Writing Retreat – Ocean Pictures

December 10th, 2017

Last weekend, I was at a writing retreat in Oceanside, California (near San Diego). A group of us rented a house directly on the beach. If we walked onto the patio, there was the beach, right there. In fact, at high tide, the beach was completely under water. It was a hugely inspiring weekend because of the people who attended and the amazing view. I did not bring my fancy camera since I was traveling and there for writing. I had my iPhone X, and here are some of the pictures I took.

Waves cresting at the beach. The feeling is expansive, as if you could open your arms wide and take in the entire ocean.

Pacific Ocean

Often, in addition to surfers, there were dolphins in the surf. In the above photo, you can see a portion of the balcony where I was standing. Directly below is the patio and the rock stairs to the beach. Here it is high tide so there is almost no beach. The view and the sound of the ocean was a wonderful backdrop to a weekend spent with other writers talking about writing and the business of writing.

A rectangular rock weighed down a feathery bit of kelp that is now covered in a layer of sand so that you see only the shape of the feathery fronds. It is remarkably detailed.

Sand Covered Kelp

I took the picture above on a walk along the beach in the afternoon. It was just so pretty and delicate looking, even though it’s kelp covered with a layer of sand.

The sky is cloudy, but for a small area just above the right side at the horizon. That space is orange and is reflecting onto water that looks like steel. The feeling is stern and stark.

Sunset over the Pacific

The sky looks like it’s on fire almost, and the ocean is steely gray. It’s an oddly peaceful picture. At sunset, we’d take a break from our discussions and presentations to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The water and sky are deep, rich, pinks, purples, oranges, and blues . The light is reflecting off the water which looks smooth and almost soft. There are waves in the foreground.

Sunset, Oceanside, California

For me, these last two pictures are surreal. I’ve never seen the ocean and sky look like cotton candy backlit with orange.  It’s graceful and solemn, and awe-inspiring.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean, picture 2. The water and sky are deep, rich, pinks, purples, oranges, and blues . The feeling is peaceful and full of grace. The light is reflecting off the water which looks soft and velvety. There are waves cresting to the front of the picture.

Sunset over the Pacific

This is the other picture of this sunset where the colors are surreal. Here, you can see a portion of the beach and the waves.

It’s calming and inspiring just to see the pictures again.

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Celebrating the Release of Surrender to Ruin With a Contest

December 8th, 2017

To celebrate the release of Surrender to Ruin and because I’m in the giving mood, I am giving away two necklaces, one here, and one on my Facebook Author page. Here are pictures of the one I’m giving away here. I don’t have the right lighting, but I did the best I could. Both necklaces are Swarovski crystal. I bought them from a woman who had to move her jewelry business to her husband’s frame shop here in my town because they lost their house in the Northern California fires. They are both commuting from San Francisco. So these necklaces have some history already.

The rules to enter are below the pictures.

A teardrop shaped purple crystal set in a silver-colored backing.

Purple crystal necklace from further away

A closer view of a purple teardrop shaped pendant on a silver-colored chain

Closer view of purple crystal necklace

 

The Rules

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Must be 18 to enter. International OK. If the winner does not respond with a valid mailing address within 5 days of notification, I will select an alternate winner. Winner chosen at random via the plug in “And The Winner Is.” Contest closes Midnight Pacific on Friday December 15, 2017.  To enter, please leave a comment on this blog in which you answer this question: “What’s a nice thing someone did for you, or that you did for someone else.”

Feel free to also enter the other contest at my facebook author page. You have to also comment on that post.

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Surrender to Ruin – Available Now!

December 5th, 2017

Out Today! I hope you love this book as much as I do. It’s here!!!!

iBooks | Amazon | cJewel Books | Google Play B&N | Kobo | Print

An unbelievably hot Regency man sitting on the arm of a chaise looking very smug

Cover, Photography by Jenn LeBlanc. Cover Design by Damonza

iBooks | Amazon | cJewel Books | Google Play B&N | Kobo | Print

Her beauty is divine. His heart yearns for another. Will attempted revenge result in true love?

