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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - A pantzer who plots ahead

I've concluded that it doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you keep writing.  I've always been a plotter, someone who meticulously puts together an outline, character sketches that include a family tree going back several generations, costume designs, room designs, you name it.  I still have all that material for my fantasy trilogy set in the late 18th century, but I've resisted delving that deeply for my contemporaries.  With those, I start with an idea for a story and plot it out.  Occasionally, as I'm plotting, the scene comes alive for me.  So, I flesh it out more fully with the understanding it will still need editing, and then I plot on.

Jen Hayley's Virtual Plotting Board out of Post It Digital Notes
The method works for me, though most times my plot outline looks more like a sketchy rough draft.  However, what I have discovered is the sketchier the scene, the more often it ends up changing.  Once I'm in my POV character's head, the actions I thought he or she would take when I roughly plotted them, no longer seem "realistic."  So, they get rewritten according to the character's personality.  However, those scenes I've written out more fully either stay pretty much as written, or get cut entirely, if I feel I'm headed in a direction I didn't want to take.

My virtual plot board on Scrivener
So, for NaNoWriMo, I started with my plot and my characters veered off the road to take their own trip.  Not significantly, since they are still headed in the same direction, but enough that their scenery is vastly different from what I'd originally imagined.  For example, in this scene my hero, Peter, and heroine, Kate, are at odds.*

*(Background: They are both famous, wealthy people, but the hero, who used to teach college drama courses before he left to direct on Broadway, has agreed to teach a college summer camp workshop, and he wants the heroine to do it with him.  She senses he has an ulterior motive, and she's right.  They are legally separated and she has filed for divorce, but he is determined they try again.  She's not at all convinced their getting back together is wise, but he persuades her to spend the summer with him putting on a show.)

When she discovers the musical Peter selected has a spanking scene in it, Kate believes he set out to deliberately trick her and wants him to apologize.  Not an unreasonable request, but he refuses because he assumed the spanking scene in "Kiss Me Kate" was famous enough that it didn't require further discussion.  So, Kate puts her foot down by invoking a clause in her contract that states he has to provide her with separate lodgings at the camp.  That means they won't be sleeping together.  Seeing the tactic for what it was, Peter takes her to the cabin his staff has assigned based on Kate's specifications.  The resulting scene (from my unedited WIP) is from Peter's POV:

            Though Kate was a good actress, the moment she stepped into the ten-by-ten-foot cabin she did nothing to mask her dismay. Since the camp catered primarily to students, the cabins tended to be rustic. Against the far wall sat twin, cot-like metal beds with their bare, thin mattresses rolled up like bales of barbed wire. Between the beds stood a small, roughly-hewn table, and at the end of each bed lay an empty army-type footlocker to serve as dressers in case Kate didn't want to live out of her luggage.
             For hanging clothes, a row of pegs lined up on each side of the door, which also happened to be the only solid wall in the cabin. Half of the other three walls were taken up by screen windows, which, if privacy was desired, could be covered by the rolled-up, green, duck-cloth shades hanging above them. As additional protection, heavy awnings had been stretched along the outside, which could be collapsed in case of inclement weather. No heat, no air conditioning, outside of the occasional cross breeze flowing through the windows, and no electricity.
            Kate snapped her gaping mouth shut and glowered at him. "Is this your idea of a joke?"

He's serious, and if she insists, this is where she will stay since it fulfills the exact wording she insisted be added to her contract.  When I originally plotted this scene, I imagined Kate would be so angry with Peter that she'd stay in this cabin to spite him, but as I fleshed the scene out I realized she'd be so horrified by the thought of living with so few amenities and having to share a communal toilet and shower, that her pride would have to bend.  So, she agrees to stay with him in his luxurious, by comparison, air-conditioned and fully-equipped cabin when he sweetly asks her to reconsider.  Not a big deal, but it did turn something in the plot.  He gave a little by asking instead of demanding, and she relented.  Give and take.

So, even though I plot out my story, I go where my characters take me.  There's a lot of push, pull and take in this book, and though these two head-strong characters are in love, they are not above trying to top each other whenever they get the chance.  Peter does wear the pants in the relationship, however, and he's perfectly willing to press his point if his darling Kate makes it necessary.

It's a fun romantic comedy that I hope will make readers laugh and cry.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - NaNoWriMo and Scrivener

Considering this is my first NaNoWriMo, don't you think I should have stuck to my "tried and true" methods and left new software tryouts for after November?  Um, yes.  Did I do that?  Um, no.  And why not?  Because ….  Because….  Because I fell beneath Scrivener's temptation spell and had to try it out.  Was that a good or bad?  Potentially, very bad, but as of yesterday (2 week point) I clocked in at 40,700 words, which is the 81% mark for a 50K novel.  Not bad.  I expect this novel to come in at a little over 75K, so my web sites are all reporting me at 54%, and I still have 2 weeks left.

