Monday, February 28, 2011

Surviving Winter

It's snowing...again.

By the end of today we'll have had about two feet dumped on us in the last couple of days. I don't think Mother Nature got the message that the ground hog didn't see his shadow. She really should be wrapping things up by now I think. On top of the snow, my boys are home and hyped up by the unexpected day off from school. The way I see it, I only need a few select things to get me through the day and the rest of the winter.

1. A plow service. My arms are really tired of shoveling, and with a temperamental snow blower, I've been doing a lot of shoveling. But now that the banks are taller than I am in places, I'd have better luck slaying demons than tossing heavy piles of snow above my head.

2. A personal chef. One that wouldn't mind cooking topless and showing off a yummy six pack I can admire while I'm sipping wine and watching him whip me up a feast.

3. Kids that will clean their own rooms. Which is probably even less likely than number four.

4. Gerard Butler. I think this one is pretty self explanatory. :)

5. Someone to finish my book. Yes, headphones are my friend, especially when the musical sounds of Barney are competing with Super Mario Galaxy and the yells of fierce competition between my boys, but even I can only be so productive under those conditions.

What about you? What do you need to get through the rest of winter, or even just the rest of the week?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Promo Items--What's Your Fantasy?

Cue the Ludacris...and ignore me if the music reference makes no sense.

As you all know (or now know), the Romantic Times convention is fast approaching, and we Nine have spent far too long agonizing over the best promo stuff--yes that's the Official Author Term. Instead of wringing my hands and trying to guess what readers (which includes other writers) want from us, I'm asking you!!

So...if you were going to a conference, what non-book swag do you want to leave with? Bookmarks, postcards, excerpts, tchotchkes, pens/pencils...temporary tattoos? Magnets?

And aside from what items are cool, which ones have/would make a lasting impression on you--something unique, practical, pricey, etc?

Personally, I like leaving with pens because they're useful--we're writers, after all. But if 100 writers all offer pens, well, single names will get lost in the fray and really, I don't need that many writing utensils. That being said, if a certain group of almost-ten awesome writers were to offer badass pink pens, I'd be stocking up there. Just sayin'.

I also like cover flats, but they're less practical, unless they're signed. And even then, they'll probably just find their way into my memory box to never again see the light of day.

Your turn! Help a Naughty out!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Love CA!

I realized today that I haven't posted an ode to my adopted home state in a really long time. To be honest, part of the reason is because lately I haven't been feeling the love for Cali like I used to. It's hard times in the Golden State with eight (I think) cities making Forbes "20 Most Miserable Cities in America" list and most state agencies cutting back on hours and staff to the point where  there's very little here that still works like it's supposed to. I mean, four months to get your new driver's license mailed to you? And that's on top of the two hours you had to wait in line at the DMV to renew it! 
Yeah. Not exactly efficient. Good thing we're as laid back as we are...never mind all the road rage you've heard tell of.

This is not the state I fell in love with all those many years ago (never mind how many! ). This is not the state I celebrated in book after book after book, or whose loss I mourned loudly and obnoxiously every single muggy day of the year-and-nine-months I had to live in Florida.

Sorry, Florida. It's not you, it's me.

Recently, I've even given serious thought to making my home elsewhere. Hawaii, for instance. Or Belize, Ecuador, Tonga, New Zealand...or any of the other places my peripatetic, empire-building hubby has his eye on.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get my dog out there...

But this week, I think I might be falling back in love with California. It helps that the sun's finally out--after a solid year of unusually cold and wet. It helps that the cherry blossoms and daffodils are in bloom. But what really sealed the deal was the cuisine.

See, I'd been having a bad week. A really bad week. I'd already given myself a fat lip and a twisted ankle--in separate household accidents. I'd lost the insurance card to my jeep (still no idea where it could have gone) and nearly blew up my son's car when the coolant ran low and the hood release malfunctioned. 

Then, every computer in the house apparently decided that, President's Day--it's not just for humans anymore! And staged a work stoppage. Really weird glitchy things which spontaneously corrected themselves for no apparent reason.

And it was still only Tuesday morning!

So, when my daughter (brilliant young woman that she is) suggested we drive up to Sonoma for lunch I jumped all over the idea.  Right after my insurance agent emailed me a replacement insurance card, of course. Have I mentioned lately how much I love, love, love the internet? Well, when it's working, anyway.

