Friday, December 30, 2011

A sale on beginnings, a post for the end

Things are awfully quiet in the blogosphere this week, so I'm feeling very little pressure to be smart or amusing.

Wait – am I ever smart or amusing?

I should probably write an inspirational post about New Year's resolutions I'm making, but so far the only one I've come up with is clean the Tupperware cupboard.

Not very inspiring.

OK, how about this – I want to commit to reading more. I've always been a voracious reader, sometimes plowing through five or six books a week. But the whirlwind of going through divorce and promoting a debut novel and selling my house and falling in love again seemed to gobble up all my free time.

This year, I'll do better.

Here's one thing that's going to help: My fabulous publisher, Sourcebooks, is running a special promotion offering dozens of authors' first books for just $1.99 in eBook format. You can read on your Sony Reader, Nook, Kobo, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Kindle, or even your home computer. The promotion is called It All Started When, and you can browse participating titles at that link.

Making Waves is included in the promotion, as are more than 65 other titles ranging from young adult to non-fiction to romance to literary fiction. The sale runs through January 8, and offers a great chance to try an author's first book at a super low price.

So there you have it. Thanks to all of you for helping make 2011 one the most exhilarating, breathtaking, pee-my-pants crazy times in my life. I'll see you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

First fights and other excuses for groping

Every now and then, a comment or conversation will send me running for my notepad. Maybe it’s a snippet of dialogue I think would be perfect for an upcoming scene, or maybe it’s just something that makes me laugh.

I thought of this yesterday when I had the following exchange with my gentleman friend:

ME: We’ve been hanging out together for awhile now. Do you think it’s weird we haven’t had our first fight?

HIM: (pausing to grope me) Are you suggesting we fight just to get it out of the way?

ME: We might as well. Here, I’ll kick things off— Stop touching me, you stupid jerk!

HIM: No way. I’ll touch you whenever and wherever I want.

ME: Thank God.

HIM: (still groping me) Is the fight over?

ME: I think so. That went well, didn’t it?

HIM: Absolutely. We should make out now.

I have no idea if I’ll ever use it in a scene, but it made me smile anyway. Do you ever make note of conversational snippets that amuse you? Heard anything good lately? Please share!

I think I need to go start another fight.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's time for a change (and I only cried a little)

I'm generally quite open to experimentation.

I swear that wasn't a reference to Monday's post about the Pure Romance Tickle & Whip.

There's one realm of my life though, where I seldom experiment. For much of my childhood, I had the classic haircut of a tomboy. My hair was short. Very short.

At age 12, I ceased finding it amusing to be mistaken for a boy. The fact that I sprouted boobs around this time went along with my decision to start growing my hair long.

There was a brief grow-out period during which I generously kept AquaNet hairspray in business with my oh-so-fashionable '80s bangs.

But once my hair grew out to one length, I left it alone. Aside from the occasional trim to keep split ends at bay, my hair has pretty much been the same for the last 25 years:

I didn't think much of it until earlier this summer when I went to see my hairdresser. She's been trimming my hair every 10 weeks for the better part of a decade, and I figured it would be business as usual. She sat me down in the chair and began to snip my split ends.

"Have you ever thought of doing anything a little different?" she asked.

"Like with peanut butter and nipple clamps?"

She sighed. "No. I mean layers."

"I don't think I know that position."

"Your hair," she insisted. "I'm talking about long, wavy layers. I think they'd really add body and texture and give you a bit of a different look."

It wasn't hard to read between the lines – some people actually change their hair every quarter-century, you dumbass.

So I agreed. Well, eventually.

"Would I have to start washing it more than once or twice a week?" I demanded.


"Blow drying it?"


"Curling it?"


"Using gel or spray or hair products of any kind?"


"Because you know I'm too lazy for that," I reminded her.

"I am fully aware that lifting a hairbrush is something you consider too strenuous to attempt more than once every couple days," she said. "Trust me – I think you'll like the layers."

So I agreed. And I only cried for a little while when six-inch swaths of my hair started hitting the floor:
Two minutes into the process, I decided the whole thing would be easier if I closed my eyes. That went well until my hairdresser started explaining the different tools.

"I used the scissors for this section to create a little more definition, and now I'm using this blade to create wispier sections through here."

"Uh-huh," I said, keeping my eyes squeezed shut.

When it was all over, I looked in the mirror. As it turns out, I rather like my new 'do. It's subtle enough my gentleman friend still recognized me when I returned home, but different enough I don't feel like I just wasted an hour and a few bucks:
How often do you alter your hairstyle? Are you set in your ways like me, or do you tend to shake things up a bit more frequently? Please share!

Oh, and feel free to comment on my new 'do. Can you even tell a difference? If so, whaddya think? Keep in mind, it's too late now to paste the hair back in place if you happen to hate it. Then again, maybe I'd start a cool new trend with the pasted hair. Has anyone seen my glitter glue?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

RERUN: believe you're a badass (even if no one else does)

It's a quiet week in the blogosphere as people spend time with family, reflect on the meaning of the holidays, and ponder career futures in competitive eating.

It seems like a good week to trot out an old entry from my early days of blogging. The following post originally appeared in March 2010, just a few weeks after my agent landed me my three-book romantic comedy deal. Though my life has changed a bit since I wrote it, I still feel passionate about the importance of believing in yourself even without the validation of others.

For those who missed it on the first round, here's the post:

I've always been awesome, how about you?

I haven’t seen the movie Precious. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pick Academy Award-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe out of a police lineup.

But I recently read a quote that made me want to grab her by the face and lick her ear (or something equally affectionate):

“They [the press] try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life and then I got this role and now I'm awesome,” she said. “But the truth is that I've been awesome, and then I got this role."

