Set Up A Home Weather Station

My brother who lives in Colorado set up a home weather station when he first moved to his mountain. When my darling hubby and I bought a weekend place in the Hill Country, we thought about doing the same.

This past weekend, I started researching equipment and found Weather Shack, a website that has a great education section. The website also has a Comparison Chart so you can find the kind of equipment you need as well as equipment that fits your budget.

I want to connect the Home Weather Station to my computer so I can monitor it when I'm at home in the Houston-area which means the data has to be uploaded to a website where I can view it. I haven't found exactly what I want yet, but there are a lot of websites that offer home weather station equipment so I'll keep shopping around.

If you're interested in amateur meteorology and want to set it up at home, Weather Shack or a similar website probably has what you need.

Takeaway Truth

You don't have to be a meteorologist to monitor the weather. In fact, it just migt make a great hobby for someone.

Cold Weather

We went to the annual Mushroom Festival at Madisonville, Texas,  yesterday, and it was a lot of fun -- but it was also cold. Considering a few days ago, the temperature was 90, this blast of frigid air threatened to put a damper on our fun.

The latest Blue Norther had blown in Friday, bringing lots of cold wind with it -- straight from Canada I imagine. We had planned to spend the day browsing through the vendors' stands, eating lots of really bad junk food, and sampling all the offerings from the vineyards who show their wares. Plus, the classic car exhibit and the local museums are always a lot of fun.

The cold wind and intemperate weather reminded me of what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "The cold, inconsiderate of persons, tingles your blood, benumbs your feet, freezes a man like an apple."

Yep. We kind of  felt like frozen apples after a day there.

Takeaway Truth

Small town festivals are as much fun as a yard full of roly poly puppies.

Review: 2 Jack Reacher Novels by Lee Child

This past week I read Character Assassination by Leigh Morgan, about Tom Cruise being cast as Jack Reacher.

I am forced to agree with Leigh about the unsuitability of Tom Cruise to play Lee Child's iconic hero Jack Reacher.

Thinking about Jack Reacher is probably what led me to reading 2 Jack Reacher novels back to back. In case you don't read thrillers and don't know what I'm talking about, Lee Child is the author of these suspense novels starring the 6'5", blond, blue-eyed ex-military policeman Jack Reacher. See that's the problem millions of fans have with Tom Cruise playing Reacher. He doesn't come close to fitting the physical description.

However, no casting director in Hollywood asked fans who they'd like to see as Reacher – Liam Neeson definitely comes to mind. Movies are cast according to box office receipts. I'm sure that Cruise will do an adequate acting job, but die-hard Reacher fans will find the physical discrepancies jarring.

So I started the week with Jack Reacher: One Shot. When the book opens, you think you know all about what has happened and why. As you read, you're wondering, since this is the first 10% of the book, how the story is going to fill the rest of the book when you already know what happened, how, and why. Don't despair. Lee Child is masterful in building a story to a climax that surprises yet at the same time seems very logical. I suspected the outcome, but maybe that's because I'm a writer and I read with more of an analytical brain than the average reader.

You won't be disappointed with One Shot, and you'll appreciate the urban survival tactics Reacher employs. It's like a primer on how to be invisible in a city.

61 Hours: A Jack Reacher Novel won't disappoint either.Since a cold front just hit Texas, this book provided an appropriately cold setting, making me appreciate the mild Texas cold weather when contrasted with the South Dakota setting of 61 Hours.

I lived in South Dakota for a year so I can appreciate the hero's distaste for the frigid temperatures, the driving snow, and the dangerous ice. Of course, when I was in South Dakota, I didn't have to worry about a bunch of near-rabid assassins which is what Reacher is faced with in this novel. In this book, Reacher seems more emotionally vulnerable than in other books. But, that vulnerability doesn't affect his ability to kick ass.

Takeaway Truth

If you like action thrillers with a larger-than-life hero who is at once intelligent, likable, and unstoppable, pick up a Lee Child novel.

Hello, Japan & Awesome Romance Novels

At last, Friday is here. To paraphrase one of my favorite party songs, Bang The Drum by Todd Rundgren, I certainly don't want to work all day.

Got my authorial lariat so I'm going to round up some of the important news for Readers and Writers from this past week.

Awesome Romance Novels

Popular author Donna Fasano has renovated her blog that features romance novels and re-launched it with great design and a reader-friendly and writer-friendly format.

She was kind enough to feature my series Texas One Night Stands yesterday.

If you'd like to be featured, visit Awesome Romance Novels. On the Menu Bar, click Authors Submit Your Book and follow the instructions.

Selling To Japan

This week, if you were an indie author, you were probably excited to hear that Amazon has opened a Kindle Store in Japan. They're late to that particular party since the highly-competitive Kobo entered the Japanese market this past summer with their device, the Touch, priced at 7,980 yen ($100).

