Thursday, May 31, 2007

Life As I'm Living It

Week two of working fulltime while writing fulltime and about all I can say is... it's going. Not good. Not bad. Just... going. I'm hanging in, not progressing on the WIP as fast as I'd like, but not pulling my hair out either. I've received a few emails this week from readers who raved about ALL ABOUT EVIE as well as previous titles and I have to tell you... happy readers are all the inspiration I need to keep on keepin' on. It's not about someone telling me 'I'm wonderful'. It's about someone letting me know how 'wonderful they felt' after reading one of my stories.

Long ago, someone asked me why I thought I was put on this earth and I replied, "To make people happy." I guess I still feel that way. It's not like I don't get anything out of it. Giving others joy, brings me joy. So although life took a detour career-wise, I guess I'm still on track!

Tomorrow I leave for New York City where I'll be in author mode all weekend. I'm attending Book Expo America. BEA is huge and overwhelming and attended by just about any publisher you can think of. There will be a gazillion authors, booksellers, librarians and other various industry professionals. There will be autographing sessions and invitation only parties. I'll be signing in the Medallion Press booth on Saturday and the Harlequin booth on Sunday. I'll be meeting with my agent. I'll be dining and dancing at my publishers' parties. I'll be ... in heaven. I'm especially excited because it's the first major publishing event that my husband has been free to travel along. As an avid reader, I'm sure he'll be in heaven too. Plus, we just love NYC.

My laptop will be coming with and we get free wireless in the hotel (woo-hoo!) so I'll try to blog some highlights while I'm there. One of the challenges at BEA will be deciding which author's books I want to stand in mega long lines for. Several of my faves are scheduled for signings. Click here and check out the autographing schedule. Note: There are two places to click after you get to this main autographing page. The traditional autographing and the ticketed autographing. Be sure to scan both and tell me... Who would you line up to meet?

Friday, May 25, 2007

On the Fly: A Booksigning!

It's a holiday weekend and most probably if you are down at the shore (Garden State slang for visiting southern seaside Jersey) then you are hanging at the beach or strolling the boardwalk or gambling in the casinos.

BUT if you get bored or if it rains, there is always the local mall. Well, not so local. It's about a thirty minute drive inland. But it's worth it because--BONUS--I'll be signing ALL ABOUT EVIE at the Borders Express. *g* I'll be there this Sunday, May 27 from 1pm until 4pm. Consider me a midday break. You could use a good beach read, couldn't you? Here's the address.

Borders Express
4403 Black Horse Pike
The Mall at Hamilton Center
Mays Landing, NJ 08330
Phone: 609.484.9277

I'll be the perky brunette with the big smile. The one willing to chat about her book, the weather, or any number of various topics.

Questions I am prepared to answer:

*Where's the bathroom?
*Where's the food court?
*Do you work here?
*Do you have that book 'The Secret'?
*When's the next Harry Potter book coming out?
*You wrote this book?
*I have an idea for a story. Would you like to write it?
*Where's the bathroom?
*That's a cute cover. How do I get published?
*That's a silly cover. How do I get published?
*Is this appropriate for my teenage daughter?
*Is this one of those trashy novels?
*Where's the bathroom?

And two faves...
*What's your book about?
*Will you sign it for me?

Seriously, (although I will seriously get most or all of those questions.), I would love it if you came by and chatted with me a bit. I won't do a hard-sell. Promise. Although, if you do want to purchase a copy of ALL ABOUT EVIE, I'd be pleased as punch--as they say... somewhere. *g*

Wherever you are, whatever you do, have a fabulous holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On Writing: The (possible) Demise of Blogs

The always informative and lovely Kelly Parra recently blogged about the demise of several industry blogs. She noted several authors are blogging less, too. *raising hand* Guilty, sista!

Kelly wrote: "I've felt the pressure to blog, especially if I've already blogged about a writing topic. It's difficult to come up with something fresh."

Anne Frasier commented: "personally, blogging almost killed me and i still haven't recovered. :D i don't know if blogs are over, but i think the frantic level of daily blogging is done. i think the very thing that made blogs so appealing -- the immediacy -- is also what made them hard to sustain. people burned out -- both blog writers and blog ten years people will be saying: "Remember blogs?""

I agree with Kelly. The challenge of blogging frequently isn't just a time issue. It's the challenge of coming up with something fresh. I've been blogging for three years now and, until very recently, almost daily. As far as observations and advice on 'the world of writing' I'm pretty tapped out. As far as 'life' observances, I'll let you know when I get one. Heh.

