Delphine Dryden's Blog, page 4
November 17, 2011
As some of you know already, one of my non-writing "things" is designing websites. If you're interested in a site that's clean, easy to navigate and feasible to maintain on your own, keep me in mind! I'm cheap, fast, and have several satisfied customers willing to vouch for me.
On the other hand, it should be said – if you're looking for a site with a lot of Flash, frames, menus built largely of slow-loading graphics, and the like…then there's probably nothing for you to see here, move along. I have opinions about stuff like that. These are just a few of them.
I just finished looking at a site (not naming names) that made me so sad…not just because it hung up my browser, but because even when it did finally work, I couldn't find the information I wanted (about a series by an author I'm interested in). I went to the site actively wanting to read more of this person's work. Looking at the site, however, left me frustrated and no wiser about what to read next from the author in question. Unfortunately, the navigation was baffling and I kept having to use my browser back button to get back to the home page. The information I did find was outdated (it didn't include the latest book, for instance). But oh my, what a pretty header! Once it finished downloading, that is…all eighteen different pieces of it. The bottom line: the website was poorly designed, not because it was ugly to look at (it was okay) but because it didn't serve the primary function of an author website: information for readers about books from that author. Yet I'm pretty sure that author paid somebody quite a bit of money for that site, which made me saddest of all.
My design philosophy in a nutshell? Form follows function. , I know, but I believe this and always try to keep it in mind when building a site (I follow this credo not in the strict utilitarian sense, but in the sense that Louis Sullivan said it – there's nothing inherently wrong with ornamentation, but it's an aesthetic consideration. The ornamentation should only serve to enhance the aesthetic appeal of an underlying structure that is already functional).
What does that mean in a website design? It means a text menu that is readable, logical, and always accessible. It means making sure that a person visiting your website will not get lost or stuck in a dead end while looking for information. They will be able to find what they want to know (for authors, this means information about your books and how to purchase them). It also means a person with a less-than-optimal internet connection will (hopefully) still be able to load the site in a reasonable amount of time (this is the goal, though for writers there's always the question of all those book covers; we can't avoid the graphics entirely).
Graphics are awesome when they help your site visitors find information, and well-chosen images can enhance the user experience on your website. I love shiny stuff! But when the shiny bits actually impede the smooth experience of navigating the site…they need to go. More importantly, they ought to not be there in the first place! Focus on getting the reader to the information as easily as possible, and as quickly as possible. There's no reason you can't do that AND make it pretty. What's the point of a beautiful site if it doesn't help your readers find out what they want to know?
For similar reasons, I advocate use of a platform for site development that enables the author to maintain and update the site, as well as incorporate a blog. Why send your readers to a second location (AWAY from the information about your books and how to purchase them) to read your blog, when you can do it all in one place? Using a content management system like WordPress (or Blogger, if you absolutely must), lets you do all these things from a single dashboard with a fairly mild learning curve, which is why I prefer to set up sites in WordPress (I know some favor Drupal, Textpattern, or other Content Management Systems. WP just happens to be my current go-to). You shouldn't have to rely on (and continue to pay) a web designer to update your home page if you have a new release, or to add a review link and pull quote to one of your books' pages; you should have a site that allows you to make these kinds of updates yourself, so it is easy to keep current. It's not that difficult to add text and a cover graphic if you're using a CMS like WordPress; if you don't know how, I'll walk you through it.
Another great thing about largely text-based sites (including those that rely on css styling rather than graphics for the primary design elements) is that they're much more likely to be accessible to people with disabilities. As some of you know, I spent many years working with students with disabilities, so this issue is near and dear to my heart. A central tenet of accessible web design is that presentation shouldn't get in the way of structure. Form should follow, not dictate, function. Software that "reads" websites relies on text; it can't read pictures (only certain metadata from pictures) so it's important to use text (and not just pictures of text) to convey the key information, particularly about navigation, on your site. I've seen amazing, accessible, logically organized sites that use a lot of Flash (hard to do, but not impossible), and a lot of truly craptastic sites featuring nothing but text. But by and large, text is the way to go, with a few well-chosen images for spice. Have a site that all your visitors can find their way around.
And get it at a reasonable price! This is shameless self-promotion, after all, so…hey, take a look at some of my site designs and if you're interested, contact me. I am a sucker for non-profits and starving authors, so don't be afraid to tell me your sob story or make me a lowball offer; chances are, we can work something out (at the very least, a payment plan).
Shiny, happy, logical websites for EVERYONE!
November 13, 2011
One more selection from Gossamer Wing, which is growing on me again now that I'm no longer in the middle of editing it. Enjoy!
Although he knew it was no way to help, he did the first thing available to him to try to take her mind off her pain; he moved again, easing into a rhythm, forging a connection the only way she seemed willing to allow.
Foolish, his mind insisted, selfish. But his body was so much more convincing. Sweet, it told him. Mine, mine. Soon all the words disappeared, melting into pleasure that mounted too rapidly to contain.
They were not waltzing during this week's snippet, by the way. Heh.
November 6, 2011
Another selection from my as-yet-unpublished steampunk romance Gossamer Wing. Enjoy!
