Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Book Tour Recap by Shelley Bates

Well, the Faith Building Fiction tour is over (except for a few radio interviews this week) and I'm relaxing in the cottage country in Ontario, Canada. A big departure from the sugar-white beaches of Florida ... or the rougher, wind-swept beaches near home in northern California.

Not that the tour was all about the beaches or anything :)

It was all about meeting readers and booksellers. On Monday, in Mobile, AL, we (meaning me and authors Tracey Bateman, Deborah Bedford, and Lyn Cote) jumped right in with a TV appearance. We were interviewed on WKRG Channel 5 by a very nice and interested news anchor who made us all comfortable and asked good questions. Not like the guy on Channel 3 in Pensacola a few days later, who wanted to know how much steam there was in our books. Uh, dude, this is Christian fiction, okay? What you want is a couple of shelves over.

The next day we did a radio interview on WBCX-Praise 95.7 FM for an entire hour. I was wondering what on earth we'd talk about, but the DJ was used to having guests on the show and had been well briefed beforehand. I got to talk about my platform, toxic churches, so I was the "controversial" element of the program :) And lo and behold, people came out to the booksigning that night in response to the show. Not because of toxic churches, mind you, but because they'd heard us and were interested in what we write.

And that's what a book tour is really all about. It isn't about the booksignings every night, or about being on radio and TV (though that was neat). It's about making connections with people and building relationships. That's the point of this blog, and of our websites, isn't it? As E.M. Forster said in Howard's End, "Only connect."

Though the seafood and the beaches didn't hurt, either :)

Shelley B.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nobody Does it Better

I'm working on a novella called Real Men Do It better. It's the publishers title, not mine, but it got me to thinking. What is a 'real' man? The word gets bandied about a lot, but what does it mean? Are we talking manliness? Or do we men the guys who'll help you grocery shop but know karate in case someone tries to attack you in the parking lot? If we're talking strcitly macho, then honestly, I'm out of here.

I've never been one to go in for swaggering alpha guys. Maybe it's from being a nurse and getting a big dose of doctors' egos at a young age. Maybe it's because I like being in charge and an alpha guy would try to take that away from me. Don't get me wrong. I don't want a wimp. Who does? But just because a guy doesn't have callouses on his palms and ripped abs does that mean he's not a 'real' man?

Speaking of doctors, are some careers just more manly than others? Is it jobs done by alpha men that turn us on? Special forces? (Personally not my cuppa. I'm more likely to be scared of a guys who've been trained to kill than to want to slip into his bed.) Cops? Yeah, okay, they're pretty popular in fiction. Pilot? Eh, they seem to have the same general personality as doctors. Firemen? Yeah, now we're talking. Is is some law that firemen have to be hot? But weirdly enough, publishers claim firemen heroes don't sell well. Why is that?

Anyway, the hero in my novella is a savage diver. It was fun researching diving and the more I did, the sexier deep sea divers became. Plus, ever since Flipper, I've always had a thing for the beach boy types.

So what about you? For you personally, what's one type of guy, one type of career that does it for you? And why?

So Many Books, So Little Time by Megan Crane

A friend gave me a book the other day.

"This looks great," I told him, "and I can't wait to read it, but I feel I should tell you that my To Be Read pile is out of control."

Then I thought about it.

"Really," I said, "it's more like a shelf than a pile."

But the truth is, I was downplaying the situation:

Happily, I believe there is no such thing as "too many books." Too few shelves, yes, but never too many books.

And I will get to them all in time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Looking back... by Paula Quinn

It seems like yesterday I was strolling my daughter Samantha around in her pram, smiling proudly at the neighbors who stopped to gaze at her minky curls and tiny nose.

