What’s New, Pussycat?

14 Oct

cover illustration-100

According to WordPress (and I think they should know!) this is the 100th post to this blog. Who’da thought that on April 27, 2010, when the first post made its appearance?  There have been a number of changes in my own life since then, including a move to my current – and hopefully, final – home, on the shores of Lake Erie, on Cleveland’s east side.

Not quite four months after that, I self-published my first book on Amazon.com  – a reissue  of my first published book Secret Shores, under my own name.  As usual, I did the Kindle version first, then followed with the print (plus Large-print) edition. Last month, September, 2014, I did my most recent book The Regency Christmas Duo (as my Regency alter-ego Hetty St. James). In and of itself, this fact isn’t vitally important, except for one piece of data. Amazon issues a project number for each book it publishes, and in between these two books some 4 years and 1 month apart in time, Amazon’s CreateSpace issued 1, 536, 815 other print books, some few of which were mine!

Kindle operates a bit differently, so I don’t think I can compare those numbers, but I’ll bet it’s ten times as many! And now, there is the option of an audio book for any author interested in reaching that market. I hope to do that – in the next calendar year – 2015 – for my Regency stories. The others are way too long for me to attempt at this time. But still, it’s fascinating to realize how the publishing world has changed in such a short time!  When Secret Shores was first published (Berkley, NY) in May, 1993, there was not yet any Amazon other than the river in South America.

Not to mention there was little known about this new-fangled thing called the World Wide Web, or as we now know it – the Internet.  iNet, for short.  There were some few writers using the new electronic mail service known as e-mail. And we’d only just really discovered faxing, as the machines became easier to use and less un-wieldy. Wow! All these dandy new things – why, there was even a portable phone that one could use in a car, although it was much tooo heavy to be carried around. NO, it was not a cell-phone. Not yet.

But progress won’t be denied. And within a short time, it was possible to send an e-mail message to anywhere in the world, providing both the sender and the recipient had a working computer and internet connection. Said connection being a dial-up connected to your regular telephone line. Wow!

Of course, there were still problems with incompatibility, and no, I don’t mean between people! The machines and networks had to be compatible with each other, as well.

I would go off to work on Saturday evenings, leaving my computer and modem turned on, and hope to goodness that thunder and lightning didn’t appear to mess up everything.And hope that maybe somebody had sent me something for the newsletter. Still, every day was like opening a treasure chest – you never knew what you might find in your inbox. But then, as always happens, some devious souls discovered the business of phishing and/or scamming, or some other even more evil tag-along, and what had once been fun now became the serious business of trying to keep your computer virus free. Ugh.

As to submitting manuscripts? Well, first it had to be painstakingly typed on paper, double-spaced, with wide margins all around – but the pages could not be bound together in any way! Then, it would be bundled up and carted off to the Post Office, or perhaps a courier service. It was not cheap – especially for those authors out of the US, who were submitting to US-based publishers. And then, it was wait, wait and wait some more. With any luck someone at the publisher’s office would deign to admit they’d actually received your baby. How long would it take to receive any other communication? How long is a piece of string?  Sometimes a week, sometimes a year, sometimes never. And you didn’t dare intrude on the publisher’s privacy to inquire. You might accidentally disqualify yourself!

Now, of course, EVERTHING is done electronically. Fast, faster, fastest!  But reading is still a rather time-consuming activity, especially when trying to determine the quality of a manuscript. Sometimes a book starts slowly, but might be fixable, if the overall quality is high enough to warrant having extra time spent on it. Sometimes, it’s all too evident that this particular manuscript is a no-go. At least to this publisher. It might be acceptable elsewhere. It was always a constant guessing-game as to where was that proper place!

But if we hadn’t gone through all these birthing pains, we wouldn’t have the accessibility that we now enjoy. One can read a book or a newspaper or a magazine in several different electronic guises. Even your cell phone! I write too long for folks to read easily on their cell phone, but I’m not going to apologize for that either. Less is not always more. Nor is it always a good thing. At least to me, it isn’t.

