The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Makes a Stop Here

3D Man Holding Perigee MoonThanks to Carol Fragale Brill of 4 Broad Minds for tagging me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Carol’s new novel, Piece by Peace is coming out very soon and I am excited to read it. I have read all of Carol’s thoughtful reviews of other books, and I have a feeling her novel is going to be a good reading experience.

As part of this exercise, I am to answer 10 questions about my latest work:

  1. What is the working title of your book? Perigee Moon (Just typed “perogee”, isn’t that some sort of Polish potato treat?) But a definite maybe for the title of an oncoming new novel. Perogees at Noon.
  2. Where did the idea for the book come from? One night, in Clearwater FL, I was awakened by the full moon shining in the window. I got up to go outside and look, and take pictures of it. It was so bright that the sky appeared burnished, more brown than black, and the moon glowed a bright gold and little wispy clouds floated past it. Later, I learned the reason it seemed so ethereal (fancy-schmancy word which means “real purty”) was because it was one month before the Perigee Moon, when the moon appears much larger to us earthlings. It was a nature phenomenon when one thinks about how we are all pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of the solar systems. I got the idea of a character feeling that same way. Later it evolved into him having an “oh I get it now” moment when he views the Perigee Moon. Then the idea of the controlling woman, the bad marriage, the change in lifestyle the character wants to make and finally, the reconnection with a woman from his past.
  3. What is the genre of the book? It is women’s fiction, and as a sub-genre it is baby boomer lit, since the character grew up in the fifties/sixties. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Big boom in boomer lit these days!
  4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition? For the main character, Bradley Cooper. Demi Moore for Kate,  since she did such a good job of sexually harassing Michael Douglas in Disclosure. Perhaps Diane Keaton for Abby. Think these actors are up for this challenge?
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Perigee Moon is the story of a man who has a life crisis, who comes to realize that he must be true to himself and makes the changes necessary to remove himself from a ruined marriage and the “should do” world in order to have the lifestyle he craves.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher? Self-published. I have neither the time nor the patience to do otherwise.
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? About one year.
  8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My other two, Second Stories and Whatever Happened to Lily? No really, I’d like to say works by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler but that is a privileged society of which I am merely one of the unwashed who elbows her way to the front of the line in order to get a closer look at the limo.
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I was inspired to try humor. I tried to inject it in certain places, although to say it’s a real thigh-slapper would be frugal with the truth. Whether the attempts at humor worked or not, I am not sure. Like everything else, humor is personal. What’s funny to one is inane or misunderstood by another. There are a lot of my own reflections in it, especially the “workspeak” where Luke has his second epiphany about where he should direct the rest of his career. Things that became intolerable to me, found their way into this novel. Sometimes we need to step back, take a look at what we’re doing, decide if it is providing the satisfaction we crave, or whether we’re like the proverbial hamsters, doing what we do because it’s what we do and what we’ve always done.
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It’s a nice story. It’s a character-driven novel, and those characters are, I think, believable. And everyone can relate to what happens to Luke. We make choices when we’re young and sometimes they aren’t the correct ones. We turn left, but a right turn would have been better. (No pun intended. Ah. The English language, so ripe for punnery.) We can watch a character become true to himself, and instead of doing what others want, he learns to do what he wants.

Now it’s my turn to tag three great authors. I’d like to pass this opportunity on to Jenny Gill, Johanna Van Zanten and June Collins. These women have become good cyber-friends of mine and I have read an reviewed all their books.

 

 

The Baby Boomer Reviewer?

I’ll drink to that!

This post started out as a whiney, complainy, bogged down piece of crap-writing that I started weeks ago and then decided never to publish. And I keep whittling it down, taking out the Poor Me stuff until this is what remains.

I’ve been on this marketing project for several months now, and not getting anywhere with it. As a matter of fact, it’s downright discouraging. Many of the new writers I have come to know are having a lot more success than I am. I am beginning to suspect that there are a lot of folks out there who have no interest in what I write, which is fine. Not everyone likes the same thing.

However! It might be time to ask, “Hold up a minute here! What’s the problem?”

So far I can’t figure out what the problem is. Whether I am not reaching my target audience or whether my target audience really would rather read the Twilight series or Fifty Shades of Grey.  

Photo by saratogajean

Where did everyone go?

Recently, I did a free giveaway of the Kindle version of Perigee Moon and got less than 200 downloads and no reviews out of it, the reviews being the main point of the giveaway. So what good did the whole exercise do? I went to all the book free day sites and made the announcement. I don’t see any positive results in doing any of it, although maybe it will take time for reviews to come in. The more good reviews a book has, the better it does. 

