I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year to Everyone

 

Including Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, who made this blog post possible in every meaning of the word. Berners-Lee is a British computer science professional who, while based at CERN in Geneva, pulled together the concepts of hypertext, Transmission Control Protocol and Domain name ideas and sent the very first hypertext message to another computer on 25 December. Twenty-one years ago.

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Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee

The world we know today simply would not exist if Tim Berners-Lee had been working as an accountant in London, or selling shoes in Chicago.

No email, no weather on your desktop (probably no desktop), no internet banking (and no on-line porn or gambling), no direct deposit of your paycheck, no web sites to visit of any kind, no on-line libraries, no Amazon or eBay. Nothing would exist as we know it today if Berners-Lee hadn’t stretched his mind to pull all of those bits of technology together.

In the twenty-one years since that day the entire world has been transformed. Oddly enough, very few people have noticed. Most of them have taken it for granted, as they do just about everything else in their lives.

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee and Santa Clause have a few things in common. On the whole, though, Berners-Lee has given much more to the world.

Below are a few links that will provide a bit more information on this most amazing individual.

http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/ber1bio-1

http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Longer.html

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.  May it be safe and profitable for each and every one of us.

The next time you send an email, slip a link to this blog post into it.

Be safe out there.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I bought a Kindle, and I feel like a traitor

 

I’m not exactly sure what or who I might have betrayed, though.  Maybe I just feel like I’ve let my side down. But I’ve had my novels selling on both Kindle and Nook for about a year, and I had no idea what an eBook actually looked like.

So, I bought a Kindle “Touch” with WiFi. It’s grey-scale and does not have 3G capability, though the Touch does come in a 3G/WiFi version. But I will NOT purchase ANY electronic product that requires a contract/monthly payment plan. Will not. Ever. Period.

So I might have spent a bit over $100.00 on my Touch, but I didn’t spend $200.00 on a Kindle Fire. Good for me. That just means I kept that hundred bucks in My pocket. Right where it belongs.

So I am very happy with my Touch. Along with the device I bought a protective leather cover for a few dollars more, and it is well worth the price. I can download an eBook in a few seconds, read it at my leisure, and enjoy it. It is lightweight, the screen is clear even in low light (or maybe I just have really good close-up vision) and the books are remarkably inexpensive (more or less, anyway).

But I can’t bend down a page to mark my place. Of course, I can always tear up a bit of napkin and stick it between the front cover and the view screen. But once you start to read a book you can simply put the device down or even turn it off, and when you find yourself with a bit of time all you have to do is start it up and you are right back in the novel where you left off. No need for bookmarks.

Truth to tell, I have yet to buy one of my own books to see what they look like on the device. But I’ll get a round to it. Some day. Once I finish reading the books I’ve got on it now. Maybe.

I bought Taylor Anderson’s “Firestorm” http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_15?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=taylor+anderson+kindle+books&sprefix=taylor+anderson

This is the latest in his ‘Destroyermen’ series, and enjoyed it immensely. Anderson is a master of the alternate universe genre. His world is well crafted and true to itself, and all of the characters in it are real people. His plotting is impeccable and the stories move along so well by the end of the tale you find yourself hungry for the next in the series. I cannot recommend his work highly enough.

Michael J. Sullivan has his “Riyria Revelations” series out in 3 volumes:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=michael+j+sullivan+kindle+books&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Amichael+j+sullivan+kindle+books&ajr=0

I’ve read “Theft of Swords” and “Rise of Empire” and have “Heir of Novron” on order. Sullivan writes in the Swords and Sorcery genre and his writing is superb; lots of light humor and dark deeds, along with a bit of love and romance and more than enough thrills and chills to keep the reader entranced.

I downloaded his free short story “the Viscount and the Witch” and read it in less than an hour. It provides a bit of backstory to the relationship between his main characters, Hadrian and Royce. Very enjoyable.

Next on my gotta-have-this-book list is “Ghost Story”, by one of my all-time favorite authors, Jim Butcher. It truly is unputdownable (Relax, it’s okay; I’m an author. I can do things like that. I have a license. Really).

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_11?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=jim+butcher+kindle+books&sprefix=jim+butcher

For all you Dresden Files fans, Ghost Story is a must read.

Next on my gotta-read-this-book list is “The Undertaker”, by William Brown.

http://billbrownwritesnovels.wordpress.com/

Bill writes murder/mystery novels with some very interesting plots. I just picked up on his blog thanks to a recommendation on FaceBook by another author, Allan Ansorge.

http://aeansorge.com/

Allan writes mysteries with a lot of humor and curious plot twists. he does stuff with his characters I could never get away with, and he does it with an √©lan that is simply amazing. I’ve met Allan a few times at group book signings. he really is quite a character, and an authentic nice guy.

All of the media pundits, including my very own, Don McCauley, say I should be ending my blog posts with a “Call to Action”. So here it is, folks:

Have Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukka, and a Safe and Profitable New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

What I did with my weekend

 

I have been an active member of the Clay County Writer’s Group here in Florida for a few years. I don’t make all of the meetings; there’s just too much to do with researching and writing and cleaning my room, eating and sleeping that I just don’t have that much time for meetings. Not to mention marketing, personal appearances, selling and signing books and so on. But I do get to as many of the meetings as I can.

I mean, who else can a writer talk to other than other writers? Nobody else understands what we go through to put out a book a year. I hate writers who claim they can write a book a month. I hate them even more when they actually do write a book a month. I even know a few of them.

You know who you are.

It takes me two years to research and write a sellable novel, which means that if I want to release a novel a year I have to well and truly bust my butt to meet those deadlines. Somehow I manage, though I am not quite sure how; I don’t work hard, or put in long hours, and heaven knows I spend a lot of time stumbling around  looking for my sandals or wondering if I should shave that day (not to mention all of the novels I read. It makes me furious how many authors have stolen ideas from me before I even had a chance to think them up).

No wonder it takes me two year to write a novel.

So this past Saturday Clay County Writers Group held it end of the year meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, the home of the Ancient City Writers Group. They meet once a month in the North Ponce De Leon Public Library. I got there about fifteen minutes before the meeting started and met Maureen Jung, the leading light of the Clay County Writers a few minutes later. She was there to give a talk to the combined groups on the changing world of communications.

And it is changing, rapidly. I was familiar with much of what she had to say, since I do most of my own blogging, social media posting, news releases for local events and so on, and work directly with communications folks who do the stuff I don’t know how to do (that is a long list we can get into later).

But Maureen has been doing work in the communications field for many more years than I have, and on a scale way, way beyond my amateurish abilities. Most of her work nowadays involves the medical field, including documentation, grant proposals, providing training seminars for people new to the field and lots, lots more. She knows this stuff inside and out.

We had around fifty people in the two groups of writers and there was little time to sit around and chat. But I di meet a few new writers, and spoke with them briefly before the meeting go under way, and we exchanged cards as the meeting broke up.

What Maureen had to say, in brief, is the following: email is critical to communication today – read your emails aloud BEFORE you send them out. Be specific and concise. Avoid wordiness and humor. People who receive your emails are very busy and your humor may fall on very sensitive ears. Wordiness is confusing and may create confusion in the mind of the reader or worse, it may cause a reaction the complete opposite of what you intended.

Email, Facebook and other social media sites, web sites and recent phenomena such as Twitter are quickly overtaking face to face meetings and telephone conversations as the most important means of communication. The world is rapidly becoming more and more of a global marketplace very existence depends on fast communication for its livelihood.

In all of your communications, provide a headline, body text and closing/call to action with additional information below that if the reader has time or interest in pursuing it. The headline should be clear and concise. The body text should be no more than three or four short and informative sentences and the closing should contain a short summary and a call to action.

People today have no time to read long and involved emails, and when browsing they will only rarely look beyond the top half of the home page of any web site they go to. If, that is, they even land on your home page.

Search engines direct traffic on he web nowadays, so if your web site is not in the top half of the first page of Google, Yahoo or Bing! it is highly unlikely anyone will ever lay eyes on your URL or have the chance to read the few lines of text the search engine uses to describe your site.

(I will add here that if you do not know anything about Search Engine Optimization you are either very lucky and probably well off or very, very ignorant. If you are a writer hoping to get your web site noticed, you had better start looking into SEO or take up another line of work.)

The point of her talk on communication is this. The communication industry (oh, yes it is an industry) is changing to meet the needs of the day. the way we did things when we grew up (well, when I grew up, anyway) no longer apply, or apply in new and different ways. We need to change the way we communicate without losing site of why we communicate – to exchange ideas and information.