Since I lived in Japan for several years, and my books are on Kobo and Kindle, I'm very excited to about all this. Japanese students learn English from the time they enter school, and most of them are very proficient in reading the language even though they may be hesitant to speak it.

Just as Manga and Anime invaded and changed American pop culture, so did Rock and Roll and blue jeans several decades ago, opening the gates there for other genres of music. I'm hoping that the Kindle and the Kobo Reader will eventually be big successes there.

According to Amazon's press release, the Kindle 3G version costs 12,980 yen --about $163.00 USD. They'll begin shipping November 19 with other Kindle devices rolled out after that.

The Japanese Kindle Store opens with over 50,000 local language e-books (15,000 of them are manga). Amazon had some challenges to overcome in reaching agreements with Japanese publishers. Add to that 50,000, another 1 million English language books as well as a selection of titles in other languages.

Takeaway Truth

Friday, affectionately known as TGIF (Thank God it's Friday) is a good day to catch up on tidbits of news.

3 Free Things You'll Want

This Thursday3Some begins with a free gift for you Halo fanatics out there.

Halo 4: Live Action Series

With Halo 4 arriving in November, the promotion campaign has begun. Watch 5 free episodes of the new Halo 4, Live Action Series. (I set this up as a hot link, but for some reason, it doesn't seem to work. Here's the URL you can copy and paste to get to the Halo videos:

on YouTube, beginning with Forward Unto Dawn, Part 1. I have to admit that it's pretty darn good.

For Kindle Fire owners, my pal Michael Gallagher who writes Free Kindle Books and Tips is giving away coies of Kindle Fire How-To Guide: Your Guide to Tips, Tricks, Free Books, and Startup.

Halloween Costumes

More from YouTube. Plug this phrase -- DIY Halloween costumes -- into the YouTube Search Engine. You'll find videos telling you how to create fabulous costumes for any scary party or for dressing up and joining your kids in the fun of the holiday. There are instructions for all the current pop culture characters -- Mad Hatter, Black Swan, Gangnam Style -- and for perrenial favorites like Minnie Mouse, Ariel, zombies, and more.

Takeaway Truth

Free is -- like Tony the Tiger of Frosted Flakes fame once said -- GERRR-REAT!!

Just One Look Or Un Seul Regard

There's been so much going on that I haven't been able to keep up with my latest audio books going live or the French editions of my ebooks becoming available.

Here's a quick recap:

Just One Look was published in France by Bragelonne Milady as Un seul regard. The paperback, or Broché edition, came out last month and can be found on Amazon France. It's also available on Kobo France and other French language booksellers.

The last time I looked, it was n°96 dans Livres > Littérature sentimentale.

The Kindle edition of Un seul regard came out last week and was n°2 dans Boutique Kindle > Ebooks Kindle > Littérature sentimentale then.

Takeaway Truth

Nothing beats the excitement of seeing a new edition of one of my books.

Magic Secrets to Writing Success

When I complete a book, I force myself to let let it rest long enough for me to look at it and not be blinded by what I know it's supposed to say, rather than what it actually says.

I've learned to do this. Now, if I could just learn to let go of the book, I'd be happy. I really, really hate being a perfectionist. It's a curse. Anyway, I'm not here to talk about my shortcomings. Instead, I want to talk about my end-of-book rite of passage.

When I finish a book, I start cleaning. I begin with files because clutter in my small office is always a problem. I guess I clean because it's a relief to do something that doesn't require pulling brilliant words from my depleted brain.

Clean Away Clutter

This past week, I've been cleaning out my promotion files –- tossing outdated information, reviewing what I've done in the past world of print books, and adding some new things to try to my To Do list.

I keep one example of each thing I create like old bookmark designs. I think one that I created as a giveaway to writers when I deliver presentations has content worth repeating here. It contains what I called Magic Secrets to Writing Success.

Actually, none of what I'm about to impart is magical nor secretive, but calling this post "Hard Work Equals Success" won't motivate you to continue reading. All of these so-called magic secrets can apply to any creative or artistic endeavor. Just substitute the word or words that describe what you're trying to achieve in place of my words that pertain to writing.

10 Magic Secrets

1. You must write. Not talk about it, not think about it, not dream about it, but do it.

2. You must write consistently. Not when the Muse inspires you, not when your house is clean, not when everything in life is running smoothly, but every day consistently.

3. You must strive to improve. Practice indeed makes perfect, or at least better.

4. You must put your work out there in the marketplace. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. You must persist when rejected. Rejection comes from agents and publishers and readers. Not everything you write excites agents or sells to publishers or gets embraced by readers.

6. You must believe in yourself. Even when no one else believes in you–especially when no one else believes in you.

7. You must remember why you began writing in the first place. You write because you love putting words together to express the "pictures in your head." The love of writing carries you through. The love of selling something to create cash flow won't. Producing income is nice, but in the end, writers write because of the love of writing.