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

In recent weeks, casual acquaintances who’ve learned of my recent three-book deal with Sourcebooks have asked me how it feels.

What’s it like to know you’re finally good enough to sell a book?

Want to know the answer I can’t give them because I don’t want to sound like an egotistical bitch?

I was always good enough to sell a book. It just took awhile for the right editor to realize it.

Look, I’m not saying I didn’t have a lot to learn, and I’ve certainly written some craptastic stuff over the years. Even the book I originally sold to Harlequin/Silhouette’s Bombshell line back in 2005 is something I’m happy to leave tucked under my bed. I’ve grown a lot as a writer since then, and I’m much happier with the way I write now.

But if I hadn’t believed from the first moment I started writing fiction in 2002 that I was good enough to be published, I doubt I could have held on for the duration of my bumpy ride to publication.*

As an author, you have to believe that. Even on days you don’t believe it, you need to stand there in front of the mirror and say, “Dammit, I rule.”

Or some variation on that.

I’m lucky. My parents bestowed upon me a disturbingly high self-esteem, and my friends, family, and agent believed in me no matter how many rejections rolled in. That’s a big part of how I kept going despite all the setbacks along the way.

That, and a lot of Chianti.

Getting published isn’t about who you know, who you shag, or even how well you write. It’s about believing in yourself enough to keep going no matter how many times someone slaps you on the ass and says, “close, but no cigar.”

So let’s all say it together now, shall we?

I’m awesome. I’ve always been awesome. I’m awesome whether it takes me 12 days or 12 years to get published.

Repeat as often as necessary until you believe it.

*If you’re new to this blog and don’t know what I’m talking about, go here for the full story of my rather lengthy road to publication.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lessons learned this holiday season

Every holiday season offers a chance to learn, grow, and open yourself to new life experiences and important lessons. For example:
  • A kid brother who is proud of his puppy's testicles will firmly believe an image of said testicles makes a thoughtful and treasured Christmas card.
  • Never underestimate the importance of beer as a holiday gift for a 27-year-old male housemate.
  • There is a limit to the amount of leftover scrambled eggs a dog can eat for Christmas brunch. That limit is 1/4 cup less than you think it is.
  • It takes 4.5 hours to wrap presents for a houseful of people. It takes 11 seconds to unwrap them. The amount of time it takes to clean the gift wrap, ribbons, boxes, and glitter from the living room floor has yet to be determined. 
  • It is possible to convince a 10-year-old the Pure Romance "Tickle and Whip" discovered under the bed while searching for the cat is actually a designer cat toy. It's also possible to convince the cat of this.
  • The phrase, "stuff my stocking" never stops being funny.
So what did YOU learn this holiday season? Please share!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Forgetting the balls you miss

When I'm not toiling away as a romance author, I work part time as the marketing & communications manager for my city's tourism bureau.

That's a fancy way of saying I get paid to write blog posts about beer and take journalists snowshoeing.

A key element of my job involves wooing reporters so they write nice articles about Bend, Oregon. I like to believe I'm pretty decent at my job, and I continue believing that by never, ever looking at my own success rate on media pitches.

This came up in conversation with three co-workers the other night while we swilled holiday cocktails and recapped the year's successes. I told them about a media pitch I'd just done for a national publication.

"The reporter is listing the top ten places on earth you should be when the world ends in 2012," I explained. "I told him about the beer cooler at Good Life Brewery – how it's built to withstand a 10.0 earthquake and has enough beer to keep 100 people well-sauced for several weeks."

They all laughed and patted me on the back for my cleverness. I smiled and said a polite thank you. "I doubt anything will come of it."

I wasn't being modest. I was being realistic. Of the hundreds of pitches I do each year, only a small handful ever amount to much.

Surprisingly, that doesn't discourage me. It just means I need to keep my head down, keep my eyes peeled for opportunity, and keep pitching 'til I run out of balls.

Since there's no shortage of balls in my life, I seldom worry much.

Still, I hope no one ever makes me count how many media pitches I've done that never went anywhere. I'd much rather focus on the successes – the New York Times piece raving about a great new hotel in town, or the glossy magazine spread touting Bend as a top ski destination.

It's the same reason I cringe at author-related public speaking engagements when someone asks how many books I've written. Honestly? I can't remember. I could probably count, but I'm too lazy and frankly, the number would just be discouraging.

I'd rather focus on the three-book deal for romantic comedies, my upcoming interactive-fiction release with Coliloquy, and all the other successes I've had in my writing career.

The dead books are there collecting dust bunnies under my bed, but they don't keep me up at night.

I didn't go into all this detail with my co-workers, but one of them knew instantly what I meant about the media pitches.

"I saw a motivational speech where the guy talked about how many photographs are taken to get one, single, picture that appears in National Geographic," she said. "I don't remember the exact number, but it was hundreds of thousands."


But you can be damn sure the photographer who has a picture appear on those pages doesn't pout about shots he took that now sit rejected on his hard drive. He's too busy dancing around screaming, "I got a photo in @#$% National Geographic."

In the end, there's no sense wasting time or energy focusing on your failures. Keep playing, keep swinging, and keep your mind on the times you whack that damn ball out of the park.

Oh, and keep snickering about balls. That helps.

Incidentally, I heard from the reporter several days after my pitch about the beer cooler. They decided to include the brewery on their list of the top ten places to be when the world ends.

Don't you love it when balls go right where you want?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Contest winner! (Holy crap, you guys are observant)


When I asked you guys to itemize the differences between the earlier draft of my cover for Believe it or Not and the final version, I had no idea what sort of response I'd get.

I'm a little stunned.

