Sunday, December 31, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
The author was crushed. I can understand this. I'd be hurt and disappointed too if I came across people trashing something I'd put my heart and soul into. What I didn't understand was why this author kept going back to that discussion board, time and again, to read additional incoming negative remarks. Why subject yourself to something you know hurts. She obssessed on these few readers opinions and, within a couple of weeks, she was so depressed that she considered never writing another book.
Her reaction may seem overdramatic as you read this, but I can understand how an extremely sensitve artist could be paralyzed by insecurity. These readers made her question her talent. Many artists grapple with insecurity daily. It's part of our make up. A good majority of us anyway. Putting yourself, your work, out there to begin with takes courage. Withstanding public criticism takes the heart of a lion. You absolutely MUST believe in yourself, your vision, your talent. Listen, learn, and grow from constructive criticism. Turn a deaf ear, or in this case, a blind eye, to those who rip apart your work based on personal preference. You can't please everyone.
Back to yesterday's Romancing the Blog post. Read the comments as well as the original post. Several people offered keen perspective. I won't repeat it here. In a nutshell, I believe readers are entitled to their opinion, of course. They should be able to discuss books honestly and openly, absolutely. (Although one would hope they would do so in a respectful manner. But I digress.) Point is, if you're the author they're dishing about and you can't take the heat... Stay out of their kitchen. (I know I would.)
I started to search for a witty, wise quote from a by-gone artist on criticism. Then I remembered something I read on another author's blog last year. Words of wisdom from her daughter, a young kid who'd just withstood ridicule from a few peers. Though clearly hurt, the young girl shrugged and said, "Opinions are like buttholes. Everybody has one." *g*
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Networking to me means giving as well as benefitting. With that in mind, I've decided to use the blog feature at MySpace as a place to celebrate and shine the light on the creative people in my life. I'm calling the blog: Creatively Speaking... Conversations with Friends and Associates. Bi-weekly I'll post an interview with someone who circulates in one of my two creative worlds, entertainment or publishing. You'll get to learn a little about our personal relationship and a lot about their current or upcoming projects. I hope to feature an interesting mix of musicians and performers (actors, jugglers, magicians...) and writers, agents, and editors. My entertainment history tends to weave its way into my writing so offering my readers a further peek into that world seemed a logical and unique approach to me.
I'll launch Creatively Speaking in January. If it proves too time consuming, I'll drop down to one feature a month instead of two. In addition to spotlighting friends and associates, I'll be stretching my writing chops. 'Interviewing' is a skill I have not honed.
Two of my goals for 2007 are to broaden and strengthen my artistic talents and to promote more heavily and creatively. I also need to regain my grip on 'discipline', but that's another story. How about you? What are your professional goals for 2007?
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Yesterday, it was back to work full speed. I emceed a ten hour sweepstakes at Trump Taj Mahal. My day started with an angry patron screaming, yes, screaming at me and jabbing her finger in my face. Apparently it was my fault that she couldn't hear the annoucements. My responsibility to 'turn up the house speakers'. My fault that this is an on-going problem at Taj. For the record, my voice was booming and as for adjusting the sound level that's up to the sound technicians. There was no reasoning with this bitter, crazy woman so I just had to ignore her until she stalked away. The day was peppered with several Scrooges who groused at me. "The winners are fictitious." "This sweepstakes is rigged." And so on. The casino was filled with bitter, miserable people. The negative atmosphere reminded me of why I eventually tired of working fulltime in the casinos. Let me tell you, I am so looking forward to working at the library today. Bring on the positive vibes!
In other news, last year my two young friends Stacie and Taylor advised me to join MySpace where, they said, I could connect with tons of new readers and people who share my interests. I looked into it and felt it wasn't for me. Frankly, I was turned off by the very personal questions in the profile section and also the site had a 'singles dating' vibe. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
Since then throughout the year, I've read about more and more actors, musicians and writers creating pages at MySpace for marketing and networking purposes. Authors JA Konrath and Alison Kent have blogged about the promotional advantages more than once. Last week my good friend Mary Stella took the MySpace plunge and explained to me why I should join her in those waters. On Christmas Eve I caved. As for the profile questions, if I thought it was an inappropriate question, I marked 'no answer'. Then I sent a note asking Mary to be 'My Friend' as I had none listed and she got me into this. LOL The whole thing snowballed and as of today I have twenty-some friends. So far, I know all of them except for a couple, but those two are writers so that's very cool.