8. You must accept that you may never get a lucky break. Attracting attention from the masses, selling thousands a day, getting a movie option, or having an agent take your book to auction or any of the other career leaps cannot be made to happen. Luck, serendipity, whatever you call it, plays a big part in that kind of success. This is a business where luck plays a part. But, if you write consistently, always improving, you can probably generate a livable wage and find an audience of loyal readers.

9. You must write anyway -– regardless of luck –- because it is what you do, who you are.

10. Plan to control only what is directly within your power. What do writers control? Writing the book. If you're an indie author, you also control the production process so do it as well as the big boys in New York. You can't control reviewers, sales, what others say on social networks and blogs, or anything else like that. So focus on the book.

Takeaway Truth

The true reward, in and of itself, is always the writing.

What Song Is That?

I'm up late this Monday night, and I realized I hadn't blogged yet so I thought I'd tell you about a great site to find music.

Do you ever watch TV and take notice of the music in some commercials? Do you find yourself humming along and snapping your fingers? Do you catch yourself doing the same at some odd time during the day because the song stays with you?

If that's you -- and it's certainly me -- you eventually start wondering, "Who's singing that?" Or, "Where can I get that music?"Have I got a great website for you today!

What Song Is In That Commercial

Yep, that's the super long name of the dot com that finds that music that's stuck in your head. There's a great Search Engine where you can enter the advertiser, the song, or the artist. Also, sign up for free, and they'll send you an email each day that shows an image from a commercial, what product is being advertised, and a link to the music used in the commercial.

The link takes you to iTunes where you can buy the song. I love my music, and I love the convenience.

I found myself searching for a song was the Target "Falling Into Fall" commercial with a rocking tune that I thought might be Clairy Browne.  To my surprise, the song was an old one called Fallin' by the late Connie Francis. I bought the song.

The Heineken commercial called, "Switch," features the song Love Letter, one of my new faves, by Clairy Browne and the Bangin' Rackettes. The commercial is on What Song Is In That Commercial, but when I clicked to buy it, I found that it's not available in the U.S. iTunes store. However, you can do a little online sleuthing and find the song elsewhere.

Takeaway Truth

There are some conveniences offered online that I really love, and this is one of them.


This past Friday night, I made the conscious decision to disconnect on weekends.

Here's Why

Since January 2011, I have worked every day of the week except for 3 days -- the day before my daughter's wedding, her wedding day, and the day after.

On those days that I worked, trying to establish myself as a successful indie author, I put in no less than 12 hours each day. Some days I put in many more than twelve. Readers, you have no idea how much hard work goes into writing a book not to mention publishing the book yourself.

I started to unwind from that manic pace after my daughter's wedding. I promised my husband that I would take more time off. That's when I added audio books into my already busy life. In addition to writing and everything else I do, I started working with producers to create audio book editions of each of my best-selling romantic comedy ebooks. I was so naive that I had no idea how much time would go into that pursuit.

More Is More, Not Less

Then I added a home remodel and, at our weekend home, landscaping from the bare ground up, so to speak. Throw in a few family medical emergencies, and I suddenly wasn't having very much fun any more! Not to mention, I wasn't producing very many words either. In fact, I found myself getting downright cranky.


All work and no play makes Joan -- or you -- a dull person. I was writing, blogging, guest blogging, Tweeting, reviewing books, working with audio producers, plotting new books and short stories, researching, learning new skills, keeping up with all the stuff that being self-employed requires, wading through hundreds of emails every day, remodeling a house, installing landscaping, and enjoying life a whole lot less.

Writers if you are reading this and you see yourself, this is the writing on the wall -- or at least on the blog -- telling you to do something about it. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Yes, I feel pressure from fans eagerly awaiting my next book. Yes, I feel the pressure to market and promote. I have a contractor that I've been delaying for 6 weeks now because I can't stand the disruption of continuing work in the house. I've put off doctor appointments because I'm constantly playing catch-up.

You're Doing It Wrong

This past weekend when we went to our Hill Country getaway, I opened my laptop and just stared at it. Then I made the conscious decision to not work all weekend. Not answer emails. Not Tweet. Not blog. Not write. Not do any of the many online things I do Monday through Friday.

Guess what? I felt more refreshed when I returned Sunday night to welcome house guests at home.

In thinking about all this, I remembered a book I'd heard about The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale

I found the book on Amazon and will go click buy on it in a few minutes. On some website, I saw a quote from this book with the extraordinarily long title that describes me, and probably a great many of you.

Susan Maushart, in The Winter of Our Disconnect: "No one's brain is different enough to make constant interruptions, distractions, and task-switching an optimal environment in which to function. No one's."

Takeaway Truth

I believe Ms. Maushart speaks the truth. Attempting so many disparate tasks, with constant interruptions, every day is draining. Focus and scaling down is my plan for the rest of the year, and part of that plan is to disconnect every weekend from now on.