On a more positive note, I believe I have learned a lot about the writing craft in the last decade or so. I know what I perceive is good writing. I know whose voice I love and whose I don’t. I can recognize good writing, believable characters, and excellent stories. So I am thinking very seriously of becoming an “official” book reviewer.

I wrote a post recently about trying to find sites to get my own book reviewed, about the criteria I used to determine if a site would be a good fit. I wrote about the overabundance of people willing to review books about vampires and monsters and other foul creatures, but there were very few, make that none, that I could be absolutely positive would be a site that would want to review books about baby boomers finding their way at last, determining who they want to be later on in life, finding love.

One thing I have always believed, and still do, is that our generation is one of readers. We didn’t have video games and computers and other electronics to distract us when we were growing up, we had television and books. And while many of us have embraced the technology that makes our lives more connected and more interesting, we still basically love to read. As we start to retire, we have more time to read, and what better subject to read about than our own generation?

What if I become the Baby Boomer Reviewer? Books by and/or about that generation? They wouldn’t all have to be in my exact genre, but if they are written by baby boomer authors who just want to get reviewed then I’d be willing to do it. Hell, you don’t even have to be a baby boomer. Just a new author trying to get a start. And, of course, these reviews will be given with no currency exchanging hands.

If I can help to spread the word, help a new author, then why not?

Here’s the catch. I’d have a very hard time telling an author that I didn’t like his work. I’d have to be really honest and that will be hard for me, but a review isn’t worth anything unless it’s genuine. And who’s to say, I might not like it but someone else might love it? I’ve sure noticed that all people don’t like the same thing myself.

I’d be reluctant to give 5 star reviews. I have given them in the past, but really, I think 5 star reviews are reserved for truly great pieces of literature. Prose where I marvel at the beautiful sentences, and the exquisite phrasing. You all probably know by now how I feel about Scott Spencer and Jonathan Franzen. These men have both written books I would consider 5 star quality. But for the rest of us, well, we can’t all be authors of that caliber. We just can’t. It isn’t possible.

I’ve written quite a few reviews lately. Few of them were 5 star, but some of them were really, really good books. I’m including a link here to my Amazon reviews.

I’d post each review on a new My Reviews page as I do them, with a link to Amazon (or wherever the author would like the review directed). Here are some of the genres of books I would review:

  • General Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Literary Fiction
  • Baby Boomer Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Mystery/Thrillers
  • Short Story Collections
  • Non-fiction (as long as I have some knowledge of the topic)

No genre romance, no inspiration, no erotica. No urban fantasy, no vampires, werewolves or drudges. No steampunk — and if anyone can explain to me exactly what this is, would you please comment? None of these interest me and I wouldn’t be able to give a satisfactory review of that material.

I’d love to hear if there are any new authors who would be interested in having me review their work.

Are You A Twitter User? Check Your Tweets!

If you have decided to use Twitter as a marketing tool for your self-published novel (or for any other reason), check your tweets regularly. Because, if you don’t — You Might Miss Something!

Social media is the way to promote books, if you are an Indie author and/or publisher. That’s pretty much a given, but there are so many venues. Which one(s) to choose? I chose Facebook and Twitter. I have a Facebook fan page, where I post a link to a new blog article, and an autopost goes to Twitter whenever there is a new blog post published.

I checked Twitter faithfully for a long time and accumulated a few followers, and noticed that I would get this notification: “@xtrememarketing is now following you on Twitter!”. When I’d check out this particular Twitter user, often I wouldn’t know how s/he found me in the first place. Many of these strangers were following thousands of other people. I couldn’t figure out how they would ever see my particular tweets and anyway, why would they care about what I had to say?

Puzzling over this, I did a little research and found that what a lot of people do is check the list of followers for people they currently follow, and become followers of all those people. Twitter etiquette is more or less “you follow me, I’ll follow you” but what these mass marketers would do, is unfollow me as soon as I signed up to follow them. You don’t know when someone unfollows you, only when they begin to follow you. So now, you are following them but they don’t have to follow you.

Even if they don’t unfollow you, how can they ever find you, in the sea of tweets of thousands? There are lists that can be created, where you can follow the tweets of only the people you really care about. Again, what are my chances of being included on the A-list?

Bottom line, I forgot about Twitter. Didn’t check, didn’t have time, didn’t bother. Then one night I got the urge to tweet something so I downloaded Tweetdeck onto my phone and now started getting tweets again. This past weekend I got a notification (when someone tweets you directly) that I’d been nominated for a blogger award. But also on that list, was a tweet from one of my Boomers and Books buddies, that she had featured Perigee Moon on her Teaser Tuesday post! Great news, except it was back in June! I hadn’t even known about it.