I quickly began to see how MySpace works regarding 'networking' and now I'm actually sort of excited to be there. There's a blog feature, but this is my home blog, my official blog, if you will, and where you'll still find me almost daily. I wanted to use the MySpace blog in a different way and I think I came up with a fun idea. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, hop over and check out my space at MySpace. If you're a member, please connect and be 'My Friend'. No Scrooges allowed. *g* Oh, and Stacie and Taylor.... You were right.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This week has been, and continues to be, crazy. In my normal hectic life, I am known by some as 'The Blur'. I'm the person running here, there, and everywhere. This week I'm not even a blur. I am the wind. *g* I try to take off at least one night a week to settle in for a movie night with the family. (That would be Steve and the fur kids.) This is us last week enjoying a holiday classic. Well, Steve, Billie and I enjoyed it. Sadie (the cat) and Cheyenne (the little dog) fell asleep. Aren't they cute?
Today, after work, we're driving up to Long Island to spend two days with my in-laws. Depending on traffic, anywhere from a three to five hour drive. Billie and Cheyenne will come with. Sadie will stay home with a sitter. Billie loves to ride in the car. Cheyenne gets car sick. Not fun. Last time, the vet suggested Benedryl for a long trip to make her drowzy. It works like a dream. Yay!
Back to Billie. She loves car rides. She loves the annual holiday visit with the Ciottas. Dad C (who calls himself her grandpa) gives her lots of treats and takes her for long walks. She's always excited as we zip up the Garden State Parkway, not settling down until we hit Staten Island. She dozes through Brooklyn and along the Northern State, but as soon as we veer onto the Meadowbrook Parkway, she pops up and starts looking out the window. I don't know how she knows that turn, but she does. She knows at that point we're seven minutes from her grandpa's. Amazing. This will be her 12th or 13th holiday visit to Long Island. Even though she's moving slower these days, I know she'll perk up like a little kid when she senses we're close to grandpa and grandma's. It does my heart good. Cheyenne will just be happy to be anywhere but the car. And Sadie will enjoy having the sofa entirely to herself. As you can see from the look on her face, sometimes she gets a little squished.
Are you making any trips this week? Are you going to friends and family? Or are they coming to you?
From my family to yours... Happy Holidays! May it bring out the kid in you!
Sunday, December 17, 2006
There are some dynamic, well constructed, entertaining holiday blog posts out there. This is not one of them. This is me checking in to say, OH MY GOD! CHRISTMAS IS NEXT WEEKEND?!
You guessed it. I'm not ready. Today I will be cramming in various preparations, including shopping, wrapping gifts to be mailed, washing the dogs so that they smell and feel yummy when we travel North for a brief visit with my in-laws, and cleaning the house, mostly the guest room, so that I'm not totally embarassed when Mary comes for a visit on the 23rd.
These tasks will of course spill over into tomorrow with the addition of preparing for my last Penelope Pageturner Storyhour and making some, any, even a word, of progress on my WIP.
If you don't hear from me for a couple of days, you'll know why. Not that I expect many of you to be bloghopping over the next week. I expect you to be attending parties, watching holiday movies and enjoying, as the song goes, the most wonderful time of the year.
Speaking of... what are your plans for the week?
Friday, December 15, 2006
I received a holiday box from my mom yesterday. In it was a wrapped gift for Steve and I (which we'll open on Christmas) and a beautiful guardian angel snowglobe (now on display and bringing joy). Also inside that box were three unwrapped items. Items my mom had found tucked away in some box in some closet or attic. They only cost her the time it took to root them out and box them up.
The first item was a 'letter' sweater I had had in my senior year of high school, specifically honoring my years in choir and a select vocal/dance group. It made me smile. It used to be one of my favorite things and I'd forgotten all about it.
The second item was a scrapbook that my Grandma Miller made me. It was filled with pictures of moi as a kid, from grade school to high school. There were also newspaper articles and pictures of events I'd been involved in. Like the only two 'pageants' I ever particpated in in my life (she dragged me into those if memory serves) and a few school plays I starred in (more my speed) and pictures of me with the high school cheerleading squad. OMG, I weighed like 75 pounds! Hello stick legs! The scrap book gave me the warm fuzzies. Not because of the contents so much, but because my grandma had put so much time and thought into it.
The third item was an article of clothing. A satiney plum nightgown with colorful embroidery. My mom's note said: Do you remember this? It was your Grandma Childer's favorite nightgown.
I promptly burst into tears.