Has Scrivener helped me?  In some ways, yes.  Definitely.  However, because of the learning curve, I have to do a lot more "playing" with the Word file I compile everyday as a back-up than I'd probably have to do if I'd been using the software for a while.  Yes, I did take the tutorial first, which I recommend to anyone who is thinking of using the program.  However, like most authors, I have a few personal quirks that the tutorial didn't cover.  Not the program's fault by any means, but it still requires me to do some jerry-rigging until I can get the manuscript over into Word looking the way I want.

So, what did I find I could do in Scrivener that I couldn't do in Word?  Lots.  Its basic structure is set up to make a writer's job easier.  I normally work on a scene-by-scene basis, dividing the work into chapters as I go along, or later in the process, and Scrivener is set up to work that way.  In addition, it provides me with an easy way to group my scenes and import any research I'd like to access quickly for reference.

For example, as I'm writing, I can determine if a scene is going to need a lot more work before I can even consider it a "first draft."  Once I determine that, I simply mark its status as "To Do."  Then I can search for all the scenes that have a "To Do" status and save my search as a collection.  That means as I continue to give that status to more scenes, my collection grows automatically.  Then, I can go through my collection of "To Do" scenes and work on them at my leisure without ever moving them from their original place in my binder, or manuscript.  Once I change the scene's status from "To Do" to "First Draft" the link to the scene is instantly removed from my collection of "To Do" scenes needing more work.  Nifty, huh?

In the synopsis, or notecard, that comes with each scene, I begin by stating which is my POV character for the scene.  Then I created a search for each POV character and saved the search as a collection so I can see at a glance if one character is getting more scenes than the other is.  At this moment, my heroine is getting the lion's share of scenes.  I may want to change that later, but for the time being, I'm okay with that.

In any case, I'm pleased I had an opportunity to try out the software, and NaNoWriMo definitely gives it a rigorous tryout.  I don't recommend anyone wait as long to do what I did, but I do recommend the software.  That said, I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog hopping while I go back to Nanoing.

P.S. Scrivener has a special NaNoWriMo offer if you're feeling adventurous...

Monday, October 29, 2012

A First Time NaNoWriMo Participant

I'm going to be a first time participant in NaNoWriMo this year.  I'm excited and anxious.  Because the book I'll be writing is one of my "naughtier" ones, I'll be giving progress reports on my Naughty Blog.  However, since I've got some readers interested in my paranormal spicy books, but who aren't comfortable with the naughtier bent my new books are taking, I thought I'd at least put up a progress meter here.  The book I'm working on is tentatively titled Kate and Peter (that title will change, I'm sure) and it is a contemporary spanking romance.

If you'd like more information regarding my progress, the story and my naughtier books, you can visit here.  Otherwise, you can follow my progress by checking the meter on the right.

See you on the net...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Pitching to Editors is not for the fainthearted

This past weekend (September 8-9), Marketing for Romance Writers* held a pitch session where authors could "chat" in person with the editor(s) of their choice.  Thirty eBook publishers participated and authors could sign up for one or more (up to three) editors from the list.

Next, the group held workshops that helped writers hone their selling skills for their six-minute interview with an editor.

A recommended pitch consisted of the following:
Logline: "a short (25 words or less) description of what your book is about. It should include the main character, what they want, why they can’t have it and the consequences if they can’t get what they want. It should allow the person reading it to immediately envision what the book is about. It should be the premise, not the plot. It should generate story questions, but not story confusion. It should get the person on the receiving end excited about the story." from Cindy Carroll on how to write a logline.  It's what you might answer when someone says, "Tell me what your book is about."
Blurb: A 100-150 word brief summary of your book, using the goal, motivation and conflict you included in your logline.

After you've given your pitch, it's the editor's turn to ask questions.

Though the process sounds easy, I probably got only 4 hours sleep the whole weekend.  However, I wasn't the only writer suffering from a flock of butterflies in the stomach.  The waiting is the worst.  You're told at the start where you are in the queue of authors presenting to the publisher, and you wait until you're told to go into the pitch room.  Once there you immediately begin copying and pasting the pitch you spent the last week polishing until it shined, while your fingers tremble and your mouse refuses to cooperate.  (It's amazing how quickly your typing can degenerate until it begins to look like a trained monkey is sitting at your keyboard.)

All the editors I chatted with were great.  They were very patient and understanding as to why I suddenly developed a typing stutter and forgot how to spell manuscript.

When your six minutes are up, you return to the common chat room where you bemoan your sudden stupidity and tell the others what, if anything, was requested by the editor.

As the title of this article suggests, pitching is not easy on the nerves, but I highly recommend it if you're a writer who wants to query your wip (work in progress) to an editor in person.  The sessions were open to both published and aspiring-to-be-published writers, so previous experience was not expected.  From the comments I've seen, the venture was extremely successful for authors and publishers alike, so MFRW is considering doing it again next year.

