Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm cheap, easy, and sometimes free! (In other words, win a signed copy of Believe it or Not)

Back in December, Amazon picked Making Waves for a special discount promotion. My sales spiked, and I did a little happy dance that may or may not have involved nipple tassels and a jar of maraschino cherries.

My publisher ran a similar promotion after that. It's a common sales strategy that makes a lot of sense in the months leading up to a new release – offer discounts on the author's last book to catch the eye of readers who might not have gambled on it at full price. If they enjoy that book, there's a good chance they'll go looking for something else the author wrote and ohlookiehere it's a new book coming out!

I had to laugh a couple months ago when someone made a snarky comment that my book must suck if it's on sale. Since I find it's not worth bruising my knuckles punching uninformed people in the ding-ding, I politely refrained from responding.

Suffice it to say, the sales are a good thing, and I'm thrilled Sourcebooks has launched a new one now that we're a week away from the release date for Believe it or Not. Right now, the Kindle version of Making Waves is priced at only $1.79. The Barnes & Noble Nook version isn't too shabby either at only $1.99.

If you have an eReader and haven't read Making Waves yet, now might be a good time to snap it up. If you've read it and enjoyed it, how about gifting it to a friend? Think of it like buying your pal a glass of wine, only at a quarter of the cost and with zero risk of hangover.

Tell you what...take advantage of this sale in one form or another, either by buying it for yourself, buying it as a gift, mentioning the sale on Twitter or Facebook, or accosting random strangers you see holding an eBook and offering to flash the body part of their choosing if they purchase the book. (I'll leave it up to you whether to flash the part or run away giggling).

Tell me in the comments what you did, and I'll enter your name in a drawing for a free signed copy of Believe it or Not. Contest closes at 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, March 1, and I'll announce the winner after that. Sound good?

Now go forth and spread the word that I'm cheap and easy. Write it on the bathroom wall if you must.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The naughty commercial that made me laugh

I lack the attention span to watch television or movies on a regular basis. The result is that I'm always a bit of a moron when anyone begins a question, "did you see that new commercial for..."

Thankfully, I have wonderful friends like Patty Blount, who kindly shared a link to a Liquid Plumr commercial she knew I'd adore:
I love that commercial so much I went out and bought twelve gallons of Liquid Plumr. Now I'm just waiting for those men to show up on my doorstep.

Got any favorite commercials that have made you laugh lately? Please share links! That way we can all enjoy them without actually having to watch television. Genius, right?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Alcohol may have been a factor

I should probably start this post with public service announcement about the dangers of excess drinking and how you should never consume alcohol and drive an automobile or operate heavy machinery or perform major surgery or take your clothes off with strangers (unless, of course, the strangers are really hot).

Now that we have that out of the way, I will confess that I have a bad habit. I enjoy the occasional cocktail or craft beer or glass or twelve of wine.

That's not actually the bad habit. The bad habit is that these alcoholic beverages fill me with the intense desire to shop. At the time these shopping endeavors occur, I sincerely believe I need whatever it is I'm purchasing. It's not until later – sometimes weeks later when an unexpected package arrives on my doorstep – that I find myself wondering why I urgently needed three pounds of nutmeg.

Or a pair of shoes one size too small.

Or lesbian porn on VHS.

Or a painting that cost four times its price to ship from Australia.

Or 16 pairs of underwear.

The latter earned me merciless teasing from a friend who has no room to talk. She once ordered 60 Durex Play Vibrations by mistake from Amazon. Guess what we all got for Christmas that year?

So two days ago, I got a text message from a friend's husband.

You owe me $25 for the guitar. Let me know if you want a soft case for an extra $10.

I stared at the message for a minute, expecting a follow-up apologizing for sending it to the wrong person.

Then, a hazy memory crept in. It involved a particularly strong round of bloody marys and a friend of a friend who works for a guitar factory. I texted back uncertainly.
I bought a guitar?
Indeed, I had. And since said guitar is considered a factory second, I'm not allowed to sell it.

I should note here that I don't play guitar. I don't play any instrument or possess even an ounce of musical talent.

My friend's husband texted back.
At least it's not 16 pairs of underwear.

Good point. Lucky for me, my gentleman friend does play guitar, and was delighted with the new purchase. Of course, it's possible he would have preferred the underwear.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever purchased by mistake? It doesn't have to be a drunk purchase, though it might make me feel better if you can assure me I'm not the only person who does this. Please?

Friday, February 24, 2012

On kissing and the hardest parts

Normally, I like to choose blog contest winners at random. The process usually involves a bewildered housemate or pet, and contains an element of surprise for everyone (particularly if the aforementioned housemate or pet ingests one of the little slips of paper on which I've written contestants' names, and we must wait for it to pass through the digestive tract to determine a winner).

I decided to do things a little differently for this week's contest. Readers were asked to share things that make them feel "fluttery" for a chance to win a signed copy of my soon-to-be-released romantic comedy, Believe it or Not.