What’s your opinion of all this?  I’d love to have your comments or questions:  bookmechanicATgmail.com

Almost a celebration —

30 Sep

This is the 99th posting to my blog. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve had some ups and some downs since this began, as we all do. Fortunately, I think my ups have been more than my downs, and at my age that’s really saying something! (And please don’t ask, I won’t tell!)

While this year has (at least) so far been productive and interesting, it hasn’t been quite all that I’d hoped for, but still, I have accomplished somethings, which is the point of this post. If you believe and have confidence in yourself, you can accomplish a lot, and make more of your dreams come true.

Last year, I published a novella that had been living in my computer since the fall of 1989. The Duke’s Christmas Gift 99-The  Duke coverbecame a Kindle book available to the world on October 1, 2013, and proceeded to imitate a sky-rocket. I’m still in awe of the trajectory of this little book of just under  20,000 words. Within a month of its debut, it was on the Amazon best-seller list for Historical/Regency/fiction. Whoa! It stayed there pretty much through January, rising up to number 19 at one point. Don’t get me wrong. I liked this story very much, once it hatched, but it didn’t fit any of the conventional categories or niches, while it collected innumerable rejection slips. So it hibernated. Furthermore, as a Christmas story, it has sold not less than 5 copies each month since last year—all through the summer months! And that’s not counting the ‘borrows’ made available through Amazon.

Collection-coverMost of my writing output has been in the Regency genre, where the author name on those books is Hetty St. James. Last year’s output included the Duke mentioned above, plus A Castle Cramlye Christmas and Pongo Guthridge Finds Love, which were then published as A Regency Christmas Collection, in two print versions, regular and large print. There was also a novelette (less than 10K words) titled The Elegant Runaways.                                                                          99 - Improbable Duke - cover

This year, I did another novelette, An Improbable Duke, which was a ‘prequel’ to a Regency mystery series I’ve been working on for too long, and haven’t quite managed to get any of the stories ready for publication. But I’m still working on them! Be sure I’ll keep you posted!

99 - Duo cover tilt However, I was still writing, and produced two longer stories (shorter than full-length book, but longer than novella) Bella’s Legacy and Francie’s Feast. These two are now also in print as The Regency Christmas Duo, and as  before, in both regular and large print.

Under my own name, however, came another previously un-published book – Cover MockupAn Intensive Care Guide for the Family. This was co-authored with a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic – J. Javier Provencio, M.D.  We worked on the book from the fall of 2006 until spring of 2008, but due to the constant upheaval in the publishing world around that time, this book, too, languished. It is now available as a Kindle e-book or a small paperback from Amazon or it may be ordered through your favorite local bookstore.

The point of this post is this: don’t ever give up, keep faith in yourself and your abilities, keep working, and keep your eyes and ears open for new possibilities in this ever-changing world of ours. Success can happen at any time for any reason, and although your definition of ‘success’ may differ from mine, you may still be happily surprised!

Thanks for reading and happy writing!  If you have comments or questions, please write to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com

It’s never too late . . .

16 Sep

. . . to learn something new about yourself, right?

My mind has been spinning more than usual for the last few weeks. On August 6, I stumbled on an article about LeBron on ESPN.com.  This is hardly a rare occurrence, living as I do in Cleveland, but it was the content that really grabbed me. Here’s the link to the piece by Brian Windhorst.  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/11067098/lebron-james-greatest-weapon-brain​     I hope I won’t be shut down for quoting from this piece, as long as I provide the proper attribution, so y’all please keep your fingers crossed.

“‘When I was a kid my coaches started to say to me that I remembered things that happened in games from a few tournaments back — and that surprised them,” James says. “I started to realize how important that could be years later, probably when I was in high school. And then, eventually, I realized that it can get me into trouble.’

If there’s one thing that can be said about the study of the human brain — and especially the field of memory — it’s that even today, it’s notable less for what is known than for how much is not known. The workings of our head-sponges remain, for the most part, a mystery. But if there are areas of consensus in the field of neurology, one of them is that the notion of “photographic memory,” in which a person can take mental snapshots and recall every detail at a later time, has never been proved to exist.”

