Archive for the My Opinion Category

Solar Garden Light Hack — Dollar Store style!

Posted in (Almost) Totally Useless How-to Guide, My Opinion with tags , , , on July 25, 2015 by tgmreynolds

We have a simple back yard at the beginning of its evolution. We inherited a deck a rough shed, a patch of grass, and that’s about it. I am many things, but at the top of the list is ‘cheap’. I hate paying for electricity when I don’t have to. I wanted to string lights in the yard but was damned if I’d pay the bill to feed them as well as have to buy an expensive outdoor timer. Also, there was nothing in the middle of the yard to support a string. The crude solution? Use the old fence itself.

This is where the Dollarama dollar-and-more store came to the rescue. They sell a few types of solar yard lights, from $1.25 to $3.00. For this project I went with the cheapies. I started with five, to see whether the concept would work.

These little lights are simple—not much more than a tiny solar panel on top, a rechargeable battery, and an LED in a clear tube on top of a shaft and spike, to plant in the garden. My idea was to remove the spike, and attach the lamp itself to our fence.

We have harsh winds here so I decided to go with heavy-duty screws. Since I don’t believe in interfering with the neighbour’s enjoyment of their own yard, the lights had to be below the top of our 6′ fence. I needed the solar panels to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible, but I also needed the lamps to be mostly vertical so that rain and snow would pool inside and short them out.

The screw.

The screw, predrilled into the fence, below the top.

Here’s one of the screws in the fence. On about a 50-degree angle, 4″ down from the top. Being 1/4″ thick, I pre-drilled it to make sure it didn’t split the old, dry board. The cracks you see were already there.

The next step was to squirt hot glue into the base of the lamp and quickly slide it and seat it onto the screw.

Solar fence light.

Dollar Store improvised solar fence light.

Nice and simple. The black cap unscrews and there is an On-Off toggle switch inside. Remember to switch it on. I turned them all on before attaching them so that I didn’t risk breaking the glue seal. The other reason for the angle is so that snow will slide off in winter.

Here is the first row of lights… yes, the first screw isn’t on the same angle. If my limited OCD can’t handle it, I’ll fix it. In the meantime, it’s just fine.

Solar lights.

A simple, solid solution in a row.

Solar fence lights.

Solar garden lights screwed to the fence.

So, how does it all look? Well, this photo doesn’t do it justice, but now there’s a nice line of lights defining our yard. It’s just a start. The final installation is 17 lights on the fence, 53″ apart. I had to make sure that the ones near the gate were out of the gate’s reach, too.

The total cost, including a glue gun, glue sticks, screws, and sales tax, was just under $30. As soon as I put the winding pathway in, there will be five fancier lights to illuminate it, at $3 each. The total installation took less than fifteen minutes.

The best part is, there is no hit on our utility bill. Cheap can work. Once I add a pergola to the yard or deck, there will be more lights to come, but hopefully in a colourful string, to add some oomph to the space.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

The Brilliant Banner for Writers…if I say so myself.

Posted in Books, My Opinion, Novel Process, Writing with tags , , , , , , on April 17, 2015 by tgmreynolds

Most writers I know are on a limited budget for advertising and promotion, especially the self-published ones. Even the writers with traditional publishers may have to foot the bill for some or all promotional supplies.

I, myself, am both self-published (4 books) and traditionally published. When I’ve done book signings in the past I had some nicely done 8×10 covers in frames on the table, with teasers about the book and even reviews. It looked well and good and…cheesy. At multiple-author events, the authors who got the most attention (and often the most sales) had a LARGE presence in the form of a banner.

Banners are great for signings, readings, and trade shows. The problem is that many authors have multiple books they need to promote, though seldom all at the same time. They might have a signing for their YA novel tomorrow, then a reading for their sci fi opus on Sunday, and have a table set up at World Fantasy Convention next week. You want your banner to promote your product, but that’s three products, which makes for three banners. Banners aren’t cheap. The stands can be reused, but a banner for each book gets prohibitively expensive.

My solution? An adaptable, multi-use banner.

STEP ONE: Design a banner that covers as many of your bases as possible, without using any specific titles. This is the hardest step. Many of you will want to get your banner professionally designed. I have a background in graphics, so I did my own.

My author banner. 30" x 72"

My author banner. 30″ x 72″

Here’s mine. It’s 30″ x 72″. I’ve cropped off the bottom because it’s not important right now. If you can’t read what it says, here it is:

“Timothy Reynolds. Spinner of Tales, Fabricator of Fictions, Twister of History. ‘Canada’s Modern-Day Aesop’ ~ Barbara Budd, CBC Radio.

