Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Black and White

Pilings at the Keyport Marina
In college, I took a course black and white photography, long before digital photography was invented. I took pictures with a 35mm SLR Minolta and developed the film in a darkroom with all the smelly chemicals. I discovered how difficult it was to capture a scene in black and white. I took hundreds of photos and made contact sheets to determine which were worthy of enlarging. I was usually disappointed. What I thought would be a terrific shot often turned out far different in shades of gray.  Often I didn't have enough contrast or I had too much. The loss of color affected everything, including the composition.

I love colors. All of them. I enjoy painting in oils and mixing the colors until I get them just right. For me, black and white photos didn't capture what I enjoyed most of all. I gave up on black and white photography. I could not convey the essence of what I wanted in a scene. There are some terrific black and white photographers, but I wasn't one of them.

A black and white page in a book is an entirely different vehicle. Words alone transport readers. Type on a white page can summon up images. Sights, smells, atmosphere, sensations, and colors are vivid in a reader's mind, which is rather miraculous.

Words are a powerful tool. Use them wisely. :-)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Old Eyes and Large Fonts

This is what a book looks like on my Nook with the Glow Light on. The light can be turned off, too. The font is large because I am getting older. I have been nearsighted since I was twelve, but with age I find I have to hold the book farther away, or take off my glasses, or use a large font. The large font is very comfortable for reading.

I don't own a Kindle, but I do have the Kindle app on my iPad--and this is what it looks like. It is possible to make the font very large. With such large type, there are fewer paragraphs on a page, but turning the page is easy. To turn the page, I simply swipe from the right side to the left--sort of like turning a paper page. :-) The Nook works the same way, but a reader can press the side of the Nook to turn the page as well. 

This is what a book looks like on my iPad with the iBooks app. Again, I increased the size of the font. It's easy to do and it can get bigger than I have it here.

I still read paper books, but I have to remove my eyeglasses to do so. I tried progressive lenses but I didn't like them.  However, I like the large fonts on my gadgets.

For those of you with old eyes, I recommend trying out the new technology.

Read a book. Exercise your mind.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Process

Publishing can be a painful and tedious business. When I first started out, I used to log in my rejections on notebook paper. These are the rejections I received for Irons in the Fire, which was originally named The Tides of Spring. It was the first book I finished and dared to send out into the world.

The rejections include contest results. I figured if I didn't win the contest, it was a rejection--of sorts. Eventually, I was taken on as a client by an agent. She obtained more rejections for me--but the ones she received on my behalf came faster than the ones I submitted on my own to various slush piles.

Getting my foot in the door at a publishing house seemed impossible. The only thing that kept me going was my own belief in the book and my unfailing stubbornness.

My agent died. I floundered around for another one but was unsuccessful in that attempt.

While I collected rejections on Irons in the Fire, I wrote other books. When ebook companies started up, I submitted Irons in the Fire to Hard Shell and when the book was rejected by them, I sent it to New Concepts Publishing.  They gave me a contract. The book was nominated as Best Small Press Paranormal in Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award--even though it was an ebook at a time when few people knew what an ebook was.

When New Concepts returned the rights for the book to me, Crescent Moon Press gave me a contract for it. So the book is still available in both print and digital editions, which is great.

But it wasn't easy and I will admit to revising the book over and over between rejections and contest losses. It took twelve years to get the book published.

Was it worth it? It depends on what you consider success. Did I make a lot of money? No.

But I am delighted to have the book on the market. It is a dream come true, a hard won dream to be sure, but that's what makes it sweeter.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Amazon Graphs

Every morning, while I am drinking my coffee, I check my Amazon stats. This is what my author rank graph looks like on Amazon, comparing my sales with all the other authors for all the books on Amazon. I can look at graphs for categories, too, comparing my books with all Kindle Romance books, or all print romance books. There are also graphs for each of my individual books.

For instance, below is part of the graph for Daddy Wanted.

Most of my books are sold at Amazon. Barnes & Noble does not sell as many. The other distributors sell far fewer. While other distributors report how many books were sold or list a rank number, only Amazon offers these graphs for authors--for free.

When the line shoots upward, I smile. When the line goes down, I shrug. It's not easy to sell books. Readers have a wide variety of choices. But for all the readers who have chosen to buy my books I'd like to offer a big THANKS. There are many mornings you made me smile. :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Land of Once Upon A Time

Yes, that's me with my date for the prom in college. I would not have gone to the prom if it wasn't for my brother. The young man in the photo was was one of my brother's roommates. My brother thought I should go out with him. So I did.

I did not go to the high school prom.

I believe my brother was a bit concerned about me. He was one year older than me, well-liked, intelligent, goal oriented, and energetic. From a young age he plowed into life becoming involved in community service with his scout troop and attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. He also belonged to several high school clubs and founded the radio club. He had tons of friends and even dated the French teacher's daughter.

I was painfully shy and didn't date anyone in high school. I was happiest staying at home to write, read, or help out with chores including the care of my two much younger sisters. I daydreamed as I hung clothes out on the line, concocting stories where I could be the heroine and win the love of a handsome, young prince. I fashioned beautiful ball gowns for my sisters' dolls, with leftover scraps of fabric. I mopped the floor and sang "Moon River" pretending I was Audrey Hepburn in the movie, "Breakfast At Tiffanys."

