Curiosity

iwdayala0240cSo I’ve been reading books since the beginning of time. My mother was one of those who went to the library every 10 days or so and signed out stacks of books. I remember going with her. She helped me pick out some of my favorite books that I still remember. And I’m one of those readers that gets totally involved in stories. To the extent that sometimes when someone speaks to me I’m not sure where I am. And if it’s a series … forget it, I could be lost for weeks somewhere in history or the future.

I love reading.
 
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I think finding the right profession for my heroes is one of the toughest jobs. (Get the pun?) I mean there are stories like “Deceive Her With Desire” or “A Touch of Lilly” where a profession like being an alphabet guy just flows naturally from the plot. But sometimes that’s just not the case.

In my novella, Divine Deception, Nicholas Gradin is a chemical engineer. It just seemed to be a natural offshoot of growing up on a vineyard and learning to mix wines. And although I think he’s pretty irrisistable, an engineer in and of itself just isn’t sexy.
But I have to say there are just some heroes I can’t resist:

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Bartenders
Cowboys
Firefighters
Demons (Fallen Angels)
Vampires

They just scream alpha to me. Totally in charge. Totally ready to square off with a fiesty heroine and rock her world.

So what about you? Are there any heroes that make your knees go weak just because of their day job?

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Because Halloween is a couple of days away I thought this week I’d share some paranormal thoughts. Today’s topic: GHOSTS. And I gotta tell you, as I type this in the dark late hours, with Sandy’s wind slashing rain against my windows, I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting some specter to be checking my spelling. *shivers*

Because folks … I know ghosts are real.

Unlike so many other paranormal entities, vampires, werewolves and fae (oh, my) I’ve seen my fair share of ghosts and I don’t mind admitting, they scare the living bejeebers out of me. I grew up in a very old house that had been built in the late 1800’s. That sucker was full of creepy sh*t, though I seem to be the only one of five children who saw/heard anything. Mystery foot falls running up and down the stairs. Attic doors that opened on their own. Lights that turned on when no one was in the room. People walking into rooms and then disappearing. You know, the sort of thing a teenager home alone doesn’t want to experience.

One of the wildest times happened when I was home alone with my boyfriend (who became Mr. Nina). We were *cough cough* studying in my room when we heard this wild lawn party going on at my neighbor’s house. Music, laughter, people talking. I opened the window to check it out (because I’m nosy like that) and guess what … there was no party outside. I pull my head back in, sure enough, the sounds of a distant party. Outside … nothing. I looked at creeped out boyfriend to confirm he was experiencing the same thing and we bolted from the room. Funny thing is, my parents came home shortly after we’d settled ourselves in the livingroom. Hmmmm. I’ve often wondered about that one.

When I was in college, my parents went through a divorce and my mom was in the house by herself a lot. She finally experienced the feet running up and down the stairs. Though she never mentioned seeing anything, I wonder if it was finally quiet enough for her to hear what had been going on around her all along.

To this day, I still sense the spiritual world. I can’t talk to them or see them, which is just fine with me, but I know when they’re there. I don’t need Ghost Hunters to confirm what I already feel. It’s the reason I can’t watch movies like Sixth Sense or Poltergeist. I replay every ghostly scene, tossing and turning at night, convinced if I open my eyes, someone will be standing over me.

My son is also sensitive. He spent many a night in my bed after he woke to find “the boy” watching over him in his bedroom. Yeeeah, I so couldn’t sleep in that particular bedroom of that house either. For the last two years we’ve been in an apartment in a refurbished mill. I understand there is a spirit in the common room downstairs … I don’t go down there. But I am grateful there is plenty of ambiant light lighting up my room at night. I never have to wonder when I wake in the night if something is haqnging in the shadows that isn’t human or feline. I liked it that way. I’m hoping the next house we buy will be the same. It keeps the nightly trip to go pee from terrorizing me. LOL!

So what about you? Do you believe in ghosts? Or do you think I’m completely off my rocker on this one? You know me. I’d love for you to share … I’m just curious like that.

