Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Second Time Around Took Longer Than the First....

That's how it was starting to feel, anyway.

Getting The Unicorn's Daughter ready to debut as an ebook looked pretty first. All I had to do was scan the pages and give them to Collin, who would then use Omnipage to peel the text from the scans and convert them to a Word document. Then the Word document would be converted to HTML for the ebook edition.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?

Not simple at all, we quickly discovered. Late Thursday night, Collin uploaded the HTML file--after carefully checking the file on the KDP viewer. We were told it would go "live" within twelve hours, but it didn't take that long. I got an email from my surrogate sister Beth early Friday morning. It was up and running. I immediately went to KDP Select to set up the free book promotion.

I should have checked out the free sample first.

After setting up the three-day free book promo, I went back to the book's product page and clicked on "Look Inside." I thought I might be on the verge of a stroke!  Somehow, the text we had so carefully prepared had been replaced--with the scanned JPEG pages from the original edition! 

Converting those JPEGs to a Word document had not been easy. It might have been easier to retype the book. It was originally written on an electric typewriter; there was no disk to work with, not even the original manuscript, since once it was edited, it looked like fourteen miles of bad road. No...there was only the printed book. And it was full of errors that existed in spite of the best efforts of my editor, copyeditor and myself. 

This is why I find the criticism aimed at errors in self-published books so funny. As if conventional publishers never get anything wrong. The ebook will have fewer errors than the original. There are things we couldn't change--like gaps between chapters and spacing inconsistencies that resulted from the typesetting on the original (to fit the text  to the pages, it was sometimes necessary). I have no doubt some nitpickers will point that out in their reviews. If that's the only criticism they have, so be it. 

I thought I might have to cancel the promo, but Collin--with some assistance from Mike--corrected the problem almost immediately. To unwind, Collin and I headed for the see The Avengers again!

The free ebook promotion is now rescheduled for Sunday through Tuesday. Now to deal with the paperback reissue....

5/27/12: So far, it seems to be worth the effort. The free book promo is getting off to a good start....

Product Details

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Most Annoying S*** in the World...for Today, Anyway!

It's Pet Peeves Time! Here's my current Top Ten list of annoyances....

1. People who don't teach their kids to obey the rules. Those of you who've been following this blog know about my issues with my neighbors. Property management recently stressed the "No Ball Playing" rule in our courtyard with a bigger, more emphatic sign. Did it make a difference? For a while, yes. But the kids and their soccer ball have been back the past two days, ignoring this one, too....

2. Public restrooms. They're usually a mess. Nobody bothers to clean up after themselves. They leave their business in the toilet and sometimes in the floor as well. It makes one wonder what their bathrooms must look like at home....

3. Too many "Breaking News" TV spots. Come on...most of these stories could wait for the regularly scheduled newscast! These days, programming is interrupted for anything and everything. There was a time regular programming was only interrupted for major news events, like 9/11 or war declarations or presidential assassinations. I suspect TV news "personalities" have a minimum amount of airtime written into their contracts.

4. TV Weather forecasts. They're long...rambling...tedious. Tell us the forecast and save all the maps and  atmospheric conditions, etc. for those who are interested and have the time to listen. (I guess meteorologists have that same contract clause that keeps their faces onscreen for as long as possible....)

5 and 6. Stupid commercials. We have a couple of local advertisers who are beyond absurd. There's the father-and-son mortgage lenders who remind me of two other financial wizards (see above). Tying for dumbest local TV ad is a stoneworks company that makes beautiful granite countertops--but the husband and wife owners (at least I think they're married) seem to be caught in a time warp. He's dressed like certain country singers used to dress back in the '80s, and she's got the big hair. They call him the "Granite Daddy." Yep, in every commercial, it's "Who's your granite daddy?" I don't know--what is that supposed to mean? Are their customers invited to have sex on the countertops?

