Category Archives: Contest

Joey Box interlude

Apologies for the delay in announcing the winners of the latest Joey Box contest, but real life intruded, as they say. Suffice to say, Debbi Middleton of Aunt Debbi’s Garden and Michael Nolan of The Garden Rockstar will be getting their Joey Boxes shortly. For various reasons, Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School got one as well, and I can only imagine the look on her face when she opens that beast.

Well, between these, the previous contests, and attrition from people to whom I’ve promised Joey Boxes for months or even years, we’re down to one that’s free and clear. Details on how to win this last one to follow.

A quick heads-up on Joey Boxes

A quick rising from the mire, and it’s time for a quick reminder that the latest Joey Box contest ends on January 25 at midnight Central Standard Time, so get in your votes. At the rate things are going, including getting one to their namesake, they’re going to disappear faster than I thought.

Resurrection of the Joey Box: Week 2

Contents of a Joey Box

Another week, another giveaway of  Joey Boxes are now ready for distribution. This time, we’re going to try something different. Instead of simply going for your base instincts for books and other freebies, it’s a matter of finding and punishing rewarding deserving individuals within the garden writing and garden blogging community. Want to horrify surprise your favorite horticulture writer with an unbidden package full of gardening books, magazines, and other cultural ephemera?

Assembled Joey Boxes

This isn’t implying that this is a completely selfless act, either. In addition to the winners being chosen based on popular vote, I want to know why this person deserves to find a whole mess of pottage in the mailbox. The three respondents with the best responses also get a Joey Box. Just think of it as a flashback to the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essays your teachers asked you to write back in school, only without fear of the answer leading to poor grades, detention, or deportation.

Once again, the rules. In this competition, you only need to send four things to contest (at) txtriffidranch (dot) com:

Numero Uno: Your name (purely for mailing purposes)
Numero Two-o: Your mailing address (same)
Numero Three-o: Your chosen garden writer, and an explanation as to why this person needs a Joey Box (you can’t nominate yourself, but you can nominate a friend who can in turn nominate you)
Numero Four-o: Said garden writer’s mailing address, if available

That’s the sum of it, and feel free to pass on word to friends, cohorts, and anyone interested in logrolling for fun and profit. Just get in your vote and your recommendation before January 25, 2013, and the results (including links to the victims) will be published then.

As always, feel free to look at the Triffid Ranch privacy policy, and note that this is open to anyone on Earth, no matter where you’re located. (If you’re the sort who bloglurks from Giedi Prime, Zarathustra, Kyben, or Mondas, we’ll work out something.)

The Impending Joey Box Brigade

Back nearly a quarter-century ago, I first made my acquaintance with my friend Joey Shea, already well-known as an illustrator and reviewer back during the desktop publishing era. One day, I received a package from him, and the term “Joey Box” became a regular part of my vernacular. Over the years, we’ve traded assemblages of magazines, weekly newspapers, comics, flyers, buttons, random toys, and even videos, and the term picked up popularity among friends and cohorts who liked the idea of getting free stuff in the mail.

The important consideration with Joey Boxes is that while they’re full of all sorts of interesting items, the whole idea is to spread the wealth. The absolutes were not to send anything that the recipient couldn’t already get, or at least keep that to a minimum. You couldn’t just send junk mail, but junk mail of a particularly bizarre or appropriate bent was all right: if the recipient was into book collecting, for instance, sending antique bookseller catalogues was perfectly all right. Most of all, everyone had to be comfortable with the idea that anything the recipient couldn’t use could also be passed on to friends and cohorts alike. At the height of the zine and weekly newspaper boom of the late Nineties, I was sending out Joey Boxes at the absolute upper weight limit of what UPS would deliver, knowing full well that Joey had a good dozen friends looking forward to putting to use anything he didn’t want.