Gah! I felt terrible.

I should have been on that post, replying to the people who left comments. But it’s too late now, it’s been four months.

Moral of the story: If you sign up for Twitter, people expect you are using it, and they assume you read your tweets. If you aren’t going to check them, disable your account. Otherwise, you won’t know what you are missing.

Many readers of The Tuesday Teaser post left comments. Most were positive, “sounds like a good read”, “will check it out”, etc. But here were three I found interesting:

Luke sounds a little bit spineless

Not sure if its for me though…I like stronger willed characters.

I think that Luke is going to be a character that I would like to shake really hard and tell him to get a life

Poor Luke has had this criticism before, that he can be pushed around, that he doesn’t think for himself, etc. I tried to portray him as a passive sort of guy, who keeps a lot of his thoughts inside and was able to be manipulated when he was younger. Sometimes it takes a little growth and maturity to become the person we were meant to be. It was so with Luke.

I know of a case where this Kate/Luke scenario actually happened. Not firsthand, but a friend of a friend kind of situation. Here’s how it went. The woman stalked him, sat outside his house and waited for him to come home at night, from outings with his friends and even dates with other girls. She wouldn’t go away. Finally, he caved and she got her man, and they’ve been married for decades. This is a happier ending than Luke and Kate but I found that story interesting and fictionalized their relationship on the idea that if one person wants it bad enough, sometimes she can convince the other to go along.

This is what happened to Luke. What do you think? Some of you baby boomers, don’t you think that was possible back then? I thought it was.

And now…

News You Should Not Notice!

“I have something, very, very big concerning the President of the United States.” Donald Trump, self-appointed highly respected political analyst, teased the Fox & Friends folks with this tidbit Monday during a phone interview. He is going to announce it sometime on Wednesday, he says, and “it’s going to be very big.”

DonkeyHotey / Foter / CC BY-SA

Just how big is that, Donald? When are we, as a nation who recognizes people such as this guy as somehow having something valuable to say (like “the job numbers are a lot of monkey business”), going to slap ourselves up side the head and recognize that maybe, uh, he’s a moron? Monkey business? That’s a phrase out of the fifties.

Remember, Donald, “The world rewards the appearance of merit oftener than merit itself.” (François de la Rochefoucauld) 

Appearance is the key word here. You only appear to be someone who matters. You really aren’t.

Distressed Lady Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art.

3D Man Photo courtesy of freedigitalprints.net

Should a Newbie Author Pay For a Review?

Speaking of reviews, Perigee Moon had a nice one here. Thanks to Carrie (AKA Connie) Rubin for including me in her list of books by fellow bloggers. I read her new book too and posted a review here. And no, it wasn’t a case of “you give me five stars and I’ll return the favor”, it was a genuinely fast-paced, exciting, well-written first novel. I recommend it, especially if you like medical thrillers with a little Sci Fi thrown in. Really, I recommend it to anyone.

Another blogger, Peggy Strack, in her post about Credible Reviews and the Debut Author, talked about how she decided to spring for a Kirkus review. Kirkus will review pre-released novels, which can be a great marketing tool, supposing that you get a good review, especially if you are self-publishing.

They (Kirkus) don’t make any promises, send them a crappy novel and you’ll get a crappy review.  If it happens that way, that the review is bad, the author has the option of not accepting it and it will never be seen by anyone. So, hmmm. Doesn’t that mean that all Kirkus reviews will be good ones? On the other hand, why not? If it’s good, it’s good, and if it’s bad, no one will be the wiser, except the author who can cry about it in private.

Kirkus charges between $400 and $500 for a review, which is pricey, and probably another example of an outlay of cash for my rather expensive hobby. My books aren’t selling well, and I am struggling with marketing them. So I’m considering it.

There is another more inexpensive option that I could try, $149 for a Publisher’s Weekly review. Authors submitting to them may or may not have their books accepted for a review. 25% are accepted, and the review still is not guaranteed to be good, which of course it shouldn’t be. These reviews get published on their website, bad or good. I’m considering that too.

I also consulted the Book Blogger Directory, which is a list of blogs/sites of book reviewers who will review for nothing. Normally they specify a genre that they prefer, but sometimes they’ll say “I’ll Review Anything!!” yet when you look at what they have reviewed you see (yet again) books about vampires and drudges and werewolves. So I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to be into character-driven novels about people who came of age in the sixties.

I delved into this huge list alphabetically, and went to each site and looked to see if it could be a fit. I got through the B’s which took days of endless searching. And it has to be on a Good Internet Day, which is another story, but the short version is I have a Verizon Mifi Hotspot which tends to suck, on and off, and provide me with less than optimum opportunities to surf.