7. Stupid politicians. Okay...this list is endless, but today I'm going to single out just one: the moron who embarrassed this entire state by insisting upon inducting world-class blowhard Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians, as if he deserves to be in the company of true famous Missourians like Harry Truman and Mark Twain!

8. Spammers and Scammers. Yep, you know who you are. I had to set my comments here to "Moderate" to be rid of you. Go back to Nigeria...or wherever you princes really come from!

9. Telemarketers. Need I say more?

10. Littering. My neighbors are also bad about dripping their trash wherever they happen to be. Now that's lazy. There's a trash can  here in the courtyard, but the trash is usually all over the ground. I'd like to see recycling bins here, but there's not much chance of that when these dopes can't even make it to the dumpsters....

So tell me...what are YOUR pet peeves?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Okay, the World Must Really Be Ending on December 21st!

It's finally happening! After several failed attempts, my backlist books will finally be released as ebooks, starting with The Unicorn's Daughter next week. I'll be releasing a book a week until the entire backlist is out there...minus the four to which Harlequin still has rights (and they've already released two of those four in ebook format).

I'm starting with the five books written under my own name and originally published by Berkley (Penguin Putnam). Two will go back to their original titles: The Unicorn's Daughter (A Time for Legends) and Alexander's Empire (Dance of the Gods). All will have new covers, designed by Collin. We're also going to be releasing new, updated print editions.

Collin is also working on the advertising for the books and will be doing book trailers. He's expanding the services he offers authors to include book covers, advertising, e-book formatting, press releases, and now book trailers.

Next up: Angels at Midnight. Collin's still working on the new cover for it and Solitaire. In June, we'll be releasing Alexander's Empire, Luck of the Draw and Solitaire. As for the romantic comedies, written under my "Toni Collins" pseudonym, that's still up in the air. Harlequin still has the rights to four of them, and I have to be sure I can use the pseudonym while they still have some of my books in their possession! I hope I can...I also have a new project in the works that works better for Toni than for Norma....

Monday, May 14, 2012


As reported by International Intruder contributors William Kendall and Norma Beishir:

Dateline Collinsport: Chaos reigns at the Collinwood estate, where Avenger the Incredible Hulk has been on the rampage for several hours now. It has been confirmed that the angry green rage monster has stomped vampire Barnabas Collins into his native soil once and for all, shouting "Puny vampire!"

Dateline Pandora: Asgardian God of Thunder and Avenger Thor travelled to this distant planet and laid waste to the native inhabitants. A vicious race of blue skinned religious zealots, the Pandorians were bent on interstellar conquest while passing themselves off as benevolent and peaceful. The thunderer told reporters, "those smurfs had it coming."

Dateline Hogwarts: Captain America, the heroic soldier of World War Two and leader of the Avengers, led a raid into a wizard's school on the British isles this weekend. When asked by reporters why students were detained, the Captain informed us that reports of demonic activity, including moving pictures, fantastic creatures, and an emphasis on the Dark Arts were more then enough reason to shut down the school. There has been no comment from Headmistress McGonagall as to possible retribution.

Dateline Forks: Avenger and SHIELD agent the Black Widow was sighted in this Pacific Northwest town in recent days, coinciding with the deaths of several people, confirmed by sheriff Charlie Swan to be vampires and werewolves. One of the dead includes Sheriff Swan's daughter Bella. "I knew it would end up this way sooner or later," Swan told reporters. "She got mixed up with the wrong people, started down this path that I couldn't talk her out of, and now she's gone." Witnesses, meanwhile, were astonished by the ease with which the Widow dispatched all of the supernatural beings who tried to attack her. "It was like she wasn't even trying," one witness told us.

Dateline North Atlantic: After expressing displeasure with his on board suite, billionaire Tony Stark, also known as Avenger Iron Man, has bought the Titanic--and sunk it. You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen. There was no iceberg. Oh, and Stark reportedly referred to the journeyman artist Jack Dawson as a yellow bellied coward and an "Oliver Twist."

