Monday, April 30, 2007

The Whirlwind that is RT

I need a t-shirt that says: I survived RT!

I'm home. Alive, but exhausted. Ragged voice and weary body. Let's not talk about my brain.

I have much I want to share about my experiences at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, but I need to get my thoughts in order. And I need a working, rested brain for that. For today, let's just say that I had a wonderful time meeting and hanging with old friends, and meeting and speaking with new friends.

I met some lovely people for the very first time including authors Alexandra Sokoloff, Harley Jane Kozak, HelenKay Dimon, and Erin McCarthy. I performed alongside Alex and Harley, both professional performers as well as published authors, in our friend Heather Graham's musical theater production. We spent a lot of time together in rehearsals and I have to say these ladies are a blast and super nice. Can't wait to read their books.

HelenKay, who I know from blogosphere, attended the 'Networking' workshop that Mary and I presented. I was thrilled when she introduced herself. A face to go with the blogger. *g* And what a nice person! Genuine and warm. It only wants to make me read her work even more. *Waving to HelenKay*

As for Erin, I met her when the 80s Trivia workshop that she hosted with my friend Kathy Love. I have to say the trivia games (and the prizes) were a hoot. (Yes, I played!!) Erin and Kathy were fun and entertaining. Even though they didn't focus on their books, you walked away wanting to buy one! Well done, ladies. *g*

That's one of the perks to attending reader/writer conventions. Meeting readers/writers face-to-face. Making a live connection often inspires someone to buy your book. They like you, so they want to support you. They like you as a person so they're intrigued and encouraged to read your work.

That's if you make a good impression.

Unfortunately, I ran into the occasional person who did not make a good impression. I have to admit, I'm not inspired to read something by someone who is... diplomatically-challenged. I was going to say rude, insensitive, inconsiderate... but someone on HelenKay's blog used the term diplomatically-challenged and I think that says it all... and more diplomatically. LOL Often times successful 'networking' simply boils down to being genuine, courteous, and respectful. Honestly, it is that simple.

I'll report more on RT in the coming week, but I have to break off to thank those who emailed me over the past week to tell me they already saw ALL ABOUT EVIE on the shelves! Tomorrow is the official release date, but apparently she was eager to get out and about and jumped the gun. *g* Some people (FeyRhi) even already read the book and shot me an enthusiastic email which I very much appreciated! Someone also wrote to ask if ALL ABOUT EVIE will be available in e-book as well. The answer is, yes! You can purchase the e -book version at eHarlequin!

I'm off to try to catch up on email and to prep for tomorrow. It's going to be another whirlwind week, but, man, what a ride!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Good Morning, Houston!

Hello everybody! I'm whipping off a quick note from Houston, TX. It's 7:30am and I'm already dressed and ready to head out for the first official day at the Romantic Times Convention. Mary Stella and I are teaching a workshop on 'Brainstorming' at 8:30am. After that I'll be free to roam 'promo lane' and attend a few workshops before the night's big welcome parties. (Yes, plural)

Last night Mary and I met up with several writer friends and gabbed the night away. It was fun and inspiring and just a tease of the good times to come this week. I'll try to check in through the week, but the days are really crammed so I'll probably save any industry reports or gossip for when I get home. I promise to take take good notes!

On another subject, there have already been a few sightings of ALL ABOUT EVIE in bookstores. Alison saw Evie at a Barnes and Noble in Texas. Mary saw her at a BN in Florida--cover out!! Someone else saw her at a Borders prominantly displayed on the new release table in the front of the store! I know, what's with all the exclamaition points? But store placement is important so this news is very exciting!!! It may be raining in Houston this morning but the sun is shining in my heart. *g*

Have a great day, my friends! I know I will. *G*

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Crazy-Busy

Posts are going to be sporadic for the next couple of weeks, folks. Crazy-busy. More than usual. Juggling several writing deadlines, promo obligations, and the day-gigs. In addition, next week I'll be away at the Romantic Times Convention in Houston. I try to blog when I'm away, but as Josh would say in LASSO THE MOON, Sometimes good intentions aren't worth spit. Because you see, it is alway crazy-busy at RT. But more of a fun-busy, then stress-busy, although I'm sure I'll experience a little anxiety just before the two workshops I'm giving as well as the two productions I'm preforming in--pre-show butterflies. However, once I'm 'on' those pretty much go away.