3 New Sites for Free Books

I found 3 more websites that list legally-free books.

Readers, get ready to click the mouse so you can visit and bookmark 3 more websites where you can find free ebooks listed.

Authors, you get ready to click and bookmark these sites too. Yes, you want bargains too, but you also want websites where you can list your book if you have a free book promotion running. Just follow the instructions found on the sites.


Like so many of the websites that list free ebooks, the focus is Kindle more often than not. Do not be dismayed. If an ebook is free on Kindle, it's probably free on the other platforms too. If you find a book you want, visit your favorite ebook seller and check to see if it's free there too.

If it's not free at your fave book spot, which is highly unlikely, you can always download the Kindle app for a device of your choice and get it that way.

Remember, be sure the book you want is still showing as $0.00 (free) at the ebook seller because these website owners have no control over when a book cycles off the free promotion. It's free when they list it, but it's up to you to verify that it's still free when you buy it.

On your mouse. Get set. Go!

Super Fab Books

If you're on Twitter, they are @Superfabbooks so you'll want to Follow them. They Tweet free books, giveaways, bargains, and new releases.

eBooks Habit

R.J. Adams, the guiding force behind guest blogged this week. They send out a great email notice every day with the free books listed.

Randomize ME

I don't know how I could have failed to mention Randomize ME and their Kindle Daily Deal. Every day they list ebooks among other offerings that are free in the U.S. and also a Kindle Daily Deal in the UK.

I subscribe by email which is my preferred method of finding about all the free deals from every website I mention, but you can sign up for RSS feed of course.

Takeaway Truth

Websites that list legally-free ebooks are winners for Readers and Authors.

J. D. Faver is BAD!

Please welcome my pal J.D. Faver ( to SlingWords. She has a new book out -- the third in her The Edge of Texas series. Here she is to tell you all about it.

Take it away, J.D.

Thanks so much for inviting me to your wonderful blog, Joan. I am so excited to announce the release the third novel in my romantic thriller series: Bad Vibes: The Edge of Texas ~Book 3 (Romantic Thriller).

About The Series

The setting for this series is about 25 miles north of the Mexican border on the lower Texas coast. South Padre Island is a beautiful semi-tropical resort separated from the mainland and the small coastal village of Port Isabel by the two-and-a-half mile Queen Isabella Causeway spanning the Intracoastal Waterway.

This area is a paradise for everyone who loves the water and water-related sports, nature and just relaxing. Visit the South Padre website, and you will see some very colorful boat sails in the background. These are Hobie Cats (catamarans). I earned my freckles racing 16’ Hobies, and South Padre was one of our regular regatta stops. Much fun and worth all the subsequent trips to the dermatologist for freckle checks.

Bad Medicine:The Edge of Texas~Bk 1 was the first of this romantic thriller series, and it’s free today. Bad Medicine was followed by Bad Karma: The Edge of Texas-Book 2.

About Bad Vibes

Bad Vibes picks right up where Bad Karma leaves off, plunging one of the most charming characters into danger. Deputy Darla Calhoun is suffering a major heartache. Lonely and bristling with anger over her husband’s financial betrayal and suicide, Darla is carrying on in her usual plucky manner, holding her head high and trying to be the best mom to her twin 4-year-old sons as well as a valuable member of the tight-knit law-enforcement team under the leadership of Sheriff Rafael Solis.

Darla arrests a vagrant, but after he’s cleaned up, she discovers a hunky, hard-body with a smoldering gaze hidden beneath the filthy rags. He turns out to be a federal agent working undercover. He’s after a gang of human traffickers using the Intracoastal Waterway to bring sex slaves into the United States from Mexico. Rafael assigns Darla as liaison officer to work with the feds, bringing her face-to-face with the “Iceman”, Mike Burke, the undercover agent she arrested. Darla, Mike and his partner tear up and down the Intracoastal Waterway in pursuit of the human traffickers, but when two local women disappear, the search becomes personal.


This takes place just after Mike is jolted by the fact that the sheriff’s liaison officer assigned to his team is none other than the pretty female deputy who busted him the day before. Not a fan of working with local law enforcement, he’s even less thrilled to be working with a woman.

Mike Burke shouldered the two green duffle bags and hoisted them into the rubber rigid hull boat that was to return him to the cabin cruiser with the sheriff’s “man.”

Another tall, Hispanic deputy, beefier than the Sheriff, manned the craft. He seemed to hold Darla in high regard, chatting affably with her during the short trip.

The air was damp to begin with and droplets of water hit Mike’s face as the boat thudded over the water. In a short time, the rigid hull bumped against the side of the larger craft and the deputy handed Darla on board.
“You be careful now, Darla. You hear me?”

She leaned down to grab his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “If I don’t come back, I’m willing my kids to you, Adriano.”

