Rethinking JennyCrusie.com

Some of you may remember the hack that brought down the website and the blog. Mollie scoured both the site and the blog clean and put them back up in their temporary minimalist state. The thing is, we both like the minimalist state, so at least until I have another novel coming out and we decide if we want to do another redesign, we’re sticking with clean and simple.

Which does not mean we’re not still working on it.

The thing about this website is that I started it almost twenty years ago, built on a software program I got cheap as a grad student at OSU. I built it before I’d ever seen a website, so as I planned it, it had thirty pages. Then I logged on and went to look at other writers’ sites and realized I had possibly overdone things. But what the hell, I uploaded it and never looked back. A couple of years later, after I’d continued to add things, Mollie looked at it and said, “This is really bad, Mom,” and took over (she knows things like code) and it became much cleaner but still full of Stuff. More years passed, more stuff got added, and when the whole thing belly-flopped, Mollie and I looked at it and said, “Maybe this should be simpler.”

So she did more revamping, this time to make it phone-and-tablet friendly, and I’ve spent tonight going through the main pages and giving her notes (and let’s have a moment of sympathy for my daughter who has to work with me). I like the simple menu across the top of the page, but I think “About” should be the first thing, and it should only have the bio on it. No pull down menu. I HATE pull down menus, especially when I’m browsing a site. Then I’m good with Novels and Short Fiction. Not sure if Non-Fiction and Essays should be separate. I think Works in Progress should be spelled out because a lot of people don’t know what WiP means, and I think I’d like a Blogs menu (I can deal with a two item pull down menu), and then the last thing should be “Everything Else” because that’s what it is. So like this:

ABOUT • NOVELS • SHORT FICTION • NON FICTION • WORKS IN PROGRESS • BLOGS • EVERYTHING ELSE

What do you think?

We’re just starting on the page content, so a lot of that is going to change. I’m thinking about cutting about half the content in Everything Else and just leaving the FAQs, the collage stuff, the recipes, and the page about titles there. What do you think?

But I did get the Works in Progress page rewritten and sent to her this morning. The rewrite that probably isn’t up yet is below, and that’s a lot of text. Do you think putting up collages in progress would help?

The page reads:
Works In Progress
“In progress” means that it could be years until these stories done. Could be never. Could be next year. The important thing is, progress is being made.

You Again
An homage to Agatha Christie, You Again is the story of how Zelda Banks gets bamboozled into spending Christmas week in a snowbound house full of ruthless people jockeying for money, power, sex, and chocolate covered cherries. The population includes her reality-challenged foster sister, Scylla; James, the boy she tried hard not to love when she was seventeen; and Rose, the matriarch who is up to no good at all. Rose has invited a medium to hold a séance because what this family really needs is people digging up their past, and the medium has brought a teenager named Alice who thinks she can talk to the dead, which comes in handy as the family starts dropping like flies. Food, sex, death, dogs, ghosts, and Christmas carols, Zelda has it all, and wants none of it. Well, Scylla can stay. And the dog. And maybe James. And the chocolate covered cherries, but that’s it.

The Liz Danger Mysteries
Liz Danger ran away from her hometown of Birney at eighteen and never went back. Now thirty-three, she’s a ghostwriter trying to get to Chicago to finish the autobiography of her current client, the five-times-married-to-famous-men Anemone Patterson, but on the way she gets stranded in Birney and has to face all the things she ran away from. Trouble ensues.

Lavender’s Blue
Liz’s car breaks down on the highway outside Birney and she’s sucked back into the town’s dysfunctional social life, including a wedding where the bride is marrying Liz’s first love and a family dispute that brings up a lot more ugly than Liz is ready for. One plus: the new cop in town, the only thing there that doesn’t have a lot of bad memories attached to him. Vince is a former big city cop, and he really likes Birney: nobody’s been murdered there since 1954. And then . . .

Rest in Pink – Anemone finally buckles down to help Liz finish that autobiography, but she likes Birney, so Liz is still stuck in her hometown. Then somebody decides that Anemone’s past should stay buried and tries to bury her along with it. Liz draws the line at somebody taking pot shots at her clients, so she’s back at work thwarting another killer. Good thing she’s dating a cop.