The drive up was gorgeous (even if entirely too many of the other drivers were insisting on taking the meandering country roads at unsafe speeds, imo). The grass was green. The mustard was in bloom. The grapevines were budding. And the hills were dotted with painted, wooden cut-outs of sheep...

Yeah, that part was a little odd, actually.

We made good time and found a parking space (no meters--yes!) right smack in front of one of our favorite restaurants, the Plaza Bistro.
See that black car? That's not ours, but that's where we were parked.

The bistro features "wine country cuisine".  Translated, that means their dishes rely heavily on local fruit and veggies--whether fresh, dried or roasted; seafood (it's complicated); organic meat--especially lamb...which may account for the sheep cut-outs, I guess; edible flowers; as well as olives, great bread and goat cheese. Lots of goat cheese. And also, of course, wine.

You can order a glass of zinfandel (and I've been on a serious zin kick lately) with your cheeseburger and fries (or your open-faced grilled portabello sandwich with roasted red peppers, spinach and chevre on focaccia) and no one will bat an eye.  Trust me on that.

We got a table by the window, looking out at the town square. We drank great wine, (well, one of us did, anyway) ate great food, eavesdropped on incredibly silly conversations. By the time the  last of the creme brulee with fresh berries was eaten I couldn't even remember what I'd been worked up about. I was as relaxed as if I'd just spent the day at a spa. 

Although, for the sake of accuracy, I suppose I really should drive up to Calistoga next week and spend a day at the hot springs, just to compare...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Totally Inappropriate Sex

So I’m reading this historical, never mind by whom, and the hero and heroine, as so often happens in historicals, are on the run. They’re being pursued by hostile forces who will kill them if they’re found, probably with a little extended torture along the way. Moreover, they’ve only just met, having made a mutual escape pact to try to get them through the perilous country ahead. They’re hiding out, trying not to be found by the aforementioned murderous troops. Oh, and the hero is wounded and ill. So what’s foremost in the hero’s mind? How much he wants to have sex with this mysterious woman.

Yeah. Right.

As most of us are only too well aware, romance is far from the most realistic genre out there. Not that I’m against this, necessarily. Realism isn’t high on my list. And some sex scenes that take place under weird circumstances are fun—Larissa Ione has her paranormals make out in a snow-choked forest and it’s really hot. But there are limits. Trust me, there are going to be times when sex is not uppermost in a person’s mind, even if you’re a Really Hot Guy or One Sexy Babe. Some of these times include

1. When you’re being closely pursued by a hostile army and your companion is someone you hardly know.

2. When your companion is so annoying readers want to give him or her a quick kick—contrary to the logic of a lot of Hollywood romcoms, being annoying is not a turn-on for most of us

3. When you’ve just discovered a corpse

4. When you’re hiding from a supernatural being who wants to drain some of your favorite bodily fluids

5. When you’ve been through some kind of physical ordeal that’s left you broken, bleeding, and totally exhausted.

I have, in fact, encountered sex scenes that took place in circumstances that were very similar to all five of these examples. And I have to admit, occasionally I’m willing to give the author a bye, if she’s good enough at setting up the characters. But for the most part, nah.

Yes, sex is a big part of romances, and most of the time I’m willing to accept the idea that romance heroes and heroines are just exceptionally randy. But every once in a while, I find myself going, “Really? Now? They want to do it now? Are they totally insane?” At least the author could have waited until the hero and heroine had gotten around to introducing themselves.

So how about you? Have you run into scenes where you totally couldn’t believe anybody would be interested in sex? Or are you more tolerant than I am (a very likely possibility)?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Blogger Miranda Baker - Good Stress

I went to see my chiropractor a few months ago. When it was my turn, Dr. Lori grabbed me by the big toe and said, “Hey Miranda, what’s up with the books?”

So I told her. I said “Bottoms Up comes out next week. My editor thinks we should release SoloPlay in April. I have a print publishing offer and they want the sequel by July. And the community college asked me to teach two classes in the spring.” I was sure she could feel tension vibrating through my toes.

“All good stress! That’s fabulous!” she said.

Whoa. I went limp, and she proceeded to rearrange my bones and muscles while I rearranged my head. Good stress. What a concept.

