Saturday, September 12, 2020

Almost Obsolete: Do You Still Use These Things?

I was looking through a list of gifts for book lovers the other day, and I realized that some of the things listed were ones that didn't apply to me too much anymore. I tend to read a lot of ebooks, and even though I still read print books, I would rarely go to the trouble of purchasing a bookmark. If I don't have an old one lying around (and I have many of them left over from the days when authors used them to advertise their books), I just use whatever handy piece of scrap paper is at hand.

Along those lines, I don't use bookends (my shelves are stuffed, so no need for bookends), or book lights, or reading lights (although I still love this steampunk one I mentioned a few months ago and would make an exception for it. That one seems to have been sold, but if you're interested just Google robot lamp). 

Likewise, I don't need a special watch geared toward readers, because like so many others, I rely on my phone to tell me what time it is.

On the other hand, I do still use things that I've noticed a lot of people are passing by. For example, I still have a printed wall calendar in almost every room. In part, that's because scribbling on it helps me to remember what I need to remember better than relying on technology...most of the time. Also, I just like the images on calendars. They're like pieces of artwork I'm forced to switch out every year. And if we're staying on the topic of books, here are a couple I especially like.

Versions of The Reading Woman calendars have been around for years, but I still like them.

I've never seen the This is My Bookstore calendar. Looks interesting.

Available at Amazon

Likewise, I still have clocks all over the house even though I have a phone and we have computers that show the time. I still like the convenience of clocks. We have several that have silent movements so that there isn't even any annoying ticking. The one below isn't the silent kind, but I like the sentiment.

And...landline phones? Do you still have one? I do. It came in handy a few weeks ago when a derecho swept through the area, the winds knocked down limbs and trees, and a significant portion of the area lost power. Yes, I have a cell phone, but it eventually ran out of juice and I didn't want to have to wrestle the dead garage door open and drive around in the car just to charge the phone (of course, I didn't have a power bank charged up and I don't have a solar charger handy). So for emergency purposes I still use the landline.

Of course, as I mentioned above, I still have print books. I don't think those will ever go out of style. I may love the portability of ebooks,but some books just call for a full print version. Also, research books are much handier in print, in my opinion when I need to flip back and forth or look at charts.  Some things--like books--are eternal (I hope).

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Teaching Ourselves New Tricks the Twenty-first Century Way

If life these past few years (weeks?) has taught me anything, it's that we have to keep learning. Constantly. That's fine with me. I love the high of teaching myself a new skill (or having someone on YouTube teach me something).

Just today I had to figure out how to have two different Google Chrome windows open side by side (something I've done before, but so long ago that it clearly didn't stick). And I needed to know how to make some of my older blog posts invisible to Google's crawlers. Also, my husband's computer wouldn't start, so that always involves learning a few new skills or revisiting ones that have grown rusty from disuse. 

I'm betting that most of us are putting old skills to use these pandemic days (cooking skills, craft skills, do-it-yourself skills so that we don't have to call someone to repair something, just to name a few). 

And now with the extra time I have, I'm back to republishing more of my older books where the rights have reverted. That means practicing skills I hadn't used for awhile and also learning how to do them in new and better ways. (I still remember when I set out to republish that first book and I wanted to know how to do it all myself rather than hiring anyone. It was such an involved process, and I knew that I didn't even know which questions to ask. I was totally nervous and wouldn't have been a bit surprised if the on-line publishers threw that book back at me with an email simply marked NO!).

But, of course, today we have it easy compared to prior generations. Yes, for work skills they often had apprenticeships we don't have, and there were night classes (or maybe community college classes). There were neighbors or family members to learn from. There was the library (it's how we learned to tile a bathroom before the existence of YouTube). And while we still have most of those sources (sadly, not so many apprenticeships or jobs where they taught you your skills onsite), we also have the internet, the fabulous, sometimes maddening internet. It's what most of us turn to when we don't have an expert source at hand where we can make our inquiries. YouTube can show you how to fix a car, bake a cake (and decorate it), learn a new craft, use involved photo-editing or graphic art skills and a thousand other things. And there are so many other people online sharing their skills. I love it!

