Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Christmastide Courtship Now Available!

courtship with title

Short pitch:

When his brother breaks a longstanding betrothal with their father’s ward, Piers agrees to court Catherine in his brother’s stead. Will twelve days be long enough for two old friends to fall in love?

Click here for the proper back cover description if you missed it a few days ago!

…on Amazon and Smashwords

I expect it will be a couple weeks before the book ends up in extended distribution from Smashwords, and I might possibly have to restructure the file because of where I put the copyright statements (back matter and not front) before it will get distributed. I will update the book’s page with links to other retailers as they become available, including a print edition hopefully within a few weeks.

But for today, you can buy the book on Smashwords in any format or on Amazon for your Kindle (app). If you have found valuable advice in my blog and want to thank me, pick up a copy if you think you’d like it or send a copy to someone you know who reads romance. If you know you’re not the audience for the book, then thank me by continuing to leave intelligent and engaging comments!

Smashwords page (adult filter must be off…the book isn’t erotica; the romance standard would be “spicy” which goes up to heavy petting, but there’s a few cuss words and explicit references to sex, so I didn’t want to take any chances): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/392736

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HL6P2UE

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Filed under Official Announcement, Publishing

Formatting Frustrations (**UPDATED**)

Spent the majority of today, on and off again, compiling the novel into an ebook. The process went something like:

  • create new Word file from the text
  • define styles for paragraphs, chapter titles, and scene breaks and apply them to all the right places
  • add first line treatments to the beginning of every chapter and scene after a break
  • add front images – “back cover” description and title page
  • replace all the chapter headers with the images for each one
  • add all the extra publishing hoopla – dedication, author’s note, copyright statement
  • create linked table of contents
  • save as an .html file
  • edit the code to define the image sizes at 100% for the full-screen pages (description and title page) and 60% for the chapter headers
  • preview with Mobi pocket creator and upload same sourcefile to Amazon
  • convert to .epub file with Calibre to upload to Smashwords

A few things went wrong.

First, drop caps don’t covert from Word to .html, so I lost those immediately (*so I thought…they were not in my Mobi-created file, but they were in my Amazon-created file and in the .epub as all-caps). I pretty much said screw it, I’m not worrying about first line treatments since I got all fancy with graphics for chapter headers.

Second, the .epub file got kicked back to me from Smashwords as having a whole list of problems. I don’t sell enough copies via their retailers to spend time fixing the extra-pretty file for them. I don’t know how to be sure the chapter graphics stay the size I want (AKA not more than 1/3 of the screen height so there is at least some text on the same page) so I am going to revert to the file that just has the chapter header style applied, not the graphics. Won’t be as pretty but it will go through the Meatgrinder that way and get to all distribution channels, not just the ones that use .epub.

Third, the Amazon-generated file went wonky on both the graphics and the line spacing. I was sloppy and ignored the previewer looking funny, since the .html file that I used rendered perfectly with the Mobi creator. Sigh. The ebook did not render properly via their converter. As far as the graphics go, this is probably because I needed to upload the .zip file that would actually containt, you know, the pictures in it, not the .html file (at least according to a K-boards thread).  I don’t know how the line spacing got off, either, adding that annoying extra space between paragraphs that don’t have a hard return between them. That I am still looking into how to fix while I wait for my file to go “live” (yikes!) so I can actually reload it. That’s the thing I hate most about Amazon’s publication dashboard, that if something is in between published and live, you can’t change it. At least with Smashwords I could correct the problem tonight…if I wasn’t so fed up with all this that I’m about ready to punch walls.

Trying to level up is so much harder than trying for mere basic competence.

Nothing else to do tonight but have a drink.

______________________________

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:

Last night, after all, I revised the .doc file and ran it through the Smashwords converter, and it seemed to render fine. Not auto-approved for their extended distribution because of where I placed my copyright statement (at the back instead of at the front) but I’m not worried about that – either a human being will find it upon review, or their customer service will respond to my question about it and tell me that in order to get expanded distribution, the copyright has to follow the title page in which case…well, I guess I’ll move it. Eventually.