By the time she made it up to my neck, I had decided she was a genius. Good stress is chosen. It means you are in control. It’s not the sick kids, death in the family, money trouble, fighting with the partner, inexplicable creeping rash kind of stress. Good stress is the promotion at work, scary opportunity, raise your game kind of stress. The end result of the good stuff is something positive – for me, it means launching my writing career while buying groceries with my teaching money.

However, good stress is still stressful. Even though I love my jobs, I see a huge, looming, rocky, tree-lined mountain of work between me and July (when my struggles will be over… Shh, humor me). I realized I needed a plan, the equivalent of mountain climbing gear – hiking boots, a backpack, trail mix and lots of water. Or in my case – vitamins, a thousand words a day, regular exercise to keep me from curling over my keyboard like a cooked shrimp and lots of water.

What about you? How do you cope with good stress? I’d say I’m about halfway up my mountain now, but if you have extra gear I’d love to share the journey.

About Miranda Baker

It makes me chuckle to think about all the romantic short stories I wrote in my rather too literary creative writing classes in college. If only one of my professors had steered me toward popular fiction! On the other hand, if I had discovered my calling back then, I wouldn’t have gone to culinary school, I wouldn’t have met my husband, we wouldn’t have had three children and I wouldn’t have turned to erotic romance to get my mojo back during all this hair-raising kid raising.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raising Myself

They say women fall in love with men who remind them of their fathers. I certainly did, and I'm fortunate for it. I knew when I married the Hub what I was in for.

But when I had the Diva, I had no idea I'd end up raising myself. She's her own person, of course, unique and irreplaceable, but she has so many of my traits, both good and bad, that it sorts of amazes me.

Smart mouth with precociously large vocabulary? Check.

Weight problems? Check.

Allergies and ADD? Check. (I really wish I could tell my dad, "Hey! I was never an airhead! I'm ADD!")

Math handicap? Check.

Early onset puberty? Hasn't happened yet, but there are definite indications that it's coming.

Her self-esteem is much better than mine was at that age, and she has tons more social confidence. Sure, now I'm a talkative extrovert, but back then I was a timid little thing.

She has my good traits, too: a sunny disposition and slow temper, the ability to get along with most anyone.

And she has my imagination. She sometimes has vivid nightmares, and she can't always turn off her head. When she first complained of being plagued by "bad thoughts," I knew exactly what she meant. I fear there may be anxiety attacks in her future.

She inhales books, as I did. If the book really grabs her, she imagines herself as a character in it and starts spinning new stories; apparently she's a member of the LEPRecon force (from the Artemis Fowl series) as well as a Knight of Crystalia (from Brian Sanderson's Alcatraz series). I was a member of Robin Hood's band, and later I was Aragorn's girlfriend after he dumped Arwen. I expect her to write fan fiction one day.

Oh, yeah -- she's a writer, too. A good one.

I hear her in the shower, trying out the dialogue of a story she's inventing. I did that. She says the stories come to her in daydreams, and she can't stop them - the characters are talking to each other in her head. Yep, me too (wish I'd had the ADD medication she's on). Are the characters in her head talking only to each other, I asked, or do they ever talk directly to her? She says they only talk to each other. I said cool--that's the difference between creativity and psychiatric intervention.

She complained recently that it's difficult to get the stories out of her head and onto the paper--she finds it hard to start writing if she doesn't already know how the whole story goes. I told her about Nora's dictum -- that you can't revise a blank page, but you can revise crap. Just get the story on paper, then make it better. She liked that.

So now you're wondering if I'd like to share a little bit of her efforts? Well, of course I would. Here's the opening to The Story of Christopher Fang, transcribed exactly as she wrote it, save for some punctuation assistance (she's mysteriously averse to commas).

The Story of Christopher Fang

It was a quiet night. The Fang family sat on the top deck of their boat. Six month old Christopher lay in his mother’s arms. Little did they know that the biggest storm in history on that sea was coming their way.

The storm was coming at a tremendous speed. By the time the two adults noticed, it was too late, the storm hit, Mr. and Mrs. Fang were swept off the deck and Chris was tossed down below deck. The storm raged and raged, and all Chris could do was scream. Five days later, the storm stopped. Chris was extremely hungry and tired. A mother wolf smelled and heard something, so she took her puppies and went to the boat to see. When she found Chris, she decided to take care of him.

That's a great hook, don't you agree?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ack! I forgot to blog!

Sorry this is late, folks!  My usual organizational skills failed me and I just realized today was my day to blog here. Bad me.