I remember her first day of kindergarten with clarity and how Sam cried when it was time for me to leave her classroom. Her teacher let me stay with her for two weeks, weaning her away slowly. But she stopped missing me with the arrival of a class rabbit. First grade was marked by Sam's budding creativity, Junie B Jones books, her first real heartbreak when the class hamster died, and her refusal to practice writing her letters. She preferred drawing to writing, much to my dismay. Second grade was a challenge. Her teacher was new and lost control of her twenty-seven seven year olds. When the principal questioned the children about how they felt in their classroom, it was Sam who spoke up, explaining in her soft, lispy voice that none of the kids felt safe when pencils were flying around like "air-a-planes."
Oh, third grade and phone calls from the principal that Sam's new school project was causing quite a stir. You see, Samantha loves animals and during a trip to Rockefeller Center, she discovered just how fur coats are made. That was the year we learned she had a photographic memory. That, equaled with her talent for drawing (remember first grade?) produced some very impressive artwork of naked women ice skating with word bubbles hanging over their mouths, that read. "I'd rather go NAKED than wear fur!" Her compassion for animals and people continued to grow.
Sam had the same teacher for fourth and fifth grade. There were times I thought we'd never get through those two years. We learned that she was dyslexic, but what she lacked in the written word, she more than made up for verbally. She had become the spokesperson for every kid she felt was being treated unfairly. Her passions were as deep and complex as her logic, and though still as softly spoken as she was when she was seven, she fought hard for what she believed was right—and won.
Middle school was a hodgepodge of emotions, making new friends, learning how to travel on her own, coming into herself in all those fun ways that pre-teens do, but she made it through with flying colors.
Today my baby graduated and will be attending High School in the fall. Watching her accept her diploma brought me back to those early years. Where did the time go? When did I lose my little girl?
When her name was called, her classmates cheered. Her teacher dipped her head to the microphone and said, “Samantha has a beautiful spirit and demonstrates genuine care and concern for those around her. She will inevitably be one of the people who make the world a better place to be in.”
Oh yes, I thought, taking my husband’s hand, there’s my girl, growing up and still making her mom and dad so very, very proud.

Samantha has long since traded in her drawing pencils for pens and journals and is becoming quite the writer. (Happy mom!) The following is an excerpt from a poem she wrote that appears in her yearbook.

We couldn’t wait
Now I wish I could slow down time
Just another month, or even a week
It’s crazy how you really don’t realize
What you have until it’s gone
Friends you knew since grade school
Everyone’s going their separate ways
We have to move on
I think about things we’ve been through
But already the memories seem far away
And I want to rewind and pause
Things I never thought I would miss Are suddenly the things I never want to forget….”

Phantom of the Opera and Luck and Little Nieces by Diane Perkins

You all remember the blog (January 20, 2006) telling of my new obsession with Phantom of the Opera (and thus Gerard Butler)? Well, after that life-altering moment, my friend Patty (who TOLD me about Phantom way before I ever watched the movie and now says "I told you so" over and over...) gave me a Phantom of the Opera watch that I wear all the time. Surprisingly few people notice the watch, but when the conversation gets around to Phantom of the Opera or Gerard Butler, which I often make sure it does, I show off my watch! Proof that I'm obsessed, you might say.

This past weekend I attended my high school reunion - Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville, Alabama, Class of 19?? - and I renewed old friendships with people whom I have not seen in a brazillion years. Anyway, I was chatting with Carol Stahl, a friend who stayed in Jacksonville and has been very active in local theatre (her list of performance credits is amazing, very impressive). She happened to mention that her sister, Mary, is in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera! I thrust my POTO watch into her face and said, "I love Phantom of the Opera!" and I told her I was planning to see the Broadway show on July 6. Well, she has arranged for her sister to give me a backstage tour after the performance!!!!! How cool is that?

Sunday I returned to my father-in-law's house in Georgia where I had left my husband while I was at the reunion. The whole family gathered at a cook out at my sister-in-law's house, and her 4 year old and 5 year old daughters were giving me a tour of the house and yard. Well, these darling little ones DID notice my Phantom of the Opera watch.
They said, "We have that movie." One said, "I'm Christine.." and the two of them starting singing the music from the movie: "Christine, Christine, where in the world have you been hiding...." It was so cute you just wanted to squeeze them tight.

