Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing to me is an incredible adventure . . .

Today's post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today's hop, the blog featured before Remember Newvember is The Riddle of Writing. The blog featured after mine is Grace Elliot Author. Please stop by and say hello plus some are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!

Join Me!

Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour
When I first saw the theme for this blog tour, it made me think of an elementary school paper I once had to write. That paper was more along the lines of “what school means to me” – but I approached the topic with the same hesitation. Writing is a personal journey of expression, and for each person, it covers completely different territory.

For as long as I can remember I have been a story-teller. As a small child, I took great pleasure in creating my own paper-dolls and then developing elaborate stories for them to enact. As I grew older, those imaginings made their way to paper. At the ripe old age of eleven I wrote my first novel entitled “Planet X”. It was only a classroom assignment but it stirred something deep within me. While others in my class moaned and groaned about creating story-lines and working on character development, I was completely in my element.

At age thirteen I tried my hand at writing a romance novel. Written on legal pads while I was supposed to be selling corn at a roadside stand, I was certain that story would be published by Harlequin teen and I’d be an instant best-seller. From there I progressed to fantasy novels and more romance stories, most of them saved to a floppy disk via the reliable Commodore 64. It’s doubtful they will ever see the light of day.

As adulthood loomed over me, I needed to become more serious, study harder and daydream less. At the time, I didn’t think I could make any real money using only my imagination and a hand-me-down IBM computer. I set creative writing aside and pursued a career in technical and copy writing. This was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made in my life. While technical writing helped hone essential skills, it sucked any ingenuity right out of me.

Fortunately, I had children – lots of them. They helped me access the imagination I had tamped down deep inside. They gave me an excuse to take time off from a nine-to-five job and focus my energies on them. Their imaginative play invites creativity to flow and I can’t thank them enough for giving me back my own childhood dreams. Now they are older, more self-sufficient, and I have started my writing journey all over again.

To me, writing is not only an escape into my imagination; it’s an opportunity to connect with my psyche, make sense of the world around me and deal with all that life throws my way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Try one new drink every day for 7 days . . .

Recently I took a little time off from writing and skipped off to Jamaica with my husband for a little “couple time”. We stayed in an all-inclusive resort that boasted breathtaking scenery, beautiful beaches and scrumptious food. Couples Swept Away was the perfect get-a-way for couples needing a break from the doldrums of everyday.
Keeping in the spirit of Newvember, I decided to try one new drink every day for the seven days we were there. Admittedly, I probably tried more than seven, but these are the drinks that stood out most, or made an impression:
Day One - This one was a Frozen Rum Runner at Rick’s CafĂ© .

Rick's Rum Runner by Jennifer Bogart
Blended white rum, blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, pineapple juice, grenadine & lime juice – this had to be one of my favourite drinks. I liked it so much I had to have two.

Day Two: The Shark Bite and a Red Stripe (the Red Stripe wasn’t mine)

Shark Bite & Red Stripe by Jennifer Bogart
This drink consisted of strawberry syrup, pineapple juice, OJ, Blue Curacao and rum. It’s much prettier than it tasted. I found the flavours to be a bit bland in comparison to many of the other drinks I tried. Still, the layering of the different colours was worthy of a picture.

Day 3: Lychee Martini as big as my head

Lychee Martini by Jennifer Bogart
Made with Soho lychee liqueur, vodka and a lot of lychee juice (there was probably some pineapple juice in there too). Luckily I had some help to finish it. To be honest, I think James enjoyed it more than I did.

 Day 4 - Mango Margarita from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

Mango Margarita by Jennifer Bogart
Ten dollars I'll never get back . . . won't be doing that again in Jamaica! It was bitter, and not as tasty as some Margarita’s I’ve had. Sorry Jimmy Buffett.
Day 5 - a Bob Marley.

Bob Marley Drink by Jennifer Bogart
This one pretty much knocked me on my ass. It was concocted with Grenedine, Creme de Menthe, banana liqueur and "over-proof rum" (151%). I couldn't feel the sunburn after this drink.
Day 5.5 - had to sneak this one in, it's more like a dessert - chocolate martini.

