Beginning October 21, this blog, Rain Trueax's Rainy Day Thoughts, will have a co-author-- painter and long-time friend, Diane Widler Wenzel. We have been sharing, encouraging, and discussing life for over 50 years. We don't always agree... I think this will be fun trip for us both. New posts will be on Saturdays and otherwise randomly as something of interest happens.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What's next?

Since I just wrote about marketing my writing, I thought I'd throw in this article. I know I have a lot of readers who are writers, would like to be, or have the potential to be. This is an issue much discussed among writers in the groups to which I belong.


If you aren't into the various systems Amazon offers, you may not know about this or how it works. Basically all Amazon authors are offered joining this group. As an author, the price you pay, unless you are a very well known author, is to pull all your books out of the other available on-line sellers. Since I have my books in most of the other available sites (Rainy Day Romances), I'd have to delete them and then take the lower fees that Amazon offers through their unlimited reading KU. This was similar to Prime, which I left when I decided it wasn't smart to only have one vendor selling indie books. Sometimes you do things not just to benefit yourself but also for the good of others. This was one of those cases where I looked at how healthy can this be long-term for small writers.

What I have read, and not just in the NY Times article, is that writers have been hurting after this went into place. Whether they offered their books at KU or did not, their sales dropped. The only writers who did not suffer were either very well-known or had a sizable fan base. 

It's not hard to see why readers like KU. A book at almost no cost and on demand. Choices that look to be unlimited. After years of finding books for free on Amazon, readers aren't willing to pay for what they read-- or if they pay, not much. Amazon is virtually offering them a library at $120 a year. Of course, they won't get all the books they might like as some won't be in it, but enough are to make it very appealing.

Who it is hurting the most are writers who need to make a living at their work. It would also hurt those writers who believed the hype that they must pay a professional editor to edit their books, pay another professional to create their covers, and then maybe pay a publicist. By the time they did all that, they better sell many thousands of copies. But if there are 3 million books out there (not sure how many are in KU), once again, how likely is that to happen? Anyway it's all part of this Wild West of indie publishing.

There is another option for writers. If they find Amazon sets up their algorithms to make their books look worse than those in KU, they can sell other places (and I do get some sales those other places), or even sell direct. It can be done, but it is more work for the writer. Amazon has been a great system for writers to get their work out to the public without having to force it to match the requirements of corporate publishing houses, which can mean censorship of many sorts.

Even things like this blog though may not always remain free or reasonable in cost. We have seen an explosion of online connection, but there may yet be a cost we have not seen. I think it's both an exciting time to be out there but one with a lot of uncertainty as to the future.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

ponderings

On a personal level, when I am assessing the year past and looking ahead to 2015, my mind is on marketing because, strangely enough at this point in our lives, Ranch Boss and I are involved in marketing on several levels. Short of major advertising campaigns or big box stores, how do people find the products they need for their lives? The following are four of the ways, which after many years of having no such concerns, we now find ourselves involved in the economics and emotions of marketing.

The first one qualifies as the most-have-to-find buyers-- selling our grass fed beef and lamb. If we were willing to take our animals to an auction yard, where they might end up in a feed lot *shuddering*, this would mostly only involve + or - $$$ differences-- i.e. is the market up or down? 

Literally with raising cattle and sheep, you don't set a price when you take a animal to an auction. You can find it sells at less than it cost you to produce it-- not even considering the labor involved. To me selling through an auction is a total last resort because of what can happen to the animal's life next. We do have to sell or our grass would all become mud; but it's how we sell that matters.

So without the auction, how does an independent grower of beef and lamb get information to the ones looking for grass-fed meat (which is healthier for the consumer but somewhat different in flavor and texture than meat that is fatter, as it is finished on  corn or grain). For a buyer to find such products takes work. Currently we find buyers with Craig's List and our previous customers. Getting the right number of animals sold frankly is often dicey.

Next up would be the rental of our Tucson house. How do you get information about a vacation rental to the kind of people you want using your fully furnished home? Our house sets on natural desert and is more homey and arty than sophisticated. 


VRBO has been our solution. We thought of it because it's how we have found our own home rentals for vacations. I had liked dealing directly with the owner and now as landlord, I like dealing directly with those who want a few weeks in the desert. Vacation Rental By Owner makes all that possible and has worked well for both us and our renters-- once we learned the right way to phrase that blurb-- and that is critical to get a renter who won't be expecting something fancy. The last thing you want as a renter is a dissatisfied customer. 