I pride myself on my organization and planning skills so I'm feeling very ashamed. And as you can tell, I have nothing prepared. :-)

My excuse for forgetting is that I've been so wrapped up in working on our next serial story this week. I think it's too soon to say much about it, but we've got a prologue and two chapters written and it's shaping up to be pretty darn good!

I have to say I had misgivings about this story. But then again, I did the last time, too. I've never written about werewolves and vampires - that was all new to me. But I managed to do that, so I was ready to tackle this new idea. Just to clarify, my misgivings weren't about the STORY - I thought, and still do think, it's a fabulous idea full of lots of romance potential. It was myself I had misgivings about. But a funny thing happened when I started working on my chapter. I started doing research and I got all caught up in it and I got excited about writing it. And then when I did sit down to write it, I LOVED writing it!  I will admit I had a lot of placeholders XXX's for things that I wasn't sure about and had to go back and do a bit more research. But I really, really had fun with it and it also reminded me that writing SHOULD be fun. Sometimes I get all caught up in the business of writing and sometimes I get dragged down by the negatives, like rejections and bad reviews and...rejections. Ahem.

So this was an important reminder to me of how much I love writing, and doing something like this, something that's just fun, is a great way to get the creative juices flowing again. The night after I wrote my chapter, I even dreamed about it all night!

So now I hope you all are teased a little about what we have coming up and forgive me for the late post. :-)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Inspiration In Reverse

Sometimes people ask where I get the inspiration for my characters. Though they're all fictional, I do take some cues from real life from time to time. Particularly with descriptions. Sometimes I take a picture of an actor or model and use that to ground my descriptions of the character; sometimes I mix it up and combine a feature I like from one person with a feature I like from someone else. (I'm sounding like Dr. Frankenstein here!)

But for Take A Chance On Me, my upcoming book from Samhain, I just developed the character descriptions off the top of my head - no celebrities, no real-life friends, just a picture in my head of how the characters looked.

TACOM was the first full-length manuscript I wrote, and it's been through a lot of revisions since it was first put down on paper (or pixels, as the case may be). But one thing has remained steady - how Tom Cameron looked.

So it was startling, to say the least, when I went to make up my cover art sheet and started delving into the descriptive text a little deeper, to get more specific in my request.

Because what I discovered was that the description sounded a whole heck of a lot like this guy.

And yes, he's one of my favorite actors - NOW. Back when I wrote the book, I'd never even heard of Eric Sheffer Stevens before.

To tell you the truth, it was a little spooky. :)

I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever found the inspiration for a character description well after the book was written.

Do you like seeing visuals of characters in books, or do you prefer picturing them on your own? How important is the physical description of the characters to you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Home is Where the Computer Is

At 5 am this morning, we’re landing in Anchorage after a blissful two and a half months in Hawaii including a wedding, tons of family and friends, lots of fruit tree planting and, ahem, very little writing. We’re going from 77 degrees to 7, warm sunshine to snowdrifts. Clearly, this is going to be a rough transition. Clearly, this calls for some emergency self-brainwashing. So here goes.

Ten Reasons not to Jump Off the Plane Before Landing in Alaska

  1. All the bugs in Alaska are still sleeping. After many close encounters with ants, cockroaches, centipedes, and other unidentified creatures, I’m ready for a break.
  2. Enough with the green and blue. Okay, lush jungle and blue skies are nice, but white has a lot to be said for it. Bring on the snow!
  3. Outerwear. It turns out that weddings are not a low-calorie occasion. Those parkas are going to come in handy hiding the extra pounds.
  4. Uh oh. There’s got to be more than three. Think, think.
  5. Seeing my writer friends again! I don’t know any writers in Hawaii (although I did get to meet the fabulous PG Forte!
  6. Jumping off planes is a very bad idea.
  7. Cold weather builds character. Yeah, I’ll keep telling myself that.
  8. Peace and quiet. Okay, this is a good one. Hawaii is a noisy place at night—coqui frogs, crickets, early morning guinea hens, the rooster next door. Alaska in the winter is absolutely still and quiet.
  9. Time off. This may sound strange, but we’ve been working nonstop since we got here—getting ready for the wedding, tending to our guests (many of whom stayed for a couple weeks), planting our wedding gift trees. When we get to Alaska, my days of digging up lava rocks and machete-ing cane grass will be over! Until next time.
  10. I CAN FINALLY GET BACK TO WRITING! My own desk, my brand new computer, and no distractions. And that’s really all the reason I need.

