Category Archives: Joan’s books

Real World Web Development

Since I graduated from The Iron Yard, I’ve turned my attention to my own websites, of which I have several, to rewrite them and improve them. As I anticipated, real world experience is a little different than the experience in the classroom.

I’ve started with 2 sites: a site promoting me as a web developer/social media expert/video provider at http://jmvconsulting.com, and an informational site featuring my healthy living books at http://weightlosssuccessbook.com.

I wasn’t far along in developing these sites when I realized I would have to learn some additional skills in coding: working with social media widgets, for instance. But, I knew enough to realize I needed to find the developer’s area of Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get the code that I needed to put a social media widget or badge on a website. Once there, I needed to select the options I needed, and modify the code for the website, and again, the concepts I learned in class helped me to get everything working. In some cases, the process was fairly clear. In others, I had to search through the developer part of the site before I found the code or the combination thereof to use. I got one widget working in a timely manner. Another didn’t work, so I had to keep going back until I found a section that had code that worked for me. Yet another time, I kept getting error messages which did not make sense. So I did what I remembered hearing in class: I copied and pasted the error message right into Google, and immediately Stack Overflow said that the code wouldn’t work in a simulator, or even localhost…it would only work on a live web page. And indeed, that’s what did work.

I found some curious omissions, such as getting error messages because of the absence of “http” in the code for an “src=”…when I inserted the “http” it worked, but I wonder why it was missing in the first place.

Some code worked…and then it didn’t…and then it did…and then it didn’t. Same code.
Also, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, the documentation for these and other items was sometimes frustratingly obscure. Again, I learned enough in class to eventually determine what was going on by myself, but I can definitely see how, when I was just starting my classwork, I was not able to grasp some of the coding concepts explained in online documentation right away. They definitely presume that the reader knows things that a novice may not, in fact, know.

In spite of these obstacles, I got the 2 websites working satisfactorily. (I even successfully added a favicon and web counter to each site!) Now to see whether I can get my other websites updated as well.

Writing Code, Writing Stories

I’m probably not the first to notice that writing code is very similar to writing stories. There is structure and creativity involved. There’s writing the first draft, editing the draft, and then publishing the result for the public to view. There can be second/revised editions. There can be collaborations. Reviewers check and comment on the published result.

In particular, I’ve noticed that when I write a story, and think it’s complete, I still wait before sending it off or publishing it, because in the following days or week, I will get additional ideas on what to add, delete, or change. This has also happened with my code: I thought my “Demo Day” project was complete, but after a couple of days, I got additional ideas for improvements.

There’s definitely a similar feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction upon publication of either code or prose. The sense of fun in building also applies to both activities.

It’s hard to select a preference for one or the other; I think I’ll continue happily doing both.

Modern Surprises – science fiction novel

Having fun while saving the world

Modern Surprises was no ordinary company: the science division had secretly developed a portal that would take them anywhere. The plan was to use the portal to help those in need. However, a billionaire industrialist found out about the portal, and would lie, cheat, and steal to get it. But the Modern Surprises team was not about to let him have it.

“Joan’s prose is always cool, it’s a majority female team and that’s such a good title.” —Paul Cornell, author of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

“Modern Surprises [is] a delightful adventure story…. This book is tremendous fun, and has a lot of really strong, fascinating characters, most of whom happen to be female. Really groovy stuff, and you should check it out.” —Keith R.A. DeCandido, author of Dragon Precinct

Wondry Dragon Finds a Home

wondry-front-coverChildren’s Bookwatch: February 2016
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Wondry Dragon Finds a Home
Joan Marie Verba
FTL Publications
PO Box 1363, Minnetonka, MN 55345-0363
www.ftlpublications.com
9781936881444, $6.87, PB, 66pp, www.amazon.com

