Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not Too Bright

What's wrong with people? Wait - don't answer that. Blogger probably doesn't have the server space to house the answer. More specifically, what's wrong with people when they park their cars?

I'm in Lexington (where it didn't snow, BTW, but was supposed to) and I'm parked in front of the hotel - right up front pulled up to the shrubbery against the building. I am square in the middle of my space, parked correctly. When I go to leave that night for dinner, somebody has parked next to me like an ass. You know the drill:

They couldn't fit properly, so they've pulled into the space at an angle. Which means you either scramble over the top of the trunk or pole vault over the rear of the cars to get to the driver's side door. Walking around front is out unless I can scale a building like Spider Man or want to take a hike through the bushes.

Of course, that's assuming you could even open the driver's side door without banging into the other car - Not! Not without the jaws of life and a two year stint on Jenny Craig, anyway.

Mind you, there's five billion other empty space within twenty foot of where this idiot parked but NOOOOOOOOOO, they had to block me in. I guess some people figure if THEY can get out of THEIR car then that's all that's important.

Well, here's a newsflash for you: You're not too bright if you park this way next to a car clearly marked "Hertz Rental." But those dents can be removed - really. And maybe that paint can be buffed. Guess you'll figure it out.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why There Blue Cars and Brown Cars

Around the blogsphere lately, there's been a lot of talk about book snobbery and sometimes the posts have caused a big backlash of idiocy in comments. If you're interested in some of the idiocy, check out Kristin Nelson's post. If you want to read a stellar cry for no book snobbery, check out Bookseller Chick's post on the subject. Now, everyone has different taste. That's where the title comes from - my husband is always saying "that's why there are blue cars and brown cars," and he's absolutely right. But I can't remember ever forming an opinion on another human being based on the color of car they drive.

As a romance writer, I run into snobbery from time to time. Most people have enough class not to do it to your face, but there's still the occasional eye-rolling from people who obviously think writing romance makes you stupid and blind. This eye-rolling is usually delivered from women who have accomplished absolutely nothing in life. They don't have careers, they don't have educations, they don't raise their own children. They just let a man pay their bills and they sit around not doing a damn thing. And if they all looked like Angelina Jolie or Eva Mendes, I guess it wouldn't be a total loss for the husband, but since most of them are overweight, frumpy, completely out of style bitches, I'm not exactly sure what the husband is paying for.

Then there's the other group of people - the one's who think no one reads romance unless they're "missing" something in their own lives. Huh????? Does that mean I love horror movies because I desperately want a monster or a serial killer living in my attic? C'mon people. Open your eyes and see something beyond your own narrow mind. Most of the women I know who read romance are happily married, but maybe they want to remember the journey of falling in love because, IMHO there's no greater journey on earth. Tolkein may have written an epic journey, but finding that ring and destroying it was far easier than finding the right man and getting him to cough one up. :)

I've also had some women specifically say that it's the sex scenes that bother them about romances, and that's where they wonder what is missing. Again, I make the arguement that nothing is missing at all - it's probably working so well for them that they like to read about someone else having it as good. And what in the world is wrong with women admitting they enjoy sex? It's like a big secret or something. My guess is the women who don't like to read about it, don't enjoy it and simply can't connect with those that do.

Essentially, I believe romance empowers women. It gives us the opportunity to believe that we can accomplish anything - any career, a happy marriage, a great sex life. And it guarantees a HEA (happily ever after). There's so much depressing crap on television - just watch the news one night if you don't believe me. I read for escape. I don't want depressing.

I'm not even going to make the argument for romance based on education and sales. If you've ever gotten your hands on a RWR report, you all know that romance constitutes the highest percentage of book sales of any genre AND way over half of romance readers boast a post-secondary education. But those statistics don't have the impact on the argument for romance that one would hope. Mainly because male romance bashers want to believe that only fat, ugly women who can't get dates are reading "those" books, and female romance bashers are too inhibited to admit they might enjoy them and afraid what people might think if they did.

