Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It’s HERE! Release the Hounds, errr, the Shape-shifters!

Nancy Gideon and Pocket Books are proud to announce the arrival of HUNTER OF SHADOWS. Weighing in at 368 bound pages on 11-29-11, after a 14-month labor of love (oh, my aching back!), Hunter is the fifth in the BY MOONLIGHT series. Unlike earlier siblings that shared the same hero and heroine, Hunter has a new couple to make you cheer, laugh, cry, hold your breath, and fan yourself (Is it hot in here or is it just me?). Here’s what the first visitors had to say:
“Sparks fly immediately. Vivid writing, intriguing plot twists, and a satisfying ending will keep readers coming back to Gideon’s magical NOLA.” – Publishers Weekly

“Tons of chemistry. Full of intrigue and action. Compelling characters, a kick @ss heroine, and a hero torn by his loyalties make for an intense read.” – Booklaholics Romance Book Club
“Constantly moving, very hot and exhilarating. Filled with excitement that gives you the rush of your life. There’s no better author than Nancy Gideon with her amazing imagination.”- Fresh Fiction
“Very gritty and very cool.” – VampChix / Bite Club
“5-Stars! Perfect for any reader who loves paranormal romance. Intense, interesting, fast-paced, and the characters are very likable.” – Live to Read
Squee! They like my baby!


Today, my friends at Literary Escapism are helping me celebrate my new arrival! I’m participating in their ultra-fun Black Friday event, where my characters from HUNTER OF SHADOWS share a little extra content while shopping for the holidays in my By Moonlight world. Pocket is offering two free copies of HUNTER OF SHADOWS! That’s not all! Jackie and Nikki will be interviewing me on TalkShoe blog radio from 9 to 11 p.m. EST. Tune in to listen or call in with questions as we talk By Moonlight, writing, and romance of the paranormal kind.

Stop by tomorrow and we’ll go on a blog tour together. I’m driving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting Ready for the Birth of a New Book . . .

A new book release is like the birth of a child. It takes months and months of development. Varying degrees of pain and discomfort are involved. It can get messy. But the anticipation outweighs all the worries . . . if you plan ahead!

In the first trimester, you’re in the early stages. You go from your finished manuscript to revisions to line edits, each progressing toward the viable final stage which seems unreal and so very far away. As you discuss names, you realize it’s really going to happen! You get a definite pub date and you start watching the calendar. Then the queasiness kicks in as you start to wait.

The second trimester is when things start to stir. You view the first rendering of your cover. It’s beautiful even without the quotes and teasers. You get your promotional materials printed, decide on your PR campaign, start setting up interviews, reviews and a blog tour. Your galleys arrive and you feel a pinch of separation anxiety because your baby is getting ready to leave your control.

The third trimester arrives and suddenly you’re stressed and grouchy. Part of you can’t wait for the delivery and the other panics because there’s so much to do! As the days wind down, you start a frantic nesting, getting all your articles written, sending out Social Media announcements, and you pray for no last minute complications. You only have a short while to cradle your precious author copies close before you have to display your baby to the world. Then it’s time . . .

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s announcement!

Friday, November 18, 2011

To Boldly Go Where This Author Hadn’t Gone Before: A New Chapter for Diane Burton

Back in 2001, I was transported out-of-this-world by a funny, smart, and original Space Opera novel called Switched released through ImaJinn Books, the small press known for its outside the traditional box paranormal romances. For those who missed that first orbit, it’s baaaack, this time in e-format, and author Diane Burton has another surprise . . . Switched Too is coming soon to a galaxy near you.

 

It’s my pleasure to chat with Diane about writing, learning new tricks, and how this Earth girl makes interplanetary romance look easy.

Nancy: Welcome back! What made you decide to enter the e-pub world with SWITCHED?

 
Diane: Thanks, Nancy. I'm glad to be back. I got a Kindle last fall and discovered how great ebooks are. (Yes, I'm late to the party.) I wanted to publish the sequel to Switched (Switched Too). I understood most publishing houses don't want a sequel to a book they haven't published. At the MMRWA Retreat last spring, I heard how writers were publishing their backlists (and new works) using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. And here we are. Switched has a new life.