Brevity is king.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I was Hit by a Nasty Piece of Malware this Morning

 

It’s called Win 7 Internet Protection. It is accurately termed a ‘Shape Shifter’ because it will configure itself to whatever Operating System you are using. Nasty, because it does present itself as a new version of your Windows security tool and ostensibly it has found a Trojan in one of more locations among your files. those place include any System Optimizers, Anti-virus/malware utilities and even your browsers.

When it notifies you of the presence of the trojan it will offer to clean up your system for you. But when you select Clean’ it will send you to a page where you pay for the cleaning service – 1 year for $60.00.. If you back out of that without paying you will find yourself blocked from access to any of your anti-virus/malware utilities and even your browser.

It is a nasty piece of work, indeed. Be very, very careful of what you do at this point. the people who wrote this critter are not your friends. Several web sites identify this software as malware and even provide an accurate description of how it behaves. Then they offer to sell you the means to repair your system.

There is a much easier and far less costly way to do that. ‘Restore’ your operating system to a  point at least 24-hours before you noticed the malware. If you are working in Windows 7, click on the globe at the bottom left corner of your screen and in the search box type ‘restore’ and hit the Enter key. Then select the restore point and click the Go button.

Once your system has rebooted, run your anti-virus/malware software. And maybe even download the free version of Zone Alarm. It’s good, and it’s cheap.

I got rid of it, despite its blocking access to my anti-virus and system optimizer tools. But it made me very, very angry. I was lucky, and smart. You can be, as well

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

News Release

 

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Florida author Gary Showalter has announced the release of his third novel, 'Twisted Key'. Showalter writes in the tradition of John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, James Grippando and Carl Hiassen. 
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Florida Author Gary Showalter Announces Release Of Mystery Novel ‘Twisted Key’

Gary Showalter writes in the tradition of John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, James Grippando and Carl Hiassen. His novels have been called 'impossible to put down'

[City State - Date, 2011]  Florida author Gary Showalter has announced the release of his latest novel, ‘Twisted Key’. In addition to his other novels, ‘The Big Bend’ and ‘Hog Valley’, ‘Twisted Key’ is available in paperback, Kindle and Nook formats.
Gary Showalter’s works follow in the tradition of great mystery novelists such as John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, James Grippando and Carl Hiassen.
In the ‘Twisted Key’ storyline, retired cop Terry Rankin has taken on a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.
But when her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.
"In 'Hog Valley', my second book," stated Showalter, "I introduced Fatima al Natsche as a new client. I was fascinated by her 'backstory' and spent idle time while completing 'Hog Valley' thinking about what the future might hold for that new relationship between Terry Rankin and al Natsche. And I wanted to write a story about the wreck of a treasure ship nobody even knew existed. 'Twisted Key' is the result of all of that game playing I did with al Natsche and Rankin. It turned into a cracking good story, and is currently outselling my first two novels. It's not only a tale about a buried treasure, and greed, and revenge. It's a story of what lies beneath - what really motivates people - what you learn when all of the masks come off and people are forced to expose themselves for what they truly are."
A recent Amazon reviewer stated that Showalter’s latest book “has a lot going for it. The background he brings to the story adds considerably to the tale, including knowledge of boats, weapons, the Florida coastline, etc. Plus, the story line itself is big and complex enough to keep the reader engaged. It's a tale worth telling.”
Gary Showalter is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below, or by email at gary@garyshowalter.com. More information is available at his website. Click  on the “For The Media” button on the left side of the home page for a complete bio, photographs, podcasts and transcripts of interviews, etc. All of Showalter’s novels are available in both print and electronic versions at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Profile:
Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel.
During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites.
Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003.
Contact:
Gary Showalter
gary@garyshowalter.com
www.garyshowalter.com

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Author Gary Showalter                                                                    Twisted Key cover



 

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

“Lonesome Cove” update, and more


It’s been a busy week around here. Yesterday – I can’t remember any further back than yesterday, except for when I was three years old, and that’s not relevant to this story – I drove to Ocala for a photo shoot. I also met with Mickey Summers, who is working on the cover art for “Lonesome Cove”.  We discussed a few changes to the layout, and he has some ideas about deepening the color and adding a few highlights to enhance the mood of the picture. He should have it done near the end of this month. We also discussed the manuscript. Mickey’s my initial editor while I’m still in manuscript, and he has saved me tons of money and hours of work over the years, so I listen very closely to what he has to say. Every one of my novels is as good as it is due to his input.
I’m just lucky that way.
Nancy Tucker-Garcia is an old family friend and Ocala girl presently living in Kansas. Yes, a few people do live in Kansas (but we all know where they come for their vacations, don’t we). She is a professional photographer and runs a design and layout company (www.ngphotoanddesign.com). She contacted me last week and said she would be visiting friends for a week and she would do a photo shoot with me if I could make it to Ocala. Well, I’m nobody’s fool, so I said yes. My sister and I drove down and spent most of Wednesday with her. We walked around downtown Ocala and Nancy had me posing here, there and in several other places while she worked her magic Nikon with some whacking great lens on.
When I got up this morning and logged on, she already had a few photos posted on FB, so I snagged them and added them to the Media section on my web site. Now, I’m almost as old as dirt, barely housebroken and I don’t even own an iron. Nobody ever accused me of being a clothes horse, either. But Nancy is so good she makes me look good, and that takes more than a hint of skill.  Here’s one of the two she posted on FB:
GaryDoorLeaningColor7Dec2011
I should have the rest of the photos she took after the first of the year, and I’ll select a few head shots for promo packs and so on.
It’s supposed to rain in Green Cove Springs, Florida, tomorrow. Say, what? That’s only important if you live in Green Cove Springs, right? Why bother everyone else with that bit of trivia? Well, I’m going to be at the Military Museum of North Florida early in the morning, setting up my marquee tent and putting my books on display for the Arts & Crafts Fair. And the Military Museum of North Florida just happens to be about a mile east of Green Cove Springs, right along the St. John’s River.
But it’s only supposed to rain during the morning. The mid-day and afternoon temps should climb all the way up to 64 degrees. Imagine that for a brief moment. Florida, winter (well, almost winter) and temperatures a balmy 64 degrees! Now, that’s worth writing home about.
Kindle has set up a very attractive plan for authors who either do publish or are thinking about publishing for the platform. Since My novels are already Kindle-ized, nobody had to twist my arm to get me to sign up. You might check the Kindle Owners Lending Library page (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref%3dtouch_off_wel_em_koll?&docId=1000739811) for details on this offer. I mean, borrowing books is a whole lot cheaper than buying them right? And besides, you’ve been thinking about buying one anyway…
Speaking of Kindles, I’ve been publishing for the platform for a few years, now, and realized I had no idea how my novels look on the device. Publishing involves no cost to the author, and it is pretty much a do-it-yourself affair (but be sure you have all of your little duckies in a row or you just mike an incredible mess of things).  I’ve spent the last few months arguing myself silly over actually plunking down good money to buy a Kindle so I could check the quality of the formatting for myself.
The Kindle publisher uses a ridiculously small Preview screen once the software has your files formatted for the device – it’s so small there should be a law against it – and the only real way of checking your page layout and formatting is by seeing the novel on a Kindle.
So, I bought a Kindle Touch, and I am so far very pleased with it. And no, I haven’t bought a copy of one of my novels for it, yet. But I did buy “Firestorm”, by Taylor Anderson. If you have any interest in ‘alternate worlds’ novels, his are right at the top of the list, in my book.
So, if you’re going to be in Green Cove Springs this Saturday, drop by the Military Museum on SR 16 and say hello. Take 17 south through Green Cove and turn left onto 16. The museum is on Bunker ave. about a mile down on your right. And bring a raincoat – you might need it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writing is business, business is war, and I’m in a hell of a fight

 

I’ve got 3 novels in the market now. In case you haven’t noticed we are in a ‘down’ economy, and it’s likely to get even worse before it gets any better. And I see the results in every royalty check I receive, and in the reduced number of purchases buyers make at sales events. Folks just do not have the discretionary funds to spend like they used to. They simply do not have the ability to buy a book from an author they haven’t read before unless a good friend recommends it to them. In other words, buyers have been forced to become very conservative in their buying habits.

On top of that, print-on-demand publishing and the fact that anyone with an internet connection can publish an ebook without paying a fee, and the ability to set up and maintain a web site for no money at all has seen an incredible jump in the number of writers competing for eyes on web pages. There are millions of author’s web sites in existence and millions of books published every year. A lot of them are utter crap by anyone’s definition, but how is the reader to know?

And every author – good, bad, or utterly atrocious,  is competing for the same dollars. And those dollars are starting to get real thin on the ground.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores, whether chain stores like B&N or Books-A-Million, right along with independent new and used booksellers, have a difficult time competing against today’s marketplace on the web.

