Monday, January 28, 2008

A Drive By Ramble

I'm baaaack. Actually, not really back so much as driving by and blabbing a few random thoughts. Don't expect clever or thought-provoking. I'd need a full brain for that, instead, brain full. Brain tired. Brain dead. Almost. I'm using the last few sparking cells to blog tonight. As for those random thoughts...

*I haven't been around because I've been working and writing and promoting and, for at least a few hours a night, sleeping. Oh, and I started exercising again which is good except it's time I could've spent blogging. Ah, well.

*Although the official release for EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE isn't until Friday, it's already available at Amazon and BN.com. And apparently it's in a few brick and mortor stores too! My sister, Barb called me two nights ago with a sighting at the Barnes and Noble in Milwalkee, Wisconsin! My co-worker and friend, Beth, called last night to say she saw ELE (and bought it) at the Borders in Mays Landing in NJ (my almost local store)! So if you happen to see EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE, please chime in and let me know where. How exciting!

*Tonight I received my first email from a reader regarding EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE. I truly appreciate everyone who takes time to write and share their thoughts, especially the good kind! Thankfully 'Cindy' enjoyed the read and added... "I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I hope that you have planned some “action” with Milo." To which I say, you betcha! Working up to that on the current Evie adventure. Speaking of...

*Thanks to a fantastic suggestion from the previously mention 'Beth', the third book in the Chameleon Chronicles has an official name. We were pretty set on another, but this one rocked not only my socks, but those of my editor and the marketing team. Hence I am currently writing: EVIE EVER AFTER Love, love, love that title for many reasons. Thank you, Beth Bliss!

*Last night I received an email from NovelSpot alerting me to a new review for ROMANCING THE WEST. "Kudos to Ms. Beth Ciotta; she has penned an exciting, extremely interesting, complex novel that has a host of characters and a truly multifaceted storyline...." The review was finely written and put a big ol' smile on my face. You can read the rest here.

*Tonight when I got home from work, my husband handed me an official looking letter and said, "Congratulations!" Remember a couple of months ago when I took that government test (a two hour brain-buster) in hopes of earning a promotion at the library. Well.... I passed!! Woo-hoo! I am now a Senior Library Assistant!

In additon to being a contracted author.

Speaking of.... it's back to the hermit cave. See you.... whenever.
Cheers!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Winner and an Interview

This morning I drew a name out of a hat ( I have many....hats, not names) and RUTH is the winner of a signed copy of EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE! Congratulations, Ruth. Please email at beth@bethciotta.com and let me know where to send your gift.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with thier dream job. They all sounded fantastic to me!

On another note, Marisa and Maria of Romance Novel TV wrote to tell me I was being featured this week along with author Rhonda Pollero in a fun video they produced out of footage shot at the NJRW Conference. Thank you, ladies! Check this out!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Share Your Dream Job - Win A Book!


In less than two weeks the second book in The Chameleon Chronicles--EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE--hits the shelves. I am beyond excited!

I've had so many nice letters from readers who read ALL ABOUT EVIE, saying they couldn't wait for the next installment. Now, it's almost here and I'm anxious and excited, hoping those same readers, as well as those new to the series, will be over-the-moon pleased when they start turning those pages.

I know I had a grand time getting Evie's adventure's out of my head and onto the paper. I recently received my author's copies of EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE and I'm so eager to share this tale with someone now, I'm offering up a signed copy in advance of the official release to one enthusiastic reader. (read an excerpt here) That reader could be you! All you have to do is comment to this post and share your 'dream job'. (winner TBA on Wednesday 1/23)

A former professional performer, Evie rediscovered passion and purpose when she teamed up with former con-artist Arch Duvall and government agent Milo Beckett to foil the scam-artists who prey on the weak and vulnerable. It's her 'dream job' come true. What's yours?