He grinned, patting her hand. “My wife thinks we’ve got something going on anyway.” Adriano tossed the duffle bags aboard and turned to Mike, a Jekyll and Hyde transformation coming over him.He jammed a finger into Mike’s chest. “If Darla doesn’t come back in mint condition, I will kill you. Got that, Iceman?” He glared at Mike, his teeth gritted together in a threatening grimace.

Mike maintained his cool gaze, thinking that this big bull of a deputy could do some damage, even to a man of his own size. “You just threatened a Federal Agent.”

Adriano gave him a mirthless smile. “Good. You did get my message.”

Mike nodded. As he climbed aboard, he wondered what was so special about Darla Calhoun, other than her pretty face and fine body. He’d noticed that she was no longer wearing her wedding band. He figured that she’d taken it off for the assignment. It was probably on her nightstand at home. But still, he had to wonder.

Freddy’s eyes lit up when he saw Darla and he grinned from ear-to-ear. He took the hand she offered in both of his. Mike wondered if Freddy was going to slobber all over it, but his partner managed to control his drooling.

Mike did a mental eye roll. This is going to be a nightmare.

“Where am I going to sleep?” she asked.

Mike bit back the answer that sprang to mind. “There are two bunks below deck. You can sleep in which ever one is empty at the time.”

She gave him a look that was somewhere between a smile and a smirk. “No, you will show me which bunk is mine, and which bunk is to remain mine for the duration of this assignment. I don’t care where you sleep.”
Freddy was about to wet himself, he was trying so hard to keep from laughing. “I’ll show you the bunks, Darla,” he said. “You can take your pick. Mike and I can share the other. One of us will be on watch at all times anyway.”

Darla nodded and followed Freddy below deck.

Mike swallowed something that felt like a boulder at the back of his throat. He stood, gripping the railing, sorry now that he’d given up cigarettes.

In a short time, Freddy returned topside, a big grin on his face. “Sweet!”

“Shut up!” Mike snarled.

“Our girlfriend is getting settled in. I may have to brush my teeth.”

“We’ve got a job to do,” Mike bit out.

“Right and it just got sweeter.” Freddy leaned closer. “Do you know what she’s got in those bags?”

Mike snorted and gave him a look intended to denote disinterest. “Her lace teddies and her collection of Victoria’s Secret catalogues?”

“She’s got her clothes all rolled up in one and the other--” He thumped Mike on the shoulder. “It’s full of weapons and ammo. She is so my kind of girl.”

When Darla came on deck, she was wearing shorts and a cotton shirt tied at the waist. She looked the part of a tourist on a rented fishing boat.

A giant fist slammed into Mike’s gut, He lifted one side of his mouth as a form of reluctant approval. “So, are you going to fish?”

“If need be,” she said. “Don’t worry. I can bait my own hook.”

Mike digested this, wondering briefly what she was going to use for bait.

Final Word From J.D.

I hope everyone has a chance to visit South Padre Island and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In the meantime, you can visit through my series and keep up with the happenings. My goal is to entertain… and keep you up nights. ;-)

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, J.D. Good luck with Bad Vibes: The Edge of Texas ~Book 3 (Romantic Thriller).

Meet eBooks Habit

This morning I'm pleased to introduce you to a free ebook site calle eBooks Habit.

Rather than listen to me tell you about it, here's R.J. Adams who runs eBooks Habit to give you an up-close and personal look at this website. Readers, you'll want to bookmark this site. Authors, you'll want to do so also because if you've got a free book to share, they want to hear from you.

Take it away, R. J.!

Hey! You probably have never heard of me, and that is fine. My name is R.J., and I help run Joan asked me to write up a little post about our site so that she could share it with you. (Thank you for the opportunity, Joan!)

We launched about a month and a half ago, and we have been providing 20-30 free ebooks a day almost every day since then. Our goal is to not only find some of the hottest free ebooks that day but to also share some of the lesser known free ebooks, that still have good rankings, with our readers as well.

What Makes Us Different

We realize we are not the only free ebooks website out there, but we try to set ourselves apart by providing a good selection of free ebooks: not too few, not too many, but just enough. Some of the other free ebook websites out there neglect nonfiction titles, but we embrace them when we find good books our readers will enjoy, and they are often the most downloaded ebooks on the days they are featured. We are also in the growing stages, so we are extremely open to reader feedback.


We want to know what types of things do you like to see in a free ebooks site? What don't you like to see? Let's get some discussion going here on Joan's comments! Authors need readers so your input is not only helpful to me, but also to some of the authors who hang around here


Are you an author who runs free promotions, whether they are temporary or on a more permanent basis? Then, all you have to do is let us know about it via our website's promo submission page! I am an author too, so I know how it goes trying to promote your books. We try to feature many of the books that are submitted to us, because we know it is hard work to have a free promotion. We would all love to be featured on PixelOfInk or eReaderNewsToday, but that isn't always possible, so all of the downloads we can get really add up help out!