I’m not going to bore you with a lot of statistics that show how eBook Reader sales have increased over the past year, or how owners of such devices are perfectly happy to wait three months after the hard copy publication of their favorite author’s newest work to appear in digital format.

Suffice it to say that digital reading is not going away any time soon. Neither are bookstores. The independents actually have a better chance of surviving than do the more costly chain stores (they sell used books, remember).

Neither are authors. In fact, authoring is growing, and competition for sales on the Web is murderous (not really; metaphorically).

I do a lot of personal appearances; as many as I can find and fit into my schedule. And I don’t do it just to sell copies of my books. I do it to meet readers, and hear what they have to say.

When I set up at local community events around Florida, I have copies of my books on a table, and usually stand to greet people who pause to look over my book covers. They might comment on how pretty my covers are (and they are pretty – A local naturalist painter of my acquaintance paints all of my cover art on canvas, which I then have photographed). When I begin to tell them what the books are about, all too many say, “I don’t read”.

That comment deserves a long pause. Grown up human beings who don’t read. If the parents don’t read, there is a very good chance their children won’t, either. That scares me every time I hear it. And I hear it way too often.

But I also find that at these events people will run up, grab my latest off the table, push money at me and ask me to sign their copy, say “I loved your last book”, grab it out of my hands and run off. Some even stay to chat for a few minutes, and I really enjoy that.

Unfortunately, author’s don’t have that same ability to interact with potential customers on the web. I’ve thought about setting up a ‘chat room’, but I know that I simply do not have the time such a thing requires. On the web, folks searching for something to read come across a web site via a Google search (or Yahoo or Bing, whatever), and if they do not find what they are looking for in the first 30 seconds on the home page, they are gone, and it is all too likely they will never return to that web site.

And no, they will NOT scroll down to see the rest of that home page. What they see when they land on the page is ALL they will look at. Whatever the top half of your home page contains had better be what they are looking for or they will leave you in the dust.

You have 30 seconds to grab that visitor by the eyeballs. That’s about 15 seconds longer than a literary agent’s secretary will give an author’s query letter, so make good use of that time, and be sure that what they see is what they want.

Yes, business is war by another name, and every author in every genre is facing the same stiff fight. We compete for every sale; on bookstore shelves, on tables at community affairs, and on the Web. We each of us compete against millions of authors. Every dollar that goes into my pocket is one you will never see - unless I buy a copy of your book.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Win 7 vs. Applications and Riviera Recorder for Skype Review

 

I’m beginning to miss Win XP. Windows 7 is supposedly a quantum leap above and beyond Win XP; but in my opinion only some parts of the user interface meet those goals. On a machine capable of meeting the display standard for Win 7, anyway. Even parts of the user interface fall below expectations.

But all of that is normal for Microsoft products, which, according to legend at least, just have to be good enough to meet the needs and expectations of most users. Win 7 does that, but it leaves some users disgruntled. Such as yours, truly.

My system is a Compaq Presario with 4 gig of RAM, a 500 gig hard drive and other useful bits and Windows 7 with SP1. Automatic updates for Windows products is turned on, of course, and I use a nifty product from IoBit (www.iobit.com) called Advanced System Care several times a week to keep things running smoothly. If you don’t, you owe it to yourself to check this product out. Even the Free version does more than many buy-to-use products.

I have Windows Explorer v 9 installed (though I use it only rarely) and Mozilla Firefox v 6.0.2, which I do use. I do NOT use Chrome, or any other browser.

I connect to the internet via a wireless connection with the second computer in the office. That connection has never given me any problems, and is always ‘on’. And the router for the DSL connection is working perfectly and the strength meter indicates a good connection.

But my internet access disappears at frequent and very irritating intervals. My system is dropping access to the router, even though the connection is ‘on’ and the router is working as it should. I can open a browser window, but when I click on a page the page fails to load (“Server not Found” appears all too frequently - and it does not matter which browser I use or which software application is calling for access).

Checking the network and Sharing Center in Control Panel shows a strong connection to the router, though No Internet Access.

After a few seconds, though internet access is back and the page will load. This is infuriating, and frequent.

And Skype (v 5.5.0.124), of course. which is starting to cause me some headaches with behaviour I have never before seen in any application. And I have seen a lot of bizarre behaviour from applications over the years, since I earned a very nice living in software testing for a chunk of them. But Skype has come up with something new, and I can’t figure it out.

My first gripe with Skype (though not the most serious) is that you cannot exit the program once it is loaded. You cannot shut it down, and it will add itself to your Start Menu without asking. This is not good behaviour, and that is not something any user should have to deal with.

But yesterday, things got very interesting. I was invited to take a look at a new product called Riviera for Skype, from Jiteco. (http://www.jiteco.com/skype_call_recorder.html).

I do have a very nice collection of tools and apps that I use frequently when I researching and writing, and I am constantly looking for new apps.

Riviera for Skype is a call recorder and playback tool that integrates with Skype. And that would be a very good thing for folks like me.

I do a lot of calling with Skype, to editors, bookstore owners, printers and such. I also do on-line and radio interviews and join a few on-line webinars where having the ability to record what’s said (since I hate to take notes) would be a very good thing, indeed.

So I downloaded Riviera and allowed it to access Skype, which registered it as a Skype add-on and allowed it work inside that app as it needed it to.

I came across a few small defects/issues, which I reported to the company techs and they very quickly resolved them and made a new download available for me. Apparently, issues with Win 7 are an ongoing headache for developers, but there is nothing new in this. That is far more a Microsoft problem than it is Jiteco’s or any other developer, although they are the ones who have to deal with them.

Here’s a screen shot of the Riviera application:

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And here’s a screen shot of the Recorder during playback:

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So all of those (mostly display) issues were quickly resolved and Riviera worked. I was able to use the Echo utility in Skype to record and play back those calls. later in the day, though, I began to see some very strange behaviour in Skype. Every time I tried to call someone in my Skype call list ( you select a name from your call list and this opens a right-hand pane with a Call button and  message text box), and then clicked on the Call button in the right-hand pane. Skype promptly shut down. Disappeared right off my desktop, leaving the Skype icon sitting there, all innocent-like.

So I reopened Skype and tried it again. Same thing. Tried the Skype Echo call service. Same thing. Uninstalled Riviera for Skype and cleaned the Registry and made sure it was no longer registered in Skype. Reinstalled. Same thing. Only then I found that clicking anywhere in the Call pane would shut Skype down faster than a revenooer at a moonshine still. Then I uninstalled Skype and cleaned the Registry again. And reinstalled it.

Same thing. I went into Skype and tried to contact their tech support. Could not do that, since it involved clicking in the right-hand pane and that shut the program down. Went to Skype on-line, but there is no way to send them an email with an issue. Just a thorough FAQ page which did not include this particular issue.

The I went to bed, and tried to sleep, thinking that I would have to come up with an alternative to Skype. I was beginning to think it would never, ever, work again on my machine. I was also thinking unpleasant thoughts about Riviera for Skype, as well..

But this morning, I opened Skype without starting my browser. Skype works.

I’m beginning to think the problem is not with Skype or Riviera at all, but stems from a problem in Win 7 and how it handles (or mis-handles) calls for internet access when there is a wireless connection involved.

Now that I have absolutely no idea why Skype behaved as it did, or why my system keeps screwing me around with my supposed ‘always on’ (but not really) internet access, I am going to reinstall Riviera for Skype and run some more tests.

At this point I tend to agree with the Jiteco developers – the problem is NOT with their product, but with Win 7 and how it fails to properly allocate internet access calls from applications.

Now that the Recorder has been released (at a very attractive price), Jiteco has a few features they will be adding in the near future. Currently the app records and plays back voice. they have plans to extend that to video & voice recording and are thinking of adding an auto responder to the app as well.

Riviera for Skype is a nifty tool, and it works. Not only that, but the Jiteco techs are on the ball, ready and willing to help. I like that, and I like their little application.

Go to: http://www.jiteco.com/skype_call_recorder.html and download their Recorder. You’ll like it, and you’ll like the way the Jiteco techs respond to questions and issues. And they plan on three new product releases in December. I’ll be keeping my eye on the folks at Jiteco. I suggest you do, as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Better Late than Never

 

Or whatever it is they say about not posting on time. I was pretty much out of it all of last week. I got out of the hospital and spent the next several days wiped out on antibiotics. Most of the time I was living in a haze, half-asleep and half bored out of my gourd. I had no energy to do much of anything. Antibiotics affects me that way, and these were doozies by anyone’s measure.