Chocolate Martini by Jennifer Bogart
This one in particular was a “gift” from the couple at the table next us. They wanted to know what I was drinking, so I shared. She liked it so much, when her husband went to get her another, he brought me one too.
Day 6 - my favourite beach drink, a Coco-Loco

Coco Loco & Remember Newvember by Jennifer Bogart
I really didn't think I liked coconut - just goes to show you really don't know until you try!
Day 7 - It's not a Blue Lagoon, but I don't can't remember what it was called.
Pretty blue drink by Jennifer Bogart
I do remember it didn't taste quite as good as the coco-loco.
There was much more to our vacation than alcohol. I also went snorkeling for the first time, climbed up a 100 foot lighthouse and drank coconut water straight from the coconut. We walked the beautiful beaches, bought a tremendous amount of handmade jewelry, slept, ate, and slept some more. In all, it was a fantastic vacation.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Publishing an e-book: tips, tricks & tweaking

Disclaimer: the advice offered in this post is based entirely on my own experience. Use at your own risk!
After sending out a flurry of query letters and receiving only rejection form letters in response, I decided to take the plunge and release “Remember Newvember” as an e-book. I spent countless hours reading through forum threads and blogs, trying to learn the easiest – and fastest – way to format my book. My biggest concern was making mistakes and then having to go back to fix them. I’m not the most technically knowledgeable person, so terms like “converting to html” and “verifying your Epub document” made me a bit nervous. Not to mention, I'm lazy - so I like to do things right the first time around.

Remember Newvember by Jennifer Bogart book cover

First things first – if you live in Canada, go to CISS and apply for your ISBNs. You don’t need one for Kindle, but you do need one for Smashwords if you want to qualify for their Premium Catalogue (trust me, you want to be included in that catalogue so your book is available through Apple, Barnes & Noble and a host of other online book retailers). Just follow the create account instructions and in no time at all you’ll be on your way to being your own publisher. Getting your account set up takes a couple weeks, so make sure you leave time for this.

Then – when you are certain your book is 100% ready for publication: thoroughly edited, no spelling mistakes, typos, grammar issues – no plot holes, character inconsistencies or style issues, head on over to Smashwords and download the very comprehensive formatting guide. This free guide will walk you through the process of first removing all formatting from your book and then reformatting it so that there won’t be any weirdness happening on the screen when it’s converted to html or other e-book formats. Another small tip is to have a printed copy of the book handy – this way you can go through it page by page to add back all formatting such as bold, italics, & underlines; centering & left or right justification; and fancy fonts (make sure you have the right to use the fancy fonts – even fonts can be copyrighted.
Don’t be afraid of creating bookmarks and hyperlinks – they only add value to your book if used appropriately. By following the guide, you can easily insert your own links where you want them and delete any that Word might decide to add in just for fun.

If you already have your Canadian ISBN for your e-book, go ahead and upload it to Smashwords, making sure you have saved it as a Word 97-2003 file. If you’re neurotic, like me, you can sit and watch as the various conversions take place. With any luck, if you followed the style guide and didn’t skip any steps, then your book will be live in just a few minutes. Once it’s live, check all the formats to the best of your ability to ensure there are no mistakes. The very best way to do it is to generate a coupon code for 100% off the price you set and give it to a trusting friend so he or she can download the book onto their e-reader and verify the formatting for you. The downloads that are available to check formatting on your PC or Mac are pretty good, but nothing really beats the real thing.

Next – you’re ready for Kindle. Take the document you formatted for Smashwords, remove all references to Smashwords that appear in the title page and then save your document. If you don’t already own it, download OpenOffice (it’s a free download) and open your Word doc in their word processor. Export your document to html using OpenOffice. I don’t know why, but this seems to work better than trying to export it to html from Word. Save your html document and then simply upload to Kindle. (Of course, you need to create an account first!). Kindle will notify you if there are any necessary changes to be made or when your e-book is live. The entire formatting process takes some time, and depending on the length of your book, you might want to reserve a few hours when you can really sit down and focus on the formatting.

I gave myself two weeks to get everything formatted and uploaded. The only delay came in waiting for the Canadian ISBN registration. Now, comes the hard part – marketing. After all, who is going to buy your book if no one knows that it’s actually out there? Luckily for me, and anyone else who is looking to self-publish, there are some really great references available to make that job just a little bit easier.
So – if you have an e-reader, check out Remember Newvember: available at the Kindle Store and on Smashwords.