Category Archives: Updates

Cover Reveal – What You Need by Landa Graf (#1NS #BDSM #Romance from @DecadentPub)

What You Need

Landa Graf was kind enough to host me on Rise of the Slush last week, where I chatted about Delicious Delay‘s journey out of the slush pile (here). Today, she’s over at my place to show off her brand new (and decidedly gorgeous) cover for What You Need, a BDSM romance from Decadent Publishing’s multi-author 1 Night Stand series. Her book will be coming out in January, but below is a blurb to whet your appetite.

Blurb

Royce is looking for a woman who won’t cringe at the words “sexual submissive,” and a chance for all his fantasies to come true. The 1Night Stand he signed up for was supposed to be simple with no attachments, but when his match is his ex-best friend, simple goes out the window. He can’t stop seeking the answers to why Victoria left or deny his new-found attraction to her.

Victoria has loved Royce forever, but his rejection of her affections eight years ago caused her to walk away from everything. She’s not the same girl from college, and no longer naive and willing to run too just anyone. A sexual dominant born from her mistakes, she wants a chance to start a relationship based on her terms. She’ll settle for one night, but she’s planning on forever.

About Landra
Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day, and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Blog: http://riseoftheslush.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RiseoftheSlush
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/landra.graf

Advertisements

A Writer’s Life – My Xbox and I

This is the first in a series of memoir-style entries I’m titling “A Writer’s Life.” 

This post won’t make sense unless I provide some context. Back when I was in college, I was the stereotypical geek. I had (bad) red streaks in my hair, watched 75 episodes of Hikaru No Go (an anime) in two sittings, and dressed up as Kagome (from Inuyasha) on Halloween. I was one of those girls guys discussed mIRC issues with (and I was never asked on a single date). My parents had never been pro-gaming, so I bought a PS2 with my first paycheck almost immediately after moving into my dorm. I then proceeded to work my way through all the games I wanted to play back in highschool.

In college, I had one of those jobs where I was more or less paid to sit in one place and answer questions if the phone ever rang (which it rarely did). Therefore, I had plenty of time to go through an RSS feed filled with posts from Kotaku, Joystiq and CheapAssGamer.com. When left to my own devices, I would do not so smart things such as play Resident Evil 4 for 17 hours straight (with bathroom breaks), and drive my then boyfriend crazy as I created a spreadsheet in order to beat Final Fantasy X. (By the way, I’m not contradicting myself. My then boyfriend, now husband, never actually asked me out on a date. I’ll leave that story for another day.)

One of the first joint purchases DH and I made (before we were married) was an Xbox 360 (yes, shortly after launch–and yes, that particular one is now RIP thanks to the red ring of death). We then proceeded to log over 220 hours playing Elder Scrolls 4 – Oblivion. It was a great bonding experience–I designed the character, managed the inventory, beefed up the stats, enchanted the weapons, and created the spells. He got the unpleasant task of fighting those creepy crawly spiders and skeletons (first person fighting gives me vertigo.).

When those lovely college years came to an end (kids, you have no idea how good you have it), my Xbox followed my husband and I to Washington, D.C. I started working the day after graduation, but I still had enough time to feed my gaming habit. Over the next few years, I got 1000 achievement points in Civilization Revolution, filled Albion’s coffers in Fable 2, and fell in love with Dragon Age: Origins (lets not bring up Dragon Age 2 right now. It’ll spoil my nostalgic mood).

And then I realized I wanted to become an author. It had always been in the back of my mind, but I was too busy making rent and enjoying myself to see the signs (the journals full of scribblings next to the Xbox should have clued me in, but they didn’t). I had always been a writer, but trying to turn that passion into a career is an entirely different endeavor. I had to set goals and commit to writing a certain number of hours per week (as opposed to whenever the muse struck). Then there’s the pesky problem of finding an epublisher who would take my novellas on, as well as all the  additional responsibilities that comes with signing a contract.

I would describe my current stage of author-dom as the “intern paid in coffee” stage. I make a living off my day-job (which is, unfortunately, no longer of the “sit around and do nothing variety”) and work part-time as an author in exchange for indeterminate potential earnings. Combine that with DH’s mandatory gym sessions, doing groceries, and having a social life, this more or less leaves just enough time for sleep.