I also agree with Anne. I'm burnt. There. I said it. My time is more limited than ever. I only have so much creative energy and I'm pouring it into my books. I don't intend to give up blogging altogether, but I do believe I'll stick with my new schedule of only posting twice a week. Giving myself permission not to blog daily has eased some pressure from my life. It also frees up time to read. Novels. Not, blogs. Yup. I've also cut down on my blog reading. I get the feeling I'm not the only one, making Anne's 'remember blogs?' statement all the more intriging.

What do you think? Are you posting less these days? Blog-hopping less? What do you hope for when you visit a blog? Is there something 'new' that's captured your interest and time? Podcasts? You Tube? MySpace?

In your world... What's hot? What's not?

Monday, May 21, 2007

On Writing: Routine--Whatever It Takes

Waking up at 6am every day is for the birds. Seriously. I don't like it. But it's part of my new routine... like the Monday/Thursday (with the occasional random day) blogs. So far, it all seems to be working. I'm accomplishing 'pub/biz' before 'library/work' so I can utilize the evenings to write. Although this evening, I'm sneaking away to movie.

Must rest brain. Must fill creative well. Ug.

If you haven't done so, please check out my previous post. Just got my cover for THE FALL OF ROME, my work-in-progress. And as it happens, I'm making progress. Two points for routine.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

On the Fly: New Cover!

The first week of my new blogging schedule... and I stuck to it! Amazing. A Monday and Thursday post. Period. Although it felt strange not to attempt a blog a day, it did free up the extra time I needed for my WIP. Speaking of my work in progress, I'm currently writing the western that will be out in 2008. The sequel to ROMANCING THE WEST which comes out this fall.

Yesterday, I received news from Adam Mock, Vice President /Creative Director for Medallion Press, that my cover for said WIP/2008 release was complete. Adam has designed all of my MP covers and he always does an amazing job, brilliantly reflecting my story through his art. He scores another winner with this one. I'm thrilled! Thus, even though this book won't be coming out for quite some time, I'm utilizing a Random Day to share my cover (and blurb) for THE FALL OF ROME. Yee-haw! Have a great weekend, folks!

* * *
They gamble their lives with reckless abandon, but are they brave enough to bet on love?

Famous for bending the law to get his man, former Wells Fargo detective, Rome Garrett signs on with the Peacemaker Alliance, a covert government agency intent on taming the west. Unfortunately, his first assignment involves teaming up with the only woman who ever broke his heart in order to entrap a cold-blooded killer. Bringing down Bulls-eye Brady would restore Rome’s tarnished career. As a personal bonus he vows to show his old flame how it feels to love and lose, vanquishing the beautiful hellcat from his dreams once and for all.
Retired cardsharp, Kat Simmons, has been in hiding for six years. Now she’s being asked to risk her hard won obscurity by baiting the very man she fears. Not only that, the plan involves spending intimate time with Rome, the only man she ever truly loved. Readopting her flamboyant persona, Kat joins Rome on a whirlwind poker tournament tour, gaining notoriety as they clean up at the tables. When word gets out that Kat Simmons is back on the circuit, with any luck, Bulls-eye Brady will show up to reclaim the woman who “got away”. Meanwhile Kat and Rome grapple with rekindled passion, past betrayals, and a secret that could prove their doom.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On Reading: Seeking Inspiration

There are writers who cannot read whatever they are writing at that moment. Meaning if they are writing (insert genre or sub-genre of choice) they steer clear of reading same genre or sub-genre for pleasure. They don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s work. Some even fear the author’s work (words) could bleed into their own. Taking it to another level, there are some who read non-fiction only when writing a fiction novel.

I am not one of those people.

I don’t fear that I will be influenced by another writer’s words, but I do hope to be inspired by them. If I am writing a historical western (like I am now), I like to read novels set in that same time period. I also like to watch movies set in that same time period. I also read and refer to numerous non-fiction books dedicated to that same time period. In short, it’s important to me to immerse myself in whatever period I am writing. I suppose you could compare it to method acting. Live it. Become it.

Last week, someone returned a book to the library. I checked it in, noting the title: Gunfight at Eagle Springs. I wasn’t familiar with the author, Frederic Bean, but the title and the cover caught my attention. A western. Historical. Not romance, but no matter. In the past I have read traditional westerns by Larry McMurtry, Robert B. Parker, and William W. Johnston and been entertained and inspired. I decided to give Mr. Bean a whirl.