Emily is the last unmarried Sinclair sister. For all her spellbinding beauty, she’s never been able to clear a certain man from her head and her heart. He’s made it clear there’s no hope, and now he’s about to marry her best friend.

The Earl of Bracebridge knows how to hold a grudge. The former prizefighter turned disreputable nobleman hoped to marry Emily’s sister until she was forced to wed another. After his hopes for a suitable marriage are dashed once again, he seizes the chance to settle the score with Thomas Sinclair—by eloping with Emily and consigning them both to a union without love.

Emily knows Bracebridge loves another, but every time they’re alone, sparks fly. Can the Earl get past his heartbreak to realize the perfect woman didn’t get away —she’s already his wife?

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Print Version of Surrender to Ruin!

November 28th, 2017

Since I will be out of town from Wednesday to Sunday, and the clock is ticking down to the December 5th release of Surrender to Ruin, I have published both the print versions. It should show up at Amazon in the next 3-5 days.

I prepare two identical print versions, use my own ISBN for one and a CreateSpace ISBN for the other. The book assigned to my ISBN is not put in the Amazon extended channel because those sales channels significantly increase the cost. I can typically price that version as low as $8.99. The other version is put into the expanded channel only, which ends up being priced at 13.99 or higher.

This is why you might see the print version at two different prices. Other than ISBN they are the same. Please feel feel to purchase the less expensive one.

 

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Christmas in Duke Street is on Sale!

November 26th, 2017

The Holiday Anthology Christmas in Duke Street is on Sale for $0.99. You’ll get stories by GraceBurrowes, Yours Truly (Carolyn Jewel) Shana Galen, and the late and sorely missed Miranda Neville.

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

Cover of Christmas in Duke Street, handsome couple against a snowy background with a building and a very small christmasy-tree in the backround

Christmas in Duke Street

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The My Immortals Series

November 26th, 2017

It just occurred to me that I have not said anything here about what’s up with the My Immortals Series.

The rights to the first two books are still held by Grand Central Publishing. There are foreign language sub-licenses that prevent me from getting those books reverted even though they are well under the sales threshold in US sales and even though My Wicked Enemy is legally and officially out of print.

Because I do not control the pricing or any in-book links to the first two books, it is impossible to effectively market the series. Unfortunately, based on past experience, it would be extremely foolish of me to agree to any co-promotion or other co-marketing efforts with Grand Central. The subject was raised, but I declined. I’m not an idiot.

Since it is now clear I might not get reversions until 2021, I have decided I will write two prequels to the series to act as  “new” Books 1 and 2. That way, I can do sensible, effective promotion of the series. When the time comes that My Wicked Enemy and My Forbidden Desire do revert to me, those books will still fit into the series.

I have longed planned to do some significant rewriting of My Wicked Enemy, mostly to return several key scenes to the way I wrote them in the first place and back-out editorial caution that I feel, to this day, significantly weakened the book. For book 2 (RITA finalist My Forbidden Desire), I realized I’d have to write scenes I knew my editor would insist be cut so that I could keep the scenes I really wanted. For that reason, that book probably needs less rework to return it to my original concept of the series.

I’ve already started writing the first prequel. At the moment, the title is My Infernal Lover, but I suspect that won’t stick. The second one is tentatively titled “Blow Back” and will fit with the other two shorter novel/novellas, Dead Drop and Free Fall.

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Writing Stuff I’ve been Doing Lately

November 24th, 2017

I’ve been wanting to sell books directly for quite some time. I was able to sell print books from my site, but I removed the links to doing so because it was a PITA mostly because of the combination of PayPal functionality and people who just won’t look in their spam folders. . . .

The publishing environment being what it is, and given that most of the major platforms that let you sell books directly have addressed their issues with payment processing and tax collection and remittance, I really wanted to try this again.

Herewith my Tale

The important thing to understand here is that I have a low tolerance for bad instructions and almost no time to fuss with stuff. This is key to understanding why I ended up where I am. (Happily so!)