They offered to put the movie on for me and I was very tempted.....

That's all my Phantom of the Opera stuff, but I cannot leave the blog without showing you where I used to live in Alabama. My father was an Army Colonel and we lived on Ft. McClellan when I was in high school. The Fort closed about five years ago and the residential areas are now renovated and owned by private owners. The houses where I lived have been designated an historic site, Historic Buckner Circle, a circle of houses in the same design with a parade field in the middle. Here's my house:

I had forgotten how beautiful it was.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Express Nails

Okay, maybe the sign on the door "Express Nails" should have been my first clue that this place was an assembly line for feet and fingers, but this was my first venture away from my regular beauty shop - and I ventured away only because my regular place is closed for vacation this week. 

And yes, I did use the old-fashioned term "beauty shop" because "Sandy's Beauty Shop" is written on the door of my favorite place in the world to go. Sandy's isn't a "salon," you see. Sandy's is a typical catch-up-on-all-the-local gossip, eat cookies or brownies or whatever else anyone brought by that day, and your feet are in one of those "Dr. Shoals" Wal-mart blue light special foot baths while Sandy does your nails first, then your toenails.

Not so at Express Nails.

The second I walked through the door and said I wanted a manicure and a pedicure, Ung Lee (according to her name tag) grabbed my hands and grimaced. "Nails too short. Need gel nails," she said with authority. "Do feet first."
The next thing I knew, I was being ushered to a line of chairs against the wall and seated among several other women whose feet were soaking in mini whirlpools of bubbling blue hot water.

"Sit back in chair. Feet in water," instructed Ung Lee, which sounded like a reasonable request except for the fact that when I sat my short self back in the chair, my short legs stuck straight out and my feet didn't even come close to touching the swirling blue water.

"Feet in water!" a rather impatient Ung Lee demanded, causing everyone to immediately look in my direction.

Soooo, (thoroughly embarrassed) I scooted my butt down to the edge of the chair (practically lying down now) put my feet in the water, and a now smiling-at-my-creativity Ung Lee reached over and punched a button on the arm of my chair and said, "Soak four minute," before she quickly moved on to the next person.

It only took once for something as hard as a brick to hit me in the back of the head before I realized this was one of those dang "massage" chairs. Now I admit the massage thingy might have felt rather good running up my back - if I could have sat back in the chair. But four minutes of being whacked in the back of the head? Are you kidding me? We're talking a freaking concussion here! 

I glanced to my left, searching for Ung Lee, but she was now whittling away at some poor woman's foot with a (yikes!) razor. Rather than break Ung Lee's concentration while she was wielding such a deadly-looking device, I reached up and started feeling for the button to turn the dang thing off myself. Crap! It speeded up instead. And to make matters even worse, in all my thrashing around to turn off the chair, my pants legs had now slid down and were soaking right along with my feet in the swirling blue water.

I finally gave up, slid down out of the chair, pulled my wet pants legs back up to my knees, and sat on the edge of the whirlpool until an again-frowning Ung Lee came back to stand above me with her hands on her hips. I have no idea what she said in Vietnamese to her other two co-workers, but they all had a really good laugh.

Yeah, ha, ha, ha, and all that!

But the good news is, Ung Lee didn't use her scary razor on my feet, which means Sandy must do a pretty good job. I now have gel-not-too-short nails. And the heat from the toenail dryer helped a little with my wet pants.

But you'd better believe as soon as I was done, I paid my bill and expressed myself and my still-flaming cheeks right the heck out of there!

Candy Halliday

Friday, June 16, 2006

Color my world

The walls in my office are now a pale peach, and I’m loving it.