Maybe a free promotion isn't part of your marketing strategy... that is okay too! Let us know if you drop the price on your book temporarily, so we can let people know they can get your book at a discounted price!

Marketing Strategy

While free ebook sites like are a good part of a marketing strategy, you need to do more if you want to take your book's promotion from good to great, and from great to excellent. The key is to think outside of the box.

Find websites that aren't necessarily focused on readers, but who would still be interested in your book. Is your main character a cowboy? Find some Western and Country blogs that may be interested and let them know when your book is going to be free.

Is your main plot about a lady and her cat? Find cat people on blogs and forums and let them know your ebook is going to be free and that it is about a lady and her cat! This type of out of the box thinking will help you to get downloads from places that most authors are not thinking of.

You can expand your reader base, with readers who are really interested in the subject you write about, just by being creative with your promotion.

In Closing

Readers: I look forward to connecting with you on here and learning about what we can do to make better.

Authors: Let me know when your book will be free or at a discounted price, so that I can help you with promoting it!

Take care, and thanks for reading about I hope to see you around!

Takeaway Truth

Visit eBooks Habit today and sign up to receive their daily notices.

Publishing Tips For iTunes

Back in June, I decided to no longer publish my ebooks to iTunes via Smashwords. There were many issues that resulted in that decision.

1. Smashwords, while a wonderful asset for an indie author, has become extremely slow to respond. Getting a change to your book file is slow. Premium acceptance is slow. Weird little glitches have started appearing. For instance, one of my books was archived. Why? I have no idea. It took quite some time to even get Smashwords to respond to my plea for help with the situation. In the last few months, I've found it very difficult to get any kind of support. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't think I'm the only one experiencing these problems.

2. When publishing directly to Apple, you get access to a Dashboard with your actual sales numbers instead of trying to compile data from the massive spreadsheet Smashwords generates.

3. You get higher royalties by publishing direct.

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Of course, in order to be allowed to publish your work directly to iTunes, you have to be approved as a Publisher. You also have to upload your work with an Apple computer. No PC allowed. That's a deductible business expense so I decided to go for it.

Four months later, I still don't have my ebooks published through iTunes so I'll have a gap in earnings for these past months since I've already pulled my books from Smashwords distribution. The problems I ran into are what I want to warn you about today. That way, you can take steps to minimize the time it will take you to overcome or avoid similar problems.

First Step

Visit iTunes Connect and read or download the information. While the iTunes process isn't particularly user-friendly, it's not impossible to understand either.

Once you're read all that, and you're equipped with a Mac computer, you should be ready to rock and roll and set up a Publisher account. You must wait to be approved by Apple as a Publisher. Once that's done, you can start filling out the forms, and this is where it gets challenging.

Vital Info To Know

If you already have an iTunes account, your information recorded for that account will pre-populate when you start filling in the Publisher account forms.

1. Make sure that the name you set up on your iTunes account is your legal name, i.e., the name is identical to the name on your social security card or TIN. If it doesn't match, expect delays.

2. Make sure that the name on your credit card matches the name on your social security number or TIN. If it doesn't, expect delays.

3. Apple is NOT equipped on any of their forms to deal with a middle initial.

For all these reasons, I am still not set up to publish directly with Apple.

1. I've had an iTunes account for years, but that name doesn't contain my middle initial. So when I started filling out the W9 U.S. Tax Form on the Apple Publisher site, my iTunes account name was pre-populated into iTunes, and there's NO way to edit it.

2. The name on my credit card of record is just my initials and surname. Also not the same as my SS# name. Apple pre-populates the WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO SIGN THIS FORM with the name from your credit card. That's just my initials and last name.

3. Apple cannot change the form online. You can't publish unless you fill out the online form. The information will be knowingly wrong which will put you in the naughty chair with Uncle Sam. There are no provisions for middle initials in any of the forms needed to set up the account.

I contacted Apple. Took a week for a reply from a very nice guy in the Finance office. He acknowledged that the online form could not be changed, but it had to be filled out anyway. Then, he explained that I had to mail their Finance office a completed hard copy of a W9 with the correct information. They would "hand correct" the account, but it will never show up online when I look at it as being correct.

What To Do

If you want to publish directly to iTunes, do this:

1. Check your existing iTunes account now. If your user name is Rock&RollBaby, you might want to start a new iTunes account with your legal name. Set up every aspect of your iTunes account as a professional publisher. I had already been approved as a publisher before I ran head-on into the problems described above. If I'd known about this, I'd have started a new iTunes account.

2. Make sure the credit card you register for your iTunes purchases has the name that matches your tax number.

3. If your legal name has a middle initial, go to and print the W9 form and instructions. Print it out, fill it out so it's ready to go.