Fortunately, I am one of those people who really, REALLY doesn't care what other people think, so I go about my merry way, never afraid to pop open the latest single title release or category romance I happen to be enjoying in any public place - movies, doctor, hotel, airplane, restaurant, etc.

For the male romance haters out there - your girlfriend probably reads romance and it doesn't have anything to do with you. Contrary to your belief, not everything does, hell, hardly anything does. And for those female romance haters out there, your very fixed attitude about a genre you've probably never even tried says more about your rigid, inhibited personality than I ever could. I can only say that you don't know what you're missing. And apparently, neither does your husband.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Safe Sex Anyone?????

Got you with that title, didn't I? And no, I'm not making offers. :)

A couple of weeks ago, dearauthor.com posted a review of RUMBLE. I've been wanting to talk about it for a while but am just now getting around to it. So here it is - please read it first then come back for discussion (it's short, so no biggie).

First off, I'd like to think loyal fan and blogger Kimber for setting them straight on the humor end of things. I've had a couple of people say the book isn't funny and I can only be sorry for the people in their lives. If they couldn't chuckle - not even once - at this book then I can't imagine what they do find funny. But humor is not the issue here. It's a very subjective thing, I know, and people with no small-town dealings might not "get" it as well as some that have had experience in that arena.

My question concerns the issue of no condom. They seem to be incredibly bothered by this and I simply don't understand why. I am writing fiction - every woman's fantasy sort of fiction. I am not writing a public service announcement for the prevention of STD's. Nor am I making a statement for/against abortion, unplanned pregnancy or single motherhood. In short, I am of the opinion that my readers are A. Intelligent B. Know this is fiction and C. Don't have to have everything one would do in real life spelled out for them in my work. After all, I've never shown a character brushing their teeth either, but I haven't gotten bad reviews from dentists.

Not to mention that I'm confused by part of the review (either that or I need to reread my own work). They refer to the characters as having a discussion about being "clean." I don't remember any discussion about being clean unless it concerned getting the bayou mud off of them. There was probably a discussion about being "safe," but that referred to safe from the man who just tried to kill them, not safe from STD's. Any ideas on that one?????

For me personally, I don't like to read the "condom sentence" and don't want to write it. It breaks up the flow of the action and yanks me back out of the fantasy and into the reality of today's world. It's not that I don't want my books to be realistic, but only to a point. When that point interferes with the scene then I'm not going to write it. Now, if I were writing for teens and including a sex scene, I would feel obligated to include a condom sentence because they are not yet adults and I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression.

So what say you - do you like the condom sentence? Do you think it's irresponsible not to include it? (Mind you, you won't change my mind on the subject, but I'd like to know all the same)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shadow Dancing

No, I'm not talking about the song - I'm talking about my hotel room.

I'm in Tampa this week for a training and staying at a well-known chain hotel downtown. My room is on the second floor and faces the street. It also has this huge window. So the first night I'm there and ready to go to bed, I turn off all the lights and look around the room trying to figure out why it's still so bright. Well, my room has a street light directly in front of it.

I'm not wanting to play like I'm on American Idol or anything, so I walk over to the window intending to pull the drapes closed. That's when I discover that the drapes are only decorative and about a foot wide. They in no way cover the vast space of glass in front of me.

So I have a room that can be easily seen by anyone on the street - with a street lamp right in front of it - and the hotel thought sheers would be a good selection for window covering.

Hello?????? Who thought this was a good idea?

Lucky for them I can sleep under any circumstances - light, noise, construction - pishaw - not going to faze me. But I was thinking that tonight I might pull the sheers closed, wait till dark and hang a tip bucket outside the window. Do a little shadow dancing for side money. What do ya think?????

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

It's officially Mardi Gras - well, technically Louisiana celebrates Mardi Gras for several weeks, but today is the big official throw-down. The first American Mardi Gras was celebrated March 3, 1699 near present day New Orleans, but it's roots go back even further to Rome. In the mid-1800's, the tradition of the parade started and has been going strong ever since - completely organized and run by "krewes," clubs comprised to handle this one celebration.