And these two isolated sentences from the same article:  (Those who have it)’They are as cursed by it as they are blessed by it. It’s hard, after all, to erase bad memories when you can’t erase any of them at all.’

 

I’ve always had a terrific memory – the exact address of every place I ever lived as a kid, plus phone numbers, etc. I’ve often joked about wishing I could erase some of the trivia in my brain to make room for important or up-to-date data. I had no idea that other people experienced the same thing! Duh. It was only about ten years ago that I learned there was a name for my uncanny memory of names, faces and numbers. I knew I’d been born with this ability: it was not because of anything I ever did to encourage it.

That magic name was Eidetic. Since then I’ve investigated it a bit, but then something else comes along and distracts me. One thing about mine (and it seems as though every person’s eidetic is at least somewhat different from everyone else’s eidetic) is that while I’m reading a manuscript or a book, and there are conflicting statements or data, I can fairly easily find both instances without searching the entire book. I’ll remember it being on the upper left page, or lower right page, for instance. Naturally, this doesn’t work so well with my own writing, but it’s dandy with everyone else’s! It makes me a great proof-reader, actually.

It also helped me find two plagiarists, as well. I knew I’d read that book previously, and sure enough over the next day, I was able to dig it out of my mental library and present the information to the original author. One of these was Phyllis Whitney, who sent me a very nice note of thanks.

Sandra Heath Wilson, my writer friend in England says:  “It’s like having a camera in your head, and from time to time the shutter clicks and something is imprinted there forever. Sometimes I’m aware of it happening, other times no. I get the feel, scent, moment-in-time sensation as well. I gets me in the pit of the stomach. Strange. I remember the written word as well, but it’s not consistent. Sometimes I do it constantly, and am accurate, other times I can’t think straight. The mood has a lot to do with it. If I’m  relaxed, I remember and ‘see’ the page. I’m always remembering things from a Regency book I used to have. I can see an illustration or paragraph, and know which book it was in, and where it was on the page. Sometimes I can even make out a remembered index, but I wouldn’t like my life to depend upon it.  Actually, I think this sort of thing is a prerequisite for writers. I goes with the sort of brain that can invent stories and get them down in the written word. Imagination, a wild memory for odd things, and the ability to conjure things in the mind. To ‘see’ your characters and move them around.”

I’ve finally figured out why I’ve always excelled at tests, as I have! It’s the memory, which allows me to be a whiz-bang at trivia games, and to almost always find things I’ve temporarily mis-placed. On the whole, I guess I’m glad to have it, but it can definitely present problems. I found this web-site to be a fabulous read on the topic. http://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-have-a-photographic-eidetic-memory   I can agree with each of these folks. Not that mine is just like any of theirs, but for sure, I have the embedded GPS capability, and the ‘hard-headed know-it-all’ part, as well. It IS hard to maintain relationships, because the other person NEVER understands!

Strange, eh? So, what’s your story?

I confess . I am a . . .

2 Sep

I LOVE research. There. I said it and I’m glad! I am a researchaholic, big-time. I’ve always loved libraries and books and history, and when they all come together – well!

At some point in the 1970s, I fell in love with the Plantagenet era in England. You know, the one that ended sadly with the death of Richard III at Bosworth. The next dynasty was Tudor. But the Plantagenets were a long-lived dynasty having been created by the Treaty of Winchester in 1154 that ended twenty years of civil war. Henry II was the first of these kings and their dynasty stretched  over 331 years, containing four distinct royal houses: Angevins, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York.

I read everything available to me at that time (this was long before computers and digitization, I would remind you) and became totally enraptured by the wife of Henry V – Catherine of Valois, the ruling family of France. It was expedient for him to marry her, as he considered himself the conqueror of France (Agincourt 1415) and thus it’s King as well as England’s. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be happy with that, he had to keep fighting, and consequently lost his life at an early age (1422), leaving a very young widow and an infant son.

It seemed to me that Catherine was virtually ignored by everyone. She was accorded all the status of a footnote, which really bugged me. After all, she was the daughter of a King, the wife of a King, and the mother of a King. How could this be?