Yay! Alaska, here I come!

There, I feel better now. Sleep-deprived, but better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guest Blogger Emma Jay - Wedding Movies

Even though I’m a romance writer, I don’t usually write wedding scenes. I guess by that point in the story all the conflict has been resolved and it’s not as much fun to write. But writing from a bridesmaid and groomsman point of view, that’s a different story, and that’s where I went with Two Step Temptation, a short story available now from Samhain Publishing.

Since I’ve been married 24 years and I’ve only been to one wedding in the past 15 years, I had to turn to the movies to jog my memory about weddings. Here are some of my favorite wedding movies.

The Wedding Date. Now. I cannot tell you why this story works for me when Pretty Woman doesn’t. I guess that’s a blog for another time. But the heroine who hires the escort to go to her sister’s wedding was just fun. I loved the close-proximity trope, and the way he was there for her when everything fell apart. I totally bought into the fantasy. Also, in Two Step, I have the wedding party spending the weekend of the wedding together, as they did in The Wedding Date.

Father of the Bride, with Steve Martin. This is not so much a romance as a comedy, but boy, does it touch my heart.

27 Dresses. I bought this movie after I saw it. I love the scene where Katherine Heigl is trying on all the dresses for James Marsden, and I love their drunken singing, and I even love how she pays back her sister’s selfishness. And the ending was perfect.

Four Weddings and a Funeral. I love the progression of the romance as Hugh Grant and Andie Macdowell encounter each other over and over. I love the crazy friends, and of course I cried at the funeral.

What are your favorite wedding movies?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Special-Nine Things We'd Love/Hate to Receive on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day from the Naughty Nine. In honor of VD we're talking about gifts we love, and we'll give you a gift too (well, a chance at one anyway). Everyone who comments today will be entered for a chance to win a twenty dollar gift certificate at Vosges Chocolates (mmmmmmmmmm). Happy VD everybody!

Juniper Bell

The “You’re Dead to Me” list:

Thong underwear. SO UNCOMFORTABLE. Sorry, honey, I love you but I refuse to walk around, or lie around, with a string wedgie up my crotch.

Porn video. Okay, this one I’m flexible on. I like some porn—but the kind made just for men …say, Lord of the G-Strings…I can skip.

New dish towels. Yes, one of my exes thought dish towels would make a good V-day gift. Not so much.

Tickets to the latest Saw movie. Horror films and me don’t mix. They give me nightmares for weeks afterwards. I suppose I could try Frankenpenis but…nah.

The “You Sexy God, You” list:

Change fees for our tickets back to Alaska. Maybe it’s not romantic, but if we had some extra time in Hawaii, let’s just say I promise he wouldn’t regret it.

Dinner at Paolo’s Bistro. Hint hint.

Anything chocolate. Even these.

Meg Benjamin

Things I’d Rather Not See On Valentine’s Day

1. Flowers. Really. They usually arrive sans vase, which means you get to find one, clip the stems, put in the flowers, and sigh over your lack of talent as a flower arranger. And then you get to throw them out in a week when they've turned rancid. No thanks.

2. Chocolate. At this point my only defense is to not keep temptation around the house.

3. Sparkling wine with the word “sweet” or “dolce” associated with it. I love dry champagne, but syrup? Not so much.

4. Poetry. I was an English teacher for a lot of years. Whatever you want to give me, I’ve probably already read and dissected and graded papers that were written about it. They’re not memories I treasure either.

Things I’d Love to Get for Valentine’s Day

1. Tickets to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in July. Emmylou Harris. Steve Earle. Need I say more?

2. Dinner at the Black Pearl Restaurant in Denver. Comfortable and delicious, a combo I can definitely get behind.

3. A bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Kerry Greenwood calls it “nectar of the gods.” Yes ma’am, absolutely right.

4. Earrings. Any kind. Any shape. I’m an earring slut.

5. A ride on the Winter Wonderland Express Train. Preferably in the dome car.

P.G. Forte

Nine things I really wouldn’t mind getting for Valentine's Day.

1. Probably the best thing I could get for Valentine’s Day would be a gingko IV to improve my memory. Not highly romantic but, hey, at least I’d remember the rest!