(I’m also hanging out at Tabby’s Nocturnal Nights talking about writing memorable characters. She’s having a wonderful Halloween party over there. Stop by and join in the fun!)

ConfusionI’ve only been doing this writing gig eight years and it has amazed me the number of changes that have happened in the publishing world in that short time. It’s not so much that it’s surprising as the delivery of books is pushed by the advances in technology. It’s just that … wow! It’s hard to know which way to go.

When I first started writing in the summer of 2005 I had NO clue about writing a book. As a voracious reader I only knew what I enjoyed in a story and I sat down at the keyboard attempting to emulate my favorite writers. My first attempt wasn’t bad–not publishable–but not bad.

Back then most books were published at bigger publishers who accepted most submissions through agents. New writers needed to give their career credibility and prove they weren’t just doing this writing gig as a “hobby”, but were interested in making writing a profession. Enter Romance Writers of America. This national organization is dedicated to advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. Being a member and more specifically a PRO member (proof that you’ve finished a manuscript, submitted it and it’s been rejected) was supposed to prove to publishers and agents that you wanted your writing to be more than just a one book diversion, but that you were actually interested in building a business.

From the national level of RWA I found the Maine Chapter of RWA. THIS is what I needed. A group of writers who had been through the process, knew the ropes and became my guiding light in a business I knew nothing about. I branched out to several online chapters of RWA all of them grounding me in the chaotic seas of the publishing world.

But as technology has changed and publishing has changed–so have my needs. For the last couple of years I’ve held on to my RWA national membership not only to give credibility to my career, but also so I could be a member of my local chapters. But this year with my latest move, I’ve come to realize the relationships I’ve forged with the writers in Maine would continue even if I wasn’t a member of the chapter. I haven’t been able to make the monthly meetings anyway and all of my interaction was online.

With the changing tide of publishing now flowing into the author’s control I realized I didn’t need RWA to anchor me anymore. At the end of last year … I finally cut ties.

Being the rule-follower that I am, I still feel a little strange about it. Due to physical limitation, (and let’s face it–finanacial costs) I’ve never attended the RWA National convention. I don’t know if this has put me behind the eight ball in my publishing career, but I suspect (for me) I’m not missing out on anything. Writing conventions have never sparked my muse, quite the opposite in fact (but that’s a blog for another day). Still, I wonder if I ever choose to look for an agent if they’ll see it as a red flag that I don’t belong to a “professional” organization.

I know as a reader I have no idea if an author belongs to a professional organization … doesn’t make any difference to me. I want their books, not their bio. I know other authors are struggling with this same decision. So what do you think? Do professional writing organizations say anything about an author? I’d love to know what you think. Because you know me … I’m curious about stuff like this.

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My sister-in-law is visiting. And to my amazement she grabbed some reading material before heading into the bathroom. Kinda surprised me. Why? Because I think reading in the loo is more of a “guy” thing. I think most woman pop into the bathroom in hopes of having at least two minutes to do their thing before someone knocks and yells “Moooooom”. And every woman with children will tell you the little ones have a special radar tuned in to their mom. It doesn’t matter how engrossed they seem in activity, all it took for me to get their attention was to pick up the phone, lean my head back and close my eyes for a couple of moments or shut the bathroom door … those little angels came running with some desperate need that had to be fulfilled at that moment.

But men? Men seem to find their zen in the bathroom. Guys gather a couple of magazines, the daily newspaper and the mail before heading in for their “quiet” time. And EVERYONE knows it’s best to steer clear of that corner of the house for several hours after that door opens and the green fog drifts away.

Now, my guilty pleasure? Soaking in the tub with some fancy candles burning around me and slipping into the lovely water with a wonderful book (and a glass of wine). *sigh* Since I was a library gal prior to being a writer this meant worrying about ruining a library book. When I started buying my books there was less worry, but still I had to be diligent about making sure the pages didn’t curl from the steam rising off my bubbles.

