Friday, March 30, 2012

You get free books, I get a Turkish prison stay

Between all the voting for the Sourcebooks #ebookbracket competition and the voting we've had going for our little caption contest, I'm feeling a bit like a politician. Maybe I should do something inappropriate with a cigar.

Though you still have 'til 1 p.m. CST Friday to tweet your votes for Making Waves in the #ebookbracket challenge on Twitter, now's the time to announce the winner in our caption contest.

Drumroll please?

Congratulations to Jennie Shaw, who did such an impressive job campaigning for votes that I'm a little concerned for her health. Nice work, Jennie! Send your snail mail address to me at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com, and I'll hook you up with your prize pack that includes signed copies of Believe it or Not and Making Waves, as well as a whole buncha bookmarks.

I feel a little bad sending our second-place competitor away with nothing, and since Rhonda Hopkins got pretty darn close with her vote collection, I'd like to offer her the choice of a signed copy of Making Waves or a signed copy of Believe it or Not. Take yer pick, Rhonda, and email me with your snail mail address. I'll even throw in a few bookmarks for good measure (and if any of the other three competitors want bookmarks, shoot me your email as well!)

Thanks so much to all of you who voted, submitted entries, or just lurked around and snickered. That was fun!

On an unrelated note, I just learned Turkish rights have been sold for both Believe it or Not and Making Waves. I'm awaiting word on whether that comes with a free flight to Turkey and a complimentary day at a luxury Turkish bath, but I'd settle for a couple hours in a Turkish prison with three strapping young men and a bottle of good wine. 

Harika bir haber, teşekkür ederiz!

That either means "great news, thank you!" or "please hold my wombat while I admire the handcuffs." Whatever.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I could have posted this from jail

The problem with prepping for your day in a darkened bathroom is that you end up brushing your teeth with zit cream.

I really wish I was joking.

I normally write blog posts the night before and set them to go live the next morning so I'm not scrambling to do it when I wake up. The fact that I failed to do so last night can be attributed to an evening spent getting a tattoo and bailing a friend out of jail.

I really wish I was joking about one of those things, and fortunately, it isn't the tattoo. I'm thinking I should probably join a gang next, so if any of you have recommendations, I'm all ears.

Luckily, I woke this morning to find an awesome message from the Sourcebooks publicist. It gives me the perfect excuse for a blog post, so I'm sharing it here:
Good Morning Authors!
I’m excited to tell you that you are in the eBook Bracket Challenge Championship Round—congrats! So it’s time to rally your fans for another day and a half—this round ends at NOON on March 30 (we have to end it a little bit early, so we can alert our e-Retailer partners ASAP about the change in price for April 3). As with the last round, the eBook Bracket page will be updated right at 9am, and I have a tweet going out to get things started at 9, too, but please wait until 9:03ish to tweet it out to your readers!
The winner will be announced via Twitter, updated on the eBook Bracket landing page, and on the Sourcebooks Buzz blog at 5pm CST. Good luck to you both!
Thank you very much for all of your tweeting over the last week! I think this has been a lot of fun and a great way to promote your backlist titles.
I'm thrilled to bits, but I can't take credit for any of it. You guys with your #ebookbracket tweeting over the last four days have made it all possible, so THANK YOU!

As you just read, we've got another 36 hours to go, and a good shot at having Making Waves voted in as the title to be priced for 99-cents April 3-9. Those of you who've been kind enough to tweet a time or two, please, pretty please, fire off a couple more using the hashtag #ebookbracket, my twitter handle (@tawnafenke) and a vote for Making Waves. I sure do appreciate it!

And in case this is an incentive to any of you, I pledge to show you my new tattoo on Monday if we win the #ebookbracket challenge. In the meantime, feel free to guess what it is and where it is.

And thanks again for all your support!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On success, disappointment, and star-nosed moles

Many moons ago when I was a young and innocent pup, I thought a book deal would mean the end of writing-related disappointments.

My fantasy may have also included confetti and foot rubs from George Clooney, and it’s possible I cleared storage space in my garage for fan mail.

Fast forward a decade or so, I’ve learned some lessons along the way (not the least of which is that you should buy D-batteries in bulk before hosting a Pure Romance party, but I digress).

My road to publication was a bumpy one, and I’d be lying if I claimed everything’s been smooth sailing since then. Some setbacks I can’t really discuss publicly, but others I can share (albeit, with a touch of shame – an unfamiliar emotion for me, but I digress again).