As a result, my relationship with the Xbox fizzled for two years before officially ending about a year ago.  I was relegated to enviously glancing in DH’s direction as he beat Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mass Effect 2, and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I consciously chose not buy Final Fantasy XIII (the game that once launched my failed “We MUST buy a PS3 campaign”). I wanted to be an author, and some luxuries had to go.

So why am I writing this (and more importantly, why did I tag this post “pep-talk”)?

I officially turned-in my “two month notice” yesterday (it was a one year contract, so this was just a formality). Since then, I’ve been a bit in the doldrums. On top of conjuring horrifying visions of packing up and moving countries (again), only to have to move to another country a year later, the notification brought home the fact that I’ll be unemployed (again) as of July 18, 2013.

While I am by no means going to starve on the streets (an unexpected side-effect of becoming an author was lowered expenses), the prospect of no longer having a regular paycheck made me anxious. With the six months of language training DH is trying to sign me up for (which should improve my employment prospects at his onward assignment), my one year in the U.S. is simply not conducive for getting a day job. I’ll have a six-week break, followed by classes (hopefully), followed by another four-month gap before we leave the country. Not exactly great fodder for a job interview.

As such, DH and I decided I should simply take this opportunity to write full-time. While I should be jumping up and down with joy, the prospect frightens me. Despite what’s been floating around the blogosphere of late, being an erotic romance author (on average) is not some gold-coin laden path to stardom. At this stage, I’d be lucky if my royalties end up  paying for a chocolate coin or two. So yesterday was one of those days when I wasn’t exactly depressed, but neither was I my usual cheerful self. I was dreading July and the changes it will bring.

And then all the chatter surrounding the Xbox One caught my eye. Despite what the critics are saying, the prospect of a new generation of consoles brought a smile to my face. I haven’t had time to play video games for a year. Don’t get me wrong–I love being an erotic romance author. I wouldn’t give it up for all the video games in the world. But having something to look forward to reminded me I wasn’t simply losing an income–I was trading money for time. Most of it will be spent writing, but some of it I can reserve for just being myself again.

Last year, I didn’t follow the E3 announcements. Why bother? They were talking about all the games I wouldn’t have time to play. This year, on some days, it might be DH’s turn to enviously watch as I sit on the couch with a game controller in hand. Who knows? A certain someone might be persuaded to get me an Xbox One on my birthday. 

A Letter to Book Pirates – Please Stop (For Your Own Sake)!

Dear Book Pirate,

My point can be summed up in two words – Please Stop!

I don’t know how you came to realize my book existed. It has been out for less than a month, and it is not even available in all retail outlets. I’m a first-time author. This book is a novella. It was published by a small-press ePublisher. Considering it is a post apocalyptic erotic zombie romance based on a fairy tale, I would say the genre is pretty darn niche.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered what you were doing.

I wrote Tower in the Woods while working close to 50 hours a week and adjusting to life in a rather dangerous place. For over three months, instead of turning on the TV or Xbox when I got home, I turned on my laptop. I wrote every weekend, after work every day, and I even snuck in writing spurts while sitting in an FAV to meet people at the airport. Once I was done, my publisher paid a number of people to make my manuscript better – readers, a copy editor, line editor, and cover artist. Then we spent a great deal of time trying to get the book reviewed so potential buyers can make an informed purchasing decision.

Do you want to read the sequel? Do you want to read my next books? Do you want quality works of fiction and non-fiction to exist at all? Please understand–authors, editors, publishers and cover artists need to make a living. The only way we can recoup the time and effort spent on this book is by selling it. Most ebooks (including mine) are priced less than a Frapuccino at Starbucks, and they give many more hours of enjoyment.

One day, I would like to be able to write full-time. Heck, I’ll take part-time over sneaking in writing moments whenever I can. Maybe then, I will have the energy to write a full-length novel. I would also like to have multiple books out in a year instead of one or two. It will never be economically possible if you, book pirate, do not let me sell my book in peace.