With the advent of e-readers bathroom reading is even easier. Slipping that e-reader into a gallon sized baggie allows one to read without worry of getting the reader wet. And flipping those pages from one hot scene to another? Easy peasy.

So grab that book, a glass of wine and some candles and settle in for a long hot soak in the tub. Just tell the family you’re doing something like re-wallpapering the bathroom walls or scrubbing the floor … anything that doesn’t involve relaxing. Because you know they won’t leave you alone if they think you’re not busy!

So curiosity has me asking … are you a bathroom reader?

noteXSmallSo, it’s the question I ask myself every time I sit down at the computer with the intention of writing my next story. Do I write something that’s hot with the market or the story that’s rolling in my head? And trust me when I say … they’re not usually the same.

Now, let me clarify by saying that I’ve never written a story where I wasn’t proud of the final product. It’s just that I’ve enjoyed writing some more than others. And I have yet to have any characters just run away with the story. Nope. Soooooo not me. I’m really envious of authors who say they couldn’t type as fast as their characters talked or that scenes unraveled and they were just along for the journey.

Yeeeeah. Maybe some day.

But until then I weigh and measure which story to work on next. I have figured out I’m a one story author. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t left some of my novels to write something shorter, but I don’t work on two stories at a time. I’m singularly focused. I do have several plot ideas rolling around in my head, all the time, but until I have a really good idea where they’re going I can’t put fingers to keyboard.

For the last couple of years I’ve been really focused on what is selling in the erotic market. I’ve tailored my characters to fit in that mold. And you know what … it was hard. I’m proud of the stories and pleased with the end product, but the journey to completion wasn’t fun. Now don’t get me wrong … everyone, no matter how much they love their job, has those days when they just don’t really want to show up and when work is just that … work. And the same is true for me.

But the last book I re-wrote, the one where the rights reverted back to me, was a wonderful journey of being reintroduced to characters I loooove and writing that makes me VERY proud. It’s a futuristic erotic romance titled A TOUCH OF LILLY and is set in deep space. I really enjoyed creating the aliens and weapons and discovering a new setting. When this was out with a publisher, the reviews were awesome! The sales? Not so much. And that’s supposed to be all right because my writing should be about the story and not about what the readers are buying.

Or should it?

Let’s face it. I’m writing to make a living. I’ve never hidden that fact. When my body gave itself over to the MS I was forced to stop working. My writing has become my new career. Failure is not an option … okay, that has more to do with how I’m wired rather than my need to buy groceries and pay the electric bill. But still, I want this new career to keep me contributing to my family’s budget. So then I vacillate back to … write what the readers are buying. And with this new self-publishing thing going on it means I do have flexibility. I’m not bound to what publishers are buying. Still …

It’s a ping pong match in my head with stories vying for my attention. I don’t know what the answer is. I wrestle with it every time I sit down to write a new story. Ideally, I’d like a balance of both worlds, a story that is fun to write and one the readers will love. I have no idea if I’ll ever find the middle of that road, but I’m working on it.

So as an author, where do you head with your stories? And as a reader do you read by genre or by author or a balance of both? Because I’m dying to know.

And because this is my blog and a place for me to do a little marketing. Here’s the new cover from Dar Albert … an aaaamazing cover artist and the blurb:

399 X 650Ex-Chicago detective LILLY D’ANGELO has a secret she doesn’t share with anyone. A master of the one night stand, she’s given up ever finding a soul mate and thrown herself head first into her career. That is, until she captures the wrong alien. Kidnapped and sold into the sex slave trade, she’s shipped into deep space. Barely escaping with her life, Lilly now travels the galaxy working as a bounty hunter using her secret talents to bring down criminals and seeking revenge on the one male who ruined her life.

Agent DALLAS SAWYER works for deep space’s version of the FBI. After a disastrous mission that left several of his team members murdered, a president executed, and Dallas near death, he’s determined to take down the assassin targeting government officials. When a sexy human female gets between him and his goal, Dallas and his alien partner find themselves on the receiving end of a passionate night they won’t soon forget and a proposition that may very well blow up in their faces.