Hopefully, by then, my fingers will have learned to behave.

*(Note: if you write romance, like to share and learn, and don't belong to Marketing for Romance Writers, I suggest you join.  It's free, and this weekend (Saturday, September 15) Treva Harte (Editor-in-Chief for Loose Id) will present a short workshop on what to look for in a publishing contract. No legal advice will be given or offered.  What will be offered is a high-level look at what to expect in a contract and how to protect yourself. Terms will be explained. A Q&A period follows.  The workshop and Q&A are only open to MFRW members, but there is no cost to join.  Interested authors should go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MarketingForRomanceWriters/ and send in a request to join.  Currently there are over 1600 members.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Is Big Brother Really Watching?

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Your eBook is Reading You."  Okay, that seems ominous.  My Kindle has been getting a lot of use lately, and if anyone is tracking my reading habits, I'm afraid they're going to think I'm a psychopathic eroticist.  Books on poison, murder, police procedures and some less than family-friendly fiction top the list.

According to the article, "In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them."

Now, as an author, this information would be very helpful and interesting.  As a reader, not so much.  I'm not a paranoid person, but the notion that someone knows not only what I'm reading, but how intensely or quickly I'm reading the books I purchase, gives me goose bumps.  The article goes on to say, "The major new players in e-book publishing—Amazon, Apple and Google—can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books."

Photo credit – William Duke

Usually, I search for books by title on Amazon.  Occasionally, I'll use Google to find a book I want.  I'm fully aware that Amazon keeps track of my digital purchases.  They have to, so I can download a book again if I've removed it from my device.  They also keep track of any paperbacks or hardbacks I purchase in my order history.  But do they have to "watch" me read?  I mean, I don't like someone reading over my shoulder, so why are they peeking into my Kindle?

Don't get me wrong.  I love eBooks.  I'd better love them, because I write them, too.  So, I have no intention of changing my reading habits, but that doesn't mean I'm totally comfortable with an unknown entity taking note of how many times I open my Kindle and how long I spend reading from it.  However, I did feel a little less paranoid when I read this, "But the data—which focuses on groups of readers, not individuals—has already yielded some useful insights into how people read particular genres. Some of the findings confirm what retailers already know by glancing at the best-seller lists. For example, Nook users who buy the first book in a popular series like "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "Divergent," a young-adult series by Veronica Roth, tend to tear through all the books in the series, almost as if they were reading a single novel."

They got me there.  Since I was one of those million or more readers who purchased all three Fifty Shades of Grey books at the same time, I'm in those statistics somewhere.  Another thing I found of interest was, "Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books."

I'm not a speed-reader by any means, but when I'm on a reading kick, it's not unusual for me to read one or two books a day.

EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), a non-profit group that advocates for consumer rights and privacy, is pressing for legislation that will limit how a retailer can use the information they gather.  They also want a way for readers to "opt out" of having their reading habits tracked.

What worries me most, no doubt worries other authors as well.  "… that readers may steer clear of digital books on sensitive subjects such as health, sexuality and security—out of fear that their reading is being tracked. "There are a gazillion things that we read that we want to read in private," Mr. Bruce Schneier, a cyber-security expert and author, says."  And even though I don't intend to change how I purchase or read, others may be more sensitive about having their habits tracked than I am.

So, why am I posting this information on my blog?  I find technology fascinating, and I know we're barely scratching the surface of what we'll be able to do in the future.  I don't want anyone to stop purchasing books out of fear, but I felt the topic was worth sharing, so I decided to take the risk.

To read the WSJ article in full, please click the URL below. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Procrastination "A Time Killer"

I recently read an article by Maria Mallory about the top six ways a writer procrastinates.  Guess what?  All of them involve social media, which means by writing this article I am procrastinating.  I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not.  The six she listed are:

KDP/Pub It
Writer Forums

 Now a few of those are writer related only, but Twitter and Facebook along with Google+ chew up and swallow the time of everyone who chooses to play in their sandbox.  Time that some of us should be spending doing other things. 

Okay, as a writer, I'm guilty of all those listed above except Kindle Direct Publishing and Pub It, since I haven't yet ventured into self-publishing.  Although I do have a NovelRank account to track my Amazon sales.  However, I can't say I spend too much time ogling my sales numbers since they aren't very stellar at the moment, and I don't like getting depressed.

A great procrastination tool, which the author failed to mention, is Pinterest.  Also not specifically writer related.  I've visited and poked around, but managed not to fall prey to its enticements, yet.
E-mail is another evil, time-sucking vampire.  I spend way too many hours playing in my e-mail box, though I will admit most of what I'm reading are postings from the writer forums and Yahoo groups I've joined.  So, for my major time wasting activities, I'm an avid Triberr user, which counts as Twitter in my book, even if I am not directly viewing the tweets I've received.  Facebook, which I try to limit my postings to once a week.  Google+, which I should check once a week, but haven't so much as peeked in for a few months, and my two blogs where I currently do only 4 blog posts a week between them.  Even so, I don't spend as much time writing as I should.  So, now what?

