The 2014 IndieVengeance Day Scrapbook

Over the weekend, I had the honor of participating in IndieVengeace Day. A group of Indie Authors from all over came together to read, sign, and share their books.  I had such a lovely time with this talented and amazing group of people, and I’d like to share some of the pictures with you today!

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Such a great and talented and hilarious group!

Day 1 of the event was held at a Cafe Brazil.  For the record, I highly recommend the grilled cheese.

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The room looked amazing.

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We even got our own place cards.

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I reconnected with some dear old friends.

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Me and the lovely and talented Tracy James Jones.

Some of us read stuff that we wrote.

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Scott Morgan.

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Ben Ditmars

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Amber Jerome-Norrgard

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Stacey Roberts

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Yours Truly

All in all, it was a great night.

The following day found us all in Allen, Texas at Savour Tasting Room and Social Club.

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There were balloons.  A lot of them.  Which is okay, because I really like balloons.

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It was a bit windy, so I had to tape down my name tag and even my flowers.

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But overall, the day went splendidly.

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Reading a ghost story and there are orbs in my picture… Hmm…

I’m so honored to have spent the weekend with these amazing, wonderful authors.  To find out more about them, please visit their personal websites!

Bed Ditmarshttps://benjaminditmars.wordpress.com

Julie Frayn: http://juliebird.ca

Tracy James Joneshttp://tracyjamesjones.wordpress.com

Jeanne McDonald: http://www.jeannemcdonald.com

Scott Morganhttp://www.write-hook.com

Amber Jerome-Norrgardhttp://amberjeromenorrgard.com

Stacey Robertshttp://www.trailertrashbook.com

Cinta Garcia de la Rosahttp://cintascorner.com

Melissa Zaroskihttp://melissazaroski.com

Susie Clevengerhttp://www.susieclevenger.com

Love you all!  Thank you for an amazing weekend!

To Read List

I have a problem.  It’s one that I’m sure plagues several authors and reading aficionados and it’s one that will only go away with time, commitment, and lots of relaxation.

I simply have too many books on my to-read list.

Technically, I have a never-ending to-read list, but my immediate to-read list is getting a little out of hand.  These are all books that I’ve obtained from fellow authors (in no particular order).  I always try to bump indie-authors up to the top of the to-read list because I know how important reviews are and I love being able to help them in any way that I can.

The Soul by S. R. Carrillo (http://permashift.wordpress.com)

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Born Broken by TJ Wiltshire (http://tjwiltshire.com)

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After Life by Daniel Ionson

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This Crumbling Pageant by Patricia Burroughs (http://planetpooks.wordpress.com)

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Surviving Life by Jeanne Skartsiaris

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Moon Tears by M.M. Frische

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Take 2 by Linda Bolton

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Support your local and independent authors!  And other artists as well.

I’m a Writer

The biggest asset to the independent author (or any artist, for that matter) is the online community.  Making friends, making connections, with fellow authors, bloggers, and writers is probably the absolute best thing you can do.  This community is one of my favorite things about being an independent author.  Everyone I’ve met is so helpful, so friendly, so supportive.  It’s a wonderful group to be a part of and I’ve just had such a wonderful experience. 

One of those authors and bloggers that has greatly helped to shape my path as an indie author is Rachel Thompson.  You can visit her website here: http://rachelintheoc.com

The other day, she posted this quote.  

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This quote really made ME think.  What do my books do for others?  How will reading them impact their lives?  How does any book, for that matter, impact our lives?  Why do we read in the first place?  

We don’t read because, despite what book lovers may believe, we don’t need to read to survive.  They aren’t vital to our survival like food or water or oxygen.  But I do believe they are vital to our existence and our human experience.  

Books enrich our lives.  They open our minds up to new experiences, to new worlds, to new perspectives, and to a greater appreciation of our own lives and the world around us.  We read books for the same reason that we indulge in dessert or travel to new and exciting places or make friends, and that is because as humans, we do not exist to simply exist.  We are meant to live and to experience and to enjoy.  

As for what my books, Cemetery Tours and Between Worlds, specifically bring to the table, I usually think that’s for my readers to decide.  As the author, I can tell you now my point of view is extremely biased.  I think my books are great.  I think they’re funny.  I think they’re spooky.  I think my characters are likable.  But any writer who doesn’t think the world of their books probably shouldn’t have published in the first place.   

What does a reader gain from Cemetery Tours?

A fun and fast-paced read about ghosts.

Twists and turns.

A touch of romance.

Characters that I’ve grown to love as friends.  Honestly, I miss them when I’m not writing them.  

