Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Interview with Debi Sullivan--Queen of the Epic Ebook Award Competition

This interview is a combination of Lorna Collins's and my questions regarding the Epic Ebook Award Competition.

~ ~ ~

Debi, you have been managing this contest for quite a few years, akin to herding cats. How long have you taken on this challenge?

I initially volunteered to work behind the scenes and started out as a judge, moved to category judge coordinator, then inherited *grin* the Competitions Chair position in 2007. At the time I was already the New Voices Young Writers Chair, which made for a VERY chaotic and wacky first year as EPIC’s overall Competitions Chair.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Entrants following the rules; doesn’t matter if they are young or old, folks just don’t pay attention to the details. *sigh* Best suggestion I can give any entrant: Read the RULES! *grin*

How does a book qualify for entry?

Any English-language e-book published and available for sale to the public between June 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013.

How many entries do you usually receive, and how many awards are presented?

We usually average 700 entries within a 4 week period. The numbers of awards we present vary as we constantly update the current categories to reflect genres within the electronic industry and past entries. This year we are offering 24 categories for the eBook Competition and 11 categories for the Ariana eBook Cover Art Competition.

How do you recruit judges? Who is eligible?

I am blessed to have a loyal group of volunteers who step up every year, for both the eBook and New Voices Young Writers competitions. But we can always use more. For eBook, we seek published authors, publishers and/or editors; for New Voices, we add teachers and librarians to that mix.

What makes this award different from other writing competitions out there?

EPIC's eBook Competition has garnered a reputation for excellence from both entrants and judges, a reputation that continues to shine as we move into the future. I am extremely proud to know that I play an integral part in the progressive changes to our competitions.

What do the winners receive? How about the finalists?

Our eBook and Ariana competition finalists receive gorgeous certificates and are prominently posted on our website. The category winners receive stunning trophies and are honored at our annual EPICon  awards banquet before being announced on our website.

What is EPICon?

EPICon is EPIC’s annual convention. It is three days chock full of marvelous and informative workshops reflecting the current needs of the industry, both electronic and print. You never know who will be there - whether it is a well-known author or the latest marketing/promo guru and/or agent. It is the perfect venue to mingle with publishing peers. And there is so much going on that there is sure to be something for everyone.

Can only members attend EPICon?

Any industry member, or reader, is welcome. I would definitely suggest checking http://www.epicorg.com/epicon.html to learn about the fabulous events they have scheduled for March 2014. And it is taking place in one of my favorite cities – San Antonio, Texas! What’s not to love about cowboys, ghosts (the Menger is chock full!), the Alamo, the Riverwalk, great food, the Reader eFiesta, door prizes, and incredible workshops?

When does the contest begin this year?

Both the eBook and Ariana eBook Cover Art Competitions open for entries on June 1, 2013.

Where can authors get more information?

There are links to all our competitions at http://www.epicorg.com/competitions.html.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

What Do You Do All Day??

by Valerie Mann

I know this will strike a nerve with many authors, stay-at-home moms and telecommuters. But if you fall into one or more of these categories, you’ll relate.

How many times have you heard this:

**What do you do all day? 
**Since you don’t really work, can you drive me to the doctor/babysit my kid/hang out? 
**I know you have free time, so can you make six dozen cookies for the bake sale/volunteer at church/pick any random job 
**Seriously, what do you do all day since you don’t work?

Here’s what I do all day:

Work (yes, I do and I get paid for it)
Homeschool a reluctant teenager
Babysit the husband who also works from home
Play dish fairy (because everyone thinks a fairy does them, so who am I to wreck their fantasy?)
Play laundry fairy (the dish fairy’s kissing cousin)
Feed the cats
Let the cats in and out. And in and out. And in. And out.
Water the garden
Run errands
More fairy duties
Housework that I can’t ignore because the Hoarders producers might find out how we really live
More work

And tell me why I feel guilty if I sit down to watch a show I DVRd in December (I’m still catching up on all of the Hallmark channel holiday movies) or *gasp* read for pleasure?