 A week later, Mallory wrote another blog article on the six ways to combat procrastination.  What she lists is very good advice, except I know I won't follow it.  All the same, I'll share the list with you.

Disconnect your router - I'm not the only one using the Internet in our house, so that's not possible for me.
Turn off the phones - not a major time waster for me, so little point in doing something I'm simply going to have to undo a few hours afterwards.
Limit your music to non-intrusive instrumentals when you're writing - already do that, so it's not going to change anything for me.
Skip the household chores - What? I'm supposed to do housework? Who knew?
Enlist a writing buddy and/or timer - Just discovered "Write or Die," but haven't employed it yet, so that's still in the realm of possibilities for me.
Search out items that will inspire you to write - I tend to do this in my spare time, since I can get story ideas from the strangest places, like those little teasers you see on AOL's home page.

Most of these recommendations can be applied to anything you want to accomplish, not just writing.  Painting, needlework, even reading, if that's one of your goals.  So, although this article is directed toward writers, if you have a hobby or avocation that you just aren't getting to because of time wasters absorbing all your attention, maybe these suggestions from Maria Mallory will work for you, too.

It's a thought.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012

I never considered my writing eligible for a Pulitzer Prize, and, as an erotic genre writer, I'm pretty sure it's not.  What I find interesting, however, is that the Pulitzer committee decided none of the three novel finalists was eligible this year, either.

So, what makes a novel Pulitzer eligible?  According the Pulitzer site, the qualifications are: "For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."  So, the author needs to be American, preferably writing about American life, in a work that a committee would consider "distinguished fiction."  I have a feeling the last point is the stickler.  What exactly makes a piece of fiction "distinguished?"

If we look at some past winners, we can get an idea of the sort of fiction the Pulitzer committee considers up to their standard of excellence.

1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
1925: So Big by Edna Ferber
1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
2011: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

An impressive list to be sure, though I primarily picked the ones that were familiar to me.  The years in which fiction entered and nominated as finalists did not garner a Pulitzer are: 1917, 1920, 1941, 1946, 1954, 1957, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 2012.  So, not giving out a Pulitzer isn't something new or shocking, I guess.  Still, every year since 1977 the committee awarded a prize, which made me wonder why this year was an exception.  Below is the list of the 2012 finalists, with a brief description of each story, posted at the Pulitzer site.

Pulitzer Award


Nominated as finalists in this category were:

"Train Dreams," by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm.

 "Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf), an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years.

"The Pale King," by the late David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company), a posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.

I can't say I've read any of the books, so I'm no judge of their quality, but perhaps they just weren't interesting enough.  A day laborer in the American West, a failing alligator-wrestling theme park and boredom and bureaucracy in the workplace may not be exciting enough when compared against the list of winners I selected.  Only the members of the committee know for sure, and they won't say.  Whatever the reason, I'm a little sad that none of the fiction entered was deemed worthy of a prize this year.  Perhaps next year…

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm Baaack!

Don't know if you've missed my normal Thoughtful Thursday posts, but I wanted to let everyone know I haven't posted since May because I got sick and had to be hospitalized.  Um, hospitals aren't really a fun place to visit, but they're even worse if you get admitted.  I'm a pretty patient, patient, but even I had to wonder how some of the things could happen to me while I was there.  Like the nurse giving me the hep-lock IV forgot to bring the locking part with her, so I bled all over the bed, onto the floor, the walls....  Even the phone had blood on it.  Good thing I'm not one to faint at the sight of my own blood.

She said she'd never seen anyone bleed as freely as I did, which is probably because she'd never forgotten the lock before.  And I hope she won't ever do it again to some other unlucky patient.  On top of that, she couldn't leave me to get one, or else my blood would have spurted out even more.  As it was, she was trying to maintain pressure on my arm to decrease the flow in addition to the tourniquet I still had on.  So, we were both calling "help" until someone was able to get the part for her.  Sigh.

In addition to the hep-lock IV, which has Heparin in it to prevent clotting, they gave me an anti-clotting agent shot in my tummy.  It wasn't as bad as it sounds, but I was a little surprised they wanted me to have one since it seems my blood was already flowing pretty smoothly.

However, I only had to spend one night, which is good since the story is true, you do not get any rest in a hospital.  I was on an hourly check, due to the seriousness of my condition, and people kept coming in to either take a vial of my blood, since my potassium was low, or prick my finger, since I'm also a borderline Diabetic

The worst, or funniest, thing that happened to me was on the day I was released when the nurse needed to give me a suppository.  To keep from getting gross, all I'm going to say is that she didn't know her body parts very well, so she inserted it in the wrong place.  She was very nice, but when she finally got one inserted correctly and left the room my husband said, "I bet she didn't graduate at the top of her class."  We had a good laugh about it, but it is a little scary in some ways.  I mean she's a female nurse.  Even if she didn't pass anatomy class, she should know the difference, right?