"The talented Ciotta's latest Evie book is one that new readers will jump into easily. Likewise, fans will be thrilled to re-enter the engaging world of this spunky, lovable heroine. After all, everybody loves a skillfully characterized, humorously narrated and undeniably well-plotted novel." -- Romantic Times BOOKreviews -- 4 1/2 stars ~~ TOP PICK!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hecklers

A friend who excels at blogging (and other things) once suggested that when I'm buried in work (like I am now) I should dig into my archives and reprint something of interest. I searched the archives of my old Bravenet blog and found this ever timely post about 'hecklers'. Enjoy.

January 2006

I gigged at Bally's Wild West last night. I only sing once a month now, so I was pleased when I walked into the lounge to find a pretty full house. It can be pretty deadsville in the casino lounges during winter months. The sound (audio) was good last night, the audience happy and receptive . . .

All but one woman. One miserable, slightly inebriated woman who thought it was perfectly acceptable to march up to the stage and insult my performance to my face while I was trying to do my job. (Shades of my "You Suck" story, only worse.) We'd just ended a song and I was talking to the smiling, appreciative audience, yet she stood there, intent to share her negative opinion. I smiled, made a light comment to her scathing insult (off mic) and then returned my attention to the audience. Because, hey, lady,... working here. But she didn't get the hint. She continued to stand there and insult me, in essence, bragging how she could do it better.

In the entertainment biz, we call this sort of person a heckler. If you perform live, you're going to have to deal with hecklers. No matter your level of success. Stand-up comedians probably get the worst end of the deal, bless their brave souls. A band may be incredibly talented, but if they don't know Freebird, someone's going to pronounce them sucky. So how do you handle someone who insults you (your work) publicly (undermining your confidence) while you're doing your job?

My brother-in-law is a dynamic singer and performer. I worked with him in a band for quite a few years, many moons ago. He's extremely likable and quick-witted and can put a heckler in their place over the microphone. Basically, he admonishes their rude behavior in a comical way, making the heckler look (and feel) like the obnoxious idiot he/she is. Either he wins the heckler over with his good humor or the heckler fades away. (Both good.) Now if you don't handle it right, this technique can easily backfire and you can turn more of the audience against you. (That's bad.)

Another way of dealing with a heckler is to ignore them. That's my method. Ignore them, don't bring attention to them, don't give them fuel for their fire, and they usually fade away. If they persist and are getting out of hand, I might catch the eye of a bartender or security guard. Let someone else be the bad guy. Sometimes I can joke around with a heckler, win them over. I usually get a sense if this is possible.

I knew there would be no winning over that woman last night. I made one light, joking response to her insult and when she persisted, I ignored her. Finally she gave up and went off to wherever. Probably to heckle some poor cocktail waitress about her drink... or a slot attendant about the machine that's not paying out... or... you catch my drift. I'm telling you the woman was miserable. Obviously a frustrated performer. I'm sorry for you, really. But, dang it, stop whining, don't belittle someone else to make yourself feel better. If you can do it better, then, hey, go do it. More power to you. I didn't say any of that, but be assured I thought it.

Somewhere in the comments of my Just Do It post, I mentioned that an artist needs to have the heart of a lion and the hide of an elephant. The above is a prime example. Even though I considered the source, I felt the sting of that heckler's insult. It hurt, but it didn't kill me. I shrugged off the insecurities she stoked and continued on with my job. 99% of my audience enjoyed my performance and that's who I focused on.

I ramble on about this because we will all, at some point, no matter our profession, be faced with a heckler. Someone who tells us to our face that our work sucks. Sometimes they offer advice. Sometimes they don't. I'm not sure which is worse. What matters is how you handle this person. As this sort of insult happens in public (it could even happen on you blog or message board), I believe it's important to handle the situation with grace. No matter what, don't make yourself look bad.

Again, hecklers are everywhere. Authors get them too. Bottom line, gentle sensitive souls, not everyone is going to like your work. Constructive criticism is one thing. Mean-spirited insults another. Learn to recognize the difference and deal accordingly. Then focus on the 99% who think your the best thing since sliced bread. Focus on the positive. Repeat after me: "Sticks and stones . . ."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Arrrrrgh!

Sorry I've been absent. Suffering from a lingering chest cold and something I very rarely ever wrestle with....

Writer's Block.