You don’t think my book is worth $3.99 (occasionally on sale for $2.99)? That’s fine. Don’t buy it. But please do not buy it once and post it online for other people to download for free. Please do not try to obtain it illegally for free. I’m not discussing morality or ethics here, just pure self-interest. Apply this rule – if everyone chooses to pirate books instead of buying them, then authors will not write books, editors won’t be able to make a living, and publishers won’t make the investment. In short, you won’t have anything worth reading to pirate.

For your own sake, please stop!

Very Angrily Yours,

Tara

Congrats to JRM Raffle Winners!

Congrats to Vanessa N. for winning  a copy of Tower in the Woods when it comes out on January 14th.

On that note – congrats to everyone who won something from the JRM Blog Hop! It was loads of fun, and I’ll definitely be participating again.

A big thanks of course goes to the organizers who put this all together. Michael, it was a fabulous success. I have literally never had this much traffic on my blog. It was wonderful having people actually leave comments–the 1-2 views a day (most assuredly from a blood relation) was getting a tad depressing.

I’m glad everyone enjoyed the snippet, and I am now motivated to rescue Nicholas and Allison from my computer at some point (perhaps I can get a novella/short out of it).

Image

Tower in the Woods – Cover Art Reveal

Tower in the Woods - Cover Art Reveal

When she sees a man fleeing a horde of zombies, Nel Zapur has no choice but to extend a lifeline. But what will happen to her once Dane Prince reaches the tower’s top?

– Find out the answer at lsbooks.com on January 14th, 2013!

(A huge thanks goes to Lyn Taylor for making my very first cover art absolutely gorgeous)

Cover Art – W00T!

I just approved an awesome cover art for my very first (erotic) romance release.

It’s awesome … perfect … love it (what more can I say?).

[I’ll wait until it shows up on the publisher’s website before I embed a picture here, but I just needed to do very public W00T!]

Writing Software – Storyist

Disclaimer 1 – No, I don’t work for them. I just happened to shell out 50 bucks for their software.

Disclaimer 2 – Listed gripes/requests could be due to user ignorance (i.e. I can’t figure out how to do xyz, as opposed to the program being unable to do xyz).

Review:

Let me preface this by saying that I stumbled upon Storyist after having a bad experience with StoryMill. For reasons that could not be explained, the 80K novel I wrote using StoryMill got corrupted during the export process, and suddenly random sections got jumbled all over the place. I had a back-up copy, so it was no biggie, but the experience freaked me out, causing me to terminate my heretofore pleasant relationship with that program (I still miss aspects of it, more on that later). It was a purely emotional decision based on a one-time occurrence, but that novel happened to be my very first baby.

The reason I chose Storyist was because, at the time, I was about to ship away my iMac and thought I would be left with my husband’s iPad for the foreseeable future. I was therefore looking for writing software that had a companion iPad app, and Storyist fit the bill. My husband saw fit to surprise me with a laptop (perhaps because he wanted his iPad back), so the reason I chose Storyist to begin with became moot. However, it leads me to the first and probably the most important unexpected perk to having this software–how easily it is to access the same file from both an iPad and a Mac.

I save all my writing on Dropbox (because I’m paranoid), and both the iPad Storyist and the Mac Storyist have the capability to sync with Dropbox. For my previous novella, all I had to do to get the almost final draft to my beta reader (aka husband) was to turn on the Storyist iPad app and sync it with Dropbox. It saved a new copy automatically (which is good), and he was able to start reading/editing right away. It saved me a lot of time and headache. Given, it would have been nice to have a track changes option, but for the purposes of that short-fuse novella, the software did what I needed it to do.

Once my submissions process started, I was faced with the realization that most ePublishing houses have their own quirky requirements about how they want the manuscript. This is another area where Storyist shined (and StoryMill did not). Because this .rtf editor is style-based, it was extremely easy to change all the chapter headings to a different font/format with a few clicks, and ditto with the body text etc. The find and replace function worked without fuss (StoryMill had a tendency of missing stuff…I don’t know why), so I was easily able to search for all the double spaces after the periods and replace it with a single space (and vice-versa).