Here are some of the things I've looked up lately (see above):

How to Make A Washable Shopping Cart Handle Cover

There are numerous sites dedicated to teaching us how to do things we want to learn. Some of them are obvious, such as YouTube (so many things to learn there). There are others I'd visited in the past and then forgotten about. If you click through on the links above, they'll take you to Do It Yourself, All Recipes, eHow, Make, Instructables, Tasty Thin (just one of many cooking sites), and Craftster. 

There were so many other sites and skills I wanted to mention (ones that I might not use or be capable of using myself but that others would find helpful), but for today that's enough. I'm hoping to have a Part 2 down the road.

I hope you enjoy learning new things as much as I do. Until next time, have a wonderful day!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Masks for Readers

It's a new world, and we're all wearing masks (at least I hope we are. I wear the mask to protect you. You wear the mask to protect me. Together, we can make a difference in getting this thing under control). 

I made the masks I have now, and they're okay (yes, I know I look like I've been scrubbing toilets in this picture. I probably have). I made several different types. One has cute puppies on it, but I don't have a picture. I tried different patterns and instructions, and I like the last few I made. They have grips around the nose, they completely cover the pertinent area, there's a filter pocket, and I made ear loops out of jersey strips with beads so that they could be adjusted and also be comfortable (not my idea. A woman online had the instructions).
However, I've been seeing lots of ads for really cute masks, and since I'm a writer/reader, and a number of them seem to be targeted toward that market, I was curious and was driven to do a rather extensive search to get a better picture of what was available. So, even though I'm not fond of spending money when I know how to sew (and when you can make a mask out of almost any scrap of material), I'm tempted to bite the bullet and buy one (or two). We may be wearing masks for a long time, and it would be nice to have some that make a statement. Here are some of the ones I've looked at.
The one above is from Out of Print. There are other book/reading masks and other related products, too.

A heart made of books is from Redbubble. They have a number of literary-type masks as a search shows.

This Commit to Lit mask is available at Storiarts.

Born to Read, Forced to Socialize from Teepublic is a mask for those times when you just want to be alone with your book.
Another option is Threadless, an interesting company where artists submit their art and create and sell products with Threadless handling all the shipping and so on (a bit like Zazzle, which is another option for masks with a book/reader theme). 

Litographs has a limited number of book designs, such as this one for Banned Books.

And, of course, Etsy has tons of masks, some of which are book themed.

I had a lot of fun searching for all of these masks. Even if I never buy one, I'm thrilled that so many clever people are out there creating them.

Have a wonderful day! Stay safe and enjoy whatever book you may be reading today.


author name

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Book Title Dilemma

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may know that a few years ago, I began reclaiming the rights to many of my books that had been published by Harlequin Books. At the moment, all the rights or partial rights to 25 of my books have reverted to me with the remaining 20 still entirely with Harlequin (two of those 20 were marketing novellas, and I don't really count them).

I've enjoyed being a Harlequin author, and I also love being able to republish the ones where the rights have reverted to me (13 are up so far, with 12 to go). I re-edit them for errors or language I think I can improve on, I change the covers, and then I upload them, some only as ebooks, others as both ebooks and paperbacks.

My dilemma occurs when I have most of the rights, but Harlequin retains the comic book/manga rights. When that happens, my new covers don't show up on Amazon. Rather, when a reader does a search for the book, the cover that appears is always the comic/manga cover. The new cover for the ebook is only visible when the reader locates the comic book/manga version and then proceeds to click through to the other versions. But as a reader, it's the cover that often convinces me to click on a book, so I might never even get to those other version links if I'm not looking for a comic/manga book. I assume that other readers feel the same.

Don't get me wrong. Those comic book/manga covers are fun, but the tone isn't the same as non-manga books. So my solution has been to rename any book where Harlequin retains the comic/manga rights. That way, the book gets its own listing. In the book description, I always include a notice that the book was previously published under a different title. It's, at best, an imperfect solution. I certainly don't want to confuse or cheat readers, but I also don't want anyone to miss out on a book by thinking that it is a comic book when that's merely an abridged/graphic version of the original novel. 