Well, of course, her father, Charles VI, was known as the Mad King, but if you read his backstory, it seems reasonable to think he was derailed by the terribly tragic fire, accidental in nature, but which killed most of his friends. He did have periods of lucidity afterwards, but they alternated all too often with periods of (perhaps) insanity. But then, her mother was no prize, either. Isabeau of Bavaria was reported to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and she expected to be treated as such. It didn’t always work out that way, however, and while she had a bunch of children, she would never be considered as acting ‘maternal’ towards any of them, especially the later ones, of which Catherine was the next to last.

And then, there is Catherine’s son Henry VI, who was also known to have periods of insanity. But then, how many 9-year-olds could handle being forced to watch Joan of Arc being burned at the stake? Surely, that would be enough to hinder most people, especially a sensitive young boy. Of course, by that time, young Henry had been in the care of his uncles for seven years. They had forcibly removed him from his mother, saying a mere woman was not capable of raising a king. Of course.

So, I decided to write a book about Catherine, who did eventually find happiness with Owen Tudor, a Welsh archer in the train of Henry V. (Or so I firmly believe.) But a funny thing happened on the way to the writing. I fell in love with theater, and so all my research went into a one-woman play. It’s never been produced, but it came close once. The timing was just not right, and truth be told, I’ve not really pushed it anywhere, either. I still have it, though, and every now and then I go back to it and am amazed by the depth of the research. It covers her life from the age of six (1401) to her death in 1437.

One of the books I read mentioned her will as being part of a famous collection of ancient manuscripts. I had no idea! It never dawned on me that such things had ever been collected. But, yes they were. This particular volume was part of the Cotton Manuscripts. You can find out more about them here:  http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/manuscripts/cottonmss/cottonmss.html

What I found most interesting was his way of cataloguing these treasures: he named his volumes after people from history. The volume I wanted especially was the Cleopatra volume.

To be sure, this was all most interesting, but then – THEN!!! I discovered that our library in Cleveland (one of the best in the world, actually, a well-kept secret, apparently) had a copy of the volume that included her will! It was listed here: http://www.cpl.org/TheLibrary/SubjectsCollections/SpecialCollections.aspx

Needless to say, I promptly took myself downtown to the main branch where this collection is housed. What a wonderful voyage of discovery that proved to be! Wow. It was in the John White Collection, located on the third floor. One has to knock on the locked door for admittance, and surrender your driver’s license along with the library card and once in, they give you a pair of inexpensive white gloves to wear while touching ANYthing in there. (I admit that I’ve not been there in several years, and the rules may be different now. Or not.)

If you see a book on the shelf that you want to investigate, you do NOT touch it. Not even with gloved hands. No! You find a page and show him or her the book, and they will remove it from the shelf and bring it to your table. You’re allowed to turn the pages, but not lift it or do anything else with it. Don’t even ask to photocopy anything. Not usually possible, but on rare occasions, an exception may be made, depending on the volume you wished to have copied. For a charge, they used to do microfilming, as well. But it was not as immediate as a photocopy.

If the book you want is NOT on display but is listed as being part of the collection, you fill out a request slip and give it to the page, then go back to your chair and wait. Eventually, it’ll get to you. Same rules as before, and it’s firmly requested that no tears (the watery kind) are accidentally allowed to splat on a page.

What I wanted to see was Catherine’s will, and so I did. It ranks as one of the highlights of my life. But almost as important to me, THIS particular volume had been in the personal collection of the Prince Regent, (who later became King George IV) and he had actually affixed his signature and other important information on the inside front page! With tissue firmly clenched in my left hand (to catch any stray tears) I gently ran my gloved, right index finger over his sprawling signature.  WOW. What a major thrill. I’ll never – EVER – forget it, to be sure.

Books are wonderful, aren’t they? I couldn’t live without them. I wouldn’t even want to.

 

Around the World in 80 seconds, give or take a few . . .