Literally, I went through hundreds of sites, and found 3 which may be applicable but learned a lot about who I might approach for a review and who I would not. The following is a list of reasons I would bypass a particular review site:

  1. Your blog says “Grand Opening June 30th, 2012” and it’s already August.
  2. The dreaded “Error 404 No Page Found” comes up. This one is self-explanatory.
  3. Your blog is not in English. This wouldn’t be a problem for an author who speaks your language, but you know, it’s probably going to be a bit of a communication barrier for us.
  4. Your last post was one year ago. Got a problem with commitment?
  5. You say you are “not currently reviewing books”. Then what are you doing on this list of book review blogs?
  6. I see reviews for books about “faeries”. Or any of the above-mentioned stuff, for the above-mentioned reason.
  7. You deign not to review self-published books. Aren’t we fussy?
  8. You say you are “currently without internet access”. Well, I know all about that. It can be a real problem, but still, better get on that if you want to be a book reviewer.
  9. You apologize profusely for your absence and give an explanation of “where you have been”. I wonder how often that happens with you, Ms. Book Reviewer. Not sure I want to take the chance that you will go away again and I’ll think it’s because you can’t bear to give me bad news.
  10. Your site offers the possibility to “embrace my decadent desires” and there is a warning that it is a “Mature Site”. Pretty sure this isn’t a good fit.
  11. Your review policy is “Coming Soon”. Shouldn’t you have this figured out before you created your site and appeared on the list?
  12. Your website/blog color combo is such that it makes it impossible for my older eyes to read the text. An example: yellow lettering against a red background. This is obviously an age discrepancy, which probably makes us incompatible as reviewer/reviewee anyway.
  13. Your reviews are so chock full of bad English and misspellings that I don’t think you’d recognize good writing if it fell at your feet. (How do you spell misspelling? Is that right?)
  14. There’s a picture of a guy with a six-pack on your latest review, and it’s not the kind that comes in cans, it’s the abdominal thing.
  15. Your site is too pink. This is irrational, I know. Just  got a feeling about it.
  16. You review The Hunger Games and the latest Nora Roberts romance novel. These books don’t need your reviews, they have the New York Times, among others.
  17. Your latest post wishes me Happy New Year (2012). See #4 above for a question about commitment.

This brings me to question if I might do reviews myself. I already have my Review Policy worked out. I’d review books in my own genre, by new authors, of my particular age group. Is there a market for it? Would anyone be interested? Would I be able to give bad news to aspiring writers? Does anyone care what I have to say anyway?

Is there a future for baby boomer literature? Or matron-lit as it’s sometimes called, although I do hate that term. Don’t you think there must be a lot of retiring boomers out there with more time on their hands now? Wouldn’t they like to read stories about their own age group?

Or are they all living in Fifty Shades of Fantasy Land?

 

Perigee Moon Available on Amazon!

This past week was spent in the final editing of my third book Perigee Moon, and formatting of both the print version and the Kindle version, which went relatively smoothly. The Kindle Direct Publishing Nice People have now provided us with basic instructions on how to do it, and it is easier than it used to be.

You can get the print version of Perigee Moon here.

I learned that making use of the Styles in Word can make ebook formatting a whole lot easier, so I did that. I fixed my styles and created a Table of Contents and had relatively little trouble getting it published. You can get the ebook version for Kindle here for a mere $2.99.

I can’t decide which I prefer. I still like to read a “real” book once in a while and I go back and forth, between the Kindle and printed books, Amazon and the Public Library.

Once I got the Kindle version published and it looked very good to me, I decided to do the same with my other two books, which had a couple of formatting issues, due to my relative inexperience back then. Well wouldn’t you just know, wouldn’t it figure, that sometimes it works one way and sometimes it works another. I blame Word for this, there is so much crap under the surface of Word, so many options and it seems needlessly complex to me.

I got Whatever Happened to Lily formatted just fine, and is available here in it’s new format, but when I did Second Stories the exact same way, it didn’t quite work. Well, it worked okay, but put an extra space between the paragraphs which I didn’t want. I still haven’t figured it out. It looks okay, but not perfect, so I haven’t uploaded anything for the Kindle for that book yet.

Maddening, that’s what it is.

I check and compare and look at the HTML and can’t find out why it would do that. There are other ways to do it, through other software but the instructions supplied by KDP seemed so straightforward that I had hoped my ebook formatting issues were behind me. Ack! Not so.

Another surprise was in store for me. It takes a few days for a new print book to be listed on the Amazon site so I kept checking each day to see if it had appeared, and guess what I found? Another book called Perigee Moon. This I would have to describe as seriously suckage because I had specifically searched for books with that title when I selected it.