Here's an example. I'm getting ready to republish what once was The Maid and the Millionaire. Here's the original cover. I've also shown the comic/manga cover, which is what people see on a search for the book.


Here's the new cover with the title change. I would love to keep the old title, if only for the sake of readers, but not under the circumstances explained above. title and a note to readers in the description.

My dilemma, of course, is that I keep wondering if the note about the book's previous title is enough to prevent people from purchasing a book they've already read. Sigh.

At any rate, if you ever buy a book by me and, despite my note about the title, it proves to be one you have already read, please go to your order page, tell the bookseller that you accidentally bought the book, and get your money back. 

Thank you for listening, and if you have any thoughts/complaints/concerns, please let me know.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Such a Strange Summer: Confused Cicadas, Covid, and Adventure Baking

I'd hazard a guess that everyone is having a bit of a strange summer this year. Obviously, COVID-19 has changed the world, and a whole lot of us are still sheltering in place (we only venture out for food, the occasional bit of hardware necessary to keep a household running and for walks). 

In my part of the country, though (the suburbs of Chicago), a fair amount of 2024 17-year cicadas have shown up four years early. While there are always a few annual cicadas in August, these are the other guys, the ones who aren't supposed to be ready yet, but are. The images below were taken a couple of weeks ago, when we discovered a lot of holes in our yard where they emerged from the ground. Since then, there have been a fair amount more of them, enough that sometimes you have to dodge as they fly about. Also, there are enough of them that a few seagulls have shown up in search of a meal.

Tree with cicadas clinging to it
Cicadas 2020

Cicadas arriving 4 years early
Cicadas Illinois 2020

In addition, since I'm staying in, there's time to experiment with new activities, and since it's summer and hot, I've been experimenting with using my slow cooker as an oven. I've managed to make bread in it twice (no need to do a rise. Just cook it on high for 2 hours or until an instant thermometer reaches 190-200 degrees). I've also made quick bread, which takes a bit longer (two to three hours), since it's so much denser. It's a work in progress, but so far so good. (By the way, if you make bread in an oval 6 quart slow cooker, you need a slightly smaller pan so that it sits deep enough in the cooker to allow for the rise. A 4x8 pan such as this one from Williams Sonoma should do it, but measure first). 

For quick bread, a standard 9x5 pan worked for me, because the bread doesn't rise that much and you can balance it on the inside edge of the slow cooker, even if it doesn't fit all the way down inside.

Well, so much for my own meager activities. Obviously, there's also lots of reading going on, because there's always lots of reading in my life. 

I hope you're all having a wonderful summer and finding time to read, bake, watch your favorite shows, get outside, or whatever it is that makes your summer special.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Complete List of All of My Books

This is a bit odd, I'll admit, but recently a relative asked me about how to find my books. A long explanation followed, since most paperback versions of my books are out of print other than ones that have had recent reprints (I confess that I don't keep a list of those. Some of them get reprinted in English in other countries, and they're usually part of multi-author anthologies. Some, of course, are published in other languages). At any rate, I realized that most of the books are available used in mass market paperback form (on Amazon, eBay, Thrift Books, Abe Books...), but I wanted to supply a list for anyone looking for those books. 

Note: This is strictly about paperback versions. Ebook versions are available for all of my books other than the ones where I have the rights back but haven't yet republished them. And yes, they're coming. Eventually, all of the books will be available.

As for used paperbacks, shipping charges tend to be the biggest cost when buying used books, so make sure you click on the filter that asks to list the books Low Price to High.  You shouldn't be paying exorbitant prices for used paperbacks.