Twenty-four hours after I took the last of them I came down with a nasty head cold, and now my chest sounds like I’m carrying around half a ton of phlem. Oh, well.

I had a radio interview scheduled for this morning, so I drove down to the station in Ocala – WOCA AM, 1370 on your dial. the interview was to promote my latest novel, ‘Twisted Key” and two book signings in the Novel idea bookstores in Ocala, one of Silver Springs Blvd. and the other on College Ave across from the Paddock mall. Here’s a link to the podcast, if you want to give it a listen:

http://www.amocalalive.libsyn.com/interview-with-gary-showalter-1

Next, on Wednesday, 16 November, The Author's Show (http://www.theauthorsshow.com/) will be running a pre-recorded interview with me about my latest novel, "Twisted Key". This interview will run all day on Wednesday and should also be available as a re-run on the weekend. the Author's Show is a professionally run radio program available through the internet everywhere in the world (more or less, depending on your definition for ‘everywhere’).

Also on Wednesday of this week I will be in Green Cove Springs, Fl, at the VIA Clubhouse, 17 Palmetto Ave, Green Cove Springs, Fl, between 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. The event is a fund-raising affair, with several prizes to be raffled off, including copies of my books. If you’re in the area, please do stop by.

Here’s the schedule for those two book signings in Ocala on Saturday next:

19 November - Book signings at "A Novel Idea" bookstores in Ocala, Fl:

Silver Springs Store: 2019 E. Silver Springs Blvd. - 12:00 - 2:00 pm

College Ave store: 3131 S.W. College Ave. - 4:00 - 6:00 pm

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I got out of the hospital on Wednesday of last week

 

And I’ve spent the intervening time drowning in antibiotics. Those things (in the dosages the doc prescribed) knock me on my fuzzy white butt. Zero energy to do anything but sit and stare at TV (and periodically nod off every hour or so), or whine to myself about everything I should be doing, but can’t.

I just this morning took the last dose of those meds, so I am hoping – praying – for a better day and a better me tomorrow.

There are lots of things left undone for the last two weeks, and I’ve no time to lay around and whine about poor, poor, pitiful me.

I’ve got the last third of “Lonesome Cove” pretty much mapped out; now I need to put it all down on paper and massage it a bit (or a lot). With any luck (except for bad luck) I’ll have it done by the end of December and can get it off to my editors.

“Twisted Key” is selling well, and that has driven the sales of “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley” right along with it. The event in Middleburg was a smashing success, as far as small events with big profits goes. I sold two copies of TK to separate customers, two combinations (meaning TK + HV) and another combination with all 3 novels to another buyer. For a 0ne day event in a small town, I was very happy, indeed.

On-line sales are slow, but I expect that to grow as we move closer to the holiday season. On-line sales consist mostly of eBooks, and the most popular of the three novels is, again, “Twisted Key”.

Terry Rankin, my main character, and Cathy Diamond, the lady cop he is engaged to, are about to get a pleasant but very scary surprise. Spike, the Hemmingway, is not at all sure he’ll like it, but as a cat he is a professional at coping with what life throws his way. As long as his humans continue to feed him and give him a warm lap when he wants it, he’ll go along to get along.

Stay tuned, ladies and gents. Terry Rankin is in for the ride of his life.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I spent the last seven days in the hospital

 

And just got out this afternoon. Actually, I went on Friday night, was sent home on Sunday afternoon and went back in on Monday, feeling even worse than I had on Friday when I took my painfully swollen and completely useless right leg to the emergency room.

Okay, I admit it now. I am an old and essentially useless codger Well, I feel like one right now, anyway. I had to have help getting from the passenger seat into the wheelchair on Friday when my sister drove me to the emergency room, and I was well and truly bound up in my misery, on the verge of being a crotchety old fart, to boot. But my knee hurt, darn it, and I needed help, and I hate feeling helpless and needy.

I really, really, hate that feeling.

In fact, it blows my self-image right out of the water.

By Sunday, all the docs managed to do was pump me full of antibiotics and send me home. They had no idea what was wrong.

But when I hauled my sorry butt and very swollen knee back to the emergency room on Monday evening, the change in their approach to problem solving took a dramatic and very welcome turn for the better.

They pumped me full of morphine. I was Mr. happy in a very big way. At least, I was, until they slipped a very large needle into my right knee and began to draw out some hideous-looking greenish-brown fluid out of my knee. About thirty CC’s of file stuff. I admit that I let out a few girlish shrieks intermixed with sailor-like curses when they struck bone during the procedure, but aside from those brief (though very painful) moments of true weakness, I was my usually manly self.

Yeah, right. I was a true wussy-boy, and I admit it. My self-image is going to go through a reality check over the next few weeks.

Along with my web site, which I was supposed to be rebuilding during these last seven days. But my knee was in such bad shape all of last week I couldn’t even sit with my feet on the floor. In fact, it was so painful it hurt to lay flat on my back in bed. Once I realized the pain was not going away I had no choice but to take my sorry butt to the hospital.

And I’m glad I did. Screw the web site, or anything else I wanted to do with that time ( get married again to a wonderful woman, go sailing, build a boat, sell books, finish writing “Lonesome Cove”, whatever).

I am physically exhausted, and wondering why I am beavering away at this blog post. Actually, I know why; I do not want to get back into a bed of any sort right now. I want to do ‘stuff’, just as I have all of my life. Build things, design things, run companies, take a well-armed squad on patrol in the West Bank; you know, ‘Stuff’.

Laying flat on my back in bed scares me. It means I can’t do any of that ‘Stuff’.

So, this is my plan for the rest of this week. Get my web site redesigned and make it live before the weekend. I’m starting from scratch, using “KomPozer”  (http://www.kompozer.net/ ), a SourceForge free application to build the site.  I worked on web sites before, and have a pretty good idea of what’s involved. But I’ve never used an application like KomPozer to build one from scratch. I written HTML in Notepad (yes, you can do that, if you’re a purist. Purists insist on doing things the hard way, which is why I’m not a purist). 

I’ll let you know what I think of KomPozer once I’ve got the site up and running. I’ve gotten some good recommendation for the app, and that means a lot about its ease of use.

I had to trim the original site down by several pages that had little to do with my writing; it’s become somewhat haphazard with all of the additions over the last year or so. At a later date I will set up another site for the Photo Gallery and get that back on-line.

On Saturday, I will be at the Middleburg Historic Festival, 2102 Palmetto St, Middleburg, FL, between 8 am and 4 pm.

Then I have much of the week following to fine-tune the site and prep for all of the events I have crammed into the week following. Such as:

Please take note of the two interviews: 

On 14 November I will be live on WOCA 1370 AM out of Ocala, Fl, on their morning drive show, discussing “Twisted Key”.

On 16 November “The Authors Show”  (http://www.theauthorsshow.com/), available via internet all over the world, will begin broadcasting a pre-recorded interview with my about the novel.

 

14 November  - Live radio interview WOCA 1370 AM Radio, Ocala, Fl - 10:00 - 10:30 am

16 November - Green Cove Springs "Boutique" - VIA Clubhouse, 17 Palmetto Ave, Green Cove Springs, Fl 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

16 November -  I will be on "The Authors Show", http://www.theauthorsshow.com/, the most popular internet radio show devoted to authors in America, and available all over the world via Internet Radio. This is a pre-recorded and professionally edited interview. It will run at several times during the day and will be re-run the following weekend, as well. The show interviews several authors during the course of each week, and is well worth your time, if you love books and the people who write them.

19 November - Book signings at "A Novel Idea" bookstores in Ocala, Fl:
       Silver Springs Store: 2019 E. Silver Springs Blvd. - 12:00 - 2:00 pm
       College Ave store: 3131 S.W. College Ave. - 4:00 - 6:00 pm

 

Give the interviews a listen and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More on XLibris Publishing

This is a short post, but important. I got a call a few days ago from a woman in XLibris’ Customer Service Department. She told me she’d been out of town when my first email arrived (two weeks ago) and that work had not moved on it as it should have, for which she apologized. We then discussed my primary issues – cost-per-unit to order copies, missing LLC# and the reduced font size in the body of the text.

She said she’d get back to me Thursday night, but only called today, around 1:15. With an offer I chose not to refuse. An offer good enough for me to agree to. My cost-per-unit is now reduced to less than half of the original, my royalties increased and the LLC# and font size issues will be corrected.

Since it would cost me another $1500.00 to move to another publisher and “Twisted Key” would not be available to purchase for several months, I chose to remain with XLibris Publishing. Right decision, or wrong? Time will tell. But now I know that this company is capable of correcting issues for its authors, and I find that encouraging.

