Thursday, August 30, 2007

On the Fly: New Orleans Here I Come

I spent the past four days cramming to memorize a script and three songs for an upcoming performance this week. I spent the whole of last night stuffing 150 goody bags. Thankfully Steve helped or the task would have stretched to the wee hours. Today I'm only putting in a half day at the library so that I can spend the afternoon creatively packing. I'm really hoping to stuff all clothes, shoes, toiletries, promo giveaways and raffle basket into ONE suitcase.

You guessed it. I'm attending a conference this weekend. A very special conference as it is hosted by my good friend, NYT bestselling author Heather Graham. This is her second annual conference and for the second year it will take place in New Orleans. A very specific choice for Heather as she wishes to encourage tourism in a city that suffered and continues to suffer because of Hurricane Katrina.

There's been a lot written about New Orleans over the past couple of days due to the anniversary of the disaster. Most of what I read was troubling. I know my visit and tourism dollars spent won't amount to much, but it's something. I'm really glad I'm going. Lots of other writers and industry professionals are attending as well. I believe the latest count was 175. So thanks to Heather and her hard-working coordinator, Connie Perry, the city will be blessed with 175 additional tourists this holiday weekend.

Crammed into this weekend? Parties, chats, workshops, editor appointments, dinner (with a show!) and a book fair. Check out the official conference site for details. Maybe we can tempt you to join the fun and good cause next year!

I'll try to blog while in New Orleans. If I can't, I'll fill you in when I get back. (Note to self: Pack the camera!) In the meantime, have a fantastic and safe holiday weekend. Any special plans?

Monday, August 27, 2007

On the Fly--Fourteen. The New Seventeen.

Over the weekend I received two interesting emails. One at my MySpace account. One at my website account. Both from readers who wanted to let me know how much they loved ALL ABOUT EVIE. I was thrilled. I was also stunned. Both readers, different readers, identified themselves as being fourteen. As in 14-years-old!

I cringed thinking about the sexual content and graphic language, although both of the young ladies commented only on the humor. A co-worker at the library wasn't surprised to learn I had a young audience. "Fourteen," she said, "is the new seventeen. Trust me. I know." She's the mother of a young teenage girl. According to her, at this point, in today's world, a 14-year-old has pretty much seen and heard it all.

I don't even think I read my first Harlequin until I was 16 and they were categories. No graphic language to my recollection, certainly not the 'F' work. And the sex took place 'off page'. I definitely remember being disappointed when I read... They slipped into the bedroom.... Then turning the page to a new chapter... The next morning... Ack!

I guess I'm a bit old-fashioned. And not having children myself, I admit to being out of touch with what kids are indulging in at what age. All I can say is, I'm glad my two young fans commented on the humor in ALL ABOUT EVIE and not the sex otherwise I'd be mortified. I'm also taking solace in the knowledge that all of my tales include positive messages on many aspects of life, including say-no-to-drugs and say-yes-to-social tolerance. In which case, hooking them early is a good thing.

By the way, if either of those young ladies read this post, I was so flattered by your kind words. You made my weekend. Peace and joy!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

"It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything." --Virginia Woolf

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Writing--To What End?

I went to bed at 8:30 last night. I needed to write. I had been writing for two hours . . . but in circles. Something was wrong. I couldn't move forward. I desperately needed to move forward. The problem, I decided, was with the heroine's motivation in a particular scene. It wasn't quite right. But I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I couldn't think.

At 8:25 I gave up, shut off the computer, went downstairs and told my husband, "I'm going to bed. Maybe I'm coming down with something," I said. "I don't feel sick, but I'm exhausted." I could barely keep my eyes open. That morning I'd also failed to wake at my appointed 5:30am to write before work. Too tired.

Steve pointed out that I've been burning the candle from both ends, meeting one or another deadline, one after the other for a year. Actually, I've been doing that for four years. The difference is, this year, in addition, I started a full time day-job. I thought I could make it all work. Somehow find my groove. But so far, not so good. I know it. I feel it. I look it.

I have, in fact, been reevaluating my life over the past week and a half. It's all well and good to have ambition and dreams, but it's hard to achieve your goals if you can't function. It's also unhealthy and unproductive if things that make you happy (aside from professional accomplishments), like spending quality time with your spouse, family, and friends, and losing yourself in a well written book, movie, or television program have mostly disappeared.