2. I’d love a weekend in a romantic B&B. This one will do: I’ve actually propose

d this idea to my husband and even though the timing’s not right this year, I’m optimistic for next year.

3. A nice alternative would be breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants. I’m a big fan of breakfast and the East Bay might have the lock on most of the world’s best—everything from Mediterranean poached eggs to Caribbean French toast to an easy dozen variations on Eggs Benedict.

4. Or possibly a day at the spa. I’m a sucker for mud baths, hot tubs, saunas and massage…and, luckily, I know just where to get them all. If you do go, ask for “the works”.

5. A shopping spree might be nice. At LUSH, of course. Or maybe Goo

d Vibrations. Or, um…both?

What? They’re close. Both would be good. Followed by a snack—you know, to recuperate from all that shopping! And because you have to have CHOCOLATE! Seriously, the pictures don’t do them justice. Each one is a work of art and delicious besides.

6. Of course, flowers are always a good choice. And I do love Cecile Brunner roses.

7. Or jewelry. Conflict Free Diamonds, anyone?

8. And, of course, some wine. I’m really liking this one, at the moment.

9. And then to bed. On some really nice Sferra sheets…

Yep. Any of those would d

o just fine.

Kelly Jamieson

9 things I would love/hate for Valentine’s day.

1. Hate: Pot scrubbers. Why would I even think such a thing, you ask? Because I got some for Christmas. Romantic gift fail.

2. Love: Something fun for the bedroom. More importantly, time alone with no kids for fun in the bedroom. This would be my number 1 Valentine’s Day gift.

3. Hate: A cheap bouquet

of mixed flowers from the grocery store, obviously picked up at the last minute.

4. Love: Any flowers delivered to my office where all my co-workers can see what a loving husband I have.

5. Hate: Diamonds. Sigh. I love diamonds. But it would have to be a least one carat which is way too much money to spend right now on something so impractial. Would I make him take it back? Probably not!

6. Love: a Valentine card that sounds like the words came from him instead of a Hallmark writer. I got one of those one year and it made me cry.

7. Hate: a cheesy musical Valentine card that cost waaaaay too much money for a card

8. Love: Anything pretty (lingerie), smelly (vanilla’s my favourite) or sparkly. Doesn’t have to be real diamonds(see above).

9. Love: Anything that comes from the heart and shows some thought went into pleasing me.

Erin Nicholas

The “he better not even think about it” list for Valentine’s Day gift list:

1. Oral Sex He'll Never Forget: 52 Positions and Techniques Guaranteed to Blow Your Man Away

2. Free standing zebra striped decorative toilet brush and holder

3. Nice & Easy 102 A hair color (or any other number for that matter)

4. Call of Duty 3 for Wii (or any other number for that matter)

The “he’d have brownie points for the next five years” Valentine’s Day gift list:

1. Oral Sex She'll Never Forget: 50 Positions and Techniques That Will Make Her Orgasm Like She Never Has Before

2. Resort vacation in the Virgin Islands

3. Weekly massage gift certificates for a year (professional J)

4. New pillows (and about 10 uninterrupted hours to use them!)

5. A year of Godiva chocolate

Sydney Somers

Nine sexy celebrity crushes I'd love Cupid to deliver to my door on Valentines Day. :) In no particular order:

1. Gerard--yummy accent--Butler

2. Jake--sexy Persian biceps--Gyllenhaal

3. James--love that smile--McAvoy

4. Andy--Spartacus--Whitfield

5. Pierce--007--Brosnan

6. Vin--fast & furious & sexy as hell--Diesel

7. Johnny--pirates are hawt--Depp

8.Ryan--Green Lantern--Reynolds

9. Harrison--whip cracking--Ford

Skylar Kade

Five "I'll Love You Forever" gifts

  1. Be Mine from Lush: A sexy selection of six scrumptious treats for lovers, packaged up in an undeniably attractive hatbox. Inspire someone to melt into a marshmallow bath and let it rain men (or women) on February 14th. This one has products for the bath and shower, along with our incredibly sexy Lust solid perfume. They'll be yours without question when you give them this hatbox.
  2. A Pomsky: Pomeranian + Husky = AWESOME
  3. Tickets to Battle of the Dance: This is a new local dinner “theater” where you get to watch beautiful dance routines while enjoying a gourmet dinner.
  4. Molecular jewelry: Who doesn’t want to wear the atomic structure for chocolate or dopamine around their necks?
  5. Endangered Words: 100 rare and obscure words falling out of use.