Many of you caught stuff even I hadn't noticed, and wish I had an ARC to give each of you. You're startlingly observant, and I'll admit it makes me a bit self-conscious. Can you tell my underwear isn't precisely the same shade of red as my bra?

Alas, there can only be one winner. After conducting a scientific tabulation process that involved whining to my gentleman friend, "I hate numbers, can you help count?" that winner has been chosen.

Congratulations to Sprouting Acorn for a list so impressively long, it made other lists shift uncomfortably in their seats and google "enlargement products," after which they had to clear the cache on their computers and insist to the other lists that it's not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean.

Where was I?

Right. Sprouting Acorn and the amazing list. First, here's a refresher on the two different covers:

And now, here's the winning list:

The Sprouting Acorn wrote...
Okee dokee! I believe I've come up with 57 different things..... hell, I keep adding things. I give up. You'll want to count anyway. lol

  • Title font changed.
  • Title size changed to larger in final.
  • Title in caps (draft), lowercase (final)
  • No golden scroll below title in draft.
  • The "N" in "Not" touches the "I" in "IT" (earlier)
  • "Not" doesn't change in either version, except for being moved down a bit out of the top line.

Praise changed:
  • Draft: 5 lines; Final: 6 lines
  • Nominations mentioned in final
  • RT choice mentioned in final
  • Solo author mentioned in draft
  • Type is set lower (final)

Description blurb: ("The last thing she needs...")

  • Different line breaks
  • Bold in earlier draft; not bold in final

Author's byline:
  • Author name in pink (earlier)
  • Author name bold (earlier)
  • Author name different font (earlier)
  • Author line higher (earlier)
  • Author line not on male model jeans (earlier)
  • Author name color matches male's hair color (final)
  • Author name color matches scroll under title (final)

  • Color saturation (earlier)
  • Models look tan (earlier)
  • Sunshine glare, top left corner (earlier)
  • Blue skies (earlier)
  • More island/land/trees/mountain? seen beyond the pier (earlier)
  • No pier post below pier (earlier)
  • Only one post/hand rail on pier (earlier)
  • Two handrail posts on pier (final)
  • One post below pier (final)
  • No water under pier (earlier)
  • Water under pier (final)
  • More water glare above pier (next to hands) (earlier)
  • Grass seen between arm/leg of female (final)
  • Models appear closer in earlier
  • Bottom of cover is blurred w/color of pier (earlier)
  • Different color pier
  • Less pier board detail (earlier)
  • Less amount of pier boardwalk (earlier)
  • Body tones of models go with the color of author's name color. Pinkish (earlier) yellowish (final)

  • Hair detail/ texture lost (earlier)
  • Nose outline lost (earlier)
  • More texture/detail (final)
  • Sun glare down to almost her forehead (final)

  • No jeans on male (earlier)
  • Face looks sunburned (final)
  • Face/cheek has sun glare (earlier)
  • "Happy trail" faint (earlier)
  • Chest hair faint (earlier)
  • Facial hair faint (earlier)
  • 2 left hands of male (earlier) One looks as if it's holding her right hand, his other looks as if he's also holding the photo.
  • Arm rests upon her leg (earlier); no arm resting on her leg (final)
  • Does he HAVE a left arm? lol
  • There's a dark line (possibly left from jeans that shows in earlier.
  • Don't see as much of his hair curl on his left side (earlier)

Congratulations to Sprouting Acorn! Shoot me an email at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com with your snail mail address and I'll send out your ARC of Believe it or Not.

And thanks so much to all of you who participated!

Oh, and thanks to the more than dozen readers who emailed yesterday to alert me that my Wednesday blog failed to post, or to inquire if I had dropped dead following an all-night orgy involving Daniel Craig, George Clooney, and Lyle Lovett.

In reality, I just decided to give myself a day off and let the contest post stay on top for the full two days it was open.

But if it makes you feel better to believe the orgy thing, please do.

I know it makes me feel better.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CONTEST: What's different about the 2 covers?

Last week, I shared news that the cover for my March release, Believe it or Not, had been posted to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Though I'd reviewed drafts of the cover before that, seeing it on those sites was my first time glimpsing the final version.

Or was it the final version?

There was a little confusion, and ultimately, my editor assured me it wasn't. The cover posted on those sites was the cover for the Advance Reading Copies (ARCs). The final version would be a little different.

And yesterday, I got to see the final final version.

Here's a look at the two versions side by side:

If you want to see detail, click the image to make it bigger. You'll definitely want to do that if you'd like to enter my contest to win a signed copy of the ARC.

Here's how it works: study the two covers and make a list of the differences you see between them. Leave a blog comment naming all the differences. To keep things fair, I've turned on comment moderation and won't post any of your entries to the site until the contest closes at 5 p.m. PST on Wednesday, December 21. That way, you can't see each other's entries until the end.

The person who finds the most differences between the two covers will win a signed ARC of Believe it or Not. In the event of a tie, I'll draw a name at random among the finalists.

Sound fair?

OK, let the cover study commence!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I am cheap and easy

I'm late getting home from a weekend road trip, and too brain dead to come up with a witty blog post.

What little energy I have left was spent doing a small happy-dance (complete with jeweled stilettos and nipple tassels) about the jump I noticed over the weekend for Kindle sales of Making Waves.

It's not like the general public was suddenly overwhelmed by the magnitude of my brilliance, or even spurred by the urge to read a good shower sex scene.

The spike came from the fact that Amazon picked Making Waves for a special "Big Deals" promotion. From December 17 through December 23, the Kindle version of the book is only 99-cents.