Because in deep space … true love can happen with just a touch.

 

So it’s come around again … that age old discussion of marketing. And more specifically–marketing books.

Wait, don’t run away. I’ve got a couple of serious questions (mostly because I’m trying to make a point to an author friend who is currently working on the cover design for their first self-published work and I hate being wrong) and so I need your help.

Most readers when looking at a new author will base their buying decision on:
1) the cover
2) the book description (or back cover blurb)
and if they’re still undecided in some order …
3) first few pages
4) reader reviews

So if that’s the case, the cover needs to reflect both the genre and the tone of the story. In this ever-changing world of publishing it’s sometimes difficult to know what readers will respond to. Romance has seen its fair share of handsome men:

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and couples:

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There are also the romance novels with scenery:

bookteganbookdiane

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But times are a-changing. With the breakout success of the erotic romance 50 Shades of Grey readers are seeing less skin on their romance novels:

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And these covers have done their job very well. All of these books draw readers in with their stunning visuals. We all have covers we love and covers we “live with” because they adorn the novels of our favorite authors. Cover designs aren’t always in the hands of an author, but rather the marketing department of a publisher. But with the advent of self-publishing, authors have much more control over the elements found on the book cover. We get to decide how we’re going to portray our story and draw romance/mystery/paranormal readers to our books.

And here’s what this whole blog is about. A friend of mine is finishing up edits for an amazing love story I’ve had the privilege of reading as it was developed. I know this story could be a HUGE seller. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you sigh as these two people find their happy-ever-after. BUT … and there is a huge BUT … my friend wants to use some original artwork on the cover. Think Picasso (due to copyright I can’t show you the pics, you’ll have to follow the link). You know, artistically depicted woman. Think lots of symbolism in the art.

And it’s a beautiful piece of art, but to me, it’s just not … a romance book cover. So I’m throwing it out to all of you … would you stop and even read the book description of a book with art on the cover? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like this.

*** UPDATE ***
My friend is watching this discussion carefully and doesn’t feel I’m giving the artwork its due when I compare it to Picasso (which, I admit, wasn’t a good comparison, but I searched the internet and couldn’t find a better description). So with permission from the author I offer you the actual artwork that is being considereed for this contemporary romance. The point is still, would this make you stop and pick up this book if you were looking for a great love story?

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Publishing has always been a difficult way to make a living. Not just sitting down and actually getting the words on paper (which is a blog in and of itself), but the competition of getting your finished story to the reader.

The whole process has been made easier in the last few years as the world of self-publishing opens a new realm for authors hoping to see their work in print (or at least in digital pixels).

The competition no longer lies in trying to catch the ear of an agent and ultimately the attention of a publisher. The problem for an author is now trying to rise above the din of other books being released daily in HUGE batches. I feel like a woman standing in the middle of the stock market floor shouting “me me me … I’m over here” only to be drowned out by others who jump higher and yell louder.

Like many authors, I go out in the twitterverse and tell people about my books. I mention them now and again on Facebook. I’ve even done a couple of ad campaigns. But like other authors, I don’t want to scare readers away by being in their face every day shouting BUY MY BOOK … IT’S REALLY GOOD! Yeeeeah, that so isn’t going to work. No one likes the hard sell.

So what’s left? Well, Amazon used to have catagory tags for our books. We used to be able to have people agree with them and have our books show up on category searches done by readers. But Amazon found out some people were (in their words) abusing the system. Authors (like me) were having “tagging parties” to get high numbers of agreements so their books show up higher in a search. Some people were putting big name authors in their set of tags so their books showed up when a reader searched those author’s books. In some cases, this was done by some readers who wanted other readers to find an unknown author (which is awesome). In some cases it was done by the author (not cool).

Tags were being abused by some by adding erotic tags to books that didn’t fit that category. Some authors found tags like “spam” or “delete” or “trash” in their lists.

