Friday, May 27, 2016

Just how many times can I pack?

One year ago today, my husband and I started out on our Trip of a Lifetime. We left home for Toronto with a stop at Niagara Falls along the way (because we'd stopped there on our honeymoon - which was also in Toronto) and stayed overnight there, then caught our plane for Rome. We'd planned a week taking a Mediterranean cruise, embarking at Rome, then going 'round to Palermo, Naples, Livorno, Genoa, Toulon and getting off at Barcelona. From there, a short plane ride to Dublin and then another week tooling around the Emerald Isle.

You know what happened. We never made it to Ireland. We had a grand adventure, just not the one we planned.

Last year I packed, repacked, packed again. I weighed the suitcases, measured them, unpacked, repacked, measured and weighed again. We decided to take one carry-on each (besides our laptops) and one MONSTER suitcase (that would have to be checked). Initially we didn't want a checked bag because we didn't want to spend extra time in the airport, but my husband is a painter and wanted his travel easel. It's wooden, carryable, but still took up nearly the entire extra suitcase.

This year, he's decided to leave the easel home and bring a light-weight one that's much more manageable. He can put it in his briefcase, along with several small tubes of paint. So we're back to the one laptop case and one small carry-on - nothing checked!

Of course, that means being very judicious about what I bring. One color scheme (purple, of course. I packed a single print skirt that has many colors - each T-shirt/blouse matches it so I can mix and match as needed). I left the scarf out, and am taking only a light rain jacket (and will probably wear it so I don't need to pack it). No sweatshirt or sweater. I figure I can buy one there. If we need to get another suitcase or if I overpack on the way home? That's fine. I don't mind waiting at the Toronto airport for luggage - we're going home. It's wasting time in foreign lands I don't want to do.

But I'm a little more relaxed about the process this year. I've already packed and am right at the limit, pound-wise, so I might do a little more readjusting, but other than that? I'm good.

I'm also excited as heck! Eight days in Ireland and six in Scotland. I'm hoping to meet up with Cait Miller, a fellow member of the Sizzling Scribes while we're there. My husband teases me that I expect to see Jamie and Claire, too, but pish! I'll just visit places mentioned in the book.

Watch this blog for travel updates - I'll post when I can. Last year I had to wait until we were home because the ship's WiFi was exorbitant and I didn't spend enough time on shore to post much. This year, we're on land the entire trip and the B&B's and hotels all have WiFi, so it should be easier.

And as for volcanoes? Several people have told me they're glad I'm staying away from those this year. Little do they know, I'm planning to climb Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh - which is an extinct volcano! Don't worry, though. I've also told my husband it's HIS turn to get us a first class seat on the way home. :)

Play safe, and I'll see you in Ireland - or Scotland!


PS. Watch for a new feature coming to the blog on June 1st! I think you'll like it. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Whee! Post hits...or not

I generally check traffic stats to this site about once a week, just to see if anyone is out there. When there is no Google Adwords campaign going, I generally get double digit hits each day, making a grand weekly total of three to four hundred hits a week.

So you can imagine my surprise when the blog got 843 hits yesterday. You read that right. Double what I get in a typical week in a single day.

Naturally, I'm curious as to what pages got all those views - and every one of them was from 2013. Hmmm....And where do the viewers come from? This is where it gets interesting.

I stopped running the AdWords campaigns because most of the hits I was getting were from bots - basically unmanned computers trolling for weaknesses they could exploit in a website. The viewed numbers were increasingly skewed by these bots and getting an accurate read nearly impossible. So I cancelled the ads and watched my numbers plummet - to reality.

Most of those bots are located in the countries you'd expect: Russia, Pakistan, China. But yesterday's hits were from Good O'l US of A bots - over a thousand and a half of them in the past week.

Now I'd love to believe that all those views were real people who suddenly got interested in my books/site/life, but then, I'd like to believe in unicorns, too. How do I know they're not real? Because nothing else rose with the increase in views (okay, get your minds out of the gutter!!! :) ). No increase in sales or interest on Smashwords or Amazon, no increase even in looking at the tabs across the top of the site. Only individual hits on very old pages. That says bot, not person.

For those of you who ARE real ... and I know I have a few readers in Russia, Pakistan and China as well as many other countries...The protection against attacks is one of the reasons I stay with Blogger as my website host. It isn't the greatest in form or ease of setting up pages (not WYSIWYG), no way to do direct sales from the site - but also no viruses getting through, no malware or other nasty things that mess up computers and lives.

So thank you to those of you who are real...and pftttt to the bots who aren't!

Play safe,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An Outlandish Post

Started this post a while back and got sidetracked. Revised and here it is now.

Long-time followers of my blog know I'm a big fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. With the advent of the Starz series, even more people have fallen in love with Jamie and Claire and the world they inhabit. And it's pretty obvious Ron Moore, the showrunner for the series, is also a fan, based on tiny touches we've seen that allude to events several books away from where they are now.