And what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, most people spend extended vacations visiting exotic locales or spending time with family. The Czarina and I spent this last week cleaning our offices. Events of the past year intruded upon regular organizing activities, and my office was starting to pass for a life-sized mockup of certain scenes from the novel Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. In the process of excavation and deposition, which filled both garbage cans and recycling bins by last Thursday, I discovered caches of promotional materials and review copies from my old science fiction writing days, a small pile of books I’d purchased more than once (and now I understand the value of those smartphone apps that track your library and its current contents), a large pile of magazine contributor copies, and all sorts of high weirdness. It all went into boxes, and the boxes are waiting to go out.
Front of a Joey Box
Some people may not be interested in participating if they don’t know what they’re getting. I argue that this is half of the fun. The only absolutes are that each Joey Box has at least two books from my gardening library (either copies I accidentally repurchased or paperback copies of books I already owned in hardcover), at least one back issue of Gothic Beauty magazine, and Triffid Ranch buttons. Other than that, I’m not saying.
Interior of a Joey Box

Contents of a Joey Box
As far as getting one of these, keep an eye open for a new contest, and the winners get a Joey Box. Don’t worry about missing out, though: the pile of sealed Joey Boxes in the hallway says a lot about the amount of reading wealth waiting to find a new home.

Assembled Joey Boxes

Freebies through Snail Mail

Triffid Ranch freebie letters

Get ’em now, before they’re gone.

All of a sudden, a lot of history for the Triffid Ranch ends all at once. It’s been over a year in the coming, but the old mail drop on Royal Lane in Dallas shuts down once and for all next week. It’s a space that I snagged shortly after moving back from Portland in 1997, and it’s amazing to look at what’s happened in the nearly one-third of my life since I put down the first deposit on it. At the very least, it was intended as a space to receive manuscripts and review copies of books back from my writer days, and it served that goal admirably well. For 13 years, it was in a perfect location (even as closer mail stations shut down over the years), but with the last move, it went from being convenient to a major obstacle.

In the interim, both the Czarina and I have done our best to inform customers and friends (which aren’t always mutually contradictory) of the new address, and it’ll be repeated below for your edification. After October 17, though, the old address will be toast. No more. Finis. Bereft of life, it’ll be pushing up the daisies. This is now an ex-address.

And along that line, I also had a bit of bad news involving Triffid Ranch extras. Since 2008, I had ordered those metallic Triffid Ranch buttons from Rachel Dukes and Mike Lopez of Poseur Ink, through their side-business Mod Buttons. Rachel just informed me that she’s shutting down both her button and her silkscreening side-businesses, just literally days before I was going to put in a new order. This doesn’t to say that the Triffid Ranch won’t offer more buttons in the future, but Rachel and Mike’s buttons were always a hit, and once these are gone, that’s it for that design.

What does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, while organizing other things, I just came across a collection of envelopes with the old Triffid Ranch return address on them, filled with stickers, buttons, and postcards for a big promotional blitz in 2009. I definitely don’t want them to go to waste, which they won’t, and I definitely want them to go to people who’d have fun with them.

Here’s the deal. Right now, I have 30 envelopes, all going to the first people to give a mailing address to “buttons (at) txtriffidranch (dot) com”. (Obligatory online privacy notice: your mailing address, either E-mail or print, will NOT be used for anything other than sending this envelope, nor will they be sent to any third party for any reason without your direct written permission.) Or give me a direct message via the Facebook page or through Twitter. Distance isn’t an object (I’d still love to hear from someone wanting a Triffid Ranch button at the US South Pole Station), and neither is hearing from someone who received buttons and stickers in the past. Just give me a yell before October 17, and it’s yours. Heck, if you want to send ones to friends or cohorts, that’s all right, too. While you’re at it, feel free to pass around word, because there’s always someone new who needs a Rachel and Mike button who didn’t know they needed one.

Remembering where I was on this date in 1997, the last fifteen years have been an interesting trip. Let’s shoot for the next fifteen years being more interesting, shall we?

