Archive for June, 2012

Borrowing Alex Rights Reversion

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

The English-language ebook and print rights to BORROWING ALEX revert to me today from Amber Quill Press. I will be reissuing the story sometime this summer under the imprint, Blue Orchard Books. I’d say it’ll probably appear again in August. Meanwhile, the audiobook of BORROWING ALEX remains for sale from AudioLark, Audible and iTunes.

Right now I’m still heavily editing and updating HEAD OVER HEELS. I won’t commission a new cover for BORROWING ALEX or even think about that book until I have the new edition of HEAD OVER HEELS off to my proofreader. I’m super glad I decided to update the story. It was first published in 2002 and reissued in 2005 with few changes. Essentially, that makes HEAD OVER HEELS a ten-year-old book. It feels right to update it, and I’m having a lot of fun doing so. I’m looking forward to it finding a new audience.

BORROWING ALEX released in 2005. It remains to be seen how much updating that story requires. The heroine “borrows” (kidnaps, with his consent) the hero and spirits him off to a remote lake cabin where it makes sense that cell phone service and the like would be spotty. Whereas, with HEAD OVER HEELS, I’ve had to get a bit creative in how technology changes could mess with my beautiful plot!

I’m not altering the plots of either stories, the basic characterizations, goals, motivations, and conflicts. The stories I reissue will be the stories that were available from Amber Quill Press until today. Just ramped up a bit.

By the way, I’ve learned that the number of “likes” on an author’s Amazon Author Central page can help in the algorithm computer number thingies for that author. Basically, whenever you see a “like” button and want to help out an author, click it. Using moi, for example, whether you’re on my Amazon Author Central page, or one of the pages for my individual books (the pages are still on Amazon, thanks to the Audible audiobook editions and also WHERE SHE BELONGS remains for sale in hardcover, too), clicking “like” makes me look good! So, if you’re so inclined, I would really appreciate it if you went over and clicked “like” (look for the button in the upper right hand corner) my Amazon Author page, and also the individual book pages, if the spirit moves you.

You do have to be logged into Amazon for clicking like to “stick.” Just keep that in mind (if the spirit moves you).


Galapagos: R.I.P. Lonesome George

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Yesterday, the last purebred Pinta Island giant tortoise, Lonesome George, died at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos. Seeing as I’ve been blogging about the Galapagos and had a chance to see Lonesome George in captivity at the beginning of June, here’s an R.I.P. photo homage. They say he was over 100 years old, although his exact age (while alive) could not be determined. He was found in 1971 and another of his sub-species has never been located.

Rest in paradise, Lonesome George!

Added: If you’d like to learn more about Lonesome George, the guide for my Cormorant Cruise, Harry Jimenez, has a new blog with a substantial entry about L.G. Click here to read it.

Galapagos, Day 9/4, Afternoon: The Appearance of the Mysterious Black Lichen

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Ecuador: Day 9.

Galapagos: Day 4.

The pirates do tell a tale of long-ago featuring the Mysterious Black Lichen. The Mysterious Black Lichen can be found in bathtub drains, on the backs of white coats, and wherever the Great Formidable Being (upon whose scalp lurks the Mysterious Black Lichen) happens to be walking around, dropping the MBL like fleas. One would think the Great Formidable Being would be bald by now. But the GFB grows the MBL at a rate usually only found in the wilds of British Columbia (think Sasquatch) or in Harry and the Hendersons starring John Lithgow. In the Galapagos Islands, the Mysterious Black Lichen is neither endemic nor in need of conservation. Indeed, the Mysterious Black Lichen is generally restricted to Those Dumb Enough Not to Bring Along a Bathing Cap.

In the afternoon of Day 4 of our Galapagos cruise, the Mysterious Black Lichen made yet another appearance whilst (nice British word) our group was snorkeling in Urbina Bay, Isabela Island (we had crossed the Bolivar Channel during lunch). The MBL has a brother and a sister, of the names Es (short for esquire) and T (short for T). Es and T happen to be married, which the MBL questions in this day and age. The MBL is not married to Es or T, but could easily be mistaken for a sibling of either—because of all that freaking dark hair all three of us possess. But Es and T were smart enough to: (Es) have short “man-ish” hair and (T) wear aforesaid bathing cap, or snorkeling cap, or swimming cap, or whatever she wants to call it.

It only took three snorkel trips before Es and T took pity on the Great Formidable Being and advised her to wear her baseball cap backward while snorkeling. That would take care of things. And it did!

Confused yet? Me, too. But consider this Travel Tip: If you have hair long enough that it swirls around your face while you’re snorkeling, thereby obscuring your view, yet it’s short enough that you can’t put it in a ponytail, for pity’s sake, buy a bathing cap before you leave! Or bum one off T and let her mysterious black lichen obscure her vision for a day. She’s accommodating like that. Then, when she leaves at the end of Week 1, beg to borrow the bathing cap for Week 2, promising to return it upon your return to Canada. Then return it if you wish or keep it—it’s not like T is going to chase you into the wilds of British Columbia to get it back, is she?

Rather trusting, that T.

Snorkeling photos! Urbina Bay, Isabela Island!

