Thursday, April 30, 2015

On being awesome

In an exchange with Cedar Sanderson and the lovely Mrs. Correia this morning, they helped clarify something that's been rattling around the back of my head for a while: Awesome is in the eye of the observer.

The core of being awesome is this: "I wanted to do it, so I found a way and did it."

To the person doing it, whatever it may be - writing a book, keeping a blog going ten years, learning to swim from youtube videos, flying a plane four thousand miles, staggering the last five yards in a timed 12-mile march in full combat load after your body has flat given up... this is rarely awesome. Mostly, it's a lot of frustration, a lot of time and effort and pain and just getting up again and again after every setback. And then figuring out what went wrong or could go better, and tackling fixing that. Then, getting up and doing it all over again.

It's everyone else who hasn't done that but always wanted to, who judges the effort and often the results awesome.

Keep doing. Keep finding a way. Keep going. You'll get where you want to go. But you won't recognize just how awesome you are to other people... because it's not your judgement.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Because she's awesome

It's a friend's birthday today. I'm planning to make cookies for him. Where do you go when you want a great cookie recipe? I could go to allrecipes, to find reviews by other bakers and adjust the written recipe to suit. Or, I could go to one of the best bakers I know, a woman who still takes the time to make croissants from scratch.

Come to the dark side. Brigid has cookies!

Oh, what cookies!

and then there's the brownies...

She also has a new book out!

Saving Grace is a series of thoughts, writing almost poetic in its ability to create a song and assemble entire pictures out of shadows on love, and the family we're born with, the family we meet along the way, and the families we make ourselves.

Kindle book should follow in the next few days!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Low Carb BBQ sauce

It's not absolutely low carb, but it's a whole lot less without sacrificing the flavor. As always change to your taste.

Low Carb Barbeque Sauce

1 tsp minced garlic
1 onion, diced fine
1/4 cup butter (even better, if you have it, substitute 1 tablespoon of this with bacon grease.)
2 Tablespoons baking splenda (the bulked-up stuff), 2 packets normal splenda, or two squirts of liquid sucralose
1 teaspoon salt (If you have penzey's smoked salt, use this and skip the liquid smoke flavouring)
1 teaspoon dry mustard (the spice, not the prepared condiment. If you don't have this, add a tablespoon of mustard condiment and cut the vinegar further down the list by the same amount.)
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika is better, if you have it)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 Tablespoon liquid smoke flavouring
1 Tablespoon Bourbon

Saute the garlic and onion in a saucepan until soft, preferably just short of caramelized. Stir in everything but the last 3 ingredients. Combine, let simmer 15-20 minutes. Add the last 3 ingredients, and stick the stick blender in. (Or whisk it all together. Either way.) Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Let cool, transfer to jar with tight-fitting lid, store in fridge.

It's around 64 grams of carbs for the batch. You do your own figuring on what a "serving" is.

The basic start for this recipe came from Dana Carpender's 1001 Low Carb Recipes, which has a much higher ratio of recipes I like and recipes that don't need much modiufication to be great. Look it up!

1,001 Low-Carb Recipes: Hundreds of Delicious Recipes from Dinner to Dessert That Let You Live Your Low-Carb Lifestyle and Never Look Back

Friday, April 10, 2015

Scattered NRA Notes

Viridian now has an answer to my biggest objection on their lasers: their C-series lasers have the on/off button under the tip of my pointer finger when drawing the gun. This isn't just much better, this is Actually Useful. The full-frame guns' X-series switch switch is still well forward of where my tiny hands can reach, so it's only useful if I have time to stop and fiddle.

On the other hand, the "activates when moved away from holster" sensor is now available as an adaptation kit for custom holsters! I'll bet Dragon Leatherworks could build that in to the next holster. (I saw Dennis today, though all too briefly. If I'm not careful, I might slip and accidentally order another custom holster... and Calmer Half might not fall for "It followed me home, I have to keep it...")

The lady running the Gun Totin' Mamas booth was delighted to see one of her purses was holding up fine and pretty after 3 years of use. Also, though I never paid attention, the heavy-duty hardware securing the straps is apparently a giveaway for people who know what they're looking at. This is the second time I've been stopped by someone who recognized my purse. This time, it was an older gentleman, terribly polite, who wanted to know if they were at the show as "My wife ordered me to find their booth."

You know you're in the media room when you're watching the keynote speeches, and the phrases around the table include "He's going off-message again", "Man, the lawyers certainly scrutinized that speech carefully!", "Excellent speechwriter, flat delivery." and so on. The critics of The Voice, we were not, but the politicians were getting graded on content, delivery, and actual performance.

It was wonderful to meet bloggers I knew only in comments before, and the company for dinner was awesome. On the other hand, when the music is so loud the server gets your orders wrong, well, I end up spending most of it trading pilot and Alaska stories with Murphy's Law, because pilot stories are half hand-motions anyway.