Grandma Childers was my mom's mom. She was the shining star in my life until I was nineteen and her light went out (so to speak). I remember sitting on the patio with her shucking corn and peas and listening to her screwball stories (like the time she swore she was chased by an alien ship). I remember how she made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with her waffle iron. How she made carmels and popcorn balls from scratch during the holidays. I remember her pouring salt in her beer. How we watched the Miss America Pageant every year and kept our own score. How she hung clothes on the clothes line in the summertime clad only in polyester bermuda shorts and her bra. "What?" she'd say. "I'm hot and it's just like a bathing suit top."
And I remembered her wearing that nightgown and smelling of Dove soap.
Grandma has been gone a long time, although she sometimes visits me in my dreams. I live far and away from all of my family so I'm kind of islolated from family stuff and mostly speed through each day in hyperdrive... work, work, work. I couldn't believe the impact that nightgown had on me. The feeling and memories it stirred. I was touched by my mom's thoughtfulness and a piece of clothing that belonged to wacky, wonderful woman who I loved very much. Talk about an amazing gift.
What's the best gift you've ever received? Or at least, one of the one's that touched you most?
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I'd like to thank everyone who chimed in yesterday regarding my photo shoot and the two pictures I'd passed on. Your enthusiastic response to the location shot of me in black convinced me to indeed use that photo... just not now.
When promoting one's self I believe it's important to be true to the product you are hawking. Brand, brand, brand. My published books thus far and those in the contracted future are classified as Romantic Comedy with a Twist of Suspense (my brand). Even my historical westerns fall under this umbrella. Since I want to convey 'what-you-see-is-what-you-get', I opted for 'fun and flirty'. I think this look works well with the HQN cover for All About Evie as well as with any of my release with Medallion Press.
Also, while surfing the author photos at the Harlequin site along with several romance readers' websites, I noticed that they generally crop tight, from the shoulders up. That would work fine for both of these photos, whereas the location shoot photo works best full-length. You see, there is a method to my madness. *g* I'm sending the photo with the light background to HQN and the photo with the dark background to Medallion Press. A slightly different look for each of my publishers. I'll be using both on my website along with a select few others.
As for the popular shot in black (scroll down to yesterday's post), it's perfect for the paranormal series proposal I'm currently working on. For now I'll use that picture for creative visualization. "I will need this photo. I will sell the series."
Where do you stand on publicity photos as a reflection of one's art? Any examples of photos that you consider hits or misses?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
This past week or so, blogging daily has been tough. I won't bore you with the 'whys'. I do that too often. Too many jobs/projects, not enough time. Enough said.
As you know from my last post, a bit of time was devoted to a photography shoot. One day we did location shots, another day studio shots. I kept asking Greg if he was using the 'young, pretty, skinny lens'. *g* He assured me that I looked fine. "You have great skin," he said. "Whoop-te-do," I thought. Although I suppose I should be thrilled. I credit my lifelong aversion to sunbathing and the loyal use of Ponds Cold Cream.
When Greg showed me the location proofs, he told me not to worry about any blemishes or pronounced wrinkles, flyaway hairs or unflattering shadows. "I can PhotoShop those out." To demonstrate, he maximized my face on the computer and brushed away a few of the deeper crow's feet. Wow. Now I know why celebs always look so flawless in those fashion layouts. The pictures here are uncropped and not retouched. Behold the real me. These were contenders, but not the ones I ended up choosing. I settled on two close-up studio shots and one location body shot with the Atlantic City skyline in the background. I'll share those later.
I have to say that, although the photography was great, I kept looking at the proofs thinking, "Who is that woman?" It's been a good ten years since I've had professional shots done. I guess I had a thirty-something me branded on my brain. In my heart and mind, I still feel like a 'girl'. But the face looking back at me in those photos definitely belonged to a woman. It was sort of... depressing. My husband, being the wonderful person he is, assured me that he loves 'that face'. Out of the many proofs, he thought several were contenders. It took me awhile, but after pouring over the photos, I started to get use to the woman staring back at me. That woman's lived a great life and the best is yet to come.
Question for the next day (or two): How old do you feel on the inside? Have you ever been surprised at the person looking back at you in the mirror?
Sunday, December 10, 2006
So there I was, knocking on the door of the photographer who'd taken my new publicity shots. He'd burned the proofs to a CD so I could take them home and view at my leisure. I needed to choose my top three or four favorites. Those are the ones he'd retouch (read: work magic) and I'd utilize for future promo.