Now you see what I’m talking about? I was forever holding back my hair so I could catch a glimpse of whatever everyone else was looking at. Yet, I also wanted to hold my husband’s hand, because I still found snorkeling a little freaky. No wonder! The Mysterious Black Lichen would not leave me alone! As soon as I began wearing a bathing cap or backward baseball cap, I could let go of My Liege’s hand and became much more adept in the water. Learn from me. Do not fall victim to the Mysterious Black Lichen. You are better than that.

Yes, my husband looks quite accommodating, holding my hand like that, doesn’t he? But he’s an adventurer, and there were times when he would just…let go. The nerve. So I was swimming along and at one point thought I saw an octopus. However, I couldn’t be certain because I had been conditioned growing up (by my imagination) to believe that octupi were huge monsters with 25-foot-long tentacles. Also, for those of you who’ve followed my recovery from laser eye surgery in December and have listened to me whine on my blog that my distance vision isn’t as good as it was supposed to be…well, I couldn’t quite be sure what I was looking at because my distance vision isn’t as good as it was supposed to be! And it hadn’t occurred to me to invest in a prescription snorkel mask because (a) I was told my vision might still improve and (b) I didn’t know such items existed.

Travel Tip! If you need to wear glasses in order to ascertain the existence of an octopus while snorkeling, get the proper equipment before you go.

When I was gazing quizzically at the octopus, no one else happened to be around me. This is because, left to my own resources, I will drift with whatever fish happen to be around, or I’ll splay my arms and legs and close my eyes and consider what it would be like to drown in the ocean. I can tell you that it feels like, once you’ve accepted your fate, it could be quite peaceful. And don’t look askance at this blog post. Writers are allowed to think about such things. It’s not weird. It’s research.

Thanks to BIL, I later realized I had been looking at an octopus! Here it is:


Tortuga!!! I could not help myself. I had to swim after these creatures. They simply fascinated me.

Here’s a funny story about Es (short for Esquire). Sometime during Week 1, the crew aboard the Cormorant came to believe that Es and I were brother and sister. This was not only due to our similar hair colors, but because I started heckling Es from Day 2. I am pretty sure I was nice to him on Day 1. Don’t ask me why I heckled Es. He seemed to deserve it. Next thing I knew, he started heckling me back. One snorkel trip, while returning to the catamaran, Es and I were sitting across the panga from each other and the guide was at the very front of the panga. The catamaran crew knew that (1) a brother and sister were traveling on this cruise, but they could not seem to figure out that my husband and my sister-in-law were the brother and sister. This was made worse by Harry J., the guide, asking Es and myself, “Are you brother and sister?”, to which I answered, “No,” and to which Es shrugged and said, “Yes.” You can see why Es annoys me just like an honorable brother should. “NO,” I had to repeat and then asked Harry, “Why?”

“Just trying to figure out the family relationships,” Harry J. said. “So how do you two know each other, then?”

“We met in the airport.”

Yes, I like to heckle practical strangers. If they take to it kindly, they are allowed, allowed, I say, to become my friends.

“Ah,” said Harry J. “Cormorant family.” To which Es and I nodded.

If you are lucky, you will form bonds with your traveling companions. These bonds might not extend beyond your trip, or they might. Hopefully, Es and T are still speaking to me after this because I might be in need of a room at their place sometime next winter. Ahem.

Oh, and honorable brother, thank you for the secret bottle of wine you and T bought My Liege and Moi (even though I don’t drink red wine, still kind of you) your last night on the boat. I know you bought it because when I went to pay our bar bill for Week 1 and asked the bartender why the bill wasn’t as large as we were told it would be that afternoon, his response was, “Your brother paid for a bottle.” Yet my biological brother was, all along, esconced safely back in British Columbia. Agh!

After the snorkel, we hiked along Urbina Bay, which has this cool dark sand. I’d show you a picture, but the one I have, of 3 of the Group of Four sitting with our guide, really, and I mean really shows off SIL’s legs. Good thing she has great legs! Just to show you the sand (keep your eyes off the legs):

Off. Eyes OFF!!! Lovely sand, no?

She was wearing a bathing suit beneath that cover-up. It is decent. Don’t tell me it’s not. And it’s not like you can see her face. For all you know, she’s from Australia and is named Midge.

During this hike, we encountered a few giant tortoises in the wild:

Interrupted mid-snack. He is ready for his close-up:

Tortoise spittle. Endemic to the Galapagos.

Or you might encounter cool yellow land iguanas. Apparently, the largest in the Galapagos can be found at Urbina Bay.

“I am yellow because I am a Land Iguana, and I reign supreme. You want Marine iguanas? Come back next time.”

Honestly, I apologize for the Dr. Doolittle effect. It’s not like I have any control over it.

Flycatcher! Who would take such a beautiful photo? Why, Moi, of course.

Our next Galapagos blog post, appearing sometime during the next millenium, will take us to Espinosa Point back on Fernandina Island. Yes, we crossed the Bolivar Channel yet again. And if you think the appearance of the Mysterious Black Lichen is weird, just wait until you meet the Marine iguanas. It is a “Take Me to Your Leader” Spec-Tac-U-Lar.