That means a whole lot of people who wouldn't ordinarily take a gamble on a new author thought to themselves, "I can either buy that pack of D-batteries at the Dollar Store, or I can spring for a cheap e-book."

I seem to be winning over the D-batteries, which makes me downright cheerful since I know what those batteries can be used for.

It's not just the Kindle users who benefit, since pretty much anyone with an iPhone or an iPad can download a Kindle app and read that version of the book.

It also makes a cheap and easy gift. With two simple clicks last night, I sent a copy to my dad's new Kindle. Probably not the best Christmas gift, since he already owns a copy, but it's the thought that counts.

Anyway, if you've been on the fence about buying the book for yourself or an e-book savvy loved one, now's the time to snag it.

But if you find yourself in an orgasm-induced coma for the next few days and wake to discover it's December 24 and the sale is over, don't fret.

Before we got word about Making Waves being chosen for the Amazon promotion, Sourcebooks had already made plans to include the Kindle version in a different promotion. That means even after the 99-cent deal ends Friday, you'll still be able to snag the Kindle version for $1.99 through January 8.

Lest you think I'm offended at being so cheap and easy, let me assure you this is one of the best things to happen for a debut author. Promotions like this are a great way to spike your rankings and visibility, and means more people will end up reading my book. Just the sort of buzz I want with two new books coming out within the next three months, no?

So if you're looking to score a cheap gift for a loved one, here's the link. Heck, give it to all your friends and family. I'm sure Aunt Mildred will enjoy the Strip Battleship scene.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Can you choose a book by its cover?

I've been reading with the same book club for more than 11 years. That means we sometimes have to spice things up to keep the zing in our relationship.

While we don't handcuff each other before breaking out the feather dusters and spiked dog collars, we do like to try new things from time to time.

Last month, we conducted an experiment: Everyone had to go to a bookstore and choose a book based solely on the cover. We could read the title, but none of the back-cover copy or reviews. We weren't allowed to choose books we'd heard of before.

It was the ultimate "choose a book by its cover" experience.

Each of us had to read our chosen book, and return to the group the following month. We laid the books out on the kitchen counter, and took turns guessing who they belonged to.

It sparked some fascinating discussion – who did we think picked that book? Why did she pick it? How drunk was she when she went shopping?

Once we had it all figured out, we went around the room and talked about our books. We each revealed what made us choose our book, and what we expected it to be like.

Not surprisingly, a lot of us were...well, surprised.

Some discovered the books were nothing like they expected. Others found they guessed pretty accurately. Some hated their books. Some loved them so much they threatened to hold their breath until everyone in the room read their chosen selection.

The subject is something that's been weighing on my mind a lot lately. On Wednesday, I showed you the cover for my March romantic comedy, Believe it or Not. At the risk of sounding like captain obvious, it's pretty different from the cover for Making Waves.

My publisher has a very strategic reason for doing it, and since I don't happen to be an expert in book cover psychology, I defer to their wisdom. Any decision they make with the goal of selling more books is a good one in my mind.

To what degree do you judge a book by its cover? Have you ever conducted an experiment like the one my book club tried? Any thoughts on the psychology of book covers in general? Please share!

And yeah, feel free to guess which book in that pile above was the one I brought. My book club figured it out instantly.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The emails that make me cranky

At the day-job yesterday, I got the sort of email I dread.

No, not the ones promising a discount mortgage with the purchase of internet porn (I actually kind of like those). This one was pointing out a typo in a brand new brochure we just got back from the printer in great big boxes stuffed with 10,0000 copies.

"Where it says ozyacetlyene," wrote a business associate, "is this supposed to be oxyacetlyene?


It's a tiny word in a small block of copy describing the tool used to create a sculpture. I grabbed the description straight from the art organization's website, but I damn well should have double-checked the spelling and I know it.

I hate that.

On the grand scale of typos, it's not the worst I've ever seen. In my younger years as a journalist, I missed it when my spell checker corrected a university president's name from "Marilyn Wessel" to "Marlin Weasel" in an article about funding cuts.

She wasn't amused.

I've been writing for my supper in one form or another my entire adult life, so you'd think I'd be used to uncomfortable typos by now. Still, I have a crippling fear of looking at anything I've written after it's printed and published. You want to know how many times I've opened a copy of Making Waves?


And the only reason I did it was because I had to read a section of the book for a speaking engagement. I decided to read from the uncorrected proof so if I did find any typos, I could assure myself they'd been corrected in the actual, printed copies of the book.

But the first time I read from the proof, I stumbled over a typo right in the middle of the Newlywed Game scene. I recovered and kept reading, but for several days after that, I couldn't shake the horrible thought:

What if it actually went to print like that?

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I looked in the actual, printed copy of Making Waves, and dammitalltohell, the typo is in there. It might not be apparent to everyone, but it's obvious when you read the scene aloud (so, uh...don't do that).

I went back to my uncorrected proof and scribbled a correction so I don't stumble anymore when I read the scene in public. Still, it bugs me.

I'm pretty sure that's the last time I'll look at a printed copy of one of my books. I'm keeping that in mind as I stare at the small pile of uncorrected proofs I just got in the mail for Believe it or Not. Do I look? I'm pretty sure the real book has already gone to print, so if I find a typo now, I might not be able to do anything about it.

I know there are more important things to stress about in life, but sometimes we have to fret about the little crap just to keep our minds off the big stuff (like the fact that I'm facing a really daunting edit on my third contracted romantic comedy, Mad Crush).

Do you get freaky about typos, or can you let them roll off your back? Did you happen to catch the typo in the Newlywed Game scene in Making Waves?

Wait. Crap. Why am I telling you about that? Now you're all going to go look, aren't you?

