Monday, March 31, 2008

Off Limits

It will take months, maybe years (if I keep going at this rate) to read every book in my ever-growing TBR stacks. I can't tell you how happy I am that I actually squeezed in an entire book while I was away to the NINC conference. A fun, sexy, fast read by multi-published author Jordan Summers. The fact that Jordan is my friend has no bearing on this shout out. Swear.

The thing I loved most about OFF LIMITS were all of the scenes that took place on the airplane. The heroine (Delaney), an ATF special agent, is undercover as a flight attendant. There was a ton of humor and realism in those scenes. And no wonder they rang so true, Jordan used to be a flight attendant. It's a genuine behind-the-scenes peek into that world and I found it fascinating. Give me more!
But I digress. I also loved the very alpha hero, Jack. And the sex scenes? *clears throat* Very, very hot.
True story: I was reading OFF LIMITS on the bus ride up to NYC. Suddenly I noticed the man seated next to me was reading a book, too. I peeked over. The Holy Bible! What were the chances? Since lightning didn't strike me, I kept reading. Until I came to that first sex scene. Yowza. The great thing about stopping at that point, however, was that I couldn't wait to get back to it.
All I know is that I could never walk in Delaney's shoes.... but I'd like to.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Taste of the Big Apple

Attending the NINC conference in NYC was a smart choice for several reasons. Yes, I've been inspired by the workshops. I also had a near brush of fame with the cast of Law and Order SVU! More on that later. Back to the workshops. A couple of gems (and I'm paraphrasing)

From Theresa Rebeck (playwright, prime-time TV writer, film writer, and novelist) on breaking into a field overflowing with other artists... "I realized that it's not that I lacked the talent, what they had over me was courage. I finally gave myself permission to pursue my dream."

From Donald Maass (Agent, Donald Maass Literary Agency) on building and sustaining a successfully career (and possibly breaking out)... "There are two kinds of authors. Storytellers and status seekers." He then went on to describe the difference and explain how one benefits and the other works against.

If you think about it, it's pretty clear what's what. I knew right away which one I am and that fed nicely into something else Donald said (along with agents, Joshua Bilmes and Peter Rubie) When asked how much time an author should devote to self-promotion. They had a lot to say on the subject, but this is what struck me most. "Keep your eye on the ball. Keep your focus. THE STORY and appealing to readers." The best thing you can do for your career is write consistently good stories.

On the social business front, I had a lovely dinner with my editor from HQN, Keyren Gerlach. We ate a lot and laughed a lot and she shared some exciting news. Unfortunately, I can't share it yet. But soon...

I also had fantastic discussions with Tracy Farrell (Executive Editor HQN/Luna Books) and Dianne Moggy (Editorial Director, Harlequin Global Single Title). They always have such great energy and they support me in a huge way which is very inspiring!

Friday, my friend and roommate Mary Stella and I had a fun lunch with our friend Kate Duffy (Editorial Director, Kensington Publishing Company) We always have a blast with Kate and this was no exception. The the Shepard's pie was delicious! Later that night we met up with Kate, Sarah Wendall (Smart Bitches/Trashy Books), Barbara Vey (Publishers Weekly), Karen Auerbach (Director of Publicity, Kensington), and LaToya Smith, Editor (Grand Central Publishing) some other new friends for dinner. A night of laughter and great food. Oh, and our brush with the cast of SVU. Barbara, of Beyond Her Book blogging fame, blogged about it. Here's an excerpt but go read her entire post for pictures plus more on NINC. She's a hoot!

"Kate, being the super hostess she is, managed to have us at the restaurant just as they were shooting an episode of Law and Order: SVU . Beth Ciotta was having a squee moment and asked me to take a picture of actor Christopher Meloni. Well, the assistant director starting yelling at me about no flashes and I thought security was going to come after me. Bottom Line: Mariska Hargitay was there too, but Beth didn't want a picture of her. Thank goodness, I probably would have been arrested."

I've been outed! A Christopher Meloni fangirl. Hey, it could've been worse. At least I didn't land Barbara in the clink!

More later! I have so much more share, but I'm off to more workshops. Viva inspiration!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Inspiration and Motivation

I spent the evening packing for a writer's conference. Tomorrow I'll hop a bus to NYC to attend my first Novelist Inc. Conference--NINC for short. I've been to a lot of writers conferences, but not NINC, an organization made up exclusively of multi-published authors in multiple genres.