Peaches and Screams ~ Anemone decides to write a romance novel and that Liz will write it for her in Birney, which means Liz is stuck again. Plus it’s county-fair time, so Liz is trying to help one of her pals with a pie contest while dealing with a cop who’s making faint noises about commitment, the last thing Liz wants. Then a rival ghostwriter shows up to cause trouble, which ensues, and shortly after that there’s another dead body.

Yellow Brick Roadkill ~ Liz’s best friend Molly is directing Birney High’s production of The Wiz and sends out a call for help. Liz thought that meant just helping with the tech, but it turns out that the Wicked Witch of the East isn’t the only one to get a house dropped on her. As Vince says, “Birney goes seventy-four years without a murder and then you show up . . .”

The Goodnights and The Archers
The Goodnights run a formerly crooked art gallery in Columbus, Ohio. Really, aside from the sixty or so faked paintings in their basement, they’re completely honest now. Just ask Nadine, who runs the place with the help of her magician not-a-boyfriend, Ethan.
The Archers are a dynasty of completely aboveboard lawyers in Columbus, Ohio. Well, completely except for Alice and Carter who can communicate with the dead. And the ghost in the reception room.
Needless to say, they meet . . .

Haunting Alice
Alice (from Maybe This Time) is now a thirty-something, lepidopterist by day and a reluctant ghost expert at night, at least the night the book opens when her attempts to dissuade a credulous client into holding a séance with her old friend, Isolde, are hampered by a guy named Ethan who stops by to protect the old lady from the probably-crooked mediums. If that’s not enough, a parapsychologist wants to buy Archer House, Alice’s ancestral home, which Alice is against because ye gods that house is evil, but everybody else is for. Alice goes back to Archer House to find out what’s going on, hampered once more by Ethan at the request of her brother, Carter, and finds it’s not as deserted as she thought it was. As the house fills up again with nefarious parapsychologists, desperate TV reporters, her brother Carter and the flaky gallery chick he’s falling for (name’s Nadine), and the ever-present Ethan, trouble ensues. Also ghosts.

Stealing Nadine
Nadine (from Faking It) is now a thirty-something gallery manager, running the Goodnight Gallery by day and painting furniture and canvases by night. When a stranger named Carter shows up at the Gallery looking for a room to rent and a place to show his drawings, Nadine is suspicious. Good call, Nadine: Carter investigates art fraud for the FBI, and the Goodnight Gallery has been flagged by some senator’s wife named Clea. Nadine knows something’s up and the family will lose everything unless she does some fast thinking and even faster theft. Unfortunately, her best friend and partner-in-crime, Ethan, is off on some wild ghost chase with some woman who thinks she can talk to ghosts, so Nadine’s going to have juggle forgeries, her family (remember them?) and Carter if she’s going to save the day. (OF COURSE, she’s going to save the day).

The Riven Stories
The world of Riven is an alternate (extremely alternate) reality in which magic and science don’t so much co-exist as mate behind the barn when nobody’s watching.

Paradise Park
Zo White’s living a precarious life in New Riven City in the early twentieth century, trying to keep out of trouble the five orphaned children she was put in charge of when they were evicted from the Mothers of Mercy orphanage for being dangerously strange, and she was asked to leave the Mothers of Mercy for not being maternal or merciful. When the Orphants break into a powerful politician’s house, Zo meets Xavier Fenris (call him Ecks), a cop with a heart of steel, which seems to be melting at the edges when he’s around her. Then there’s Ecks’s partner Wyland (call him Wy), who runs into trouble when he investigates a woman named Petal who turns men into frogs when they kiss her. Add in Ylva, the stepmother trying to kill Zo; the secret cult taking out princesses like Pet; Eck’s nephew Harry, a brand new copper who hasn’t learned not to hit the bad guys yet; a house haunted by steampunk beasts who are NOT HAPPY; and the Orphants being the Orphants—Doc, Roseret, Owl, Gleep, and Kinzie—and you have Paradise Park, two love stories with magic, murder, and mechanical bats.