Given my looming deadline, this is not good. It's complicated by the upcoming release of EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE. I'm coordinating promo. I'm excited about this book getting into the hands of readers. I'm googling reviews. Checking my pre-sale rankings numbers. Must stop. Must concentrate on the manuscript of the moment. The story is in my head. I just have to get it out. Reminds me of one of my favorite movies/sceenplays: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. When the movie starts, Will is horribly blocked. He's been payed to write a play. The people who 'contracted' him want to know where it is with the project. His standard reply? (tapping his forehead) "It's all in here."
I'll be away for a couple (possibly few) days getting my act together. In the meantime hop over to Emmy award-winning writer Ken Levine's blog and check out his 1/8 nd 1/9 posts on Overcoming Writers Block.
"A reader asked how you overcome writers’ block. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Different writers use different methods. So instead of just sharing my approach I thought I’d ask a few working writers for their take. One said, “Music, crying, and/or Ativan. Any one, but preferably all.” Here are the others. Many thanks to the contributing scribes."
Those scribes include writers from some of my all-time favorite TV sitcoms. Perhaps I should work my way down the list and see what, if anything, works for me. Or I could get off the Internet and focus.
Yeah. That sounds smart. Focus.
"I'm not one of those people who "hate writing". I just hate getting started. And you have to write 'something', even if it's bad, in order to have 'something' you can make better." ~~BILL KELLY (ENCHANTED)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Kid at Heart

This scene greeted me when I came downstairs yesterday. Thank goodness the camera was nearby. Is this a Kodak moment, or what? Even as a young dog, Billie never went for balls, frisbees or squeaky toys. She always glommed onto my stuffed animals. Fourteen years later... some things never change.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dear Frankie -- The Emotional Connection


In between dancing my butt off at Mary Stella’s birthday party Saturday night, I visited with friends, old and new, many of whom I only see at writers’ conferences. So, not very often, certainly not often enough.

At one point talk turned to movies. I brought up Gerard Butler to Terri Brisbin, knowing she’s a mega fan like me. She recently saw P.S I Love You and gave Kate Duffy and me her glowing recommendation. I asked if she’d seen him in a more obscure film called Shattered? More Gerard Butler talk ensued and Kate said, “But his best film is Dear Frankie.” Terri and I gasped and clutched our hearts. I said, “The. Hottest. Kiss. Ever!”

Both Kate and Terri agreed and we excitedly discussed certain aspects of the film—including that KISS.

Last night I remembered I blogged about Dear Frankie a couple of years ago. I tracked it down at my old blog and the content also reminded me of a discussion I had with Cyndi on Sunday about movies and connecting with the characters. I’d like to share that post with those who missed it first time around. And as a bonus, at the end, I’ve included a video teaser. *Sigh*

2/02/06

Movies, and books, are my favorite form of escapism. Unfortunately, I’m harder to please these days. So when a movie (or book) grabs me and sucks me in, when I’m still thinking about it days later, I feel blessed. I just experienced magic.

For me it’s about connecting with the characters emotionally. For instance, I enjoyed Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, but I was not blown away. Once I left the theater, the movies left my mind. I didn’t connect with the characters out of the starting gate. I didn’t feel their pain or plight, or in the case of KOH, believe the character period. The set-ups were too rushed for me therefore I didn’t root as I should have for the heroes as they fought their battles—emotionally and physically. Braveheart, in my opinion, established an emotional connection with the protagonist right up front. By the time the opening scene played out with William Wallace as a young boy, I was hooked. I understood his motivation, believed his actions, and rooted for him and his cause with all my heart. That movie remains in my top five all-time favorites.

I recently watched another film that grabbed my heart and won't let go. It's a contemporary piece set in Scotland. Dear Frankie explores love in all its many forms. Mother/son, man/boy, friend/friend, man/woman, grandmother/grandson, mother/daughter. The writing, acting, and direction--superb. I borrowed this synop from IMDb...