Perigee Moon by Tara Fuller. After a horrific fire claims the life of her mother, seventeen year old Rowan Bliss finds herself in the miniscule town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It’s here that she meets Alex, a deliciously mysterious boy who holds the key to unlocking her family’s dark secret. As Rowan falls helplessly over the edge for Alex, the secrets that he insists on keeping refuse to be contained. The truth that she uncovers challenges everything she has ever believed. Alex is a witch. And now he’s awakened something within her she never even knew existed. But out of all of this, the one thing Rowan won’t accept is the fact that Alex is destined to die. Rowan must unearth the buried power she harbors within to escape a deadly prophecy, defy the very laws of time, and prevent the hands of fate from taking yet another person she loves.

We’ll call it “The Other Perigee Moon” but I think I will plug it anyway. You can get that book here.

It’s about witches so I guess we won’t be in direct competition but still, it is disappointing.

In other news, next week (Tuesday, May 22) the six finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 will be announced. I like to read the excerpts from the books chosen and last year I blogged my reviews of each and tried to predict the winner. I wasn’t too successful. Maybe this year will be better.

Perigee Moon – Beta Reader Results Are In

An abbreviated post this week. I had a wonderful response to Remembering the Pankcake Man. Thanks to all who read and commented. My father was remembered at his memorial service on April 20, 2012. Many people came to honor him, to tell us what he had meant to them, and there were quite a few tears and even some laughs as we remembered the good days. I will always be grateful for everyone who came and shared their memories.

My husband reminded me of something funny that my father had said to him. We asked him, will you be buried here, next to Mom? And he said yes, he would be. And he had purchased additional plots for my brother and me, to be buried there too, but he guessed that probably wouldn’t happen. Those plots wouldn’t be used, so he was considering “turning them into a family room”. That was so typical of his sense of humor.

At my father’s funeral, the pastor read two poems my father had written. I had no idea. He wrote one poem about golf and another about retiring. They were funny, and witty, and everyone enjoyed hearing them. I never knew he wrote poetry.

The reviews are in from my Beta Readers. I got lots of thumbs up of Perigee Moon (between one and twenty per person). Even though these are my good friends from high school, still they all said they thought Perigee Moon is my best work yet. Every single one of them said it, and it is very gratifying to hear it.

They asked me if these characters are based on anyone, and I had to say no, these characters are truly made up. Maybe some of the characters in my first two books were based (loosely) on people I had known. In this case, that isn’t true. I thought a lot about the characters and how they would interact and what they would think and say. They are fictional, yet I suppose there are people who are just like Luke. Kate and Abby.

I will be fixing up the remaing typos and releasing it for publication in early May.

The Flu Yields a Good Book Review

Last week I hinted at the end of my post that I felt like I was getting the flu. Well bring it on! Let’s get this flu thing going and over with, shall we? Not so fast, the evil germ-vermin said. We think we’ll hang around for awhile. And they did, those little buggers, free-loaded for six days before giving up.

Rarely does this happen, that I get anything that lasts more than a day. And some may find the following unbelievable but before I retired, I used to hope for just a teeny spot of flu, maybe enough that I could spend two days groaning and collecting sympathy, without (and this is the caveat) feeling guilty for calling off sick at work. Just a couple of days to watch On Demand movies, or read, while drinking tea.

This time though was a little more than I would have wanted, ever. I was feverish for days, and I’d doze and think I’d slept for hours yet only a few minutes had passed. I hurt and remember thinking how I was going to have to explain to someone (and I had no explanation) how it felt and make them understand the connection between the pain and the fever, and if I couldn’t explain it, then I was never going to get better. Weird fever dreams when you tend to overanalyze everything and focus inwardly to such an extent that the illness becomes your existence, it’s what you are, at least for awhile.

The best I can describe it anyway.

I’d previously downloaded an ebook called January Moon, by Maureen Gill, onto my Kindle, because of the title and a good recommendation, so I read it. I had considered titling my new novel February Moon because I didn’t think anyone would know what Perigee Moon meant, then I decided to go with Perigee. The closeness of the titles was compelling.

Check the cover.  I think it is kick-ass. After I read it, I thought the cover couldn’t have been more perfect.

I thought what a good time to read it but started the book thinking, there are a lot of clichés in this book, which is something to which I have a particular aversion. Some of the characters are clichéd too, the crusty old four-decade police force Lieutenant, ex-marine, chain-smoking, irreverent. Then there’s the handsome thirty-something cop, not someone any bad guy would want to an up-close encounter with, yet oh so sensitive, who is engaged to the beautiful professor who never wanted a relationship with a cop because (of course) her father is an ex-cop and wheelchair-bound after taking a bullet in the spine during an altercation with someone desiring to evade the law. Stuff like that.