The next area of our own marketing involves Ranch Boss's expertise as a technology expert. As an independent consultant, he markets his expertise to help start-up companies figure out what they need to overcome certain production problems. He is then also involved with how they get their product seen since it's not like start-ups have a big advertising budget. Word of mouth is a big part of how they market. 

Networking has gotten him most of his jobs since he retired in 2002-- except he didn't retire from working and has had pretty much all the hours he's wanted since he began consulting. 

We are also both involved in marketing my books... Marketing books-- argh! I began to ePublish December of 2010. In the intervening years, I've continued to write new books, improve my craft, BUT have never gotten good at promoting my books or even understanding where to put my effort. I can be promoting one book, getting it zero sales, while several others, where I had done nothing, are selling. I have no idea how readers find them as that's not easy information to access for an indie-- short of paying probably more money a month than I'd be making. One possibility is setting up an email list regarding new arrivals. I haven't gone there yet.

Here's a recent example of a marketing mystery. We put on sale A Montana Christmas at 99¢ for the eBook, ending January 1st. It seemed a good idea-- after all, it's the Christmas season. I put out the word on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon forum, and the blog. It got zero interest (while some of my other books had sales). So what went wrong?

The story is a novella but a lengthy one at 27,000+ words. It followed characters and situations from an earlier book, From Here to There, which had sold pretty well in its time. 

Possible problems-- A Montana Christmas might not be a typical Christmas story since it is about the lead up to Christmas, covers Winter Solstice, and ends Christmas Eve. It's about an estranged family coming together for the holiday and explores how this season can be a time of healing-- or maybe make relationships worse. Early mistakes can't always be fixed... or can they? 

It's not a religious look at Christmas since the characters are mostly those who don't pay a lot of attention to religion. The biggest celebration in the novella is Winter Solstice-- so its nature theme does tend to carry through. That could be a turnoff to someone who wants a religious look at Christmas. 



To add to this, it also is not a romance although it carries on the couple from the earlier book. I consider it a slice of life story. Because I like this imaginary ranch and these people, summer 2014, I carried the family story further with a short story (found at the end of the novella) and plan in 2015 to bring forth another full length novel set on this ranch but with a new romance-- two actually, with two different age groups. 

I've considered that perhaps the title and cover are the problem-- no pzazz. Saving Christmas maybe? lol Or making it part of a series-- damaged families... hmmmm doubt that'd do much to draw in readers either. 

One thing I might advise to anyone who is thinking of writing-- if you want to write what everybody else does, that's craft and can be learned. If you want to write your own story, then you can get it published but be prepared-- you may not be able to get it purchased. It is at that point that you have to find, what I work to find, peace with that fact and enjoyment in the creative process, creating a book that turned out just as you wished, and release what you cannot control-- everybody else's reaction to it. 

There is a big plus to writing fiction; it takes you away from your own disappointments, the world outside, pretty much anything that is outside your created world and its characters. For a little while, you live in a world where you have more control.

As for marketing, it just has to remain a mystery-- whether it's beef, our rental, Ranch Boss's consulting, or my books, the right people have to be reached. That's the sweet spot that isn't always possible to find.

On the other hand, I am an old woman as is my husband an old man. It's kind of good to still be challenged-- don't you think!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

WINTER SOLSTICE

Yah! From here on, day will begin to take back the sky. 

But as a way to feel brighter on the longest night of the year, the following link takes you to more photos of the desert and some of my history with this particular one-- Arizona-Sonora Desert
 

Rain Trueax 
on Arizona and why I love it so much.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

the moods of Tucson

I was first in Tucson in 1965 and have been back many times since-- experiencing wonderful times almost always. This year, I won't be in Arizona for Christmas. Its sounds, sites and scents will always though be in my heart.