19 Aug

No, not in real time, that’s for sure. But I’ve noticed that a lot of folks are not aware of the world-wide presence of Amazon. Even more so, for Kindle. So, here we have a ‘show-and-tell’ glimpse at the global reach.  There are currently eleven other Amazon sites around the world. (China is temporarily not available, but all the others are.)  For instance, here’s a screen shot of the US page for my newest novella. (Might as well pitch myself, right?)  Kindle books that are available to US readers living in the US are not available to us from the UK site. Actually, I’m not sure that a US resident ordering from the US can purchase from any of the international sites, and that’s not the purpose of this post. It’s only to demonstrate the fun of seeing one’s book being available to readers all around the globe!

(Apology because these didn’t all cooperate like I wanted them to. They moved around to suit themselves! However, if you click on any of the pix, they will enlarge. I hope that helps!)

 

1 Bella - US The UK page is not very much different, although we are one people separated by two languages. Or however that goes.

2 Bella-UK

The fun starts really, when you take the chunnel over to France.

3 Bella-France

Or Germany

4 Bella-DE

Or Italy

5 bella-Italy

Or Spain

6 Bella -spain

But  suppose you want to go in the other direction:  Here’s Japan

7 Bella - Japan

Here’s India

8 Bella - India

And here’s Australia

9 Bella-Australia

Or go north to Canada, another great country with fewer language difficulties, as a rule.

10 Bella-Canada

Or south, to Mexico:

11 Bella-Mexico

And finally, our last stop  — Brazil

12 Bella-Brazil

There now! Wasn’t that an easy trip?  Thought so! In spite of the confusion, I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue! Now you should aim for the day when your books are so readily available world-wide!

Comments?  Questions?  Write to me at bookmechanicATgmail.com

There’s Publishing, etc.,  —  Part Two 

6 Aug

A few months back, I promised a discussion of e-books, and then (as usual) was side-tracked by more enticing topics. Or something. So I’ll try to catch up with myself here and see where it goes.

E-books, meant to be read on an electric or electronic device of some kind, have been around for more than 35 years, believe it or not! True. But, they were not terribly workable, plus being slightly clumsy. Greater progress has been made in the last 15 or so years, however. I still have some I bought that were on a 3½ floppy or CD. For the most part these were prepared in HTML, and were not at all compatible with trying to print them out on paper. I’ve never read most of those older works, because trying to print them out was such a difficult thing to do that I just gave up. I did, however, actually buy them, so the author did get something out of it all.

There have been several devices made for this purpose, most of which are now part of history. Rocket Reader and Sony (several models) were the major producers in the mid-late 1990s, and then MicroSoft created a reader as part of Windows. At that time, we were still reading on our computers, however, and let me tell you, it’s really hard to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a monitor and keyboard on your lap! Laptops of that era were not much better, either! (Nothing at all like the little tablet-gizmos of today. Really!)

In 1998, Amazon along with Barnes & Noble, began to sell e-books, but the first Kindle didn’t come along until 2005. NOOK followed in 2009, and the iPad in 2010. That did it! Soon there were all sorts of devices available for reading books, but of course, to put a big crimp in the competition, they always had to be in their own individual and very proprietary formats. One device could not speak to another. Oh, no! Google put the kibosh on that notion, with their Android OS and devices, and this has now become probably the biggest seller. Or if it isn’t Android, it’s iTunes.

And – they keep getting smaller all the time. I cannot imagine reading a book on my phone! I can’t even picture reading a way shorter ‘article’ that way. What will happen, I wonder, 40 years from now when all these 30-somethings will have to resort to the old ‘coke-bottle’ type (thick, in other words) lenses in their glasses or contacts? Of course by that time, they’ll probably have a port built into the skull somewhere in which an e-book can be downloaded into one’s head, without bothering to go through a device first!  I have to say I’m happy I won’t live that long. I don’t really want to know!

Of course, in the meantime, the MP3 format revolutionized the music industry. And guess what? It works for e-books, too! Much easier and way more convenient than the old cassette or newer CD versions of audio books. And of course, between Amazon and iTunes, there’s a sizeable market, not to mention AudioBooks.com. You can easily carry your entire library around in one small memory card or stick!