Nine-year-old Frankie and his single mum Lizzie have been on the move ever since Frankie can remember, most recently arriving in a seaside Scottish town. Wanting to protect her deaf son from the truth that they've run away from his father, Lizzie has invented a story that he is away at sea on the HMS Accra. Every few weeks, Lizzie writes Frankie a make-believe letter from his father, telling of his adventures in exotic lands. As Frankie tracks the ship's progress around the globe, he discovers that it is due to dock in his hometown. With the real HMS Accra arriving in only a fortnight, Lizzie must choose between telling Frankie the truth or finding the perfect stranger to play Frankie's father for just one day...

In the recent issue of the magazine 'The Writer' there is an article titled-- 'A Screenplay That Connects' by Rick Reichman. He asks, "What are the three most important factors of a successful film?" The answer: "Emotion, emotion, and emotion." "...Emotion is the key not only to what makes a movie effective, but to what makes a screenplay compelling. If our audience finds no emotional connection to with the script, they will have no connection at all with the movie."

As far as I'm concerned, this notion applies to books as well. Whether the work is comedy, drama, or a mix, for it to be really special, the reader needs to connect emotionally with the characters. It's the difference between an okay read and a read that will stay in their hearts. It's something that I'm aware of more than ever as I tackle my own storytelling.

Dear Frankie is a critically acclaimed film that didn't get the coverage and attention I believe it deserves. There's no cursing, no stuff blowing up, no special effects. It's a small film with a big heart. It's magical. Do be warned that the actors are Scottish and their accents are quite thick. I have a good ear for accents, but even so, it took a few minutes for my ear to adjust. Hang in and soon the accents won't be an issue at all. For the romantics out there, this film contains the hottest kiss ever... and the couple barely touch.





Monday, January 7, 2008

Wonderful and Wonky

Perhaps you've noticed I'm giving my blog a makeover. It's a work in progress so pardon my dust. I'm still inputting links for my blog roll and I can't get my professional headshot to upload to my profile (maybe the file's too big?), but I'm getting there. The one new feature that I discovered and love is the tool in the sidebar that allowed me to upload my book promo video. Very cool. And a slideshow allows me to feature random shots of 'couples in love'. Also cool (though some are quite hot--yowza).

Anyhoo, no, I don't have time to fiddle with this WIP when a very important WIP is due almost ASAP. But I came down with a horrible chest cold and I couldn't focus and write yesterday, so at least this makeover was productive. Maybe it's the New Year, a new feeling that grows stronger every day that I've entered a new phase of my life, but I've been itching to makeover this blog, my website, and myself. Undecided on the 'look' of the latter two.

Moving on...

The last few days have been wonderful and wonky.

Wonky: Thursday I somehow strained my back shelving books at the library. Ouch. Major ouch. An ouch that got me sent home. Friday it was still extremely painful so I missed another day of work. I wish I could could say I spent the day writing. Unfortunately, I felt too miserable to focus properly. Bleh.

Wonderful: This was a big weekend for my good friend Mary Stella. Though she now lives in Florida, she grew up and spent most of her adult life in New Jersey, so this was her chosen location for a special birthday celebration. Friends and family drove and flew in from all over to party with Mary on Saturday night. Due to a hot shower, pain relievers, and gently working my muscles, my back felt much better by Friday evening and I was able to join a few friends (including Cyndi Valero, my friend and critique partner, who drove down from Northern Jersey) for dinner as previously planned with Mary. We were joined by author friends Kathy Love, Erin McCarthy, and Arianna Hart. A good time was had by all!

Wonky: Saturday morning Cyndi (who was staying with me) woke up with the FLU! Poor thing! And after traveling all that way to attend Mary's party. Thus she was unable to attend the celebration with me. *Sigh*

Wonderful: Mary knows how to throw a party! The food was fabulous as was the band and the company. Mary gave a beautiful toast to her friends and family and we all celebrated her landmark birthday by talking, laughing, and dancing the night away. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY!!!!!

Wonky: Sunday morning I woke up with no voice and a terrible chest cold! Jeesh! Cyndi felt better, good enough to drive home, and although we didn't get to do all the things we wanted, we consider any time together a blessing. I missed Mary's birthday breakfast because I conked out after taking cold medication. I also missed saying goodbye in person before she returned home. Stupid cold.