I was so touched by Julie Glover's entry, that I'm going to just award the prize to her. Here's what she wrote:
Julie Glover wrote...
I'm not at my fluttierest at the moment, having been diagnosed with mononucleosis (the "kissing disease" which means I can't kiss for a while! Ugh). But here's the list from the sick patient's perspective:
* My adolescent son comes in every day to ask if I'm feeling better and gives me a hug. Flutter.
* My sister sent me a box of chicken soup mixes purchased from Soups Online. Flutter.
* My husband does double duty as hard worker by day and Superdad by night, then crawls into bed to be my much-needed body heater. Double flutter.
* I love my current WIP. When I give others the elevator pitch, it piques interest. Yeah, me. Will flutter when published and opening my own boatload box of books.

Thanks for sharing yours, Tawna. Congrats on the book. Looking forward to reading it!

Besides the fact that her list was touchingly sweet and I feel bad for anyone who's sick, I'm most sympathetic to the fact that she can't kiss for awhile.  


The thought of that makes me cry a little.

You could walk into my house and remove every bottle of wine from my wine rack and every book from my bookshelves and every sex toy from the basket under the bed before rounding up all my pets and taking them to live at a boarding kennel for the week and it STILL wouldn't equal the horror of not being able to to kiss.

Admittedly, I've gotten spoiled by the pleasure of routinely kissing someone who's ridiculously, toe-curlingly good at it, but still. Kissing is one of life's greatest pleasures, hands down. Or hands up, depending on your preference.

The funny thing is that I struggle a bit when I write kissing scenes. Believe it or Not contains a love scene that spans nearly 20 pages if you count foreplay and smooching (and why wouldn't you count those? They're the best parts!) I love to write scenes that involve breathless groping, frantic tearing of clothing, and all the climactic moments that come next (pun intended, of course).

But if you've read my love scenes, you know that while they're very detailed, I avoid being explicit. You'll never catch me using flowery terms for genitalia or clinical words for bodily functions. Though I go to great lengths to give an elaborate blow-by-blow (snicker), I prefer to leave specifics to the reader's imagination.

Frankly, I think it's hotter that way.

There's something different about writing kissing scenes though. I always struggle with the balance between details (What's he doing with his tongue? How is she tilting her head? Where are his hands?) and the feelings tied to the action. I'm not sure why it's easier for me to find that balance once clothes start flying off. Perhaps it's the line between sweetness and passion, or maybe it's just that kissing can be a lot more intimate than actual penetration when it comes right down to it (snicker).

What do you look for in kissing scenes, whether reading or writing them? Do you have a preference in the level of detail provided? And most importantly, do you share my firm belief that it would be preferable to remove all the skin from your thigh with a carrot peeler and rub the wound with sea salt than go more than a few days without kissing? Please share!

And congratulations to Julie Glover! Send your snail mail address to me at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com, and I'll hook you up with a signed copy of Believe it or Not to read on your sickbed.

Thanks to everyone who played the fluttery game!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Share your flutters, win a signed copy of BELIEVE IT OR NOT

Life's been a little roller-coasterish lately. While it sometimes gives me that fun, fluttery feeling in parts of my body that enjoy feeling fluttery, there are other moments I feel the nauseating urge to call Ralph on the porcelain phone.

I need to be better at focusing on the fun & fluttery.

Here are a few of the good giddy moments from the last few days:
  • A big box showed up on my doorstep containing a buttload of copies of my next romantic comedy, Believe it or Not. That made me happy. The book hits shelves March 6 and you can pre-order right now from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or IndieBound. (You can also win a free signed copy if you keep reading and follow instructions, but I want to keep going with the fluttery list for a sec).
  • I finished the first draft of the second episode of Getting Dumped for Coliloquy. This is my "interactive fiction" romantic caper (i.e. choose-your-own-adventure), and I was thrilled to bits the instant I hit send and fired the draft off to my agent, editor, and publisher. I was even more giddy to hear back from the publisher less than 24 hours later expressing her delight with the draft. There will still be edits, of course, but just knowing her initial response wasn't, "have you been eating paint chips?" was a big relief. (Incidentally, the first episode of Getting Dumped is on sale at Amazon right now for $1.99 – get it while it's cheap!)
  • Believe it or Not received several more toe-curlingly wonderful reviews, including this one from Library Journal, which declared. "Fenske’s sophomore effort (after Making Waves) is another riotous trip down funny bone lane, with a detour to slightly askew goings on and a quick u-ey to out-of-this-world romance. Readers will be enchanted by this bewitching fable from a wickedly wise author." That one had me smiling all day long!
  • Thursday marks eleven months since I first had dinner with my gentleman friend with the idea of seeking his counsel as my divorce mentor. Suffice it to say, he's turned out to be a whole lot more than that, and I feel ridiculously, deliciously fluttery every time I think of him. Or see him. Or grope him. it hot in here?
  • I made a really excellent soup on Monday night. What? You have to celebrate the little flutters, too.

Those are just a few things I'm celebrating in my life right now. How about you? What's making you feel flutters of joy, satisfaction, or delight? Post your list in the comments. I'll review the entries at 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, Feb. 23 and will pick one person to receive a signed copy of Believe it or Not.

So how about it, guys? What's making you feel fluttery?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A plethora of perversion at the video arcade

I'll admit that with many previous installments of my regular feature, Garage Porn, I've deliberately gone looking for the naughty innuendos. It's true they're not hard (I said hard) to find on the aisles of Home Depot, the grocery store, or even my own garage.