Nancy: A lot of authors with backlists are considering bringing them out in e-format (waving hand). How difficult was it to do all the formatting? Was there someplace specific you went to get the how-to information?

Diane: It was more tedious than difficult to do the formatting. I still had the original digital file for Switched unlike some authors' backlists that were pre-computer. I used Smashwords' owner Mark Coker's Style Guide: How to Format, Publish, and Distribute an Ebook. When it showed up on a blog I follow, "Free Kindle Books Plus a Few Other Tips", I saw it as a sign. The free guide took me step-by-step through the process of preparing the manuscript for ebook formats (which Smashwords then distributes). If a writer has the time (and, believe me, it takes time), it can be done. For those who don't have the time or inclination, there are people willing to do it for a fee. Coker has a list and, I'm sure, all an author needs to do is ask around on-line for recommendations.

I will add a caveat here. Before attempting to self-publish, an author needs to make sure the manuscript has been well edited. There are many poorly written, poorly edited self-published ebooks out there. Don't be one of them. If you don't have a friend with an eye for the big picture as well as the nit-picky details, hire someone to edit your book.

Nancy: Do you foresee e-pubbing by authors as a threat to traditional publishing? Are you going to pursue both?

Diane: From what I've read, the traditional publishing industry has been slow to change. In these days of instant everything, any industry that doesn't change with the times loses. Who knew how quickly readers would embrace ebooks? What we (the older generation) forgot was we started our kids on this path when we gave them their first Atari or Nintendo. As adults, they embraced the electronic revolution, leaving the rest of us in the dust. A writer who doesn't capitalize on that loses a huge audience. That said, there are still those who love physical books, myself included. So, yes, I'm pursuing print publishing, also.

Nancy: With so many e-titles flooding the market, what are you doing to capture the attention of a would be fan?

Diane: I'm learning as much as I can about self-promotion in the Digital Age. I checked out other authors' websites and blogs. I learn best by example. I'm reading what others say on-line about how they're promoting their books. I read your book Getting It Out There: PR and Social Media for Writers. Very helpful, by the way. I'm putting into practice what I learned.

Nancy: What’s the story behind SWITCHED and the soon to be released original, SWITCHED TOO, both literally and fictionally?

Diane: Switched is a space adventure. It's the story of twins who were separated before birth. Yep, you read that right—before birth. Jessie was raised on Earth, Veronese on an alien planet. When Veronese goes AWOL from her starship to meet her biological family in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jessie is "beamed" aboard the starship by mistake. She's a wise-cracking free-spirit—a good sport, just one of the boys—who's never met a guy who raises her heart rate. Until she meets the hunky captain. Marcus is flummoxed by his unexpected visitor who displays all the emotions he forces himself to suppress—a regular Mr. Spock. As Marcus and Jessie work together to save the crew and themselves from sabotage, their mutual attraction escalates until treachery forces them into decisions that tear them apart. Switched, Too is Veronese's story.

Switched came out of my fascination with space travel. Ever since the U.S. took its first baby steps by sending men into space, I've been excited about the prospect of exploring other worlds. Star Trek, the original series, whetted my appetite. My fascination really took off when I heard John Williams' score to Star Wars. Now that was space adventure. Skip several years and I started writing romances. Received a lot of rejections. Was told there's no market for futuristic romances. I wrote one anyway because it was fun. Then, I heard about ImaJinn Books, a niche publisher of paranormal romances. The publisher liked Switched and gave me my first break. Switched was published in 2001. After it went out of print, I got the rights back. Skip a few more years and Switched has a new life as an ebook. There are some differences in this version, new scenes, changes in others, but the story is the same. I mention that (here and in all the descriptions) because I don't want those who bought the original to feel conned by the new cover into thinking this is a new book.

Nancy: How cool is it seeing your name on a book cover again (especially a gorgeous Pat Lazarus original)?

Diane: Thrilled beyond belief. Pat knows how to capture the essence of a story. Everything started in Switched with Jessie being "beamed" aboard a starship. The way Pat indicates movement in the cover, with the high-tech designs in the background, lets potential readers know right away they won't be in Kansas anymore.