One of the best feelings in the world is to be hooked and reeled in from page one of a book and that’s exactly what happened when I started reading Gunfight at Eagle Springs. I quickly learned that it was not only a historical western, but a murder mystery, and—bonus—there was a romantic element.

There was only one POV—the protagonist, a nineteen year old farmer who took on the job of sheriff as a way to supplement his income. The romantic element—the relationship between the protagonist and his young, but daring and clever wife. An alpha anti-hero, devious villain, and a cast of colorful secondary characters. Tight writing and just enough historical description to root me in the 1800s. The plot device that kept me turning the pages? This earnest young man’s courage and determination to solve a ten-year-old murder mystery.

I soaked in the lingo, the historical aspects—social and political. My brain sparked to solve the mystery. I read lickety-split, lightning-quick, and finished the book in two days. That’s fast for me, given my crammed schedule. This book would easily appeal to men and women, lovers of westerns and mysteries, and as I said, it even satisfied the romantic in me.

Thank you for entertaining me, Mr. Bean. And above all, for the inspiration.

Monday, May 14, 2007

On Writing: Juggling Sub-Genres

Today is the first day of my new blogging schedule and format. Wish me luck. You know how fickle I am. A new mantra:

Make a plan.
Take the stand.
Stay. On. Track

Please hold while I repeat that three times.

(insert any Barry Manilow ballad)

Okay. I’m back.

I recently asked if there was anything you wanted to know about me or my writing process.

Roni wrote: “I'd like to hear more about how you balance writing more than one kind of romance (contemporary humorous with suspense and westerns).”

Beth says: "It ain’t easy."

My first western was a labor of love. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, the story of my heart. I wrote and rewrote--what became LASSO THE MOON--over a span of ten years before it finally sold. When I pitched the idea of two more westerns to Medallion Press, I was riding high on the rush of seeing my labor of love born. I thoroughly enjoyed revising and polishing LTM. I absolutely adored the characters and the time period. Secondary characters screamed, “Tell my story!” And to my delight, Medallion responded, “Tell away!”

As it happens I had just sold three contemporaries (the Evie series) to HQN. How fabulous! One of my long term goals—writing two different sub-genres for two different publishers—became reality in the blink of an eye! Previously, I had written three contemporaries back to back for Medallion with eighteen months. So I thought, no problem. I can do this. Six months to write each book. Alternating deadlines. Contemporary. Historical Western. Contemporary. And so forth.

What I didn’t take into consideration were the overlapping production deadlines (because I’d never had those) and promoting one book while writing another. In addition, I had had years to research the historical aspects of my first western, not a few scant months. Nor did I factor in the time it would take for me to shift my mindset from that of contemporary to historical or the fact that one series is in first person and the other in third.

Most importantly, for me, the characters and ‘their world’ have to click before I can get in the groove and rock creatively.

Period of adjustment.

It appears I need at least one month to stew and tinker and shift gears from one time period, one sub-genre, to another. In reality, between various production deadlines, promoting upcoming/new releases, and shifting mindset gears, six months to research and write a book turned into 3-4 months. Depending on your level of writing speed and style, this could be a challenge. It is for me. I’m doing it. But it ain’t easy.

In hindsight it would have been easier to write the westerns back-to-back and the contemporaries back-to-back. I’d already be in that groove I mentioned. But that didn’t fit my career plan. I listened to my business instinct and I went for it. I’m not sorry. I’m writing stories I love. I’m published by two terrific publishers. But this stressful process and consistent time crunch has caused me to reevaluate my career plan. I need to slow down or narrow my focus. Bottom line: I can’t create if I burn out.

If you want to write in two (or more) sub-genres the trick is factoring in all of the things I mentioned earlier on. I tripped upon a fabulous article by author Julie Kenner pertaining to this very subject—Juggling Books and Publishers. Click here to read. Even though I’ve already read it, I’m right behind you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Coming Soon...

I'm juggling a lot of balls these days. I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to manage this blog while working full-time at the library, pulling the occasional emcee gig, and writing two novels a year. Here’s what I’ve decided.

Two standard posting days: Monday and Thursday and… a random day.
Monday and Thursday will be steady. The random day will be a quick thought or announcement that can’t wait for one of those standard days. On a whim. At random. Not very often.