Galapagos, Day 9/4, Morning: Mangle Point, Fernandina Island

Monday, June 18th, 2012

I’ve reached another level of brilliance. I know, hard to imagine. But note the new titling method of my Galapagos posts. It’s Day 9 of our Ecuador trip, but Day 4 of the Galapagos cruise. That should help those of you are easily confused. Or at least help me!

The first week of our cruise pretty much went back and forth between the back side of Isabela Island and Fernandina Island. We would make a stop in the morning on one side of the Bolivar Channel, and, in the afternoon, we would be on the other side. This is truly a gorgeous area of the Galapagos, and we saw so much in one day that was unique to the Western Islands (Fernandina and Isabela) that it deserves two blog posts. This entry, you’re just getting the morning of Day 4.

But first, I forgot to include, from Day 3 of the cruise, the wonderful meal we were served after our morning snorkel. Usually, we would take our meals in the dining room, and those meals were always amazing, thanks to the “Gastronomic Engineer,” Javier. But on one day of each of the two weeks, we enjoyed a barbecue on the upper deck. I”m not a seafood lover, but these barbecues are incredible. It is said that when planning your Galapagos cruise, to choose the best boat you can afford, because it can make a difference in the food, among other things. I can’t imagine the food being any better than that which Javier whipped up for us, along with his helpers in the kitchen. There was always so much to choose from, but the barbecues were something special.

From Day 3:

Javier working his magic on the upper deck. To the right is the bar, and to the very right of the bar is the door leading to the upper deck cabins and also to the bridge. One long dining table was set up right in front of the barbecue, and the rest of the food was sitting on the bar, buffet style.

Repeat after me: “Yum.” Photo credit: BP. This I remember.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled Day 4 of the Galapagos Islands. If you can tear your eyes away from BIL’s plate, that is.

Our panga trip to Mangle Point was very similar to our Panga ride at Elizabeth Bay, Isabela Island, from Day 3. Both trips were incredible. You don’t get out of the pangas. Ie. you don’t “land” anywhere. The drivers and guide take you into the red mangrove forests via panga. Click on red mangrove forests (previous sentence, dippy) to find out more about them. It’s great fun, and because the water is so shallow, before you know it you’re standing up and taking pictures and videos. Our guide, Harry Jimenez, was great about letting us know when it was safe to stand up and when it wasn’t.

Here is one of our two pangas venturing toward the red mangroves:

A close-up of the incredible root system:

There is so much wildlife in the water by the mangroves and also birds flying everywhere above you, it’s incredible. Rays swim alongside your panga, and sea lions follow you around. Evidence:

Spotted Eagle Rays right beside our panga. Photo Credit: BP

But you can’t look in the water all the time or you might miss something, like this fellow:

Pelican! Photo Credit: Moi

Next thing you know, someone’s telling you to look down!

Sea lion! Photo Credit: BP. It’s easy for me to tell who took the picture when it’s an underwater photo, because my brother-in-law (a.k.a. Rembrandt) took all the underwater photos I’m featuring in these blog posts.

Look at his shadow? Isn’t that cute? Also gives you an idea of how shallow it was. BIL just stuck his camera underwater while sitting in the panga to capture this great shot.

Now, you already know I love sea turtles. They were also in abundance. Honestly, if you love wildlife, the panga trips around Fernandina Island are not to be missed.


And here’s another sea lion:

“Hey, humans, how’s it shaking?”

Well, I don’t have anything that necessarily shakes, S.L., but thanks for asking.

“De nada.”

And off he goes to tussle with his buddies.

I’m pretty sure this is a Lava heron, which is endemic (unique) to the Galapagos:

Note: when googling “lava heron,” do not type “lava heroin” instead. The results might not be what you’re looking for (travel tip!) (or maybe “moron tip”.)

I am not kidding. all these various forms of wildlife were spotted during ONE panga ride. “Wandaful!”

Finally, the Galapagos Penguin, a cute little guy:

“I am not a giant penguin. Live with it. I am cute. I am endemic to the Galapagos Islands. I wear a tux. I do not need to be big! And it’s not my fault!”

Travel Tip: Don’t give your guide trouble about the small size of the Galapagos Penguins. The penguins get quite incensed and might report you to the Galapagos National Park Service for size discrimination.

You want giant penguins? Go to Antarctica. (Travel Tip!)

Head Over Heels Cover Reveal, Third Edition

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Thanks to Kim Killion and Jennifer Litteken of Hot Damn Designs for working with me so patiently on the new cover for HEAD OVER HEELS. I love it, and I hope you like it, too.

The re-issue through my imprint, Blue Orchard Books, will mark the third edition of HEAD OVER HEELS. I think I still have the original NovelBooks, Inc. cover on my hard drive somewhere. When I have a chance to breathe, I’ll post all three covers (NBI, AQP and BOB), which will give you an idea of how cover design trends change over the years.

For now, the cover reveal for the upcoming reissue of HEAD OVER HEELS! Drum roll….


Head Over Heels Rights Reversion Date

Friday, June 15th, 2012

The rights have now reverted to me from Amber Quill Press for HEAD OVER HEELS. Which means I need to update my website! Tomorrow, I will reveal the new cover for the upcoming re-issue of the book. I love it, and I hope you will, too.