I think it behooves any author to at least consider this latter medium. I know I’m going to. I have years of reading/taping experience for the Cleveland Sight Center, and one of the books I taped for the Library of Congress Talking Books is still in their catalog nearly 20 years later. I was thrilled to make this discovery earlier this year. (Of course it doesn’t hinder the longevity that the novel is  by Nora Roberts!) I may not make it for any of my Regency Christmas novellas this year, but without a doubt I will do it during 2015.

I’ve just added a new novella for this year (Bella’s Legacy) at Kindle, and with a little bit of luck Francie’s Feast will be available before the end of August. (More about them next month, but in the meantime, here’s Bella’s cover!)   

bella cover-2

As always, if you have questions or comments please do write to me: bookmechanicATgmail.com

 

 

What’s in a name?

23 Jul

I am not a sexist, although I’ve been a victim of it too many times in my life to be able to entirely overlook it, but there’s a reason why so many excellent women have taken men’s names in order to be published. Even today, there is  J. K. Rowling, a name that is totally androgynous, and not easily identifiable as either sex. It also, of course, depends on what you’re writing. Again, a woman faces an enormous amount of criticism if she wants to write hard-boiled crime novels or really explicit erotica. If she happens to live in a small town, where everyone knows her and her family, she might be very wise to use a pen-name.

Just this week, here in Cleveland, an author who calls herself D.M. Pulley won the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for her mystery, The Dead Key.  The author, an engineer and 38-year-old mother of two young children decided to remain anonymous to protect her family’s privacy. However, full-face photos of her have appeared in the newspaper, and I’m sure her family and friends know who she is, but I’m not sure anyone else really does. I’m also not sure anyone else really needs to!

When Secret Shores (my first book) was published in 1993, I thought it very sexy, but no one else thought so. I was asked, more than once “is this THAT kind of book?” nudge, nudge, wink, wink! And I had to say yes, because there were love scenes in it. But the h/h weren’t promiscuous, and were in love with each other. All the reviews called it a ‘sweet’ novel, which was the kiss of death, because it wasn’t sexy enough! And furthermore, there was a lot of history in it! Duh. It’s a ‘historical romance’. Same thing with Windsong.

At that time, in Romance Writers of America (to which I then belonged) the feeling was that if one wrote different kinds of romance novels, then perhaps a different name was in order. The idea being that a reader who likes one particular kind of book over all others, will go for the author’s name, and if it’s a totally different kind, and upsets the reader, it is always the author’s fault. So, when I sent out my Regency novel Bertie’s Golden Treasure to publishers in 2006, I created the pen name of Hetty St. James, which sounded British to me. I kept it entirely secret (only my publisher and a couple of friends knew the truth) until last year, when I finally ‘confessed’ on this blog.

A man wouldn’t usually face this kind of nonsense, although there was a man in RWA at that time, whose name was Harold something or other. He wrote wonderful romance novels, usually western-based, or southern. His pen name was the ambiguous Leigh Greenwood. If you didn’t know before reading any of his books that the author was male, nothing in the book would give you that notion, either. I know several other men who have written romances, using a pen name. I don’t blame them one bit, either. It’s very difficult to change the mind of the public.

If you intend to write in vastly different (from each other) genres, then maybe. Or there might be some other reason why a pen name might be useful. My current name is a great one for an author, I think. There are very few people in the world with my last name, thanks to my late husband’s forbears who came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s, and who didn’t speak English. Your name, on the other hand is probably not Ty Drago, for instance, which is another one of a kind. You might perhaps use at least a middle initial, or maybe put a y in the middle of James – to then be Jaymes.

One last thought. An editor friend read my first book before I submitted it. I had my name in the header as Ferjutz, Kelly and he really climbed all over me for it. “THAT is not your name!” he bellowed. (He was really good at that!) “That’s not how people speak to you! Your name is Kelly Ferjutz, and that’s the way it should always appear on any paperwork connected to your career. That’s your BRAND!” I decided he was right, and have never done it any other way since then.

After all, a rose by any other name still smells as sweet!

Comments or questions appreciated – write to me at bookmechanicATgmail.com

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