What follows is the complete list of all the books I have ever published:

Myrna Mackenzie – books

Silhouette Romance
The Baby Wish

The Daddy List (retitled and published as The Wish List)

Babies and a Blue-eyed Man

The Secret Groom

The Scandalous Return of Jake Walker (retitled and republished as Secrets: The Rebel’s Return)

Prince Charming’s Return (retitled and republished as Secrets: Prince Charming’s Return)

Simon Says…Marry Me! (retitled as Wedding Auction: Simon Says…Marry Me!)

At the Billionaire’s Bidding (retitled Wedding Auction: At the Billionaire’s Bidding)

Contractually His (retitled Wedding Auction: Contractually His)

The Billionaire is Back

Blind-Date Bride

A Very Special Delivery (part of Maitland Maternity multi-author series)

Bought by the Billionaire

The Billionaire’s Bargain

The Billionaire Borrows a Bride

The Pied Piper's Bride

Midas's Bride

The Black Knight's Bride

Their Little Cowgirl (part of In a Fairy Tale World…multi-author series)

Instant Marriage, Just Add Groom

Much Ado About Matchmaking

Continuity Books
Just Pretending (part of Montana Mavericks multi-author series)

Her Sweet Talkin’ Man (part of Lonestar Country Club multi-author series)

Blind Attraction (part of Family Secrets multi-author series)

Keeping Her Safe (part of The Fortunes of Texas Reunion multi-author series)

Lights, Camera…Baby! (included in the anthology Baby and All)

The Soldier, the Puppy and Me (included in the anthology A Puppy for Christmas)

Single Title
Morning Beauty, Midnight Beast (retitled and republished as Rescue My Heart)

Angel Eyes

Harlequin Romance
The Maid and the Millionaire

Marrying Her Billionaire Boss

The Heir's Convenient Wife (part of The Wedding Planners multi-author series)

Her Millionaire, His Miracle

The Cowboy and the Princess

Hired: Cinderella Chef

The Frenchman's Plain Jane Project

Rodeo Bride

Saving Cinderella (part of the Weekend in Vegas multi-author series)

Cowgirl Makes Three

Riches to Rags Bride

To Wed a Rancher

Inherited: Expectant Cinderella

The Rancher's Unexpected Family (part of the Larkville Legacy multi-author series)

Online Reads
(It’s doubtful that these even still exist anymore. They were freebies meant to market other books)

Second Chance Cinderella (novella)

His Cowgirl Valentine (novella)

I think that covers everything. If you have any questions, please drop me a note in the comments section below.



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Where to Find Free or Reduced Price Books When You're Stuck at Home

There are many times in every person's life when they have to remain at home for one reason or other (illness, weather), but now a huge portion of the world's population is home, trying to thwart the coronavirus (COVID-19) and keep everyone safe by maintaining a distance from others. That means many hours to fill once we've done our work, our chores, our studying or whatever jobs need to be taken care of.

As a reader and writer, I tend to turn to books first, and I am fortunate to have many books on my shelves and on my ereader that I haven't yet touched. But if you're worried about running out of things to read, here are some sources of free or inexpensive material (these are all ebooks). 

For work that is in the public domain, there is always Project Gutenberg. The site has more than 60,000 books, and you'll be familiar with many of the titles. It sometimes takes a bit to navigate the site, but they're updating, and there's a lot to see there, so I recommend roaming around the site for a few minutes to find your way around. They also have lists of the Top 100 Books of the Month, and if you click through to the new beta website, there are the top 100 books/authors of yesterday, the last seven days, and the last thirty days. A quick glance at yesterday's top 100 included works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jonathan Swift, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, and Mark Twain, among others. 

Along the same line is Standard eBooks, a nonprofit that takes public domain books from places (Project Gutenberg is one), cleans up the typography, improves the technology and adds public domain fine art for the covers. The selection is limited, but it's an easy site to navigate, and the books do look inviting.

If you're looking for something more contemporary, there are actually books whose authors have priced them as free. Often these are promotions, designed to tempt readers to buy the rest of a series or other books by the author. Either way, there's a wealth of material out there. Below are some places you can find those books and how to go about it.