I did the following video in 2012. I take so many photos with the idea I can bring some back to Oregon which will always stoke memories. This time we had a lot of work to do on the house; so once again there wasn't enough time to do all that I love. But what I love the most is to be in this home, to sit on the patio and watch and listen to the birds. That I had hours and hours of to take back to Oregon with me in my heart.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kindness

 Ferruginous Hawk
The other day I was listening to an interview Jane Fonda did about her life and where she is now. She is in a relationship that she said really works for her and she has learned something she wished she had known when younger. When told what to look for in a mate, it was for things like strength, sense of humor, smartness, etc. What she learned finally was more important is looking for one who is kind. The relationship she has with a man who is kind has made all the difference for what it's like.

I've thought about it ever since as it's true in friendships as well as lovers. Kind people are kind to themselves and to others. They have a caring that works to get them through rough stretches without it turning ugly. When you read of someone who shoots their spouse because they were going to leave, it's not someone who lives with kindness-- or even understands what it is.

Be kind to others and ourselves. Find those who not only know what that is but are also kind. It's a word that I think often isn't thought of enough, even an old fashioned word, but the world needs more of it.

Nature isn't by 'nature' kind as such. Nature has to survive and it does what it must without thinking beyond what is needed. Humans though have another dimension. We can think beyond survival. It is that other dimension where we can exercise kindness, develop it, truly come to understand what it means. 

As I read people trying to justify the recent revelations regarding torture that was authorized at the highest level, I keep trying to understand what kind of human would do that to another. I had one person say-- isn't ISIL worse? Who cares? If we justify misbehavior by -- the other guys do worse, we lose all possible morality. We can't steal just because someone else has. If we as a nation justify this torture because it'll keep us safe, what does that say about us? I hate to even think.

Kind people would never have authorized such abuse-- for any reason; and they won't find it acceptable. Kindness is a character trait. I don't know if we can develop it, but we sure can lose it if we lose track of everything except what is good for us-- and we don't even really understand what that is.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

aging

"I like to enjoy life. I like food, I like wine. I don’t want to spend 15 hours of my day wondering how I look. For some people, men and women, that’s their primary focus and that’s so boring."     
Kathleen Turner

Once in awhile I think about aging and what it means. I ask myself-- is there something I should be doing about it? Some who reach my age (71) feel they should discard things. They give away or sell what they feel they no longer need-- then often buy something else to fill the space. Nothing wrong with that philosophy, but I am thinking of other ways to look at an age where there aren't likely so many years left. 


What I have been looking at are the activities and people in my life. Do my relationships serve me or me them? Are my activities those I want to be doing and not just filling time? At any age, it's easy to fill time with superficial relationships and busy work; but when you get to a place where you realize less years lie ahead, frittering away time becomes more of an issue.

Last summer, when I tripped on a rug, where the playing cats had rolled up an edge, as I was going down and couldn't do a two step to save myself due to the rug having caught my foot, I knew it could be a bad fall. Beyond the rug, where I was about to land, was a stone floor and a dresser. Hitting either one wrong could have ended my life-- in seconds. As it turned out, I broke my nose. It was scary and shocking, but didn't even require a visit to an ER. Those kind of moments make a person think about the preciousness of time. 

To some degree, I have always lived as though the moment might be all there is because I've had those in my life who died very much before their time. I can't say I expected to get to old age, but here I am and making the most of being old is on my agenda. I have no fear of the word and don't go around saying, I feel like 18. I didn't feel like 18 when I was 18. Numbers are just that, but the truth is the body does change from birth to death.

Old age didn't really seem to come on me when I thought it would at 60. To be honest, my 60s were more a time of gradual changes but until near the end, they weren't that noticeable. 

When in Oregon, I had gathered together photos of myself thinking of a kind of retrospective of from 50 to 70, mainly to show what those years can be. Except there was not the huge change that I had expected. The photos didn't really tell what was happening as I had thought they might. 

Definitely looks are a factor in aging, but it's more about something else that I am thinking-- what do I want to be in these next years--if I am so fortunate to keep good health for say the next 10. I wrote this poem years and years ago and chose a photo of me at 27 to illustrate it.


When we are younger, we can put time into relationships that are frustrating or time wasters (some of that is learning about what works for us), but when someone gets to my age, it seems a mistake. Even as an introvert, I need some special people in my life, but I don't need to spend much time with those where the connection is shallow-- or has changed and no longer works-- for me or them.