Audrey Hepburn was my role model since she was almost as skinny and flat-chested as I was. Dreamily, I glided through life, half in this world, and half in the world of Once Upon A Time. My taste in music, clothing, and books often all out of sync with the rest of my generation.

My brother drove an ice cream truck during the summertime and met an amazing array of girls. He and the French teacher's daughter broke up. He received tons of love letters in the mail. I found where he hid them in his room and read them all.

I didn't get a single love letter from anyone. One of my brother's friends asked me out but he was so hairy, he scared me. I imagined him turning into a werewolf. So I turned him down. I kept hoping that my handsome prince would come along soon, though there didn't seem to be a single one roaming the halls of my high school. In fact, most of the guys seemed to be more like toads. Except for the ones who were already taken.

My brother went on to college to become an electrical engineer. I went on to college to become a teacher of very young children. My brother started dating only red-haired young ladies. he wrote love letters to his sweethearts, sent them flowers, and took them to nice places. I studied hard, dated nobody and memorized "Moon River" on the piano.

My brother became president of his fraternity. He must have twisted a few arms to get some of his fraternity brothers to date me. One drove down the Parkway at eighty miles an hour and frightened me half to death. Another didn't talk--at all. The third one imbibed rather heavily. None of them asked me out more than once. I started to develop an inferiority complex.

Then came the day when one of my brother's red-haired young ladies dumped him. Personally, I thought she must be an idiot. He had already purchased tickets to an Andy Williams concert. Andy Williams sang "Moon River" and I thought he was the best entertainer in the universe. My brother had splurged and gotten really good seats.

He did not appear to be very upset by his rejection. No doubt, he knew he could have called up another young lady and gotten her to accompany him at a moment's notice. So nobody was more astonished than I when my brother asked me if I would attend the concert with him.

Feeling every bit like Cinderellla, I dressed for the concert with the utmost care. I got the corsage my brother had ordered for the foolish girl who had spurned him. That night was one of the highlights of my life. My brother treated me like a real princess. For the first time, I felt that I had really crossed into the land of Once Upon A Time.

Afterwards, I bought an entire book of Andy Williams arrangements for the piano.

My brother started dating only brunettes.

He continued to try to find a nice, young man for me. He joined the Air Force and passed my photo around the base. When I went to visit him, he made sure he had a date for me.

He found a sweet brunette to marry. He gave me advice, telling me how to emphasize my good points as his wife did. However, I was still shy, awkward, and unalluring.

He died when his plane crashed on a training mission in the New Mexico desert. His passing devastated everyone.

I was firmly convinced he earned sainthood and started organizing a radio club in heaven. I am also convinced that he didn't forget about his odd sister because two years after his death I met the man who became my hubby--and who happened to be an electrical engineer who could play not only "Moon River" on the piano, but the theme from "Gone With the Wind"--by heart.

And so, I write romances because I truly believe in Once Upon A Time. It happened to me.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Bright Side

On Sunday, hubby and I along with our friends E. and T. went to the Brookdale Performing Arts Center to see a local production of Spamalot. I admit that I was never a true Monty Python fan. Oddly enough, a generation later, my daughters became dedicated enthusiasts and watched every video available. However, seeing Spamalot on stage was very different from watching Monty Python videos.

I love local theatre. Hubby and I have enjoyed many shows--very close to home. Local theatre is very inexpensive and there's always lots of parking, which is also free. So if you get the chance, see Spamalot. You'll leave the theatre with a happy feeling. :-)

(The video below is not from Brookdale's production of Spamalot.)

Friday, April 04, 2014

Why Write?

I was in DUMBO for Daughter #2's opening at the AIR Gallery, which was an excellent affair. Before the opening, hubby and I walked around the neighborhood. By chance, I caught two lovers on the rocks silhouetted in this photo. Now I've got another story swirling around in my head for them. That's the way it is for writers. We see stuff--and then we make up the rest of the story. People have all sorts of psychological explanations for this behavior. Many people simply think writers are crazy. Then there are those who want to jump on the bandwagon because they think they'll make a ton of money.

For those of you who think you're going to become wealthy writing, put down your pen and find a different occupation. Anyone interested in becoming an author should read the excellent article in Forbes about writing: (http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/12/18/fifty-shades-of-effort-the-writers-life-and-why-we-choose-it/)

The odds are against authors making much money. There are too many of us.

However, if you are compelled to write, do it. Don't pit yourself against other writers. Don't think you have to put out eight books a year because some other writer did that. Don't think you can support yourself writing, because you might wind up starving. Write because you MUST write, because you have stories to tell.

I am tucking this photo away in my idea file. Those two lovers need a happy-ever-after and I would be delighted to write it. It probably won't be a bestseller, but I don't care. It will be fun.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Big Girls Don't Cry

Make a date for Saturday, April 26, 2014. 

I'll be giving a talk at the Howell Library, 

318 Old Tavern Road in Howell, NJ, at 10 a.m. 

Who are your favorite heroines in the romance genre? What makes a good romantic heroine? Let me know your favorites. I might include your comments in my talk. :-)