But the story kept me interested. It was a page-turner, and I was hooked enough to keep going until I was so committed I could not wait to get back to the book. I found editing errors, and still didn’t care. Nothing could dissuade me from reading it, because it was a damn good story. The author knows so much about the FBI and the Illinois State Police and the Chicago City Police and the Medical Examiner’s Office, that every line about these agencies is credible.

I found there were a plethora of characters and I had just the smallest trouble keeping them straight but not enough that I got horribly confused.

There was action, something happening on every page. Rich surprising characters who do things you would never expect them to, believable dialogue. And an interesting thing about the dialogue, Ms. Gill made use of almost no attributions (he said, she said), which I found interesting. Very well done for the number of characters involved.

And the dog. What a lovely story about him, and he deserves his place on the cover photo.

This is a good example of a plot-driven novel. If you’ve got a great story and characters to care about, you’ve got a winner and that’s what this novel is. I guess we of the character-driven novel have one strike against us, in that if our characters suck, our novel sucks too.

I would recommend this book to anyone. You can find it on Amazon or Smashwords. It is immensely entertaining. I can just see this as a movie, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear it’s been picked up for the Big Screen. Let’s see, Clint for the older cop and maybe Ryan Gosling as the younger?

Kudos to Ms. Gill and this is her debut novel! I am truly impressed and will forgive clichés. Without so many of them though, and the editing errors, I would give this novel 5*****.

In other news, another turn at editing The Infamous Flyer (Savon Spa opening Spring 2012 in Chicago). I hope everything is satisfactory now because my frustration level is way high. Not only do I struggle with software I don’t quite grasp, but my laptop has memory issues, I keep getting a popup – “WARNING!! You are running low on memory! Quick! Save your work to prevent data loss!” (Perhaps not the exact verbiage.) I calmly close the popup but it is annoying. Plus it still has other issues, in that sometimes it can’t “see” my Verizon Hotspot router which sits a mere 24 inches away, or it can’t “see” any networks at all, or it suddenly disconnects for no reason. And it still has the jumping cursor problem too. AND, it has a VISTA operating system which is utter junk.

A new PC is a big investment in time, what with getting everything off the old and onto the new, or re-downloading and re-registering and re-learning and re-configuring.

I’m going to do it – getting a new Samsung. It has an I7 processor (whatever that is only it must be better than the I5) and 8 GB of memory and I forget how much disk space, but it’s enough disk space to, if not “choke a horse” at least cause him to sputter a little.

My new Samsung shall become a beloved member of my electronics family, pampered and lightly touched with my cyber-affection.

The GIMP, CreateSpace and a Great Basketball Euphemism

Yes, last week’s post is really not happening until this week. I could make excuses, and say, but wait, I heard that more people read blogs on Monday than any other day of the week although I’m told they share more on Friday. It makes sense. Monday is a reading day (quiet, introspective, Monday-blues and can’t quite get into the workweek yet), and Friday is happy time. Time to party! Time to be free and share!

Maybe that’s not it, just one mad women’s assessment. I use the word “mad” to mean both crazy AND angry.

Someone I am close to, well, okay it’s my daughter, is opening up a new salon in Chicago. It’s to be the Savon Spa and is on Halsted St. in the heart of beautiful Lakeview. They will offer a variety of services, (things I never do) like spray tans, and facials, and something called micro dermabrasion (doesn’t that sound painful?), nail care, massage, stuff like that.

At one point I must have had a weak moment, or a moment in time when I needed to inflict intentional pain on myself. I can help you! say I. I have some photo editing experience, I’ve designed book covers, and cards, and even tee-shirts. Maybe I can help with your computer-related needs. Okay, says she (and her partner guy). How about helping with business (appointment) cards and a flyer?

Sure, say I. I can do that.

What was needed was a full blown graphic artist (not me) so I quickly learned that my sophomoric little package wasn’t going to work. Not to worry, I’ve also got The GIMP.

GIMP is not for everyone, and probably not for amateurs like me, but it is open source and it does everything except bring your pipe and slippers (two items I do not need anyway). It’s a great package. Here I am again, plugging great software. I can’t believe that The GIMP is available for a free download, it does everything that other sophisticated graphic design tools can do.

What a learning curve. What frustration. What a drag. Here is a picture of the finished flyer.

I have been tweaking and YouTubing and reading documentation and trying things for several days now, so while I like to write funny posts, I don’t feel particularly funny.