This is the worst blog post ever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do I have to sweep my floor for the naked men?

Back when I was racking up rejection letters faster than a stripper collects sequined g-strings, my amazing agent gave some great pep talks (though sadly, no sequined g-strings, which is a bummer since I kind of wanted one).

One of the pep talks offered the up-side to the number of manuscripts I'd written and subsequently seen rejected. Someday, she assured me, one domino will fall and everything will sell and you'll suddenly have more book deals than you can handle.

I loved the pep talk, but had a hard time envisioning what that day might look like. I imagined a lot of half-naked men writhing on my office floor, but didn't get much further than that in my fantasies about an overabundance of authorial good fortune.

But I think I finally get it.

The great news is that I have a lot of...well, great news to share. The not-so-great news is that I haven't yet figured out how to clone myself to handle all the book stuff (not to mention the half-naked men on my floor).

But I'd rather focus on the great news.

First up, Publishers Marketplace just released the official announcement of my new book deal with Coliloquy:

You should be able to click that to make it readable, and in case you missed last week's announcement about the new deal, you can check out my posts here and here.

To sum it up in a nutshell, here's the official marketing lingo I'm allowed to share about what Coliloquy is and what my story is about:
"Active fiction" is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.
In Getting Dumped, Tawna gives you one very simple choice point: Which guy should JJ call? Depending on your choice, you’ll get to know one of the guys a bit more intimately. Don’t be afraid to read all three versions–it’s for JJ’s own good, after all! And of course, feel free to re-read YOUR favorite over and over again. Tawna still isn't sure who JJ should end up with, so she's eager to see who her readers prefer. She sees the aggregate statistics on who gets picked the most, so the more you read, the more you influence what she writes.
So there's that. Super exciting, to be sure, and I promise I'll have more details very soon.

Then there's the news that Amazon and Barnes and Noble just posted the cover for Believe it or Not, my second romantic comedy that's slated for release with Sourcebooks in March 2012.

I'm actually not 100% sure if that's the final, OFFICIAL cover or just the cover for the advance reading copies, but I figure it's got to be pretty close since it's online, and obviously everything online is true and accurate.

Pretty, no?

Then there's the news that Making Waves has been picked for not one, but two online promotions through Amazon. The first kicks off December 17, and here's what the Sourcebooks publicist told me about it:
Amazon is running a great promotion the week prior to Christmas, another one of their “Big Deals.” They have chosen Making Waves to be a part of this promotion, and it will be priced at $0.99 from December 17-23.
This sort of thing is fabulous news for a no-name debut author like me, since budget-conscious Kindle owners are often willing to take a gamble on a new author when the price is right. It's a terrific way to get some exposure.

And of course, for those of you I've already exposed myself to (snicker) it's a terrific way for you to pick up a cheap e-book gift for a Kindle-toting loved one this holiday season.

So there you have it. Three chunks of good news related to three different books. Crazy times, to be sure!

Now where are those naked men?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday films that jingle my bells

It's the holiday season, which means it's time to snicker over phrases like "Santa's sack" and "stocking stuffer," and "low-hanging balls."

It's also time to trot out the holiday movies. Friends and family all have favorites, and we've built little rituals around the annual viewing.

My immediate family spends most of the year quoting lines from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which means we don't actually need to watch the movie anymore.

But I'm fairly certain my father would disown us all if we weren't able to prove we'd watched It's a Wonderful Life at least once during each holiday season.

One of my best girlfriends and I love to watch White Christmas together each year. The details of the ritual are hazy, mostly because it involves large quantities of wine and a requisite drunken commentary throughout the film.

But my favorite holiday movie of all is Love, Actually.

It's one of those movies you can watch any time of year, but the holiday theme makes it perfect for the season. It's a 2003 British romantic comedy featuring ten separate love stories intertwined. In case you've never seen it (or if you need a refresher) here's the trailer:

And here's what I love about the movie, not just as a holiday staple, but as one of my favorite films of all times – it's not simple.

None of the stories are the straightforward "boy meets girl" variety. There's the shy couple conducting polite get-to-know-you conversations while serving as body doubles on the set of a porn film. There's the foul-mouthed, aging rock star who realizes his longtime manager is the platonic love of his life. There's the socially awkward young brit who heads to America and discovers a bevy of beautiful women find his accent irresistible.

There are happily-ever-afters, and not-so-happily-ever-afters. There are tears and laughter and awkward moments that make you want to cover your eyes and pretend you've never, ever been that girl who blurts out profanity at an inopportune moment.

For me, the core of the movie is summed up in the opening monologue delivered by Hugh Grant's character:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

People ask me constantly why I choose to write romance out of all the genres in the world. It's tempting to tell them I do it because I'm a sexual deviant who gets her thrills writing sex scenes, but more tempting to want to hand them a card with that monologue printed on it.

What could be more universal than a love story? And what could be more fun than finding new and creative ways to capture that?

Well, besides acting out the love scenes you're creating. For research purposes, of course.

What holiday films are staples in your household? Got any favorites you've watched over and over again? Please share!

I need to go stop the dog from licking the cat's butt under the mistletoe. Love isn't always pretty, is it?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Household purging gone awry

Before my house went up for sale last month, the realtors gave explicit directions for staging the place to look its best.

Most instructions began, "get rid of–"

I took countless loads of stuff to Goodwill and the dump, resisting the urge to forage at either place for more things to bring home. Decluttering is the name of the game, and I'm proud to say I'm pretty good at it.

My two 27-year-old male housemates aren't adapting as well.

During the first walk-through, the realtors pointed out a wheeled office chair that didn't appear to be in use. The seat was slightly torn, and I'd stuffed it in the guest room in case I needed an extra chair for dinner parties.