Oh well, I'm home now, I've finished taking all the meds needed to clear my infection, and I'm feeling a whole lot better.  So, I'm going to go back to posting again, and I bet you're glad to hear that, right?

Stay well, and keep out of the hospital if you can.


Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW) Summer Camp - #MFRWSummerCamp

Marketing Summer Camp July 14-15, 2012
Marketing Summer Camp is a free, two-day online conference designed to help authors learn the basics of marketing and promotion, and to fine tune skills already obtained. It will include guest speakers, pitch opportunities, prizes, top giveaways, and plenty of learning and fun. It will be held on the Yahoo group, Marketing for Romance Writers. Membership is open to published as well as non-published authors, editors, publishers, literary agents, author promotion services, cover artists, and virtual assistants. MFRW members are automatically signed up for Camp. If you want to take a particular course, read the messages posted with that title of the class. If you want to skip that class, don't read them. It's going to be that easy. Handouts and goody bags will be up for grabs once the conference begins. Giveaways include advertising packages, blog tours, and more. Discounts on services will also be available for all attendees.
There will be pitch appointments with multiple publishers for camp attendees. These will take place after camp so you don't have to miss classes.
Sign up by joining the group: http://is.gd/mfrwgroup
To learn more:
Website: http://is.gd/mfrworg
Paperli: http://is.gd/mfrwpaperli
Newsletter: http://is.gd/mfrwnews
Facebook group: http://is.gd/mfrwfb
Marketing Camp Schedule: http://is.gd/mfrw_camp_hours
The MFRW Friends of Romance Award is presented to companies seeking to aid authors with promotion at little or no cost, and to offer affordable programs. In 2012 they are: The Romance StudioRomance Junkies, and CoffeeTime Romance. The award is one way we can help authors and publishers save money and obtain ethical and excellent service.http://marketingforromancewriters.org/friends.htm
Kathryn R. Blake

Free Training for #Authors #MFRWSummerCamp. http://is.gd/mfrworg July 14-15
No Cost Online conference for #Authors #MFRWSummerCamp. http://is.gd/mfrworg July 14-15
Four days to camp!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - What should authors do, write quickly, or write well?

Is that the question?  I recently read a blog article where the author indicated that writing one book a year wasn't sufficient to meet reader demand.  While I agree with the sentiment, I also don't think readers enjoy "cookie-cutter" romances or "by-the-book" thrillers.  With the number of free books being offered on Amazon for the Kindle, I know I won't run out of reading material for a long, long time.  In addition, I am purchasing books whenever my wallet will allow.  So, I'm not sure killing myself, as an author, will make my readers any happier.  I currently have three works in progress (WIPs).  Four, if my sequel to Mortal Illusions actually remains two separate books as it is now.  I wanted to get four or five books out by the end of the year, with one out in March.  Well, that didn't happen.  Still hasn't.  So, where did the time go?

Unfortunately, both my sequel to Mortal Illusions and my follow-up book to Arrested by Love required more revisions than I anticipated, so they are both still in the editing process right now.  I'm not happy about it, but I'd rather they be good than just published.  The past few weeks, I've been getting ready for a conference I'm attending the first weekend of June, so my writing time is suffering.  And, as a result, my blogging has suffered as well.  Sigh.

As for reading, I limit my reading time to just before bedtime (around 1 or 2 AM).  If I'm still wired after reading for an hour or so, I will listen to one of my books on tape (I subscribe to Audible).  That usually takes me to 3, sometimes 4 in the morning.  During the day, when I'm not "creating" swag, I try to spend my time writing or editing my current WIP.

Example of a Book Thong
I also want to stay on top of my e-mail and writing lists, learn new things, and communicate with other readers and writers.  So, given there are only so many hours in the day, and I do not function well without sleep, I'm trying to decide where my time is best spent.  I'm not sure all the time I'm spending creating "book thongs" for the conference is what I should be doing, but it meets a creative need, and I like giving away new "toys" to my readers.  So, I'll continue with my current plan.  As for my two blogs, well I'll need to beg your indulgence for a little while longer.

I will get back on schedule, but probably not until mid-June.  Until then, I'll try to post if I come across anything I feel I should share, however, I would be interested in your opinions regarding the number of books a year you think an author should publish.  One, two, four?  Inquiring minds want to know.

NY Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/business/in-e-reader-age-of-writers-cramp-a-book-a-year-is-slacking.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120513

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - The E-reader War has a New Player

According to data gathered by the Atlantic, Lexington, KY has purchased the most Kindle e-readers, which makes it the most e-literate city in America. On its heels are Ann Arbor, Michigan and Anchorage, Alaska.  However, now that Microsoft has entered into a deal with Barnes & Noble, which will make the Nook the most compatible e-reader with Windows, do you think the landscape might change?