The RITA awards are the Romance Writers of America equivalent of the Oscars. My publisher sent Making Waves for consideration, and though I tried not to think about it, I wanted urgently, desperately to be a finalist. I mentioned it to almost no one, and avoided watching the calendar for the date they pledged to notify contestants.

The date was Monday. Sadly, my name didn’t appear on the list of finalists.

It didn’t crush me. It didn’t ruin my day. It didn’t send me weeping into my closet where I huddled in the dark eating Girl Scout cookies and rocking back and forth humming “I’m a Little Teapot.”

Still, I’ll confess I felt stung for an instant.

Then I got mad at myself for feeling stung, because AREYOUKIDDINGMEBITCH?

Once I stopped slamming my head on my desk, I tallied my good fortune. I have my health. I have amazing friends and family, and the best agent on the planet. I have an incredible gentleman friend who makes me smile for reasons that don’t all involve being naked. I’ve published three books to embarrassingly positive reviews, including a nomination for “Contemporary Romance of the Year” from the RT Book Reviews 2011 Reviewers Choice Awards.

I’m damn lucky, and I know it.

But does that mean I’m not allowed to feel tinges of disappointment over setbacks? I’m not sure.

A critique partner once gave me a terrific piece of advice:

Someone else’s success does not detract from yours.

That’s absolutely correct, and something I remind myself whenever the green-eyed monster appears.

And yet…and yet…sometimes, that’s not entirely true.

There can only be a limited number of RITA finalists, and if every single contender in my category was eaten by a star-nosed mole, I would be the winner. The fact that my competitors all survived mole attacks means they emerged victorious and I….well, I didn’t get eaten by a mole. That’s something.

Hello, I'm a star-nosed mole.
Here’s something else: I told you Monday about the friendly Twitter competition my publisher arranged using the #ebookbracket hashtag and a plea for readers to vote which book will be sale-priced for 99-cents in early April.

For the first round, eight of us were paired off by genre. My competitor in the Contemporary category was an amazing author with USA Today bestseller status, two million books in print in more than 20 countries, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals, a Bookseller’s Best win, and five RITA nominations – one of which she nabbed Monday morning.

In other words, she rocks (and I can attest to that personally since I've read and loved her books).

The #ebookbracket challenge from Sourcebooks.
Please keep voting for Making Waves!

But through some bizarre stroke of good fortune, I managed to land more Twitter votes in our publisher’s #ebookbracket challenge. That sent me through to the final four (which ends March 28 at 4 p.m. CST, and you can vote as many times as you want, so please, pretty please, tweet a vote for Making Waves using the hashtag #ebookbracket and my Twitter handle, @tawnafenske…er, I digress again).

While I doubt my competitor would trade my victory for hers, there’s really no point in comparing. I had a flutter of success, and I’m happy about it. Period.

That stands by itself no matter what other successes or failures might come to any of us. For me, it’s important to celebrate my own victories, while graciously tipping my hat to the ones that go to other people.

Do you pay much attention to the successes and failures of others? How does that impact your overall attitude about yourself? Do you think someone is more or less entitled to feel disappointed, depending on the successes he/she has? Please share!

And please, pretty please, tweet your little hearts out in the #ebookbracket challenge (a link to complete rules can be found here). Thanks a ton for your support so far!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Caption contest top 5: Now it's your turn to vote!

Holy cow! When I asked you guys to write a caption for a chance to win a prize, you took me seriously!

Or humorously, depending on how you look at it.

I had a tough time picking five finalists, but with a little help from my gentleman friend (and perhaps a pet or two) we managed to narrow it down.

Now, it's your turn to pick a winner. Post your vote in the comments by 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, March 29. If your entry is one of the five finalists shown here, feel free to lobby for votes via Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, or by offering sexual favors to other readers by explaining clearly and professionally why you deserve to win.

The winner will receive:

  1. A signed copy of Making Waves
  2. A signed copy of Believe it or Not
  3. A dozen handy bookmarks emblazoned with all sorts of fun details about both books.
Now here are the entries:

Now you see why I had trouble picking! Aren't those awesome?

Choose your favorite and cast your vote in the comments. And thanks to everyone who participated. You guys rock!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Awkward interview questions & a plea for tweets

Five years ago when I interviewed for a position as a marketing director, the company owner asked me to tell a joke. Eschewing rules that say never to discuss sex or politics in a job interview, I told a dirty joke with a political twist.

They hired me the same day.

That incident stayed at the top of my "weirdest interview question" list until 18 months ago when I applied for my current day job. Things were winding down in my second interview, when the CEO threw me for a loop.

"Are you a competitive person?"

It seemed like a trick question. Did they want me to be competitive because it indicates a certain drive to succeed, or would a lack of competitive nature make for a better fit in a team environment?