Four "Don't Let The Door Hit You in the Ass on the Way Out" gifts

  1. BeanBoozled Jelly Bellies: risk taking “barf” instead of “peach”? My taste buds say hell no.
  2. Hand-shaped latex "pleasure toy" (NSFW): Enough said. Full hands do not belong inside a human body unless its surgery.
  3. Dawn of the Dead: No kidding, zombies scare the ever-living hell out of me. This was my first R-rated theater movie and I had reoccurring nightmares for weeks.
  4. A microbe: I wouldn’t turn down one of these plushies, but keep your germy parts away from me!
Kinsey Holley

9 things I'd love for Valentine's Day, in no particular order:

1. Something handmade for me by my Diva.

2. Dragon Naturally Speaking speech to text software - it's only fifty bucks at Amazon. I've convinced myself it would increase my wordcount exponentially.

3. Maya Bank's sales figures.

4. Daniel Craig:

5. Another trip to London

6. Time to read everything published by the other 8 Naughty Novelists

7. An iPad

8. A big honkin' gift certificate

9. Brand new clothes and shoes for the RT convention in April.

Kate Davies

Three "Hell, No" V-day ideas:

1. Health club membership. I'd rather not be thinking about losing weight on Valentine's Day of all days.

2. A lamp. I know we need one for the family room,

3. Fundies underwear for two. No. seriously. It exists. I just don't ever want to see it or own it.

Six "Hell, Yes!" V-day ideas:

1. Weekly cleaning service.

2. Gift certificate to the spa, and time to actually use it.

3. Plane ticket to NYC for the June events I really, really don't want to miss (fan get together, followed by RWA Nationals).

4. Personal chef to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a regular basis.

5. Romantic weekend away, just the two of us. Somewhere warm, preferably.

6. More time!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Books and Burritos

There is a Mexican restaurant here that boasts the best burritos in town (pretty sure you have one of these wherever you live too). My husband agrees with their claim. He talked about this place for weeks and finally it worked out for us to go together. I won’t say I was excited about the burritos, but I was glad to give them a try based on his experience and, let’s face it, who doesn’t hope to find the best they’ve ever had somewhere? The best is a pretty big order, of course, but hey, if I was about to discover burrito nirvana, I was okay with that.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Not only was it not burrito nirvana—it was more like burrito-ghetto.

I couldn’t believe my husband had raved about them. “What do you like about these?” I asked. “Everything”. He was shocked I didn’t like them. So, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be having these burritos again. However, I wasn’t completely opposed to coming back to the restaurant. I’d just try something else. The enchiladas, the tacos—there were lots of choices.

We haven’t been back yet, but this past week got me thinking—how many tries would I give this place? If the fajitas are bad would I go back for tostadas? If they’re bad would I try the tacos?

Books got me thinking about these burritos this week. Not just any books, but my books. I was given a chance for a free giveaway for the Kindle and nook of my first Bradford book, Just Right. This was a great opportunity. It gets the book into new hands (obviously those downloading likely don’t already have it) and gets my name out there with new readers.

However, as with anything, there are pros and cons. The pros—great reviews, reader e-mails, new sales for the next two books, new followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook. Dare I say I have some new fans? So there I was coasting along thinking this is the best thing to ever happen to me and then suddenly—bam!—a bad burrito. A two star review on Amazon. A reader who *gasp* didn’t like my book.

So yeah, okay, I pouted a little. I re-read all the *nice* things people had said. I reassured myself that she was just crazy, or drunk, or someone who clearly had no taste whatsoever.

Then I realized— she and her review aren’t the bad burrito in this scenario. My book is.

I don’t mean that I think my book is bad or equal to the bad burritos my husband loves but—it’s not going to be for everyone. I won’t be everyone’s favorite author (I know, it was a shock to me too). And you know what else? It’s okay. Though I don’t care for those burritos, my husband loves them and will go back again and again.

Of course, I hope this woman doesn’t look at this “burrito” as a reason to not try my other offerings. Maybe I’ll write a chimichanga that will really do it for her.

And maybe not. Maybe she’ll never come back. Or maybe the chimi won’t be her taste either. And that’s okay too. ‘Cuz there’s a great burger joint down the street that would love to be her favorite place.