4. When your iTunes account is cleaned up and ready, register with iTunes Connect as a publisher. Once approved, view the Tax and Banking forms you must fill out. Contact Author Support and tell them you'll have to mail a hard copy W9 because the pre-populated name doesn't match the name on your Tax ID. (Of course, you may be lucky, and your name does match. Or, if Apple gets enough problems with this issue, they may update their form. However, they've been publishing for several years so that probably isn't likely.)

Wait for the email from them giving the address to use when mailing the form. Mail the form Certified, Return Receipt Requested. You need all the CYA you can get when dealing with tax issues.

Once you receive approval, then you really are ready to go.

Takeaway Truth

Get things cleaned up or set it up right from the get-go, and you'll avoid problems.

In A Dead Zone

I'll be out of the office for a few days, but I've scheduled some posts for you to read while I'm gone.

Please feel free to comment even though I probably won't be able to read or respond to your comments until I return to the office next Monday.

Takeaway Truth

Amazingly, not all of this country has Internet access. Hard to believe, but it's true.

Answer Hard Questions

Have you been interviewed on radio, television, or for a newspaper? If so, did you get asked a question that threw you for a loop?

I've been interviewed a few times, not on TV yet, thank goodness. I took a workshop once on how to successfully appear on television. I had not idea that it could be so difficult to get your message across in 45-60 seconds which is about all the talk time you'd have unless you're James Patterson or someone similar.

I like Internet interviews. They're usually easy because you receive a set of questions in advance. You answer them and send them back. But what happens when you are being interviewed "live" either on radio, TV, Skype, or by a journalist for a newspaper or magazine?

How do you prepare when you have no clue what you may be asked?

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Use Your Imagination

The best thing to do is make a list of what you think would be the worst possible questions. Then proceed to write out an answer to each question. Be as ruthless as the nosiest tabloid reporter.

To spur your imagination, here are some questions that many writers find difficult.

What's your book about?

Uh... uh... Remember how I – and a thousand other writers – always advise you to write a logline, a one sentence description of your story. Shrink your book down to 1 or 2 sentences so when someone asks that question, you can rattle off the answer and sound poised.

How much money do you make writing books?

I've been asked that just about every time in interviews – also by my neighbors, relatives, other writers, and my kids' teachers. How would you answer that? I usually laugh and say, "Enough to keep on writing."

Some authors say, "Show me your 1040, and I'll show you mine." (For readers outside the U.S., Form 1040 is our income tax form we file each year.)

How's Your Book?

How's your book coming along? How's your book selling? For some who ask this, it's just another way of asking how much you're making. For others, like for people who know you, but who usually don't buy your book, this question – they think – expresses interest in how you spend most of your time.

Be polite. Smile. Say, "very well, thank you." You can even follow up with: "How's your medical practice, teaching job, nude modeling, or whatever doing?"

Just For Romance Authors

Then there are the questions aimed specifically at romance authors. All of them have an edge of prurience to them because, you know, you write sex *wink, wink*. Inquiring minds, apparently, want to know about your kinky sex life because you must have one if you write about sex. Don't be surprised if someone asks you if you posed for the sexy photo – face obscured obviously – on your bookcover!

These are the questions and variations you – or your husband, boyfriend, or sig other, might be asked. Most of them are just variations on the main question...

Do you really do all those (kinky, dirty – insert word of your choice) sex things? Who helped you with the *wink, wink* research for those sex scenes?

My husband has been asked by male business acquaintances if he helps me with writing "those" scenes. He grins big and says, "No, but I inspire them."

When attacked this way, and it is an attack designed to put you on the defensive, keep smiling, stay in a good mood. You can answer in a variety of ways, depending on the interviewer's tone of voice and the vibes you get.

"Murder mystery writers don't have to commit murder to write convincingly, and romance writers don't have to act out a love scene or do physical research in order to write one. We do book research about psychology and human sexuality (or some other response that tells how intelligently you write.)"

If you're ever confronted with anything that makes you uncomfortable, don't feel you have to respond other than perhaps asking, "Why do you ask that?"

Another good response: "I'm curious as to why you want to pursue this line of questioning. I thought we were going to talk about the way I handle characterization, plot, theme, (etc.) because I'm sure that's what the readers in the audience would like to know."

Questions With Embedded Preconceived Attitudes

Then there are the questions that have built in preconceived attitudes.

Aren't all romances alike?
Aren't romances just written to a formula?
Aren't romances unrealistic?
Aren't romances degrading to women?
Aren't romances fantasies for housewives?

Remember These Tips

1. Keep the upper hand.

2. Answer a question with a question that puts the burden on the interviewer to defuse the situation.

3. Respond with humor.

4. Choose silence. If things get really bad, then just smile and stay silent, especially if you're on radio or TV. Those people just hate dead air. Five seconds of dead air is huge! Let them fill the silence.

5. No one can make you uncomfortable unless you allow them so don't allow them. Cloak yourself in the attitude that you deserve respect.