I settled for a truthful answer: "I have a natural urge to work hard and be my best, but I don't feel the need to defeat anyone else to achieve that."

Though I ended up getting the job, I'm still perplexed by the question. Honestly, the word "competitive" has a negative connotation in my mind. It conjures images of office-mates elbowing each other in the groin to get to the copy machine.

But I do want to succeed, both in the day job realm and in my writing career.

Which is why I feel a little awkward asking the Twitter users among you to vote for me in a special eBook contest organized by my publisher. The complete contest rules are here, including a breakdown of dates and brackets and who I'll be competing against in this friendly challenge.

If you're lazy like me and don't feel like reading the details, the gist of it is that you need to tweet using the hashtag #ebookbracket and a message that you want to vote for Making Waves. If you throw my Twitter handle into the mix (@tawnafenske) that would be even more awesome.

The author who racks up the most votes will have the eBook version of his/her title priced at 99-cents the first week in April.

On the surface, it seems a little silly. Why would I care if my book goes on sale? Aside from the fact that I love being cheap and easy, it's a great way to gain exposure. Readers are more willing to take a gamble on a sale-priced book from an author they don't know. If they like Making Waves, there's a good chance they'll try my other titles, Believe it or Not and Getting Dumped).

So if you have a Twitter account and a couple minutes to spare, would you mind tweeting your vote for Making Waves using the #ebookbracket hashtag? Thank you!

In the meantime, what's the most awkward interview question you've ever faced? How did you handle it? Please share!

I'll leave you with the best interview exchange I've ever heard about (which may or may not be an urban legend, but I still enjoy repeating it because it always makes me laugh):

Interviewer: How often do you masturbate?

Interviewee: Not as often as I deserve.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Write a caption, win an awesome prize pack!

Sunday morning, I was scrambling frantically to pack for a three-day conference. When I dashed through the office to grab my laptop, I was surprised to discover it already in use:

Those of you who've read Getting Dumped know Blue Cat is a character in the story. Those who've read this blog for awhile know he's my real-life pet, and that his massive size makes him a less-than-ideal guest on my laptop. Not only had he typed an impressive string of letters with his hefty gut, he'd knocked my full cup of water to the floor.

Luckily, the floor is tile and the cup is silicone (if you have pets or children and don't own a cupboard full of Silipints, go buy some now. Seriously).

Suffice it to say, I wasn't keen on having an 18-pound cat decide my laptop is his new favorite nap spot.

Which is why I was doubly unimpressed to return from my lunch break yesterday to discover this:

Not one, but two cats have now decided my workspace makes a delightful hangout. I should point out that Matt the Cat looked up only briefly for this photo op, and then resumed gnawing on the arm of my office chair.

Not to be outdone, Blue Cat had his furry butthole parked squarely on a copy of Believe it or Not, while his "I'm annoyed with you" tail twitches knocked pages of my editor's notes from Getting Dumped episode #2 to the floor.

Helpful little bastards.

But there is a point to all this, which is to tell you about a contest that will allow one lucky winner to snag the following:
  1. A signed copy of Making Waves
  2. A signed copy of Believe it or Not
  3. A dozen handy bookmarks emblazoned with all sorts of fun details about both books.
You'll recall I asked you guys to come up with an idea for a contest giving away the aforementioned goodies. I perused all the entries, and was most smitten with this one:

Blogger jeanette8042 said...
You could take a funny or regular pic of your pets and the books and ask readers to make funny caption.

Splendid idea! Jeanette, send your snail mail address to tawnafenske at yahoo dot com, and I'll send you a signed copy of Believe it or Not for coming up with a good plan for the contest!

As for the rest of you, here are the rules:

Write a caption for the photo featuring Blue Cat and Matt the Cat. Post it in the comments by noon PST on Monday, March 25. On Tuesday, March 26, I'll post my top five favorites.

Then I'll open it up to you guys to vote. You'll be free to lobby for votes via Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, or by offering sexual favors to other readers by explaining clearly and professionally why you deserve to win.

I'll tally the votes after that, and will announce the winner. Sound good?

Now go forth and caption! Here's that photo again:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Does spanking count as bullying?

I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid, and began seventh grade with a hairstyle that might politely be called a pixie.

It might also be called a buzz cut.

The middle school sharks circled the first week of school, and before I knew it, kids were teasing me for looking like a boy.

As you might imagine, that novelty wore off in a hurry.

