Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday News

Today is exciting for me. I’m being featured in the Author Spotlight on “The Word is My Oyster” blog, which is written by Lydia Kang. Besides being a writer, mom, and wife, she’s a doctor and writes the most fascinating posts. Medical Mondays are my favorites. If you’d like to read the Author Spotlight, click here.

One more exciting book announcement. My book is now available for Nook. So if you were waiting for the Nook version, click here.

I was hoping to post photos of Matt and Jake’s Shakespeare costumes today, but I’m searching high and low for ¾ inch silver D-rings. I need 16. I have 12. I’ve cleaned out the local fabric stores. And WalMart doesn’t have them. Neither does Hobby Lobby. And I can’t finish the gauntlets without them. I did find out that JoAnn’s was getting a delivery Thursday. Friday morning, I’ll be at the store, hoping for D-rings. If anyone else is there looking for D-rings, they’ll find out that I don’t run those 9 miles a week for no reason. Okay, I don’t run them so I can beat other women to important store items. (I actually hate shopping.) I run because it means I can be healthy, eat more of what I like, and read novels. I think I’m the only woman at the gym who runs a treadmill while wearing reading glasses. But, hey, I’m getting my exercise, which is good because Lindt chocolate and Salt and Vinegar potato chips are calling my name.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Why Is It" Wednesday

I know that Wednesday follows Tuesday and comes before Thursday. But this is more along the lines of "complete this sentence."

Why is it that....

1. the summers when I can sleep in, I wake up at 6am?

I’m thinking it’s because of the sun peeking around the edges of the blinds. I need to buy one of those lace-edged black sleeping masks.

2. ...grass grows really well in my flower beds, but not in my yard?

And weeds grow well in both places.

3. ...that computer-y things hate me?

It turns out that my Nook problems may be a flaw in the “Nook for PC” application that I was previewing it on.

4. ...all the fabric stores in Chattanooga don’t have any ¾” silver D-rings available, so I can finish Jake’s gauntlets?

I can’t wait to post pictures of the costume.

5. ...chocolate, Brie, potato chips all taste wonderful, and Brussels sprouts taste like...Brussels sprouts?

I’d much rather eat healthy food pyramid portions of chocolate and Brie than kale, okra, and beets.

What about you all, do you have a "why is it"?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Senseless Screaming

Is it me or have commercials gotten inane?  We don’t have cable and living on the back of a ridge means an antenna does nothing. (Yes, the children are deprived, but in a good way.) So when we watch a TV program it’s usually streaming with either no commercials or very few.

Last night, we visited my parents and watched Leverage. (BTW, why are they focusing on Sophie and Nate? I’m glad they found each other, but Parker and Hardison are much more interesting. And it’s clear that Eliot is on the show as eye candy since they still haven’t given him an interesting back story. All he gets is tender-hearted tough guy—can you say “cliché?”) Anyway, back to commercials.

So a commercial comes on. Some guy comes on the screen and screams for the entire commercial. And then the name of an insurance company comes up. The problem is that it is unclear why he is screaming. As far I could tell a tornado has not destroyed his house and car. No one has been carried off to Oz. A contractor hasn’t told him that his whole house needs to be rewired/re-plumbed. And he hasn’t had eight major appliances die in a two month period. (Insurance doesn’t cover that anyway—believe me, I know.)

I could only surmise that the guy was sitting in the agent’s office filling out paperwork to get his teenage son added to the family’s insurance policy and had just been given the final bill. And he couldn’t stop screaming because the good student discount barely made a dent in the bill.

When I shared my discovery with Calvin, he said, “That’s our insurance company.” That left me a bit nonplused. All that money and this tripe was the best commercial they could come up with. Maybe I should learn to write advertising script.

N.B. I’m excited to let you all know that this Friday I’ll be participating in an Author Spotlight. I’ll include a link to the site on my Friday post.

ACK. I went to my blogger dashboard and found that all the blogs that I follow have disappeared. I've refreshed and reloaded. They're still gone. Anyone know how to fix this?

Friday, July 22, 2011

E-Pubbing Nightmare

We all know the cliché that says you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until you lose it. I’ve discovered a similar one—you don’t know how easy Amazon’s e-publishing is until to try to e-publish on Barnes & Noble’s PubIt or Smashwords.