Anyhoo, the photographer invited me in and introduced me to the young couple sitting in his office. I assumed they were there to talk about their wedding pictures as Greg (the photographer) had told me that morning that he was working on fifteen different wedding projects. We traded friendly greetings as Greg located my CD.
Greg: "Beth's here to pick up her publicity shots. She's an author. She writes romance novels."
The Groom: (big smile, loud voice) So, you write those trashy romance novels!
Here's where I'm pretty sure I visibly winced. I know I flushed. It felt like a personal insult on my writing. Which is stupid. He's never read my work. Probably never read a romance novel. Hence he wasn't qualified to have an opinion on the quality level or entertainment value of a (any) romance novel. Basically, he had a knee jerk reaction to the term 'romance novel'. He merely responded with one of the two most commonly related cliches. The other, of course, being bodice-ripper.
There was a pregenant pause as I wrestled with my response. It wasn't an intentional slight, I told myself, just a thoughtless quip. Greg looked uncomfortable. The bride looked uncomfortable. The groom looked clueless.
Me: (forcing a smile) "No, I don't write trash. I write about people falling in love."
The Groom: (still smiling, still loud) "What then? No Fabio on your cover?"
I resited the urge to suggest he get his head out of his butt and the 1980s. "Alas," I said, "I believe the man has retired from cover modeling." I then thanked Greg for the CD, apologized for interrupting their meeting and left.
I swear, the groom had no idea that he'd ticked me off, but I'm almost positive the bride sensed it and knew the reason. I'm kind of hoping that she pointed out his thoughtless 'quip'. "You intimated what that she writes trash."
Hello. Look the word up in the dictionary, dude.
This is why when someone asks what I write, I never respond "romance novels". The unenlightened will automatically think 'trashy romance' or 'bodice-ripper'. Antiquated cliches that I fear will never die. Many won't even mean it as derogatory. Those are just catch phrases that sadly got linked long ago. Romance Novel. Trashy. Bodice-ripper.
When someone asks what I write, I always say Romantic Fiction, and I never get one of those cliches in response. More proof that those cliches are often knee-jerk responses. I could go on and on about the validity of the genre I write and read (believe me, I went on and on in my head yesterday), but the point is, words only have the power that we allow them.
Growing up, my mom taught us kids that calling any one any name was wrong. If someone called us a name, she suggested we turn the other cheek, take the high road... she had her own arsenal of cliches. I chanted one of her faves as I walked out that door, leaving the insensitive groom behind. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
I'm thinking the one I should feel bad for is that bride. Her new husband isn't exactly Mr. Smooth.
Friday, December 8, 2006
Yesterday, I tripped upon Elmore Leonard's blog. From what I could tell someone else writes the main posts and he contributes now and then. Probably when his chaotic schedule allows. *g* The post that caught my eye and made my day was Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing
Different techniques work for different people. Often it depends on your overall style and voice. Me, I'm a fan of lean, mean writing... like Leonard's. So I took some of his observations to heart and applied them to my WIP last night and, woah, wow, small changes, big difference.
If you're interested, hop over and read. Out of his ten, surely one will apply to you. Breathe new life into your work by breaking old habits. Oh, and, if you get a chance, could someone please come back here and tell me... What the heck is hooptedoodle? I think I get it but I'd like your take. If nothing else, what a great word. Hooptedoodle. *g*
Thursday, December 7, 2006
In yesterday's post, Mr. Casey wrote: "...like a lot of writers we went to our own lives for material." It made me think of how often I draw from real life experiences for my own writing. Hmmm. That would be ... a lot.
What about you? Have you ever drawn from your own life for material? If you've ever read one of my books, you know I dip into my entertainment experiences here and there (and sometimes everywhere). In kind, all of my heroines possess at least one quality or belief that is wholly 'me'. Do you ever fashion characters after you or someone you know? Where do you mine characters and situations?
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Yesterday I wrote an upcoming article for Romancing the Blog. That took me all morning. Then I attempted the one-page bio as requested by the PR dpt. at HQN (Harlequin). That took me all day! Trying to wrangle my professional life onto one page and making 'me' seem like this really dynamic person (Hence her book must be really awesome. Go buy it!) is about as fun and daunting as writing an eight-page story synopsis.
Just before 5pm, I received an email from HQN with questions from the copy editor regarding a few points in ALL ABOUT EVIE. I addressed those and then, finally around 6pm, I opened the file of my WIP. I'm really pleased that I actually managed to write two new pages because at that point.... Brain. Mush.