Anyhoo, running around like a madwoman today. Lots of preparing and packing to do. I keep telling myself I'm packing light this year. Then I think of another thing I just might need... What I need is Evie's Big Red suitcase. Although I don't have Arch around to pay the excess weight charge at the airport. *sigh* Speaking of Evie... nine days to showtime!!! Woo-hoo!!

So, what are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Have You Ever Felt Like A Unicorn?

When juggling a writing deadline and a fulltime day-job got tough, Alison Kent got creative by 'renting out' space on her blog. She is one smart cookie. Even though she can't be there, she's giving her readers a strong incentive to return daily.

Blogging daily takes energy and time. I know I'm finding it difficult to keep pace. And we're not the only authors struggling. Author PJ Parrish is leaving blogosphere. Her post is heartfelt and I very much understand her decision, although she will be missed! JA Konrath, who blogged consistently for months and months and with stunning zeal, was conspicuously absent for the past several weeks as he wrote back-to-back books. He returned today with a post that struck me as keenly as Parrish's. We may write in different genres, but we tick the same artisically.

Having now worked in both the entertainment and publishing industry, it's more clear to me than ever that the majority of artists, whether they are driven to create music, art or literature, share like motivations, passions, obsessions, quirks, concerns... I wrote an essay once: Creative People -- A Breed Apart. A heartfelt ramble about my creative journey. Even at the age of five, I knew I was somehow different from most of the people around me. The first line of the essay sums up my general mindset: Have you ever felt like a unicorn in a herd of horses?

To all of the other unicorns out there, I'd like to say thank you for blogging when you can and for sharing your thoughts and insights, your ups and downs. It helps to remind me that I am not alone, but part of a unique herd. It helps to keep life in perspective.

Which brings me back to Alison's blog and her recent guest bloggers. If you haven't been there recently, treat yourself and skim the posts from the past 2-3 weeks. Readers and writers alike have been treated to some amazing posts. I particularly enjoyed contributions by Deborah Smith, Nora Roberts, and Susan Wiggs because they offered thoughts and experiences that personally resonated with me. Several other authors also had me smiling and nodding or thinking, "You, too?" It's been great.

Today, Shanna Swendson offers entertaining though disturbing thoughts on marketing. Honing in on placement in bookstores, I'm probably in the same boat as she is. Meaning I may not be one of the lucky few whose books are prominantly displayed on the 'new release' table as soon as you walk through the door.


On May 1st, when you rush your local bookstore to snatch up your very own copy of ALL ABOUT EVIE (*g*), you may have to make your way to the back of the store. Don't be distracted by the bestsellers (another *g*). Keep going. Wondrous, compelling, entertaining reads await you in the romance section. Midlist authors. New authors. We're all there together, a herd of unicorns in alphabetical order. You can find ALL ABOUT EVIE in the 'Cs' under Ciotta. Yes, that's a blatant plea for you to buy my book.
You can find Shanna's DAMSEL UNDER STRESS in the S's under Swendson. Lara Adrian's KISS OF MIDNIGHT is n the A's. Then swing over to the YA section and look under 'P' for Kelly Parra's romantic blockbuster, GRAFFITI GIRL.

We're all May 1 releases. I've never met Lara or Shanna or Kelly in person, but I'm betting, just about now, we're all suffering the same artistic excitement and anxiety. So... try us. I think you'll like us. At the very least... you'll have made a unicorn smile.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Chili Chicks

Holy weird, Batman. Yesterday... Wait. I should give you some background first.

I often talk about my actress/juggling/stilt-walking/dancer friends, but this is about my vocalist/musician friends. A few years ago, the Showboat Casino decided they wanted to feature country bands in their concourse. One of my agents asked if I wanted to put something together and audition for summer dates. I was already performing around town with my country rock trio, Alias Smith and Jones (yes, I got that from an old TV show), so I figured I could build off that.

At the time the Dixie Chicks were very popular and, since I love singing harmonies, I thought it would be fun to ask two fellow female singers (both good friends) to join me for a three girl front. All three of us fronted our own bands and we had all worked together at some point or another, just never all three at once. We put our heads and talent together and The Chili Chicks were born.