I'm a bit intimidated by the people I'll meet as well as the diverse workshops. I'll learn about writing for soap operas, graphic novels, and the YA market as well as 'writing the breakout novel', 'what's new in publishing' and the 'art of the deal'.

And... as they say... much, much more.

Since the conference is in NYC, representatives from all of the major publishing houses and literary agencies will be present in full force. It's a chance to network and to learn. I intend to make the most of it. (Click here for the list of who's who and what's what.)

I'm so looking forward to immersing myself in the world of publishing with fellow writers. Inspiration and motivation await. Here I come!

What about you? Are you someone who is inspired and driven by others? Or, no mattter your goal, do you find that particular strength by your lonesome?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Shallow Reader

Okay. Something I never dreamed of, happened. I've been turned off by the 'feel' of a book. Call me shallow.

A couple of years ago, I tripped upon Elmore Leanord's blog. I admire tha man and his writing. I was thrilled to find a top ten list of Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing. Many of his rules resonated with me. I blogged about it.

Then last year, I tripped upon the news that a book would be published based on those rules: Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing. Glory be! I revisted his blog and couldn't find the original post. Understood. The material was now a basis for a book.

Life and deadlines got in the way and it wasn't until today that I could check Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing out of the library. I opened the book anticipating, craving his wisdom. But alas. It was hard to turn the pages. Hard, stiff, cardboard like pages. Each with only a paragraph of copy or an illustration. The pages were hard to turn, the book hard to maipulate. I disliked the look, the feel. Ten rules that had been so important to me were lost in a gimmacky sales ploy. Not blaming Mr. Leonard. But man, I have never been so let down by the feel and look of a book.

Am I crazy? Has something similar ever happened to you? Have you ever been turned off by the look or feel of a book? Font too small? Too light? Misleading cover?

Talk to me! (Lest I think I'm a whack-a-doodle)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Be Kind to the Bunny

Follows a post I originally wrote three years ago. The message--be kind to the Easter Bunny (and all other costumed characters)--still applies. The topic is especially timely to me as I recently wrote a scene in Evie Ever After (the third installment in the Chameleon Chronicles) where Evie has to don a . . . well, let's just say she has to suit up or the greater good.

My eyebrows rose when I noticed a headline in my Yahoo news column last night: Easter Bunny gets Pummeled by Boy at Mall. Though that headline causes one to smile, really it's not all that funny. I mean the poor guy in the furry suit ended up with a bloody nose. (click here to read story)

It reminded me of the other day when I posted about dream jobs. One of my dream jobs is (was) to be a character (preferably Cinderella or Snow White) at one of the Disney properties. My friend Shelly, a talented juggler, character actress, and Disney enthusiast, said she'd heard too many horror stories about 'characters' getting roughed up to want that job.

Now why would someone want to attack a 'character' whose purpose is to bring joy? I don't get it. Those of you who visit this blog regularly know that I've done a lot of character work. I've appeared as a princess, mermaid, bumble bee, pumpkin, fairy... The list goes on. Not once was I ever attacked by an overbearing kid or deranged adult. Thank goodness. However, I've worked with other 'characters' who suffered incidents from time to time. All I can say is, "SHAME ON ANYONE WHO TORMENTS A COSTUMED CHARACTER!"

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the easiest job in the world. Whether it's the professional who does this year round, or the teenager who needs extra money and dons a bunny suit at the mall, or the senior who gets a kick out of being Santa once a year and listening to little kids wishes--these folks have one thing in common. Their goal is to bring joy, to make someone smile. What a wonderful thing that is!

Okay. I'm done. I guess I just needed to get that out of my system. Bryon Johnson (the pummled bunny), kudos on keeping your cool and not fighting back. Hope your bruises heal quickly.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Define Sexy

Today my husband made me laugh. That's not unusual. He has a wicked wit. I find a sense of humor incredibly sexy. It rates in my top three sexy traits. Kind heart. Intelligence. Sense of humor.

What do you find sexy?

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Power of a Great Book

Hello. Is this thing on? Testing. One, two, three.

A couple of stereo-typical cheesy lines that I used to use in my former life as an entertainer. The tech would always ask me (and whatever band members were singing) to "check the mic". This was before the performance, to make sure the monitors and mains were loud enough and the EQ was pleasing (to both performer and audience) and, if the performer wanted 'effects' (reverb, echo--voice enhancements, if you will), to make sure they weren't too sparse or too heavy, but just right.