"Can you get rid of that?" they asked.

"Sure," I agreed. "It's in decent shape, so I'll just wheel it to the sidewalk and stick a free sign on it."

I did exactly that before piling another load of household clutter into the trunk of my car and heading to Goodwill. When I returned an hour later, the chair was gone from the sidewalk.

I was delighted for the thirty seconds it took to drive from the bottom of my driveway to the top. That's when I discovered the chair sitting in the front yard with the free sign gone.

"What the hell?" I asked as I walked through the front door.

My housemates ignored me, probably because they're accustomed to that as my normal greeting.

"Why is the chair in the yard?" I asked.

"It was free," replied one of the housemates. "I thought it would look good in my room."

"It was free because I put it there," I informed him. "And also because I'm trying to get rid of things."

He grinned. "You just did."

I gave up the chair battle and continued filling boxes and bags with castoff clothing, rarely-used appliances, and the overabundance of office supplies I swear have been procreating in my desk drawers. I stuck one of the boxes in the entryway, thinking I might inspire the boys to do some decluttering of their own.

"I'm taking that box to Goodwill later today," I told them Saturday morning. "If there's anything you want to get rid of, go ahead and toss it in there."

They both looked up at me. "That box is going to Goodwill?"

Before I could open my mouth to reply, they were both pawing through the box like a pair of mongrel dogs doing a dumpster dive outside the butcher shop.

"Hey, this is a good mug!" one of them declared.

"This hula girl hasn't even been opened," the other shouted. "I can put it on the dashboard of my car."

The other housemate took it from him. "Let's see if her skirt comes off. That would be better."

They continued digging as I stood speechless in the living room, not daring to interrupt what appeared to be the most fun either of them had enjoyed all week.

"Tape?" one housemate yelled. "Who gets rid of tape?"

"I had twelve unopened boxes of it in my desk," I informed him. "I don't need that much tape."

"Probably stole it from work," he muttered to the other housemate. "Hey, what's this thing that says Pirate Playmates?"

He pulled out a plastic baggie of action figures someone gave me as a gag gift. They both frowned. "That's not what I was hoping for."

I sighed. "Is there anything else I can get you boys?"

"Got any bulbs for this lamp?"

So much for decluttering. On the bright side, the housemates seem pleased with their new acquisitions. In hindsight, I probably should have wrapped up all my castoff stuff and offered it to them as holiday gifts.

How are your decluttering skills? Do you tend to be a pack-rat or a ruthless organizer? Please share!

And let me know if you want to pilfer through the housemates' rooms for any household goods you might need. I promise not to tell.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Out of order isn't code for "hangover," I swear

I'm sure I'm not alone in having a nutty schedule as the holidays approach. The day job in marketing/PR requires me to attend a lot of social functions this time of year, which seems like a recipe for a month-long hangover.

Except that I just got hit with the head-cold from hell, so even expensive wine tastes like Nyquil now. I'm not in the mood to imbibe, and I'm sad to admit all the fancy appetizers people keep foisting on me taste like cardboard.

All that would be fine, except my realtor just called about showing the house this weekend, and I'm wondering if I can pass off cat fur and dirty dishes as the hot new decorator touches of the season. I don't have time to clean, because I just got my editor's revision notes for Mad Crush, plus there's work to be done for the any-minute-now release of my new interactive fiction title, Getting Dumped, and a book club meeting to attend and...

Wait. Why are you all playing those little violins?

No, I would not like cheese with my whine. I want to crawl into bed and hide there for a whole weekend. Maybe a week, if I can persuade someone naked to join me.

Sorry, guys. I've got nothing amusing for you today. Unless my brain actually does explode, in which case I promise to post pictures of the carnage.

For now, take care of yourselves, and promise you'll drink my share of the wine, OK?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why you shouldn't date a romance author

This time of year, I find myself making awkward conversation at a lot of events and dinner parties. Some are required for my career in marketing/PR, and some are the result of people knowing they can lure me to any public outing with the promise of free wine and a shrimp puff.

It’s only possible to discuss shrimp puffs with strangers for so long before conversations shift to the inevitable: “What do you do?”

Note: your response to this question should contain some element of career information and not details of what you ordered at your last Pure Romance party and how you put it to use.

If I’m looking to escape the conversation, I throw out a line about managing communications for my city’s tourism bureau. But if I know I’m going to be there awhile, I’ll mention my gig as a romance author.

That’s where the questions begin.

Some are industry related: Is it hard to get published? How did you get an agent? How many books have you written? Where can I find them?

Some make me giggle: How do you research your love scenes? Do you let your parents read them? Do you ever plan to write a REAL book?

Lately – perhaps because I’ve been dragging him to speaking engagements and dinner functions – a number have been directed at my gentleman friend: What’s it like to date a romance author? Do you worry you’ll end up in one of her scenes? Can she really put her ankles behind her head?

He takes it all in stride, which I appreciate. A mutual friend once described him as, “the least self-conscious person I’ve ever met,” which should probably be a requirement for anyone dating an author with a fondness for genital euphemisms.

Still, I feel like I’m walking a funny line. I invite the prying questions with the very nature of what I write and how I’ve chosen to put myself in the public arena. But when he accepted my dinner invitation eight months ago, I doubt he pictured himself in front of an audience of 65 library fundraisers responding to the question, “how does she get inspiration for her love scenes?”

(For the record, he handled it brilliantly, and didn’t bat an eyelash when they thrust the mike in his face. Also for the record, he’d find the phrase “thrust the mike in his face” as funny as I just did.)

How conscious do you have to be of the way your chosen occupation impacts the people around you? Does your job ever make for awkward dinner party conversations? Please share!