If you've met me in person in the last 20 years, you're probably snickering right now. I've grown long hair and comically big boobs (the latter, ironically, also became a source of teasing). The risk I'll be mistaken for a boy these days is about the same as the risk I'll be mistaken for a screaming hairy armadillo.

Yet there are mornings I get dressed and think, "I shouldn't wear that top, it'll make me look like a boy."

And then I go outside and slam my head in the car door until I stop being an idiot.

Jokes aside, it's staggering to me how long childhood taunting and bullying sticks with you. That's one reason I agreed to be part of writer Candace Ganger's End. It. Now. project.

You can read about her experiences with bullying, and learn how you can help here.

You can also check out this awesome video she made with some assistance from other writer pals:

My gentleman friend helped film my segments last weekend (a daunting task when I misread my required line, "end the loneliness" as "feed the lioness" and couldn't keep a straight face after that).

I was curious what his offspring knew of bullying, so I asked both of them if they'd learned anything about it in school.

They assured me they had.

"If it happens once, it's just someone being mean," explained the 10-year-old. "If it happens again, it's bullying."

They told me more about how to identify if I'm being bullied and what I should do if I encounter a bully. In the end, I felt pretty well-equipped to deal with any bullies that might come my way.

Then their dad gave me a light smack on the butt while we made dinner. I turned to the kids with a practiced look of indignation.

"Did you see that?" I demanded. "He's bullying me!"

The 10-year-old shook his head. "Not unless he spanked you yesterday, too." 

Right. Er, now might be a good time to end this conversation.

Seriously though, be sure to check out The Misadventures in Candyland to learn more about how you can stop actual bullying through the End. It. Now. project. She offers oodles of ways you can help, including Signing the petition, Downloading conversation cards about bullying, Downloading information on how to talk about bullying, Sharing the video, and much more.

Have you ever been bullied? How has it impacted you as an adult? Please share.

I'm going to go see if my gentleman friend is up for a bit of bullying.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

USA Today doesn't know I smell bad

I'm home from the conference I attended for my day job, and feeling like a well-wrung dishrag covered with bits of food and coffee grounds.

Great, now you think I smell bad.

I'm pretty sure I don't, but you might not want to sit too close, just in case.

At any rate, I'll be back to my regular blog posting schedule momentarily. In the meantime, I wanted to share a super fun interview I just did for USA Today.

I love how that makes me sound like a cool author instead of just like a worn-out marketing geek who may or may not have body odor issues.

Anyway, check out the link, and come back tomorrow when I'll be posting something fresh and new and (hopefully) not too stinky.

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, March 19, 2012

At least she didn't find the skeletons in there

I'm scheduled to spend the next three days in Portland attending a conference for the day job.

It's the first time I'm revisiting the setting of Believe it or Not since the book's release, so that's exciting.

It's also an occasion that requires me to dress like a grown-up, which isn't nearly as exciting.

Saturday night, I asked my gentleman friend's six-year-old to assist me in choosing outfits for my business trip. She had a fine time perusing the contents of my large walk-in closet before selecting the following ensemble for me to wear to a Sunday evening awards banquet:

Note the matching red shoes and perhaps slightly less matching purple bra (paired with matching purple panties, so I'll give her that one).

I'm charmed by the attention to detail and the colorful nature of the ensemble. I'm also a little perplexed to discover these things in my closet in the first place.

I acquired the skirt while on vacation in Fiji six years ago. To the best of my recollection, I haven't worn it since that summer. The top is a more recent purchase, though it hasn't emerged from the closet since last spring (partly due to the fact that unless I safety-pin the neckline, I show more cleavage than a half-price hooker).

I've cleaned my closet numerous times in the last year alone, hauling boxes and bags full of clothing to Goodwill. I always thought I was being pretty ruthless.

But it took someone else – a six-year-old, no less – wandering through my wardrobe to make me realize I'd actually missed quite a lot.

I can't think of a more perfect metaphor for why all writers need good critique partners. No matter what the age, background, or skill level of the person reading your work, he or she will always catch things you missed. Always. You can choose to disagree with the observations or ignore the feedback, but if nothing else, the input will give you a fresh look at your prose.

Or wardrobe, as the case may be. I'm half tempted to pack the outfit, just to make me smile over the next few days.

Have you ever discovered something in your closet or your writing that surprised or disturbed you? Please share!

Oh, and speaking of the Portland conference, I suspect I may be a little tied up with day job stuff for the next few days. That means posting to the blog may be a challenge, so I'm going to go ahead and extend last Friday's contest a few more days. That gives you through noon PST on Tuesday, March 20 to enter the contest by coming up with another idea for a contest.

I swear, that made sense at the time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How about YOU design the contest?