There are several fan groups dedicated to the books, the series, or both and one of the recurring ideas that pops up is the wish that Jamie could travel forward to Claire's time. It's an established protocol in the books that he cannot. He does not "hear" the stones the way Claire (and others) do, and I, for one, am glad. He's her anchor in time, her North Star that remains fixed and grounds her. He needs to stay put for reasons outlined below

SOME SPOILERS FROM HERE, so if you're watching the series or haven't read past Dragonfly in Amber, you may want to stop here!!!

Claire leaves her time in 1968 to go back to Jamie. Even if she could bring him back, what time would they return to? The last time she made the jump, she'd lost three years of present time (because she'd spent those three years of her life in the past). This time, she's been there a little over twelve years. Should she step back through the stones now, she'd arrive in 1982 (yes, I know 1968+12=1980, but Diana G. seems to have set up an extra two years in the jumps. This site has a great timeline of events if you want to see).

Besides hairstyles and clothing and the adjustment of some political parties, 1982 isn't all that different from 1968. There haven't been major technological advances, although medicine has made great advances in vaccines. Of course, Claire understands what a vaccine is and the use of them wouldn't surprise her.

So really, her coming back to 1982 wouldn't be such a big deal. The Apple IIe is still a year away from hitting the market, as is the first commercially available cell phone (I have a story about that, but will tell it some other time). There are Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) that are available, but only a few thousand are using them (Diana Gabaldon being one!). The explosion of computer technology will happen within a year of Claire's (and, ostensibly, Jamie's) return.

And then what? Claire might adapt to the changing technologies but she's 50 years old in 1968, which means,if she were alive, right this minute? She'd be 98 years old. How many 98 year-olds do you know who do well with smartphones, computers, ATM's?

And Jamie? We love him because he can handle every situation. Not always with grace, but certainly with panache. He loves hard, lives hard, fights hard. Can you see him anywhere in the 21st century? There is no place for him and he'd end up useless and pitied.

No, leave Jamie in the past where he's the man I've come to love. I mean the man readers have come to love. :) Don't bring him forward - and leave Claire in the past as well. Let her be the heroine, saving lives and having adventures. I do NOT want to think of either of them sitting in a nursing home watching the world go by.

All this is a long way of saying, trust the author. Let her move her characters as she envisions them. Fan fiction has a place, but leave them in their own time period.

Rant over. :)

Play safe,
a different Diana LOL

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Sales slumps

As with any business, sales slumps come with the territory. In publishing, genres seem to come and go in waves of popularity. While Romance as a category always sells well, the divisions within it change. Westerns are popular for a while, then Scottish Highlanders. Erotica will sell, then everyone's writing steamy sex scenes and the backlash goes to sweet romances or shapeshifters. Or paranormal. You get the drift.

My sales numbers have plummeted over the last six months. Partly that's because I only had one new title (Winter Break) but even that book hasn't done as well as past titles. It's no secret Ellora's Cave is behind in their royalty payments - I eagerly check each week to see if maybe this will be the week they catch me up, but it hasn't happened yet. Soon, I'm sure. They took a chance on me and gave me my start. It is my fervent wish they find their footing and keep going. But even the royalty statements I have gotten show sales for some titles in the single digits for the first time ever.

I suspect the erotica market is now glutted and finding new readers isn't as easy as it used to be with all the authors now choosing to self-publish. The first titles I released on my own did wonderfully well. The last ones? Not so much.

To be honest, I'm starting to grow a bit bored writing erotica, myself. I had a lot of fun with it and am happy to have written as many books in the genre as I did. But it isn't only the marketplace's tastes that change - writer's appetites do, too.

To that end, I've been challenging myself lately, writing in several styles, just for fun. I've written a short story in the Action/adventure genre, several non-fiction travel pieces, and an epic fantasy (that's currently taking up much of my time!).

This isn't to say there won't be more Diana Hunter stories. Hot sex is still fun to write on occasion but honestly? Mystic Shade outsells Diana. You're more likely to see more stories from Mystic than Diana, especially after the egg laid by Winter Break (still don't know if people who bought it liked it or not. Please leave reviews!!!! Good or bad, it's the only way we writers get feedback).

Sales are in a slump and the way out for me is to keep writing. Even one book sold is one more reader touched by the story I've written and that doesn't suck. Reading back on this, it sounds pretty depressing and I don't mean it to be. Waves happen in business. The trick it to keep going. If I stop writing all together? Then I'll never find that next wave to ride, and I'd hate to miss the fun. So don't worry - there will be more books, more stories, more genre to choose from.

In the meantime, play safe - and leave a review!!! :)


Monday, March 14, 2016

Looking forward to looking backward...