Do you like dragons? The follow the adventures of Wondry Dragon as she finds a new home with her new human friend, Rhea in Joan Marie Verba’s delightful story, “Wondry Dragon Finds a Home”. Rhea and her mom and dad have never had a dragon in the house before, and they all learn what Wondry can and cannot do. Rhea and Wondry play together, help out their neighbors — and try to stay out of trouble. Rhea can never tell what Wondry will do next because Wondry is always surprising her with what dragons can do. Wondry will surprise young readers ages 6 to 8 as well! A children’s chapter book story suitable for students in grades 1-3, “Wondry Dragon Finds a Home” is very highly recommended for both community and elementary school libraries. For children’s personal reading lists it should be noted that “Wondry Dragon Finds a Home” is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Coloring Books from Joan Marie Verba

I’ve recently started putting together coloring books. Here are the first two:

city-skyline-coloring-book-front-cover

These 25 designs are generic cityscapes for both children and adults who want easy drawings to color. Most of the drawings are simple, though some are more complex. Feel free to color entire sections or individual buildings. You can even create a mural or write on the side of a building. There are dotted lines at the side of each page. There is only one drawing per piece of paper, so if you wish to cut them out and save them, use the dotted line as a guide. Whether you need a coloring book for an adult or a child, this is one to consider!

Paperback available here.


Cover, Print Version

This coloring book is for both kids and grownups who want easy drawings to color. Most of the 26 drawings are simple, and you can add your own designs in the blank areas if you wish. There is only one drawing on each piece of paper (the back side of the page is blank). The dotted lines on each page show where you can cut out the page from the book if you want to display the finished piece, or color the drawing outside of the book. Whether you need a coloring book for an adult or a child, this is one to consider!


TWO INTERVIEWS WITH PROF. HENRY JENKINS, COVERING STAR TREK, BOLDLY WRITING, THUNDERBIRDS, THUNDERBIRDS NOVELS

Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He recently interviewed me about Star Trek, Darkover, and Thunderbirds.  

An account of early Star Trek and Darkover fan fiction by archivist/chronicler Joan Marie Verba: http://bit.ly/dvvyzg

Thunderbirds are Go and Joan Marie Verba Explains Why.
http://bit.ly/cuL8eb

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/19/2010 1:20 PM 

A VIRTUAL ONLINE (RE)LAUNCH PARTY FOR MY THUNDERBIRDS NOVELS

On Tuesday, May 18, 2010, I’m hosting a virtual online (re)launch party for my Thunderbirds books, particularly Countdown to Action!

On that date, if you order one or more of the Thunderbirds novels, you will be able to download free bonuses!

A number of partners are helping me with this virtual party. These include:

Dan Poynter, author of the Self-Publishing Manual.
Peggy McColl, author of Your Destiny Switch and other self-help books.
Michelle Cimino, Digital Etiquette Expert.
Hasmark Services, The Heart and Soul of Book Marketing
Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, authors of the Liaden series of science fiction novels.
Henry Jenkins, popular culture expert, the author of Textual Poachers, and the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California.

Put the date on your calendar so you won’t miss out on these special offers!

More information will be posted as the Countdown to the Virtual (Re)Launch continues!

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 4/22/2010 8:02 PM 

WHY I AM HAPPY THAT MY NOVEL ACTION ALERT WON A MOM’S CHOICE AWARD

I am thrilled to report that my novel, Thunderbirds™: Action Alert, is a Mom’s Choice Awards® (Silver recipient) for 2010. The Mom’s Choice Award is given to books the judges feel represent the best in family-friendly entertainment. I am proud of this because it is my goal to create novels that are family-friendly, and this award confirms that I have met that goal.

My novel Countdown to Action! won the same award last year, so I am doubly pleased to get another award this year.

Most of the time, I find that others are pleased and impressed when one of my books gets an award. Other times, the response isn’t as favorable.

There seems to be a thought among the unfavorable responses that some awards are better than others. Last year, for instance, when I called the local newspaper to ask if they’d announce I’d won this award, I was told, “I haven’t heard of this award.”