Three categories:
On Writing (Posts relating to craft--my process--industry, or promotion)
On Reading (Books I’m reading for pleasure or research. Or books in the news. Or books on my mind because of events or happenings at the library)
On the Fly (Thoughts or observations not pertaining to publishing.)

That’s what I’ve got. It’s my plan and mine alone. Whether it sticks or not is anybody’s guess because, hey, I don’t even keep the same hair color for long. But I’m going to go with this . . . as long as it lasts.

Official start of this new format… Monday! If you have a topic you’d like me to address… A question you’d like me to answer… now would be a good time to speak up. *g*

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Typically, Untypical

Typically, I don't think my typical day is all that interesting since semi-retiring from the entertainment industry. Let me amend... It's interesting to me (I adore working at the library and coming home to write my own stories), but it's not (typically) scintillating blog material. It's pretty routine. Even Cheyenne--my dog who has 'issues'--has settled into a more ordinary mode. She hasn't destroyed anything (like a book contract) in months.

Back to my life. You don't see the crazy stuff from behind the circulation desk that you see from on stage. Not that I'm complaining. In fact, I'm digging on this more ordinary life. It very much suits me just now. That said, a few untypical things happened yesterday. Definately bloggable.

When I went into work, my boss handed me an application. Now that I'm going full-time, she wants me to go for a promotion. First I have to send in the application, then I have to pass the test (A test?? *shudder*). If all goes well I will have the new title of Senior Library Assistant. Along with that title comes an increase in pay, which is always welcome. Mostly I was flattered that my boss thought me up to the task.

After work I shifted into author mode and drove out to my local Borders. I had called the day before and spoken to the general manager. I introduced myself, mentioned my latest book was on their 'new release' table and asked if they permitted authors to sign stock. Note: I had stopped in on the fly that past weekend hoping to do a 'drive-by' signing and was told I had to call and speak with the GM (who was not there) first.

When I did call, he was quite nice and said, "Just let me know when you're coming and I'll inform my staff and we'll have the books ready."

We agreed on the next evening. It wasn't until after I hung up that I realized he hadn't asked the spelling of my name (it's not like I said, Hi, this is Nora Roberts *g*) nor the name of my book. Therefore, I fully expected to walk in and have the staff say... Who are you? And why are you here?

Which is exactly what happened.

However, the bookseller I dealt with was very kind and helpful and since I had spoken with the GM (who was not there), he tracked down all of my books and the Borders 'Autographed' stickers to put on the cover. He apologized because he could only find three books. "All the others sold already." He also informed me that, of the 30 bookmarks I'd left over the weekend, only one was left.

As you can imagine, this was all thrilling news to me. I happily signed the remaining books then tooled over to the Borders Express in the mall. I'd called ahead to set up a booksigning for the end of the month, so I wanted to take in some flyers for them to hang as advance promo. While there, I signed stock and chatted with the bookseller, picking her brain about how the ordering procedure works with Borders. Once you sell out (positive thinking), do they automatically re-order your book? She was quite informative and I learned a lot, not only about the ordering process, but booksigning protocol, and advertising (pertaining strictly to Borders). Things I didn't know before.

Writers if you ever get the chance to chat with a bookseller about procedure, please do. The process is not universal. Chains and Independants differ.

While I was out that way, I stopped at Wal-Mart to see if ALL ABOUT EVIE had made it there. My heart thumped with anticipation. I cautioned myself not to break out in a happy dance if it was. Afterall, I'm a professional. *g*

As it happened Evie wasn't there. I told myself that's because she'd already sold out. Ah, the power of positive thinking.

I then zipped over to the mop and broom section, per my husband's request. How is this blog worthy, you ask? Because it is untypical for me get off the island these days, let alone shop for mops! I scanned the products looking for a 'Swiffy'. All I saw was O' Cedar. Or something like that. I phoned Steve. "Swiffer", he said.


"And remember, I said it was in a box."


I located the 'Swiffer' and put it in the cart along with a box of 'Swiffer' replacement thingees and a bottle of 'Swiffer' cleaning liquid stuff. I dunno. I was fine with an old-fashioned sponge mop on a wooden stick and a bucket filled with water and Mr. Clean. Suffice it to say, I will leave it to Steve to put together the Swiffer.

That pretty much ended my untypical day. Today it's back to the ordinary. I think. The day is still young.