I have to take a deep, cleansing breath even before I begin telling you about it. Imagine that I have uploaded my novel to Amazon without a single glitch. I scroll through the entire book in the preview mode, perfect. I follow the formatting guidelines, and everything including the cover art went up smoothly. I sigh in giddy relief.

The next night I decided to upload my novel to PubIt, so it can be bought for Nook at B&N’s site. I begin filling out the online paperwork. At some point there’s a glitch, most likely with the auto-fill and my email address is inserted incorrectly. So when I try to access the account, it presents me with the paperwork for filling out the financial information again. I assume (incorrectly) that it didn’t save properly and fill out the paperwork. PubIt sends me a note saying that my social security number is associated with another account and they can’t process my information.

So I send an email to PubIt customer service. They tell me that my SSN isassociated with another account. Uh, yeah, I got that. I send them another email including a screen shot. I wait several days. Nothing happens. I call. I talk to a nice man who makes me type in more stuff (which doesn’t work) and promises that whatever the issue is, they’ll fix it in 24 hours. I believe him. I am an idiot.

72 hours goes by. Nothing happens. I call B&N again. A very crabby man answers the phone. I explain my situation. He grumbles at me. He accesses my account and grumbles some more. Thanks to the first customer service rep, I now have three accounts associated with my SSN. I ask if the extra accounts can be deleted. He spews venom and tells me that it will take a week to do it and I won’t be able to use an account until then. I politely say that a week seems pretty long given that the first customer service rep said 24 hours. Crabby man spews more venom and says that it can be resolved in 24 to 48 hours. I ask crabby man if the situation could be resolved if I accessed the working account and changed the email address. Crabby man says, “NO.” I am beginning to see why B&N has financial trouble and why writers pay people to upload their books.

After another 48 hours, nothing happens. I call B&N and talk to a sleepy sounding woman. I explain my problem. She pulls up my account and says, “Whoa, I’ve never seen anything like this. I have no idea what to do.” I explain what crabby man said he would do to fix it. She tells me that he and the first guy did nothing to my account. Not even a notation. Imagine fire in my eyes. But this is not sleepy woman’s fault. I politely ask sleepy woman if I could just change the email address. Sleepy woman says, “Yes.” I change the email. It takes lots of finagling because the account doesn’t want to process the change. Eventually, I fix it and sleepy woman thanks me and I thank her.
To make a long story short, I try multiple times to up load my novel into PubIt. Every time, there are formatting errors. The bizarre thing is that when Arieland I fix one thing, another random thing pops up somewhere else. Right now we’re down to three random errors, which appear to be unfixable—Ariel’s checked the coding and there’s nothing wrong. We tried new documents, retyping, typing in the coding by hand, etc. Nothing worked. So now I have to decide whether I want to publish with three blank pages stuck randomly throughout the book.

In the intervening time, I decide to do Smashwords. After hours spent formatting according to their odd guidelines, I decide to upload... You know, it’s always a bad sign when someone names their conversion process the “meatgrinder.” It’s a worse sign when they tell you that e-pubbing isn’t about perfection in formatting (they mention random blank pages that appear for no reason), but getting your words “out there.” I might agree, but they are so far from perfection that I remove my novel from their site.

Anyway, if you’re considering e-pubbing, start with Amazon and follow the formatting guidelines. If you are meticulous, it’ll upload. When you get around to PubIt and Smashwords and need someone to commiserate, I’m the person to talk to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oops. Breaking Cultural Laws

A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Costco and had a different cashier. She said, “Good morning.” I said, “Where are you from?” I’d heard the distinctive New England twang. Too twangy for Connecticut, not twangy enough for Maine, not hard enough for Boston, and not Rhode Island-y. She was from central Massachusetts. I told her that we moved here from Connecticut. I became her new friend. Every week, I wave and she waves. She tells me about her kids, and I tell her about mine. She gives me a good dousing of New England wit and bite, even if it zings me. It makes me laugh.

Her co-workers don’t laugh. When they interact with her, they give her the steely-eyed gaze. I cringe when I imagine their interactions. New Englanders pride themselves on telling the unvarnished truth, no matter who it hurts. They believe anything else is a lie. Southerners pride themselves on polite kindness, even if it isn’t the truth because you don’t want to “be ugly.” (But you can talk about it to others later, as long as you say, “Bless her/his heart.”)