Monday Street (with Toni McGee Causey)
Six years have passed since the events of Paradise Park, and Zo and the others are still living in the bad part of New Riven City, but Cat Gilchrist lives on Monday Street, the bad part of the bad part of New Riven City, surrounded by murderers and thieves (she’s the second-best pickpocket in New Riven). She runs the restaurant, Maggie’s Ear, for her foster mother as she tries to save the various and sundry people who are part of her life. That does not include Harry, the local crime boss’s newest thug, even though he’s kind of attractive if you like them big and murderous, which Cat does not, and besides she has her own problems because some idiot is digging up the crypt in the abandoned church where she’s living and the magic that was trapped down there is rising, and now she has to deal with air fish and her pet raven, Edwin, talking to her. Add in the newest waitress at the Ear, the slightly surly, definitely magic Keely; and the head of the Department of Extraordinary Complaints, the slight sinister, definitely suspicious Rafe, and Cat has her hands full. Then something besides magic begins to rise in the church . . .

So that’s it so far. Any feedback is appreciated.

And now back to sorting through three thousand You Again files . . .

50 thoughts on “Rethinking JennyCrusie.com

  1. Heading topics are good. I’d put non-fiction and essays together. I love the WIP synopses and agree the WIP topic title should be spelled out. Every now and then, I use HEA and non-writing friends say, “Huh?”

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    1. Those acronyms can be so annoying. It took me forever to figure out that “SQ” on Ravelery meant “sweater quantity of yarn.” And that SABLE meant “stash acquisition beyond life expectancy.”
      WiP: Work in Progress
      HEA: Happily Ever After
      PoI: Person of Interest
      They’re like typing “u” instead of “you” in a text: it’s more efficient but really annoying.

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  2. Do we get to vote on which WIP we’d like to see move to the top of your TBW pile (sorry, Janis)?

    If yes, then Stealing Nadine.

    Yes, I’m not keen on drop down menus at websites. Especially when you have to keep guessing what each selection might refer to, and you can only find out by going there. Even worse: each novel as a drop down list selection, because– Oh wait, you don’t need to hear this; you already don’t like them.

    Cheers to Mollie for keeping us all connected.

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  3. Streamlining the layout is nice but I wouldn’t remove a lot of content. I loved finding all that interesting stuff when I first found your website. It helped me u dears tans the writing process and I felt like I got some new Jennifer Crusie material while I was waiting for the next book. 😀

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  4. Wow! You really are getting organized.
    Seeing the WiP’s listed here is wonderful. I’ve kind of become invested in You Again. It wasn’t even my first choice but I think the collage got to me. Ha ha.

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  5. I loved the minimalist look all along and still do. I don’t mind drop down menus. Not using too many acronyms sounds good. They can be annoying and hard to figure out.
    I think you are naturally a bit of a hoarder so if even you think there is content that needs to go I would trust that.
    All the synopses sound wonderful. Yay for working on You Again.

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  6. I agree that minimalism is great (and I do read the site on my phone from time to time). I also dislike dropdowns, am all in favor of putting essays under nonfiction, and really enjoy the Works in Progress (not WiP) descriptions.

    I love the collages and would like to see them up there too!

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  7. Don’t care how you organize it as long as you post it. Have really been enjoying the updates on all projects.

    I understand like buttons are a pain, but it’s the one thing I miss from the past, just saying.

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    1. I like the “Like” buttons, too, but I can wait, especially when I read these WIP summaries! Everything else looks good, and would be what I want to find when I visit an author page. I’m glad to see the recipes and collages will be available in the Everything Else file. You asked about Essays and Non-Fiction, and I think they go together logically.

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  8. 1. Moment for Mollie. Amen, Ameen, Shanti, Shalom.

    2. Yay for mobile friendliness. I generally buy the cheapest smart phone out there. So functionality is often not even at mobile tablet levels.

    3. DEATH TO THE PULL DOWN MENUS. KILL IT!!! KILL IT WITH FIRE.

    [Ahem.]