When we moved into our condo, everything was painted dove white. Ceilings, walls, closets. Everything. At the time, I thought it was kind of neat. I didn’t have to consider wall color when choosing accessories. Everything matched. We have an open concept layout, so the living room, dinette and kitchen are all one big room with high cathedral ceilings and lots of windows and two patio doors. Lots of light – and lots of dove white.

I should have known the dove white didn’t suit me when I decided to paint the master bedroom. I thought I just wanted something a little warmer in that room, so we went with a rosy beige. And as long as we were painting the bedroom, then we should really paint the closet (same rosy beige) and the bathroom (mint green) in the master suite. Makes sense, right? At the time, what also made sense was a bit of decorative stenciling in the bathroom – just a vine pattern (evergreen) with a couple of flowers (wine and gold) tossed in to brighten up the room.

I liked the stenciling so much I decided to do the same pattern (evergreen vines, salmon and purple flowers) in the main bathroom, which meant we had to first paint the walls a bright yellow.

You see where this is leading, right? J

You guessed it! The great room is no longer dove white, and neither is my office.

As I type, a lady far more talented with paint than I am is doing a faux finish (taupe over sandy beige) in the dinette area. It’s gorgeous! When she’s done, she’s coming in here to do the same to two walls (blushing peach over pale peach). I have no doubt I’ll love that, too.

I probably shouldn’t be so amazed at how those changes have affected my moods. I’m more comfortable in my home, and because I also work in my home, I’m more comfortable at work, too.

So what I’m wondering is how others have changed their environment to suit them. Are you multi-colored or dove white? Must you get a daily dose of being outside? Do you need plants and flowers within your house? Do you need books stacked all over the place or must they be relegated to the bookshelves?

Shari Anton, who obviously figured out she needs color!






Monday, June 12, 2006

From Sarah McKerrigan

From Sarah McKerrigan…
Guess where I am?  The Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman Island!  Isn’t the internet amazing?  I’m still able to send my blog.
So what am I doing here?  It’s just one of those perks of being married to a rock star who travels the globe.  Once in a while I get to tag along.
The fun thing about being here now is it’s my birthday, and since Grand Cayman was an English colony, they celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s birthday today, too.  Maybe there will be a parade in my honor <grin>.
There’s a turtle preserve, Stingray City, and great snorkeling here, though sometimes we enjoy simple pleasures just as much.  A few nights ago, we strolled along the beach at midnight, watching lightning on the water and taking long-exposure photos, then ventured over to a moonlit bog to record the sounds of hundreds of croaking frogs.
It’s the beginning of hurricane season, so the weather has been mostly overcast with some rain, some wind, but we don’t mind.  The heavy humidity and warm ocean are fascinating for us native Californians.
Since I’m on deadline, I brought my laptop along and have been writing in the morning while my night owl musician sleeps in.  I wonder if the medieval I’m working on will end up with a Caribbean flavor…
“Hey, mon, put up your sword!”
“No problem, forsooth.”
“Prithee join me in a flagon of rum punch instead.”
“Now you be jammin’, my lord.”
Happy adventures!
Sarah McKerrigan…
…stories to keep you up all night
The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch
…riding to the rescue in 2006

Check out AOL.com today. Breaking news, video search, pictures, email and IM. All on demand. Always Free.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pop(p) Quiz

You've been sitting at the computer for 8 hours straight, sucking dry every creative cell in your body and because you can still keep your eyes open, there's potential for more writing but you can't seem to find the motivation, what do you do?

A - slog on ahead, even though whatever you write now will undoubtedly have to be rewritten.
B - check email because someone important may have written and you absolutely, positively must reply back ASAP.
C - check your sales rank on Amazon because even though you "know" the ranking means nothing, you still feel good when your number is low.
D - google your name just to see what comes up
E - mow the lawn because it needs it and you want the physical exercise so this is killing two birds with one stone
F - clean house because the house REALLY needs it, you want the exercise and your son already beat you to the lawnmower
G - jump on the Warner Women Blog site and post a blog because it's your day to post and hey, it's something to write about
H - go hit the track because that physical exercise idea still sounds good and maybe it'll get those creative juices flowing again
I - go grocery shopping because even though you hate it, the cubbard is bare.
J - two or more of the above.