But in all cases, fellow authors, do your homework and research thoroughly before signing anything with anyone. The new deal with XLibris is not ideal, but it is good enough to satisfy me, and keep my novel in their list.

I learned a lot in this ordeal; a lot of stuff I thought I had down pat. Guess I didn’t. But I do now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meeting Harsh Reality Head-on

Or, a Self-publishing nightmare come to Life.

If you are a self-published author, or hope to one day be self-published, or even just a fan of mine, you might find this both interesting and educational.

My first two novels, “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”, were published by Createspace, and I must say they did a truly professional job of it. My third novel, and the one I hoped to put me over the top in sales and see me well on the way to making an honest living as an author, is a chromatically variant equine (that’s a horse of a different color), indeed.

I have been desperately short of cash for most of this year, due to health issues and a depressingly small income. So, when “Twisted Key” was finally ready for the publisher, my finances were not. I couldn’t afford to go with CreateSpace, and did not want to lose the income I could generate from the Fall selling season.

So I started to look around for options, and thought I found a rather good one. Silly me. Silly, overly optimistic, desperately-short-of-cash-grabbing-at-straws me. I went with XLibris Book Publishing (http://www2.xlibris.com/bw_custom.html).

During my on-line searches for a POD publisher I came across their site and began to fill my contact info. I did NOT complete the form, or click the Submit button. I continued to search for other web sites, instead. But a few days later I received a phone call from one of their publishing consultants. Since he was on the phone I decided to speak with him and told him of my circumstances and what I needed from a publisher, including a cost-per-unit to me of around $5 – 6.00 before shipping. I even told him that CreateSpace charged me between $4.80 and $5.50 per copy for my first two novels in orders of 10 – 20 copies, and that I wholesale to indie stores at $10.00 and retail for $15.00 direct to customers, and that I expected to pay close to that with any publisher I signed with for “Twisted Key” He assured me that XLibris could meet all of my needs in interior formatting, provide both ISBN and LLC #’s and that he could arrange for me to make 3 payments to cover the fee.

We spoke a few times before I signed any agreements and during each conversation I asked about the cost-per-unit fee. He assured me it would be reasonable and that I could receive discounts for any size volume purchase to reduce the fee, and so on, but until they had the files for the interior and cover art and knew what their setup and productions costs would be he could not give me a cost per unit.

That made sense, so I signed the agreement and set up the financing plan. As you will see in the letter below, things didn’t work out quite the way I expected. Their work was good, in that the  interior was formatted (sort of) as I ordered and the cover art was more than acceptable; it was wonderful, in fact.

But the cost-per-unit was not. After the final payment was made I was told the cost-per-unit would be $13.00, not including shipping.  When I 9quite rightly) expressed my outrage, I was told that was their “Standard” fee.

As you will learn from reading the letter below, that is not the only disappointment I have had with XLibris Book Publishing. On 27 September, I sent a letter to their Customer Service department and requested a reply within 10 days. To date, I have not received anything in return.

Needless to say I will NOT be purchasing any copies of my third novel from XLibris. I cannot hope to make a living selling this novel for $12.00 wholesale or $15.00 retail when my cost-per-unit is $14.00 including shipping.

Here is the letter I sent to the XLibris Book Publishing company:

 

27 September, 2011

Gary Showalter

Orange Park, Fl

Sir, or Madam:

Regarding XLibris Book ID # 102560 (“Twisted Key”):

On the 5th or 6th of July of this year I entered into discussions with Genesis Dacua, a Publishing Consultant with XLibris regarding the publication of my third novel, titled “Twisted Key”. During these discussions, both verbal and through email, I explained the following:

I invest between 18 – 24 months researching, writing and editing each of my novels. “Twisted Key” is the third I have published, by the way. That is a major investment in time and materials by anyone’s estimate.

My first two novels were published by CreateSpace and used this format:

· Trade paper format (6 x 9)

· 14-point Garamond font for the body of the text

· I provide the body text and all additional text fully formatted other than page headings/numbering and the copyright page and ISBN/LLC info

· ISBN and LLC#’s

· I provide the cover art and approve the graphics work done on the cover.

We also discussed hardback and digital formats, and I told Mr. Dacua that I had digital versions for both Kindle and Nook already in the market at $5.00 and did not want another such, and that I saw no need for a hardback version since it would be priced well outside what my readers could pay for a book.

Genesis and I came to an agreement on the work to be done and the final price of 1,050.00. I made my first payment of $350.00 on 20 July, and the second on 20 August.

Near the end of August, Lorie Adams called and told me that everything was ready for publishing, and if I could make the final payment the files would be sent to the printer immediately.

My last payment of three at $350.00 was made on Friday, 02 September. I spoke with Seth Sisson on Monday of the following week and explained to him that I intended to launch the novel on 24 September at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine, FL and would need to have all of the materials (the 45 copies of the novel and the promotional materials), before that date.

This was in fact, done. The copies are in good condition (with the exceptions noted below), and the cover art and promotional materials are of good quality.

However, to get the materials on time I had to waive the inspection of the Author’s Copy (galley proof), since that would have required two weeks’ time we did not have to spare.

Sections #1 & 2 below could be blamed on my failure to wait for the Author’s Copy; however, both issues were included in the original written agreement with Mr. Dacua (attached) and the “Black &White Service Order Form” (also attached). XLibris’ failure to perform according to our agreement is responsible for these two issues.

After receiving my 45 ‘Free’ copies, I find myself with the following issues:

1. Incorrect font size in the body of the text.

a. I specified 14-point Garamond and you used 12-point

2. Missing LLC#.

a. As we have already discussed, my novels were to include an LLC # so they could be sold into libraries. That is a big market and without the LLC# I cannot get this novel into that market. This is going to cost me money.

3. Hardback and digital versions.

a. In discussions with Mr. Dacua I made it clear I did not want to pay for either the digital or hardback versions of my novel. Yet both were produced and were made available through the web site set up to market “Twisted Key”. The digital version was removed, but the hardback version is still available for sale. It was never to have been created, yet it was, as was the digital version.

4. Neither Lorie Adams, my Author Services Representative, nor Genesis Dacua nor Seth Sisson, a Senior Book Consultant, told me what my cost-per-unit was going to be, despite repeated requests by me for that information. Genesis stated that he had no idea what that price would be until after his people had completed the formatting. In my several conversations with the above named individuals I explained that I am a novelist and that I write for a living. I told all three of your employees that I sell my novels at retail for $15.00 and that is where my novel had to be sold. In response I was told that I could price my books however I wanted. That was a completely inadequate and disingenuous response. I was also told, several times, about how the number of copies I ordered would affect the discount I would receive on each copy. Again, very disingenuous and totally useless without knowing what the cost per unit was.

a. Only after XLibris received my final payment was I given the cost-per-unit price of $13.00 per copy. On top of that, I was told by Seth and by Genesis both that this is your “Standard” price. If they knew that after you had received my final payment, Genesis certainly knew this during our initial conversations. Had he been honest with me I could have made an informed decision about whether to proceed doing business with XLibris or to look elsewhere.

b. My first two novels, “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”, published by CreateSpace, cost me $4.80 for “The Big Bend” and $5.14 for “Hog Valley”. Per copy, in lots of 10.

c. “Twisted Key”, on the other hand, published by you, cost me $13.00 per unit.

5. I cannot purchase copies from XLibris at $13.00 each (plus shipping charges) and hope to sell them at $15.00 retail, much less $10.00 wholesale to book stores.

Nobody could, and hope to make a living doing so.

Therefore, and setting aside for the moment the issues identified in sections 1, 2, & 3 above, I find myself, after having paid $1,050.00 dollars for your services, that I cannot afford to purchase copies of my novel since I cannot sell them at a price that would allow me to recover my initial investment, never mind making a living.

I find that I have, without a doubt, wasted over $1000.00 I cannot hope to recover from selling copies of my novel.

Please respond within ten (10) business days with a solution to these issues.

 

Today I began to file complaints with a few online rip-off and scam sites, social media sites and a few authors networking sites to which I belong. Later today I will visit the BBB on-line site and file a complaint with them, as well.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and stay far away from XLibris Book Publishing.

I will post more on this issue next week.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Descriptive Writing, Character Development and Other Stuff

 

I follow a few blogs, mostly those written by other authors whose opinions I trust. One of the finest I’ve come across lately is written by Sarah A. Hoyt (http://accordingtohoyt.com/author/accordingtohoyt/). She hits the proverbial nail square on its little head when it comes to the nitty-gritty of writing.  In her most recent post, she discussed the recurring problem of character description. I’ve seen several blog posts dealing with the same issue recently, and I’ve even written on this in a few of my own posts. But Sarah does have a way with words, and as I mentioned earlier, she’s spot on. Essentially, her message is ‘Don’t overdo it’.