Pending Release Date: before the end of June. That’s my target for the ebook uploads to Amazon and Smashwords, at any rate. Smashwords will then distribute to Nook, Sony, Apple, etc. Being Canadian, I can’t upload directly to PubIt, the venue for Nook. However, I can upload directly to Kobo. Kobo is undergoing a transformation of its self-publishing arm. It should be ready by the end of June. So I’ll wait.

The trade paperback will most likely be available from CreateSpace in July.

I am halfway through heavily editing and updating HEAD OVER HEELS for the re-issue. I’ve been talking to a formatter, as I don’t have the time right now to learn how to format for the various ebook venues. I’ll learn at a later date, like when I begin publishing my short story series in August or so. For now, I want to get HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX back on the market as soon as possible after the reversion dates, and that means not wasting my time learning Smashwords and Kindle Direct.

Meanwhile, Amber Quill Press is still selling various ebook formats of BORROWING ALEX, the 1st edition.

I am excited about updating these books and (hopefully) finding new readers for them. Wish me luck!

Galapagos, Day 8: My First Boobies!

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

If you’re keeping up, Day 8 of our Ecuador trip is really Day 3 of the Galapagos cruise. Three and eight are two of my favorite numbers. So it makes a wonderful kind of sense that I would have my first Booby sighting on Day 8/3 (I know, the days are getting confusing, but I must continue how I have begun). (What, you don’t really expect me to go back and re-title all my previous Galapagos posts, do you? That would be disrespectful to Quito). (For shame!)

For those who think I’m talking about anything other than birds, for shame. I’m speaking of the Blue-Footed Booby, of course!. Picture forthcoming! But first…(I’m a Capricorn, I have to go in order).

On Day 3 of the cruise, we remained on Isabela Island. Our first stop was Moreno Point, which is located southwest of Elizabeth Bay. We had what is called a Dry Landing.

In the Galapagos, there are basically two types of landings—dry and wet. A dry landing means you are unlikely to get your feet wet, unless you fall off the panga before the landing. So usually you would wear hiking runners or light hiking boots, or hiking sandals. A wet landing means your feet WILL get wet. In this case, you will be advised to wear hiking sandals that like the water, water shoes, or even flip-flops, depending on how dexterous you are and where exactly you are landing.

Moreno Point is beautiful. We hiked on lava and saw sea turtles and pink flamingos in small lagoons. Words can not do Moreno Point justice, so I’ll tell the story with pictures.

Landing at Moreno Point on Isabela Island.

I was on the panga in the background. That’s how I was able to take this picture. Because I had already landed, clever soul that I am.

The crew on the Cormorant is excellent about helping people on and off the pangas. At first, with eight people crammed into one panga, and then you add on the panga driver and then maybe also the guide, if he happened to be in your boat, we had 8-10 people on one panga. The first few panga rides, I hung on to my husband and/or the hand grips for dear life. By the end of the two weeks, I was extremely comfortable on the pangas.

Travel Tip! Walking on lava is hot work. It also takes some getting used to for those of us who don’t have the greatest balance. When your guide tells you to wear lots of sunblock and bring a lot of water to drink (at least one bottle per person), make sure you do just that. Plus, don’t be like me and wear a baseball cap during your Galapagos cruise. My neck got burned even though I put sunblock on it. Within a couple of days, I was saving the ball cap to contain the Mysterious Black Lichen while snorkeling and then wearing my Panama hat (bought in Otalavo…I think…or maybe Quito) for our land excursions. The Panama hat offers far greater protection than a silly little baseball cap. I don’t care how cute you look in the cap! Trust me, you look cuter in the Panama hat.

Seriously, wear something that protects the back of your neck.

Regarding the water bottles, when you board the catamaran you are given a water bottle each and are expected to refill it from a cooler in the dining room. At the end of the week, we got new water bottles. This is an ecological manoeuvre so each passenger isn’t consuming 5 plastic bottles per day. Some people like to bring their own water bottles, but we didn’t.

So you walk along the lava and explore all sorts of stuff. One of our first sightings was…

Lovely Tortuga!

Isn’t it cute? Honestly, I adore the Galapagos sea turtles. I think I almost like snorkeling with sea turtles better than I do sea lions, and sea lions are a blast to snorkel amongst, so that’s saying something.

There’s just something about the sea turtle… They’re so graceful, and they don’t give a rip that you’re around. Need I say it again? I adore them.

An example of the lava landscape:

I loved the huge cracks in the landscape, even though I was convinced I would fall into one. I found this hike fairly difficult, because I really had to watch my step and my husband was always taking my hand and helping me over the most dangerous parts. On later hikes, I made use of the walking sticks that the boat provides. If you want one, though, you have to take it into the panga with you. And once you take it with you, you have it for the entire hike. After a couple of hikes with a walking stick, I decided they got in the way of my cameras. Plus, I was becoming more adept at walking on lava. Eventually, I could hopscotch right along! (Sort of).

Our reward for the hike: a beautiful lagoon featuring several pink flamingos.