When was your last untypical day? What did you do?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Geek at the Prom

Sunday night I participated in a 'live' chat at Romance Junkies. Attendance was fair, but those present were enthusuastic and funny. More is not necessarily merrier. Special thanks to Billie Jo, chat moderator and all-around-great-gal for hosting the awesome one-hour party!

Some guests had read my work. Some had not. I'm pretty sure no one there had read ALL ABOUT EVIE yet, except for my sister, (I didn't even realize the 'Barb' chatting was 'my' Barb until later. Too funny!) and my friend Mark Posey (two-time Mr. Romance contestant and husband to author Tracy Cooper-Posey). So although I was there to promote ALL ABOUT EVIE and though we did talk about the premise, the majority of the time we engaged in mutual Q&A. They asked me about writing in general--my process, my past works and future interests. I asked them about their likes and dislikes as readers.

For one, I was very interested to know if readers are still interested in romantic comedy given the current monumental popularity of erotica, dark paranormal and urban fantasy. Seriously, I'm beginning to feel like the odd man out! I witnessed the overwhelming popularity of these sub-genres at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. I also noticed it at my local Borders bookstore this past weekend. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to find ALL ABOUT EVIE on the new release table. This special placement is a bonus to the author and not to be taken lightly. After my euphoria settled, I studied the books surrounding Evie, all dark and intense with the exception of those in the mystery genre. Maybe Evie should turn super sleuth? *g*

On the positive side, my cover popped--vibrant white, cherry red and hot pink surrounded by earthy deep blue, black, and blood red. On the other... clearly I wasn't part of the popular crowd. A geek among the cool kids. Crazy thinking, I know. But, being an insecure artist, I must obssess on something.

When I posed the question regarding romantic comedy to the RJ chatters, everyone chimed in with a enthusastic, "Yes! We still like it!" Billie Jo said something poignant about balancing light and dark. Wish I could remember her exact words. Overall, the response indicated that though they were devouring dark paranormal and urban fantasy, they still enjoyed losing themselves in a light-hearted adventure sans otherworldly creatures. One reader mentioned how much she enjoys my books and how she considers them 'lift me ups'.

Lifting someone's mood. Making a bad day brighter. I'm thinking it doesn't get much better than that. So I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing, even though it sometimes feels like I showed up to the prom in overalls and high top sneakers. Special thanks to the RJ chatters for their insightful thoughts and good cheer!

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart..." -- William Wordsworth

Friday, May 4, 2007

Around Blogosphere

It’s always nice when someone writes and asks if they can feature you and your book in some way. The Library Diva (Kelly) contacted me about participating in the 52 Books, 52 Weeks program sponsored by the Bensonville Community Public Library. Authors featured in past weeks in include Jodi Picoult, Jonathan Kellerman, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and many more… so it’s really quite the honor. My feature runs today. Click here to read. Thank you, Kelly!

Reader and romance enthusiast, Danette has created a unique blog where she highlights authors and their books with her Fantastic Fives. It’s a fun way to get to know authors better. My Fantastic Five is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday). Please do visit and while you're there scroll down for more author features. Thank you, Danette!

Meanwhile, here are a few pics from the RT Convention (compliments of Mary.)

(L) Performing at Heather Graham's Vampires in the Wild West Ball. I played Calmity Jane. I'm the short one in the bloomers and red corset. *g* Picture left to right... Authors, Heather Graham, me, Harley Jane Kozak, Alexandra Sokoloff, and last but not least, Heather's youngest dauhter Chynna! Be sure to visit Mary's blog. She posted a great story and a shot that includes her!
(R) On Saturday night I co-hosted the Mr. Romance Competition, sponsored by Dorchestor Publishing. The winner, Jason Santiago (not pictured here) will pose for a cover of a Dorchestor novel. The gentleman pictured here did not win, but he did charm this audience member (and the entire room!) in the Q and A portion of the show.

(L) Me in author mode at the giant bookfair earlier that day. Do I look tired? I was exhausted. This was the fifth day into the convention for me. Between workshops, rehearsals, parties, and performances, I didn't get much sleep. However, I had an amazing time, and I adored meeting all the booksellers and readers who stopped by the bookfair to chat. A special shout out to everyone who purchased ALL ABOUT EVIE, LASSO THE MOON, and SEDUCED. Thank you!!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

RT and Life As I Know It

Last week I attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Houston, TX. I signed on this morning with the intention of blogging about my experiences at RT. But my experiences are unique in that, as a professional performer, I’m always involved in various productions and therefore spend much of the time behind the scenes in rehearsals.