Here’s my take on this subject: Give the reader just enough information to enable him (or her) to build an image of who that person is, what he is feeling and where he is at that time. Just enough information to get your message across. It is very easy to over-describe; to bog the reader down in paragraphs or even pages of who, what, when where and why. A picture really is much more valuable to a writer than a  thousand words can ever be. So give the reader a snapshot and get on with writing what really matters to the reader – what’s happening right then, who’s involved and where they are. 

Setting up a scene, dressing your characters, explaining relationships and so on is guaranteed to slow down the pace of your tale and bore your readers to tears. So don’t do that. “Show, don’t tell” is an axiom we should do well to burn into our little brains.  Descriptive writing can be problematic in many ways, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum.

Besides, the reader is at least as involved in writing your story (in his/her head) as you are, so let him carry some of the load for you. That gets him involved, and makes him feel some ownership of the tale you’re spinning.

People want to read about people. While the plot is central to the story, use it as a vehicle to show how your characters behave in the situations you dump them into. Show the reader how your characters change and adapt to their environment. How they grow over the course of the story.

I’ve got a few events coming up in the next month or so:

15 - 16 October - Orange Park Winter Festival, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, corner of Kingsley Rd. and Park Ave.  Orange Park, Fl


22 October - Calvary United Methodist Church Harvest Festival, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm, 112 Blanding Blvd, Orange Park, Fl.


5 November - Middleburg Historic Festival, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, 2102 Palmetto St, Middleburg, Fl

14 November, 10:00 am – WOCA-AM Radio interview to promote “Twisted Key”

19 November, Book signings at both “A Novel Idea” bookstores in Ocala, Fl:

Silver Springs Store - 12:00 - 2:00 pm
College Ave store - 4:00 - 6:00 pm

There area  few other events coming up, but I don’t have dates for them, yet.

My web site – www.garyshowalter.com will be undergoing a face-lift over the next few months. It really needs it…

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Work your fingers to the bone, and what do you get?

 

Boney fingers, of course. I do admire Jethro Tull. What a great American Philosopher (for a British Band, of course).

So that’s what I’ve been doing, lately, and why I have not posted recently. Very busy in a non-profitable sort of way, I mean.

The Florida heritage Book Festival was a great place to be, if you enjoy the company of other authors, and I do. But it was no place to be if your goal was to add to your bottom line. There was an absolute dearth (dearth, I say!) of buyers this year.

But there are other events coming up, and I am ever the optimist. It’s either be an optimist or go live under a bridge in a cardboard box.

I have spent a bit of time in my soon-to-be workshop, tuning up equipment, building jigs and figuring out how to build very nice stuff with little in the way of equipment capable of working to standards well beyond their design specs. But one does what one can with what one has, or one don’t do much at all, do one?

And that is all too true of Life in general. You can sit around and complain about how little you have to work with, or do the best you can with what you do have, and take some measure of pride in your accomplishments. Or just go live under that bridge and listen to your new neighbors complain about how rotten their lives are.

Me, I’d rather keep writing, and building stuff in my shop, and meet my readers and sell my books and know without a doubt that I am doing the best job I can with what I do have.

You see, I have at times been faced with living under that bridge; I have been homeless. But I have never quit on myself, nor will I ever.

I am a writer because I choose to be, and I am a builder because I choose to be. And I am not a quitter, because I choose not to be.

“Twisted Key”, my third novel, is out now in paperback, and despite the poor showing at the FHBF, it is selling well in paperback, Kindle and Nook formats.

TKSoftFinalProofCover

A vengeful ex-wife, a psychopathic ex-husband with a murderous crew happy to do his bidding, a missing daughter off on a treasure hunt, and Florida. What more could you ask from a novel? Hamas? They’re involved, and so is the State Department. And Terry Rankin, the poor guy. And Spike, the six-toed cat with an attitude.

I am working on “Lonesome Cove”, my fourth novel, and hope to have the first draught completed by the end of December. The first three chapters are already available as a PDF on my web site, www.garyshowalter.com . Click on the Free Downloads button on the left side of the page and scroll down to the bottom. The PDF file will download and  automatically open for you. You can then SAVE it to your computer for later reading.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

“Twisted Key” is now available

 

My third novel, “Twisted Key”, is now available for purchase. What follows is a brief description:

Terry Rankin has a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.

But then her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, and all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.

“Twisted Key” is a story about a clash of cultures and family values gone wrong. It’s about buried treasure and what happens when the allure of big bucks meets honor and self respect.

You can find it on line now at: www.TwistedKeynovel.com. It should also be available through the Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites but that will take another month or so.

In the meantime I am hard at work on “Lonesome Cove”, and spending my spare time (like I have any) setting up a shop to build harps.

I have some events scheduled for the Fall and Winter seasons, and will be adding a few book signings at bookstores in the  North Florida area in the near future:

24 September - Florida Heritage Book Festival, #50 Sevilla Street, Flagler College Ringhaver Student Bldg, 2nd Floor, St. Augustine, Fl. 9:00 - 5:00

15 - 16 October - Orange Park Winter Festival, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, corner of Kingsley Rd. and Park Ave.  Orange Park, Fl

22 October - Calvary United Methodist Church Harvest Festival, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm, 112 Blanding Blvd, Orange Park, Fl.

5 November - Middleburg Historic Festival, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, 2102 Palmetto St, Middleburg, Fl

Please drop me a line at: gary@garyshowalter.com and let me know what you think of my story.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sometimes, Life hands you lemons, and even makes you wear shoes

And sometimes, Life hands you lemon meringue pie. But in this case, it was lemons – maybe. I had hoped to launch my third novel, “Twisted Key”, at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine on the 24 th of September. That might still happen, but the publisher refuses to promise or even hint at the possibility of the books arriving on time, or even a week later.

I truly hate my publisher, and dream of doing dastardly things to all and sundry who work there. But I am a realist, so those dreams will remain just that. But one always has options, don’t one? This one do, for sure.

With that said, I will be at the Festival with “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”, and with a great deal of good fortune (Life does owe me a bit of that), “Twisted Key” will be there as well. If not, I do have several other engagements arranged for the fall and early winter, and will be setting up a few book signings to fill out the pre- holiday season.

Now I have to get a haircut and beard trim, and root around in my closet for my shoes. I hate wearing shoes almost as much as I hate my publisher, and that’s saying quite a lot about my feelings toward shoes.

You will be hearing some details later on about this particular publisher, but for right now, ‘nough said on that subject.

Friday, September 2, 2011

“Twisted Key” and “Lonesome Cove” updates

All in all, this was a very good week to be me. I didn’t win the lottery – I understand you have to buy a Lotto ticket first, and I don’t throw money away on stuff like that. But I did get some actual work done in my shop, and I am now officially back to work on “Lonesome Cove”, my fourth novel.

In fact, I have just this morning uploaded a PDF file of the first 3 chapters of “Lonesome Cove” to my web site and created a link to it on the Free Downloads page. By the way, there is also a link to the first three chapters of “Twisted Key” on that same page, if you want to see what all the fuss is about.

“Twisted Key”, along with my other novels, is available in Kindle and Nook formats now. It is due to be released in paperback around the end of September. “Lonesome Cove” is going to take a bit longer, since I haven’t finished writing it yet…

Just click the link below and it will take you to the page. Scroll down to the bottom and you will see the links to the teaser chapters:

http://garyshowalter.com/FreeDownloads.aspx

I just finished editing the manuscript and now have 207 good pages written in “Lonesome Cove”.  It is beginning to shape up into a heck of a story. It has the Italian Mob and Latino gangs in Miami, a gold heist and Sanibel Island, and Terry and Cathy's wedding and just enough blood and guts to keep the story moving at a fast clip. And Spike, of course.

So please feel free to downloads the sample chapters, and pleasepleaseplease drop me a line at gary@garyshowalter.com and let me know what you think about “Twisted Key” and “Lonesome Cove”.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An Abject Apology to my Readers

I have been busy with stuff outside of writing.

I love harps, and harpists, and have played and supported harpists for many years. By ‘supporting harpists’ I mean that I helped to set up and run the Jerusalem Harp Circle in Israel. I studied the harp for a few years (just long enough to learn that I will never, ever, find work as a concert harpist or even a very poor performance player.

But I do love harps, and harp music. And right now I do not own a harp. While I was caring for my mother in her last few years of life I found myself unable to work; I was spending much of my time caring for her and driving her to clinics and hospitals and no employer can put up with much of that, no matter how good an employee you might be. So one month the mortgage came due and with nothing in the bank to cover the bills and I was forced to sell my harp for far less than it was worth to cover the debts.