Dateline Panem: The Hunger Games were interrupted unexpectedly today when leading contender Katniss Everdeen was abruptly taken out by expert archer and Avengers assassin Hawkeye, who met with no resistance from observers. All who saw the final defeat of Katniss were in awe of the superior archer...and afraid to piss him off!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

I'm an orphan. Sort of.

My dad passed away twenty-one years ago and my mom's been gone almost fourteen years. I still miss them both terribly. Too often, we don't really appreciate our parents until they're gone. I'm ashamed to admit that's the case for me. I was always quite dependent upon my parents, and I fought against that dependence. I was a difficult daughter.

Mom was a gentle soul...good-natured, a bit naive. Dad used to compare her to Betty White's character, Rose, on The Golden Girls. Mom put up with more crap than she really should have. Certainly more than I would have.  Especially from two of her sisters, henceforth known as The Harpies. They treated her like a doormat. If they said jump, she would ask how high. I suppose being the youngest in a family of nine kids, she grew up accustomed to being pushed around.

But she did have a dark side. If grudge-holding were an Olympic event, Mom would have taken the gold every time. The worst part was that most of her grudges made no sense. She couldn't stand one of my writer friends...even though the woman had never done anything to deserve such wrath. In fact, Mom barely knew her. 

She would take every bit of crap the two Harpies (William has two Harpies as well--I wonder why they seem to travel in pairs?) dished out at her, but had been estranged for many years from her brother Tommy, my favorite uncle. There was a time Tommy was her best ally. When most of the family sat in judgment when Mom married Dad, Tommy was the one who stood by her. They were so close for so long. What happened? To this day, I don't get it.

Mom and I were close, for the most part. It was Mom who gave me my love of horses, having started riding herself at a very early age. (When they were dating, Dad gave her a rather extravagant gift: three palomino horses, one pictured below.) She taught me to ride, putting me in the saddle with her when I could barely walk. It was so natural to me that I was never afraid on a horse...even after a nasty fall when I was eight years old.

It was also Mom who instilled in me the desire to be a writer. When my love of books emerged with my discovery of Charlotte's Web, Mom would buy me a new book every week. She told me of her own dreams of becoming a writer/illustrator of comic books. She was quite good at both. She gave up writing, but continued to draw and paint until diabetes began to affect her vision.

Grandma once said her three youngest children were artists, but the other six couldn't draw anything but flies.

Mom took the above photos of a few of her paintings.
Photography wasn't one of her talents.

Mom was born to be a mother and grandmother. She was infinitely patient, comforting, and protective, though not much of a disciplinarian. That was left to Dad. Sarah Palin talks of the Mama Grizzly--my mother WAS the Mama Grizzly. Anyone who hurt her kids was putting their own life on the line. She was slow to anger, but that would do it.

In the last two years of her life, after the first stroke, our roles were reversed. She became childlike and I was the caretaker. In the last six months before her death, she didn't recognize me or Collin. In some ways, I think the loss of her memory was a blessing. I hoped she wouldn't remember the bad moments between us. I hoped she wouldn't remember how certain members of her family had abandoned her when she needed them most. I hoped she wouldn't remember the two ungrateful children who had not been there for her when she was so sick. I hoped she wouldn't remember how one of them had conned her out of almost every dime Dad had worked so hard to save for her.

I miss her. I wish she and Dad were here with me now. Happy Mother's Day, Mom....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Harlequin More Than Words Award

The letter below was sent to myself and all of Harlequin's authors. I hope at least some of you reading this will know of a woman who deserves recognition for her work in her community. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guest Blogger: Devon Cooper

Today I'm turning the blog over to a talented new author, Devon Cooper, who has just released the ebook edition of her first novel Bad Day, at Amazon. I've read this very humorous novel and can honestly give it a wholehearted recommendation. I hope that after you've read Devon's post, you'll head over to Amazon and buy a copy!