Currently, it is the college towns that purchase the most Kindle e-readers.  Major metropolitan cities like San Francisco (57), Seattle (42), Miami (87), Chicago (45) and LA (86) get crushed in these rankings.  New York, one of my favorite cities, came in at number 16.  Cincinnati, the nearest metropolitan city to where I live, came in at number 36.  The cities that purchased the fewest number of e-readers are Fresno, Las Vegas and San Diego.

Since I really doubt reading is the first thing that comes to people's mind when they think of Las Vegas, I don't envision that particular statistic changing much in the future.  As a state, California has the most cities in this list of 93.
The survey goes on to compare the resale market for e-readers by stating that Kindle currently has 60% of this secondary market (think eBay), the Nook 40%, and Kobo barely registering on this scale.  If Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have their way, this number is going to change for the Nook.  However, when the article next compares e-readers on the secondary or resale market against the iPad--Apple wins taking 80% of the market while both the Kindle and the Nook sit below 20%.

So, how might this change in the future?  In case you didn't hear, Microsoft has entered into a deal with Barnes & Noble and their Nook.  An article in the New York Times, published on April 30, states, "The deal, which gives Microsoft a 17.6 percent stake, values the Nook unit at $1.7 billion — roughly double Barnes & Noble’s entire market value as of last Friday (Apr. 27, 2012) — and bolsters the bookseller’s efforts to make its digital business the linchpin of its future growth."

For this deal, Microsoft is looking to its future, and the future of computers, which includes Web browsing, movie watching, book reading and other multimedia activities.  No longer is the computer primarily used for word processing and spreadsheets.  This brave new world puts Microsoft "squarely up against Amazon, with its popular Kindle devices, and Apple, which has had runaway success with its iPad."

The article goes on to say, "Barnes & Noble will also produce a Nook app for the forthcoming Windows 8, a revamping of the Microsoft operating system that will take advantage of touch screens. While Windows 8 will have an app store, analysts expect it will need to be more tightly coupled with a service for buying books and other forms of entertainment to better match the offerings from rivals.

In turn, the bookseller will capture additional points of distribution from hundreds of millions of Windows users around the world, potentially reaching consumers who did not associate Barnes & Noble with e-books.

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, said he expected that Barnes & Noble would eventually create a new line of Nook devices based on Windows 8 that will offer a closer marriage of hardware, software and content services.

Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft will invest $300 million in the division, and it has committed to paying an additional $305 million over the next five years, part of which serves as an advance against future revenue and part to finance the Nook’s expansion into international markets. The partnership is not exclusive to Microsoft, meaning that Barnes & Noble can still pursue other alliances with the likes of Google."

William J. Lynch, Jr., CEO of Barnes & Noble, has indicated that the digital business would remain closely linked to the brick-and-mortar stores that long made up Barnes & Noble's empire.  Reportedly B&N has 691 retail stores and 641 college bookstores.

Although I'm a Kindle fan, the Nook has a lot going for it, and with Microsoft adding a little of its muscle to the device, I'm expecting many positive changes in the future.

For a more detailed analysis of e-reader purchases, please visit:

For the New York Times article, please visit:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Things to be Grateful for

Tuesday, our next-door neighbor's house caught on fire.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  The mom was home babysitting her young niece when everyone in the neighborhood heard what sounded like a gunshot.  She thought someone was shooting at her dog, a sweet-tempered black lab.  They weren't.  Instead, something either just outside their garage or inside it had caught fire and next thing that went was their gas line.  This caused an explosion that rattled homes much further down the block as well as those nearby.  I ran out at that point and my neighbor was yelling her house was on fire and that she'd called 9-1-1.  She'd gotten her niece and her Pekingese out, but her lab was hiding in their back yard somewhere, so I helped her call for and get Daisy out.  Daisy is now staying next door with us.  We have a large fenced-in yard, but no doghouse since all of our pets were inside animals.

My neighbors are still not allowed in their house or their yard.  They have no clothes other than the ones on their backs, but their insurance company has already reached out to help them.  I spent most of yesterday comforting their dog who didn't understand why people were tromping through her yard, spraying water, ripping down walls and breaking windows.  The smoke was black and noxious and the firefighters had great trouble putting out the fire that continued to smolder under the roof.  My neighbor had called within seconds of hearing the first gunshot-popping sound, and the fire department is right around the corner from our street.  Even so, over two thirds of their home was gone before the firefighters were able to start getting the fire out.

Our street was totally blocked by emergency trucks and the news crews were out in force trying to get the story.  Sure enough, it was in the paper on Wednesday and on all the major local television stations Tuesday night.  Though the family kept saying they were fortunate no one was hurt, which they were, watching everything they owned go up in billowing, black smoke was still very difficult for them.  It could have been much, much worse but right now, they are living with their oldest daughter and trying to make sure their teenage son has everything he needs.