The origin of Mardi Gras (aka Shrove Tuesday) is tied to Roman Catholic countries and spring fertility rites, but it has evolved a bit over time. The last day of Mardi Gras falls on Fat Tuesday, a Roman Catholic religious day and the purpose is fairly simple - it's one final day of partying and gluttony before Ash Wednesday, when it's all given up for lent. Which makes perfect sense because let's face it - in Louisiana most everything comes back around to a reason for drinking beer.

And in case any of you are wondering what today's title means (and some of you might be since I autograph my books with it) - "Let the good times roll!"

You'll find this statement imprinted on tons of Mardi Gras goodies (albiet with various spellings) and also in tons of shops and restaurants across Louisiana.

So tonight, lift your beer or glass of wine in celebration of Mardi Gras - and have dessert while you're at it!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cold Miser

Did any of you watch all the Christmas specials every year on television - you know, those of you who are old enough to remember the days before VHS and the ability to watch them every day????? I absolutely loved those one-time a year shows - Charlie Brown Halloween/Christmas, Frosty, Rudolph and (my all-time favorite) The Wizard of Oz. My favorite Christmas special was always The Year Without a Santa Claus. Mainly because I loved the Heat Miser and Cold Miser, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I can still sing the songs. :)

Today, I've decided that I am officially the cold miser.

I flew into Tampa this evening - will be here through Thursday, and found out at the airport that they are planning on experiencing a record low tonight of 38 degrees. Huh????? What happened to 70's and sunny?

And guess who didn't check the weather report again today before she packed?

You got it - the corporate trainer with summer skirts, cute summer tops and open toe shoes. (sigh) I am cursed. I'm sure of it.

Sure is a good thing I'm writing a book about being unlucky. I have plenty of life experience to draw upon.

Friday, February 16, 2007

GCC Tour - China Dolls

This GCC tour is brought to you by CHINA DOLLS a novel by Michelle Yu & Blossom Kan

M.J. has dreamt her whole life about breaking the glass ceiling and becoming the first Asian female sportscaster on ESPN, but will her need to become an insider blind her to the potential prospects right in front of her?

Fiery Alex owes her success as an attorney to her toughness, but will her need to control everything and her overprotectiveness drive everyone away from her?

Beautiful, reckless Lin has made her mark on Wall Street because of her willingness to roll the dice, but will she lose it all when she risks everything for Mr. Dangerous?

Through their ups and downs, their family pressures, and their personal and professional heartbreaks, these three women know that they can always count on one thing: each other.
Check out the author's website to read an excerpt or learn more about the writers!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Let The Season Begin

So we're down to the final 24 on American Idol. Yes, I'm an American Idol junkie. And since I'm still ridiculously busy and still suffering from this head cold or allergies or whatever, this is going to be a very short post.

I think my favorite is still Sundance Head.

If you're an Idol junkie - tell me who you like/who you hate.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Draggin' on Tuesday

Today is my mom's birthday so here's wishing her a ........

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Mom lurks on the blog, so feel free to throw out a happy b-day of your own. I've recently shown her how to post a comment, so maybe we'll see her here soon. :)

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday, but this week is probably going to be pretty thin. I am frantic on deadline to get UNLUCKY out to my cp's. I am teaching a class this week, so no reprieve there, and to top it all off, my allergies have me feeling most awful - drainage, sniffling, sleeping upright so you can breathe. Like I needed anything else keeping me from writing. (sigh) When it rains, it pours.

So I'll put a question to you again today: When you're stretched beyond capacity, what do you give up in order to keep writing?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Where's Emily Post When You Need Her?

First, a booksigning announcement: I will be at the Barnes & Noble in Tyler, Texas tomorrow, signing RUMBLE from 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm. If you're anywhere near there, please come out and visit me!