More optimistically (see, I could have said “on a lighter note” and that would have been a cliché), I have five copies of Perigee Moon coming, and will mail these out to my Beta reader group. They will arrive in a day or two. I did the final formatting over the weekend, when I wasn’t working on the freaking flyer and trying to figure out why my image couldn’t be moved, or the clone tool wouldn’t work, and trying to understand layers, and alpha channels, and a myriad of other stuff.

This stuff is all in my brain now, but if I don’t use it, it will disappear, as I make room for more subjects that I am required to learn.

Back to the novel, when I did the final preparation of my internal file, I had to go back to a post I wrote, about how to use Word to do your formatting and then create a pdf file, which can be directly uploaded to CreateSpace. So simple, to do, these fine CreateSpace people have made it easy on us poor not-worthy-to-be-published-in-any-traditional-way authors. Yeh! Here’s to CreateSpace.

I couldn’t remember how to do it, and so it’s a good thing I wrote that post, so I could go look at it again. This is the second time I’ve done that, so it’s valuable to me, if to no one else.

So on to my third topic. I heard a great basketball euphemism I thought I’d share.

This was back a couple of weeks ago before we were at Final Four, it might have been Elite Eight, when the interview took place. OU (Ohio University) hadn’t gotten so far in many years, since back in the 70’s and here they were. Finally! We people in Ohio were happy that our Ohio teams had survived.

OU has the dubious distinction of being The Biggest Party School in the Country. If you want to major in binge drinking, go there. A basketball player was asked about a previous win and if he had celebrated and here’s what he said.

“I must apologize that i didn’t contribute more to the elimination of distractions.”

That’s a very nice way of saying he drank himself silly, I guess. Got wasted, gooned, toasted. I thought that was a very nice euphemism. He is certainly a very politically correct young man.

Yeah. I don’t feel funny. Instead I feel like I’m getting the flu.

Two Good Tools for Writers

I had hoped to talk about four writing tools today, but only have time for two. It’s Sunday at 4:00 and I want to get my post out. It’s the dreaded Daylight Savings Time day when we get screwed out of an hour of the weekend although it will be nice to have the hour of light at the end of the day. I wrote a post about DST on the Boomers and Books site, and am reminded of what the American Indian said:

Only the government would believe that you could cut one foot off the top of a blanket, sew it onto the bottom, and have a longer blanket.

But on to the writing tools.

The Cliché Cleaner! I had written a post a few months back about The Cliché Finder which had obvious limitations. It must be a common problem because this post is still being read, and recently, a woman posted a comment which said she was an editor and it was a big part of her day just spotting clichés and she was in the market for something that could cut down on the time spent. I said I hadn’t heard of anything better and she responded that she’d found The Cliché Cleaner. I investigated. What a great tool it is.

I first downloaded the sample and after one try, decided to buy it. It’s only $12.95 which doesn’t “break the bank” (bet that’s a cliché, what do you think?). This tool examines a text file and matches it against more than 16,000 clichés and their variations.

But wait! There’s more. And this is even better, it counts the number of repeating phrases. How many times have you been reading along and you start to think, I’ve read that before? And I’m sure getting tired of reading the same words over and over. Now this problem can be fixed.

The Help File recommends that the files to be examined shouldn’t be too large, and a complete novel should be broken up into four or five chapters per chunk. This seemed like a pretty severe limitation. If it has to be broken up then the results of each file will have to be manually compared to the results of every other file. Didn’t like the sounds of that, so I thought I’d give it a try using the complete file. What could possibly go wrong? I’d run out of memory or some equally horrific computer event and I’d have to reboot. Big deal. It worked fine, took only a few seconds, so I’m not sure why it was suggested that the files be smaller. 

The software opens up a response window once it’s through searching and creates a very nice report, sortable in a number of different ways. I chose to sort on number of instances found, so my list will be ordered in such a way that I can address them from the most to the least problematic.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is there is no way (that I can see) to save the report so it can be accessed later. It can’t even be swiped to copy/paste and this is because of other functionality that it has, which I didn’t care about, that is, being able to click on the instance of the phrase and be redirected to the portion of text where it is found. It’s a TEXT file, not a Word document, so if I made changes to a text file, all my formatting is gone. This isn’t good at all. I don’t want to make changes to that file, I want a nice list of my offenders so I can go back into Word and do the corrections there.

Not possible. Because of a certain issue which I will explain in greater detail, I found myself writing the phrases down. Yes, all of them, and there were quite a few phrases too. I was forced to take pen in hand, and while I was pleasantly surprised to note that I am still able to pick up the pen and put it to a piece of paper and form words and phrases in cursive writing that are legible, still it seems rather like going back to the nineties.