Most of the damage is in the back of the house, which isn't visible in the above photograph.  When I can, I'll take a picture from our yard and post it here at well.  I am grateful I was home at the time and able to help as well as offer moral support.  They came over and visited Wednesday, since they hadn't been able to see the back of their house and our yard offers an excellent view of the damage.  Most of the fire was located in the garage, the dad's office and the kitchen, but all of their windows had to be shattered and the ceilings pulled down before the fire was finally extinguished.  The end of their house farthest from ours is gutted.  You can see through what used to be the south wall of their home to the trees on the other side.

The things they had that weren't directly lost in the fire have most certainly been ruined by smoke and water, but they still don't know the full extent of the damage.  Even so, they have a supportive church group, wonderful daughters and neighbors who want to help, so they have much to be grateful for, as do we.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - Nelson–a baby Kea Parrot rejected by his parents

Baby parrots are not cute.  They are born naked (without feathers), blind and helpless.  They require the care of their parents to survive.  So, why would an adult Kea parrot reject its chick?  Research has suggested that one of the reasons that birds reject their babies is that they are somehow deformed or defected, and probably wouldn't be able to survive by themselves.

Baby Cockatiels

I'm not sure if the specialists at the Bergzoo in Halle Germany who are taking care of Nelson, the only chick to hatch and survive from a clutch of three eggs, know why his mother rejected him.  The theory is that he is too ugly.  I will admit that Nelson could probably take first prize in the ugliest bird contest, but I haven't seen pictures of any other baby Kea parrots that look any better.  In fact, he looks pretty much the way a baby Kea parrot should.  So, why did he get the cold wing?

Nelson being weighed
According to: http://www.keaconservation.co.nz/keaendangeredspecies.html . For an endangered species, Kea are highly adaptive and are considered by scientists to be one of the most intelligent bird species in the world.  They are e also the only alpine parrot species and now number an estimated 1000-5000 individuals in the wild. Numbers of Kea were substantially reduced with the introduction of a bounty, which resulted in over 150,000 birds being culled as late as the 1970’s (Temple, 1978).

Momma Kea feeding a fledgling

Kea are highly gregarious, forming large social flocks in the wild with non-linear hierarchies. Once adult kea reach breeding age around 3-4 years of age they tend to leave the main flock and pair up for breeding and raising of chicks. Progeny have an extended juvenile period and are dependent on their parents for up to 6 months.

The Kea nests in burrows or crevices among the roots of trees, and are known for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital to their survival in a harsh mountain environment. Kea can solve logical puzzles, such as pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get to food, and will work together to achieve a certain objective.

I'm ready for my close-up now, Mr. DeMille

This intelligence and curiosity has created difficulties with humans resulting in severe persecution of the species over the last 150 yrs.  Now uncommon, the Kea was once killed for bounty due to concerns by the sheep farming community that it attacked livestock, especially sheep.  It received full protection only in 1986.

For more information on what researchers have found out about kea, visit the University of Vienna's  Kea Lab at http://cogbio.univie.ac.at/labs/kea-lab/

Nelson ready for dinner
As for Nelson, he is being cared for round the clock by zoo staff, and despite his baby looks, he does have something to look forward too. Kea parrots grow up to have olive-green feathers with a beautiful orange flash under their wings. And Nelson is a smart little bird, so be careful what you say about him now because he just may remember and come back in full bloom to show you how wrong you were.

Interested in learning more about Nelson or the Kea?  Check out any of the following links:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday - EBook Prices, Will They Change?

Nathan Bransford, author of the Jacob Wonderbar series, wrote an interesting article on his blog back in 2011 regarding why some eBook prices are higher than their hardback cover cousins.  Turns out the fluctuations have to do with pricing models (Wholesale vs. Agency).  I had no idea as to the cause, I just knew that some eBooks appeared terribly over-priced, so I didn't purchase them.

Originally, (Once Upon a Time), there was only one model, the Wholesale model.  For both hardbacks and eBooks sold under the wholesale model, the retailer set the price (which meant Amazon and B&N could have sold the same eBook for different prices) and the publisher would have received 50% of the Hardcover price, regardless of the retailer's selling price.  Say a book sold in hardcover for $24.99.  Publisher was paid 50% ($12.50) for any hardback or eBook sold by the retailer.  The retailer then got to set their own selling price, which could be more or less than $12.50 they paid for the book.
 So, back in the good ole days, Amazon set an eBook price ceiling of $9.99 for its customers.  That meant for any hardcover costing more than $20.00, Amazon took a loss in the sale of their eBook for the Kindle, but the customer got a great deal and the publisher's payment remained the same.