Relationships, for me, (not counting family who are in a category all their own) can be broken down into:
  • People I know to smile and wave 
  • acquaintances where I will stop and say hello, ask how they are but don't expect much of an answer-- nor do they want much of one from me
  • casual friendships where we may talk about family, a recent vacation, the weather. It's pretty much public information but just a bit more of it 
  • deep friendships where I can be me. That is where I and they can let the dark and light side come through. We don't pretend to suit each other or put on a facade. There aren't many of those in anybody's life, but having a few is a real benefit.
I am at the age where I am doing some refocusing as to where I want to put my time where it comes to people. I was more tolerant of chitchat relationships when younger when I had more time ahead (probably). Today, each relationship where I put real time has to be one that can go deep or I'd rather be writing or walking somewhere. Making relationships work is about recognizing what they are and then setting boundaries-- something not always easy to do at any age.

When we got to Tucson, we wanted to have a fence that enabled our cats to go outside directly from the house. This is an area with a lot of predators not to mention the prickly things. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of a fence because I liked looking at the desert beyond my home. Once it was up though, I liked it. It offered me something that I hadn't expected. It defined space and yes, the bobcat, cougar, coyote, or javelina won't be coming on me or me them unexpectedly. The fence was built with a large double gate; so it can be left open to the area I most want to photograph. The cats are loving their new freedom and in reality the fence gave me freedom too. That's what understanding our personal boundaries does for us.
From the covered patio, looking toward the pool, which has always been fenced, but it's not a good idea to have pets there without us on the off chance they might fall in.

Along with people relationships, I've been thinking where I want my activities centered. Exercise is a given as it's needed for health, but I am not going to spend hours a day doing it. I need a lot of deep thinking time, which can also involve research and reading. I want very little time with television but when it's on, it's either news (less and less of that these days as it's easier on my emotions to get the news from reading) or something shallow that demands nothing but for me to laugh or cry a little but not feel bad when it's over. 

I did a little personality test on Facebook. Amazing how those 10 questions can sometimes tell us something about ourselves based on the photos we prefer.
You are a Creator! As the name suggests, you are a very creative, imaginative and passionate person. You love to experiment with various forms of creations, and challenge yourself at every opportunity.
One of the most important things in your life is your alone time. During that time, you let your mind flourish and your creativity go wild. Without that creating outlet, you could go practically insane.
Your creative nature helps you to always look at the positive side of life, always find the mental strength to move forward, and never look back.
It made me feel good in a way that I did know myself but also that what I think I need is what creators need. I don't need to feel guilty that I am not satisfying someone else's needs. My job is to know my own.

Where it comes to what I don't want-- shopping is at the top of the list. I remember a time I didn't dislike stores so much, but these days, stores are something to get through as fast as possible, getting enough to not have to go back soon. I also don't want to join clubs. I was never much of a joiner but had my years I did more of that. Clubs are mostly oriented toward the activity and not a place to build a deep friendship. I don't want to put the time into them (although if I was an extrovert, they'd likely be on my list of want to do activities. 

These days, I think the important place for me to spend time is what refreshes my soul and that is in nature or looking at nature. When I am in the Tucson house, to just sit on the patio and watch the quail and other birds interact with each other, to listen to the sounds the quail make, that kind of activity makes time seem to slow. It lets me look into a world beyond mine-- the world of the earth where mankind too often is in the way not a help.

For me, writing will be at the head of any list for the coming year. Wherever I am, whatever else I am doing, it is important as a way to share what I have learned with others but also fulfill myself. I especially like writing fiction, creating new characters, coming up with plots that are meaningful to me. Promoting that writing is not so enjoyable but something I need to do some of... I think :).

There though may be other activities I have not found enough time for recently. I know I want more time on rivers, sitting on a rock and feeling the sun on my back and maybe a week or two renting a cabin on the edge of the wilderness. Time with family is always important. Basically it comes down to wanting meaningful relationships and activities-- and discarding anything currently in my life that is not.

One certainty in all this-- there is less time available to me, and I am not going to fill it up, running from one thing to another looking for something outside myself. I've never been much of a gadabout. Recently I had reason to look that word up. Gadabout is a habitual seeker of pleasure. Well, I am less inclined to be one today than ever. In fact, what I have to watch out for is becoming a recluse ;). 

Anyway that's my thinking in a season where a year is coming to an end-- a time I often reevaluate where I am and where I want to be. It's been a few years since I did one of those, but I think I might for 2015.