So those of you who read regularly probably saw my blog earlier this week thanking medical personel for the job they do after witness a "brought back to life" moment in a local restaurant last Saturday morning. (scroll down if you didn't read the other story, because it's kind of relevant here).

So when the guy fell out on the floor, the doctor rushed over immediately, checked vitals and started performing CPR. He got a pulse quickly, but it was apparent the guy was still unresponsive. That's when I glanced at other tables and realized that everyone was frozen in this weird state. They were clutching coffee cups, or forks (some even with food on them) but not moving. And everyone was looking at each other and it was apparent what they were thinking "Do we continue eating, is that rude, do we wait until he sits up, until the paramedics get here?????"

Then my husband looks over at me and asks "is this like sports and we clap when he gets up - I mean, what's the rule here?"

Hell if I know.

So I'm putting you to work on a Friday. What do you think the etiquette is in a situation like this? And I need you to cover eating all the way to clapping.

See ya Monday!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Under the Skin

I mentioned yesterday that I am in class myself this week. The class is for a certification for HUD properties, basically it will certify that I am knowledgable enough to train affordable and tax credit software. The text is dry - to say the least. After all, it IS government issue. And if you've ever had the pleasure of reading the Uniform Tax Code, this is only slightly better.

So we were covering the issues of people with disabilities - what you can ask, what you can't ask, what accomodations you have to make, etc. and the instructor was trying to make a point about how you can't assume someone has a disability because you can see it because the disabled classification is still the choice of the individual. On the other hand, someone might have a documented disability that isn't visible to the eye. So essentially, you run into a big problem with "assume." Nothing new there, right.

But something was said that tickled me at first then got me to thinking about characterization. The instructor, in making her point about visible disabilities, asked the class "can you tell what my disability is?" There was silence for a moment as we all studied her, trying to figure out what it could possibly be then one student shouted out "you're blonde."

Now, even though I'm a blonde, that's still pretty darn funny. And it got me to thinking about how most of our characterization in our books is stuff that's below the skin. Heck, hair color doesn't usually matter to a plot line but the characters emotions, thoughts, fears, etc. are everything to a story.

Obviously, no lawsuit will be filed and no government agency will slap you on the wrist for questioning your characters about their "disabilities" be it emotional or otherwise. So dig deep - look far, far below the surface and think about your hero and heroine. Who are they today and more importantly, what happened the past 20, 30 40 years to get them to this point. You don't have to write it all in your story, but you darn sure need to know. Hey, your heroine may be as sexy as Angelina Jolie and your hero may be built like a Greek God, but in the end, that shallow character description will never carry the story - a nice romp in the hay, perhaps - but not a book. :)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Big Thank You

So sorry I didn't post yesterday. I'm about as busy as I can get. Had class Mon/Tues am IN class the rest of the week for a certification I need AND I have to take a test at the end. Eeek! I'm not even going to tell you when the last time I took a test was because then you might figure out how old I am. Let's just say it's been more than ten years.

In addition to that I have a book that needs to go to my agent in 20 days (that is not finished), a sick dog, two expense reports to do, two trips to book, two doctor calls to make, one insurance policy to renew, one warranty policy to renew and all my bills to pay. Oh, and I need clean laundry for a booksigning I have this Saturday - where there might be television coverage - double eeek! But enough of my whining and onto my story:

I had an interesting thing happen on Saturday and wanted to share it with you. My husband and I were eating breakfast in a local restaurant when a guy seated behind us had a heart attack and fell out into the floor. Now this man could never, ever be a character in my current book because he is the luckiest person I've met in a long time - you see, a doctor was sitting in the booth next to him.

The doctor dropped to the floor, checked his vitals and immediately began performing CPR, while asking questions of the wife who indicated the heart trouble. The best part - he saved the man's life! Within five minutes the EMT's were there and the man was breathing and talking when they arrived.