But most of the time I'm on the lookout for it.

That's why it's especially funny when I stumble upon unintentional dirty humor in places I'm not expecting it. You'd think a visit to the local video arcade with my gentleman friend and his young offspring would be an innocent endeavor.

You would be wrong.

Check out some of the things that had me snickering Saturday night (discretely, of course...yes, Mom, I'm being a good influence. Mostly).

The name of this arcade game was bad enough. The fact that playing it required a sort of bizarre pumping motion was enough to force me to walk away, lest I fall to the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.
With this game, you get a bonus for making it into the center slot. Shouldn't that just be expected?

I had to circle this air hockey table half-a-dozen times before I figured out "Fast Rack" was the unfortunate result of poor typography placement and a missing "T," as opposed to the expected result of playing it enthusiastically without a sports bra.
Everyone walking away from this game seemed sweaty and disheveled. I'm a little bummed I'd run out of game tokens by then, as I was forced to seek my raw thrills elsewhere.

It was admittedly funnier when I misread it with an extra "e" in the last word. Even without the typo, it still seems like an inappropriate name for a game marketed to pre-pubescent kids.

Seen any good unintentional dirty humor lately? Please share?

And can someone spot me an extra quarter? I'll pay you back, I swear.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why word choice matters

My dog, Bindi, is a three-year-old Australian Kelpie. In case you're unfamiliar with the breed, imagine a herding dog on crack.

Then dial it up six notches, add a genius level IQ, and remove the off-switch.

I originally acquired her two years ago to serve as an aid for a deaf elderly dog I owned. It took less than a day to teach her the commands to locate him when he wandered off in the woods and herd him back to me.

These days, her skills are utilized mostly by my housemates, who regard her as a sort of electric blanket to be grabbed while snoozing on the couch watching action flicks.

Feeling guilty about the wasted talent, I decided two weeks ago to teach Bindi a new trick.

"Bindi," I called, grabbing a fistful of dog biscuits. "Sit!"

She sat, of course, and waited for the next command. With my free hand, I made a finger-pistol and pretended to shoot her. "Bang! Bang!"

My plan was to roll her gently into a "play dead" position.

Her plan was to tuck her tail between her legs and flee the room.

"What the hell, Bindi?" I called. "Come back."

She slunk back into the room, looking like I'd just run over her tail with the lawn mower.

"It's not a real gun," I assured her, letting her sniff my hand. "See, it's just my fingers. We're only pretending it's a gun because it seems like kind of a cute way to teach you to play dead."

She listened carefully, cocking her head to the side and perking her ears up. I gave her a biscuit just to show there were no hard feelings. Then we were ready to try again.

"Bindi, sit!"

She sat. I cocked my finger and fired. "Bang! Bang!"

She tucked her tail, slunk across the room, and leaped onto my housemate's lap. From there, she eyed me with deep suspicion.

"I don't think she likes this trick," my housemate said.

Baffled, I retrieved my manual on dog behavior while dialing the number for a local dog trainer.

I'm kidding. That would be the logical move. What I really did was post a joke on Facebook about my dog failing to distinguish a gun from a finger.

After a few silly comments and "likes," a friend piped up as the voice of reason. "She probably thinks you're saying 'bad,' since she doesn't know the word 'bang.'"


And duh.

I raced back to the living room and switched tactics. "Bindi sit!" I made the finger-pistol again. "Pow!"

I toppled her over with one hand and held her in the play-dead position. No whimpering. No tail-tucking. I let her back up and tried again.


And just like that, my dog got the trick.

Considering what I do for a living, you'd think I might be smarter about choosing my words carefully. I'm a slow learner sometimes, I suppose. Thankfully, my dog isn't.

In case you want evidence, here's a ten-second video of Bindi executing her trick. Feel free to applaud and praise, or just share an instance when you realized the value of choosing your words carefully:

Friday, February 17, 2012

What makes me drool

If you’ve read Making Waves, you probably have an inkling I’m rather fond of food. I drooled every time I wrote about one of Cookie’s gourmet meals.

If you’ve read the first episode of my new “active fiction” title from Coliloquy, you know Getting Dumped seals the deal. It’s true, I am a food whore.

Many of the dishes described in Getting Dumped are real menu items from my personal repertoire. For those who’ve been asking, here’s one of my favorites described in the story:

Cranberry Pork Roast in the Crockpot

  • 2-3 pound pork roast (I buy the three-packs at Costco and freeze ‘em)
  • 1 16-ounce can of whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 tsp stone ground mustard
  • ¾ cup orange juice (I’ve also used cranberry or apple in a pinch)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground orange peel (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Throw the roast in your Crockpot. Mix up all the other crap and dump it over the roast. Turn your Crockpot on low and retreat to the bedroom with someone naked to spend the next eight or nine hours doing something more fun than cooking.

Or go to work. Whatever.

Come home, stab the roast with a fork, and pull it out of the pot. Don’t be surprised if it shreds to pieces because it’s so tender. If the liquid left in your Crockpot is bubbling a bit, mix up about a tablespoon of cornstarch and a tablespoon of water until the cornstarch is all dissolved. You can use flour if you prefer, but mix it in a separate dish or you’ll make a gloppy mess. When the mixture is pasty, dump it in the bubbling liquid.