Take it away, Devon!

Thank you, Norma for allowing me to come into your blog and talk about my debut novel, Bad Day.

Everyone has bad days. And, if you’ve ever had a really bad, bad day, you’ll understand how the characters in the book feel.

Writing a story that takes place over only one day wasn’t easy. It didn’t start out that it was going to take place over one day, but as I continued to write, and add other characters and scenes, it just sort of wrote itself that way. From the beginning prologue, you can feel the stress and tension building.

I got the idea for the story by bringing in a lot of my own experiences into the novel. I mean, everyone has bad days. I used a lot of my own memories from the past as some of my characters' past memories. I used these experiences readily throughout the story, of course, embellishing them to make them funny or sad, or loving. Since each individual has their own set of fears and experiences, I needed to show the reason for those fears and experiences, and why they felt the way they did.

A couple of years back, I’d started a story but it just wasn’t working out. I held onto the story, you know, just in case. I’m glad I did. The more I wrote Bad Day, the more stories I was able to work into it from this other unworkable piece. From that unfinished story, I was able to get three different memories for my characters.

The main characters are Angie and Frank, two individuals that otherwise would probably never even speak to each other. She is driven, working in a high rise building and vying for a spot on the Board of Directors. She’s about to make a presentation, but she has to get up to the top of the building first.

Frank is a construction worker working in the same high rise building with his boss, Sam. However, Frank has to get into the one thing that he fears the most. An elevator.

When Frank forgets his drill down in his truck, he has to go down to get it, and has to face his fears head on. Of course, it doesn’t help when Angie gets on the elevator. To make matters worse, the elevator, on its way back up, gets stuck, trapping the two of them.

When the fire alarm goes off, Sam doesn’t want to trust that the elevators are working, so he opts to take the stairs. But, with an old high school knee injury, his trip down the stairs is a daunting one. He has no way of knowing where Frank is, and since he left his cell phone in his truck, he cant even call his wife Joanne to let her know that hes ok.

When Joanne finds out that the high rise building has had a bomb threat called in to it, she freaks out with worry. Her life is Sam, and she has to find him. When the police check their list to see if he exited the building, his name isnt there.

Honestly, could their day get any worse?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book. And, with the help of some great people who beta read and edited it for me, I think I’ve put out a wonderful debut novel. Set in multiple first person point of view, its an easy read, one that I hope you all will enjoy.

Thanks again Norma for allowing me to come here and talk about Bad Day which is currently available at Amazon.


Thanks for sharing the story of and behind Bad Day, Devon!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

I normally don't go to any movie's opening, no matter how badly I might want to see the film. In fact, I have to want to see a movie very badly to not just wait for the DVD. I have an aversion to crowds, and I just prefer watching movies in the comfort of my own home (on the couch, eating or doing email, whatever). But Collin and I have been waiting over a year for The Avengers. When our favorite cineplex announced it would be offering a Marvel Movie Marathon, Collin immediately ordered tickets--his Mother's Day gift to me. Still, I had reservations. I am not a night owl. I tire far too easily and usually end up asleep in front of the TV every evening. I figured my bum leg would give me a lot of trouble if I had to stay in one position for fourteen hours. And I hate 3D. Three of the six were 3D. Pass the barf bag, please!

But in the end, I couldn't disappoint Collin. I'm glad I didn't. I have never had so much fun at a movie! Or should I say movies?

The marathon began just after noon with Iron Man, followed by The Incredible Hulk (the one starring Edward Norton--the Ang Lee version sucked big time). After that, Iron Man 2. Then it was time to don the 3D glasses for Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and finally, the midnight premiere of The Avengers. There were brief intermissions between each film--and one that lasted way too long, due to a technical malfunction--between Captain America and The Avengers. The midnight premiere actually started at 12:30. The Ronnie's 20 Cine had a bunch of angry villagers on their hands...but management is good about keeping their customers happy, and gave everyone two free passes for IMAX films. Yay!