After ooohing and ahhing over the flamingos, we returned back over the lava, into the pangas, and onto the boat again. It was time for our first snorkel. For me, it was my first time snorkeling ever. Our guide, Harry, was super comfortable in the water (he became a Dive Master at something like 20) and was great to snorkel with. If someone was really freaked out, he’d snorkel with them. However, all other three members of the Pack of Four had snorkeled several times in their lives, so I just held on to my husband’s hand for the first 2 or 3 snorkels until I got the hang of it.

SIL trying to freaking me out before my first snorkel:

I can not be flustered. I am serenity itself.

We are wearing the wet suits provided by the Cormorant (hey, look, you can see the walking sticks in the basket by the fire extinguisher). (Look, up top you can also see the life jackets we would wear aboard the pangas).

We are standing in an area known as the Muster Station. Behind me, you can see what looks like a little wooden structure. This is one of two units for holding any pairs of shoes or sandals you intend to wear off the boat. You can not wear a pair of shoes or sandals inside the boat once you have worn them OFF the boat. This is so you don’t traipse stuff from the Islands back onto the boat. So if you don’t like going barefeet inside the boat all day, bring another pair of shoes or sandals.

The Cormorant supplies wet suits, flippers, masks and snorkels, and they are all in great shape. However, you can bring your own if you wish. Once you have chosen a set of flippers, mask, snorkel and wet suit, it is placed in a mesh duffel that carries your room number on it. You have the same set of snorkel gear your entire time on the boat.

Travel Tip! If you choose to bring along your own snorkel mask, test it out underwater BEFORE packing it in bubble wrap and flying it all the way to Ecuador. Because if you think you can fix the leaks in your mask on the boat, buddy, you are soooooooo wrrrrrrrrrong.

Travel Tip! If you don’t have an underwater camera, seriously consider investing in one for the cruise. I didn’t have one, but BIL did. So all the underwater photos I will show you from now on are photo credit: BIL.

Note: BIL didn’t actually take all the underwater photos on our cruise. This is where a guide like Harry comes in very handy. He would take the camera of anyone who wished and dive down and snap the most amazing pictures for us. Like this seahorse:

Isn’t that amazing?

I must confess, I could barely make out the seahorse through my mask, which was constantly fogging up. This being my first snorkel, I wasn’t yet an expert at not floundering in the water. I was forever getting sea water into my eyes and then the mask would fog up. Eventually, the other passengers took pity on me and taught me a thing or two. I did see parts of the seahorse, but nothing like the detail in the picture above. For that, I would have needed to dive underwater, and no matter how much I came to love snorkeling, I never once had the urge to hold my breath and dive underwater. I know myself. I would have breathed at the wrong moment and inhaled two lungs of sea water.

After our snorkel, we moved to Elizabeth Bay, where we enjoyed a panga ride in a mangrove forest, which is super cool and unique to the Galapagos. We did another panga ride the following day, and that is where I took most of my pictures. But, on the Elizabeth Bay panga ride, we glimpsed our first Blue-Footed Boobies! We did not see them again for a few days. At first I feared I would never see them again. Little did we know that we were in for Booby heaven before the first week was over. But, for now…my first boobies!

Photo Credit: Moi. I love this picture!

See the cute blue feet? We won’t speak of why the rock is white, however. I am sure you can draw your own conclusions. Except, hmmm, the Booby on the left looks like it has feet the same color as the rock. This must mean that what is on the rock is also on the Booby’s feet, because you can see the blue legs. Young Boobies…deposit on their feet. I can no longer remember why. To keep them cool? As camouflage for predators that love blue feet? So people won’t take their pictures?

Give me an educated guess! (Or uneducated, as the case may be).

The problem is, this Booby doesn’t look like a youngster. So, my keen powers of observation, and memory, and going back and studying the larger JPEG of this picture tell me that…the Booby’s blue feet are hidden by a little dip in the rock!

You can still go ahead and guess why baby Boobies poop on their feet. Super creative guesses might even inspire me to ask one of the Pack of Four for the answer.

Galapagos, Day 7: A Volcano Tries to Kill Me

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Someone who calls herself a writer keeps hijacking my blog to blab about rights reversion, Author’s Cuts, and Sindie publishing. I tell you, I will not have it! I will not have it at all. This is a travel blog. Okay, so it’s not a travel blog, it’s an author’s blog, but it’s time to return to The Tales of The Galapagos, starring…me, myself, my husband and two relatives. Yes, that’s five of us in total. One was invisible. It’s not her fault.

If you want to see where we left off, check out this link for Day 6, Settling In and Giant Tortoises in the Wild. Or click “Galapagos 2012” in the Categories list in the sidebar to your right and start at the beginning.

First, before we get to Day 7 and how the Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island tried to kill me (or at least ruin my socks), I should confess that Day 7 of the Galapagos is really Day 2 of the Galapagos. Days 1-5 were taken up by traveling and exploring Quito, Otalavo and Cotocachi.