If your liquid wasn’t bubbling to start with, make it bubble. Like in a saucepan, not in your hot tub. That would be weird. Then add the cornstarch or flour mix. The object is to thicken it up so it’s a nice, tasty sauce.

When you’ve got that ready, shred your pork with a couple forks and throw it back in t he sauce. Serve. It’s terrific with rosemary garlic mashed potatoes and a nice salad.

Bon Appétit!

Oh, and the first episode of Getting Dumped is on sale at Amazon for $1.99 right now. Snag it while it’s cheap!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

4 ways to bounce back when your confidence takes a beating

Whether you're a writer, a botanist, or a lag screwer, one thing is certain – there will be times your confidence in your ability to do the job is so shaken, it could double as a dirty martini.

As much as I enjoy that beverage (and not just for the name), finding myself in a confidence-shaken state is no fun at all. In case you've landed there yourself, here are a few tricks I've found for getting the mojo back:

Lick your...wounds
Whether you're hit with a bad review as an author, or a bad case of chlamydia as an escort, chances are you won't feel like getting back in the saddle right away. Don't. You need time to process, to heal, to formulate a plan, and to drink a few medicinal sips of that dirty martini. It's a vital part of the process to make time for these things, so don't feel guilty about it.

Punch something
You can do this literally (though I suggest choosing your pillow over a steel door) or you can do it figuratively (a good bitch session with a pack of girlfriends is priceless). Either way, give yourself a chance to cycle through the emotions of the setback. While I don't advise calling your boss or editor at 3 a.m. to sob that he ruined your life, it can be therapeutic to vent to a pal with a sympathetic ear. If you'd prefer to keep the harsh words to yourself, there are plenty of physical ways to blow off some steam. Hit the batting cages, buy a voodoo doll, or play Whac-A-Mole at your local video arcade (my personal favorite).

Do something you're great at
It's important to start building your confidence up again, which means you shouldn't go near the project that set you back in the first place. Think of a task you know you perform exceptionally well and do it. For some of you, this may mean finding a willing partner and retreating to the privacy of your home. A recent setback for me in the writing realm had me doing the "I suck" tango (I swear that's not a reference to the previous sentence). Instead of continuing to fling myself at the same wall, I switched gears – and genres – and poured my energy into a different project. Making a deliberate choice to focus on a type of writing I feel more skilled at has been slowly rebuilding my confidence, not to mention making me laugh (which is another crucial part of the process).

Find friends to stroke your...ego
Long before I ever had a book deal, I went through a string of bad rejections. Determined to keep moving forward, I wrote a new manuscript. My critique partners and beta readers were aware of the rejections, and though I never asked any of them to go easy on me, something shifted in that next round of feedback. Instead of focusing their criticisms on things that didn't work for them, every single reader went out of her way to flag elements of the story that did work. Not only did it give me a much-needed confidence boost, it helped me pinpoint what I was doing well so I could keep doing more of it.

What are your favorite strategies for rebuilding your confidence after it's been shaken? Please share!

And feel free to belly up to my imaginary bar for that dirty martini. Extra olives?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The small things that add up to love

I opted not to play to the romance author cliché yesterday when I refrained from posting something romancy for Valentine’s Day.

That move – coupled with my reference to some “challenging stuff” in yesterday’s post – apparently caused some of you to fret that my gentleman friend got smart and fled for the hills chose to end our romantic liaison. The concerned tweets and emails I got from blog readers touched me almost as much as he did yesterday, which is impressive.

For the record, he’s still very much a part of my life because I chained him to my headboard and he can’t escape.

I woke up Valentine’s morning and rolled over to gaze at one of my favorite parts of his body.

Knock it off, perverts – I’m talking about his shoulders.

I could study those shoulders for hours. Hell, I have studied those shoulders for hours, tracing their contours, counting the freckles, tickling them with my eyelashes to see if he’ll wake up.

(For the record, he won’t. I could drive a front-end loader over his head and he wouldn’t wake up. It’s another thing I find charming about him, since I never fret I’ll wake him with my reading lamp at 3 a.m.)

I’ve been working on the next episode of Getting Dumped in recent weeks. For those who haven’t read it yet, it’s an “interactive fiction” title with choice points that allow readers to pick among potential love interests for the heroine.

Sort of a choose-your-own-adventure with dump trucks and steamy groping.

I originally wrote the story four years ago, but rewrote it several times after that based on editorial suggestions and the eventual choose-your-own-adventure twist. 

The upside of working on a novel over a long period of time is that I know the characters intimately. While crafting scenes for two of the love interests on Monday, I didn’t have to pause and mull what Pete might do to comfort JJ in her time of need. 

He’d take her out for cheesecake – duh – because she always cares for others with food, and it's time someone did the same for her.

I didn’t need to spend time considering what gesture Collin might make to completely curl JJ’s toes.

He’d smile – duh – because he does it so rarely that she knows it means something when it happens.

It’s the little gestures, personality quirks, and physical traits that make characters unique and charming and relatable either for readers or in real life.