So here's a big THANK YOU to all medical personel - doctors, nurses, EMT's, firemen, paramedics. You do a fabulous job and we're all lucky to have people in society who dedicate their lives to helping others.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Movie Review Monday

It's time again for Movie Review Monday.

Movie Seen: The Messengers

This was a horror movie - you might have guessed that by the scary looking crows on the SUV. And I guess it could have been scary, but it just really wasn't. What this movie needed was another thirty minutes of plot and character development - not to mention a bit more backstory. It was utterly predictable, which for me is nothing new, but it was so limiting in character scope that it was too obvious who the bad guy was.

Also, they could have had the town be creepy and play into the movie. There was a storyline with a banker that didn't resolve itself at all although the music and other indicators were there that he was part of the plot.

All of this I could have passed over if the movie had made it on creep factor. Let's face it, The Grudge was a crappy movie but the creep factor was high. Same for The Ring. But The Messengers only had a scene or two of good creep and not a single one that made me jump or even twitch.

Overall, I'll give this one a C- for effort.

My final words: If you like cheesy horror - it's a rental

Friday, February 02, 2007

Must Love Books

Looking back, I should have known I needed to be a writer in elementary school. Even then I was writing stories - wrote the class play in fourth grade and used to entertain the class at story hour with my own stuff. I kept writing some through junior high, high school and college and even gave it a bit of a shot after college and once I'd entered the workforce full time, but I don't think I had anything to say that was publishable until now. But the desire was always there, in the back of my mind, in the depths of my soul, just waiting for the time to burst out.

To my relatives who grew up around me - my writing books probably comes as no surprise. After all, I had my nose in one every time they looked at me. It started with Dr. Seuss. My mom got one of those subscriptions that came in the mail one book a month and she read to me. Soon she realized, I'd memorized the books quickly and was "reading" to myself. It only got worse from there.

Once I discovered the wonderful land of books, you couldn't get me out of them. I read books in the car, I read books in bed, books in the living room, books outside on the porch. Tried to read a book in church - got in trouble for that one. And read books during dinner - my mom fought this one valiantly but finally gave up. In fact, I was so far ahead of my high school English class that my teacher let me read because she wasn't covering anything I didn't already know.

Vacation was a grand time! We took beach vacation - always to Destin, Florida, which is absolutely gorgeous and guess what I took with me - books. I came out toting a carrying bag one time with a load of books in it and my dad looked inside and said "why in the world are you bringing all these books. You're not going to read them all." I just said "wanna bet." And mind you, I wasn't carrying a load of short sweet romances back then. My bag was loaded down with Tom Clancy, Agatha Christie, Tolkein (I was revisiting The Lord of the Rings), Michael Chricton and some others. I remember that one trip I had sixteen books in total and before the end of the six days, I needed to go to the bookstore for more.

So you can imagine my disbelief when every once and a while I get into a conversation with someone about writing and they say "I have an idea for a book I'd really like to write someday" then follow this statement up later on with "But I really don't like to read at all."


Why in God's name would you want to attempt an extraordinarily difficult career if you don't like to read????? Now, don't get me wrong, I am not exactly passionate about numbers but I'm a damned good accountant. But that's different. I can make a good living as an accountant without loving what I do. But you have to be passionate to write a book or it will never sell. And you have to be passionate about continuing to write books for a long, long time because it could take years before you show a profit from writing above the money you're spending pursuing it.

Maybe people are confused and think all writers make a lot of money, sit by beaches to write and are so famous they don't have to do things like pump their own gas. Maybe people think because they have a computer and can type, they can write. Maybe they've read a book sometime in their life and because it looked easy they made the mistake of thinking it was. Maybe they think as long as they have an interesting story that technique doesn't matter, so why spend all those years perfecting it.

Maybe they're wrong. No, definitely they're wrong.

Despite a fulltime day job, a fulltime writing job (complete with an April 1st deadline) and a husband, home, three dogs and three cats, and other family nearby, I still manage to read 3-4 books a week. Now, I'll admit, I read a lot of category while I'm writing a rough draft. I don't read in genre because I don't want it to affect my voice, but the reality is, reading books is one of the most important ways to stay motivated to write books.