Oh, and to answer the aforementioned questions in random order, yes, no, all over the place, I’m not sure, yes, hard work, carefully, no, yes, interesting.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The art of the tease

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called a tease.

Raise your other hand if you’ve secretly considered it a compliment.

Crap, I can’t type with both hands in the air.

The art of the tease is something romance authors work long and hard (snicker) to perfect. Your characters might want to jump each other’s bones on page one, but you’ve got 350 pages to fill. Odds are good you’ll run out of sex positions by then, and sad as it is to say, even I’d be bored by 350 pages of playing spear the donut.

I heard an editor once say she prefers to have the couple in a romance novel swap their first kiss by page 50 and first sex by page 100. It’s a rule I’ve never followed, and so far, no one’s yelled at me for it. I far prefer the long, drawn-out tease. I want the couple to come close to burping the worm once, twice, maybe three times, building the tension and leaving the reader squirming in her chair.

There’s an art to the squirming, though. Interrupt too many hookups with a ringing telephone or some other clichéd contrivance and you’ll have your reader rolling her eyes instead of diddling herself under the desk turning the pages of your book.

I've heard people say the romance novels are all about how to get two people together, but I disagree. Getting them together is the easy part. Creating a long, slow, tease that keeps them from consummating their relationship for much of the book is the tough part.

With all this talk about teasing, I feel obligated to say I'm not quite done doing that with my new book deal for Coliloquy. I shared some of the details on Monday and Tuesday, but I can't give it all up just yet. Stay tuned here for more info, or sign up with Coliloquy to be first to hear about release information.

In the meantime, how do you feel about the fine art of the tease? Can you think of examples of authors or significant others who've done a particularly good job with it? Please share!

It's time for me to put my hands down and quit typing with my toes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How you know your new publisher rocks

In case you've ever wondered, here's how you know if your new publisher rocks so hard they'd make Popeye seasick.

You walk out to your mailbox on a gloomy Monday afternoon expecting the usual assortment of bills, pizza coupons, and sex toy catalogs church bulletins.

Instead, you find this:

Yes, Coliloquy – the folks publishing my new "active fiction" title later this week – sent me a new Kindle loaded with all their launch titles. Holymotherofcrap, isn't that cool?

As you know, I've had to be pretty secretive about the nature of this project. There are still a few things I'm not allowed to reveal until release day, but I asked permission to answer some of the questions you guys posed in the comments yesterday.
BloggerThe Sprouting Acorn asked:
I'd still like to know what the cat photo had to do with the clues in Friday's post.

That's an easy one! When I sat down to write Getting Dumped, I decided JJ needed a pet. I looked to my own four-legged brood to assess who'd make the best character in a romantic caper. It didn't take long for me to settle on Blue Cat:

I acquired Blue Cat by accident several years ago when I wandered into Petco for aquarium plants. They had a section of cages filled with death row cats who'd been at the animal shelter for too long, and Blue Cat caught my eye because he was huge and mostly bald.

"Someone adopted him for a month and then brought him back so matted they had to shave him," the attendant explained.

His tag said he'd been at the shelter for more than a year and that he was 13 years old. "No one's going to adopt an elderly, bald, 300 pound cat who's probably crazy after being incarcerated for a year," I said. "I'll take him."

On his first visit to the vet, he threw such a snarling, howling conniption fit, the vet tech tried to send us home. But the vet came in and wrestled him to the ground so she could peer at his teeth. "This cat isn't 13 years old," she said. "He's maybe 3 or 4."

Despite his occasional surly disposition (usually tempered by spending an hour chasing the dog around the house) Blue Cat is the most loving of my three feline companions. The sheer size of him means he puts my legs to sleep when he sits on me, but whenever I feel glum, I can count on Blue Cat to magically appear and offer his lap-warming services. He chases large dogs out of the yard, and the neighbors have dubbed him "Battle Cat" for his tough-guy walk and fearless nature.

That's Blue Cat in a nutshell, and you'll be seeing quite a bit of him in Getting Dumped.

Now for the next blog reader comment:
Steph Schmidt wrote:
I signed up for Coliloquy but after reading that blurb I'm impatient as all hell for it to launch (never mind I lack an e-reader, mere details at this point).

Thanks for your eagerness! For the initial launch, Kindle will be the only format for Getting Dumped. There are super-techy reasons for that, but I'm not allowed to go into details just yet. Consider it a good reason to add a Kindle to your holiday wish list, or stay tuned for details about other formats and platforms.
Sierra Godfrey wrote:
Very interesting! I look forward to seeing how this works. Any chance you can outline what exactly actively interacting with you entails? Er...we ARE reading, right?

We're getting into top-secret territory here, but I promise I'll be able to share more details later this week. For now, here's the official marketing lingo I'm allowed to post:
"Active fiction" is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.
In Getting Dumped, Tawna gives you one very simple choice point: Which guy should JJ call? Depending on your choice, you’ll get to know one of the guys a bit more intimately. Don’t be afraid to read all three versions–it’s for JJ’s own good, after all! And of course, feel free to re-read YOUR favorite over and over again. Tawna still isn't sure who JJ should end up with, so she's eager to see who her readers prefer. She sees the aggregate statistics on who gets picked the most, so the more you read, the more you influence what she writes.
If it sounds fun to read, I can tell you it's been 10-times as fun to write. The authors among you will all be familiar with how much second guessing goes into every decision you make when plotting a book. It's been amazing to be able to sit back and say, "here are a few ways this can go, let's have readers pick!"

I'll share more info as soon as I can, and I promise to post Amazon links and other goodies once I have the go-ahead.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go play with what came in the mail.