I think Amazon got tired of the sheer number of valid complaints they were getting and have now completely dropped the tags associated with books (Note: turns out this is only on the US site). I think the only way to search for a book now is through the categories authors/publishers add when putting a book up on Amazon. I haven’t heard any backlash from readers, but I’m wondering if many have discovered they’re not getting the results from their Amazon searches. And perhaps readers didn’t really use this feature.

I also think Amazon used the tags (and likes at the top of a book page) in their algorithms to determine a book’s ranking on lists. (Pure speculation as no one knows for sure how the algorithms work.) And Amazon doesn’t like to think the rankings are manipulated in any way. Getting rid of tags stopped the possibility that authors could do anything to “play the system”.

There are rumors that Amazon is going to get rid of the reviews as well. I don’t know if that will happen, but I do know similar things are happening with reviews being used to bring down (or up) an author’s number of stars. Unfortunately not all reviews are legitimate. Again, I’m not sure how many readers use reviews to find a new author. But I wonder if readers are going to miss the reviews if they’re no longer found on books.

What about you? Do you use either tags or reviews in determining whether you’re going to make a book purchase? Because you know … I’m curious about this kind of stuff!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE! With all the destruction left from Sandy (and still affecting some) I hope you and yours are safe and warm.

Everyone has their own experiences in the world…things that have happened to make them who they are and form their beliefs. In all honesty, my experience is limited. My Catholic background and middle class friends didn’t really stretch my world into the paranormal realm. It’s only since I’ve been a writer and active on the internet and on various social media, in forums, and Yahoo loops that I’ve met some very interesting people who have pushed my boundaries of the “normal world”.

Today, I want to hear your take on witches, fae, vampires, that kind of thing.

I’ve met (online) several writers who are witches. To be honest, I’m not sure what that means. I do believe they study (or practice?) Wicca and that they are part of covens. Beyond that, I don’t know much about witches. I don’t know if they cast spells or simply have a different view of the world. I do have a witch trilogy that’s been percolating in my brain for awhile so it’s one of those things on my to-do research list. If you have more information, I’d love to know.

And what of vampires? I have a friend who says there is a (coven?) of vampires in southern Maine. Not playacting people who don fake fangs, but actual non-living, non-breathing vampires. (Not like this type of human vampire.) This one stretches me beyond what I can actually fathom. I’m all about the sexy alpha vampires filling the pages of my books and hanging out on movie screens … but walking the city streets? I seriously can’t go there.

There’s also this new trend to plant faerie gardens to attract the wee folk. Like really have faeries coming to your garden? Or do people think the enchantment is as real as Santa and it’s the spirit of the idea? I don’t know. I have a friend who planted a special garden this summer, but I haven’t seen her in person to have a lengthy discussion about all things with wings.

So where do you stand on all of this? Any experience with any of the above? I hope you’ll share. Because I’m really not trying to pass judgment, I’m fascinated by all of it and would love to hear what you all think.

(I’m also hanging over at Full Moon Bites Blog chatting about other worlds. I hope you’ll swing over.)

That phrase conjurs a certain image … but it amazes me how in just a short time that image has changed.

I love technology. The devolopement of the Internet has been nothing short of amazing. I’m just awed at how quickly my story can go from a nugget of an idea to a full blown ebook novel that people can buy from all kinds of retailers. What used to take years can now take only as long as it takes me to write the book (if I’m self-publishing).

When I first began writing, I submitted manuscripts and contest entries through the mail, printing and collating them, packaging them and running them to the post office. But emailing them is so much easier. And editing? I never had to go through the process of mailing a full manuscript and receiving it back with red marks I was supposed to fix. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how it used to be done without the ease of computers sending them through cyberspace in the matter of seconds.

That being said I think this wonderful technology has robbed my children and their whole generation of the thrill of letter writing. They don’t know the fun of receiving a handwritten envelope in the mail only to open it up and find pages of words lovingly written, bringing news of home or a loved one far away. And remember when you used to go on vacation and write out postcards and actually mail them? Now it’s wireless internet and digital pictures posted on facebook that are shared with family left at home. It’s just not the same thing.