I've extended the deadline on this contest a few more days since I'm off in Portland attending a conference for the day job. Read on to win!

Seems like it's time to give away another free book, doesn't it?

I've been trying to come up with a clever idea for a contest, but between my ongoing "virtual book tour" and the migraine that knocked me on my butt earlier this week, my cleverness well is looking a little parched.

So let's try this: why don't you suggest ideas for a book giveaway contest?

Leave your best suggestions in the comments. Make it silly, make it serious . . . whatever rolls your socks up. I'm sure my agent and publicist would be most fond of ideas that help spread the word about Believe it or Not and urge others to buy the book, so I'll give double bonus points for contest proposals that keep that in mind.

I'll review the suggestions at noon PST on Sunday, March 18 noon PST on Tuesday, March 20 (note the new deadline), and will announce both the winner and contest early next week.

The person who suggests the winning contest idea will get a signed copy of Believe it or Not.

Since it seems like I oughta give something even cooler for the actual contest, let's up the stakes there and give a twin-pack of signed copies of Making Waves and Believe it or Not, plus a dozen bookmarks just so you you have something special to line your hamster cage share with friends and family.

Whaddya think? Hit me with your best contest ideas!

Just don't hit too hard. My butt's still a little sore.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What an 85-year-old food critic taught me about handling negative feedback

If you've been online anytime in the last week, you've seen the story about 85-year-old Marilyn Hagerty and her Olive Garden review.

In case you missed it while trapped in bed with a dozen exotic dancers and a gallon of coconut oil, here's the recap: Hagerty has been writing for her local paper in Grand Forks, North Dakota for 30 years, and recently crafted an earnest review of the town's new Olive Garden.

That sort of thing would ordinarily go unnoticed outside the small city of 55,000, but food snobs pounced and the review went viral. Some mocked, some defended, and Hagerty became an overnight celebrity with talk shows clamoring to interview her and people forwarding links with the feverish energy of rabbits mixing Viagra and crack.

The story charmed me for many reasons, not the least of which is this quote I saw in an article from ABC News:
"Yesterday morning the phone started ringing and messages started going up, and I had no clue what it was all about. These people were making fun of me…and then I thought, so what?" said Hagerty.

And with those final words, Marilyn Hagerty became my new hero.

Anyone who's written for public consumption – whether you're a novelist, a food critic, or the guy crafting descriptions for sex toy catalogs – knows what it's like to be hit with criticism. Though I try to avoid reading negative reviews of my books, they do pop up from time to time.

They always sting a lot more than I wish they did.

There's a fine balance every writer must strike, and it's the toughest thing in the world to do. On one hand, you desperately want people to love what you create. If you didn't care what others thought, you'd be scrawling your thoughts on pieces of kindling and lighting them on fire.

On the other hand, you can't let the feedback rule your life. Whether positive or negative, reader opinions are a subjective thing. If you allow them to dictate how you feel about yourself as a person or a writer, you lose your power. You lose part of yourself. You lose the thing that made you unique in the first place.

I'm considering having Marilyn Hagerty's words tattooed on my forearm. For that matter, they should be tattooed on the forehead of anyone who's ever been bullied, mocked, or beaten down by harsh criticism from others:

"...These people were making fun of me…and then I thought, so what?"

Say it with me all together.

And then let's lift a glass of cheap Chianti in honor of Marilyn Hagerty.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm about to blow...and not in a fun way

Saturday afternoon, I was talking with my cousin and his wife about her recent bout with migraines.

"I got crippling migraines in middle school, but haven't had one for years," I boasted. "My mom's whole side of the family gets them chronically, but I must have grown out of it."

Raise your hand if you believe it's possible to jinx yourself.

Raise your other hand if you prefer to think the migraine that just hit me is more likely the result of book release stress and a screwy sleep schedule.

Now take both hands and help me cover my eyes, because bright lights are killing me, and my vision is totally shot. The fact that I can still find the humor in the prospect of my head exploding seems like a good sign, though the fact that it feels like someone's poking a hot fork in my right eyeball does not.

Knowing I might not be functional enough to write a blog post later tonight, I decided to resurrect a post from two years ago that tells the woeful tale of the time a migraine caused me to puke in my underwear.

Enjoy laughing at me, and if you happen to have any migraine tips or cures, please share!

originally posted Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How I hurked in my underwear

A couple weeks ago, I made a passing blog reference to the day I threw up in my underwear.

Ever the astute reader, my agent was on it immediately. “Is that true?” she tweeted. “Sounds like a story.”