Well, my email is caught up, my Amazon sales rank is iffy, there are no new stories about me on the internet (at least that popped up when I googled my name) and when I click on the publish icon, my blog will be posted. After I take a couple of Aleve for the ache in my legs from yesterday's three mile hike, I'm going to run to the grocery store. And if my son hasn't finished the lawn by the time I get back, it's all mine. And for those of you who thought I would do housework - pulllleeeeze. I'm bored, not mental. Hope you all have a great day!


Monday, June 05, 2006

Reinforced Nylons (aka Why Support is so great)

I'm a writer. By definition, that means I'm okay with lots of alone time.

No, more than okay. I thrive on alone time. If I have to go to a party, I'm totally drained by the time I get home. My husband is a social giant, and the more interaction he gets to do, the more fired up he is.

Not me. I recharge by being alone.

But in some ways, I'm even more extreme than lots of other writers in that I don't have a critique group. Lots of authors, pubbed and unpubbed, have a small group of trusted peers who read each other's work and help them brainstorm through problems. They support each other, they cheer each other on, and they pull each other out of tough spots.

Sounds great in theory, but it's not my thing. Don't get me wrong, I have lots of friends, but when it comes to writing, I actually find it easier to work through problems on my own instead of trying to incorporate someone else's vision into my own work.

But every once in a while, things get so tough that even someone like me needs reinforced nylons.

I have book due July 1st, the third in my paranormal series for Warner, and it has been absolutely torture to write. By the time I got to page 150, I was on my twelfth iteration, and I could tell it still wasn't right.

And I'll admit it. I fell apart. I absolutely could not see how to fix the book. I couldn't write another word. I was certain my writing career was over. I was finished. Kaput. Done.

Then my agent got wind of my predicament (could it have had anything to do with the email I sent her telling her that I was about to throw myself and my computer off a very high bridge? Hmm... maybe) and offered to read it for me to see if she could offer insight.

At first, I balked, because I generally find that when someone else reads my book (except my editor), their suggestions often frustrate me because their vision is different than mine and I can't mesh them. But then I realized I simply couldn't do it alone this time. I needed help. So I sent it off to her and waited.

Less than twelve hours later, my brilliant, wonderful speed-reading agent got back to me with some brilliant and spot-on insights as to what was wrong with the book. She was completely right, and I knew it the moment I read her email. So I took the rest of the day to brainstorm, and then I got back to work the next day... and things finally started to come together.

And then, in a moment of cosmic connection, a discussion started that same day one of my published author loops about books that are hell to write. I couldn't believe how many authors came forward with stories about about books that were so hard to write they'd actually truly believed it was time to give their advance check back. I realized I wasn't alone. And I realized that my struggles didn't mean I couldn't write or that I was washed up as a writer, or that my book would end up a mess. I had company in my pit of hell, and that it would all be okay in the end.

I don't know if I would have pulled myself out of this mire if it hadn't been for my agent and for my friends all sharing their stories of their struggles. It's a good lesson to me not to be afraid to reach out and grab a hand or two for support. That's what they're there for, and it really, really helps.

Stephanie Rowe

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Un-Wedding Ring by Diana Holquist

Okay, I wrote a book. Apparently, that was the easy part.

Now I have to promote the thing. In the romance universe, as we all know, this means sponsoring a contest on my web site. The book is about gypsies, so why not give away some authentic gypsy jewelry, some well-meaning soul suggests.

Why not?

So, if you wanted "authentic" gypsy jewelry, wouldn't you go straight to e-bay too? And if you discovered 47 "authentic" gypsy adornments, wouldn't your eye be drawn to the ones with the most bids? You know, the haunted jewelry--the magic stuff?