Joined by musicians Iggy Callaghan and Matt Curran, Krissy Pruitt, Patty Balbo and I worked steadily at the Showboat for two years and then we moved on to Caesers and Bally's Wild West. Meanwhile all five of us also worked with other bands (that's the only way to fill up your schedule around here), which means sometimes there were conflicts, which means sometimes we needed a sub. In addition to all of the singers being strong lead singers each singer had a great ear for harmony. So a sub needed to be just as strong and versatile.

We knew just the 'chick', Lori Dobson, another talented female vocalist who had been performing on the Atlantic City stages for years... another friend. At one point Krissy needed to leave the group to pursue other things and Lori became a fulltime Chili Chick.

I loved singing with these women. Talented and funny... inspiring. I was sad when the gigs stopped coming and we eventually threw in the towel because I would miss our unique and beautiful 'sound' and I would miss them. We've all moved on to other things. We're all crazy busy. And though we live in the same area, I hadn't seen Krissy, Patty, or Lori in months.

Then yesterday....

I had contacted Patty to ask if I could purchase some of her CDs to use in giveaways for ALL ABOUT EVIE. Since this book features veteran Atlantic City performers, it seemed the perfect fit. We made plans to meet for lunch on Monday. The night before, I worked an emcee gig. I got home after midnight and checked my emails. I had a message on MySpace--Krissy asking to 'be my friend.' She's new at MySpace and no doubt found me through Patty's MySpace page. I just thought it was weird and wonderful to hear from her from out of the blue the night before I met with Patty.

After a meeting up with Patty, I came home and signed on to emails again. I wrote a long note to Mary Stella regarding the workshops we're giving at RT. I meant to cc her work address which I have under 'dolphins'. I sent the email and noticed an odd address, not Mary's work address, but Lori's email address. I'd clicked on 'Dobson' instead of 'Dolphin'. What were the chances?! The 4th Chili Chick!! So after not touching base with Lori for months, I had to write her to explain the bizarre email I sent her about writing workshops. LOL She wrote back and I got a warm fuzzy feeling thinking how weird fate can be. And how much I miss seeing these ladies more often.


Please take the time to hop over and listen to some of Patty's (left) music at Futilty Music.

You can hear Krissy (right) at her website.

In addition to being incredible singers, they both compose their own music. Also Patty plays guitar and Krissy is a keyboardist. Patty leans toward rock. Krissy offers a cross between R&B and jazz. Please do check them out and hear for yourself the talent I had the pleasure of performing alongside.

I can't find any of Lori's demos on-line, darn it. You'll just have to take my word for it. She's an amazing vocalist. She's also stunning! Oh, and she's married to one of my entertainment agents. Not that that has anything to do with anything, except perhaps you can see what a small town this and how, as the song goes, 'We Are Family.'
Speaking of... don't want to leave out the Chili chaps! You can hear demos of Iggy's original music at his website. And demos of Matt's original music at his website. Both singers/musicians/composers. Both recording engineers. Yup. I've got some talented friends. *g*

Monday, April 16, 2007

"What If" and Win!

Next week I'll be away at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. It will be the week before ALL ABOUT EVIE officially hits shelves. So days that could have dragged, will fly. Instead of fretting over sales and reviews, the butterflies in my stomach will be due to my performance in Heather Graham's Vampires of the Wild West Show, co-hosting the Mr. Romance Competition, and co-lecturing two workshops.

The first workshop will be on Wednesday morning at the unearthly hour of 8:30am and runs for 90 minutes. Mary Stella and I spoke on this same subject last year and it went so well, we were asked to present the same workshop this year. It's geared toward beginning writers and it's called 'The Great What-If'. Through lecture and interaction we'll guide attendees through the concept of 'brainstorming'. It's all about kick-starting your brain, getting the ideas flowing as you begin or move a story forward. Brainstorming--what-iffing--is an essential part of storytelling (in my experience) whether you do it alone or with critique partner or group.