So on Day 6 we settled in and got right down to exploring. During the night, our catamaran, The Cormorant, traveled to the largest of the Galapagos Islands, Isabela. Isabela is kind of shaped like a seahorse and has five volcanoes, one of which is Sierra Negra. Now, consider that the Group of Four was only starting to figure out that our 14-day cruise was beginning with Itinerary B. The people on the 7-day cruise already had this figured out, because, ‘natch, that was the cruise they’d paid for (I know, I’m ending a sentence with a preposition. Live with it). However, the Group of Four had to rely on our own finely honed methods of deduction. Flipping through the itinerary and listening to our guide describe Sierra Negra the night before helped.

Travel Tip! Print out the itinerary for your Galapagos cruise and take it along. Have your sister-in-law give your husband a map of the Galapagos and take that along, too! Then, when you’re all confused about why you’re visiting Isabela (Tour B) instead of Bachus Beach on Santa Cruz Island (Tour A), you can compare the map to the itinerary and figure it out.

Travel Tip! There’s usually a map of the Islands on the boat somewhere, so you don’t necessarily have to take one along. But a clever traveler brings her own (and then draws all over it to show where she’s traveled) (actually, her husband does that) (this person talking in the third person is the invisible member of our party to whom I referred at the beginning of this post).

Our boat anchored near the town of Puerto Villamil. We ate a hearty breakfast and headed off:

Low tide as we ventured onto the island. Look in the bottom right. It's a sea lion!

Can’t see him? Here’s a close-up:

Awwwwwwwwww. He’s scratching his ear. Very beagle-like behavior, I must say.

Travel Tip!  While in the Galapagos, never call a sea lion a seal. They are different animals, and calling a sea lion a seal might earn you a scowl from Someone Who Knows Better or a fwack on the head by someone who doesn’t. Best not to risk it. For one thing, sea lions have ear flaps and four nipples. Want to know more? Check out this link for the San Diego Zoo (my teaching capacity is limited).

To get to the starting point for our hike up to the volcano, we boarded this cute little bus:

Travel Tip! Don’t fall out of the bus. It’s easy to fall off while climbing on, climbing out, or if someone pushes you while the bus is moving. Try to resist pushing the other passengers off the bus. If you don’t like someone on your cruise (and, really, you should be so easy to get along with that everyone just loves you, and vice versa), there are easier ways to avoid them, such as ensuring you never ride in the same panga as them (now everyone from Tour B of my cruise who happens to be reading this is madly trying to remember if they never, ever rode in a panga with me). (I would not avoid anyone. I am Canadian. We are polite).

The thing to remember about itineraries is that they are subject to change. I am pretty certain that’s a rule. Plus, tour itineraries are not updated every three minutes. And when you’re traveling somewhere like the Galapagos, where there’s a wet season and a dry season, and where specific activities occur and specific animals are seen during certain months of the year…well, let’s just put it this way…if your itinerary states that “hiking, horseback riding, riding, walking” will occur during your visit to Sierra Negra, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will do all four activities. Those are the activities of possibility, so to speak. So, say, if you happen to pass one horse on your way to the base of the hiking trail for Sierra Negra, don’t take it personally. The other horses were sleepy (maybe), and wouldn’t you really rather hike? The chances of you hiking instead of horseback riding are…well, I don’t know what the chances are, but I would say, prepare to hike.

Travel Tip! (see previous paragraph).

I would like you to note the blue sky in the picture of the bus. It’s entirely possible I took it in the afternoon (or another member of my party did) and got my photos mixed up. Or it’s possible that weather changes very quickly on Isabela Island. Take your pick.

Hiking the trail to the Sierra Negra Volcano.

Now, note the lack of blue sky in the above picture of the group hiking up the trail.

The hike was long. Very long. And the path was damp. Very damp. And muddy. Very muddy.

Travel Tip! If you buy new white running socks for your Galapagos cruise, do not wear them for the very first time ever on the hike up Sierra Negra. You will carry the soil of the hiking trail on those socks for freaking Ever.

When I say the hike was long, I remember it being at least two hours. However, considering I was close to passing out from the effort of contributing to three different conversations while trying not to slip on the mud and still attempting to breathe, I can’t be certain. Rest assured, it is long. Very long. And not to be attempted without trusty walking/hiking shoes, a walking stick if you’re clumsy or just want the extra help, lots of water, your WATERPROOF jacket (I can not stress the waterproof aspect enough), and a zest for adventure. If you lack the latter, chose an itinerary that doesn’t include a hike up a volcano (Travel Tip!).

Remember that cloudy sky? Well, if you finally reach the volcano caldera and you get to see the view for all of two minutes before the clouds completely cover it and it begins to rain, don’t say I didn’t warn you. So here I go: it might rain. Relax. Enjoy it. You’re on vacation. It’s paradise! If it never rained, everything would be dry and brown and…dead.

View of the caldera in the moments before it began to rain:

Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s not all mist. Some of it is smoky wisps from the caldera.

Note: When your guide tells you not to step too close to the edge or you might fall in, this is not a wise time to test his or her limits. A little jig is enough, several safe feet away from the rim. Your guide doesn’t know you well at this point, and you don’t want him thinking he might have to risk his hide diving into the caldera after you. Plus, if you die, you’ll ruin the hike for the rest of your group.