This morning I had the official “your book is live” email so I could finally edit it, well after I was able to buy my test copy and see the errors with dismay. I put a .zip file together of my .html file and the subfolder of items used in it, and that loaded just fine, even if the alignment was wonky on the online previewer. Hopefully it renders accurately. Should be able to find out in an hour or two…it seems like that was all it took for the original version to hit the U.S. store last night. I didn’t do anything with fixing the spaces between the paragraphs on the Kindle edition yet. That’s a fix that might take a little tinkering or re-filtering the .html file (which also means re-editing it for the 28 images) and was thus not on the table for doing in a rush before work just to get a non-broken file in place.

Once I’m assured that the correct file is up I’ll make an official publication announcement. 🙂

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Filed under Rants and Storms

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Myself Gave to Me:

A pretty title page

title page

… and a proper back cover description*.

*I had the description written, this was just the presentation. It is going to go at the front of the ebook, because one thing that has come to annoy the hell out of me as an ebook reader is not having the description of the book that made me buy it in the first place anywhere inside the ebook itself. Sometimes I will download a sample, or buy something because it’s on sale or temporarily free, even though I won’t read it right away, and later won’t be able to remember the hook that made me want to read it at all. I don’t tend to do well with books or movies I know nothing about. Not sure why, but I need some idea where the story is going before I will have the patience to let it get there on its own. Yes, I could go look at Amazon, but…that’s an extra step I would not have to take with a physical book that would have the description on the back, which makes me less likely to read that book versus picking one I remember why I downloaded. Ergo…my ebooks will have the description from the sales site at the front, so that someone who bought it months ago and is only now reading can remember why they wanted it in the first place.

description

Doesn’t it look like the back of a physical book? I figured if I was putting it in, I might as well make it part of the visual interest elements while I was at it.

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Filed under Digital Revolution, Publishing, Rants and Storms

Cookies from Beyond the Grave

The one piece of holiday cooking I did yesterday was to make meringues, a type of cookie that is basically fluffed eggwhite and sugar – crisp, melt-in-the-mouth holiday froth.

The act was as sentimental as it was gluttonous. The recipe I have is from my godmother, who died 11 years ago; indeed, she is the only person I have ever known who made this type of cookie. The only time she did was around Christmas. Partly, no doubt, because for being 5-ingredient treats they are a pain in the ass to make, but partly also for the practicality of needing air that is less than 80% humidity to dry them (thus ruling out spring, summer, and most of fall where I grew up) and partly because it’s nice to hold in reserve certain food that become part of the fabric of the holidays. I decided to make them because I wasn’t getting much proper Christmas otherwise: I celebrated 2 weeks ago with my family, my husband was working, and we didn’t even get a tree this year.

So I made meringues. I held for a moment an intense sadness that I could not call her up to ask what the “dough” is supposed to look like at each stage, and then I made my best guess.

The cookies, when I tried them last night (they have to cure for 10-12 hours rather than actually bake) came out perfectly. They tasted like Christmas…and they tasted like her. For that first bite I could close my eyes and pretend it was 12 years ago, and she was wearing red velvet on the couch 5 feet away. Then I opened my eyes. It’s not 12 years ago, but the meringues still taste like Christmas. Next year, I’ll make them again.

20131226-124534.jpg

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Now THIS Is a DIY Cover

So…after nearly 11 hours of work, off and on, what I have under my metaphorical Christmas tree is a book cover.

Yes, I just spent my entire day fiddling with the effing cover. A lot of this was the learning curve of not just Gimp but also how Gimp-created images do (or do not) play well with other programs. Next time I will know how to render these graphic elements a lot more quickly.