So. How do I get to where I want to be without killing myself? Without forfeiting personal happiness and health?

In my case, it boils down to making some hard business decisions. To assess time spent working on a project versus income/sales lift. This applies to many, many aspects of my publishing career such as specific manuscripts, promotion, book signings, and conferences attended. For someone who likes to do it all, someone who wants to reach her goals sooner than later, streamlining is difficult. Mostly because it means slowing down and at the same time, taking chances.

So, here I am at another transitional period of my life. Once again, I must remind myself that my passion is stronger than my fear. Oh, and I'm thinking of having "Slow and steady wins the race" tattooed on my butt. Just kidding. Sort of.

By the way, last night was the first night in weeks that I slept more than six hours. I woke up at 5:30am this morning, no problem, and as soon as my lids popped open, the solution to my heroine's motivation popped into my brain. I sat down and wrote. I solved the problem. I moved forward. Major progress in my manuscript, all before 7:30 am. This morning I'm not only inspired but rested. I still have too much on my plate, but at least I'm working to amend that. Meanwhile, anyone know of a good tattoo artist? Just kidding. Sort of.

If you got a tattoo just now, what would your motto be?

Monday, August 20, 2007

On the Fly--From One Crazy Week to Another

Last week was a blur of work by day, fun by night. I had family visiting. I rarely get to see my sisters, my brother, or their children. So it was a real treat to have my sister Barb, her husband, Larry, and my neice Logan (5) and nephew Jax (2) for an entire week. We watched a lot of movies, read books, played with the dogs, and conquered quite a few amusement parks including Sesame Place. Here are a few pics from that day.

Jax and Barb on the Flying Fish

Logan with Elmo

Jax, Logan and me

Funny how when you hang with young kids, you become a kid again yourself. At least I did. I even braved two roller coasters with Logan and the Merry-go-Round with Jax. No, I'm not scared of the Merry-go-round, but anything that goes in a circle makes me green. My favorite distraction at Sesame Place was a little water park thingee with fountains that shot out every where. We didn't have bathing suits on, but Logan, Jax and I waded through and got wet anyway. It was sweltering that day and I don't do well in the heat. I welcomed the chance to cool off. The biggest joy? Seeing and hearing Logan and Jax squeal an giggle with glee as they raced though the fountains getting soaked.

They left for home on Saturday morning. I miss them already. I really miss my sister. (waving to Barb) Luckily, I am too busy to dwell on the quiet. Line edits for EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE arived on Friday. I spent the weekend attacking. The plan is to wrap them up today so that I can plunge back into my latest western ASAP. In addition to my manuscripts, I have two weeks to prepare for Heather Graham's Writers For New Orleans Workshop weekend. I'm speaking on a panel and also performing in a show. I have a script and songs to memorize and a workshop to prepare. From one crazy week to another. Not that I'm complaining.

"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure." -- William Feather

Thursday, August 16, 2007

On Writing--A New Cover

Hi gang! This has been and continues to be a crazy whirlwind week. My family is still visiting, deadlines continue to loom and then there's the day job thing. I'll be lucky if I know my own name by Saturday. But it's all good. Today I took a vacation day and we're driving an hour or so to visit Sesame Street Place. I feel at a disadvantage not knowing who this 'Elmo' guy is that my nephew seems to adore, but I figure I'll know the furry dude well by the time we leave.

In big people news... this week I was given the thumbs up on sharing a new book cover with you. I have to say... I LOVE THIS COVER! It fits the story in so many ways. Special thanks to HQN's marketing and art department. I'll share the back cover blurb later. For now.. here's the art for the second book in the Chameleon Chronicles series--EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE. What do you think?

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the Fly: Young at Heart

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have family visiting. Yesterday, we took my young niece and nephew to a local amusement park known as Storybook Land. Once you walk through the doors flanked by toy soldiers, you're in a beautiful wooded area. The theme? Mother Goose rhymes. The fun? Kiddie rides, animated characters, and a few fun critters.

My five-year old niece conquered every ride, some of them twice. My two-year old nephew was fond of the merry-go-round and monster trucks. My sister and brother-in-law traded off riding with them and even I (who gets motion sick) braved a few spins. The most fun for me was watching them have fun. I'll try to share some pictures later. Just now I'm squeezing in writing before work.