Yes, haunted. Authentic gypsies apparently cast spells on this stuff--spells that gave each piece its own magic power. "Magick" power, actually. I'm not sure the difference. One bracelet let you talk to fairies. A necklace promised the wearer fame. And then, there was the ring that promised to find the wearer her soulmate--her One True Love on earth as Destined by fate--EXACTLY what my book, Make Me a Match, is about.

So, here's the million dollar question: if I give away a Romanian gypsy witch ring on my site that promises to give the wearer her soulmate, what exactly am I saying? Am I endorsing the power of the ring?

The bidding on the soulmate ring went into the last nail-biting seconds. I was beside myself with glee when I won it. Until my husband walked in, looked at my computer monitor, and asked, "what's that?"

"Oh, it's the haunted gypsy witch ring I bought on e-bay that will finally find me my One True Love."

This is not the sort of thing one ought to say to one's husband.

I explained the web site. My husband nodded as if this made sense. He is trying very hard to be supportive. (True Love, right?)

So, can I ethically put up the information I "know" about this ring--the promise of the spell? At the bottom of the e-bay auction, the seller writes, "I assume no responsibility for any paranormal activity you may or may not experience in association with this ring." But potential buyers ask questions like, "will the magic still work if I re-size the ring?" How would I answer a question like this?

My daughter assures me there is no problem. We'll get the ring and we'll test it. If it finds me my soulmate, then it works and we can give it away.

You're darn right we'll give it away. Toss it in a ditch. Throw it in a river. What, I want to ask her, will we do if that soulmate isn't your daddy, hon? Ready for that little adventure? But in her world, daddies are the soulmates of mommies and all is well.

"Why don't you wear it and find your soulmate?" I challenge.

"EWWWW," she responds. "What if it's a boy?"

Ah, True Love. Complications abound.

So, we decide to test the ring. I wear it to the grocery store. Suddenly, I am no longer shopping for broccoli. Look at him! Check out that one! Oh, no, he's a stinker, run!

Okay, I gotta get rid of this ring.

On the website? What do you think?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Elizabeth Contemplates New Zealanders Bearing Gifts

“And then some New Zealand booksellers gave me a present,” my critique partner said, describing the RT convention book signing.

“Wow.” I tried not to let my consuming envy consume me. This sounded like a really nifty perk to being a published author: total strangers giving you things. “What was it?”

“Emu oil.”

“Emu oil,” I repeated, kind of consideringly. We were in our local coffee shop and we were supposed to be, you know, working, but never mind that. “Emu oil?”

“Yeah, emu oil. You put it on your skin. It’s really nice.”

Well, sure, everyone knows how nice emu oil is, and of course it was very, very kind of the New Zealanders to lug emu oil halfway around the planet. Getting through customs with dozens of jars of emu oil in their baggage must’ve been really interesting by itself, but . . . “How do they get the emu oil?”

My critique partner stared at me.

I hurried to clarify. “I mean, an emu is a big bird, right? So how do you de-grease an emu?”

Her expression had changed to a pitying one. Kind of like the one my father had worn when he’d explained to me, when I was eight, that the family dog had gone to live in a farm in the country where he could run around and be really, really happy herding sheep. The story had seemed strange even then, considering that the dog in question had been a cocker spaniel.

My eyes widened. “You mean . . . ?”

My critique partner nodded solemnly.

“But-but,” I gasped. “How many emus had to die for your emu oil?”

She patted my hand. “Not many. And I’m sure they died of old age.”

“Well, okay, then.” I wondered briefly how an emu farm worked. I mean, do they just sit around waiting for the emus to drop dead? Maybe they have a sensor on the emus, so an alarm goes off when they fall over. Then a happy thought struck. Maybe my dad had been wrong. Maybe the family dog wasn't off herding sheep.

Maybe the family dog was herding emus.