When you export the file, you are guided through a workflow that lets you specify things like changing straight quotes to smart quotes, — to m-dashes, … to ellipses, which is extremely useful because not all publishers what smart quotes, m-dashes, and ellipses. Therefore, Storyist allows you to have a single file that you can easily convert to fit the requirements of your publisher.

(Request 1: It would be nice if this functionality could be expanded to fonts – some publishers want Ariel, others want Times New Roman.  An option to “convert all text to x font” would be very much appreciated.)

My exported .rtf files came out clean and without errors, which is the most important part. Authors have trust issues, and once a program scrambles up the exported file once, we are forced by our own neuroticism to re-read the exported files for the forseeable future. This wastes a lot of time. However, after multiple clean .rtf(s), I think I am beginning to start trusting the software.

Now to the (very minor) things I miss from StoryMill:

1. Being able to name “sections” without it showing in the text. From my experience with Storyist (and it could just be user error), if I name the section, it shows up in the manuscript. Since I use Sections for outlining purposes, it annoys me that I can’t fiddle with it such that the section names stay invisible (my current WIP just has a ton of “untiltled” sections.

2. Word Count in Full Screen. (I think this was a developer’s choice – full screen is meant for you to just type away unhindered. However, since I try to make myself write a certain number words per session, I miss the Word Count at the bottom of the screen.)

3. Being able to do a word count on the entire chapter without selecting the text. Yes, I know it’s just a few clicks away, but I try to balance my chapter length, so I want to just click on the chapter and have the word count show up on the bottom.

4. Easily getting out of Full Screen. It’s currently Ctrl + Command + F to get in and out of Full Screen. I get the in part, but what’s wrong with the Esc key for getting out?

As I said, the gripes are very minor. I don’t think that I’d be as productive a writer without Storyist, so I’m very thankful for the people who created it. It does exactly what it needs to do, and I almost did not have to purchase MS Word :P.

(see Post on Ms Word and Track Changes).

 

 

Lull and the WIP

So for some reason, all the frantic activity for this month happened in the past two weeks and I’m officially experiencing a lull. Now that Halloween madness is over and Thanksgiving isn’t until next Thursday, my day-job is a few steps away from being out-right boring. I actually finished my newsletter a few days early, have lined up all the things that need to happen over the next few days, and am struggling not to yawn as I type away on my computer.

On the writing end, while I was informed that I have been assigned a line-editor, I haven’t gotten the edits yet so there’s not much to do but wait. I’ve been sent the rough draft of the cover art and replied with my impressions (to be honest, I was too busy gleefully giggling over the fact that I have cover art at all, so I don’t know how constructive my email was).  In other words, it seems like the ball is rolling on my novella with relatively little assistance needed from lil’ ol’ me (yay!).

This brings me to my WIP (work-in-progress), which I’m feeling iffy about. The first draft is done, so I’m letting it sit for a while before going over it (will do that later today).  It’s the shortest I’ve ever written, just under 30,000 words, which makes me feel a little weird. I can’t find anything that needs to be dragged out or added, but I don’t know how the length will go over when it comes time to send it out into the world (the submissions process gives me the creepy crawlies).

See, at the time when I had reconciled myself to a rejection-doomed fate, it seemed like a good idea to create different products and see what sells. Thus far, I have written four works that fall in different romance genres (contemporary, paranormal, sci/fi, and pure fantasy). They are set in different worlds, are written in different styles, and are getting shorter as I go (90k, 60k, 35k, and 28k). The first two seem doomed to obscurity (I didn’t bother submitting the first, and the second has yielded a good number of form rejections), but the third is slowly but surely edging its way into existence. (It so happens that the first two were squarely in the mainstream romance heat level, whereas the third dips its toe into the erotic romance realm.)

I started writing the forth before the third got accepted, and it seemed only fair that I finish it. This story is darker, set completely in a fantasy world (as opposed to post-apocalyptic sci/fi), and well … its my attempt at actually trying to write erotic romance from the get-go (no. 3 was first written with much lower heat, and I ramped it up after the first two rejections). Embracing the fact that sex does sell, I went all-out on the erotic end of the romance on this one, and I’m now thinking that it might be too ‘hot’.