Anyway, I am quite proud of the cover I put together, especially considering just how do-it-myself it was:

  • I made the clothing seen in the picture, the jacket specifically for the purpose of Regency novel covers…from an original pattern based only loosely on Jean Hunniset’s costuming book for the period
  • I had to rearrange the furniture in my house to get a suitable set-up
  • I took the photo OF MYSELF with a delay on my digital camera
  • I spliced together three different photos to make a “scene’ (the couch and figure, the baseboard, the wallpaper) and rendered it into something closer to a painting than a digital photograph using a free program I’d never used before
  • I created the cover graphic (“a Regency novel”) and had to create a separate graphic for the title in order to achieve the text depth and orientation I wanted
  • I put the cover layout together myself using three different programs because none of them alone would quite do what I wanted (Powerpoint, MS Paint, and Gimp)

I am sad I am not hitting publish tonight but, y’all, I am bushed. And in the end the only person I’m letting down with my publication schedule for this book is myself. I can look myself in the eye and say “I did the best I could” without cringing and knowing the words for a lie. Maybe if I go to bed sooner than later I’ll be up for a little coding in the morning and submit this beast before work. If nothing else, after wrestling with Gimp for so long, a series of MS Word hoops are going to feel laughably easy.

In the meantime, I present you with the cover to my newest novel, A Christmastide Courtship.

courtship with title

 

Thursday morning postscript:

Reading back over my post from last night, I feel I should clarify my out-of-pocket expenses for this.

(1) $35 (approximately) for the jacket – 2 yards of fabric, thread, buttons. (Part of me doesn’t even want to count this since I know have a cute little jacket I can wear out and about!)

(2) $59 for the font, which is “Respective” by Mans Greback, from http://www.aringtypeface.com/ (which I plan to use as the cover font for all my historical novels, so the per-cover use will drop with every book I publish. Right now it’s about $20 because I’m about to re-make my covers for the Twelfth Night books).

That’s it. Everything else was just time. (Soooo much time, lol.)

Granted, I made a lot of use of items I had to hand for other reasons. If you don’t cosplay…if you don’t have a good digital camera…if you don’t have old-school furniture to pose with and a fabric stash to make wallpaper out of…then you might have a higher expense list. But for me, it was <$100 which is a pretty nice price tag. I can spend that on myself for Christmas since hubs & I don’t do gifts so much as time and food. 🙂

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Filed under Artwork, Publishing

If There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way, Trust Me to Find the Hard Way

My Christmas present to myself this year is publishing my Christmas novel. The one I’ve had ready to go, textually speaking, since October. I haven’t sat down to make it into a proper ebook with all the bells and whistles before now because I both haven’t had all the elements ready and also haven’t had both time and mental energy to sink into that type of thought for long enough to get a book ready to go. Somehow, it seems the sort of project (to me, at least) that should be done in one fell swoop rather than in pieces, probably because I don’t know the whole process well enough to be sure I’m doing everything if I stop and come back to it later.

As the title of this post alludes to, I am also making this job extremely hard on myself. What can I say; I don’t do anything by half-measures. I could have put a plain and unadorned book with a plain cover out back in October. I chose not to, because I would rather have a professional quality book with hoops and adornments. I have been somewhat constrained by a lack of money here…many of the websites that offer graphic and visual elements require a licensing fee for commercial use that is not worth the minuscule effect they would have on the book as a whole, which left me at ask a friend or do it myself. Same with the cover art.

For…reasons…I find myself in the position of having to do it for myself if I want it done at all.

I spent an hour on Saturday cutting graphic elements out of black card stock and photographing them so that I could have my mistletoe (versus holly, which apparently 95% of graphic designers don’t know are different things) adornments. While I was at it, I made holly just in case, and a masquerade mask for my Twelfth Night novellas, which are about to get an upgrade to my new standard for ebooks. I hauled out my old calligraphy pens – both the marker-like pens and the old-school type that gets dipped in an inkpot – and spent an hour practicing forming letters before I made the “calling cards” for the new Twelfth Night covers. I played dress-up with my spencer jacket (finally finished it, will post on the end of construction later) and various skirts I have made for other costumes until I found a combination I liked, and took test shots with various gloves and without any at all. I stopped in at the plant nursery a few blocks from me and scored a huge stalk of mistletoe for free because they were 5 minutes past closing and the whole wheelbarrow full of it was already wilting.