My love affair for the written word began at an early age. I moved from my very best friend when I was in second grade and for years we wrote to each other. I missed her terribly. When I was a kid I wrote stories and plays that my friends would help me perform. Late in elementary school I got my first diary. I filled that one and started another. I kept this going into early high school. I have no idea what I wrote in them because I wisely destroyed them decades ago. (No, really… it was a good decision. I was a wild child. I didn’t want anyone to know the “real” me. 😉 ) In middle school I found a penpal in Japan and wrote to her for over a year. We exchanged currency because they were so different. We sent each other pictures of ourselves, our homes and our families, allowing each other glimpses of our daily lives.

It was wonderful.

Children can do that today more easily over the internet or sheesh, on their phones. Communication is not only instanteous, it also seems to be continuously streaming. Heck, let’s face it, we can now have live interactions with anyone anywhere through Skype. But they can’t take that conversation and glue it into scrapbook like I did with the letters from my friend. I saved all of them. My children will be able to read the words of a little girl from Japan, penned by her own hand about her life in a foreign land. That’s hands-on history.

My husband and I began dating when I was a freshman in high school. When I was a junior he went to college 11 hours from home. I didn’t see him for months at a time. But during our separation we wrote. A couple of letters a week. Phone calls were so expensive we agreed to call each other only once a month. The only connection I had with him was our letters. Nothing like today where cellphones and internet keep us a moment away from each other.

But I love those letters. We both saved every single one we wrote to each other. Letters of love that speak of innocent youthful cravings and tiny drawings, some marred with tears I shed while looking at them. We wrote for the two full years he was so far away. He eventually decided to go to school closer to home so our letter writing stopped. But what lovely memories we have saved in those shoeboxes in the top of my closet. I’m not sure how appropriate some of them are, but someday I will sit and pore through them and save those fit for our children to read without blushing. Our words, scripted in our own hand (or hen scratch in the case of Mr. Nina) will remind them how much their parents loved each other.

When I went to college my mother wrote to me once a week. It was my lifeline to home. Every Friday without fail her letter arrived in my mailbox. It became a tradition for me to read it outloud to my roommate and several close friends. It was like having home right there in the dorm and sharing it with those around me. My mother had an incredible talent for painting pictures with words. So my family history is recorded in those letters I saved.

As my children came along I began keeping diaries again. I wrote letters to them on the pages before they were even born. I also kept calendars for them and recorded daily activities. I journaled in baby books (written in first person as if they made the entries), tucking in little mementos like napkins from birthday parties and locks of hair.

It’s all a wonderful written history of who we were and how we got to this point. My children love reading their baby books and the antecdotes I recorded. But in the early 90’s I got a computer. I continued to write letters to my mom, but now they were printed off rather than in my own handwriting. Eventually we got the internet and my emails and phone calls took the place of the letter writing. When my children were in college, I rarely sent them mail, but spoke to them a couple of times a week and texted them nearly every day.

But it’s not the same and I know it.

It makes me sad to lose this wonderful tradition. My children won’t have the words of love and concern we shared through their college years, because let’s face it, I don’t print out their emails and I know they don’t print out mine.

It’s such a sad thing. I guess every new technology comes with its downside.

I can say that I have passed on one tradition to my children. Without fail they sit and write thank you notes for gifts they receive at birthday, Christmas, or graduation. We started it when all they could write was their name. It’s something Beautiful Girl and Baby Girl continue to do and Little Boy Blue does when I niggle him. So they’re not long newsy letters, but at least they’re handwritten.

I’d like to tell you this has inspired me to write a letter, but I’m afraid my own letter writing days are over. I have the ability to type, but writing for any length of time is nearly impossible with my MS. I do however manage to type a letter or two now and again. But every once in awhile, like now, I pine for the days when a letter I sent in the mail meant that in another few days I’d get one back.

So what about you? Do you write letters? How do you feel when you receive a letter (even if it’s just a thank you note or a card)? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

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