Put A Stamp On It

Texas Triffid Ranch package

In the Northern Hemisphere, we officially cross over from spring to summer today. This means it’s time to share comments about the weather with friends living further north. It means that I’m now running out of suggestions for friends at the Day Job as to what their kids can do on summer vacation that won’t cost a fortune. (I’m afraid “how about getting them jobs in a coal mine and telling them ‘it’s steampunk’?” doesn’t go over all that well, but that’s only because the nearest mines are in Tennessee.) Best of all, it means that it’s time to make the world’s postal carriers HATE me. It’s time for freebies.

Here’s the situation. It started when I was organizing my office. (Let’s be honest. “Organizing my office” is much like giving a corpse an enema because “it couldn’t hurt.” The place looks as if Hunter S. Thompson camped out there for a month. Let me say “I was attempting to prevent an avalanche of old papers threatening to smash down the wall and entomb my neighbor in 20-year-old correspondence.”) While wondering if I had enough cord to connect the detonator to the primary charges, I came across a cardboard box left over from a promotional campaign three years ago. Inside that box…

Well, inside the box was treasure for the right people. And it can be yours, should you be so inclined.

Inside the box were 70 individual envelopes, labeled with return addresses and filled with goodies. Specifically, each one contains a Triffid Ranch sticker, a Triffid Ranch button, and other random items. All you need to do to get one is ask. The first 70 people to send a mailing address gets an envelope in return.

Because everyone looks side-eyed whenever I offer free items, here are the rules:

Numero Uno: One envelope will be sent per address. This may be home, work, mail drop, or slot in the side of a tree. However, if you know of people who’d enjoy getting something for free this summer, include their addresses as well.

Numero Two-O: This offer is open to the citizens of the planet Earth, no matter where you’re located. All I need is a valid mailing address, and the postage costs will be covered by the Texas Triffid Ranch.

Numero Three-O: To belay any concerns about privacy, any addresses gathered will only be used for the purpose of sending envelopes, and will NOT be used in any other way. They also will NOT be given to anybody else, for any reason whatsoever.

Numero Four-O: All requests for envelopes must be submitted by midnight on June 30, 2012. This offer will continue until then or until all envelopes are claimed, whichever comes first.

Numero Five-O: Should you wish to share details of this offer with others, please feel free. Again, the offer continues until all envelopes are claimed.

And if all of that made sense, send in a request with your Snail Mail address to buttons@txtriffidranch.com, and I’ll finish it from there. I thank you, the Czarina thanks you, and my next-door neighbor thanks you.

Contest: Anyone want a free FenCon three-day pass?

Okay, so FenCon VIII is only 16 days away, and the Triffid Ranch booth in the dealer’s room should be quite full. At least, that’s the idea, and the variety of plants available depends upon whether or not our relative humidity (currently running about 15 percent) ever goes up. When the humidity is this low, the Sarracenia can photosynthesize or they can grow, but they generally can’t do both.

Anyway. One of the issues with holding a plant show at a science fiction convention lies with people either unfamiliar or uninterested in the rest of the festivities. Either potential Triffid Ranch visitors are understandably unsure as to whether they’d have the time or the inclination to get their money’s worth out of a day pass, or they’d prefer to put the money for a badge into plants. At the same time, the crew at FenCon has been very good to the Triffid Ranch crew for the last three years, and I’d like to return the favor and make sure that the convention continues to run for a very long time. (I’ve let loose so many mea culpas over my initial suspicions about the viability of the convention that I went hoarse in 2008, and I’m very glad to see it finishing up its first decade.)