BTC: What advice would you give to an author struggling with frustration and rejection?

Diane: Don't give up. Don't take rejections/criticism personally. Hard to do, I know. Try to be objective. (It's hard to be objective when someone says your baby is ugly.) Listen—really pay attention—to the reasons for rejection. You can't do much about "it doesn't meet our needs", but when an editor/agent/contest judge takes the time to write comments, pay attention. Also know when to cut your losses. Sometimes, you need to set a project aside and come back to it later. Sometimes, the project belongs under the bed. As soon as you finish a story and start sending it out, begin a new project. Don't waste time haunting the mailbox or checking your email inbox. This is a business. You have to expect rejection/criticism. Develop a thick skin. Do I follow my own advice? LOL As I said, it's hard.

BTC: Any tips or tricks for getting the ole creative juices flowing? Music, coffee, pictures of H/H (Mine is vacuuming, but that’s just me!)?

Diane: Vacuuming? Seriously? My dust bunnies have great-grandbunnies. Coffee is a necessity. Silence helps. If I listen to music, it has to be instrumental. I can't listen to music with words. They get in my head and interrupt my concentration. I like light classical and New Age. Anything by Enya or Andrea Bocelli works too because the lyrics are in a foreign language. Although I work best in silence, I'm learning how to shut out distractions. Difficult but not impossible. Earbuds from the MP3 player work, too.

BTC: Since we’re both rather Type-A /OCD gals, do you have a fixed writing process? Time of day, pantser/plotter, note cards, chronic rewriter?

Diane: Really? I've never thought of myself as Type A, but you have the OCD part right. I have "tunnel vision" where I can get so wrapped up in a project that I don't pay attention anything else around me. (The dustbunnies taught the paper in my office how to reproduce.) Contrary to the OCD part, I'm not a plotter—not at the beginning, anyway. I never know what surprises are waiting for me as I write. I find that exciting. In Switched, I wasn't sure who the villain was until almost the end. Consequently, I rewrite a lot. I like your term "chronic rewriter"—very apropos. When ideas pop in my head, I jot down notes in a notebook (I would lose notecards). I write best first thing in the morning when everything is quiet. Since my husband retired, he's turned into a night owl while I've become the morning lark (a complete reversal of how we used to be). In the late morning, he drags me away from the computer to go to the fitness center. Otherwise, when I'm "in the zone" I'd still be in my p.j.s writing into the afternoon. Then, I use the time after lunch to revise, check email and FaceBook, update the blog and/or website, and now do PR. Of course, there's always the mundane stuff that has to be done like paying bills, laundry, house cleaning (yeah, right), etc. If I can help it, I don't do any of those things in the morning when I'm at my creative best.

Nancy: What’s next for Diane Burton? What’s cooking on your creative back burners?

Diane: As you mentioned, Switched Too (the adventure continues) is in the final stages and should be available in early 2012. I have a P.I. story that takes place in a small resort town on Lake Michigan which I'd like to develop into a series. I also have a YA (more middle grade) space adventure that I had a lot of fun writing. As soon as Switched Too is out there, I'll be trying to find homes for my other projects.

Nancy: Where can we find you and your books?

Diane: You would save the easiest question for last. LOL My website is www.dianeburton.com and I blog every Monday at http://dianeburton.blogspot.com I'm on FaceBook as "Diane Burton – Author". Switched is available at Amazon.com for Kindle and at Smashwords.com for all e-readers.
Thanks, Nancy, for asking me to share so much about myself and Switched.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When Writing Becomes A Literal Pain in the Neck

We don’t always take care of ourselves as we ought to. Sometimes it takes a smack upside the head (or in my case, a week of down time with severe neck strain) to get us to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. I should have known better—I deal with workers debilitated by repetitive injury every day. But we get busy. We push beyond our limits. We never consider that the neck and shoulder pain we get from just typing can be as damaging as being in an auto accident.

Computer work requires the user to perform highly repetitive motions for prolonged periods of time in basically the same position. Doing these tasks continuously for over several hours exposes muscles and tendons in the hands, necks and shoulders to hundreds, even thousands of repetitions that can lead to wear-and-tear and damaging injury.