Dreams rarely ended well for Charlotte, and she didn't trust herself when life felt too ethereal or pleasant. She tried to remind herself that people were never what they seemed, and that this was all make-believe. But Dexter felt so real, so solid, from the deft grip of his hand on hers to the uncompromisingly hard muscle of his shoulder. Based on the dimensions she'd been able to glean thus far, Charlotte thought Dexter must have the approximate build of a Greek god as depicted in the early marbles. Not one of the youths, but somebody fully ripened into manhood. Poseidon, possibly.
Get your minds outta the gutter, y'all. They're waltzing. Sheesh!
October 14, 2011
The soon-to-be-renamed POCKET ROCKET, my bdsm nerdmance, has just sold to Carina Press! I'm really, really excited to be working with this new publisher, and also with editor Deb Nemeth. Release will probably be middle of next year, and of course I'll post more details periodically.
Yaaaaay! *kermit flail*
October 10, 2011
In case you missed it, while I was enjoying the extended weekend in Ohio at RomantiCon, I was also hitting the big time with my first-ever review on RT (restrained, professional squee), for The Lamplighter's Love. Which, you know, "erotic steampunk at its best"…the review is definitely a keeper!
Icing on the cake: they interviewed me the following week! I got to act all knowledgeable about steampunk and whatnot.
October 9, 2011
I've decided to give Six Sentence Sunday a whirl, y'all! To kick things off, here are six sentences from my mainstream steampunk WIP, Gossamer Wing.
"He kissed her hard, because her attempt to dissemble had clearly made him impatient. If it had been softer, or he had approached more carefully, she might have had time and space to reconsider. With no time to think herself out of it, Charlotte just reacted and kissed back. And kissed, and kissed, until she wasn't sure if she could ever do anything else. As if kissing Dexter were now her sole purpose.
It felt so good to feel."
Whole lotta feelin' goin' on.
October 4, 2011
Woohoo! Back from EC RomantiCon 2011 and I'm still exhausted, which is always the prime indicator of having had a LOT of fun at a convention. There was flogging and pole dancing, a talk about steampunk and learning the breakfast grind, and I only had my iPhone with me so I only have some relatively crappy photos at the moment but I'll update with more as they start to show up on der intarwebz!
Photo album is on the evil that is Facebook.
September 14, 2011
[image error] Yikes! I thought I'd have more time to work on this post, but turns out Smashwords got my book up WAY faster than Amazon or Pubit, so I'm a day ahead of schedule. Anyway, without further ado, I give you my first ever self-published book! Love with a Chance of Zombies is a novella about love, hope, science and of course hot, sweaty sex in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. And it's available on Smashwords for only $0.99!
The price will be the same on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and it should be available there within another day or so – I'll update with links.
Lena Stanton's a sharpshooting zombie hunter with a hot pink rifle and an attitude. Her latest assignment: guard the bitten hero, Doctor Lucas Nye, and be ready to shoot the moment he starts to turn zombie.
Nye's last-minute research and a daring experimental treatment could save him, but Lena has to choose. She can follow her heart and give the man she loves a chance to live…or follow her commander's orders and shoot to kill.
August 24, 2011
*throws confetti* Woohoo! Everyone have a gander at the fabulously steampunkeriffic new cover for The Lamplighter's Love!
This steamy-punky novella will be available from Ellora's Cave September 9th, from other e-tailers a few weeks after that.
Here's the blurb:
"Mary has trained for years to become the next Lamplighter of London. When her chance comes, however, she realizes the massive difference engines of the Lampworkers' guild would be a cold substitute indeed for the passion she's begun to explore with the current Lamplighter, Nicholas.
Though fate, it seems, is determined to separate them. A rival threatens to upset all Mary's hopes and dreams within the guild, and with her newfound love.
Through intrigue and deception, bitter contention and scorching erotic discovery, Mary and Nicholas find new ways to get what they need as they create a future in which their love light shines."
Okay I didn't write that last line, not sure when that slipped in there…huh. Anyway, that was the blurb and now here's an excerpt (below the cut…and only for grownups). Enjoy!
An Excerpt From: THE LAMPLIGHTER'S LOVE
Copyright © DELPHINE DRYDEN, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
"Mary?" Nicholas spoke from behind the mirrors, and Mary flushed to realize she'd been speaking out loud.
"Nothing. I'm here, whenever you're ready."
"Good. It's calm now, let's get you strapped in." He raised an eyebrow at her as she swung the screens aside. "I want to show you something new today."
After their odd moments of connection yesterday, Mary was keenly aware of every touch, every brush of his skin against hers as he buckled her hands into place. Had he always taken such care, she wondered? Or was she just more sensitive to it now that she'd allowed these foolish notions to enter her head? His fingers seemed to leave trails of sensation behind them, pulling shivers from her that she tried desperately to resist.
With the mirrors back in place, she saw that things were indeed calm at the moment. The early traffic had abated, the ship channel was quiet and no disasters seemed imminent.
It was all running like the clockwork it mainly was, and she saw nothing that wasn't familiar, long since mastered.
"You said there would be something new," she said, puzzled.