As you probably already know, Amazon sold many, many eBooks that way.  Consumers were happy, but publishers weren't, since consumers were flocking to buy all their eBooks from Amazon.  Then Apple's iPad came on the market, and everything changed.  Why?  Because Steve Jobs came up with a brand new pricing model—the Agency Model.  Under the agency model, the publisher sets the price for the eBook, not the retailer.  In return, the retailer receives 30% of the publisher's eBook selling price, but they have to sell the eBook at the publisher's listed price--no discounts.

One publisher alone couldn't force Amazon to follow this new model, so all the large, NY publishers agreed to follow Steve Jobs' new Agency model, leaving Amazon to either join in, or not sell any eBook published by a major New York publisher.  Since refusing to play would mean consumers would have to go elsewhere to purchase their eBooks, Amazon reluctantly fell in line with the other retailers.

Below Nathan provides an example of the two models laid out in what he calls "napkin math."  I love it.

Napkin math for a $24.99 hardcover/$14.99 eBook.  The e-book would have sold for $9.99 at Amazon in the old days (under the wholesale model), but under the new agency model the publisher wants to charge $14.99 (with no discounts allowed):

Wholesale model e-book: (retailer sets price - no longer available)
Amazon paid publisher: $12.50 (publisher got roughly 50% of $24.99 hardcover RRP from retailer)

Amazon customer paid: $9.99
Amazon loses:
- $2.50 (paid publisher $12.50 for an eBook they sold for $9.99)

Agency model e-book: (Steve Job's brainchild put in place when Apple introduced the iPad)

This is where the publisher sets the price for the eBook, irrespective of its hardcover price and no discounts allowed.*
Customer pays: $14.99
E-Bookseller pays publisher: $10.49 (70% of $14.99)
E-bookseller (including Amazon) keeps: $4.50 (30% of $14.99)

In order to have more control over pricing and allow more e-booksellers to compete with Amazon, publishers were willing to take less money for eBook sales. ($12.50 under wholesale, $10.49 under agency)

*Steve Jobs reportedly said to the publishers, "the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway."

Publishing executives were desperate to get Amazon to raise its $9.99 price point for eBooks, and with the release of the iPad they were able to achieve their goal.

 So now, hardcover books sell under the Wholesale model, and eBooks sell under the Agency model.  And the reason eBooks can be more expensive than the hardcover on Amazon is because Amazon is treating the hardcover as a loss leader (meaning they lose money on the sale of the hardcover book, but potentially keep their customers happy even though they can no longer discount the eBook).

 Below is the example Nathan gave for:


Publisher's selling price:
E-Book: $11.99
Hardcover: $27.95

Amazon's selling price:
E-book: $11.99
Hardcover: $11.89

Breakdown between publisher and Amazon:

E-book sells for: $11.99 (price set by publisher)
Publisher receives: $8.39 (70% of e-book price from retailer)
Amazon receives: $3.60 (30% of e-book price from sale to customer)

Hardcover sells for: $11.89
Publisher receives: $13.98 (50% of $27.95 list price)
Amazon receives:
- $2.09 (customer price minus $13.98 paid to publisher—a loss)

Since retailers can still set their own prices for hardbacks, the publisher has no control over what Amazon charges their customers.  As it is, publishers make more money on the hardcover sale.  By setting the list price for the hardcover at $27.95, and the e-book at $11.99, they don't have much incentive to discount the e-book any further than it already is.

Interesting, right?

Well now, boys and girls, the US Government has gotten involved and they are suing Apple and the publishers, who haven't already settled, for "raising eBook prices via the agency model."

"The government alleges Apple and the publishers of having a conspiracy (collusion) to raise the price of electronic books that cost the consumer over $100 million over the past two years by adding $2 to $5.00 to the price of each eBook."

Wow.  So, what does this mean for the consumer (us)?  15 (possibly 16) states have filed a separate complaint with the publishers, and of those states Connecticut and Texas reached agreements with Hachette and Harper Collins to provide $52 million to consumers in restitution.  According to Pete Yost in the Associated Press, "this dollar amount was set using a formula based on the number of states and the number of eBooks sold in each state, so other states may sign into the agreement.  The federal government has reached an agreement with three of the publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Shuster), but will proceed with its lawsuit in federal court against Apple, Holtzbrinck Publishers (doing business as Macmillan) and The Penguin Publishing Co. Ltd. (doing business as Penguin Group)"

 Macmillian's Chief Executive Officer, John Sargent, said in a letter to authors, illustrators and agents that the company has not settled because it is "hard to settle a lawsuit when you know you have done no wrong.  Macmillan did not act illegally, Macmillian did not collude."

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Despite settling, HarperCollins and Hachette both denied violating antitrust laws and defended the agency model. HarperCollins said it made a "business decision" to avoid a legal battle. Simon & Schuster confirmed settling but declined to comment."

Since this potentially affects millions of readers' purses, it should be an interesting case to follow.  Not sure if the case will affect authors, illustrators or their agents, but I don't believe it will.

Below are additional links regarding the situation, including Nathan Bransford's original article posted back in March of 2011.