    4. If SABLE is what it is on Ravelry, please don’t Colin Dexter on us so nobody messes with your worlds. You have grandchildren, they need college funds. Maybe I’m being a bit mean, but I wouldn’t refuse to read if Stuart, Rich and Causey got together to finish up some stuff should you (Heaven Forbid) kick the bucket before finishing those WiPs. Also, I’m not morbid. I signed my Organ Donor card last year. And am looking for a good lawyer to do a 30-day living will order (I dont like the concept of DNRs). I’m only in my 30s. But I ain’t gonna pretend I’m immortal anymore. I need to get shit done today! Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

    I really do appreciate your work, you know.

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  9. Don’t you love guru kids? Son is my webmaster and although my website isn’t super interactive, it’s pretty much me. He designed it and it’s clear he knows his mom. I can manage it and that’s even better because although I’ve spent many years editing books about computer applications, none of that knowledge stuck in my brain–I always maintain that, as an editor, if I remembered everything I read, my head would explode. 😉

    I like the minimalist look–it suits, and yes, not crazy about the pull-down menus either. Mollie does good work!

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  10. I think the plan sounds good. Especially any plan that means I get to read YOU AGAIN, STEALING NADINE, and HAUNTING ALICE.

    Just sayin’

    And frankly, I don’t mind pull-down menus, but it’s your website and you don’t like them, so don’t do them. I miss the “like” button too 🙁

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  11. I worry that 7 categories across the top may be too many. Would you consider combining NOVELS/SHORT FICTION/NON FICTION as one category (something like WORK/WORKS IN PRINT/WRITING)? This would bring it down to 5 categories which I think is more manageable for visitors and cleaner looking.

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    1. I think it’s going to be ABOUT, FICTION, NON-FICTION, EVERYTHING ELSE. It’s important to separate non-fiction from fiction. Short and novels, not so much.

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      1. Responding to shortening the menus: I suggest keeping Blogs as it’s own category, given the large community here. One less layer for that.

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    2. And the pull down menu would be longer than the webpage.
      The best we could do would be FICTION/NON FICTION, but even that leads to horrendously long menus because the entire website is about my written work.
      Mollie may object to the numerous tabs, too. I’ll talk to her on Monday.

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  12. So my job involves looking at lots of websites and trying to find out quickly if they have the information I need, and where it is. basically, as long as everything’s clearly labeled, and the organization is simple enough that a viewer can build a quick map the website in their head, you’re fine. Everything else is a happy bonus.

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  13. OK, so I’m sure the last thing you need is something else to take up your time. But, as soon as I saw “homage to Agatha Christie”, I flashed on one of my favorite books, which is an outright parody of the classic English country house murder mystery. It is not to be missed. It’s called The Affair of the Blood-stained Egg Cosy. There’s a version in print right now with a horribly boring cover, but the original paperback had a marvelous art deco style cover. An image search turns it right up.

    Really, everyone who likes golden age mysteries should read it. It’s hysterically funny. And it has everything – secret passage, locked room, jewel theft, false identities …

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      1. Definitely. It will put you in absolutely the right mood for You Again. Totally worth tracking down.

        The first sequel is worth reading — The Affair of the Mutilated Mink Coat. The other one did nothing for me, despite an intriguing title (The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks).

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  14. “Like” button! and all the novels, of course, in your own good time. If I wasn’t interested before – and I was – I am now invested. So anything that makes the writing easier —

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  15. I obviously am a minority, I miss the previous arrow and the ability to go backwards and forwards to catch-up and/or remember old posts. The file categories are useless if you don’t know what the topic is. There are times when I need to be away for a week or so. And when I was new I could click on the month and then swim upstream catching and wallowing in all things Crusie.

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    1. The previous and next buttons still exist. They are immediately after the post and before the comments. They used to be after the comments.

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    2. Oh, I am actually doing that very thing now: scrolling with the arrow to catch up on posts that I’ve missed. I’m doing it on my computer, but would absolutely HATE trying to do it without an arrow on my phone. (I had set up – I thought – notifications for new posts, but didn’t see them and thought I was caught up).
      I don’t think you’re a minority. I assumed that would be there.

