Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just What Are You Trying to Tell Me, God?

"Sounds like an act of God." The friendly service rep on the other end of the line chuckled as he said it.

He didn't realize how close to home his words hit.

Let me backtrack with a sequence of events. Monday, July 18. Time: 10 am. Brand new bulletin board falls off wall hitting computer and dislodging USB flash drive. 

The flash drive in question contains everything - I MEAN EVERYTHING - related to my writing career, including all my works in progress. Something got damaged because it no longer opens and isn't even recognized by my computer. I try a different computer with the same result.

I take a deep breath. Don't panic. I've learned my lesson about backing up my data. I've had a couple of devastating crashes on my work laptop, so I always back everything up in triplicate. Oh, wait a minute... I had one of those crashes just this spring. When the IT tech had to wipe my computer, I was safe 'cause everything was stored on a flash drive. I also promptly backed everything up on dropbox. One can't be too safe.

Except... once the computer was fixed, I didn't get around to re-installing my writing software (Scrivener) and uploading all my files; I didn't get around to backing up a copy of my most important files onto my hard drive; I didn't get around to checking to make sure everything got stored in Dropbox correctly...

My life - in the hands of Canada post!
Yup. I've lost it all. Everything. Seven years of my writing life wiped out just like that. All my works in progress, all my unfinished nano projects. (We're talking 250,000 words+ here, folks...) EVERYTHING.

I have no idea what happened with dropbox. All my folders are there but they are all completely empty. Perhaps when I re-saved them I overwrote the existing files with empty folders. I don't know. All I know is that there is no data. I feel sick. I might throw up.

I call the local tech guy. He says to bring the flash drive in and he'll take a look. He spends some time analyzing the damage and his prognosis isn't good. He suggests sending it to a data recovery specialist, but this is going to cost, he says.

Does he realize that seven years of my life's work are stuck in that thing? I'm willing to pay. It's my only hope of not losing it all together (both my mind and my data). We're back to where the story began - with me talking to the friendly retrieval expert down in Vancouver. The flash drive is in the mail. I'm holding out hope that the 'experts' will be able to retrieve my precious data. If not... well, let's not think about that right now.

Or maybe I should just give up. Hadn't I just prayed that very morning, asking God to use me in whatever way He saw fit? Asking Him to consecrate me and my writing for His purposes. Like the dude said, "Sounds like an act of God." Maybe God is trying to tell me something.

Or maybe I just didn't install said bulletin board correctly. In either case, sometimes bad things happen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Playin' Around with Photoshop

I spent several days last week learning to use photoshop (or re-learning, to be exact) and thought I'd play around with some cover ideas. I am planning to republish some of my work that has had the rights reverted back to me (or soon will have) so those are the covers I chose to design. I got the images from several sources: graphicstock, iStockphoto, and Dreamstime. Some of them were free and some were purchased. However, I did not spend much money since I am not sure whether I will use them or not. The process was more about learning - an experiment to see if designing my own covers is something I want to pursue.

Here is an idea for my book And the Beat Goes On. As you can see from the prototype, I may change the name as well. I often get references to the Sonny and Cher song and in retrospect, the title was probably not the best choice. The fact that it continues with characters from Play it Again is the only reason to keep the musical reference. Another consideration is that I hope to link the new version with the old one on Amazon to maintain reviews etc. so I need to keep the old title on the cover somewhere. This is actually a topic I need to research further, so if anyone has feedback on how to do this, I'd be open to hearing from you.

Play It Again has not yet reverted back to me, but I found some free images that I thought I could use so I went ahead and made this cover. Notice that I'm trying to maintain the same signature for my name - my attempt at branding. It's something I've noticed that famous authors do all the time. Stephen King's name never changes from book to book. People know at a glance it's one of his books, often subconsciously, because of the way his name itself has been branded. 






I spent a lot of time designing several different versions for my Neighbors series. Since each story is from a different character's point of view, i thought it would be a good idea to include a thumbnail portrait on each cover. Also, this will help further differentiate between volumes, something that I found a bit difficult in the original covers. Another note is the Canadian spelling of the word 'Neighbours'. All of my books have been published by American publishers up to this point and have therefore used the American spelling. I had to constantly remember to spell it 'incorrectly' (for me) when doing publicity etc. so I will probably just go with it and use the Canadian spelling since I will be publishing them myself in Canada.





The series has nine volumes so I did a separate cover for each volume and made two different options for the complete version -one with all the portraits and one that is simple and clean. I also did several mock up for the second book in the series but I'll wait to show those in a future post. I'd love to hear your feedback, especially on which of the two complete series covers you like best.




Monday, July 11, 2016

Of Water Falls and Webinars

As I alluded to last week, I'm holed away working on a brand new website. Thus this blog has been somewhat neglected. It's all part of the master plan for my summer off from teaching. I've decided to limit my summer travelling this year and focus on building my publishing business. Good thing I actually live in a very scenic part of the country. My husband and I have determined to take 'mini-holidays' on Sundays by visiting the more than 30 waterfalls in our vicinity. I blogged about our venture to 'Quality Falls' in a previous post called This is Where I Live

On our five minute hike to Flatbed Falls yesterday, I remarked that this was just as good as going on a vacation in BC...

Wait a minute! I live in BC, and the spectacular scenery right in my own backyard is the kind of thing that other people travel thousands of miles to experience. Flatbed Falls is the local hangout and swimming hole for teens and families alike. It's become a 'right of passage' to jump off the falls, as you can see in the one photo. It's about a fifteen foot drop off the cliff into a fairly deep pool, but I'm told it feels a lot higher when you're actually looking over the edge! (I wouldn't know since I have declined to jump, thus far.)

Flatbed Falls

Jump!
 

These 'mini-vacays' are a necessary break, whether I admit it or not. I have BIG  plans for the next eight weeks. I hope to republish some of my old work whose rights have reverted back to me. (Or at least get several pieces ready and formatted for republishing.) I'm also in the midst of taking several online courses - a marketing course, a publishing course, and a course on using photoshop.

It seems that everyone is offering an online course or webinar these days, but there are actually some excellent offerings out there. Besides the ones I mentioned above, I've been working my way through an excellent course by Nick Stephenson called Your First 10,000 Readers. If you go to the link, you will see three FREE training videos which are very worthwhile. I watched them last summer and decided to bite the bullet and actually paid for the rest of the course. I went through most of it before the end of last summer, but it is so packed with good information that I had to go back and digest it a bit more slowly. Now I just need to put what I've learned into practice!

Perhaps I'll compile a list of other helpful sites and webinars as I work my way through them and share in a future post. I'd love to hear some feedback on your most helpful online training.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Changes

I've finally caved... For several years now, I've been listening to other authors rave about wordpress.org. I've been stubbornly sticking to my other free website provider. As well, I have been a Blogger user for eight years and just feel so COMFORTABLE here.

But, alas. Sometimes change is necessary. I've finally come to realize that if I want to move forward with my writing business, I need better tools. That's why I have purchased a self-hosted Wordpress site and am in the process of re-building. Once I've got it the way I want it I will transfer my domain name from my old site and say by-by to Yola. As for the fate of this blog, I'm not certain. I may or may not switch over the blogging end of things. (Like I said, I'm kind of comfortable here...)

Here are two header images I've created. I am leaning toward the darker one since it fits my brand better and matches my business cards etc. although I also think the teal one is pretty.



Any thoughts on which one you like best? I'd love some feedback.