The package included a nice discount on concessions, and Collin had accumulated enough points to get a $4.00 off coupon on top of that. We got the jumbo refillable sodas and popcorn which came guessed it: Avengers cups and popcorn tub!

This movie is going to be a monster success, if opening night is any indication. The theater was full for the marathon, and the lines for those just attending the midnight showing of The Avengers started to form around 9pm. I ran into Captain America, Thor and Black Widow in that line as I was heading toward the concession stand....

And now for my review: I've always preferred the Marvel superheroes to the DC crew for one important reason--character development. Marvel's heroes aren't just one-dimensional superheroes, they're fully-developed characters, people with personalities and histories and lives outside their hero personas. Whether it's the wisecracking playboy genius Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, who's grown up believing his father didn't love him...the arrogant prince of Asgard, Thor, whose father Odin sent him into exile to teach him a lesson and led him to love the people of Earth enough to become their protector...the troubled Bruce Banner, whose inner demons appear in the form of the angry green giant Hulk...Captain America, Steve Rogers, who emerged from a 70-year coma to find adjusting to his new life in the twenty-first century difficult enough without the added pressures of war...or the two elite assassins, Black Widow (Natasha Romanov) and Hawkeye (Clint Barton) who want to atone for the blood on their hands, each character has impressive depth.

In The Avengers, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team has been working on harnessing the power of the Cosmic Cube (now known as the Tesseract). They inadvertently open a portal that allows Thor's adopted brother Loki, until now presumed dead, to enter the SHIELD complex and take possession of Dr. Eric Selvig and Hawkeye, physically and mentally...and launch an attack on the Earth. Loki is a king without a kingdom, and he plans to make the people of Earth bow to his will. He's quickly captured, but as he's being transported to his prison, a storm erupts. His reaction surprises Black Widow, who asks if he's afraid of storms. "I'm not fond of what comes after," he grumbles.

What comes after is his brother, the God of Thunder, who has come from Asgard to take him home to face justice there. This results in a heated battle--literally--between Thor and Iron Man. Loki escapes, and the Avengers--a team of superheroes who don't even like each other (except for Black Widow and Hawkeye, who I suspect have more than a working relationship)--must learn to work together to save the Earth. Will they ever become friends? The obligatory after-end-credits scene might offer a clue.

I'm fighting the urge to go into detail here. There are so many great scenes, including the death of a long-standing character, but I don't want to be accused of being a spoiler! But one of my favorite lines comes from Captain America in response to the notion of Thor and Loki being gods: "There's only one God, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that."

Screenwriter/director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity) gives The Avengers the perfect balance of heart, humor and nonstop action. The special effects are amazing but don't detract from what's most important in this film. The actors--Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg and Samuel L. Jackson--are all perfect for their roles. As Mark Ruffalo (Dr. Bruce Banner) said in an interview, there are a hundred reasons why this movie shouldn't have worked--but it does. Does it ever!

There's something in The Avengers for everyone, and I can't recommend it strongly enough. Those free tickets the theater manager gave us? Guess what we'll be seeing--again?

Seeing all six films in chronological order was a terrific experience--if you didn't attend a marathon, you really missed out! The marathon audience was great--there was wild applause whenever Avengers creator Stan Lee made each of his trademark cameos, as well as enthusiastic cheering for the many highlights of the six films. I'd see a movie with this crowd any day!

5/16/12 ~ NOTE: I recommend you also check out other blog reviews on The Avengers. My partner in crime, William Kendall, just posted the best of the lot (in my opinion) at Speak of the Devil. We also did a joint review as our alter egos, Scarlett and James, at  Basking in the Afterglow. E.J. Wesley does a great job of analyzing the film from a writer's point of view at The Open Vein, and fellow author Mark Hunter offers his thoughts at Mark R. Hunter. Also check out Amanda Hocking's Blog for her observations on the film!