The fact that my gentleman friend sings while he works, crinkles his eyes when he smiles, and engulfs me in the biggest, warmest bear hugs I’ve ever known are all the little things that routinely charm the socks off me.

And maybe a few other articles of clothing as well.

What are the little physical features or personality quirks you find most endearing in your favorite book characters or human companions? Please share!

And rest assured, my Valentine’s Day was delightful. Quite.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The best words in the English language

There's been some challenging stuff happening in my life lately. I can't go into details, but I do think we should have a group hug and maybe pat each other's butts a bit in case you're going through some rough stuff, too.

What am I saying? Butt pats feel good even if there's no rough stuff.

And now I've accidentally steered this blog post to the subject of spanking, which is really not where I meant to go. Blame my inner romance author, who is a brazen hussy with no sense of decorum.

What I really wanted to talk about is an email I got the other day from my parents. They were fulfilling their duty as the best parents on the planet by offering kind words of encouragement and support. "Just know," they wrote, "we've got your back."

Something about that phrase dissolved me into a sniveling, sentimental baby. I posted on Facebook declaring those to be the best words in the English language.

I still think that's true, though my less sentimental self might find other phrases equally worthy of admiration. My upcoming romantic comedy, Believe it or Not, has a love scene that spans nearly 20 pages. I had a great time writing it, and I'll admit there are a few groupings of words that make me deliciously happy in a different way. (Drew: I love the way you say my name. Violet: So make me scream it.)

Other phrases that could be contenders for my favorite words in the English language:
  • There's free wine and food at the party.
  • Why don't you go read a book while I clean the house?
  • Here's a check we weren't expecting!
  • Want a massage?
  • You're so hot you melt the elastic in my underwear.
The jury might still be out on that last one. What are some of your favorite words in the English language? Please share!

And line up over there for the extra hugs and butt pats. This could take awhile.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On being too stupid to live

One of the most common annoyances readers cite about the romance genre is the TSTL heroine.

For those unversed in the (also annoying) acronyms used by romance writers, that's short for Too Stupid to Live.

You've met the TSTL heroine. She's the one who marches unarmed into a dark basement to investigate mysterious chainsaw noises. You'll find her stomping her pretty little foot in a jealous huff after spotting the hero embracing a woman who shares his hair and eye color on the weekend his sister is slated to visit.

I work hard at never writing TSTL heroines, and count on critique partners and beta readers to ensure my heroines remain at an IQ level higher than the average lichen. But I'll admit I've had the occasional To Stupid to Live moments of my own.

When I was younger, I used to skim newspaper classifieds for entertainment. People would lump a variety of items into a single ad, hocking a 1974 Oldsmobile, a litter of kittens, and a 10 pound bag of freeze dried brine shrimp eggs all in the same ad.
I never realized how
phallic the oboe is
until I stuck this pic on
my blog. You'll never
blow one the same way

Still, it seemed odd to me that so many people were selling that sonorous, double-reed musical instrument, the oboe. Not only were they selling them, they were repeatedly misspelling the name by omitting the "e" on the end.

When I told a friend I'd like to play the oboe and explained my reason for thinking I could get a good deal on one, she stared at me like I had a ham sandwich protruding from my nostril.

"That's OBO, you idiot," she said sweetly. "It's short for Or Best Offer."


I'd like to blame the misunderstanding on youth and inexperience, but that wouldn't explain why I did something similar only a few weeks ago. Since I adore cooking, my brother and his girlfriend recently sent me a subscription to a Rachael Ray magazine packed full of recipes. I began skimming at once, perplexed to see how many of them called for a mysterious ingredient, EVOO.

For weeks, I kept reminding myself to google the word. I assumed it was a brand name for some sort of seasoning Rachael was pitching, and wondered what I could use instead. From context clues, I decided olive oil might be a fair substitution.

It wasn't until I pulled the bottle out of the cupboard that it clicked for me.

EVOO = Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

So those are a few of my TSTL moments. Got any of your own to share? Please do, so I know I'm not alone! And if you're one of those annoying people who never does anything stupid, I'd love to hear about your experiences reading TSTL characters. What are some things that really annoy the snot out of you? Please share!

Friday, February 10, 2012

On heavy breathing & good reviews

I used to think authors were full of crap when they whined about the pressure they feel after a debut novel.

Will the next book get panned? Will readers sneer and insist the first was better? Will groups of roving literary bullies find me in a dark alley and snap my bra and stick ballpoint pens in my eyeballs and light me on fire while chanting "you suck, one hit wonder!"?

It's true – these are the things new authors worry about.

That's why I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief right now (insert heaving bosom joke here).

Early reviews are trickling in for my second romantic comedy, Believe it or Not, which hits shelves in early March. Lucky for me, reviewers have been saying such nice things, I start bawling every time I read what they've written.

Here's a sampling:

From Booklist magazine (a starred review!):
Mar 2012. 384 p. Sourcebooks/Casablanca, paperback, $6.99. (9781402257186).
Fenske’s second romance, after Making Waves (2011), mixes laugh-out-loud funny scenes with a charming pair bent on not becoming a couple. When psychic Moonbeam breaks her pelvis and a number of other bones and lands in the hospital, her daughter, accountant Violet (named for her eye color), returns from Portland, Maine, to her hometown of Portland, Oregon, to take over the psychic-reading business until her mother recovers. There she meets Drew, who owns and runs a bar that features male strippers a couple of nights a week. Although the air ignites when Violet and Drew are together, they agree they aren’t each other’s type. This is just as well since Violet is struggling to give psychic readings and to balance her long-distance accounting clients. Drew, on the other hand, thinks he is perfectly fine dating bimbos, even though he has become somewhat bored with his life. Snappy, endearing dialogue and often hilarious situations unite the couple, and Fenske proves to be a romance author worthy of a loyal following. — Pat Henshaw

RT Book Reviews magazine (a 4.5 star review, their highest score!):
Genre: Contemporary Romance, General Contemporary Romance
Sensuality: HOT
Fenske hits all the right humor notes without teetering into the pit of slapstick in her lighthearted book of strippers, psychics, free spirits and an accountant. She handles the cast of oddball characters well, making them sympathetic, funny and very real. Violet has always been embarrassed by her mother’s wackiness, but she doesn’t hesitate to fly across the country when her mom is injured. Now she is stuck running her mom’s psychic studio, even though she doesn’t believe in it. Next door is a bar run by Drew, who’s hotter than the male strippers he hires. He quickly reconsiders his ongoing battle with Miss Moonbeam after meeting her seriously sexy daughter. As Drew and Violet fight their sexual attraction, they can’t seem to stay out of each other’s lives, especially when the businesses are threatened and Violet’s “psychic powers” put the wrong guy in jail. (SOURCEBOOKS, Mar., 352 pp., $6.99) Reviewed By: M.H. Morrison

Publisher's Weekly:
Fenske’s sophomore effort (after Making Waves) is an extended meet-cute scenario, with an entertainingly quirky cast that makes for fine escapist reading as long as the reader is willing to exert a stronger than normal suspension of disbelief. When popular psychic Moonbeam is hospitalized, her accountant daughter, Violet, reluctantly steps in to run the shop. Neighboring bar owner Drew Watson has found success by bringing in male exotic dancers. Despite Violet’s protestations about preferring life in Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore.; her attempts to reciprocate the romantic attentions of Moonbeam’s orthopedic surgeon; and Drew’s stated skepticism of psychic powers and disinterest in dating a type-A woman, they immediately generate a great deal of sexual tension, plus Drew keeps “randomly” selecting songs that answer Violet’s clients’ questions. Are circumstances conspiring to bring them together or drive them apart? Sexually charged dialogue and steamy make-out scenes will keep readers turning the pages to discover the answer. Agent: Michelle Wolfson, Wolfson Literary Agency. (Mar.)


There's another awesome review at The Last Word blog, which is so beautifully thorough and detailed, I'd rather send you there to read it than regurgitate the whole thing on my blog.

So that's what has me feeling oh-so-relieved on this Friday morning. How about you? Anything giving you a reason to wipe the sweat from your brow and say, "Yes, YES, YES!"

Please share!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The joys and burdens of being the office pervert

When I started my day job doing marketing/PR for my city's tourism bureau over a year ago, they knew up front about my life as a romance author.

The first thing they saw when they visited my blog the day I interviewed was a post titled "My hole got plugged, so my jugs aren't full." Suffice it to say, they know what I'm about and they're OK with it.

It didn't take long for me to establish myself as the office pervert. It happened by accident during a discussion about brochures to educate tourists on local activities.

"We could group kayaking, whitewater rafting, standup paddleboarding, and canoeing under the same heading," someone suggested.

"Sure, we could just title it Watersports," another staffer agreed.

I started laughing, assuming she'd said it to be humorous. Everyone turned and stared at me. "What's so funny?"

I stopped laughing. "You're joking, right?"

"About what?"

I cleared my throat. "Watersports? You want to have a brochure in the lobby encouraging people to pee on each other for sexual pleasure?"

They looked at me like I'd just yanked off the boss's underwear and put it on my head. It was then I realized I was the only one familiar with the filthy slang term.

Just to prove I wasn't making it up, I googled "watersports slang" and sent the link to the team. That was my first lesson in, "let's not put anything in office email we wouldn't want appearing in a city audit."

I tried to be good after that, keeping snickers to a minimum even when someone declared in a meeting, "this recession has been hard on all of us."

But I was forced to trot out the pervert card again when I spotted a colleague's Facebook post on the company page promoting a local ice skating rink. "Who wants to snowball with me?" she wrote, obviously trying to add a little personal flair to the post.

I assume snowball is some sort of ice skating trick. I also assume the perverts reading the post would know the other definition of the term. The meaning so filthy, I'm not going to explain it here, nor am I going to encourage you to google it unless you're safe at home and free from risk your loved ones will analyze your browser history.

Let's just say it isn't something my colleague would wish to offer as a service in a public forum.

I tried to explain, but that didn't seem like a conversation we should have in an office environment. "Just go home tonight and google snowball sexual slang," I told her. "And keep an eye on the Facebook post in case the perverts take the bait."

I went a few more months with my pervert card tucked safely in my wallet. I was doing pretty well until our director of sales and sports development announced we're hosting a national fly fishing championship and requested my help with the press release yesterday.

"Tell me a little more about the sport," I emailed. "How is it scored?"

"It's measured, and total inches gives you your ranking," he explained in a reply message. "If you have the highest number of inches on a section, you get first place and/or 1 point."

I couldn't resist. "This is the filthiest email I’ve gotten all week," I wrote back. "Nice work."

When we passed in the hall, he just shook his head. "Only you would think that."

It's safe to say that was my proudest moment at work.

How about you? Do you have particular reputation in your place of business? Is it something you'd be ashamed to tell your mother? Please share!

I'll be busy snickering over another email about fly fishing's measurement-based scoring system. Apparently, it's a hands-on process.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Things making me smile

I've tried before to do Wordless Wednesday posts, but I always seem to screw it up with....well, words.

Like these ones.

Or these ones.

No matter, here are a few things that have made me smile in the last couple weeks:

Our local newspaper recently ran an article about a couple that's spent a lifetime traveling the world's canals. "Check out this crazy article in the paper," declared my gentleman friend as he covered the "c" with his thumb. Now you see why I'm nuts about him?

I do a lot of chats with book clubs via Skype, telephone conference, or even in person if the group lives nearby. After I had the pleasure of Skype chatting with this wonderful bunch of Making Waves fans in Ohio, they were kind enough to send me this photo. If you happen to have a book club of your own, give me a shout if you'd like to chat about Making Waves, Getting Dumped, or Believe it or Not.

December is crazy at the day job, so we had our holiday party in late-January. The boss didn't want anyone driving after our alcohol-infused starlight snowshoe tour, so he kindly arranged lodging in a fancy downtown hotel. My gentleman friend and I ordered breakfast in bed the next morning, and the instant I opened the door for the room service attendant, I realized I should have tidied a bit first.

A blog reader snapped this photo and emailed it to me, knowing the innuendo would make me giggle. It did. It definitely did!

 So what's been making YOU smile lately? Please share!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not safe for work....but you totally want to watch this!

For a few weeks now, I've been gushing about Coliloquy, the publisher that just released my quirky romantic caper, Getting Dumped, as one of their first "interactive fiction" titles.

When my agent first called me about getting involved with something so new and unique, well, different, I'll admit it – I didn't totally understand. Choose-your-own-adventure? For grownups? On Kindle? Well, OK...maybe.

It wasn't until I had a chance to talk with Coliloquy co-founder Lisa Rutherford that I totally got it.

And holy cow, you'd better believe I signed that contract within hours.

Since I'm guessing some of you might still be hazy on the concept, I wanted to share a video of the amazing Lisa Rutherford speaking at a conference and offering a demo of how different types of interactive fiction can work. It's an awesome overview not only of the interactive fiction concept, but of why Coliloquy is so incredible I just had to get involved.

I'll warn you there might be a tiny smidge of risque language right near the end, so consider this not safe for work.

But you should definitely check it out when you aren't surrounded by co-workers or toddlers or monkeys easily offended by slang terms for female genitalia. I promise it'll get you as jazzed about interactive fiction as everyone else seems to be.

Here's the link (with a little intro text to set things up, just so you know you won't go straight to the video).

Whaddya think? Exciting, huh?

And admit it....are you as delighted as I am by the idea of customized erotica? I think I need to lie down now.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A mouthful of something nasty

Though I've been living with a collection of male housemates for nearly a year now, there are still mornings I stumble downstairs and yelp at the sight of three grown men lounging at my eating bar.

One glance into our shared refrigerator is enough to remind me just how different my life has become. The freezer is packed with fish sticks and frozen french fries. The ratio of beer to milk is generally 10 to 1. The housemate who hails from Louisiana makes sure we have two metric tons of butter on hand at all times.

We share staple items like flour, milk, and eggs, but have a hands-off respect for special purchases like wine or meat or candy.

At least until someone gets hungry. Then all bets are off.

"What's in that Styrofoam box in the freezer?" one of the housemates asked the other night. "It tastes awful."

"Styrofoam box?" I asked.

"Yeah. It looks like candy but it doesn't taste good."

I stared at him, dumbfounded. "Tell me you didn't eat the bloodworms."


"The little frozen cubes in the foil packet?"

He nodded. "Yeah, that's it. What are bloodworms?"

"They're a form of mosquito larva."

He frowned, looking a little green. "Why do you have mosquito larva in the freezer?"

"They're for the fish! In the aquarium? Haven't you watched me feed them pretty much every night? Why on earth would you eat that?"

He shrugged. "I thought it was chocolate."

"Chocolate that looks like hunks of frozen blood?"

It's likely there was beer involved. Which reminds me, we're running low. What's the grossest thing you've ever eaten, either by accident or on purpose? Please share!

And I'll be happy to share my chocolate anytime.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What's so funny?

A common question people throw at me in interviews is how I ended up writing comedy.

It's sometimes asked with the same tone you'd use to inquire how someone ended up living in the back of a Subaru eating Spam and carrying on conversations with a sock puppet named Leroy.

I usually explain that I come from a family of people with ridiculously clever senses of humor, and that if you lined us all up from funniest to least funny, I'd be somewhere near the tail end near the potted fern. It's true most members of my family are terrific comics, but I seldom touch on why.