Sadly, this means I didn't get to hear Old NFO, Ambulance Driver, LawDog, DW Drang, Aaron of The Shekel, or any of the other awesome people there talk, because I could hardly hear myself think.

At least we did get caught up with DaddyBear's Den earlier in the media room!

I should post a lot more, but my throat is declaring a mutiny from trying to shout over the music, and I'm tired. I fall down go boom now, and see if I can speak in better than a croak tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


I've been an attendee at conventions. I've been a staffer. I've been a volunteer. I've been a boothie (also called merchant or vendor, depending on the convention.) That only leaves media and sponsor.

I just picked up my media credentials for the NRA annual meeting. No, not for this tiny little corner of the internet - I'm affiliated with my Calmer Half's blog, Bayou Renaissance Man. I'm still shaking my head and giggling over the idea of me as media, but the NRA is pretty social-media savvy, and they wanted to make sure everyone on the high-traffic blog authors were included.

It's promising to be an interesting convention: the vendor floor is huge and easily as crowded as The Alaska Airmen's Annual Trade Show, with lots of small business booths and few huge dominating ones. No gigantic floor displays, though, unlike the auto or construction conventions. The programming tracks are very sparse and have a lot of repeats, completely unlike GenCon or Dragon*Con.

The entertainment track, though, is taking over the arena next door, as well as a street festival outside. The mind, it boggles slightly at the logistics. I'm impressed at their scale.

My main focus will be keeping Calmer Half in as little pain and as much enthusiasm as manageable. We've scouted out parking, food, places to sit down, the comfortableness of intended shoes, and medical resources.

Anything y'all want me to find or go see and tell you about, from the non-gunnie spousal viewpoint?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Don't Fear The One-Star*

Authors pretty universally hate, fear, and loathe one-star reviews, which makes them humans, and creative people who identify with their stories. However, from the customer's perspective, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to The Forum... I mean, one-click buy button. And that is, bad reviews help sell books.

You see, your customers are internet-savvy. They understand that if a thing looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you have a book that has 50 reviews, all five-star, you will have to work harder to sell the book than if you had 15 reviews, 4.2 out of 5 stars. The latter looks authentic, because we instinctively know there's one in every crowd that hates the thing everybody else loves.

Also, the tone and tenor of the one-star say as much about the reviewer as they do about the product. For example, a steamy contemporary romance getting a one-star "this was a wonderful love story, until the author ruined it by having her two characters engage in out-of-wedlock intercourse!" will sell far better to its target audience, because that's exactly what they're looking for. (That's a true review, by the way, and the sales lift was noticeable, though the author was torn between laughing on the way to the bank and crying over why, why, would a buyer think they were going to get anything else in that subgenre?)

I personally have dropped a hefty chunk of change for a cookbook on the strength of a one-star that said "This has almost no new recipes! It's just a collection of the best recipes from her five previous cookbooks!"

Closer to home: Peter's prison memoir, Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls
The first one star said "I have never been to prison, nor worked in a prison, so I guess I can't really say how I'd feel in his place, but when he discusses 'the criminal type' or personality, he sounds ...kind of disturbing. It made me uncomfortable."

This review did not hurt sales of the book one bit. In fact, it has chiefly functioned to make people who work in law enforcement gigglesnort, and people who are looking for a realistic view of the inside decide the book clearly isn't whitewashing the problems and dangers involved in working with rapists, murderers, pedophiles, terrorists, and drug lords.

Check your one and two-stars for technical issues (or if it hurts too much, have a friend check them). If they're complaining about formatting, you may need to strip the formatting and upload a cleaner version. If they're complaining about spelling (and you didn't write in Queen's english when they expected American english), make sure you ran a spellcheck on the final uploaded file, and then consider running a text-to-speech program to see if any homophones didn't get caught (or were created) by spellcheck. (For instance, did the heroine receive a "twelve carrot" diamond or a 12-carat diamond?) Robotic speech is good at catching homophones that are hidden by regional accent, as well as skipped and doubled words. (If you did write in Queen's English, a disclaimer at the front stating that it is written in British English, and spelling and grammar will vary from American, does a lot to cut down on the complaints. Won't eliminate them, though.)

If it's not a technical issue, a one-star or two-star review simply means this: the word of mouth, reach and discoverability of your book has now grown beyond just the pool of people who will like it (or like you). This is a good thing, because it means more and more people are hearing of your book. You're not shouting into the void; people are finding you.

It hurts, yes? Remember they're not attacking you; they're criticizing your product. The reviews are for other customers, not a direct conversation with the creator. As well, each reader brings their own emotional baggage and personal history to a book, and sometimes what they get out of it is very, very different than what you put in. Rant privately to friends, but do not engage the reviewer. (And if you must, keep it to the polite "Thank you for your review. I'm sorry you didn't find the book to your taste.")

Have a cup of what's good for what ails you, go look up your favorite story and read it's one-star reviews and commiserate that you're in good company. Then sigh, say it's likely to help sales, and keep on writing.

*Caveat: if it's the only review of a story, yes, it can sink the story. Sorry.