That’s my name, a catchy/cute way of saying what I do, and the best promo quote I have. It also has my author photo, a moon with a bloody screaming face, and a generic city scape at night…to add atmosphere. Much of what I write has a dark element to it, so this is not a light and fluffy smiles-and-puppies banner.

There’s no publisher name at all. Not even my own company. Why? Because if I put Cometcatcher Press on it, then I can’t use it when I’m promoting “When Anastasia Laughs”, which will be published by Tyche Books in 2016, or “Tesseracts Seventeen” from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, which contains my short story “Why Pete?”.

FoamCoreMounting

Covers as photographs mounted on foam core and laminated.

STEP TWO: Have your cover(s) reproduced as photographs, mounted on foam core and laminated for protection. Almost every film lab can do this for you. I use Western Canada’s best: London Drugs.

I had all four covers done as 5x7s. Why? Because 5x7s are lighter than 8x10s and will remain in place better.

MagneticTape

Magnetic Tape

STEP THREE: You will need magnetic tape. It’s available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts and 10′ costs less than $5. Cut two 5″ strips for each cover. Because the strips will maintain their shape from when they were on the roll, take the strips and place them on a flat surface, under a heavy weight, overnight. Once they are flat, they are ready to use.

A cover and the magnetic strips.

A cover and the magnetic strips.

STEP FOUR: Working on a clean surface, place a cover face down. Peel the backing off of the magnetic tape, and place two strips firmly on the back of the cover, centred left-to-right and down a bit from the top.

Peeling Magnet Paper Off

Peeling Magnet Paper Off

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

STEP FIVE: While the banner is hanging, place the cover where you want it to be, then place the second magnetic strip on the back of the banner, directly opposite the strip on the cover.

Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

When it’s all done, you have a banner with one (or in this case, two) covers on display. You can do the same with the publisher’s logo and even a sign with the times you will be present. Other possibilities include: “Coming Soon”, “New York Times Bestseller”, or whatever your heart desires. Reviews, quotes, anything. All I suggest is to not overload the banner.

Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

The foam core is very light weight, as is the magnetic tape. I had considered using adhesive Velcro, but then the banner couldn’t be rolled up smoothly. This method with the magnets allows complete removal of the artwork and for the banner to be rolled and stored indefinitely without damage being done to its surface or shape. For a stronger attachment, put magnetic tape near the bottom of the cover as well.

(NOTE: I’m still not sold on the white borders I put on the covers, but with a sharp blade I can remove them easily.)

STEP SIX: Get yourself a 6×8 Rubbermaid lunch box for storing the covers, a hard plastic tube for the banner, and you’re all set for your next signing.

MATERIALS: Magnetic Tape: $5. Banner on heavy outdoor vinyl: $63 & Stand (includes carrying bag): $40 (both from Vistaprint), Plastic banner tube $21 from a local Digital Post store. BTW, VistaPrint is always having sales, so set up an account, do the design work, and wait. They will send you an email shortly with the latest sale. You can save anywhere from $10 to 33% of your entire order. Their online design & preview kicks ass, too.

Note: in some of the photos above you can see what look like creases on the banner. It was damaged in shipping. I called VistaPrint and explained the situation. Without seeing photos or getting witness statements, they immediately ordered a new one and it was shipped out the next day. It should arrive here next week. Their customer service is second-to-none.

I hope this gives you some ideas and inspires you to get out there and promote your writing with a professional presence. Other things to help are bookmarks with the cover, where to buy it, and your website URL. If you don’t have your own website…GET ONE!

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

Easter Quicky

Posted in love it or leave it, My Opinion with tags , , , on April 8, 2015 by tgmreynolds

Being Christian, I have a problem with the phrase, “Happy Easter“. I find that the bunnies, spring, and chocolate part are fun and more universal, but I find that from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, there’s nothing to be HAPPY about during the weekend.

For me it’s a time of reflection about what I can do better, what has been sacrificed for me, and what I can sacrifice for others. Big stuff, small stuff, all stuff.

Rejoicing that He has risen is not the same as being happy. We should be deeply saddened that it had to be done. This wasn’t a weekend whim by a bored God. As I support the ‘myth’, I am humbled, saddened, and ashamed.

Like Palm Sunday and Shrove Tuesday, I think the bunnies and chocolate part of the weekend should be near but not ON the weekend.

If you don’t celebrate the Christian Easter (no matter what you think its origin truly is), that’s okay. This is just my own rambling on a subject personal to me.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone