at.  They still like their grass and leaves.  My wife swears I'm spoiling them since they hear me come out of the house, yell "Here, chick, chick, chick" and they all come running like little raptors from Jurassic World.  She can come out and call them and they ignore her.  Maybe it's because I give them treats and she usually comes out to collect the eggs.  Okay, we'll call her the meany. LOL.

Regarding the 'ranch' as we have it.  We're thinking of downsizing.  That's right, going smaller. Do we, a 'maturing' couple need a home of 1840 square feet AND a basement of the same size?  I've been looking at lakeside cottages in Indiana.  My wife is enamored with tiny houses - and these cottages, even though they are year round - are only about 700 square feet.  BTW, I am talking by the lake, not on the other side of the road or a couple of blocks from the water. I want to have some beach area and a dock for a pontoon.  I will be able to go fishing as often as I want.  Yes, I know I will have to give up some of my farmer aspects like the chickens, but I can still do a little gardening.  Of course, I could be just daydreaming.  We'll see.

What else do I have planned?  I don't know.  I guess I will need to go camping and just let my mind wander as I sit by the campfire.  Heaven knows I can't think on the front porch... too much to think about what to do around the house. I won't have time to think about what I want to plan.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cooking Experiments

First, a little health update.  This morning (Thursday) when I got up, as standard, I drew a drop of blood to see what my overnight fasting number would be.  Surprise!  It was 108.  That, folks, is in the normal range.  I'm ecstatic.  Of course, that means I have to watch my sugar a little closer today making sure I don't plunge too low.

The doctor put me on Victoza and I'm still working my way up to the full dosage. He told me to finish off my Januvia and he upgraded my metformin pills by 50% so I"m now at 850mg.  My Januvia will last through the end of the weekend... so, by the time you're reading this, I'll be off of it.

Now, about my cooking experiments.  I found a recipe somewhere and they made "hotdog" hamburgers.  I attempted them and now call them "Doggers" and they are amazing and yummy.

Prepping the "Doggers"
I took a pound of hamburger (should have used about 1.25 or 1.5 pounds, but...) and made 4 equal balls. Then I flattened the balls into rectangles. From a chunk of cheese (I used sharp cheddar) I sliced 4 equal size pieces.  I placed the cheese in the middle and very carefully rolled / wrapped the meat around the cheese. Note I have excess on the ends - that is to seal it good since the meat tends to contract when grilled.  Also, make sure to really seal the seams all around so the melting cheese doesn't ooze out.

Above is the finished product ready for all the yummy condiments to be added.

Okay, I'll be honest.  I've made this a 2nd time, didn't take pictures, but should have.  While still open, I added chopped onion, garlic and a little jalapeno with the cheese before wrapping it all up.  OMG!!

The mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and relish were literally, just topping to an already fantastic burger... uh, er... dogger.

My next experiment was for a breakfast.  I love... no, LOVE... hashbrowns.  And I mean, I've made them with taco meat, baked beans, broccoli. cauliflower... I really have experimented.

BUT, potatoes are a high starch, carbohydrate food and my diabetic meals don't allow things like that. Okay, not in the quantities I enjoy eating.  I mean, who can be happy with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of hashbrowns?  For somebody like me, that's nothing but pure, unadulterated torture.  I  mean it.

Therefore, I decided to attempt sweet potato hashbrowns.  I've only done it once, so far, but I know I will be doing this again and again in the future.

I used one medium-small sweet potato.  Peeled it.  Then shredded it on a box grater using the largest opening.  I had maybe a cup+ of grated sweet potatoes.  I finely chopped a little onion into this.  Then I heated a skillet with olive oil and butter mixture - about 2 tablespoons and when the butter started to bubble, I placed a couple of heaps of the sweet potato/onion mixture on the skillet, tapped it down to make like a pancake and let it sizzle for about 3-5 mins on each side.  Unbelievable.  So scrumptious.

That is NOT burned but butter sizzled
I was able to get about 5 small patties from that one sweet potato.  Now, as you can see, they aren't large.  That is a pie plate and a normal-sized fork.

Next time, I plan to add cinnamon and maybe (not sure yet) some nutmeg to the mix.  It was suggested to add marshmallows and/or some brown sugar.  Hm?  I don't think that would work with my diabetes.  Now, I could consider a small amount of finely chopped pineapple or even some grated apple. This is a whole new playground for me to experiment in.  I mean, who would have thought left over taco meat, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and refried beans would work on regular hashbrowns?  Uh, that would be me!  Or bacon, broccoli, and cauliflower?  Yup, me, again. LOL.

On the garden front... harvest is starting for the peas.  Just look at those pods!!

Here's what my garden looks like right now, almost the end of June.  In the background, you can see the pole beans are starting their journeys up the fish line trellis. In front, 7 tomato plants are filling out their space. Hidden between are beets, a couple of pepper plants and in the extreme right (out of the picture) are my red, yellow and white onions and garlic.  The garlic, so far this year, has been coming along just grand.

Of course, veggies aren't my only thing I grow.  I have several flowers, both annual and perennial coming up.  Here's my yellow trumpet lily.  One of several, but, alas, a severe storm came through and beat the crap out of most of them and they are down on the ground.  Of course, winter wasn't nice, either.  I lost, I would estimate, over half of all my trumpet lilies.  I don't think I have any red ones left - at least, I haven't seen any bloom on the ground or in the air. 

My day lilies are coming into bloom.  Maybe I'll show them next week.

Until next I ramble on...