A few chills down your spine and maybe even a few tears.  

A new perspective on death and the afterlife.  

Brink (everyone’s favorite character… the Ensemble Dark Horse) 

That’s to name a few.  All I know is that I love these books.  I enjoy writing them and it simply makes my entire life when I hear that readers are enjoying them too.  To have just one person go out of their way to tell you that they truly loved something that you wrote is just about the best thing in the world.  It makes my day, every day, more so than sales or even the act of writing, both of which I really love.  

That all being said, what has been your experience as a reader/writer? How have books changed your life?  

 

Back to Work

Well folks, the summer is winding down.  School is starting back up again.  Real life is making more demands than ever.  I’ll admit, though I do feel I got a lot done this summer (books published, books sold, books read, a few events, etc…) I probably did a lot more playing and a lot less working than I should have.  Oh well.  That’s what summers are for. 

Regardless, it’s time to dive back into the professional world.  I have two books that I’m working on simultaneously (on chapters 8 and 4, respectively) and along with focusing every bit of attention I have on making these next two books the absolute best I can, I also need to be sure to keep the momentum going on the first two Cemetery Tours books.  I’m thrilled with how well both have been selling this month and I’m hoping it keeps up, especially with the haunting Halloween season right around the corner!  I have three events scheduled for the next two months, and I’m hoping to book at least one or two more.  That’s a goal I have for next week.  

This week, I’ll admit, I’m going to be playing a bit more.  I’m going out to visit my best friend from high school in San Francisco.  I’m really excited, but at the same time, it kind of doesn’t feel real yet.  It feels like I’m going in like, three weeks.  

In book news, I recently finished Inescapable, the first book in the Premonition Series by Amy A. Bartol.  It’s called Inescapable and I actually stumbled across it at a local bookstore.  I picked it up because I saw that Ms. Bartol used the same printing company that I use and I thought, Hey, I like supporting my fellow indies.  

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I loved it!  I really want to read the rest of the series, but I’m waiting until I finish a few of the other books waiting to be read that I have lying in a pile on my bedroom floor.  

I also recently read A Time to Reap by Jonas Lee, also the first in a series.  I’ve not read many sci-fi/futuristic time-travelling books, but this one was very enjoyable and a fast-paced read.  

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Finally, I also got to read the second book in my friend Melissa Zaroski’s series, Davenport Manor: The Living Weapon.  All I can say is if you like vampires, you’ll enjoy these books.  I kind of wish that I was friends with all the characters.  And the book ends with a cliffhanger, so you know you have to keep reading the next one.  

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I love that the last three books I read and truly enjoyed were written by indie authors.  Just saying. 

Finally, Cemetery Tours received an AMAZING review from Carol Allen of StarAngel’s Reviews.  Her words actually gave me chills.  You can read the review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1010042491?book_show_action=false&page=1

Or here:

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You can find Carol on GoodReads here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6294320-carol-starangel-s-reviews-allen

Well, with all that being said, I’m going to go get to work!  Have a good week! 

Answers Part II: Publishing

Hi, everyone!  It’s Friday!  YAY!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here are the answers to the publishing questions that you asked!  Thanks again to all who stopped by to comment!  You supplied me with a couple days of great blog material!

Publishing

Does it matter if your book is traditionally vs. self vs. hybrid published?  

In a perfect world, I’d say no.  I’ve read independently published books that were infinitely better than some traditionally published books.  Then again, I’ve read independent books that were incredibly low-quality.  Even if the story was decent, the editing may have been poor, or the formatting sloppy, and unfortunately, that makes a huge impact when reading.  Having a great story and being able to write well is only half of what publishing is really about.  When you go the traditional route, a big company takes care of all of that for you.  When you independently publish, it’s all on you.  That was my main goal in publishing Cemetery Tours.  I wanted people to read it and think that it had come from a big publishing house.  That means professional cover, studying traditionally published books and their formatting, ISBN, PCN, bar codes, etc…

Did you try traditional publishing before you went the independent route?

I did for about a month.  I queried a handful of agents, but after being rejected and/or never hearing back from them, I decided to go the independent route.

What made you decide to self-publish?

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t try very hard with traditional publishing, but I’ll also be the first to admit I am not a patient person.  I believed in my book and I wanted to get it out there.  I figured I could either waste months waiting around for something I was not guaranteed, or I could take matters into my own hands and publish my book the way I thought it deserved to be published, with care.  Independently publishing also means I own all the rights to my book.  It is mine and mine alone.  I love my book.  I think it’s a good story with great characters and I am proud to be able to say that I wrote it.  That’s something I never thought I would achieve, since I used to keep all my art and writings strictly to myself.  I would willingly share Cemetery Tours and it’s sequel with the world, though, and in the end, I think that’s what makes independent publishing so worthwhile, because it truly is a labor of love.