From beyond the mirrors Nicholas spoke, his voice sounding closer than she'd expected. Mary squinted through the brass hinges between two panels, but could see nothing beyond the screens.
"There is, but it isn't on the viewers. I want to talk to you today, to explain something. And I want to make sure you listen and think."
She nodded. Then, realizing he couldn't see her, she spoke her agreement. "All right. I'm a captive audience now anyway, I suppose."
"About that. It has occurred to me that you've probably already deduced the guild's plans for you. You're nothing if not smart, Master Mary Cross."
It was still a thrill to hear that title. "I have given it some consideration. I can't quite believe it's what I think."
"I believe they'd like me gone with the New Year. And I have reason to believe the guild currently favors you for my replacement."
"But Amberherst and I have only just started taking longer shifts. I thought you still had another year to go at least," she protested.
"I'm almost thirty, Mary. I can't keep the pace up much longer. No one could, the guild knows that all too well." He sounded resigned, but Mary heard a note of bitterness as well. "It will be a splendid retirement, of course. Land, money, a title. A voice in Parliament if I care to exercise it."
That was the well-known reward of the Lamplighter, to be showered with such benefits. In part this was recompense for the fact that, after their unique service, many Lamplighters suffered crippling arthritis and loss of vision before reaching even nominal old age. But the prize was still tremendous. And with the recent reforms, even a female Lamplighter could look forward to holding land and taking a title after retirement. At nineteen, this all seemed a goal too high to even be dreamed for Mary, whose parents were stolidly middle-class.
"Will you keep horses? I've always fancied having horses," she admitted, though she knew it sounded childish next to the idea of a seat in Parliament.
Nicholas chuckled. "I expect so. I'll be an Earl, after all. But Mary, more important are the things I won't have."
He must be standing—no, kneeling, she realized—right before her knees. She felt a distinct warmth where his body blocked the chill from reaching her forelegs. Mary was hyperconscious of the bared skin of her neck and chest, the hint of cleavage she knew was on display right at Nicholas' eye level. She was glad for the mirrors that blocked her blush from his view.
"Is the channel still clear, Mary? The storm yesterday threw the shipping schedule off."
Wrenching her mind back to the information before her, Mary focused on the leftmost screen, a third of the way down. Arrivals and departures, via teletype from the port authority, and a descending column of potential differences indicating the precise times at which certain actions must be taken if event "x" occurred at moment "y". All the possible futures calculated, then excluded one by one as the minutes ticked by.
"Good. Keep an eye on that. But listen. Because of all the things I've told you over the years about this position, what I have to say now is undoubtedly the most important."
"When I leave here, it's true, I will receive a great many things. And I'll have the means to purchase anything else I might ever desire. Lamplighters are too well known by the guild rank and file to kill us all off, is the problem, but weknow too much to risk our disgruntlement. And so the Crown appeases us this way. They have for the past sixty years or so. But what none of us ever get back, Mary, is the one truly important thing we've lost, and that is time."
"Time? But you're only twenty-nine, that's not so old."
"Old enough," he snorted. "But it isn't a question of starting a bit late, Mary. It's all that I've missed during that time. I've spent most of the past ten years in this room. One hour off at noon and six each day, seven hours of rest and sleep just upstairs. Do you know I was your age, nineteen, the last time I saw the sun? The last time I shared a meal with my family. The last time…"
She waited for him to resume, but instead of words she felt a touch, featherlight against her knee. Through the heavy work skirt she felt it, and then a firmer tug on the fabric.
"Sir? Nicholas? What…what are you doing?"
"The guild leaders are old fools, Mary. They think they can change human nature by simply ignoring it. And they think if they appoint a young woman as Lamplighter, she won't give them half the trouble of a man. Because if she's been sheltered enough, she simply won't know what she's missing. But I don't think that's right. Or fair. You should know what you're agreeing to give up. Amberherst already does, God knows."
"Nicholas," she repeated, now breathlessly, "what are you doing?"
She knew what he was doing. He was unbuttoning the front placket of her practical skirt, the better to sweep it aside. And now he was pushing her thin petticoat out of the way to look at her nearly bare legs. And now he was pushing his body between her knees, parting them and finishing the destruction of her modesty as the gusset in her drawers spread open.
She jerked at the restraints on her wrists, feeling for the first time in years a sense of claustrophobia in the confines of the Chair. But with her hands as good as shackled, and her head boxed in by the mirrored framework, she could not escape.
Nor was she quite sure she wanted to.
August 10, 2011
Woohoo! Looks like this fall I'll be having yet another short story released in an anthology. My story Intermezzo will be in the Something Wicked This Way Comes anthology (Volume 4) from Ellora's Cave, along with tales from USA Today bestselling author Jaid Black, Laurann Dohner, Ruby Storm, B.J. McCall, and the delightful Cait Miller! I'll update when I have a release day for this bad boy…and I'll probably do an excerpt or something like that then, too
In other news, the Girls Who Bite antho release date is fast approaching, and editor Delilah Devlin is ramping up the anticipation with all sorts of contests, posts, and other madness. Satisfy your craving for lesbian vampire erotica with Girls Who Bite! Pre-order now for the September 13th release.