It’s curious to me, having lived all over the US (Southern and Northern CA, GA, IL, HI, CT, TN) how bound people are by their cultural upbringing. How breaking these cultural values become the great sins. And, of course, it’s true outside of the US. One thing my husband had to get used to was that Dutch culture reveres birthdays. On her birthday, my grandmother sits next to the phone all day with a pad of paper and pen in hand. When you call to wish her a happy birthday, she will let you know that you are caller #16 or whatever. Then she will proceed to tell you who has called. And heaven forbid you should forget to call, which is why I listen to my grandmother read the list of everyone who has called her and then call to remind those who haven’t called to call before the day is over.

And then there’s the kissing thing. Dutch relatives kiss each other on the lips, regardless of sex or age. I made the mistake of doing this to my father-in-law by accident. Not good. And very hard to explain your way out of. Then there was my husband’s experience with my relatives’ kisses. He learned to wait to the last second to turn his face, so the kiss would end up on the cheek. And then there was my Chinese sister-in-law, who I thought would have cardiac arrest, when my uncle came at her for a kiss. I learned to stand next to her and do kiss-interception.

What weird cultural/ethnic oddities did you grow up with? Or which ones have you broken by mistake in a new culture? And what was the response? I’ve had people back away slowly as if I was a time bomb waiting to explode.

N.B. For those of you waiting for Screwing Up Time for Nook, it’s still not available. Once again, Barnes & Noble PubIt employees have not come through on their promises. So I have to call them again. Heavy sigh. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Shifting Gears

In the midst of figuring out how to do publicity for my new book (I’m open to suggestions), it’s time for me to sew Shakespeare costumes. Matt and Jake are both in the play Mid Summer Night’s Dream. Jake is playing Demetrius, and Matt is playing Puck.

Jake really liked his costume from last year (blouson shirt and tunic with faux embossed leather accents). So he said he’d wear it again this year. GREAT. Then, I volunteered to make him accessories. He wants gauntlets and a feathered hat. They will be very cool, but a lot of work. I’ve done a hat before—more broken sewing machine needles than ever for one project. And the gauntlets are studded with metal studs, meaning I probably will need to purchase a studding tool, if there is such a thing. Matt needs a tunic covered with leaves, which should be fairly easy, I hope.  When the costumes are done, I’ll post photos.

For those who are interested, things with my novel are going well at Kindle. The exciting thing this weekend was discovering that a total stranger loved my book and wanted to contact me. (Yay!) I’m still having trouble with Barnes & Noble—their promises to rid me of the imps have not materialized. So I will call them again, and, hopefully, get better promises. As soon as that's done, I'll get back to the Screwing Up Time sequel. I've left Mark and Miranda in a very precarious situation, and I need to rescue them. 

Friday, July 15, 2011


My young adult novel, Screwing Up Time, is available as an e-book on Amazon. (Throws confetti.)  The book is selling. (Throws lots more confetti.) Click here to visit the book’s blog.

If you’re interested in my novel, you can check out its Amazon listing here. And if you need apps to read it (for iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, computer, etc.), I put them in yesterday’s post, just scroll down.

I must admit it was a scary thing to throw my baby out into the big bad world. When I was telling this to the kids, Jacob asked, “Why?” I said, “Because it’s putting a piece of your soul out in the world and hoping no one stomps on it.” I think there are very few avocations/vocations/artistic pursuits that are so time intensive and alone.

My husband is a gifted watercolorist. In a week he can paint an exquisite painting. In a week, most writers have a couple of chapters—and that’s if they’ve written an IOU to the laundry and the dust bunnies.

On the other hand, the opportunity to share your story with total strangers is amazing.  The idea that someone you don’t know could enjoy the strangers that have lived in your head for the last year/years is a heady feeling.

In the next week or so, I hope to have some kind of give away to celebrate. But right now I’m in the midst of trying to work with Barnes & Noble’s imps to get Screwing Up Time available for Nook.

Check back periodically and I’ll update you on my experiences in e-publishing. If you have any questions (it really is a brave new world), don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments or email me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kindle Apps

Tomorrow will be the official announcement/celebration that my young adult novel SCREWING UP TIME has been released as an e-book. But I know people have already started talking about it, so I thought I’d go ahead and put up some information.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read the novel. You can download a free Kindle app here (Kindle app for PC) that will allow you to read the book on your computer. If you have an iPhone, iPad, etc., the iStore has a Kindle app. Or you can click the various devices and I've put in links to the apps. And here's an app for Android. And one for Blackberry.