Last year, I asked blog readers to contribute a 'What-If' scenario so that Mary and I could share some examples in addition to our own. Many of you contributed, providing fun and inspiration here... and in the class. Since we were asked to repeat our workshop, I thought I'd ask you to particpate once again as well! We'll give you credit for your scenario, of course!

Here's an example of how 'what-iffing' worked for me when I brainstormed the premise of JINXED....

What if a wealthy woman goes on a shopping spree, only to have her credit card declined? What if she learns her accountant embezzled her entire inheritance leaving her penniless? What if she acquired that fortune when her father, then two older husbands, met with bizarre 'accidental deaths? What if the press labeled her the black widow? What if this woman has been plagued with bad luck her entire life? What if she was born on Friday the 13th? What if her superstitious mother convinced the sweet-natured heroine that she is JINXED?

You get the idea... So now it's your turn. Let your imagination run wild. Knock the editor off your shoulder. Provide us with a 'What If' scenario! As a thank you, Mary and I will happily send signed coverflats and bookmarks your way.

Let the fun begin!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Old, New, Everchanging Me

Yesterday, while searching for some ancient cassette tapes, my husband came across two pictures of me. “The many faces of Beth,” he said, showing me an instamatic (remember those?) photo and then a Polaroid.

In the first, I was in my early twenties, dark shoulder length hair growing out from a bad perm (remember those?), too much make up (stage makeup in my defense) and a glittery gold and blue stage costume—hello, mini skirt! I thought, gee, my thighs were big.

I said, “Did I spackle that make-up on?”

The second, I was twenty-nine or thirty. The only hint of my age—the hairstyle and color. Long, stick-straight, dark brown hair… bleached-blonde bangs. I’m not kidding. I forgot how adventurous I used to be! (I performed/sang for a living so I could get away with looking… different.) I thought, Wow. What possessed me to wear that outfit?

I said, “My face was thinner then.”

Those two pictures, and the subsequent thoughts and comments, were clear indicators of how judgmental I am of my physical self. They were also reminders of the younger, more adventurous me. The performer me.

The me of yesterday. But that’s another post.

Mostly they were evidence of how often I change my hairstyle/color.

The day before, I had been happy dancing because I was listed as an HQN author on eHarlequin. Woo-hoo!

My husband said… “And you already look different.” Meaning my hair. That professional shot was taken, hmmm, four months ago?

“At least it’s the same color,” I said, acknowledging the style was different. What can I say? I fixated on the most recent photos of Reese Witherspoon. I wanted that hairstyle and I didn’t want to wait until my next hair appointment. I grabbed a pair of scissors and… now I have short bangs. Thankfully, I didn’t botch the job. In fact, I’ve been getting a lot of compliments.

When's the last time you picked up a pair of scissors or a box of hair dye and took matters into your own hands? Did it turn out well… or not? *g*

Friday, April 13, 2007

Out of The Box Readers

If I shared this before, I apologize. My thoughts have been blurring lately. A few weeks ago while working the circulation desk at the library, a gentleman came up to check out two books. He was soft-spoken, well over sixty. While checking out his books, I noticed he also had LASSO THE MOON on his card. I assumed he'd checked it out for his wife.

I don't normally comment when someone is checking out a book I wrote. I'm shy in that way. Although one of my co-workers usually 'outs' me. Bless their hearts. Anyway, I was alone at the desk in this instance and I don't know why, but I did speak up. "I see that you have one of the books I wrote, LASSO THE MOON out."

I expected him to mention his wife. Instead, I got, "Yes, and I'm enjoying it very much." He smiled.

I blinked. "Um," blush, "I'm glad."

And here I thought I knew my audience. Just goes to show you should never sterotype your audience. Men read romance, too. *g*

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Series vs. Single Title

If you are a blog hopper of author and/or readers' blogs, you've probably seen multiple posts on reading/writing novels in a series as opposed to stand-alone novels. I have nothing new to offer on the subject. It's just something that's been on my mind the past week as it is something I'm personally struggling with.

As a reader, although I very much enjoy a knock-out stand-alone, I absolutely love books that are connected by recurring characters. Johanna Lindsey hooked me years ago with the Malory Family. Suzanne Brockmann keeps me coming back for more of her sexy, rugged Navy SEALs. I didn't read either of these series in order because I didn't realize the book that initially hooked me was part of a series. Although it became apparent as I read, and after, I gobbled up any of the previous books before moving forward.