People who work at home probably work more hours because they don’t really work at all, right?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dangling What?!

The Evil Editors have decided it’s time to out those modifiers that love to dangle precariously in innocent sentences and send us into fits of giggles. Why? Because they’re like Mad Libs for editors. Sometimes these literary gems still get past us because they’re sneaky little suckers, camouflaging nicely, sitting prettily. Yet despite the fact these little suckers don’t belong there, they crack us up when we find them. 

A modifier is great and every good author uses modifiers.  They’re a necessity to avoid blah, boring stories. Which of these give you a better visual? 

Kate sat on a bench and held a box of cupcakes on her lap.

(with modifier) Perched on the bench, Kate possessively clutched the box of cupcakes.

What this tells us? Boring Kate has cupcakes. Possessive Kate doesn’t want to share and appears ready to take flight if anyone dares snag her treats.

However…authors like to get creative with sentence structure to avoid repetition, or during revisions when they aren’t seeing the big picture:

Perched on the bench, Kate’s possessive hands clutched a box of cupcakes.  Hmmm...Kate's hands are quite skilled, possessive, perching and clutching at the same time.

Here are a few modifiers Evil Editor Kate (the possessive one who loves cupcakes) and Evil Editor Val have found just recently. Oh, my.

Twisting her arm around her back, his cock twitched.
Driving down the street, his heart pounded in his chest.     
Her appetite faltered, thinking about the months ahead of her.

A Dangling Love Story
by The Evil Editors
Jacob couldn’t believe it. With a grimace, his hands clutched the steering wheel in anger. Seeing Paula in the bar with another man, his mind went numb.  The man’s invading hands had roamed over her voluptuous body, possessive and knowledgeable, their lustful intent so clear. Oh, so very clear.

Reaching into the glove compartment for his Glock 44, Jacob’s fingertips thrummed with purpose. How they yearned to plug a few rounds in the other man’s unknowing body. At the thought of the looming bloodshed, his smile gloated. That would teach Stella not to screw with another man, he thought to himself with alacrity.

But just thinking about Sally’s scrumptious body, his mouth watered. Worse, he had to adjust his burgeoning manhood. “Crap,” he whispered to himself in the empty car. In all its wisdom, his cock knew what his heart refused to acknowledge. He still loved Sarah…she was the only girl for him.

*Evil Editors laugh evilly* We invite you to laugh, too. We see dangling whatsits like this all the time and giggle uncontrollably.  We're just having fun though. These buggers are insidious, and no editor, not even an evil one, will ever catch every sneaky dangler!

Friday, 19 April 2013

The OverDrive Saga

Back in August last year, I had an author ask me about uploading to OverDrive. (OverDrive is a distributor that many libraries go through in order to get eBooks into their catalog.) As we've had a number of requests for our eBooks in libraries, I thought, "Heck! Why not?" Yes, I'd heard what a nightmare it could be to accomplish it, but I had no idea just what a nightmare.

So, I filled out the application, sent in the test files, and waited two-three weeks. They finally responded, but I think by the time they did, I was once again in the throes of quarterly reports. When I contacted them again, they told me I'd waited to long and needed to apply again. Okay. I did that… and waited another 5-6 weeks. o.O

Once the account was set up, I received this email informing me that I was special and would get to use their FTP upload instead of the internet interface, which, by the way, doesn't work with Google Chrome at all and only portions of it with Safari. It works best with Internet Exploder. Yay! I'm on a Mac. That means I have to cross over to the dark side and use a program called Parallels that turns my Mac into a PC. (If I wanted a PC, I'd have that instead of a Mac, but whatever.)