"Test the mic," the tech would say. Which meant: Talk and keep talking until I like what I hear (tone/volume wise). So basically I started with the cliched testing, one, two, three and then rambled on about nothing. Something I do well. As proven in these opening paragraphs.

My intention wasn't to talk about 'the old days', but to address the fact that I haven't blogged in a week. Is anyone still coming here? Is this thing on?

What can I say? I've been working. I've been writing. And I've been reading. Reading! I used to read like a maniac. One book after another. Book after book after book . . . But these days, time is crunched. Super-crunched. Time I used to spend reading is now spent researching. But in order to write about life one must live it or at least read about it, so for the past two weeks I committed and read every chance I got. I read three books. Three books within my genre, the romance genre, start to finish.

One was severely disappointing. The next was extremely well written, but in the end, left me wanting. Doesn't make it a bad book, just not the book for me.

Then I revisted a past favorite author and was instantly reminded of why she was/is a fave. After days of feeling like I have nothing to say, I'm suddenly compelled to spew on several different subjects. All intertwined. Except I'm still on deadline and can't speare the time. For now I'll simply give a enthusiastic shout out for NATURAL BORN CHARMER by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. (I read the hard cover version, but it's now out in paperback as shown here.)

A random reviewer at described her as smart and funny. Smart and funny pretty much covers all of the SEP novels I've read. But more than, that Ms. Phillips stories have heart.
As I read this wonderful book, I was reminded of what drew me to romantic fiction to begin with. As I read, I was entertained and inspired. I was taken away, pure escapism. And I was reminded why I write what I do. To make people believe in the fantastic. Because the fantastic is often our reality if only we believe.

Now, granted, this book touched on a few things that are significant to my life--music, entertaintment and art. It also touched on disfunctional families and oddball characters--also significant to me. Although extremely well writen, I'm assuming this book called to me more than some because I, personally, could relate.

It's all subjective. Something I always keep in mind when wondering how readers feel about my own stories. What delights one reader, won't delight every reader. Doesn't make it a bad book, just not the book for them.

Another subject for another blog post.

What about you? Have you recently read a book that inspired and entertained you in an extraordinary way?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Romantic Times--Good Times

This morning I received an email asking if I would be attending the 2009 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. That's right. 2009. They're already planning ahead. Location: Orlando, Florida. I replied--Count me in!

I've attended the RT Convention every year for 13 years. This year I have to miss it. It's next month and I'm already mourning the missed opportunity to see many friends and to meet many readers. *le sigh*

I do, however, have a boatload of fantastic memories to hold me over until 2009.

RT-Kansas City. At one of the many costume parties with my dear friends, author Heather Graham and costume/set designer, Connie Perry. Yes, we're tired and sweaty. We danced all night!

RT-St. Louis. My friends (and members of Heather and Connie's families) Zhenia, Derrick, Shayne, and Josh and cover model/musician Mark Johnson stopped at my table at the bookfair to show their love and support.

RT-Daytona Beach. At the Fairy Ball with my girlfriends, my good buds, authors--Lori Armstrong, Mary Stella, Kathy Love, Julia Templeton and Arianna Hart.

And these are just three of a gazillion bright and happy memories from a Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Good times. Good times.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Future of Entertainment... Maybe

Since my background is entertainment and it is, as they say, in my blood, I am naturally attracted to news in that industry--whether it covers TV, film, music, writing, or art. This morning I received an email alerting me of: An Interview with Ken Levine on future of Hollywood and the Fallout of the Writers Strike

Since Ken is one of my favorite sitcom writers and as he entertains me daily with his witty blog, I had to click over. Not surprisingly, the interview is interesting and entertaining. What did surprise me was the venue. I'd never heard of this blog newspaper. What a great concept. If you get a chance, check out THE ISSUE. From their 'About' page...

The Issue is a non-partisan blog newspaper that provides a window to an emerging world of diverse and informed opinions. We cull the blogosphere for its wise insights, probing analyses, and diverse perspectives, drawing together a borderless newspaper. By combining the democratization and diversity of new media with the format and editorial standards of traditional news, we hope to offer a hybrid news source that provides the best of both worlds.