So here’s what I’ve learned from all of this:
1. My long-held belief that enchiladas are superior to burritos has been proven true once again.
2. I’m still glad I had the chance to do the free give-away
3. I will never *like* two star reviews (and will likely always pout after getting one)
4. Even Big Name Authors (even Nora! Shhh!) get two star reviews
5. I’m a needy enough person that I looked to see if Big Name Authors have two star reviews too

Incidentally, yes you can still get Just Right for FREE at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for another few days.

Oh and I'm thrilled that it stayed in the top ten for over a week and that there are 8 five-star reviews and only 1 two-star. But if any of you would like to stop over there and say something nice I would mind ;)

So, how many chances do you give a new-to-you author? Or a mexican restaurant for that matter?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Bridge Too Short

Have you ever thought to yourself, "Hmm. I wonder what it's like to plot a book"?


Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. For some people it's easy - some people find spinning plots the easiest part of writing. But for people like me, it's really hard. In fact, it sucks. I bitch to the other Naughty 8 about this all the time - and they're tired of hearing it, which is why I'm now griping to you.

See, I find it easy to invent characters - their backgrounds, personalities, motivations, sticky emotional wickets. And I find it easy to write dialog. I can invent people and make them talk. I just have trouble thinking of stuff for them to do.

As I was starting to try to plot this new steampunk I'm working on -- I can't go whimpering to my sister-in-law for help, because she'll say I should be working on Seth's novella instead -- I finally thought of the perfect (at least to me) analogy for building a plot:

It's a bridge across a chasm. You stand on this side, with the beginning of your story. Way over on the other side is the end of your story. The plot is the bridge going from here to there.

Now, writers can be broadly divided into two camps: pantsers and plotters.

Pantsers, of course, are writers who write by the seat of their pants. A pantser doesn't know what she's going to write until she picks up a pen or sits down at the keyboard. In other words, a pantser will walk up to the edge of the chasm and go - "Hey, look. There should be a bridge here." And then she'll start building the bridge -- and she'll walk across it as she builds it, one board at a time. She's constantly working at the edge of the abyss, and it doesn't bother her at all.

I'm not a pantser; I'm a plotter. A plotter stands on solid ground, looks out over the chasm, and gets queasy. So she backs up a few steps and says "Nope. I need to build part of a bridge before I look at that again."

So she'll bang together the beginning of the plot, at least enough so that she can throw a few boards across the chasm. She may not build the whole bridge beforehand -- i.e., she may not plot the whole thing from beginning to end before she actually starts writing -- but she won't walk out there one board at a time.

Sometimes, though, plotting is just an excuse to procrastinate - and when it comes to procrastinating, I don't really need excuses. I'm already more than a little ADD, and I'll use any excuse not to sit down and actually write. So I've adopted one of the Diva's techniques for dealing with the ADD, which involves taking the task in little bitty bits. If I break a plot, or a partial plot, into scene-sized sections, and concentrate on writing one scene at a time, I can actually get it done.

Some people use index cards - I use large lined Post-It notes, and then - no lie - I stick them into the pages of a magazine. I use a magazine to be cheap and recycle, and because it's compact and I can fold the whole thing up and carry it with me. Each Post-It contains the notes for one scene. I don't have to write them in order, but I lay them out in the magazine's pages in order. Then I can flip through, pick a Post-It and write that scene. When I've written the scene, I rip the Post-It out.

Here's part of Seth's plot:

Now. About that steampunk...

First scene: Hero in his Galveston casino. Heroine emerges from her cottage. They flirt and chat and observe the glow from the Indian campfires across San Luis Pass. He goes back into his casino.

Second scene: Her pet street urchin joins her on the pier. They chat. She goes back into her cottage.

Third scene: The alcalde drops by the casino -- which isn't unusual, except that he's accompanied by [what were municipal law enforcement officers called in Spain's New World cities?] Hero asks the alcalde the reason for his visit. Alcalde replies that someone thought they might have seen a submarine surfacing beneath the [name of the casino?] the previous night. Hero laughs. The smugglers' submarine comes in on Sundays, as the alcalde knows, and it surfaces on [calle rompeolas/seawall boulevard], two blocks down the street from the alcadià . If there have been any submarines prowling the West End of Galveston, the hero doesn't know anything about it.

Fourth scene: ?????

Somebody pass me a board.