That was back in 2008. Now I have a 2-car garage and am slowly building workbenches and moving equipment in to build harps. In my spare time, of course.

I am a writer, for better or worse. But I spent much of my life as a woodworker, restorer and finisher. Should you be curious about this, please visit the Photo Gallery at my web site for samples of the kind of work I have done. I hope soon to post some photos of my new workshop.

“Lonesome Cove” is back in the works, though it won’t be in final manuscript form until early next year. But I can tell you that I am very excited about what is happening in the story.

“Twisted Key” is due for release at the end of September. I’ve gotten queries from bookstores asking when they can expect to receive copies, and I am telling them that will be some time in early October. I hopehopehope to finagle an earlier release date, but that really isn’t up to me at this point.

Unfortunately, this means that I will probably be at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine on the 24th of September without copies of “Twisted Key” to sell. That is a very depressing thought, indeed.

On the plus side of the ledger, however, is that all of the events I have scheduled during October should see me with plenty of copies of “The Big Bend”, “Hog Valley” and “Twisted Key”.  At these appearances I will be selling a ‘Gift Set’ of all three copies for a reduced price ( to be announced later).

Again, please accept my apologies for not writing sooner.

An Abject Apology to my Readers

I have been busy with stuff outside of writing.

I love harps, and harpists, and have played and supported harpists for many years. By ‘supporting harpists’ I mean that I helped to set up and run the Jerusalem Harp Circle in Israel. I studied the harp for a few years (just long enough to learn that I will never, ever, find work as a concert harpist or even a very poor performance player.

But I do love harps, and harp music. And right now I do not own a harp. While I was caring for my mother in her last few years of life I found myself unable to work; I was spending much of my time caring for her and driving her to clinics and hospitals and no employer can put up with much of that, no matter how good an employee you might be. So one month the mortgage came due and with nothing in the bank to cover the bills and I was forced to sell my harp for far less than it was worth to cover the debts.

That was back in 2008. Now I have a 2-car garage and am slowly building workbenches and moving equipment in to build harps. In my spare time, of course.

I am a writer, for better or worse. But I spent much of my life as a woodworker, restorer and finisher. Should you be curious about this, please visit the Photo Gallery at my web site for samples of the kind of work I have done. I hope soon to post some photos of my new workshop.

“Lonesome Cove” is back in the works, though it won’t be in final manuscript form until early next year. But I can tell you that I am very excited about what is happening in the story.

“Twisted Key” is due for release at the end of September. I’ve gotten queries from bookstores asking when they can expect to receive copies, and I am telling them that will be some time in early October. I hopehopehope to finagle an earlier release date, but that really isn’t up to me at this point.

Unfortunately, I will be at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine on the 24th of September, probably with copies of “Twisted Key” to sell. That is a very depressing thought, indeed.

On the plus side of the ledger, however, is that all of the events I have scheduled during October should see me with plenty of copies of “The Big Bend”, “Hog Valley” and “Twisted Key”.  At these appearances I will be selling a ‘Gift Set’ of all three copies for a reduced price ( to be announced later).

Again, please accept my apologies for not writing sooner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Way too hot and way too tired

But nobody cares, since most everyone else is in the same boat, except, of course, for folks who work in air conditioned offices. I used to, and at the time I had no pity in my heart for all those folks sweating away in the heat and humidity. I guess it’s karma, because I’m right back to sweating. And it’s really hot. And humid.

I wonder if it’s any better in Caspar, Wyoming? I know it’s far worse in Leaky, Texas.

Last weekend we rented a U-Haul truck and made two trips from the old apartment to the new house.  I was so wiped out from that that I blew off two scheduled meetings during the week so I could recover.

Today we filled up a van and two cars with more stuff. I have no idea where all of this stuff is supposed to go; this house is more than twice the square footage of the old apartment, but every nook and cranny is filled with boxes of stuff. We are gonna have a really big yard sale, some time real soon now.

On 09 August, the New York Times carried an article by Julie Bosman titled, “Publishing Gives Hints of Revival, Data Show”.  Without differentiating between eBooks and printed books, recent statistics developed by Book Stats show that in 2010 the publishing industry ended up the year with a net revenue of $27.9 billion dollars. That’s an increase of 5.6% over 2008. 2.57 billion books in all formats were sold in 2010; a 4.1% increase over 2008.

Good news for writers, huh? Here’s a reality check for those nice folks who boost eBooks over paper. In 2008, eBooks made up 0.6% of the total trade market. By 2010, that percentage grew to 6.4%. That is a growth of 1274% in three years.

Traditional publishers don’t seem to be all that worried, though. Or maybe they’re drinking their own koolade again.

In May of this year, Amazon stated that eBook sales passed print books for the first time.

I’ve got two events in this week:

16 August - "One Book, One Putnam" Putnam County, Fl, Woman's Club of Palatka, Inc., 605 South 13th Street (on the corner of Crill Ave. and 13th St.), Palatka, FL 32178, 5:30 - 7:30 PM. Multiple authors will be present

17 August – member of 3 - person panel  (with Lydia C. Filzen, and Susan D. Brandenburg) at the meeting of the Clay County Writer’s Group to discuss writing as a second career. The event will be at the Fleming Island Library Meeting Room and starts at 6:15 pm.

Stop by if you’re in the area. And have a good week.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Busy ain’t in it. And tired

 

We have spent the last few days moving into our new home from a very small apartment. What I find so very interesting is that we have somehow managed to pack this large home full with stuff from that very small apartment. There is no room to move. Of course, once I repair the back on the bookshelves and the book are up off the floor things may improve. At least until we empty the storage locker of everything we couldn’t fit into that very small apartment.

This move may well cost me whatever small grasp I still have on my sanity.

Coincidental with the move was the herculean task of getting my third novel, “Twisted Key”, off to the publisher. Below is the final cover art for the paperback version:

 

TKSoftFinalProofCover

 

I moved over to the new place about ten days ago – we’d gotten some of my tools and furniture over; it seemed wise to move myself, as well. So I was to-ing and fro-ing between places, checking emails, making phone calls and hauling boxes. Then yesterday we got the help of a couple of young linebacker types to do the heavy lifting, rented a 17’ UHaul truck and moved 2 loads of furniture and boxes. The which are now scattered throughout the new home in no necessary order. No rhyme and no real reason anyone can understand. But it’s here. Of course, there is still more to move – we just ran out of steam about the same time we ran out of time on the truck.

Along with that, I had to build a new office desk. In the old place I was working on a drop-leaf table my dad built during the early 1960’s while we were living in the Panama Canal Zone. The joints are drying out, so the table has to be un-built, the joints cleaned and reglued. Or something very unwelcome will happen to that lovely table. So while the computer stuff was still at the old apartment I made a quick trip to Lowe’s (and a few to Ace Hardware and one or two to Wal-Mart – I’m an equal opportunity shopper) and picked up some 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 pine, glue, polyurethane, sandpaper, screws, brushes a 30” x 80” solid core entry door, etc and built myself a very nearly indestructible office desk. Big, roomy and solid.

At the same time I built myself a workbench. First a few 36 string lever harps and then an 18’ yawl rigged sail boat. I miss sailing, I really, really do. And building stuff is just plain fun.

“Lonesome Cove” is back in the works. Getting “Twisted Key” off to the publisher took a lot of my mind, and the few reader’s comments I’ve gotten from folks who read TK via Kindle and Nook have been very encouraging. More than enough to push me back into the writing zone. Thanks, folks, and keep those comments coming, please.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Very Brief Update

 

We are a bout half-way through our moving into a new (to us, anyway) home. It’s a 3-bedroom, 2-bath single story home with a  large screened in porch, kinda-sorta sunken living room and a two-car garage that I will be using as a workshop. The move is not going quick, but it is moving along.

I spend about half my day in the workshop – I built a nice office desk to replace the table I’ve been using in the apartment. It needs rebuilding, very badly. My dad built it during the 1960’s while we were living in the Panama Canal Zone out of Luann mahogany, and the joints have since dried out. So I bought a load of 2 X 4’s and 2 X 6’s and a solid core 30” door. Then I bought even more 2 X 4’s and 2 X 6’s to build a work bench. So the office desk is complete and set up in the  office (the third bedroom) along with my book cases and I am now finishing up a temporary top for my work bench. I’ll take some digital photos later today or tomorrow and publish them on my next post.

The big news for this very busy period is that “Twisted Key” is now in the hands of the publisher. I’ve received proofs for the paperback and hardback covers and made a few comments. As soon as I get the final proofs, I’ll post them here. All I can say right now is that they are truly gorgeous!