A phone call from my sister, Barb made me smile. She said, "It took me a year, but I finally figured out what WIP means." She guessed right. Work In Progress. It's an abbreviation used by writers. At least most of the writers I know. Her realization reminded that not every one who visits this blog is a writer. (Sorry, if I'm ever cryptic!) Then we talked about 'how to start a book' (She's just delving into writing. Yay!) and I was reminded of how much I knew about writing (novel construction) when I started my first book, which was NOTHING.
I thought about where I was with my writing 12 years ago, and what I tackled yesterday and had a brief 'wow' moment. Sure, I'm dazed, stressed, and overwhelmed most of the time these days, but I wouldn't trade the chaos for the world. I'm living my dream.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
A quote from author Ed Gorman. Amen, Ed.
His December 2 post titled, Livia and James, addresses the writing process. I read thinking, huh, my process is sort of like Gorman's. No wait, it's kind of like McBain's. No, it used to be like McBain's, and, gee, wasn't that a fun and semi-speedy adventure.
That's when I realized that my current process (which seems to differ slightly with each book) stinks. I'm thinking too hard. In the past, some of my most inspired work came from out of the blue. Spontaneity was my best friend and I've kicked him to the curb. Well, dang. Nothing like ignoring one of your strengths.
Special thanks to Mr. Gorman who just lit a fire under my butt. When I open my WIP today, I'm going to try something new. Or should I say old?
I'll leave you as I greeted you, with another quote from the featured Ed Gorman post...
"Some books look much easier to write than others. This is when I'm at the theoretical stage, still doing research. But I've always remembered what Fellini said about movies, "Every picture is a war."
Monday, December 4, 2006
I prepared for 50. The winter wonderland area they had beautifully prepared for storytime (and other special holiday events) was a tad off the beaten track and at first I had NO kids. ACK! So the PR director of the store (a good friend of mine from our character actress days) took action. She grabbed a plate of cookies, I, dressed in full Renn costume, grabbed a book and we went out on the floor. Let me tell you, we know how to bark a show! I ended up with 20 kids ranging from age 2-7. I dazzled them (*g*) with three winter stories, an interactive song, and the snowman craft. It was GREAT fun! I took a picture of the kids making they're snowmen--so cute--but I'm leery of posting pics of little ones, especially without the parents' permision. Just imagine a group of cute, happy kids and me with a big satisfied grin. Message delivered: Reading is fun! Libraries are cool!
Leaving the department store, I got an emergency phone call. The actor who was supposed to emcee the first six hours of the casino sweepstakes that day (I was scheduled for the night time shift) didn't show. Could I come right in? So I raced over to the casino still wearing Penelope makeup (false eyelashes, hair extension, glitter on my face) to sit in a freezing cold backroom, calling winners' names and make annoucements every ten minutes... for eleven hours. The good news aside from the extra pay) was that my husband brought me my laptop. Since I work that gig behind the scenes, I was able to work on THE STORY. For eleven hours. Saturday was a long day, but a good day.
Sunday I was exhausted, mentally and physically, so I treated myself to a day with three of my closest girlfriends from my entertainment world. An IMAX viewing of 'Happy Feet', dinner and holiday window shopping. It was an awesome day and I cherish it as it was probably my one holiday outing. This month I'm overwhelmed with work obligations and THE STORY. But it's all good. I may be tired.... but I'm happy.
What's the last difficult project that you tackled that left you feeling really good?
Friday, December 1, 2006
So, I'm going to take this opportunity to brag about, rave about, praise to high heavens, urge you to buy anything written by powerhouse mystery author... Lori G. Armstrong.
Specifically, her latest release Hallowed Ground. This sexy, smart private investigative tale is a sequel to Lori's debut novel Blood Ties. A novel that garnered this quote from NY Times Bestselling author, Clive Cussler"...a fascinating tale of intrigue that will sweep you into a world of horror and suspense." A novel that was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel of 2006 by The Private Eye Writers of America. Um, okay. So you might want to buy BOTH of these books. *g*
I've met Lori several times, we've danced the night away at RT Convention parties. She's funny and charming and amazingly talented. A star on the rise. It saddens me that due to snaffu, Hallowed Ground did not make it into the hands of many reviewers. Therefore you may not hear about it. A few of her friends (like me!) are shouting out and asking you seek out this teriffic read. Author Mary Stella is showing support by running a contest. She's giving away five copies of Hallowed Ground. Go here to learn how to win!
Or you can order a copy at any of the ususal on-line haunts like Amazon and BN.com
Curious about Lori and her books? Visit her website!
Until Monday... Happy Reading!