Wonderful: Although I felt incredibly crummy, I did accomplish a little writing and started this blog makeover.

Wonky: Today, my cold feels worse, not better. But I am determined to be productive. I will focus. I will write.

After I have some chicken soup.

So what's new with you? How was your weekend? Wonderful? Wonky? Or both?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

WIP

It's been a wonderful and weird few days. More on that tomorrow. Popping in for the moment to mention (as any regular visitors will notice), I'm in the process of a blog makeover. I lost my link list and book covers and such, but eventually (read: after I re-enter) the info will reappear. Meanwhile... this blog is a work in progress.

Bear with me.

UPDATE:
Okay. So I added my book covers and personal links. And I even learned how to add my book promo video for Everybody Loves Evie! Woo-hoo! However I lost my profile photo and can't get it to upload. And I have my whole blog roll to re-enter, so.... still a WIP.

UPDATE #2:
Slowly making my way through re-loading my blogroll. Still couldn't upload a professional headshot. So suddenly the file is too big? My guess, as a candid photo uploaded just fine. Grrr. A mystery I'll attempt to solve tomorrow. Like I needed another WIP to invade my dreams. What is wrong with me? I do so love the change though. *g* This kind of change anyway.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Creating with the Big Boys


Back in September, Faygie Levy, Executive Editor of Romantic Times BOOKreviews, wrote and invited me to participate in a Round-Robin-style Valentine short story for the magazine's February issue. (Thank You, Faygie!) I was thrilled and honored and, of course, said, "Count me in!"

Then a month or so later, she sent me the story-in-progress and I got a gander at the other contributing authors. Holy wow! Again I was thrilled and honored, but now I was also shaking in my boots. Not only because I admire these writers, but because I was collaborating (in a way) and felt the pressure to deliver something equally wonderful. We're talking some clever, wacky writing.

Starting the story off... none other than the fabulously funny Jennifer Crusie! Followed contributions by equally awesome authors Stephanie Bond, Sandra Hill, Erin McCarthy, Judi McCoy, Cindy Cruciger, Katie MacAlister and Charlaine Harris! I added on after Charlaine (oh, the pressure!), paving the way for Michele Bardsley and MaryJanice Davidson (whose portions I haven't read yet) and then the story is wrapped up by the originator-Jen Crusie.

Considering the above listed talent, can you blame me for being nervous? Regardless, I am over-the-moon that I had the opportunity to create with the 'Big Boys' and do hope that readers enjoy the weird and wacky result. Subscribers may already have their copy, otherwise the Feb. issue hits stands in, well, February. Be on the look out and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Beautiful Turning Point

Last night for the first time in many years, I did not have a New Years Eve gig. There was a time I would have been depressed about that. Gigs pay twice, some times three times, as much on the party night of the year. Every performer in the universe works on New Years Eve.


From the time I was fourteen and performing professionally, I spent most New Years Eves on a stage singing with a band. I can't tell you how many times we followed up Auld Lang Syne with Prince's "We're gonna party like it's 1999!"


I did not sing that song last night.


Nor did I perfom in a choregraphed dance routine and then later create hoopla with the guests of a casino's high roller party.


Nor did I emcee a casino sweepstakes like I did last year. Read about the twelve-hour nightmare here.

No, yesterday, after working a short day at the library, I came home and treated myself to Chinese take-out (my fave), edited a few chapters of an upcoming release, then spent a quiet evening with my husband watching an old movie and sharing a bottle of champagne. This year, for the first year in many, we actually shared a NYE kiss at midnight. Ah, bliss.


Not having a booking on NYE and not being depressed about it marks a turning point in my life. Accepting that I am a (99%) retired performer.... and not caring. After nearly thirty years in 'showbiz', I've moved on. I'm still entertaining... but with words. And I don't have to be skinny and young and where skimpy clothes to do it. I'm more content, happier, than I've ever been. I'm looking forward to the coming year, even though I know it's filled with a lot of hard work. My gut tells me it will also be filled with excitement and wonderful surprises.

Wishing you all a joyous and content 2008!

So how did you ring in the New Year?