If you have a Nook, I will have the book available soon at Barnes and Noble. (Once B&N and I work out the kinks with my account.)

Here are some other links:

SCREWING UP TIME on Amazon This takes you to the place where you can buy the novel.

SCREWING UP TIME blog This takes you to my brand new book blog. (Don't worry, I intend to still write this blog.)

Thanks for everyone’s support and encouragement!!

BTW, if you enjoy the novel, please rate the book and write a review. (It helps with publicity and search engines.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kindle Imps

Yesterday I finished the edit and final proofread of my YA novel. Ariel jumped on it and said, “Let’s get the upload to Amazon started.” I tried not to panic and mumbled, “Sure.”

So she translated the book through various permutations. Everything was going so well (not my usual experience with anything computer related). We set up the financials. (You can have Amazon send you a check or they can direct deposit it. And they sell in the UK and Germany and you can select to have it changed into dollars instead of pounds or euros. Plus, they worry about adding the VAT taxes. Phew!) Then came the final file uploads. And the imps got busy.

First, we found blank pages in the novel text. Why? Who knows? We played with the text and they disappeared. We had to put the manuscript through the various permutations again. Then we tried to upload the cover art. Even though everything was perfectly formatted, it came out blurry. I called in the “big guns”—the professional. She tried loading the cover art—it came out in black and white. Which made no sense at all. How is that even possible? (I get that on Kindle the cover art will be black and white, but the Amazon site uses full color.)

We decided to go with the early blurry upload, hoping that it would turn out not fuzzy when it pubbed. So we went to the next step—the final preview. And a new weird formatting issue popped up. So we went back to the original document fixed the formatting issue and re-checked the whole document for the same error. Then, we re-processed and uploaded the book again.

And after it was finished, I panicked and realized that I’d forgotten someone from the acknowledgements. So once the book is accessible, I have to try and fix it.

At any rate, check back on Friday, hopefully the imps will be working with me and I’ll have an exciting announcement. In the meantime, I’m being to study the Imp-ish language (If you can’t beat them, join them.) Especially since my microwave is now behaving oddly. It shuts down for no reason and starts up for no reason. And it’s not an electrical short. Watch out—the imps are going to take over the world.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Game Crazies

Matt’s still sick. And everyone’s getting tired of it. Especially Matt. He’s decided he has Black Death. He’s been known to break out in singing “Ring Around the Rosies,” which Wikipedia says is not about the plague. But I’m not sure how else you’d explain the nursery rhyme.

However, since Matt has gastrointestinal issues and not an upper respiratory infection, the plague is doubtful. But he points to his rash (which my doctor friends call “viral exanthem”—cool word) as confirmation of his self-diagnosis. He’s been known to moan, “My rash is getting black rings.” Thankfully, he’s too tired to go get a sharpie and start circling them.

Because the rashes are itchy and we’ve tried everything else, I gave him oral Benadryl. I really, really should have known better. Matt doesn’t process medications that same way most people do. He became very hyper. There’s nothing like a hyper 14-year-old who says, “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored.” Thankfully, Jacob came to the rescue. He got out characters from our games “Aunt Millie’s Millions” (a game where you fight over a deceased woman’s possession—it’s actually very funny because you make up wild stories in order to get the asset and the rest of the players vote on whether your story is good enough) and "Guillotine" (seriously, it’s a game about collecting heads). Okay, I need to insert a caveat here. Those games make us sound like psychopathic crazies. We’re not. At least, not all of us are.

Back to Jacob, he took these characters and made up this long interactive story/game involving all the games’ characters. Jacob has made up a lot of games over the years. My favorite one was "Zombies." It's a competitive/ cooperative game where you’re locked in a house and attacked by zombies, and in typical teenage boy fashion you can slow down the zombies by giving them raw meat, or you can kill them with explosives or flame throwers.

Hmm. Maybe we are a bit demented, but in a good way. I can’t wait to play the new game he’s working on—I see cards lying around the house, but he won’t tell me what the game’s about. Apparently, everyone he knows reads my blog, and he knows I’ll blog about the game. Smart boy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Let's Play a Game

I’m sorry that I didn’t get a blog post up on Wednesday. It’s been a long week. I’m trying to get the last few things done on my YA novel. Hopefully, it should be available next week—probably on Friday (but maybe sooner). And if final proofreading wasn’t enough, a very nasty gastrointestinal bug hit our home. I was hoping it would be one of those 24 hour viruses. But it’s not. And I’m washing lots of icky laundry. (Enough said.)