By taking the ergonomic preventative maintenance steps below, you can stay productive while protecting against carpal tunnel, repetitive strain injury (RSI) and other pains in the neck.

  1. Give Yourself a Break: Reduce the stress placed on the body during an extended stretch at the keyboard by streeeeeeetching to loosen up muscles after a long period in the same position. Every twenty minutes or so, take a break from the screen to do shoulder rolls and neck stretches. Every hour, get out of your chair and walk around to get the blood circulating.
  2. Room to Work: Keep your work area clean, clear and area free of things that restrict movement so you’re not reaching over, under, around and bumping into things. Have the space to use your mouse with either the right or the left hand. Make sure you have proper air circulation and that you aren’t seated under vents or in front of fans that blow right on you.
  3. Shed Some Light on the Situation: Bright light or glare from overhead lights, desk lamps and windows can lead to eye problems. Glare can cause eyestrain, squinting and headaches, so adjust monitor screen height or tilt it so your light source isn’t reflected (to test, turn off monitor and if you can see your reflection in it, you’ve got glare). Also tweak your screen brightness and font size for vision comfort.
  4. Posturing: Listen to your mother and sit up straight. Hunching leads to back pain, neck strain and shoulder tension. Your head, neck and torso should be naturally aligned when seated. One of the biggest causes of neck, upper back and shoulder pain is what’s called a “Forward Head.” Tilting or craning your head and neck forward is like supporting a bowling ball with the muscles of your upper back and puts strain on your cervical discs, causing a tension pain across your shoulders and often headaches, and even rotator cuff pain or impingement and reduced cervical lordosis (I love to throw technical jargon from the day job around—and I know how to spell it all, too!). When you try to overcompensate by forcing your head back and tilting your chin up, it only makes matters worse. Check your posture by standing with your back against a wall. With correct spinal alignment, your heels, butt, shoulders and back of your head should all be making contact. Try a Pectoral Stretch and a Trapezius Stretch to loosen and strengthen tight muscles.
  5. Hand Position: Keep arms bent at a 90-degree angle with elbows near body while typing and wrists and hands even with elbows. Use the keyboard more than the mouse by incorporating keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl+S to save, Ctrl+P to print.
  6. Take a Seat: The best desk is sturdy and has a low keyboard tray. The best chair has comfortable arm rests (but don’t depend upon them), with lumbar support that fits your low back, and adjusts so that feet rest fully on the floor and knees are at a 90-degree angle. It should have a smaller seat so there are a few inches between the inner knee and the edge of the seat. The back should be high enough to reach the shoulder blades. Align the monitor, keyboard and mouse so you aren’t twisting your back or neck as you work. Your monitor should be positioned an arm’s length away and centered in your line of vision with sight line about 3” below top of screen so you’re not straining your neck to look up at it. The keyboard should sit flat, not elevated in the back, so your wrists aren’t bent. Don’t let your hands rest on the keyboard while you type. If you use a laptop, think about a wireless keyboard on the pull out tray and a second monitor.
  7. Go Through the Motions: Watch out for movements that strain the body, especially if they’re repetitive i.e. bending, reaching, twisting to look at your work, get envelopes and letterhead, or, heaven forbid, watch TV over your left shoulder (darn that HGTV!)
  8. Change it Up: Vary your tasks throughout the day to bring different muscles into play and give your body a chance to recover. Mix non-computer work in with your keyboarding. File, do your bills, take a brisk ride on your elliptical, vacuum, walk to the mailbox, sit in a different chair so your posture is altered.
Sometimes that work marathon can’t be avoided. What do you do when long hours spent at the keyboard bring that dull, burning, or sharp pain across your upper back and shoulders? Rest is the first remedy. Your muscles are sore and tight because they’re not getting proper circulation. Exercise with gentle stretches that strengthen the back, shoulders and stomach. A strong core improves posture and reduces chance of injury and pain. Practice proper Posture by avoiding slumping, slouching and forward head position. Try OTC Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin/Advil/Aleve) to reduce swelling of aggravated areas. Heat alternating with Ice brings fast relief. Start with ice cubes or frozen peas in a towel for 20 minutes followed by a heating pad for 20 minutes (keep both from direct contact with your skin!) to speed up healing.