In years past I have written and directed the Mr. Romance Competition—a huge undertaking. Hats off to those who have taken over this role. In fact, let me say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who works behind the scenes in one or another capacity. Your time and dedication to providing an exciting convention is much appreciated!

Back to my unique experience… Last year I performed in three RT productions. I sang and recited poems at the Fairy Ball, acted in Heather Graham’s annual Mystery Musical, and co-hosted the Mr. Romance show. This year, I only performed in the latter two. But I also taught two writing workshops with friend/author Mary Stella.

Between rehearsals, performances, and preparing for and presenting workshops, I didn’t have as much quality time to mingle nor to attend workshops, spotlight panels or morning and afternoon mixers. I’m sorry to say I even missed the awards luncheon. So I highly recommend you google ‘RT Convention’ and visit other blogs for a real taste of the overall RT experience. This isn’t to say that I didn’t benefit from attending. I was able to re-enforce old relationships and even established a few new ones. I ‘networked’, but in my own way.

Networking is a subject near and dear to my heart and if I can offer anything of value to writers who visit this blog, it’s regarding the dos and don’t of connecting with industry professionals. In light of this I have decided to write a series of posts on effective networking. I’ll post them in early July, a few weeks before the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Convention. I am unable to attend this year, but I have attended many times in the past and know well how intimidating this business-oriented convention can be. I’m already seeing evidence of frayed nerves on the one RWA loop I belong to. Whether or not you are attending, I think you’ll find my networking tips valuable as you can utilize them at any conference. And by the way, these tips are useful in any career, not just publishing.

Now, onto a short announcement. Starting next week, I will be unable to blog on a daily basis. I haven’t decided if I’ll blog at random, depending on time and inspiration, or if I’ll choose set days, for instance every Monday and Thursday. Need to ponder that one.

Life is funny. Just when we think we’ve got our act together or at least some semblance of a routine, the spiritual-powers-that-be throw us a curve. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, even if that reason may not be clear to us until later down the road.

As life, luck, fate would have it, this month I am going from part-time to full-time at the library. This in addition to writing and promoting two novels a year. It’s forcing me to become intensely disciplined. Rising earlier to devote time to publishing business so that I can write in the evenings after work. Many authors do this, more than you probably know. So instead of panicking, I’m thinking, if they can do it, so can I. But certain things have to give like blogging and blog-hopping daily for one. You’ll be hearing from me plenty though. No worries.

Now I have to say, with the excitement of the release of ALL ABOUT EVIE, I feel like all I’ve been doing is talking about myself. What’s new and exciting in your life? What are you writing or reading? Any trips coming up? Any new pets or wacky pet stories? Please do share!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I Am Blessed

Day 2 of Evie being out and about in the world. I'm trying not to obsess on if people are buying this book but even more so on wondering if they are enjoying the read. Because that's where my passion is rooted... in entertaining people.

A couple of personal stories... My husband is reading ALL ABOUT EVIE. He is an avid reader, but not of the romance genre, so this is a big deal to me. He is also very honest. So when he told me he's enjoying the story, that he likes my humor, that he's intrigued by the plot... I've been floating all week.

Last night my sister Barb called. She'd just returned from her local Borders where she'd snatched up two copies of Evie from the new release table. I love her for her enthusiasm and lots of other stuff of course). She told me she'd been home (where we grew up in Indiana) over the weekend and that she saw my brother, Bobby. He was waving around the copy of ALL ABOUT EVIE that he had bought, teasing my mom and sisters that he had it before them. Barb said he was so proud. I have to say that brought tears to my eyes. There are seven siblings. My brother is the only boy. He doesn't read romance, but he bought my book just because he was proud of me. *sniffle* Thank you, Bobby.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day working at the library. A normal work day--so it seemed sort of unreal that it was my book release day. A patron asked me what I was doing there... why wasn't I out celebrating? I told her I was happy dancing in my heart. She left and then returned a couple of hours later... with a copy of ALL ABOUT EVIE! She drove all the way out to Borders (a 60 minutes round trip), bought a copy and then brought it back for me to sign. She said she wanted to make my 'opening day' special. Is that the sweetest gesture EVER or what?
I shared this story in one of my comments yesterday, but I just had to repeat it here. Thank you, Jo Ann!