Smashwords - at the top of the main Smashwords page, you can do a general search of all the free books on the site. Just click on Free in the second row (you can also choose the length in the third row). If you'd like to limit to books in the genre you're interested in, choose your genre in the left hand column and then click on Free. The books on Smashwords are in various formats, so you're probably in good shape no matter what kind of reader or computer you're using. You do have to register to use Smashwords, but I've been with them for years, and they've never sent me annoying emails.

Kobo - There are several ways to find free books on Kobo. You can go to the Kobo home page, click on ebooks, click on your category (such as Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Business & Finance...), click through to your subcategory of choice, then follow the left column to the bottom where the price is, check Only Free Items and then check Apply. 

Alternatively, you can go to this page, which lists a few categories with free books along with Today's Top Free eBooks. 

Last of all, you can try this page, which appears to list all of the free books (not broken into categories) available that day. 

Amazon - Amazon has a page titled Cheap Reads for Kindle: Free and Low Priced Reading Options. If you want only free as opposed to low-priced, set the search option to Sort by: Price: Low to High. At first glance, it appears that there are only two ways to break the 400 pages of books into divisions, Kindle Short Reads and Kindle eBooks, but if you click on Kindle Short Reads, you can drill down further based on projected time to read and number of pages. If you click on Kindle eBooks, you'll find genre categories. Unfortunately, I didn't find much of a selection when drilling down that way. That's often a failing of Amazon, I've found. You know that what you're looking for exists, but once you start setting parameters, not everything that fits those parameters is visible.

A better way, I've found is to go to the Kindle eBooks page. From there, scroll down the left side to your category of choice and click through. From there, scroll to the bottom of the page to where the books are listed vertically (as opposed to those nice horizontal categories at the top). Then choose Sort by: Price: Low to High. The free books will show up first. 

If you're looking for book deals (as opposed to free), go to the Kindle Book Deals page.

Other Deals

Bookbub - go here for their daily deals.

eReaderIQ - eReaderIQ is a site I frequent. They list free and discounted books, but what I really like is that once you sign up (just an email address), you can track books or authors and once a book you're tracking (or any books by an author you're tracking) falls below a certain price point you set (or a certain percentage you set), you'll receive an email with a link to the book, so you can purchase it at the discounted price. 

And, of course, if your library subscribes to Hoopla or Overdrive, you can borrow books for free just as you would any print library book. 

I'm sure that some people will find it strange that an author would be promoting free or discounted books, but I feel that books should be available to all of us, I know that not everyone can afford to buy books at full price (especially now), and I trust that most readers who are able will continue to support their favorite authors so that they can pay their bills and continue writing wonderful books.

I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy and Happy Reading!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Songs About Librarians

About eight years ago (wow, time has flown!), as part of a post titled "Libraries are Awesome!", I posted this video by the fictional Norwegian boy band, Boyzvoice.

That's just a clip (I think it's from a mockumentary the group made), but if you want to hear the entire song, here's a link. (I love the lyrics where, to show how much he loves his library girl, he reads a thousand books about a girl called Nancy Drew).

Then, recently, I heard a song called "The Librarian" by Honor Finnegan. It was the second time I'd heard it, and given my weakness for books, libraries and love songs, it caught my attention (and reminded me of the "Library Girl" song above).

So, I set out on a search for more songs about libraries and librarians. There are more than I would have imagined. Some are by librarians, singing about the library's services, such as this one that looks a bit like a love song, but...actually isn't (unless you're talking about a love for books and libraries).

Of course, a love of libraries (and books) is a great thing. Who wouldn't love to visit these libraries?
Image by Claudia Schwarz

library - Prague

There were some songs that had library in the title, but didn't seem to be about libraries or librarians (or maybe just one incidental line), and there were a number meant for children. Which is cool, just not what I was looking for.

There were songs by apparent amateurs. One young man (no doubt six years older now) wrong his own love song (he calls it a joke song) called "The Librarian Song." Or "I'm in Love with a Librarian" by Beatnik.