Still, I feel like it deserves to be truly finished (especially now that I’m so close), even if it ends up living the rest of its life on my hard drive. I guess I can always decide what to do with it later.

Edits are Done!

My forced relationship with MS Word is over for now.  (Content) Edits are done and a clean copy has been sent over to … not sure, continue the process, I guess.  Admittedly, my day-job has been clocking in quite a bit of overtime these past few weeks, so I haven’t had the spare energy to do much more than send back edits and doodle on my WIP.  I’m hoping this coming Veteran’s Day weekend will let me catch up on things (like carefully reading through the acceptance packet).

By the way, I had a lovely editor who taught me a great deal about concision and flow.  The only down-side to this step being over is that I’m going to really miss working with her.  I’ve actually done a read through of my WIP with her edits in mind and made copious changes.  It reads better already!

I have to say, the whole ePublishing process (at least as pertains to Liquid Silver Books) is very much a whirlwind experience.  Below is my personal timeline, in case people are curious.

Submission Date – October 14

Acceptance Email – October 21 (cue victory dance)

Contract & Acceptance Packet Received/Signed – October 23 (cue victory dance 2)

Feedback from Readers Received – October 24 (lots of rapid blinks followed by “huh, that problem never occured to me”)

Editor Assigned – October 27

Editor Sends First Round of Edits – October 30 (prompting a “wow, you work fast email”)

I Send Back Edits – November 4 (it’s sad when accepting changes takes longer than editing – my excuse is that my day-job required planning two massive Halloween parties, one of which ended at 1:30 AM, and my bi-weekly newsletter was due)

Editor Sends Back Second Round of Edits – November 6 (did I already mention she works fast?)

I Send Back Accepted Changes  – November 8 (I still marvel at the frequency with which I use the word “that” unnecessarily)

Clean Copy Approved by Both and Sent to Publisher – November 9 (i.e. 30 min ago – btw, I’m in a different time zone from the US)

The novella (I will eventually get more specific – first time author jitters is making me knock on wood each time I mention being published at all) … where was I?  Oh, the novella isn’t due to come out until mid-Jan, so I’m guessing there is lots more to do.

Microsoft Office

I’m usually not prone to upset, but I’ve arrived at a ‘need to vent’ moment.

Background

Because I once worked as an IT troubleshooter, I completely Mac’d out when it came to my personal computing needs.  It’s not that Microsoft makes bad products – it’s just that I had to deal with their products all day at work and didn’t want the reminder when I came home.  Even now that I’m in a non-IT related job, I still have to use Windows XP (my employer is slow with adoption) and MS Office 2007 every work day (where I’m more-or-less glued to a computer).

I am forced to use MS Publisher for my newsletter at work.  I hate it.  What Pages (or Pagemaker, or Claris Works, or even plain HTML) can do with a few clicks and drags becomes this extremely complicated layered affair that really cuts into my me-time.  I light aromatherapy oils on the day that my newsletter is due in preparation for the headache that I know will invariably come.

For three glorious years, I was able to shun the Microsoft products at home, especially for writing purposes.  I specifically bought Storyist (which, by the way, I would highly recommend for any outline-minded writer) and Pages, and I use Mail for correspondence  (which, admittedly, is not as feature-filled as Outlook).

Begin Rant

A few days ago, after coming off the high of an acceptance email, I was faced with the Achilles Heel of those who want to avoid MS Word – Track Changes.  Storyist works wonderfully when I’m writing, but it becomes useless when my story is going through the editing phase.  Since I was too busy doing a victory dance to really ponder the implications, I caved and bought MS Office Mac 2011 (on the recommendation of a friend, I was able to get this on the cheap through my employer’s Home Use program).

Soon after, the painful process of using a Microsoft product began.  First off, the program took forever to install, only to go through an unending update process (I expected this, so I was still calm).  However, in the past day, MS Word has crashed a total of 3 times (and by crash I mean – Force Quit, all changes lost).  I’ve now gotten into the habit of saving every 10 seconds, just because I’m paranoid.  Apparently, Word 2011 completely chokes when track-changes is used on an .rtf file – which, as it happens, is the only thing that I absolutely need it to do.

Seriously, Microsoft?  Seriously?