Is there a special meaning behind the name of your company, Wind Trail Publishing?  

Not a special meaning, per se, but I was very careful and deliberate when coming up with the name.  I wanted it to be something that I would be willing to stick with for the rest of my life, since I do plan on this being a lifelong career and not just a passing fancy.  I also wanted something that reflected my location (Texas) and something I held near and dear to my heart.  I ultimately decided on Wind Trail because of my experience working as a camp counselor.  I love hiking trails, I love wind in my hair, I love being outside.  I value freedom very highly, and I never feel freer than when I am out in nature.  I’m also proud to be able to say I designed the compass logo for my company.  I sketched it out, at least.  Ben, my graphic designer, put it into the computer since I’m like, the least tech savvy person ever and I have no idea how to do that.

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What was your publishing experience like?

In a word, intimidating.  I had a few people offer me guidance and words of wisdom, but for the most part, I learned most of the stuff on my own, probably because I’m not a very good listener.  I don’t know why, but people talk and I just don’t understand what they’re trying to tell me.  It’s a lot easier for me to read and learn for myself than to have another person guide me.  I’m a very visual learner.  There is also a lot of decision making involved, and that’s something that no one can guide you on, because you have to make the best decision for you and your book and what you want to accomplish.  Now, looking back, it all seemed like a lot and it seemed like everyone was trying to tell me different things and oh my gosh, I’ll never get it all done and get published, but when you simplify the process, take out all the advice that other people offer you, and just do what you know you need to do to get your book out there, it’s really not that bad.

Essentially, you need…

A cover, both front and back.

ISBN (go to https://www.myidentifiers.com for ISBN and Bar Codes.  My advice?  Buy ISBN in bulk.  I own 10 and it’s a great investment)

PCN (go to http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ for everything you could possibly want to know)

Copyright

Formatting

What do you do to promote books other than Twitter and Facebook?

Oh, book promotion, you glorious pain the butt.  To be honest, my book has only been out since September, and although it’s done fairly well, I still can’t quit my day job and move to Fiji.  Twitter and Facebook are great tools, but honestly, I think I’ve found the most success here on my blog.  It’s a great way to connect with readers and fellow authors.  Review swaps are also fantastic!  You get a new book and an honest review for yours.  Right now, I’m working on getting my book into libraries and independent book stores, but that means investing a lot of time and money into copies of the book while at the same time preparing my new book for publication, which is a task in and of itself.  GoodReads is one of my absolute favorite websites for book promotion and for meeting new people.  It’s like Pinterest for books.  Pinterest is also a great promotional tool.

(GoodReads/Shameless self promotion: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18470430-cemetery-tours)

I’ve read about the importance of newsletters, but I’ve yet to figure out how to really accomplish that.  Reviews are so, so, so important, I can’t even begin to describe it.  My goal is for Cemetery Tours to have 50 reviews by the time the sequel is released in June, and I only need 14 more, so I think I can make it happen.  I hope I can, anyway!  There are several website, also, that offer promotional services for a fee, but let’s be honest here, some of us have student loans to pay off and if we can save a buck and do it ourselves, then that’s what we’re going to do.

I hope this has been somewhat helpful and enlightening!  Thank you all for your questions and if you have any more, please don’t hesitate to ask!  I’ll always try to answer to the best of my ability!  Have a great weekend!

Kindle eBook Sale!

Hi, all! 

This is going to be short because I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, but I wanted to let you all know that CEMETERY TOURS is on sale on Kindle NOW!  For a limited time, get CEMETERY TOURS for only $2.99 on Kindle! 

http://www.amazon.com/Cemetery-Tours-Jacqueline-Smith-ebook/dp/B00F7CHQ08/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383665766&sr=8-1&keywords=cemetery+tours

Talk to you all soon!  Sorry I’ve been sort of absent this week.  Lots going on! 

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Ways to Help Your Indie Friends

You know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you?  That one, the really weird one, who isn’t married, might not even be dating seriously, may have been in school forever, works odd jobs, and is absolutely hell bent on writing books or making music or taking pictures.  Yeah, I’m talking about that friend.  If you are not “that friend,” chances are, you have one or one of your friends does.  

Indies come in many forms.  Some of us are authors.  Some are musicians.  Some are artists, graphic designers, photographers, screenwriters, or filmmakers.  But see, we all have one thing in common.  We have found something that we love so much that we are striving to make a career out of it, even if that means going it alone.  Crazy?  Yes, perhaps we are.  But I think anyone who’s ever made an impact has been at least a little off their rocker, or else they wouldn’t stand out.  