It is indeed, one I’m pleased to share for no other reason than it’s a drizzly Wednesday and I feel like laughing and I’m generally the easiest target for my own mirth.

During my middle-school years, the confluence of wonky hormones in my system made me prone to crippling migraines that hit at the most inopportune times.

The most inopportune time of all was the last day of 8th grade. I was dressed up for the occasion in a stretchy lavender miniskirt and matching top with my bangs teased to terrifying heights.

I looked hot. Well, as hot as an awkward adolescent with braces and bad hair can look.

I made it halfway through the school day before disaster struck. My first clue a migraine was coming was the fact that my classmates were all missing their heads. I tried to pretend it wasn’t pre-migraine blurred vision, but was soon forced to accept the fact that decapitation wasn’t a class prank.

I hustled to the restroom thinking green linoleum and a quick pee might somehow prove to be the migraine cure my doctor hadn’t discovered.

There I sat with my knees tethered together by my underwear when the first wave of nausea hit.

It wasn’t unusual for a migraine to make me nauseous, but it was unusual for it to happen without warning – and to do so when I was seated upon the only appropriate vomit receptacle in the vicinity.

I hurled. Not just a little ladylike “urp,” either, but the product of a hearty school lunch.

And then I sat there in horror at what I had just done.

I had a few options available to me. Drowning myself in the toilet seemed most appealing, but the thought of my parents claiming my body in a school restroom was not the tender scene I’d envisioned.

Hitching up the puke-filled panties and pretending everything was normal was also not an option, or at least not one I wanted to consider.

Discarding the evidence seemed most logical, but then what? I was a 13-year-old self-conscious adolescent, so the thought of parading around the school in a thin miniskirt sans underwear didn’t hold the same appeal it would if I’d been a drunk pop singer.

But it had to be done. Thoroughly disgraced, I mopped up the mess, wrapped everything in toilet paper, and carried it to the trashcan by the door where I buried it deep beneath a mound of wet paper towels stained with Wet-N-Wild lip-gloss.

Then I trudged to the office to phone my mother for what would prove to be the first in a series of awkward calls she received during my school years. Though admitting I’d puked in my underwear was more mortifying than later admitting I’d lit my hand on fire, I was at least able to provide a more satisfying answer when asked if I’d done so intentionally.

Finally, I did the walk of shame out to the curb, careful not to sit down or stand in any direct sunlight.

And though I missed the ceremony, I feel confident I have a more interesting graduation story to tell than any of my classmates.

So that’s how it all happened. Aren’t you glad to share in my humiliation? If you feel like offering your own embarrassing story in the comments, please do so.

No sense in me being the only one to bare all, right?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Funny the way things change

Last Wednesday, my local Grocery Outlet held one of its rare 20% off wine sales. For me, this is like Christmas, bacon-wrapped scallops, and an orgasm all rolled into one.

I filled two six-bottle holders with my favorite Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and trudged proudly back to my car. Once there, I opened the back door and strapped the wine into the kiddie booster chair occupying my backseat.

"Best wine holder EVER," I thought to myself.

Then I considered how bizarre that was.

If you'd told me a year ago there would someday be a child's car seat in my vehicle, I would have asked about the length of your furlough from the mental institution. The idea that I'd not only be dating someone seriously, but dating someone with children was about as likely as the odds I'd give up romance writing to become a nuclear physicist.

But here I am now, ridiculously happy with the new direction my life has taken.

It got me thinking about other things I never imagined myself thinking or feeling one year ago. Last March, I was still five months away from having any books released. Now I look at Amazon and see Making Waves, Getting Dumped, and Believe it or Not lined up in a pretty little row. While that's a joyful feeling an I'm eternally grateful to have reached this point in my career, one thing I didn't expect to feel is terror.

Terror that I won't be able to keep up the pace or that I'll run out of ideas or that a ninja wombat will chew off all my fingers and I won't be able to type anymore. I'm coping fine, and there are certainly worse hangups to have, but the feelings are unexpected nonetheless.

If I go back two years instead of one, I see myself sitting here at my desk during that funny window of time when I wound up with a brand new three-book romantic comedy deal only a few weeks after I got laid off from my marketing job. At that point, I hoped there might be some way to avoid ever going back to a regular day job. I imagined myself as a full-time novelist eating bon-bons and typing at a feverish pace as my shirtless cabana boy mopped my brow and fed me frozen grapes.

Fast forward two years to today, I can't imagine myself without my part-time day job doing marketing and PR for my city's tourism bureau. I love my job, and can honestly say I'd consider doing it even if no one paid me. Certainly not something I thought I'd say before I discovered what a cranky, listless, unimaginative beast I am if I don't drag my introverted writer butt out of the house to interact with humans at least three days a week.