Tonight: I wanted my sister and brother-in-law to have a night to explore the casinos. That means I'll be watching the kids. My plan? An at-home movie and popcorn. Wish me luck!

What have you done lately to entertain young ones?

Friday, August 10, 2007

On the Fly--One the Run

Currently overwhelmed with day-job, contracted gigs, contracted books and visiting family. Will return ASAP. Please check back and have a great weekend!

Monday, August 6, 2007

On Writing: Flying High In The Zone

Having an excellent writing day. Totally in 'the zone'. Wrote ten pages with relative ease. I was motivated. Inspired. Okay. It took me all day and it involved the secondary romance and sub-plot, but hey, it was fun. Not funny per se, although, yeah, some of the dialogue made me smile. Dialogue. Lots of dialogue in this chapter. My strength. And you know what? When I hit a point I needed to research, I used a question mark and highlighted it. I rarely do that. Usually need to know then and there. But not today. Today it's all about getting the story down. Go, go, go equaled progress and a feeling of accomplishment.

Now I have to go back and write a scene I skipped. Didn't know I'd skipped a scene until I emailed Cyndi the previous chapter for her thoughts and she commented on what she thought might follow. Which was something that had crossed my mind but I ignored because I was inspired to write the 'fun' chapter. I'm glad I skipped ahead, again, something I rarely do, because I'm revved by what I accomplished today. It's a keeper. And now I can attack the more emotional, deeper scene, the one that I skipped, knowing even if I only find my way through a paragraph or two, I completed ten other pages!

So off I go to attempt that skipped scene. Cyndi and I brainstormed and I feel very good about the result. Now if I can translate it into story form....

Question for the writers out there. Do you ever write out of sequence?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

On the Fly: Inspiration

Monday is an official posting day and I'm am deep, deep, deep in a deadline book. I have nothing entertaining or intelligent to say, so.... please allow me to share a glimpse of one of my all time favorite muscial movies (brilliant work) and my favorite song from that film. I've actually had the pleasure of performing this song. Powerful stuff!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

On Reading: Hard-to-Find Books

Last night I completed an interview for Romance Junkies. Tonight I'll be working on an interview for Affaire de Coeure magazine. I'm thrilled to have these opportunities to promote my books, but I worry as I answer each question. Am I interesting? Inspiring? Do I at least sound semi-intelligent? It seemed to me that my 'story voice' and 'interview voice' are two different things. So the fantasy me is more entertaining than the real me? The things I ponder when overly-tired and under-caffeinated.

But I digress.

One of the questions I answered last night had to do with my first sale to Medallion Press. How I felt in that moment. Stunned and dizzy comes close. It made me think of the book that launched my solo career: JINXED. The first in a contemporary trilogy that features recurring characters. A story near and dear to my, and many a reader's, heart. A book that is now--*gasp*--officially out of print in the United States.

JINXED is only three years old, but, sometimes, that's the way of publishing. Many readers are just now discovering my work and are looking to order my backlist. For those who like to read trilogies in order, you may have to work a little harder to find JINXED. There used to be several new and used copies available on Amazon. As of this morning there are only eight and two of those copies are $19.00! Gads! However, six were under $6.00. Four used copies are available at Barnes and If you google, surely you can find this whimsical and heart-warming tale at other venues. If you do, please let me know. Meanwhile, here's a blurb and a quote. Curious? Click here for an excerpt and review.
* * *
Luck is a State of Mind...

Born on Friday the 13th, hapless socialite Afia St. John is convinced she is jinxed. She’s lost two husbands, an inheritance, and can’t even keep a job serving pancakes. Hard-boiled private investigator Jake Leeds needs money, bad enough that he accepts a secret payment to hire Afia as his assistant. Believing her only skill is shopping, both are shocked by her natural talent for investigating—not to mention their sizzling attraction to each other.
Will Jake be the good luck charm that puts Afia on a winning streak or, like everything else in her life, will he wind up jinxed?
"The hi-jinks of Ciotta's charmingly imperfect heroine makes JINXED a hip, witty, fun read!" -- Nan Ryan, bestselling author

"Fast-paced, sizzling, sexy fun!" -- Karyn Monk, USA Today bestselling author

* * *
Tell me, what's the most trouble you ever went to to track down a book? Where did you find it?