I’ve been reading that it’s National Book Month/Week. Of course, when I looked it up, I discovered that there are lots of National Book Months/Weeks. But, hey, books are great, so multiple celebrations are good.

In honor of whatever book celebration is going on, we’re going to play a game here on the blog. Find the nearest book, look up page 56, and copy the fifth sentence into a comment.

Here’s mine.

“But they are all wrong.” He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters.

Don’t you love that sentence! Short and powerful, even with a “to be” verb.

BTW, if you've never read Elizabeth Peters, you must. Exotic Egyptian locale, feisty female archaeologist detective, and witty writing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Top Ten Lies I Tell Myself About the Heat

It’s really hot. Yesterday, it was 101 degrees F. That’s way too hot for me. If I could choose my weather, it would be 75 year round, with occasional bouts of freezing and snow. After all, when it’s cold, I can put on my silk thermals, wool sweaters and pants. But the heat is harder for me to handle. You can only strip off so much clothing, and even then it’s still hot.

But I don’t want to complain. So I’ve decided to become a true Southern magnolia and embrace the heat. Here’s a list of what I tell myself.

1. I am a plant soaking up the sun, growing strong in its mighty rays.

Myself replies, “Have you looked at your plants? They are sad and shriveling. Whatever strength they get comes from a 75 degree sun, not the burn-your-chloroplasts heat.”

2. Plenty of places get much hotter.

Myself: Yeah and most of them don’t have humidity that steams you al dente.

3. It’s only temporary—the season will pass.

Myself: There are a lot of days between now and October.

4. Thriving in the heat makes me stronger.

Myself: If it doesn’t kill me first.

5. Sweating is healthy.

Myself: Seriously? I feel like a greased pig.

6. Two words: air conditioning.

Myself: Okay, you’ve got me there. Air conditioning is one of the great delights of the modern age. That and the high efficiency washing machine, but that’s another post.

7. In the summer, there is no need to scrape ice off car windows, to shovel snow off sidewalks, and no need to look for that missing glove.

Myself: weeds, weeds, and weeds. They love this weather and multiply like, well, weeds.

8. Amazing thunderstorms.

Myself: tornadoes and power outages lasting five days.

9. Running around in the great outdoors.

Myself: bug bites, poison ivy, and sunburn.

10. Fireworks.

Myself: Okay, fine. They are worth sweat, sunburn, and bug bites.

Have a great Fourth of July, everyone!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Connie-Ariel Comedy Hour

My daughter and I drove down to Atlanta today to pick up a friend of hers from the airport. Our trip down was blissfully uneventful. The trip back not so much. First, we encountered 4th of July traffic. I’m not a patient driver. And I was hungry, but I wanted to get out of Atlanta before we stopped for food.

I was driving north and not paying enough attention and ended up taking an exit that I hadn’t intended. I made a couple of U-turns, which Ariel decided were reckless. (But, they weren’t illegal.) Anyway, we got back on the 75. We wanted to go to a Chick-Fil-A for lunch, but couldn’t find one. On the drive down we saw about a 100 CFA restaurants, but on the way home, not one. (BTW, CFA has the best waffle fries in the world.)

We ended up going to Subway, except we missed it and ended up in a very red-neck area of north Georgia—interesting tattoo parlors. Finally we found the Subway. Ariel wanted sweet tea, but the sweet tea wasn’t sweet tea. So Ariel tried to “sugar” it with Sprite. It was gross. We discussed who needed to go get her something drinkable. I lost that argument. Not sure how she won, but I think she played the “headache” trump card.

After we were sated, we kept on driving home. I have a habit on commenting on other drivers’ poor driving habits. Particularly abhorrent are the drivers whose vehicles apparently did not come equipped with turning signals. I guess that feature was too expensive.

And Ariel likes to comment on my driving habits. (As mentioned before on this blog, Ar thinks that Cal and I are rude inner-city, Northern drivers.)

Ar: I think you cut off that driver.

Me: I didn’t. I used my turn signal.

Ar: Yeah, right.

Me: No seriously, that lady wasn’t coming over. Look, she’s still back there, letting another car go ahead of her.

Ar: She’s polite.

After an hour, Ariel’s friend commented that she should’ve video’ed our drive home. Yep, the Connie-Ariel Comedy Hour.