Do you ever play this game with yourself? Are there things in your life right now that you never imagined yourself saying, thinking, or feeling just a year or two ago? Please share!

And then let's all raise a toast to change with a glass of safely-transported Sauvignon Blanc. Cheers!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why it feels good to get lucky

Friday morning, I felt the overwhelming urge to post to Facebook about my breakfast.

Though it's true I was amused by my mutant egg, I was mostly just being goofy.

But within minutes, Facebook friends began commenting about how double-yolk eggs are notorious good luck signs. Many congratulated on my good fortune. One person noted that a recent month in which she found two double-yolk eggs turned out to be one of her best ever. The manager of the grocery store where I bought the eggs even jumped into the discussion.

Apparently, my breakfast is a hotter topic than I imagined.

I'll admit the whole thing had me on the lookout for good fortune throughout the day. Unsurprisingly, I didn't have to look hard. A hairbrush I'd been missing for two days turned up in my bathroom drawer. A media pitch I'd done earlier in the week for the day job yielded a nice piece of press coverage in a prominent publication. My pharmacist noticed I don't have prescription drug coverage and offered to sign me up for a discount program that knocked an extra five bucks off my birth control pills (I thanked him by offering a Believe it or Not bookmark and suggesting his wife might enjoy the book, and that he might enjoy his wife's enjoyment of the book. Or something like that. Never let it be said I won't got the extra mile for marketing).

Looking at that list of my good fortune, I'm struck by something interesting. Every single one of those items could be viewed through a negative light. I could choose to be pissed off the hairbrush went missing in the first place (the result of a poorly constructed bathroom drawer and a hidden area where the brush had slipped unnoticed.) I could point out that while that media pitch yielded a positive outcome, at least 20 others I did last week failed to produce any results. I could also gripe about the fact that my health insurance – which I pay for out-of-pocket every single month – sucks wombat testicles.

But none of those things crossed my mind until I sat down to write this blog post. I'm a firm believer in the importance of keeping an eye out for my own good fortune. If I'm vigilant about noticing the ways in which I'm lucky, I'll always feel lucky.

And let's face it – few things feel as great as getting lucky.

Do you believe in luck? Do you tend to be on the lookout for signs you're lucky, or do you sometimes slip into the habit of feeling like you're cursed? Please share!

It's time to make some breakfast. Scrambled eggs, anyone?

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's release week for my second romantic comedy, "Believe it or Not!"

My second romantic comedy, Believe it or Not, hits shelves this week on Tuesday, March 6.

The best thing about having been through this before is that I learned a few lessons the hard way. Chief among them, the promotional obligations surrounding release week are intense enough to make a sane woman leap onto the dining room table wearing lederhosen and fishnets while slapping her forehead with a pancake turner and singing Warrant's "Cherry Pie."

Incidentally, that song (and many other butt-rock tunes) play a significant role in Believe it or Not. Also, now you'll have that song stuck in your head all day long. You're welcome.

My point in all this (because, believe it or not – ha! I just referenced my book title without meaning to! ahem – believe it or not, I do have a point) is that with the last book release, I made the mistake of thinking I could keep up with daily blog posts here as well as on the "virtual book tour" the publicist so kindly arranges for me.

Combine that with blogging duties for the day job and a deadline for the next episode of Getting Dumped, and it's pretty much a recipe for insanity.

So here's the plan – I may or may not blog here this week, and I'm going to forgive myself (and beg you to forgive me as well) if I don't report for duty.

But I will tell you where you can go to not only read brand new blog posts almost every day this week, but to have a shot at winning a copies of Believe it or Not (copies Sourcebooks generously donates as part of this virtual book tour).

So here we go:

On Monday, March 5, I've got a guest blog up at Heroes and Heartbreakers, where I'll be talking about Building characters with career research and sequined g-strings. That awesome site is also running a fabulous feature right now, where they not only give you the chance to win a copy of Believe it or Not, they let you read the first two chapters for free. That runs through March 9, and you'll find it here. 

On Tuesday, March 6, I'll be at Love, Romance, Passion answering interview questions ranging from the funniest thing that's ever happened to me, to how I define love. They're giving away a free book as well, so don't miss that one. 

Also on March 6, I'll be at Flirting with Fiction answering questions ranging from the superpower I'd like to have, to my childhood Hollywood crushes.

On Wednesday, March 7, I'll be at the Sourcebooks Casablanca author blog talking about....crap, have I not written that post yet? Um, well. It'll be something interesting. I hope. Dear God, I really hope. No matter, they're giving away a free book, too. Go win it.