I read their uploading information and nearly fainted. They wanted me to send them a spreadsheet with all 200+ of our eBooks in it. Not only did they want titles, they wanted the ISBN, the blurb, the author name, editor name, cover artist name, genre(s), a brief excerpt, BISAC (library speak for library genre), release date, your mother's grandmother's grandfather's mother's maiden name, and the last time you ovulated (or ejaculated, if you are a man). Oh, wait! Scratch the last two. Maybe that's why they told me that the first file wouldn't work. Too much information. (grin)

No, seriously, they did reject the first spreadsheet I sent because, even though I followed the instructions on their website, it wasn't in the format with the information they said they wanted. It was, but not to them.

"Download our metadata template and use that."

All right, I do as they request, input the information, changing the book info from rows to columns because that was how the metadata template was organized, fill in the information (but only for ten books because, if I made a mistake—wait! Did I just say "if?"—it wouldn't be a huge waste of time), and upload that with the ePubs/PDF via FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

A few days later, an email arrives from their tech department. "We cannot use this spreadsheet because it does not follow the guidelines."

Um, yes, it does. I followed it to the tee. I even switched everything from rows to columns, which took a long time.

"Oh, well, the information needs to be in rows not columns."

Okay. That's not what your template/website says, but whatever. I searched the internet for an easier way than retyping it all back into rows. Yay! I found an answer, did it quickly, and uploaded the new file.

Less than a half hour later, a new email arrived. Here's a little quote for you:

"Thank you for resubmitting the metadata, we can now use that to upload your files. However, before we can continue with the uploading process we ask that you you rename all of your files (epubs, pdfs and jpgs) by ISBN so that we can match them up to the appropriate metadata accordingly. Ex: 9781603819091.epub"

ARGH! No! No! No! Nowhere on your *&!%$@ website or in any of your information does it say that I have to name it by the ISBN. No, it specifically states that I don't have to name my files by ISBN as long as I include the names of the files within the spreadsheet. I did this because, I don't know about you, but I don't know the eBooks by the ISBNs. Astonishing, I know. For instance, if you said, "Oh, I love 978-1-61798-075-6. It is just the best first book of a series I've ever read," I would probably look at you as if you'd grown dandelions on your head for hair. Unless I consulted my ISBN log, I'd no idea that was Fangs for Christmas. Now, if you say, "Oh, I love Fangs for Christmas. It is the best first book of a series I've ever read," I'd know exactly what book you are referring to.

I am not a computer. I don't crunch numbers in my sleep. I might cuss numbers in my sleep, but I don't crunch them.

So, that is where I am at now. I have to change all of the file names to ISBN.

Did I mention that I also had to make separate ePub files for them because the covers in the ones I make for every other distributor is just a hair bigger. (So, the cover will fill the screen of your Kindle/Nook/Sony/etc.) Just one more thing to do, because I don't have enough already. o.O

At this moment, if I could reach through the email and stuff spreadsheet and files where the sun don't shine, I would.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Expressing Expressions

Have you ever thought about how much the U.S. English language relies on expressions? It’s really tough to say something without using one.

He really put the screws to me.
She raked him over the coals.
That boy opened a can of worms when he told his dad the truth.
The cat’s out of the bag now.
I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!

When I thought about how many expressions I use in a single day it surprised me. They’re everywhere in our language.

Even when the hubby and I sit and talk, I catch us using dozens of expressions. It makes me wonder if this is something that’s been done throughout the ages. “Ach! Me head hurts, my dove. I need some hair off the dog.”


There’s a new show on the History Channel that delves into this matter. I find it very interesting how some words and phrases came about. Some of them are surprising.

So, are you someone who relies on expressions in your conversations? What’s your favorite one?

Oh, btw, stop over HERE and visit me. I’m talking about the hottest sex scenes I’ve written in a long time and giving away a cool prize pkg.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

When did I get this way?

What way, you ask? Crazy? No. Not that way. I've always been that way. It really does help. It makes it much easier to ignore the subtle changes over time that tell me I'm not the same person I was when I started this gig nearly four and a half years ago.

I'd love to be able to say I could blame Marci and Faith for that. After all, Faith was my first editor and Marci was my first publisher. They got me into this mess!!!!