6. Prep your answers now.

The Ultimate Question

If you get popular enough, at some point, you'll be asked some or all of the questions above, including the question all genre authors love: "When are you going to write a real book?"

By that, people mean books published by a publishing house (apparently, some people think ebooks aren't real books) or books in a different genre that the interviewer would consider "literature." Oddly enough mystery seems as respectable as so-called literary fiction to many, but romance doesn't seem to qualify. I guess murder, stealing, and conspiracy are more respectable than sex, romance, and love.

Takeaway Truth

You don't have to be a Boy Scout to always be prepared. Start today.

Funny & Weird Entertainment News

I scoured the Internet looking for entertaining news today. Okay, actually, I just opened my email and clicked on the links some friends had sent.

Anyway, here are 3 pieces of entertainment news that are funny, weird, or just mind-boggling.

Want the perfect Valentine's movie next year? Check out the latest installment in the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day To Die, releasing, yep, on Valentine's Day 2013. This one's got son Jack and daughter Holly taking out the trash with papa John McClane.

Steve Jobs, Comic Book Hero. Well, I know he was a dynamic individual obviously, but a super hero? BlueWater Comics has Jobs in their Bio Comics so you can get a copy and judge for yourself. They're also bring the Google boys and even Mother Teresa to Bio Comics.

Top 10 You Tube Videos are all music videos except one, and it's the one worth seeing: Charlie Bit My Finger--Again.

Takeaway Truth

Okay. Back to work.

Amazon: Movie Mogul?

This will make your indie heart go pitter-pat! Amazon is optioning books for the movies.

Last year, I'd heard that they planned to do this, but nothing else was said. Then today, an article about their first acquisition was online Amazon Studios Options Rights to a Novel for the First Time.

Judging by the blurb about this novel, it seems they're starting with Horror, but one can only hope they'll branch into other genres -- like Romantic Comedy.

Hey, Amazon, have I got some movie-option material for you!

Takeaway Truth

One can hope.

Judge A Book By Its Cover

Judge A Book By Its Cover 2012, or JABBIC, is now open.

From The Contest Chair

JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER CONTEST 2012, sponsored by Houston Bay Area RWA, is now open for entries.

Your covers will be judged by booksellers around the world, and the winning cover in each category will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2013 Romance Readers Report.

Again this year, we will also feature the Reader's Choice Winners from each category on our web site. JABBIC 2011 covers were viewed by thousands of visitors to the contest site.


Entry Deadline: Entries must be received by January 15, 2013

Entry Fee: $15

Eligibility: Published in 2012

Enter: The cover of your book or novella published by a traditional house, ePublisher, POD or self-published during 2012

Entry Format: Electronic files (JPG or GIF) only

Categories: Contemporary Series, Single Title/Mainstream, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal, Sexiest Cover, Young Adult and Inspirational

Judges: Booksellers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia

Top Prize: Winners will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2013 Romance Writers Report

More Information

FMI, entry form and rules, visit our contest website at:
or contact Contest Coordinator Leslie Marshman at: judgeabook at hbarwa. com

Takeaway Truth

Think you have a great cover? Then enter and go for the recognition your cover deserves.

Celebrate 2 New Audio Books

You know how bad things seem to occur in multiples? Well, sometimes, so do good things.

My 2 latest audio books, covers shown here, became available yesterday and today.

Nobody's Cinderella a romantic comedy that comically illustrates that old axiom, Be careful what you wish for! was released yesterday by Audible. It should be on iTunes soon.

Nicole Colburn who did the narration for Nobody's Cinderella really brings the characters and story to life. She's amazing.

This morning, Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones, a romantic comedy called "one of five great indie romance novels" by Amy Edelman of IndieReader, was released by Audible and will also be on iTunes fairly soon.

Narrated by Leah Frederick, Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones is a southern comedy disguised as a romance novel. It's funny and sexy, and Leah Frederick does an amazing job with the small town characters.

Takeaway Truth

Audio books are perfect for commuting or traveling as well as a way to make the most onerous chores pass pleasurably. Got 5 loads of laundry to fold? Read a book while you do so -- audio books make that possible.

Play Videos Endlessly

I love YouTube and have lots of favorite videos saved. Most of them are music and humor videos. Sometimes, when I'm doing grunt work in the office, I like to play these music vids, but it's annoying to have to stop what I'm doing to queue it up again.

Infinite Looper To The Rescue

I found Infinite Looper which is a neat website that helps you play your faves in a loop. It's so easy to use. Another great use for this endless looping is using it to replay a video tutorial until you have it down pat.

1. Use the Search Box at the top to search for your favorite video.

2. Or just plug the YouTube URL into the Search Box.

Try It

Open a tab at and paste into the Search Box this link:

to this great song, Love Letter, by Clairy Browne and The Bangin' Rackettes.

The video or music plays until you stop it.

Takeaway Truth

Rock out this Monday morning -- or just learn something from a video tutorial.