Note: The volcano did not try to suck me into its depths. I was clever. I played it safe. I danced my jig several feet away from the edge. But, what goes up must come down, and so, after viewing the caldera for two minutes before the rain began falling in earnest, we thenceforth and heretowhat began our hike back down.

Once it starts to rain, it’s super important to watch your step. And it might be wise to take note of who’s hiking down right in front of you. Because if, say, it’s your brother-in-law and his feet are twice as big as yours, his advice to, “Step where I’m stepping” isn’t as easy to follow as he might assume. And when the guide, several people in front of you, warns, “Stay on the path!”, he means Stay. On. The. Freaking. Path. Do. Not. Step. Two. Inches. Off. It. Or one inch.

Remember that scene in Romancing the Stone, when Joan Wilder takes a false step and goes sliding down a muddy waterslide-type thingie? That scene flashed in my mind as I tried to follow my BIL’s monster-sized footsteps, my left foot veered half a centimeter off the path and—down I went! Foot slipping away, body falling out from under me, my injured right shoulder (rotator cuff) getting a jolt as I swung out my elbow to prevent my fall.

“Cindy!” says BIL. “You’re supposed to step where I’m stepping.”

“Get smaller feet, then,” I muttered, or imagined, or made up.

Guide, from several people ahead: “Watch your step!”

Woman behind you: “I’m so glad I’m following you. I know just where not to place my foot.”

“Pleased to be of service.” (or something along those lines).

Eventually, if you survive this Attack of the Killer Path, as I did, you will return to your cute little bus and note the lava ALL over the island. It’s incredibly interesting.

No, that's not leftover asphalt beside the road. It's lava!

Back in Puerto Villamil, after a hearty lunch, we visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center.

Bunch of little Giant Tortoises

A big one.

After visting the Center, you might get so lucky as to have a chance to grab a beer (or your beverage of choice) with other members of your group in Puerto Villamil. I suggest you take advantage of it.

Remember when I said that your panga driver might try to steer you under the catamaran, which is especially freaky the first time (but fun every time), don’t be surprised if he does this your very first night (technically the second night). Relax. Enjoy it. It’s paradise!

Bye-Bye, Kindle and Nook. See You Again Soon.

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

My rights to HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX have not yet reverted to me. HEAD OVER HEELS reverts on June 15th and BORROWING ALEX on June 26th. Amber Quill Press is, as of this typing, still carrying several ebook formats of both novels. I imagine the ebook links for HEAD OVER HEELS will disappear this week and BORROWING ALEX will disappear from the Amber Quill website shortly thereafter. It might remain for sale until closer to the rights reversion date or it might not. I am not in control of whether it does.

Amber Quill sells MOBI (PRC) formats as well as several other ebook formats. MOBI (PRC) works on Kindle, but I don’t know what works on Nook other than the ePub format, which AQP doesn’t specifically sell.

I will update my book pages to the all-new, improved, updated Author’s Cut versions of HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX as soon as they are available for sale. In the meantime, feel free to buy from Amber Quill or Audible (audio books). The audio books are also on iTunes – currently #3 in Top Ten Romance Best Sellers for Australia – that’s HEAD OVER HEELS. Oooh, and #10 in Canada. Just squeaking in there! #6 in the Netherlands (ABOVE Book 2 in the Fifty Shades of Gray series, I do not lie, it’s above it right at this moment). And WHERE SHE BELONGS is, as of this typing, #9 in Denmark. Thank you, iTunes audio books! Two of my audio books are on the iTunes Top Ten Romance Best Seller lists at once! Okay, this is an aside from the purpose of this post, but that’s exciting.

As for the trade paperbacks of HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX, it looks like sayonara for now. Resist the urge to buy used copies from on-line vendors. They’re usually overpriced and don’t earn myself or my soon-to-be-former publisher (AQP) royalties. I will be re-issuing trade paperbacks of both books in July.

Watch this space!

Sindie Publishing

Friday, June 8th, 2012

I keep meaning to write another travel blog post about my time in the Galapagos—and I will, eventually (maybe this weekend—oh, maybe I’ll be good and write and schedule two at once!)—but I’ve been super busy ever since we returned, and that busy-ness will not abate for several more weeks. Why, you ask? It’s good to ask, “Why?” For a writer, it goes along with asking, “What if?”

You’ve heard of self-publishing? How about Indie publishing? Essentially, they’re the same thing. Over the last couple of years, as self-publishing has mushroomed due to the ease of uploading to Kindle and Nook and the like, I’ve asked many an author who’s re-issuing her back list or has had it up to her neckballs in rejections and decided to self-publish, why do they call self-publishing “Indie” (as in independent) publishing? The answer is usually along the lines of (1) “self-publishing” has a stigma attached to it in the writing world, because there was a time when any decent published author would warn anyone who wanted to self-publish that it was a scam, that money doesn’t flow AWAY from the author, it flows TO the author. FROM the publisher. In other words, “self-publishing” was, back in the day when hogs painted their toenails daily and I was beginning to write for publication (way, way back in the day), pretty much equal to “vanity publishing.” That is, when you pay what is essentially a printer to “publish” and maybe even “edit” your book (snort). And when I say pay, people were paying thousands of dollars to print their work. Vanity publishing bad, because it bilks writers out of tons of money in exchange for “fulfilling” their dreams. Vanity publishing bad, because a vanity publisher will publish anything. The idea is for the company to make money, not tell the writer how to fix their prose. And then the writer realizes that no one other than their dog, their dentist, and their next-door neighbor wants to buy their vanity-published book—and the neighbor is lying.