My daughter, Kate, works in the theatre, which gives her a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. Mostly she works in theatres within a fifty mile radius of her apartment but she's not adverse to picking up and going elsewhere (even out of state) if that's where the job is. To that end, this week she's attending the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, with an eye toward that next job.

Initially, she planned to travel with a friend. Unfortunately, the friend had to bow out (pun intended) and Kate feared she'd have to as well, since now she had no one to share costs with. And then she turned those puppy eyes on her mother...and her mother melted. How could I not?

Besides which, I've never been to Salt Lake City. Flown over the midwest twice (once on my way to Alaska and then again when we went to Disneyland) but St. Louis (RT Convention) is really the only stop I've spent time in the middle of the country. 

It will also be the highest altitude I've ever been and still been on the planet (as opposed to flying over it). Rochester, NY has an altitude of about 500 feet above sea level. Our cabin is about 800 feet above - but Salt Lake City is 4000+ feet above. Whee!

At first I'm thinking, Kate will be at the convention all day and I won't have anything to do. Might be time to start a new story or finish an old one. Or go sight seeing. What is there to see in Salt Lake City besides the Mormon Temple anyway?

Um...gee...only the world's largest Family History Library, filled with hundreds of thousands of genealogical records collected from all corners of the globe. And it's open to the public. For free. Guess where I'm spending MY days!

The last two weeks have been spent organizing all the scraps of paper I've written family stories on, compiling lists of what we know and finding the holes of things we don't know. Some of the family lore I've been able to verify with census records or using the SSDI (Social Security Death Index), but holes still remain. And a few very big, very solid walls that I can't seem to find a way over, around or under.

So now I have a notebook and a flashdrive filled with What We Know about the Frawley, Benjamin, Broschart, Schmitt, Ingandello, and Scaramuzzino families. I've chosen not to look further into the Pierces and the Ritters on my mom's side of the family because I have a second cousin who has done a LOT of work, at least on the Ritters. And the Duprey/Garrow lines are so convoluted and twisted it would take a lot more than the three days I have to unravel them alone.

That's right. Three days. Three days spent in a library. Three days devoted to researching the family trees. Three days of uninterrupted immersion into their stories, their joys, their defeats. 

Yep. I am SO looking forward to looking backward!

Play safe,

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Four books, one low price!

Now available! All four books bundled together in one set. In Secret Submission and Submission Revealed, Phillip and Sarah Townshend have quite the set of experiences, both in and out of the bedroom. Thank goodness for friends like Will and Jill who are there to pick up the pieces!

John and Lauren find themselves needing those friends in Services Rendered. As a Civil War re-enactor, John enjoys the sound of cannon and the thrill of (safely!) charging the field. But Lauren's nursing of real soldiers on real battlefields leaves her baffled by his hobby. Thankfully Phillip, Sarah, Will and Jill are all there to help their friends through.

What happens to couples that enjoy their sex BDSM kinky after ten years? Phillip and Sarah are back again in Diamond Submission - ready to celebrate that milestone anniversary in a very exciting way!

All four books are still available separately or get them bundled today (click on the picture for the bundle)!

Don't forget to leave a review of one or all books. :)

Secret Submission print    Secret Submission ebook

Submission Revealed print    Submission Revealed ebook

Services Rendered print    Services Rendered ebook

Diamond Submission ebook

Play safe,

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A few more changes

The Purchasing Info page is now up-to-date. It had a few books that are currently not available (took those down) and one that  wasn't listed (I'm looking at you, New York Moment!). I've tried to change the font color of two books in the text listing but that change hasn't stuck. Will keep trying on that.

I also changed the donation link on the homepage because of a post made by one of my former students. For years now, I have encouraged my readers to donate to the Red Cross because that group does such good work when emergencies strike, but have known for a while that the monetary distribution was uneven. Not that their CEO doesn't deserve competitive pay - he/she does. It's hard to attract excellent CEO's without it. Why work for the Red Cross when I can work for a corporation for a whole lot more money? It's the same problem when hiring a new Superintendent of Schools. You have to pay competitive rates or you don't get the cream of the crop applicants.

So I get that a huge chunk of their donation money goes to staff. We live in a capitalistic society and why should they be paid less to perform humanitarian aid than those who do the same jobs in hospitals around the country? The answer? They shouldn't. They are still a deserving group who needs donations in order to do their work.

But I changed to St. Jude Research Hospital anyway. Why? Because these are kids. They got stuck with a raw deal and this is an organization that makes an attempt to help. Recently I’ve been involved in the health care system of the United States and let me tell you, it’s a rabbit warren filled with Pass the Buck, self-interest (read: greed), and more gobbledygook and misinformation than I ever thought possible. Any organization that helps families through it when their minds are filled with more important things (like the fact that their child is dying) deserves my support.

Really, though, who you choose to donate to is up to you. As long as you help those in need, there are a lot of places who need your help. Feel free to post links in the comments of groups who could use a lift.

Play safe,