As noted in Ken's interview, times are changing. Is it possible that in the near future that the Internet will be the chosen source for all our entertainment needs? I know someone who gave up her cable because she can watch her favorite TV shows on her computer. Since I'm always tied to my laptop for work purposes, it's generally where I get my world and US news. It's also where I listen to music. I don't generally read e-books, but millions of people do. Instead of joining friends for after school activities like kick ball, hopscotch, baseball and bike riding (like back when I was a kid) I can't tell you how many kids come into our library to use the computers for on-line games.

Just saying.

What about you? When it comes to entertainment, do you find yourself turning more and more to your computer?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When Stars Really Shine

I love it when celebrities--and I'm talking the ones who make BIG bucks--donate large amounts of money to charity. I mean really. Just how much money does one person need? Isn't it enough simply to have one million in the bank?

In the past year, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie contributed millions to the cause of their choice. Just this past week, Drew Barrymore contributed one million dollars to feed Kenyen children. Go, Drew!

Yesterday I tripped upon an article announcing that you can win a date with Scarlett Johansson. 100% of the proceeds go to Oxfam America. The bidding is taking place here on Ebay.

The winning bidder will receive:
* Two tickets to the world premiere of He's Just Not That Into You. The premiere location has not yet been determined but will be in either Los Angeles or New York this July.

* Chauffeured car service to the premiere

* Hair and makeup for one by Privé

* A meet and greet with Scarlett Johansson at the premiere

Yesterday I checked in soon after the bidding opened and the bid was at $1100.00. As of the writing of this post it's up to $15,000.00!!! Holy moly! Who has fifteen thousand to spend on a meet and greet with Scarlett? I have to admit, I'm curious. Even more curious as to how high the bidding will go! The more the better, as it is for charity, after all.

So, would you be tempted to bid on a celebrity package like this? If so, what celebrity would tempt you into dipping big time into your savings account?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Speaking of Blogging...

There's an interesting post today at BookSquare. It reaffirms some of my own thoughts of late on blogging and sort of makes me want to hang up my blogging shoes. On the other hand, I'm stubborn. I like it here. And I do say in my profile that these are ramblings. I'd like to think that these ramblings are occasionally entertaining and that once in a great while I offer a bit of useful information or at the very best, inspiration. If I inspire at least one or two people a week or make someone smile, I am a happy camper.

Of course this is also me trying to validate my being here.

As pointed out at BookSquare...

"There is no such thing as a blogging imperative. In fact, after long consideration, I believe that most authors should not blog, especially if they’re accepting the messy diarist definition of blogging. Sad truth: most people are not good at writing about daily trials and tribulations with wit, verve, and voice. It’s hard work, and for many authors, it’s the opposite of what they prefer to write. Good blogging is good writing, but not everyone can or should do it."

I agree. Good blogging is hard work. Looking back in my archives in my previous Bravenet blog, I actually think I used to be a pretty darn good blogger... But back then I had more free time. At that time I was also still working as an entertainer. My trials and tribulations in that field were endless and provided many funny, outrageous, poignant and often irritating tales.

Now, in addition to writing, I work at my local library. So I'm either home, writing away, or working in a literary paradise. Not a lot of craziness to report. Plus I'm channeling every ounce of creativity into my books.

On that note, I'd like to leave you with links to a few writers who, I believe, consistently blog with wit, verve, and voice. Ken Levine, Neil Gaiman, Mary Stella, Jill Shalvis, and Jennifer Crusie.

Talk about inspiring.

What about you? Any particular bloggers who rock your socks?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Is it me?

Good grief.

Have I truly not blogged for an entire week?! I think I blogged daily for two years straight--honest--but then I took a full-time day job and everything changed. Time and energy is ultra precious. I have contracted deadlines and not enough time in the day. Things like blogging daily, even bi-weekly, slip down a notch on the list of priorities.

Not that I'm whining about my situation, because, hey, I'm lucky to have such problems. I'm published. I'm 'under contract'. I'm luckier than many, so I shall not whine! Not very much any way. *g*

A recent topic of one of the writer's loops I belong to: The more successful you are, the greater the pressure.

It's all perspective and I'll leave it at that.

Back to blogging.

In additon to blogging less, I'm blog hopping less and commenting, well, hardly at all. In kind, I'm noticing less comments on my blog and blogs in general.

Curious. Is it just me or does there seem to be a dip in overall blog activity?