So here’s the deal. I currently have one three-day regular membership at FenCon VIII, a $40 value, reserved for one lucky individual. In order to sweeten the pot, four other participants will win Joey Boxes. All you need to do is:

  • Numero Uno: Come up with a plausible story as to why you could best use this membership. You’ve never been to a convention in your life, but would be willing to give it a shot. You’re normally a regular, but finances got in the way. You’re going to be in Dallas that weekend anyway, and you want to do something more entertaining than wandering around Dealey Plaza all Saturday. You’ve been wanting to see carnivorous plants for your entire life, and your head will explode if you can’t see a Nepenthes for yourself. You don’t believe the stories about the Czarina’s elbows, and want to witness them sliding from their sheathes and drooling venom on the carpet all for yourself. If you don’t have a plausible story, lie, but be entertaining about it.
  • Numero Two-o: No matter the story, get it under 500 words.
  • Numero Three-o: Send it in to contest @ txtriffidranch dot com before midnight on September 12, 2011.
  • Numero Four-o: Before sending it in, include a name and contact address, so that a custom admission badge will be ready for you at the convention.

In return, here are the restrictions:

  • Only one entry per person and/or E-mail address. If you want to stuff the box, knock yourself out, but you’re going to need more than one story.
  • This membership may not be exchanged for cash or for any other item in the Triffid Ranch inventory. The membership is non-transferrable, except at the sole discretion of FenCon management. If you can’t make it to the convention, you have the option of asking for a Joey Box instead, and the membership will be offered to the runner-up.
  • The judges’ decision will be final. One grand prize of one (1) FenCon VIII regular membership and four (4) Joey Box packages will be given during this contest, based on the judges’ decisions.
  • The winner will be responsible for the cost of travel to and from the convention, as well as for accomodations. Any requests or demands for the Texas Triffid Ranch to cover hotel reservations, food, transport, or any other costs, other than any agreed to by both parties in writing, will both be denied and openly and publicly mocked.
  • The Texas Triffid Ranch will not be held liable for any damages or liabilities, including injury or financial loss, incurred by the winner at the convention. In other words, should you do something really, um, interesting, don’t call us for bail money.
  • All entries become the sole property of the Texas Triffid Ranch, and they may be shared on the main Web site or on this blog at any time. In fact, bet on it. (If you don’t want to share your name with the general public, just say so with your entry.)

And so it begins. If you can’t make it, please feel free to pass on word to friends and cohorts. If you can, get in your entry by midnight next Monday morning, and pull your 300-pound Samoan attorney out of storage. For this weekend, you’re going to need him.

No Sleep ’til FenCon

And now that the heat is finally breaking and the air finally smells like something other than burning flint, it’s time to talk about the rest of the year in North Texas. If things go well, they’ll go quiet between now and September 23. On that Friday, the Czarina and I set up shop at FenCon VIII, and we won’t leave until I finish burying the attendees, organizers, and fellow vendors in more information on carnivorous plants than their fragile little minds can handle.

Friends who knew me back during my science fiction writing days, and knew my feelings about conventions during those writing days, regularly question my sanity on showing plants at conventions. I have a lot of good reasons for doing so. Younger convention attendees in particular may have no interest in roses or irises, but they want to know everything they can find about sundews and bladderworts. Not only do the plants bring a much-appreciated touch of green to a dealer’s room, but the only competition I offer to most of the other dealers is in the “rising tides lift all boats” variety. While I have less than no interest whatsoever in returning to writing about science fiction, I still miss friends involved with the genre, and this is a great way to see them while doing business. Most of all, the definition of true joy is watching the face of a seven-year-old who suddenly realizes that most plants in science fiction are unmatched by some of the weirdness in the “mundane” world.

Anyway, FenCon VIII looks as if it is going to be the convention’s best show yet, and the con staff wants to guarantee this. Because it’s offering a last chance at discounted rates and online ordering over the Labor Day weekend, the Texas Triffid Ranch is going to offer a free three-day regular admission pass to a lucky blog reader. Details will follow soon, and feel free to spread the word. Something interesting to do in Dallas in autumn that didn’t involve Red River Rivalry: who’d have thunk it?

Contest: Last call on the Joey Boxes

Just a friendly note: the Joey Box contest ends tomorrow, and there’s still technically time to get one in. You like to receive odd things in the mail, don’t you?

Contest: The Saga of the Joey Box Continues

Just as a friendly reminder, the Joey Box contest is still open, and you still have 14 days to enter. Look at it as getting an item in the mail that isn’t accumulations of school supplies.