There's something comforting and intriguing about reading stories populated with people you already know. After recently reading Lara Adrian's KISS OF MIDNIGHT (see detailed thoughts in my previous post), I can't wait to read the upcoming connected books featuring her vampire warriors.

I applaud these authors, and all authors who write connecting books, because--dang--it's hard. Writing any book is hard. But connecting books offer a unique challenge. At least that has been and continues to be my experience. Jinxed, Charmed, and Seduced featured recurring characters and on-going, changing relationships. Everybody Loves Evie (coming 3/08) picked up where All Abut Evie (coming 5/07) left off. It featured Arch and Evie's evolving relationship, as well as her personal journey and several recurring characters and themes.

Currently I'm writing The Fall of Rome (coming 7/08) which follows Romancing the West (10/07) which follows Lasso the Moon (out now). The western trilogy is connected by recurring characters as well. Especially challenging if you are a seat-of-the pants writer like me. You can't simply fly into the mist willy nilly because you are grounded by what you have written before. The process is less spontaneous and more calculated because you must be consistant... with what you've written before. The deeper into a series I am, the harder it is to start that next book. My mind is populated with many characters, their relationships, continuing plot threads and so on. How do you bring a reader, who is perhaps reading the series out of order, up to speed without boring them with back story? Also, you don't want to give away too much about a character or event as it may be a spoiler for a previous story.

So, here I am, on book three, with a colorful cast and on-going relationships and plot threads, suffering from TMI (too much information) struggling with where and how to begin a story that, I'm certain once I'm 'in the zone', I will love. Just now, however, it's causing some sleepless nights. Brain. Buzzing. Although it could be worse. I could be blocked. Wish me luck as I struggle to connect with my connecting books. *g*

As a reader and/or author, how do you feel about series books?

Monday, April 9, 2007

An Otherworldly Delight

Greetings all! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. As usual, things have been hectic in my world. Hectic, but good. Amid all the craziness of promoting ALL ABOUT EVIE while also diving earnestly into the task of writing my next contracted book, I have had the pleasure of reading a novel that knocked my fuzzy socks off! KISS OF MIDNIGHT, a decadent treat written by the fabulously talented (and super nice!) Lara Adrian.

Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz about this book. Maybe you’re wondering how I read it when it hasn’t even been released yet. Well, my friends, I was lucky enough to be blessed with an ARC (advanced reading copy) and I am here to say, “Holy otherworldly delight!”

I don’t typically read ‘vampire’ novels. I don’t normally gravitate toward dark. But Lara hooked me on page one with her sharp writing and imaginative tale. She’s a master at worldbuilding and writing tight, consequently providing the reader with an adrenaline-charged page-turner. The entire time I read, I saw this story play out in my head. Hollywood, are you listening? KISS OF MIDNIGHT would make a killer movie. Lucan, an intriguing and ultra-sexy warrior, and the rest of the Breed sank their fangs in me from the get-go and didn’t leave off until the slam-bam ending!

Imagine alpha vampires with dangerous toys. Century-old warriors on a noble mission. Think intense and action-packed. Romantic and squeeze-your-thighs-together sexy. The heroine of this adventure, Gabrielle, was not only strong and sensual, but smart and compassionate. I felt for her and her predicament as keenly as I felt for Lucan. I not only rooted for them as a couple, but for the Breed and their cause. I didn’t want this tale to end and luckily it won’t! Subsequent novels will feature more of the alpha-vampire-warriors who make up The Breed. I can’t wait!

Hungry for an intense, erotic, otherworldly read? I highly recommend KISS OF MIDNIGHT. Visit Lara’s website for an excerpt!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Cold Temps, Warm Hearts

Um, hasn't Spring sprung? The official start was March 20, correct? When I think of Spring, I think of sunshine, warmer temps, budding flowers... green.

I live on the coast in NJ. The sun is not shining. The reported temp is 37 degrees though it says it 'feels like' 28. The sky is grey, the grass brown. No sane flower would try to bloom in this frosty dismal-land. Oh, and it's snowing. Just sparse flakes, but snow is snow and cold is cold.