On Thursday, March 8, I'll be at Book Savvy Babe answering questions ranging from what my hippie name should be, to what qualities a good protagonist should have (besides a nice butt, apparently). They'll be giving away a book, too, so there's another chance to win.

On Friday, March 9, I'll be sticking my head in the oven  drinking myself into oblivion  calling in sick to the day job   um, actually, I'm just going to play that by ear.

So there you have it...a nice earworm from Warrant and plenty of chances to win free books. What more could you want?

Thanks, guys, for your patience with me this week. And thanks so much for your support in buying and reading my books! (Like Believe it or Not, on sale this week! Did I mention that?!)

Friday, March 2, 2012

My pets love my books (and at least one blog reader)

One of many wonderful things my agent negotiated in my three-book deal with Sourcebooks is that with every new release, I get a ginormous box filled with my books.

I was unsure at first whether I was expected to do something official with them or just build myself a big book fort. Either way, it's been nice having them for giveaways and such.

Though I can't seem to find a copy of the picture because I'm a disorganized slob because my photography archival system is being updated, I'm pretty sure I snapped a photo of Matt the Cat snoozing in the box of Making Waves right after that shipment arrived last summer. Beyond that, I don't recall the pets taking much interest in the book.

So that's why it's odd how the animals have reacted since my shipment of Believe it or Not arrived last week:
In case you're unfamiliar with the brood, that's Matt the Cat sitting in the middle of the box. Peering beneath it is my gentleman friend's cat, Maestro. The big blue-gray lug on the left is Blue Cat, who has a starring role in my interactive fiction title, Getting Dumped. And of course, Bindi the dog is supervising the whole operation. Right after I snapped this, my gentleman friend's other cat, Maggie, wandered in to see what all the fuss was about.
Seriously, these creatures WILL NOT LEAVE THIS BOX ALONE. No one's peeing in it or humping the side of it or doing anything unsavory. They just seem fascinated by its presence in my office.

I'm probably not supposed to say this because authors should be all, "oh, I love all my books equally," but I have a confession – I like Believe it or Not a tiny bit more than I like Making Waves. Do the pets somehow know this?

Or is there something else going on here?

Either way, I should warn you up front that if you have a severe cat allergy, you might not want to enter any of my contests to win a copy of Believe it or Not.

Speaking of which, thank you SO MUCH to all of you who tweeted, Facebooked, blogged, buzzed, gossiped, or just bought copies of my book in Wednesday's contest. Since I figured I had a good thing going with the pets and Believe it or Not, I decided to let Matt the Cat select the winner.

I rifled through my recycle bin and found enough scratch paper to write each entrant's name on a separate sheet.

Then I waited for nature to take its course. It didn't take long for Matt to find his way into the room and start doing what he does best – making himself at home on all my papers!

 Pretty soon, Matt the Cat made his selection:

 A close-up of the chosen one:

Congratulations to Caryn Caldwell! Shoot me a message at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com and let me know where you'd like me to mail your signed copy of Believe it or Not.

Thanks again to all who played!

Now seriously....why are the pets so obsessed with that box of books?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Anything sounds filthy if you say it right

I was devouring a container of leftovers at lunch the other day when I was overcome by fondness for the guy who helped make the meal.

Naturally, I took my feelings to Facebook.
Happiness is dating a guy who makes amazing sauteed spinach.

The second I wrote the words, I decided they sounded filthy. I know I've done it to myself (snicker) with my habit of turning even the most innocent phrases into sexual euphemisms.

Not that I have any idea what sexual act that particular phrase might represent, but as one Facebook pal noted, "it sounds like it probably would (and maybe should) be banned in several states."

Implied naughtiness sometimes stems from the reputation of the person writing or typing a phrase like that. My grandmother, for example, could write it in her holiday letter and no one would think twice. 

When the phrase is spoken, however, it's all about tone. I came home the other night to find the housemates engrossed in a conversation about a wildlife tourist attraction in Alaska. One of them took a swig of his beer and gave a lopsided smile.

"They'll even let you comb the caribou," he slurred a little drunkenly.

The other housemate snorted. "Comb the caribou? Is that what the kids call it these days?" 

I haven't stopped laughing about it since then, nor have I stopped trying to imagine what that might be a euphemism for. Something tells me it's best left undefined.

Have you read or heard any phrases lately that weren't meant to be dirty but somehow ended up sounding that way? Please share!

Then practice saying, "leave a blog comment" in different tones until you convince yourself it's the raunchiest phrase ever uttered.