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  16. I don’t mind drop down menus, but I expect them to be longer than 2 items. If only 2, then don’t bother and put the extra item in the navigation. I prefer “About” to be last in top navigation, typically. Novels and short fiction can be just fiction, but you’re already there with that. I didn’t realize jennycruise.com was down. I go straight to the blogs.

    I had no idea how to pronounce Scylla so I looked it up. Sile except the e should be upside down. Also, learned she’s a sailor eating monster. Then was confused is it was her or Zelda that didn’t want to like James as I was no longer reading in order. Is the Alice in You Again, Alice Archer?

    Riven always reminds me of the video game.

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    1. I like short drop down menus and short banner menus. My cursor always slides off the long ones.
      There’s a hint in the first and third scenes on the pronunciation, but people can pronounce it any way they want. Scylla started life as a nymph, not a monster.

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      1. I have a friend Priscilla who is called Cilla which I assume is close to how Scylia is pronounced or is it pronounced Cill -e -a either way is pretty.

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  17. I would love a future book of all your thoughts on Leverage. Your analyses are always the best, and so helpful as a teaching tool!

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    1. I have every intention of going back through those Leverage posts and editing them for clarity before I put up the last one, on the finale. That was a LONG series.

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      1. Would you be interesting in selling them as an ebook? I would love them all in one place, kind of like those Buffy and Angel, and was it Gilmore Girls?, collections that I see on Amazon. I’d buy it in a hot second! 🙂

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        1. That’s really sweet. I think what I’ll do is revise them and then make a master post with all the titles in chronological order. That way you have all the links in one place. I’m slowly but surely cleaning up the mess from the hack, and that includes grouping some posts together with table-of-contents master pages along the way.

          The other option is to group them on the website; it’s a lot easier to do that there.

          The BenBella collections. I had essays in several of those.

          The more I think about it, the more I think grouping related posts into collections is a good idea. Hmmmm.

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  18. Does this mean the soundtrack lists for the novels won’t be there anymore? I found the one from Faking It especially nice to have. Could they be folded into the pages for each novel if you don’t want them in Everything Else?

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    1. Really? I thought they were kind of worthless. Let me go look at them again and then if they’re not too weird, I’ll put that page back up.

      ETA. I put the page back up. Your idea of putting them with the novel is probably a better one, though, since there’s only two of them.

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      1. I personally loved all the content on your old site! I advocate for keeping most, if not all, of it and just redistributing it under your new tabs. 🙂

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        1. I took out some of the undeveloped and frivolous stuff that didn’t reallyl serve anybody. The old “If I’m a romance heroine, I will never” thing, and movie quotes, mostly because I never really finished that page. Oh, and the movie recommendations; that didn’t really belong there, either. It’s not so much about removing content as it is getting rid of the stuff I never really developed. There should be a short essay to go with the music and food posts, the way there is with the collage post.

          I will have to cogitate. Thank you for all the good ideas!

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  19. Plan sounds good and so do the books (WiP). I would like to see you and Mollie add some color. All that white hurts(vision problems) It could still be minimalist with some color

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    1. Ditto! I’m re-reading “Maybe This Time” and longing to see Alice as an adult. But one step at a time/no pressure/insert encouraging platitude of your choice.

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  20. I don’t have comments on the site design, but I really want to read Haunting Alice and Stealing Nadine. Desperately.

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  21. Enjoyed this post. I am hoping that you will be able to release a new book later this year. (Wore out the paperbacks and had to with to Kindle to get my “fix”.)

    Also, it’s good town that I am not the only one who lets laundry pile up. Am about to start a 3 day laundry marathon only because I have run out of towels.

    Thank you,
    Cath

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  22. I would merge all the book types into one heading “Books” and get them to make the decision about which one they go to on the next page. Keeps your nav neat. A really easy choice for the user – about / books / blog / random. No need for a secondary nav dropdown. I agree, those things are a pain, especially on mobile. I’d drop people on the blog page for your homepage, as that is always going to be your most recent content.

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    1. There are twenty books, twenty-four if you count the short fiction in anthologies and collections.
      That’s way too long for a drop-down menu.

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