The Kindle, you perverts. The Kindle.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How I fulfilled my trashy fantasies

When I was five, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Waiting for the garbage truck with my kid brother.
Every Tuesday morning, I'd scramble to the big picture window at the front of the house and wait for that familiar rumble. I'd sit, mesmerized, as the garbage truck came lumbering down the street.

"Garbey-guck," my two-year-old brother would announce.

"Damn straight," I'd say (or something to that effect). "Someday, I'm going to drive one."

I'm 37 now, and I haven't entirely fulfilled my fantasy. But I've come close.

In the spring of 2008, I got laid off from a job as the director of marketing and franchise development for a chain of photo studios. I was thrilled.

Because it gave me the chance to combine my adult career fantasy of being a novelist, with my childhood career fantasy of working with trash. I remember the phone call I made shortly after my layoff. My words came out in an excited jumble, and the receptionist was so silent afterward that I thought she'd hung up on me.

"Let me get this straight," she said at last. "You want to come here to the Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste to do research for a mystery/romance novel."


"Romance," she repeated. "And mystery. In a landfill?"


There was another long pause, so I decided to press my luck. "Do you think there's any chance I could drive the compactor?"

I didn't get to drive the compactor, but I did get to sit in the cab and make growly noises, followed by the occasional beep-beep for backup effect. I can honestly say that doing research for Getting Dumped was some of the most fun I've ever had in my life.

And in case you haven't figured it out yet, Getting Dumped is the secret project I've been hinting about for awhile now. The book is set to release this week, and here's a blurb:
Losing a cushy marketing job only to end up driving heavy equipment at the landfill would be a tough blow for most women.

But JJ Schultz isn’t most women, so she gamely swaps office politics and dry cleaning bills for a chance to crush garbage with a 150,000 pound machine. As it turns out, she doesn’t miss her old life too much…though her love life was sure a lot simpler when she didn’t wear a hardhat every day. Between her hot new co-workers and her on-again-off-again boyfriend, JJ has her hands full.

But the drama kicks into high gear when JJ and her sister, Lori, find evidence of a counterfeit handbag operation – something local police deem only slightly more urgent than collecting fruit flies. JJ soon finds herself unraveling a sinister plot in the company of a tie-tugging accountant, a straight-to-video action hero turned secretary, a suspicious but sneaky-hot engineer, and a host of other characters with questionable hygiene and morals.
Now here's the kicker – the book is being released as an "active fiction" title. Er, what does that mean? Well, it's a brand new kind of e-reading experience that allows the reader and author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.

Think grown-up, modern version of those choose-your-own adventure novels from childhood.

Intrigued? So was I when my agent called early last summer positively shrieking with excitement over this hot new opportunity. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and soon I was almost as excited about being one of the launch authors for Coliloquy as I was about driving the garbage truck.

I'll be able to share more details over the next couple days, but you can click that Coliloquy link to sign up for an alert when the launch titles go live this week.

For now, I'd love to hear more about what you wanted to be when you were young. Did it change when you got older? Have you ever had the chance to fulfill any childhood career fantasies? Please share!

I'll be sitting in the backhoe at the construction site down the street making growly noises. If you see me, don't interrupt.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Photo Phriday, pheaturing hints about next week's book release

As I shared yesterday, I have a top secret new book scheduled to release next week. I can't spill all the details yet, but I will tell you it's a totally new concept in publishing and storytelling, and I'm crazy excited about it.

Or maybe just crazy.

Since this is my second time around the book release block, I've come to the conclusion there's some mysterious, magical force that causes life to throw all manner of chaos at an author at the precise moment she's preparing for a book release.

If my brain weren't fried, I might try to write a post with a bunch of cleverly worded clues about the book and the publisher.

But clever wording is beyond my grasp right now, so how about a few clues in picture form?

Intrigued? Or just confused? Come back next week, and I promise that will all make sense.

Er, maybe.

Have a great weekend, guys!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On waking up naked and not complaining

My day job requires me to do a lot of unusual things, including waking up naked at 2 a.m. on a floor that wasn’t mine.

OK, my job didn’t actually require me to do that. It was the unexpected side effect of attending a five-course wine dinner where the sommelier kept refilling my glass until I’d lost track of my consumption and possibly my shoes.

(For the record, I wasn’t driving. Also for the record, I do know the owner of the aforementioned floor, and my nude presence there wasn’t terribly disconcerting. Also for the record, my boss was highly amused when I shared this story).

My job in tourism marketing means I spend a lot of time wooing journalists with treks around the Bend Ale Trail or accepting invitations to swanky dinners so I can write about it.

In other words, I get paid to eat and drink.

Hardly something to complain about, but there are moments I want to. Like an hour ago when the boss walked in and handed me an invitation to a party he needs me to attend next week and I almost cried. Free food, free wine, and I swear I’d rather tear off my toenails with my teeth than spend another evening doing anything other than lounging on the sofa in my jammies.

It’s like that with writing sometimes, too. I hesitate to say much about struggles with deadlines or harsh editorial feedback because HOLYMOTHEROFCRAP I have a three-book deal. I pretty much forfeited my right to complain about anything the moment I signed my name to that contract.

So this is me, not complaining. About free food and wine, or about the fact that I’m feeling stressed over my new book that’s being released next week.

You like how I just slipped that in there?

Yeah, it’s a secret. I’ll tell you more as soon as I’m allowed, but trust me when I tell you it’s super exciting.

And scary.

But mostly exciting.

Got anything in your life you’re NOT complaining about (even if you might kinda want to sometimes?) Please share!

And if you’ve got a good “waking up naked” story, share that, too. It’ll make me feel better.