Well, so what? The fact that I won an award means that someone who I do not know, have never met, and am not related to thinks that my book has merit. Really, almost any award, better known Hugo Awards, etc., has this characteristic. Hugo Awards, for instance, are reader awards, and most voting for the award are not literary professionals. Even so, the Hugo Award has prestige and significance.

Last year, I read a blog from a professional book critic who slammed one of the lesser-known awards. She claimed that this award (and this wasn’t the Mom’s Choice Award, by the way) had a paid entry fee and that everyone who paid the fee got some sort of award. Not true. I have entered my books for this particular award. The award granters state very clearly that they get on the order of 1000 entries, and maybe 50 titles get an award. That means 95% of the books entered don’t get an award. 

There may indeed be “vanity” awards; I have heard of them, though I’ve never entered my books in one of these to my knowledge. Almost all the awards that I enter are judged by professionals (and if not professionals, they are readers, such as the people who voted on the Hugos are). Some have fees, some don’t. I don’t necessarily think paying a fee to be considered devalues the award. Before I enter any award, I check to see (and the reputable awards committees provide this information up front) who is judging, what standards are used, etc.

Therefore, when I win an award, I’m happy, no matter what anyone else thinks!

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 2/1/2010 4:33 PM

AUTHORS SELLING DIRECTLY TO BOOKSTORES

When I ask for suggestions on how to sell more books, inevitably, someone will suggest that I visit local bookstores (chain and independent ones) to see if they’ll carry my books.

It isn’t as if I haven’t tried this. Both local science fiction bookstores (Uncle Hugo’s and Dreamhaven) already have purchased my books (for which I am grateful). I have also tried the Barnes and Noble Small Press Department…their response was, in essence: don’t call us, we’ll call you. Generally my experience with bookstores is similar to that of sf author and small press publisher Steve Miller, who reported driving from his home in Maine down the eastern seaboard to Florida, stopping at every sf bookstore he could find along the way. None of them purchased his books.  Most bookstores won’t purchase books from authors (or small presses). They just don’t. They prefer to purchase books from suppliers, and suppliers prefer not to handle books that don’t bring in at least a couple of thousand dollars in immediate sales.

I have also attended the midwest bookseller’s convention—twice—to promote my books, with no success (oh, they’ll take free copies, but they don’t order any). I have used a service which lists your books in their catalog, then forwards review copies of books to interested booksellers who request them. Although I have sent books to these booksellers, I’ve never received any orders from the ones I sent copies to. I’ve also sent a large number of copies to a national distributor for their “sales reps,” presumably so those sales reps can show my books to bookstore owners and get them interested in purchasing. I haven’t seen any results of that, either.

However, at the Bloomington Book Fair earlier this year, a man (let’s call him Joe Author), told me that he had success selling his self-published book locally. He specifically indicated the University of Minnesota bookstore, Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books bookstore, and the Science Museum bookstore. So I thought I’d give them a try.

Joe was most enthusiastic about the University of Minnesota bookstore. According to him, the book buyer there was eager to purchase books from alumni, and wrote a check on the spot for Joe’s books. I brought them both Thunderbirds books and Boldly Writing. I went to the bookstore (which had moved since I was last at the campus bookstore), and asked for the manager, who indicated there were 2 buyers. One came to talk to me. I introduced myself as an alumna and went on from there.

I talked about Boldly Writing first. I told the buyer (twice) that I received comments and e-mails regularly from professors in the field of popular culture saying that this was a valued reference, that it had been cited in academic papers, and that I had been told by Ph.D.s that they had used Boldly Writing in their dissertations. Despite this, she indicated she wasn’t interested.
I then brought out the Thunderbirds books, asking if they carried science fiction. She said they did, but that they “only carry the big science fiction authors.” In parting, she said that my books weren’t the kind that their bookstore carries.