For long term care of your body, sleep on a firm mattress and try a cervical support pillow or even feather pillow you can shape to fit the curve of your neck. Lying flat on your back is often recommended for forward head problems.

I don’t pretend to be a doctor, so see one if pain persists, especially if it’s accompanied by weakness in arms or legs, numbness in arms, legs, chest or belly, or loss of bodily functions. They can diagnosis a more significant injury such as torn tendons or herniated disc.

Bottom line: Take care of yourself. Be aware of good ergonomic health practices. And give yourself a break when you need one. Your neck and shoulders will thank you!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast!

I’m a Type A with ADD/OCD so I only function on two levels—Full speed ahead with Keurig on high and, I came in here to do something . . . oh look, David Bromstad is on HGTV! When I set my focus, nothing gets in my way, not time, not outside distractions, and lately, not inside distractions . . . until this week. Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to get my attention when I’m running in high gear.

I’d be a fabulous juggler if I didn’t have an issue with cross-dominance (my right brain never knows what the left is doing). I can get one, two, three, four, six, twelve projects in the air and keep them all spinning at a ferocious speed. But once in a while, that first ball slips . . . look out below.

I was juggling furiously going into last week, building a Haunted Open House (1,155 visitors scared!!!) that kept me at the keyboard 18 hours straight one day and ten the next, updating my website, writing two articles, three of my own blogs, guest posting on four others, outlining the next topic in my GETTING IT OUT THERE: PR and Social Media for Writers series, typing my way through hours of dictation at my 9-to-5, and hardly taking any time to stand up and stretch (except for a quick trip to see Three Musketeers). Then on Thursday, I got an ache between my shoulder blades. (Nothing unusual, just pop a few Motrins).

I’d moved my laptop down to a lift up table in my living room to take advantage of the natural light, spread out all my paperwork, and so I could glance over to watch American Horror Story. By bedtime, I could hardly move my head. I couldn’t sleep. By mid-afternoon Friday, it felt like one of the characters had stepped from FX to stab me repeatedly in the neck and shoulders. When I lay down for the night, I couldn’t roll over. I worried I might be having a heart attack. I tried Flexeril, then Vicoden (they’d been in my medicine cabinet for three year after taking one for a back spasm), nothing helped. I spent the weekend computer-free, icing/heating and trying not to move. By Monday, I was planning to go to the doctor but after two days of no typing (well, maybe just a few words…) it was a manageable ache. I was able to sleep for most of the night with four Motrin every four hours.

I work in a law office that deals with work comp. I know all about repetitive stress and related injuries. So I started researching. Yesterday, I did an ergonomic study of my home and work environment. If it had been toxic, I would have been glowing in the dark!

I’m a professional here, and I was overlooking the obvious. I would never treat my car as neglectfully as I was myself, and I know I’m not alone. Life has a way of slapping you upside the head (or between the shoulder blades) to get your attention. The last time was when a computer crash forced me to take time off. I can be so oblivious. Must be the ADD.

Sometimes it takes forced rehab time to wake you up and make you come to terms with workaholic or control addictions (that volunteer ‘Yes I Can’ syndrome!). I sat back (very slowly and carefully) and weighed options to reduce my stress load. I pushed back deadlines to a comfortable distance, let a couple of opportunities go in favor of less work-intensive alternatives. I’m making some adjustments in my environment to be kinder and gentler to my aging chassis.

What have you done for yourself lately?

Next Tuesday’s Tech and Tips blog will feature what I culled from this experience with ways to prevent and/or treat work stress and strain. If you sit behind a desk for a living or at a laptop for fun or profit, this one’s for you.

Has it been four hours? Pass the Motrin . . .

On a happier note, my Haunted Open House was a huge success (1,155 guests!!!). Su, the Lean Mean Green Secret Agent Machine won the Costume contest and I’m coming up with an appropriate award that will involve a free book and probably chocolate.

And if you were thinking of asking me to write an article, do a blog, help with your project, ask away. It might just take me a little longer to get to it. Is tomorrow soon enough?