Contest: The Saga of the Joey Box

The addiction started half my life ago, when I was a beginning film critic for a long-forgotten science fiction magazine at the end of the Eighties. I started up a friendship with one Joey Shea, better known as “Joey Zone,” a fellow contributor and general troublemaker, and he and his lovely wife Cheryl LeBeau rapidly became People To Talk To. Shortly after we first made our acquaintance, I received a big package from Joey. It was full of band fliers, old horror magazines, toys, and other New England exotica, with a little note reading “The best thing about moving is that you can give away crap and people think you’re such a generous bastard.” I still have that note in my files somewhere, along with most of the items in that big envelope. I promptly put together a comparable box of Dallas ephemera and dropped it off in the mail.

Unbeknownst to me, I’d received my first Joey Box. I’d also sent my first one, and the tradition stuck.

I don’t want to get into a “when I was your age” tirade, but there was a weird fire to the world during the zine period between 1984 and 1999. Any number of people discovered that publishing their own magazines was a lot easier than they’d been led to believe, and they further discovered that a market existed for their publications. The end result was a lot of bush-league rivalries, drama, tears, screaming, and attempted homicide. It was a wonderful time to be alive, especially when you’d meet people via one zine or another and they’d send you a huge box of stuff in the hopes of convincing you their home town was the best in the world. You’d then reciprocate with a huge box, and your friends and their friends would fight like Romero zombies over who got the best stuff left over.

Now, Joey and Cheryl are up in Connecticut, so they had access to club schedules, movie promos, and demo tapes from all over New England. I couldn’t match the variety, but I could match the volume. Dallas was a great place at that time for all sorts of promo materials, and the Joey Boxes only got bigger once I started working for a local weekly called The Met in 1994. By 2000, they were getting a bit ridiculous, as one had to be split into three separate boxes because the one was too heavy for UPS. I kept waiting for the notice that Joey had broken both of his femurs trying to pick up the latest box, or that Cheryl would call in tears because Joey was dead from zine poisoning.

In recent years, I’ve had to cut back on the size of Joey Boxes, mostly because so much promo material is online instead. Nobody puts three weeks of effort into a band poster any more when they can just start up a new page on Facebook. It’s the same situation with Joey, and not just because he quit zine illustration for a library science degree a few years back. We still keep up the tradition, though, and we try our best to keep it going.

So now it’s time to expand the Joey Box concept. I can’t guarantee you’ll need a forklift to get it inside the house, but it should make things interesting.

So here’s the contest. I have five separate packages awaiting the winners. Each one contains Triffid Ranch stickers and buttons. Each one also contains at least one issue of Gothic Beauty magazine, containing my gardening column, or the May 2011 issue of Reptiles with my article on carnivorous plants in herp vivaria. Each one will contain a gardening book out of my collection (I’m phasing out the book selection I used to carry at Triffid Ranch shows, so this is your gain). Other than that, each one will be different in its contents. Best of all, all are sealed up beforehand and selected randomly, so I won’t know which one is going where.

Now here’s your shot. Send an old-fashioned postcard or envelope to the contact address for the Triffid Ranch, with your name and mailing address. Out of the postcards received by July 30, 2011, five participants will each receive a randomly selected Joey Box. This is open to everyone on the planet, so don’t worry about not being able to play because you don’t live in the States. (In fact, I’m reserving an additional Joey Box for the person with the most interesting mailing address, so if you know someone at an Antarctic research base, send the addy.) Many may enter, and all will receive Triffid Ranch buttons and stickers for their efforts. And for those worried about their addresses used for spurious purposes, here’s the privacy policy.

As always, feel free to pass this on to friends and neighbors. Half of the fun of something like this is the sharing.

EDIT: For those on Facebook, you have the option of another contest entirely for a Joey Box via the Triffid Ranch page. Look at it as Christmas in July, with Jack Skellington driving the sleigh.