If you have one of these charming and yet mildly insane people as a friend and you’ve been wondering just how you can help them make their dreams come true, well, here’s your lucky day!  Presenting…

Ways to Help Your Indie Friends!

1. Offer Encouragement!

As a friend embarks on his or her journey to indiedom, they are going to encounter a lot of helpful and positive attitudes, but they will also encounter a lot of negativity.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard,

“You’re getting a Masters in Humanities?  What are you going to do with that?”

“I get that you want to write, but what do you want to do for a job?”  

“You know you’re never going to make any money, right?”  

Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have to do the indie thing because I’d be so rich, I wouldn’t need a job!  There are people out there who will have no problem telling the aspiring author or photographer or musician that their ambitions are a waste of time.  As their friend, one of the best things you can do for your indie friends is to support them, encourage them, and most importantly, accept them for who they are.  

2. Like and Follow Things!

On social media, that is.  Facebook pages, Amazon pages, GoodReads author pages, websites, fan pages, Twitters, Tumblrs, Pinterests, I don’t even know how many things there are to like and to follow, but there are a lot!  Numbers MATTER. 

3.  Buy the Book/CD/Craft

Okay, so this part costs a little money, but more often than not, it is a truly worthy investment.  Sometimes, since you’re a friend, you might even get a complimentary copy.  I’m proud to say that I have bought several indie books, my graphic designer is an indie, I’m getting ready to do a photoshoot with an indie photographer, and I even helped produce my friend’s second indie CD!  Okay, it was like, $20, but still!  Technically, I can say that I’m a producer.  The point is I have never once regretted supporting a fellow indie.  If they have the guts and the drive and the passion to put themselves out there and get the job done themselves, then you can bet I’m going to support them.  

4.  Review, Review, REVIEW!

I can not stress this enough.  REVIEWS ARE SO IMPORTANT, especially for an indie.  The more reviews an item has, the more likely potential readers or listeners or customers are to take it seriously and consider investing their time and money.  My book, Cemetery Tours, currently has 27 Reviews on Amazon.  I’m thrilled, but at the same time, I’m working every day to make that an even 30!  A review does not have to be a long, drawn out analysis or give a full plot description.  It can be as short and sweet as two or three sentences.  

“Hey, I enjoyed this book because A, B, C.  Author did a great job.  Highly recommended.”  

That, along with a nice rating, is simply invaluable.  

5.  Spread the Word!

You don’t have to spam your friends or send out mass texts, but if you’re talking to someone about books or music, you could mention, “Oh hey, my friend wrote a book” or “My friend is a singer.  You should check them out.”  Give a shout out on Facebook every now and then.  Recommend the book or whatever to a friend you think might enjoy it.  Retweet stuff.  Little acts like that can go a long way in the indie world.  Word of mouth is the single most important marketing tool an indie can ask for. 

Now, in the spirit of crafts, books, and photography, here are a few of my shots from a project in Grad School.  

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   Enjoy the day, folks! 

Changing the Game

Okay… I might have stumbled upon a new path tonight. 

I had a meeting with a colleague of mine today (technically, he’s my high school English teacher/mentor, but since I’m a published author now, I like to go ahead and say we’re colleagues), and he came up with a really neat idea for a short book.  Well, I began writing it tonight and if I keep making the progress that I’ve made, then it could very well be ready for the first round of editing within a week or so.  

I want and NEED to get the sequel to Cemetery Tours finished, but I feel like I need to work on this while the drive is there.  Besides, if I can get this new short book done and in the editing room, then I can take that time to finish the sequel and when the sequel is being edited, I can be publishing this new book!  

I think this could work, guys.  It might mean pushing the sequel back by a month or so, but I don’t really have a fixed date anyway.  That’s the beauty of being your own boss.  I make my own deadlines.  Unfortunately, I’m a very flexible and easy-going boss, which could potentially mean I never get anything done, but I want this to work too much to not do anything ever.  

So yeah… that’s what’s going on in my fuzzy little brain right now. 

Also… Got ANOTHER review!  I think this one might be my favorite one yet!

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I scare the hell out of people, guys!!  Yay! 

Lazy Day

After such a hectic and action-packed winter break, it’s been really nice to just take the weekend off, watch some movies, lounge around with my kitties, and read some new books.  I’ve also gotten a lot of writing and brainstorming in, which is always welcome.  