(They also help keep me from the long fall off the deep end, so I have to give them credit for that, too!)

The point is, though, I remember, vividly  an inner dialogue I had with myself once about what I would say if anyone ever interviewed me about my books and why I write what I do. ... What?  Don't look at me like that. You know you've done it, too. Back in the day, you had the fantasy about this insane venture into your own psyche we call writing a book hitting the New York Times bestseller lists and making you rich, about Oprah reading your books.


Right? We've all had that moment. Um....ANYWAY

Back to me. I remember the question. Why do you write about gay characters? And I always answered the same. ... AGAIN with the look? Yes, always. It's called positive visualization. Don't tell me you've never heard of it. Athletes do it all the time. Imagine yourself succeeding, and you will succeed. Well. With some hard work and an ocean of caffeine and a butt-load of luck.

But we were talking about my answer to why. The answer was always: "No reason. The characters are who they are. I'm not trying to change the world or make a statement. I'm just writing what I write What other people take away from my stories is about them, not me."

I was never an activist. I'm not about making a stand or linking arms or chaining myself to trees. Or ideals. It was never my style. Or so I thought.

Then one day, I'm sitting in the break room at the day job and someone makes a comment, rather offhand and typical, as in a few words of WTF with no real malice behind it, about Andre Pejic.  I thought I was going to pop an artery. How dare this person say word one, jokingly, inconsequential or otherwise, about Andre's sexuality or gender. None of their business. And cruel, whether the person set out to be cruel or not, to comment about a person being a freak because they didn't fit into a mold some stranger tries to stuff them into.

(If you don't know, Andre is a male model making most of his money modeling women's clothing. He puts himself under the transgender umbrella, but says when he looks in the mirror, he just sees himself and gender doesn't really matter)

And yes, I spoke up. I made my own off hand comment about workplace equality and respect and not judging what we don't understand. It shut the entire room up for the remainder of our break. AWKWARD!

When did I become that person? An accidental activist. Oops. Maybe it was about the time I became a mom and realized what I said, or didn't say, mattered.

I'm attaching the link to an interview with Andre where he talks about his career and self image, and down near the bottom of the page is an interview with a mom about her son, her princess boy, as she calls him. It made me want to hug her.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Spring Madness

You wouldn't think spring in Canada would be something to complain about, would you?

 After all, it's been winter since November. It's flippin' time already. 
I mean who really would pick this 

Over THIS!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously. No contest, am I right? We've had months and months of snow and cold and we're entitled to a few months of warmth and sunshine that doesn't bring with it frigid temperatures and frostbite risks.

Sadly, the reality of spring is more like this.
We live just down breeze from a convenience store, and across the street from a park. Both those things you would think are pluses in the location, location, location equation. I bet not a single real estate agent ever mentions the ditches in spring when selling a house on this street. 

I admit, we don't have the most manicured lawn on the street. In fact, ours is probably at the other end of that scale. But what completely infuriates me is the idea that people don't feel they have to bother looking for a trash can for that candy bar wrapper or chip  bag or take out coffee cup. I mean, do people seriously think "Oh. I'm done my coffee. I guess I'll just toss my cup here in this person's ditch. They won't mind finding my trash in their front garden. It'll compliment their crocuses and daffodils in spring. The stench of rot will go well with the fragrance of their hyacinths."

I spend most of February longing for that moment in March or April when you feel the air change, and you know from that time forward, there will never be more snow on the ground than there is at that moment. The euphoria lasts about a week. Then the reality of human insanity sinks in as the trash begins to peek through the melt.

We might be the only creatures content to live in our own filth. It sort of turns my stomach. Mostly, though, as I pick other people's crap out of my ditch and off my front lawn, it just pisses me the hell off. 

My son once asked my why anyone would throw garbage on the ground. I couldn't even imagine a logical reply to that. Help me out, people. Why? Why, why, why???