I’ve got the landlord coming by later this morning to finish up some work in the new place so I can’t hang around here.

Lots to do, and all too little time to get it all done. The weeks just fly by, don’t they? Where are we all rushing too, I wonder?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Updates on “Twisted Key” and “Lonesome Cove”, moving, and Upcoming Events

 

“Twisted Key” should be available in paperback some time in September. I will be sending the text and cover art to the publisher near the end of this month. “Lonesome Cove” has proven to be somewhat troublesome, through no fault of my characters. I have identified most of the errors in plotting and will be starting on my rewrites some time next week, if our upcoming move does not get in the way.

Yes, we are moving. Again. This time we are moving into nice, roomy ranch-style house with a two-car garage that will probably never see a car in it. But it will see a workshop. I have every intention of building myself another 36-string harp with Truitt levers. And then one of John Welsford’s perky 17 foot yawl-rigged Pathfinders, probably the cuddy cabin version. These handy little boats are relatively easy to build, real pretty in and out of the water, and make great camp cruisers. They are also zippy sailors and comfortable, stable and reasonably dry when the wind and waves pick up. http://www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/index.html

I quit chasing women a long time ago, when I realized they can all run a lot faster than me. So now I write, or read. That can become boring, so I’m going to put together a workshop and build some fun guy stuff.

But first, we have to move, and get settled in. Then I’ll build a workbench, purchase some floor machinery – table saw, band saw, planer/joiner and a nice drill press. And clamps. Lots of clamps. But hunting down that stuff at a price I’m willing to pay is fun, too. Take a look at the Photo Gallery on my web site for examples of what I have built and restored over the years: (www.garyshowalter.com/PhotoGallery.aspx).

There are some events in July and August I want to tell you about.

Giovanni Gelati is a fellow blogger, but he takes things a bit further than most. Giovanni also hosts a blog talk (live) radio show. Here’s the link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gelatisscoop. I will be his guest on the 22nd of July, at 3:15 in the afternoon. If you can’t catch the live show he does maintain an archive. I’ll post the link for the archive after the show.

Charlene Wilson hosts guest authors on her blog: http://cawilson.blogspot.com/. She will be posting a print interview with me on August 8.

On 16 August, the Women’s Club of Palatka, Fl, is presenting a meet the authors evening as a part of the "One Book, One Putnam" project to promote reading in Putnam County. The venue is 605 South 13th Street (on the corner of Crill Ave. and 13th St.), Palatka, FL 32178. The evening will run from 5:30 - 7:30 PM. At last count, seven (and probably more) local authors will be present to display and sell their work. These events are always very interesting, for the authors as well as for attendees.

On the 24th of September I will again be participating in the “Florida Heritage Book Festival” (http://fhbookfest.com/) in St. Augustine, Fl. The address is #50 Sevilla Street, Flagler College Ringhaver Student Bldg, 2nd Floor, St. Augustine, Fl. I will be there from 9:00 - 5:00. Again, there will be a veritable clatter of authors and if it is anything like last year there will be a great crowd of visitors. Among the featured writers this year will be Randy Wayne White and Peter Matthiessen.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony vs etc. There’s a real battle going on

 

Sooner or later the real winner will be the consumer. We’ve seen this before; the first time I recall was VHS vs. Betamax tapes. Even the CD and DVD weren’t immune, and don’t get me started on digital movie formats.

The retail giants have a vested interest in tying their customers to their coattails, but the consumer is always the looser. Their eBook readers as so designed that the reader gives up a bit of independence in exchange for a set of functionalities on the eBook reader of his choice.

That is never a good plan. In the end the giants will come to realize that locking the consumer to their reader denies them the readers who patronize the ‘other’ digital libraries. In the end every book reader will be able to download and display eBooks from every digital book retailer.

I promise.

About three weeks ago, I set up a fund-raising project at Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/344026567/publication-of-my-third-novel-twisted-key

I’ve had a rough few years with health issues – I’ve lead an interesting if somewhat wearing life, and now I’m paying the price. That aside, I have my third novel selling in both Kindle and Nook format but lack the funds to cover the cost of producing the paperback version. So Kickstarter’s crowdfunding makes sense. What you do is to pay for a signed and numbered copy of “Twisted Key” in advance of publication. And when I get the copies delivered to me I mail them out. Click on the link above, visit the project page and read what I’m offering in exchange for your hard-earned money.

My first novel, “The Big Bend”, had a few editorial issues. It still does, in the paperback version, but one of the many advantages of digital publishing is that I have made many corrections to the novel and in minutes had it back up online, re-published in both formats.

I really like digital publishing. But I really love books, too.

Take a few minutes and look over the project proposal, will you, please?

Have a great 4th of July, and stay safe.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Self Publishing

 

I’ve posted entries to this blog on traditional publishing vs. self publishing before. Here I want to concentrate on what you can expect once you do decide to self publish you work.

“A man who works for himself has a fool for an employer”. It’s been around for a while, but many self-employed people will not disagree. If you have a full-time job and write in your ‘spare’ time, and whatever income you derive from your writing can be consider the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae, you have the best of all possible worlds.

Don’t quit your day job.

But if you write for a living as I do, you probably sympathize with whoever came up with that old axiom.

Writing is the easy part; marketing your work, and making a living off your writing, is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. I can’t help you with your budget (I can’t help myself, so don’t feel lonely), but I can provide a bit of useful information to those who are considering self-publishing as a means to a good livable income.

Some people do make a living as self-published authors. We’re not including freelance writers or ghost writers in this discussion. I am neither, so I cannot speak to any issues such folks have to deal with. But I am self published and have been for the last three years or so.

I have published three novels and  a collection of articles I wrote while living in Israel. All are available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle, and I recently published my novels for the Barnes & Noble Nook. I also do as many personal appearances at book signings as I can. I post entries to this blog once a week and am a member of several writing groups and on-line communities.  And I make the time to visit these groups daily and post something to each.

If you work for yourself there is no such thing as a day off.

Writing is the easy part. Whether you follow the traditional publishing route or self publish you will face the same issues; you and only you are responsible for any and all promotion and marketing of your work. That alone is plenty of reason to self publish (well, that, and the increased royalties since there’s no agent who can claim 15% off the top). No traditional publishing house will invest a penny in promoting a new author. They can’t afford it.

Don’t bother paying someone several thousand dollars to set up and maintain a pretty web site for you, and don’t throw your money away on some SEO professional who promises to fine-tune you search engine placement. There is plenty of information available on setting up web sites and deciding on keywords and meta tags for the pages on your web site is mostly a matter of common sense. Find a bunch of author web sites and choose one that you like. There are several free web sites available that allow you to customize one of their templates to suit your fancy.

Author web sites are not in the same league as big business sites, or lawyers web sites or even auto-body repair sites, and you don’t need a lot – or any – flash player technology to attract visitors. People who search for author web sites are looking for content, not entertainment or special pricing for their next oil change. People who look for author web sites want to see content. So get sample chapters, an author bio, a few photos, and a blog they can check back on each week. Get content on your site and leave it there. Don’t change it every week or every month. Leave it there. Update your blog frequently, add some info to your home page when you update your news, keep your calendar of events up to date, but leave the content – your sample chapters – alone.

When you join on-line groups or begin to attend local writer’s groups, be respectful and considerate and friendly and helpful. And listen, very, very closely. Take notes, ask interesting questions, and always be respectful. Many of the people you will meet have been writing productively far longer than you, and have been through the mill on many occasions. So listen, very carefully.

Get your books into independent bookstores and listen to what the owners have to say. Visit frequently – in person, not phone calls – and talk with them. People who own bookstores are some of the best friends you may ever have.

As a self published author, you are not just selling your work; you re selling yourself. And keep in mind that even if you did ‘luck out’ and get a contract with a literary agent and traditional publisher, you are still responsible for all marketing. Just because your book may find their way into a brick and mortar bookstore chain, you still have to promote yourself and your books.

And in case you haven’t noticed, bookstores are hurting, very, very badly. I’m not surprised their coffee bars are bringing in as much as their book sales. I am surprised that bookstores have converted some of their very expensive floor space to freezer cases and shelves for baby food cat litter, dog food and toothpaste.

As a self published author you are competing for buyers with authors who market through chain bookstores, independent bookstores, on-line retailers and author appearances. Just like you. Every time you sell a book to a customer you make a friend. Every time you you close a deal with a buyer you take a few dollars out of Carl Hiaasen's pocket.

Think about that the next time a reader says he enjoys your stuff. And giggle. Quietly.