Amazingly enough (to me, anyway), there were a number of songs by name artists. Tom Chapin sang "Library Song." Jimmy Buffett had a song called Love in the Library. "Marian the Librarian" is from the musical The Music Man

And, of course, "Librarian" by My Morning Jacket.

I could go on, but these were some of the most interesting. If you've run across other songs about libraries or librarians, feel free to chime in.

Eight years later, libraries are still amazing, aren't they?


Sunday, March 1, 2020

Keeping Books I (Probably) Have No Use For, Just Because...

I'm not a total book hoarder. I mean, I do cull my shelves now and then. But because I have (occasionally) donated a book and then later regretted it (where are you now, A Field Guide to America Houses?) I tend to think twice (or three times or four times or...) before I remove a book from the shelf.

Book - A Field Guide to American Houses

For that reason, right now I have a whole bunch of books on the French language. Yes, I took four years of French in high school and a semester in college, but I really don't speak the language, I haven't visited France, and during my few trips to Quebec, my high school French proved to be horribly inadequate and I had to revert to English (much to the relief of the people I was speaking to). A need to know French is probably not in my immediate future. And yet...I have those books. (Note: knowing a smattering of French does come in handy when doing crossword puzzles. Thank goodness I devoted four and a half years of my life to delving into the language. Smile). (Also Note: I have no regrets about those four and a half years. It's a beautiful language, I was--weirdly enough, given my present inability to speak it or understand it other than in written form)--good at it, I learned a few things about French history and culture, and I enjoyed it.

French Language Books

And then--getting back to my eclectic bookshelves--there are the books on gardening (I have more than what's pictured below) even though I'm a horrid gardener and always have been (clearly the books aren't paying off).

Gardening Books

Of course, there are other books I have just because I like having them there (lots of history books) and I always hope that maybe someday I'll use them for writing a historical, even though it's been years since I stopped fiddling with writing historical romance and moved to contemporary romance. Speaking of which, why did I give away my copy of Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey? I loved that book!
Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey
In short, I hope that you too have books on your shelf that you love even if you never put them to use in your day-to-day life!

Best Wishes and Happy Reading,


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Want to read at night? Try a fun lamp.

I'll admit that I do most of my reading these days via ebook, so I have built in lights in my ereader, but I still read print books (I usually don't buy books with illustrations or maps in ebook form and sometimes I just want the heft and paper and scent of a print book). When that happens, I have to have a good bedside lamp, because I usually read before I go to bed. I have a small vanilla-ish lamp (and no, vanilla-ish isn't a word as far as I know, but it describes the lamp). Still, sometimes I enjoy looking around to see what else is available.

Here are some of the ones that I found (note: some of these are meant for children, but I'm not a book snob when it comes to age groups and neither am I a lamp snob. If it's interesting, I'm in). 

This group from Etsy intrigue me just because they look like books. Not sure how much light they give out.

Another book-shaped light. This one can be personalized. It comes in different sizes and can be used standing, on its back fanned out, or even opened to a full 360 degrees.

This one looks like a lemon. How fun is that? Available at Amazon, it comes in different colors and also different shapes (a honeybee-type and a sort of rabbit. You'd have to click through to see what I mean by those shapes. A bit of artistic license going on there). 

The Krux lamp from IKEA looks like a puppy (I think).

This flower lamp comes in multiple colors (two at the link below, but elsewhere on the website there's also a green one).

There are numerous lamps similar to this dog table lamp (a person running, for example). They're adjustable.

There are a lot of fun robot lamps of various styles on Etsy and Amazon (do a search on each site to see what I mean). Here's one. This might be fun, especially if you're into steampunk.

(This lamp appears to have sold, but if you Google robot lamp, you'll find other versions)

You can also get a personalized folding lamp. (Or you can find plain folding lamps.

If that isn't enough to get you started, try going to either Amazon or Etsy (or just Google) and looking for owl lamps, Harry Potter lamps, folding table lamp, flower lamp, LEGO lamps, or whatever your imagination can come up with. There are tons of ideas out there. 

Have fun searching!