That’s basically the first reason for saying Indie publishing instead of self-publishing. Reason 2? Because Indie publishing is easier to write and say. “It’s ‘Indie’ because I’m publishing independent of a publishing house,” the author says. “It’s ‘Indie,’ because I’m in charge of commissioning the cover, deciding if I want to hire a professional editor and proofreader, if I want to learn how to format my ebooks and trade paperbacks for the various vendors or hire a formatter to do so. It’s entirely under my control. Plus, it’s less letters to type and, let’s face it, it’s easier to say.”

Okay, I get it. But let’s throw a new one into the mix. Let’s call it Sindie Publishing. It’s self-publishing and Indie publishing all wrapped into one—plus it rhymes with Cindy.

Yes, that’s right, I’m diving into the world of Sindie Publishing.

Does this mean I am no longer submitting my work to editors and agents? No. I don’t like scrambling all my eggs in one basket. The eggs tend to drip through the basket slatty things. However, some authors who couldn’t sell to New York to save their lives are doing very well self-publishing in this age of exploding ebook sales. Some writers who couldn’t sell to New York are doing crappy self-publishing, too. The thing is, you don’t know unless you try.

There are those of us who thought ebooks would take off at the turn of the century (and by that I don’t mean 1900). The difference was that, twelve years ago, unless you wanted to be taken for a wagon of cash by a vanity publisher, self-publishing in the ebook world wasn’t an option. Electronic publishers popped up by the hundreds, and writers submitted to these publishers just like we submit to major publishing houses. However, epublishers were more likely to take on a book or a genre (like those in the romantic comedy niche) when New York was saying, No one wants to read romantic comedy, give us some more vampires. The problem? Ebooks didn’t take off. Until Amazon introduced the Kindle, the general readership basically stuck to paper books. Today that’s no longer the case. People are going nuts for Kindle, Nooks, Kobos, iPads, and whatever-else-have-you’s.

My two contracts with Amber Quill Press—for HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX—expire this month. I could have chosen to roll over the contracts, or I could have chosen to request my rights back. Now, I adore Amber Quill. They gave me a chance when no one else would, I’ve had a great relationship with my editor, and I enjoyed having input on cover design. But the books are now each several years old, and while I’ve been writing more romcoms essentially behind the public’s back, they don’t sell to New York. This is why I took a major detour to write humorous erotic romance under a pen name, and why it looks like “Cindy” only publishes every few years. Because she does. Penny’s doing the rest. But I (Cindy) love writing romantic comedy and humorous contemporary romance, and I want to do more of it without stressing about the necessity of an erotic hook. So, to me it makes utter sense to give self-publishing a try. Oops, I mean Sindie publishing.

HEAD OVER HEELS was first published in 2002 by a now-defunct epublisher, and then re-issued in 2005 by Amber Quill Press. My rights revert mid-June. I’m in the process of revising and updating the story to reflect a leaner writing style (although one couldn’t tell it by my blog posts) and kinda-sorta-maybe including aspects of recent technology that don’t F with my plots. I’ve also commissioned a new cover for HEAD OVER HEELS. I received the draft the other day, and I love it! I’ll go into the details of commissioning a cover versus filling out an art fact sheet for a publisher another day. Both have their pros and cons. Just like every step of self-publishing versus traditional publishing has its pros and cons. Again, fodder for another day. For now, I’m looking forward to re-issuing HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX under my own imprint (rights to BORROWING ALEX revert to me toward the end of June), plus Sindie publishing the romantic comedy short story series I’m writing (in between Penny’s obligations).

Because I’m heavily editing HEAD OVER HEELS on the heels of four weeks of no writing, I won’t have it ready for re-issue the day after my rights revert. This means that if you have a hankering to read HEAD OVER HEELS as it was originally written, you’d better buy it now (links handily provided here). If you’d rather read the updated Author’s Cut, then wait until I announce that the third edition is available. Or, hey, you can always do both.

Just because my rights to HEAD OVER HEELS revert to me this month does not mean that the book will suddenly disappear from third-party vendors (ie. any website other than Amber Quill). Amber Quill will stop selling the book on my rights reversion date, or shortly before, depending on what makes sense for them. However, they will continue to pay me royalties for third-party distributors as the royalties come in.

If you’d like to join my newsletter to receive the announcement of the re-issue of HEAD OVER HEELS, there’s a handy dandy newsletter sign-up box in the upper right of my blog. Or join my Faceook page, or follow me on Twitter.

By the way, the return of my rights for both of these books is restricted to the English-language ebook and print editions. My audio rights remain with AudioLark, and both audio books will continue to remain for sale on Audible and iTunes—and I am quite happy for them to do so. All foreign rights for both books are available for sale to non-English-language publishers, with the exception of the Japanese rights to HEAD OVER HEELS and the Greek rights to BORROWING ALEX, which have already been sold.