Sunday I rearranged my living room to show only the oriental rug and chesterfield couch, with a sheet hung behind  it so I would have a blank backdrop, and spent about 3 hours taking photographs of myself in costume on the couch and then standing against the sheet. Let me tell you, figuring out how to balance a little hand-held digital camera on top of 5 books on top of a chair on top of your coffee table is not easy. I ended up having to pin the wrist-strap into the front of a writing journal as a bracer. But it worked. I got some really awesome shots, at least a couple of which could almost be slapped onto a cover as-is. When I see the thumbnails I have to do a double-take to be sure it’s not a picture of a book cover. Unfortunately, the wrinkled green sheet in the background just doesn’t look like wallpaper, so I have to manipulate the image (original plan was to have someone photograph me in an historic hotel with appropriate decor and then just run the picture through an oil painting filter in Photoshop…you know, an hour and an hour and done sort of thing; plans change).

Alas, poor Lily, for the rest of Sunday’s project time did not go so smoothly (“smoothly”) as the picture-taking. I don’t have Photoshop, and I don’t have access to it this week, so I am stuck using a freeware program. I chose Gimp because I have a friend who uses it (unfortunately, it’s a guy I work with so not someone I can just outsource fixing the cover to), and several places online claim that it’s actually more powerful than Photoshop…once you learn how to use it. That caveat needs to be 10 inches high and in red, because Gimp is NOT an MS-based program (I know Adobe is a different company but they mimic the “logic” of MS commands, which is probably part of why they have become/stayed ubiquitous as the go-to photo-manipulation program). I had to find a tutorial merely to open a picture in the program!, and I do not consider myself either stupid or ignorant of computers in general. I spent another 3 hours trying to change the background color and just figuring out a little of how Gimp works in hopes that I might be able to get a working knowledge of it. No such luck, on either count. I finally put my computer aside in abject frustration, resigned to the fact that I would be using tutorials specifically and only for the tasks I needed, and therefore there was no point until I had the pictures all taken (I still needed my “wallpaper” – fabric out of my sewing stash for the win!- and the Twelfth Night pictures, which I needed to take outdoors in daylight) and could just work on the actual cover instead of a practice picture. This was the point where I looked up and realized it was 9:30 and I hadn’t eaten anything since about 11 that morning, and, oh, yeah, I’m not just feeding myself right now.

Monday was a long day at work, and I came home too tired to do anything. Yesterday I got home around 3 and took my Twelfth Night pictures, had Christmas Eve cocktails with my husband, and went to bed early.  He’s back at work today, and I am blessedly off, and so today I embark on the following tasks:

  • take my fabric pictures
  • load all three sets of pictures to my husband’s computer (I don’t have our camera reader installed on mine) and transfer them to my own via Dropbox or email
  • crop out the ugly green curtain from around the couch and replace it with proper wallpaper
  • run the manipulated picture through a filter to make it look more like art than photography
  • add the title/attribution
  • make proper graphic elements out of the mistletoe, holly, and mask .jpegs
  • buy a license for the font I’ve settled on for all my historical romance title needs
  • create graphics for my title page and chapter headings with the font (bc otherwise I have to fool with embedding it in the file and…just no)
  • learn how to hyperlink inside an ebook
  • copy the novel into a new document with appropriate style sheets
  • add the front and back matter
  • add the chapter headings, first line treatments, and graphics section dividers (if I decide to use one instead of the traditional  * * *)
  • make my table of contents
  • do any other html code fiddling (such as defining the size of graphics if necessary, etc.)
  • convert into .mobi and .epub files
  • load to my distributors

I am not in a rush to do this by a certain time today. It’s the only project I have to do, and I doubt anything is showing up in an online store for a day or two after Christmas. Just a hunch, somehow, if any human element whatsoever is needed to make files live.

So there it is. As presents go, it’s kind of a doozy, even if it’s a helluva lot of work to get to the point of presenting it to myself with a nice little bow on top. 🙂

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Filed under Housekeeping, Publishing

Friday the Thirteenth

Today is a Friday the 13th, the day the madam of The Honest Courtesan uses as a call to awareness for sex workers’ rights. It’s my chance to state publicly that I believe all sex work, including prostitution, should be decriminalized. The sooner our society leaves off attempting to legislate morality and dictate private, consensual behaviors, the better off all of us will be. And the sooner our legislative bodies and feminist activists stop the infantilizing of adult women by suggesting that we are incapable of making a rational choice to have sex with a particular individual for any reason whatsoever, the safer and more empowered all women in this country will be.

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