Between work-work and writing-work, I haven't had a social date in months. Today I am meeting with four dear girlfirends from my entertainment hey-day. We're having lunch and then we planned on strolling the Atlantic City boardwalk, seeing what's new and excting and then window shopping The Pier at Caesars, a new deluxe shopping mall that extends over the ocean. Window shopping because I have heard the stores are mega-expensive. Although there is a LUSH. I'm betting all five of us buy something in there, even if it's just a bar of soap.

Did I mention it's snowing? And cold? So I'm guessing we won't be strolling the boardwalk much as the wind off of the ocean will be fierce. I'm guessing we'll overstay our welcome in the restaraunt as we talk and laugh over our meal and numerous cups of French-pressed coffee. I'm thinking we'll make a beeline from the casino to that mall where we'll ogle all the pretty things we can't afford. Except for the soap. But that's okay. I like soap. And I love my friends. And since I so rarely see them, I will treasure this day. Knowing these ladies as I do, I'll still get the sunshine and warmth I was hoping for.

So what's the weather like where you are and what are you doing this holiday weekend?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Looking for Superman


Is it Wednesday already? The middle of the first week of April so soon? Nooooo!

Are any of you on friendly terms with Superman? Can you ask him to zip around the earth really fast, causing the planet to slow and maybe spin backward? He can do that, right? Buy me a few more days?

The Romantic Times Booklovers Convention is less than three weeks away. I'm not ready. I have all of my day-wear/biz-wear and evening costumes together, but I need to prepare my lectures for two workshops and gather my promo and all sorts of other stuff. I would say that I also have two scripts to memorize, but I have a feeling those are going to be handed to me on property and I'll be committing to memory as best I can late night in my hotel room. Did I tell you? I'm co-hosting the Mr. Romance Pageant with actor/model Bill Freda (woo-hoo!) and also co-starring in a Heather Graham mystery production. All I know is that I'm a vampire saloon girl. I actually had an appropriate costume in my closet. Can you believe it?
At any rate, preparing for RT took a backseat to preparing for the release of ALL ABOUT EVIE. Also about three weeks away! Yippee! I'm ready, but I'm not ready, if you know what I'm saying. I've already tackled quite a few promotional efforts. The past two days I've been creating an excerpt booklet, a newsletter, labeling envelopes, and sorting stacks of bookmarks for 100 readers groups. I'm still not done! Again, I ask... has anyone seen the hunky guy in tights who can work super fast and lift super heavy things? I don't think I'm asking too much. A few hours of a superhero's time. Jeesh.
In other news, I just learned that ALL ABOUT EVIE will be released as an e-book as well as in mass market paperback. That's super good news for readers who prefer to download and read their stories on those e-readers gadgets that are becoming so popular. Also good news for me because it means Evie will be avail in an additional format!
Lastly, I noticed an excerpt has been posted at Amazon.com for Evie. Harlequin must have done that. I'm not sure I've seen an actual except posted at Amazon before, but I think it's very cool. Kind of like when you're in the bookstore and you browse the first page to get a feel for the author's voice. Now when someone orders AAE, they'll have a real clue as to what kind of 'voice' they'll be getting.
OMG. Look at the time. So much to do. Where's Superman????

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

And the Winners Are...


Maureen and Pearl!
Congratulations, ladies. You have won an advanced copy of ALL ABOUT EVIE! Please email me and share your full name and mailing address so that I can send on, what I hope you'll find, a fun and romantic read. Send email to beth@bethciotta.com
Thank you to everyone you entered. I got a kick reading about your favorite classic movies. Many listed were faves of mine as well. It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there with a soft spot for classic film!
By the way names were chosen at random, not based on the comment, but to clarify the winners(since first names were used only), Maureen listed 'Gone with the Wind' as her fave, and Pearl mentioned 'The Pride of the Yankees'. Ladies, if I don't hear from you by April 9, I'll choose alternate winners, so please do send me a quick note. *g*
Just for fun, since we're talking classic film, who's your favorite classic hero? Mine is Cary Grant. Sexy, charismatic and talented! Whether he's starring in a drama or comedy, he always blows me away. *sigh*