Let's face it, there's far more reasons to stop writing than to continue. Good Lord the list for stopping wouldn't fit on a roll a paper that stretches a city block. The reasons for continuing are far more simple, far more personal, and a lot less in volume. But they're more important. And I'd hazard a guess that for every writer out there, one of their reasons for writing is because they love to read.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Marketing With Bookmarks

I've had several people ask if I would talk a bit about marketing since my debut release push is sorta over, and they'd like to know what worked and what didn't. Well, let me say first of all that's it's a really hard thing to quantify. If it wasn't there would be lists and books of "do exactly this" all over the internet and bookstores just like there are for technique. Marketing is not a simple thing to measure because we can't interview the entire reading public and find out why exactly they purchased the book.

I'll talk about some different important pieces to marketing as I blog more about this topic, some of them things the writer can control and some that they can't. Today, I'm going to talk about bookmarks.

Bookmarks are a controversial subject among the writing community - should I get them, do they do any good, etc. And everyone has a differing opinion. This is mine:

I got bookmarks and I'm happy I did. BUT, bookmarks have to be utilized correctly to be effective. Let's face it, we've all attended a conference and gotten a goodie bag stuffed with flyers and bookmarks. Now, while I don't throw these away, I have to say I don't read them either. I put them all in a cup in my office for future use. I really, honestly can't ever remember reading a bookmark that was lumped in mass quantity like that. That doesn't mean no one looks at them, so of course, I don't hesitate to send my own bookmarks out to conferences, but I'm not betting on a surge in sales using this technique.

Bookmarks are effective when utilized as an information tool following up a personal recommendation. You've all read the blogs about my dad - who will accost women in Walmart, bookstores, etc. and tell them about my book. Then he always gives them a bookmark. They might not buy right then but later on if they're thinking "what was that book that man in Walmart told me to buy" well, guess what - they don't have to remember because they have a bookmark spelling it out for them. THAT'S where bookmarks are a handy dandy piece of marketing material. My husband, brother, several writer friends and some of my regular blogging buddies have also accosted people in stores and told them about the book. My mom, who is not an accoster by nature, still hands out bookmarks to anyone who might be interested - people at the doctor's office, the checkout clerk at Walgreen's, etc.

So many times we're not standing in a bookstore when we're pitching our books or friend's book to people. A bookmark is a reference to hand to someone in case it stays in the back of their mind and they need to remember later on. I talk about my writing everywhere I travel. If it comes up in conversation, I tell my classes. If any of them show interest, I give them bookmarks. Since I have gotten email from students saying how much they loved the book, I have to say that worked. If I get a chance, I will start a conversation in airports or on planes and turn it over to my writing. If there is interest - I hand them a bookmark. Since I have gotten email from people that I talked to in airports, I have to say that worked, too.

So my point is this - bookmarks do not have some magic quality that sells books. It's about the personal contact first, then using the bookmark so the person can remember which book to buy. I think bookmarks have been a hellaciously successful marketing tool for me, but then, I have a hellaciously tenacious set of friends and family - and I'm no slacker myself. :)

I also think bookmark design and quality make a difference. Different colors catch the eye and the feel of paper make people instantly think "high quality" or "cheap." If you have a network of people who will push your bookmarks, go ahead and splurge on the price and the design. If you are not a graphic artist, please, PLEASE turn this part of the process over to an expert. I learned the hard way about graphics when I tried my own web designing. It's not my strong point and any time I waste on attempting it is time I could have spent writing my next book.

I used earthlycharms.com for my bookmark printing and design and couldn't be happier. Were they the cheapest - no - but based on the other bookmarks I've seen out there, they are definitely the best. In fact, I've had other writers ask me where I bought my bookmarks because they were so impressed with the quality.

So that wraps up my first marketing lesson. I hope this helps!
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