Lastly (but certainly not least) thank you to friends and readers who have emailed or relayed in person, telling me that they saw Evie at Barnes and Noble (face out) and at Borders (on the new release table), knowing that special placement would bring me special joy. Thank you for your kindness, support and enthusiasm.

I promise to relay some of my experiences and observations regarding the Romantic Times Convention in the coming days. Currently, my heart is full of Evie and my head is spinning with my WIP. I just wanted to let everyone know how much your support means to me. I am blessed!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

All About Evie... Behind the Story

Today ALL ABOUT EVIE officially hits the shelves. Needless to say, I'm over the moon! In celebration, I'm hosting a gift giveaway featuring some of Evie's favorite things. Click here for more details. I also added a Behind the Story feature on my website, which I'll share here as well. Thank you all for your support and kindness!


Let's start at the beginning. No details. Just an overview. A slice of life, my life, Evie's roots. I started performing professionally at the age of fourteen. I have the pictures to prove it. (See left) Don't laugh. My grandma dressed me. I think that flowered pant suit was her idea of hip and what did I know? I was a geek. But I got the gig. Singing with a trio in a Holiday Inn lounge every weekend. They paid me $25.00 a night. That's fifty bucks a weekend for a fourteen/fifteen year old! Great money (way back then). But I was more intrigued with the performance rush than the steady paycheck. I'd always loved to sing... but performing... on stage... the sound of applause... Heaven.

I performed in hotel lounges (Holiday Inns) and private clubs (Moose, Elks...) almost every weekend throughout my teens. At seventeen, the day after I graduated high school, I 'went on the road'. Musician lingo for traveling from city to city, state to state, in vans and cars, from lounge to nightclub, living in hotel after hotel. I sang with Top 40 dance bands, performing six nights a week, 48 weeks a year for eight years. I was a true road warrior. I even helped load in and out equipment. I preferred being regarded as one of the guys rather than the chick singer (read: Diva). I started off leading my own five-piece band and eventually joined a seven-piece show band. Pictured right is a promo pic from about 20 years ago. The band JUSTUS. Dig those costumes. Spandex-city. Hee! But trust me, they were 'in' at the time. The man I'm leaning against is my now brother-in-law, John Ciotta. (Special note: John now headlines on cruise ship show rooms and helped me with research regarding Evie's cruise). That handsome guy on my left/your right (dark hair/moustache), is my now husband Steve (still as sexy today sans the moustache).

I loved that lifestyle for a good long while. What an amazing way to see the country! I was making a living doing what I was born to do--sing--and I never had to make my bed. Ah, yes. Daily housekeeping service. But I eventually burned out and longed to call somewhere home. Atlantic City was the perfect choice. Instead of hopping state-to-state, I could hop from casino-to-casino.

Steve and I settled in AC in 1986. We worked pretty steadily in the casino lounges. We worked with some amazing musicians. We made lifelong friends in the entertainment/casino industry. But we also endured many career ups and downs. At one point I couldn't sing steadily enough so I branched out, working as a character actress and dance motivator. I have led a very colorful life. Multitudes of wacky stories that always seem to bleed into my writing. (Note the visual slices of my life over the years as a singer, actress, and emcee in the Atlantic City casinos.)

In 1994, my creative passion veered toward writing, but I still performed for a living for several more years. It's what I knew, what I was good at. Only as I neared 40, the gigs became harder and harder to land. I started working as an assistant for two different entertainment agents--hence truly learning both sides of the business. In 2001, an entertainment manager from one of the casinos called the office looking for performers to meet and greet patrons in the lobby (in costume), goodwill ambassadors who would occasionally emcees sweepstakes and slot tournaments. I listened thinking, you're describing everything I do and do well and you know this because you've known me for years and you've seen me in action. Why aren't you offering me the job?

He said, "You know. Someone like you, only younger."

In that moment, I knew my days as a working performer in Atlantic City were severely numbered. I channeled my hurt and frustration into my writing. And hence Evie Parish was born. Although many of her insecurities, disappointments and experiences mirror my own, she took on a wacky, vivid life of her own. As you read her tales, note some of the details are rooted in reality and some are figments of my overactive imagination. Oh, and please know I no longer fret over being looked over in favor of 'younger' talent. It was great thirty year ride, but like Evie, I've moved on to new adventures!