This morning when I woke up (way later than I intended, by the way), I thought about maybe going out to Target or maybe to Barnes and Noble.  I didn’t particularly have anything in mind to buy, but it would have at least gotten me out of the house.  Then I thought about it some more and realized that I spend so much time running around that it would be nice to spend one more day inside, writing, reading, watching movies.  Besides, as an independent writer and publisher, there is literally never nothing to do.  There’s always a manuscript to be working on or a marketing plan to devise or a blog to be writing or a friends’ book to be editing/reviewing.  

I read a quote somewhere about how a writer never really stops being a writer.  Even when they’re not writing, something is always inspiring them.  In my experience, I’ve found this to be very true.  It doesn’t matter where I am, I’m either plotting the next chapter or the next manuscript or narrating my own life inside my head.

So today, even though I am being very lazy with my sweat pants and Bath and Body Works candle and my Nicholas Sparks movies, I’m still going to be working and writing.  Because that’s what writers do.   

How Not To Let Marketing Ruin Your Life

I used to believe that formatting my manuscript for Kindle was the worst part of life as a independent author.  While it’s undoubtedly the most frustrating, it’s far from my absolute least favorite part about this path I’ve chosen.  No, my least favorite part is trying to get people to read and buy my book.

(Yes, this is all stemming from the fact that I have a promotional deal going on right now.  No, this is not a scheme to get you to buy it).

I hate telling people what to do.  I hate asking for favors.  I much prefer to keep to myself, do everything for myself, and let other people do whatever the heck they want as long as no one gets hurt.  Unfortunately, marketing is all about self-promotion and asking other people to do stuff.

“Buy my book!  Read my book!  Rate my book on Goodreads!  Review my book on Amazon!  Please, please, please, please, PLEASE?!”

At first, everyone is really excited and eager to help you out because hey, you’re really cool!  You wrote a book!  But then you reach the three month mark and the newness and excitement starts to die down.  That’s fine.  I don’t need bells and whistles.  However, I do still need sales.  All the people I know and love have already bought a copy, so I reach out via social media.  But it’s really hard to convince people to buy your book, especially when you’re an indie author!  Why?

A) You have about a million other Indie authors promoting their books too.

B) Come on, of course the author thinks it’s going to be good!  I myself rarely buy books just because the author asks me to.  I’ve  bought a few, like one about Scotland, but that’s because I really love Scotland.  I’ll also download any book that’s free.  But my interest still needs to be sparked.  Just telling people to buy your book isn’t enough.

December has been a really slow sales month for me, and I won’t lie, it’s been a little discouraging.  Does that mean I’m going to throw in the towel?  Of course not.  But I have noticed that my obsession over marketing and trying to get the book out there more has started to interfere with my life, and that is not okay, especially so close to Christmas!  The happiest time of the year!  Well, when there’s not any ice, that is.

Instead of making fudge and going Christmas light watching and singing carols, all I think about is, “Okay… how do I sell X amount of books by this date?”  And that is not what I want!  I want to enjoy life!  I want to enjoy the holidays!  Yes, it’s important to stay focused, keep working, keep writing, and keep trying to get the word out there as much as I can, but it’s also vital to bear in mind what’s really important in life; family, friends, running barefoot through a pile of leaves, playing in sprinklers, love, laughter… All that is infinitely more important than worrying about how much money my book is going to make me this month.  I’m still going to keep writing and put out the sequel and my next trilogy regardless.

This whole indie author thing isn’t easy, but I do believe, wholeheartedly that it’s worth it.  I consider myself lucky to have found something I’m passionate about.  I love writing, and I’d love it even if I wasn’t trying to make a career out of it.  I write for fun in my spare time. It’s funny, because I’ve always heard that getting paid for something has the potential to take the joy out of it.  It’s weird, but it’s kind of true.  I love writing for fun and I loved writing Cemetery Tours.  Yeah, getting paid for it is great, but I much prefer the process of writing than the process of selling.  As does any author, probably.

On  totally unrelated topic, it’s still cold and icy here.  I actually drove to Target today (without hitting any poles!  Yay!), and I learned that when you drive with two inches of ice on top of your car, the ice tends to break and then slip ‘n slide right off your car and crash right into the street, startling not only you, but also the poor innocent drivers around you.  I live in Texas.  I don’t think these kind of things through.  I’m not sure I even own an ice scraper.  I ended up chipping away the giant slab of ice frozen around my antenna like a giant record away with a tin of gingerbread that I’ve had in my car since Thanksgiving.  Classy, I know.

Anyway, this article might actually be one of the most accurate things I’ve ever read in my life:

http://yestotexas.com/10-reasons-texans-hate-cold-weather/

Stay warm, everybody!