I started looking once again at all the systems that profess to allow you to sell books directly to consumers: Selz, eJunkies, Shopify, SquareSpace, and several open source systems that are free to install via my website host.

I had tried to set up Selz before and couldn’t bridge the last mile then or now. The whole interface was confusing to me, and they charge a monthly fee PLUS a percentage. And of course the cheapest plans offer so little that they are useless as options. I would have to sell a lot of books per month just to recoup the monthly fee, and I don’t even know if I will sell any. Selz was a no.

eJunkies doesn’t have a monthly fee, and they have a processing fee, which I was okay with, but then, its interface was confusing and the documentation was terrible and not specific enough. But I wanted to use BookFunnel to deliver my files and then I just got annoyed that it, too, isn’t really set up for what I wanted to do. I mean, you sell a book, and you need to deliver the buyer the format they want. Not ALL the formats. Anyway, I couldn’t confirm that I could do what I wanted so I moved on.

Shopify also did not have clear information about what they offer and JFC it’s expensive so NO.

I tried SquareSpace but, I’m sorry, the documentation is horrible and unclear, and I couldn’t even begin to figure out how to make the theme for digital products do anything appropriate for books. Abandoned.

I looked at all the shopping carts available via my website cPanel and decided to try Abante because it sounded like it would work. The instructions/documentation were written by someone who does not speak English as a first language well enough to provide clear documentation. I have some facility with interpreting the sentence structure of the country of origin, but this was frustratingly unclear. Abante even comes with a category for books so you’d think the product would be set up to actually sell digital books. I did the install, and spent way too much time setting everything up only to be unable to make the product allow me to let users select which digital version they want to have. They also don’t integrate with BookFunnel. Fast forward through a lot of frustrating googling and I realized that this product in fact cannot do this, and they apparently have no interest in addressing the issue.

Frustration is Frustrating

Yeah, I was getting pretty damn frustrated. I mean, LOTS of people want purchasers to be able to select which of a variety of digital files they actually want. People who sell photographs, for example.

So, then I looked at WooCommerce, and lo-and-behold, their documentation was clear enough, though not completely clear, and googling yielded a lot of great videos and other step-by-step explanations of how to do exactly what I wanted to do. WooCommerce is free, but you pay for certain additional functionality. I’ll skip ahead a bit and say that you could sell books without ponying up for anything, but there are a couple of useful extensions. And it happens, they were all on sale when I was getting this set up.

I installed WooCommerce on the domain I wanted to use, since it was already a WordPress site, and literally, within 15 minutes I was setting up books with the ability for customers to select ePub, Mobi, or print. BookFunnel integrates with them. When I ran into a question, the WooCommerce documentation had the answer about 60% of the time and the rest of the time google landed me on an excellent video step-by-step.

Trying to Cross the Last Mile

There were three stumbling blocks: The first is one that WordPress and WooCommerce need to address because it’s completely stupid; which is the ability to easily allow WordPress to upload additional file types. I get why they wouldn’t with regular WordPress, but WooCommerce is set up to sell digital files. The product needs to easily enable additional file types.

This is NOT easy and not documented. However, I found two plugins that offered the ability to add file extensions. Add WP Mime Types is what worked, but at first I thought it didn’t. I had to Google what exactly to enter to enable ePub and Mobi,but HERE IT IS so you don’t have to suffer:

epub = application/epub+zip
mobi = application/x-mobipocket-ebook

Just enter those two lines in the WP Mime Types plugin, and boom. Done, with one gotcha. I was expecting that when I went to select files in the WordPress media uploader, files with the extension ePub or mobi would no longer be grayed out. They remained grayed out and I was about to start cursing. Then I dragged the files to the window and then after I was done dealing with my intense frustration I looked up, and the files were there, listed in the media gallery.

WOO-Fricking-Hoo!!!