Before leaving the subject of the U of MN bookstore, I do want to say that the newsletter of the Department of Physics and Astronomy (from which I graduated), has always been eager to print news of my books in their department/alumni newsletter. (The general U of MN alumni magazine, however, has not.) Obviously, the Department of Physics and Astronomy isn’t running the U of MN bookstore.
From there, I went to the Red Balloon Bookstore in St. Paul. This wasn’t a bookstore that Joe Author recommended, but it is a bookstore that members of the MN SCBWI recommended, and I had called ahead. The manager there was very nice and took 2 copies of each Thunderbirds novel “on consignment” and asked me to check back in 3 months to see whether they sold.

After that, I went to the Common Good Books store, which was not far away. This bookstore is a basement store, and I found it well-lit and comfortable. I approached an employee at the front desk and asked her if they purchase from Minnesota authors, and if they purchase science fiction. She was very nice and replied that they do, but they only carry books that one of the staff has read and would recommend. I asked if I could leave copies of my books for her to read. She said that was fine, and I did.

Last, I went to the Science Museum and asked to talk to the bookstore manager. He was courteous and explained their purchasing policy, saying it was their experience that only books that relate to the current exhibit sell. For instance, he said, when they had the “body works” display, the only books sold were those relating to the human body, and to their frustration, none of their other books sold. He said that for that reason, they did carry science fiction when they had the Star Wars exhibit, but wouldn’t carry sf again until or unless they had another sf related exhibit, and added that they may in the future and I could contact them again.

Such is my experience with trying to sell directly to bookstores. Joe Author may have had a different experience—of bookstore managers writing him a check on the spot—but most authors who try to sell direct don’t have that kind of success.

POSTSCRIPT: Common Good Books never got back to me about my books. The Red Balloon Bookstore returned the books to me after several months–they did not sell any of them.

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 6/30/2009 3:54 PM

THUNDERBIRDS: COUNTDOWN TO ACTION! BY JOAN MARIE VERBA HAS RECEIVED 2 AWARDS

FTL Publications is delighted to announce that Thunderbirds: Countdown to Action! by Joan Marie Verba, is a Mom’s Choice Awards® Silver Recipient in the Young Adult: Fantasy, Myths & Legends category, and an Award-Winning Finalist in the Fiction and Literature: Young Adult Fiction category of the National Best Books 2008 Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.

The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) is known for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Countdown to Action! was named among the best in family-friendly media, products and services for 2009. Joan Marie Verba, author of Countdown to Action!, says, “I’m proud to have received this award. It is my goal to write family-friendly stories which can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I’m so pleased that the Mom’s Choice Awards® committee has recognized these efforts.” A complete list of recipients can be found at: www.momschoiceawards.com/celebrate09.php.

USABookNews.com, the premiere online magazine and review website for mainstream and independent publishing houses, announced the winners and finalists of THE NATIONAL “BEST BOOKS” 2008 AWARDS (NBBA) in late 2008. Verba, says of this award, “I’m thrilled to have received this recognition for my first Thunderbirds™ novel. It’s a tribute to the Thunderbirds™ series that the novel did so well.” A complete list of the winners and finalists of the USABookNews.com National “Best Books” 2008 Awards is available online at www.USABookNews.com.

Countdown to Action! is a novel based on the Gerry Anderson production, Thunderbirds. The story tells how former astronaut Jeff Tracy, with the help of his five sons and trusted associates, put together a rescue organization to help people in danger who otherwise could not be helped by conventional rescue organizations, using their fleet of five ultra-high-tech Thunderbird air/space craft. Verba, a long-time fan of the series, says: “These stories of disaster and rescue really resonate with people.”
FTL Publications, which published Countdown to Action!, is a Minnetonka-based small press which has the only current license, and the only license in the world, from Granada Ventures in London to publish novels based on the British television series, Thunderbirds. The second novel in the series, Action Alert!, was published in November 2008. The third novel in the series is scheduled to be published in summer 2009.

Thunderbirds TM & © 1964, 1999 and 2008 ITC Entertainment Group Limited. ‘Thunderbirds’ is a Gerry Anderson Production. Licensed by Granada Ventures Ltd. All rights reserved.

Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 1/31/2009 8:59 PM