It is a terrible option and I couldn’t figure out a way of bypassing the manual written list because when I tried to examine the report and type directly into another text editor, I had problems. When the cliché report window is clicked on (to move down the list) the window where you are typing disappears. This is a computer thing, having to do with which window has focus and response windows and a few other computer-related anomalies that no one needs to understand, other than it is hellishly annoying.

With the manual labor behind me, it took almost no time to type the phrases in.

The Cliché Cleaner, even with its faults, is better than anything else I’ve found. It is efficient (yet humbling) to see so many problems displayed in a list.  

But now I that I have it, I can go through each one, search for it in my Word document and decide what to do about it.

Four stars (out of five) for The Cliché Cleaner, and if I could print or save or copy/paste the report, it would have been five. But zero stars out of five for Customer Service because when I wrote (twice) and asked questions I have been ignored.  

Wordle! The Wordle website describes this writing tool as a “toy” and it is fun to play with but it provides some valuable insight into repeated words. It creates a “Word Cloud” and the words that appear more frequently are given greater prominence. Once the cloud is created by Wordle, adjusting the font and color will change its appearance.

I have a problem with word repetition and usually have a lot of editing to do to remove extraneous words. Words like but, that, just, so. Meaningless, throw-away words. Using too many of them says “amateur”. Of course, sometimes, these words are necessary. Wordle will point out if certain words appear more often than would be expected.

Then tedious it is, but doing a Find in word on the word in question is the only way to look at each instance of it to determine if it can be removed or not.

Wordle cloud for Perigee Moon:

Book Cover Design Using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro

This morning I designed a book cover using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro. This is the third book cover I have done, and it was super easy. Yes, it is a very simple, basic book cover but I like simple and basic.

I took some photos of the Perigee Moon this past March, but I didn’t love any of them. I decided to search iStockPhoto.com to see if I could find something I liked better. This is a very good site to check out if you are in the market to purchase photos, illustrations, audio or video files. People submit their work to iStockPhoto and if the work is accepted it can be purchased by anyone with a need. The owner of the work gets a percentage of each sale.

The purchaser can use the item for any purpose and there is no danger of copyright infringement. So my rule is, for a cover, I either use my own work, or make sure I get it from some place that can’t complain if I use it.

I bought the big one (more pixels) because I didn’t want to scrimp on the cover. If it were a blog or something, then it’s not such a big deal, but in this case, more is better.

This is the photo I downloaded from iStockPhoto:

I mirror-imaged the photo and cropped it so the moon would appear to be closer to the edge of the cover.  This can be done with any photo editing software. I used PhotoStudio which is a subset of PhotoShop.

I use a simple package called BookCoverPro. This software is not free but won’t put you into bankruptcy either. It’s maybe $100 or so. As long as the market trends towards eBooks, I wonder about the necessity of having a book cover professionally designed. If I were a New York Times Best Selling Author maybe, but if that were true, someone else would be doing the design of the cover who would be a lot better than I could ever hope to be at it.

I want simple. Straightforward. Contrast and maybe a little mood setting. This is actually a picture of a normal full moon but who’s to know? I thought it portrayed a certain feeling. This is the moon Luke looks at, the night of his great epiphany.

I recommend BookCoverPro, but I didn’t find the Customer Service all that great. It is simple enough to learn, so you don’t need Customer Service anyway, but trust me, in this case, “Service” is only a name.

Here are the simple steps I did to create this cover, which will be used for the print version of Perigee Moon.

Select the size. My book will be 6 X 9 so the size is 12 X 9. Six inches for the front and six inches for the back. Then the spine is sized, and this can be done by specifying the number of pages. That’s good because it’s difficult to size for a spine, and with this package it is done for you.

I selected a background color, black, because my picture is dark and even though there isn’t background to speak of, there could be a sliver where the photo doesn’t cover and I don’t want it to be white.

I then added my moon photo and stretched it a little to fit over the entire cover.

I then added the text fields: the title, the author name on the front and on the spine.

On the back of the book is a photo of the author, and some other text with other novels I have written. In addition, there is the back blurb which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago which I have yet to perfect so that part is Under Construction.

Now that I have this book cover created, the package will allow me to create a .pdf file of it, which is what gets uploaded to CreateSpace along with the formatted pages of the novel. They print both the cover and the pages, and assemble the book.

It would be very cool if you would comment and tell me what you think of this cover. Even if you don’t like it, or have suggestions, I would love to hear them. It’s very easy to change. I designed this cover in about three hours. The greatest amount of time was spent picking out the photo to use.

I’m sure there is someone out there who is thinking, you designed the cover in three hours? I can believe that, because it sucks, it’s amateurish and ugly.

I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while though, so maybe that counts for something.