After that, it was easy to connect the ePub file to the ePub option and the mobi file to the mobi option, and set up the print option to not be a digital download, and I was essentially over the last blocker.

The next issue was how to make WooCommerce connect Book series, and that did require an extension to do this seamlessly, but in hindsight, I think it could be done, less elegantly, without the extension. I did not realize (and there was nothing in the documentation about this) that Categories of products do not actually connect to a product in the database until the product is published. I wish that weren’t the case, because you can’t easily sandbox efforts to see if you’ve made a sensible series of categories and sub-categories.

They have a sub-theme for books, which I went ahead and bought. But that is also not entirely necessary. It also took me a while to realize that you have to create a thumbnail image for each category. If you don’t, you end up with big ugly blank image markers on the shop home page. The intention is that users see an image that represents, say, All Books and others for Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance, each series, etc. Which they click on to see the various categories and subcategories, with, for me, series names being a subcategory of the series genre.

I am not a graphics person, but I managed to kludge together some images that solve the issue OK-enough. But this is something I’ll have to address as an improvement.

Payments

The last issue was payment. It was easy to set up Stripe, and I already have PayPal Standard. WooCommerce made this really really simple. No real surprise, Apple Pay isn’t working. Stripe integrates with Apple but the final hurdle is over at Apple and their instructions are unclear. So I’ll disable that for now, and work that out in the near future.

So, technically, I had everything set up in a day, and I THINK I’m ready. But a bit nervous about pulling the trigger and re-enabling my website’s shop menu tab and sending everyone to my WooCommerce set up. I need to fuss with a few more things.

Updated to add: I did figure out the ApplePay issue. I had to ftp a specific file to a specific directory and then wait for Apple to agree the file was there. So, ApplePay appears to be working.

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Mind The Gap

November 24th, 2017

There is a happy ending to my story so I’m able to tell you about the nightmare of the past 12 hours. Being the geek that I am, I have an iPhone X. In fact, it arrived just this Tuesday, so on Thursday, my phone (which I LOVE so far) still had that new phone smell. Folks, the iPhone X is a religious experience for me. I really, really, really like this phone.

Thursday evening I was getting in the car for a short but necessary drive, and I put my phone down in the center console near the middle of the seat. Only the phone slipped into the gap between the seat and the side of the console and then slid completely out of sight. Completely. It was NOT underneath the seat. After 45 minutes of me, my son, and my sister trying to even see where it was and get it out, we failed. I resigned myself to having to go to my mechanic to have the front seat removed in order to retrieve the phone from the innards of the driver’s seat.

Important note: my son insisted that the phone was underneath the center console. To which I replied, “No, it can’t be. I saw it slide underneath the seat.” In the opposite direction.

My phone and I were forced to spend the night apart for the first time in our nascent relationship. The horror. Also, the horror of realizing that I would not be able to easily access any of the sites where I have enabled 2-Factor Authentication and ACK HOW DOES ANYONE FUNCTION WITHOUT A PHONE?????

This morning, I had to call ON A LAND LINE— what even is that? —to tell my mechanic that I had a car emergency and to be prepared for my immanent arrival. I then drove immediately there. Two people tried to find my phone. We were about to set about removing the front seat when a third person said he’d try, and after calling my phone several times he too said the phone was under the center console. He fetched a thingamajig and two minutes later he handed me my phone. They didn’t even charge me.

I HAVE MY LIFE BACK!!!

When I got home, I stuffed some cloth in the gap so if this happens again, me being somewhat klutzy, the phone will not slip down like that.

When my son gets up, I will tell him that he was right, and I was wrong, and I don’t even care because I have my phone back, and besides, you have to admit when you’re wrong like that.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23rd, 2017

Here is a picture of a tulip to enjoy. May everyone have a lovely Thursday, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not.

A pink tulip amid green leaves. It's very pretty and delicate. The tulip slightly open.

Pink Tulip

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Testy McTest Test

November 18th, 2017

Please Ignore this for Now. 😉

At the various book vendor sites, How do you feel about your ability to find Romances to read?

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