I'm pretty sure it boils down to the fact that my mom has the best laugh in the whole world.

I won't even try to describe it because there's no way to do it justice. Suffice it to say, it's equal parts unfettered joy and holycowIthinkshemightpeeherpants.

Getting my mom to laugh like that became a family mission from the time my brother and I were still telling knock-knock jokes with no punchline. Even today, there's an unspoken competition among family members for who can make my mother laugh 'til her mascara runs.

With a goal like that, it's no wonder I grew up to write romantic comedy.

What is it about some people's laughter that makes it the vocal equivalent of joy-juice for everyone within a 200-yard radius? I was thinking about this a few mornings ago when one of the housemates and I were standing in the kitchen contemplating whether turning on lights and making toast were really worth the effort.

From the other side of the wall, we heard the sound of gut-splitting laughter. It was like instant sunshine in our dark little kitchen and we both just stood there listening to my gentleman friend howl.

My housemate grinned. "He has the best laugh."

I smiled back, a little surprised by the observation. "That's the reason I hang out with him."

He raised an eyebrow at me.

"One of the reasons," I amended. "But an important one."

Is there someone in your life whose laughter has the ability to totally make your day? On the flip-side, have you ever had to force yourself not to snicker at someone with a particularly unusual laugh? Please share!

Oh, and in case you're wondering what prompted my gentleman friend's maniacal laughter that morning, he was watching videos at This is one of his recent favorites:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Good questions from you guys; great answers from Coliloquy

It’s been two weeks since Coliloquy launched my new “active fiction” title, Getting Dumped. We’ve been thrilled to bits with the media buzz, reader feedback, and shirtless men appearing on the doorsteps of all Coliloquy authors to offer free housecleaning services.

Wait, not everyone got the shirtless men?

No matter, I’ve been fielding quite a few questions about Coliloquy and their groundbreaking new “choose your own adventure” approach to reading. The powers-that-be (who are so powerful they kill superheroes with their minds) kindly agreed to provide answers. Here’s the inside scoop straight from the Coliloquy crew:

Q: What do you mean by “active fiction?”
A: Most books are offered as static content – they’re written, published, and purchased by readers who don’t have much interaction with the story. But Coliloquy offers books as active content applications. That means authors and readers get to interact with the stories through a bunch of different mechanics, including multiple “what if” storylines and choice points. You can choose one path through the story and then change courses and see how another version turns out. Authors get to see reader choices and data, which allows them to use that feedback to shape the next episode of the story.

Q: Do I need to have a Kindle, or can I read Coliloquy titles on my Nook, my iPad, the Kindle software on my phone, or the mildew patterns on my shower curtain?
A: For initial launch, Coliloquy focused on the heaviest users and largest market share by starting with Amazon, so right now, titles are only available on Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle DX and Kindle Keyboard devices. However, more platforms will be available in the near future. Stay tuned!

Q: I live in Australia (or Canada or the UK or Uranus). Can I buy Coliloquy titles for myself or as a gift for a friend in the US?
A: Alas, Amazon doesn’t allow readers outside the US to purchase Coliloquy titles for themselves or for others just yet, but we hope to have that capability in the future. And we’re very sorry about Uranus.

Q: I devoured the first episode of Getting Dumped, only to discover that bitch of an author left me hanging. What gives?
A: The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode is intentional because Tawna is an evil hussy like that. We’ve chained her to her desk where she’s being forced by a team of rabid monkeys to type with one hand while using the other hand to skim data on the choices readers make in the first episode. Since she doesn’t have a free hand for anything else, she’s understandably frustrated.

Q: How will I know when the next episode is available?
A: Tawna will communicate that information to you telepathically. In case that fails, our friends at Amazon are going to let you know.

Q: Is there someplace I can find recipes for the amazing food described in Getting Dumped?
A: At the moment, the recipes are buried deep in the recesses of Tawna’s brain, which is a scary place to be. We’re attempting to extract them with a bent coat hanger and a jar of grape jelly, so watch this blog for future details.

Q: Admit it, is Tawna really your favorite among the Coliloquy authors?
A: Well, if you promise not to tell anyone…

It’s possible I made up that last one.

It’s also possible I’ve missed a question or two you guys might have about Coliloquy, Getting Dumped, or the price of a lap dance at your local landfill. Is there anything else you need to know? Ask away! 

Woohooo! We just got word that Amazon is running a special promotion for Coliloquy titles. For a limited time, you can nab Getting Dumped for only $1.99. Yay!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guess where I am?

With the official release of Believe it or Not less than a month away, I'm gearing up for another "virtual book tour."

That means I'll once again be spreading my blog seed far and wide on sites other than this one.

I learned some valuable lessons on the last round. For one, it's not physically possible for me to write more than seven blog posts in a day. For another, I can drink a whole lot more Chianti than you might imagine.

This time around, I'll be smarter about using my own blog to direct readers to posts I've written elsewhere. For instance, I just wrote a post at Romancing the Genres talking about where love scenes come from. You can read it here.

I promise it'll be a whole lot more entertaining than reading another paragraph of excuses for why I didn't write a creative post here today.

Visit me over there, say hello, and learn all about what my gentleman friend did to make me squirm beneath the covers.