Thursday, December 20, 2012

There’s no checkbox for “bed buddy”

At a recent business dinner with multiple strangers and a few vaguely familiar colleagues, the conversation turned to relationships.

“You’re single, right, Tawna?”


I choked on the word, or maybe it was the roasted cauliflower.

“I’m in a committed relationship, but not married,” I replied. “Maybe eventually. I mean I’m not opposed to marriage. I was married for thirteen years, but that ended a couple years ago and—”

I stopped talking as twelve pairs of eyeballs fixed on me and I realized I’d offered a ridiculously complicated response to a simple yes or no question.

But is it really that simple?

You’ve all seen me refer to my gentleman friend. I use the phrase not because I’m protecting his privacy, but because I can’t stand the word boyfriend.

Boyfriend is the guy who pulls your pigtails under the monkey bars. Boyfriend is the guy whose name you scribble on your Trapper Keeper in third period algebra.

So gentleman friend is my chosen phrase, but it doesn’t solve everything. Filling out a routine form at the doctor’s office recently, my gentleman friend was asked to select his marital status from a list.

Married. Divorced. Single.

He picked divorced, prompting a curious response from the doctor who blinked at me and asked, “who’s this then?”

“I’m just some chick he picked up in the parking lot,” I replied. “I heard you were offering free rectal exams.”

I understand the confusion, but I’m not sure how to avoid it. Most casual conversations and routine paperwork don’t offer an easy way to describe a committed relationship in which both parties share an address, a life, and bodily fluids, but no wedding rings.

We were delighted by a recent insurance enrollment form that offered us the option to select domestic partners. Our excitement waned when the company assumed we were in a same-sex relationship.

Sometimes I just give up and lie. Writing an email yesterday to inquire about a snowshoe trip for my gentleman friend’s offspring, I referred to them as my stepson and stepdaughter. It seemed simpler that way, but I was startled when the reply referenced my son and my daughter.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. My gentleman friend is a copywriter, and crafts hundreds of blog posts for major international companies. Most are posted anonymously under corporate headers, but last week a company requested his real name and bio.

“I referred to you as my wife,” he said somewhat sheepishly. “It sounded more professional than saying I live with my kids and my girlfriend.”

“I appreciate the warning,” I said. “Though I would have preferred the term concubine.”

“I’ll remember that next time.”

Am I the only person flummoxed by the words and phrases used to categorize relationships? Please share!

I’ll be researching tax benefits for concubines.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The dirty-talking stranger in my house

I was surfing porn writing diligently in my home office when the doorbell rang Friday afternoon. Expecting a Christmas package for my gentleman friend, I flung open the door and frowned with disappointment.

"You don't have a package," I said to the man standing there. "For Christmas, I mean. I'm sure you have a package. And I'm sure it's perfectly adequate. Not I'm suggesting I want to see it or –"

Seeing the look of terror on his face, I stopped talking. Then I pasted on my best I-swear-I'm-not-crazy smile. "How can I help you?"

"We're doing free cleaning demonstrations and would like to clean one piece of furniture and one area of carpet totally free, no obligation, did I mention it's free?"

Hearing only the magic words free and cleaning, I gladly opened my door to a stranger.

Of course, the whole thing turned out to be a sales pitch for a $3,500 vacuum he insisted would last forever and possibly do my taxes.

"Do Kirby vacuums really last forever?" I asked.


"Good. Because I bought one at a garage sale ten years ago for $15, and it's working great. I'm happy to know I'll never need to buy another."

He wasn't happy to hear this, but since he was already in my living room with his hose in-hand, he figured he might as well stick around and provide the promised cleaning.

In hindsight, I might've been annoyed the whole process ended up taking more than four hours. But how can you complain about a man who not only offers FREE CLEANING, but talks dirty to you while he does it?

Here's a small sampling of the filthy words he uttered as he cleaned cat fur off my staircase:
  • "Where should I unpack my equipment?"
  • "It's the longest hose you can buy, and look – it doesn't kink when you twist it."
  • "I promise, you've never seen suction like this."
  • "You can also push this button here to make it blow."
  • "It's a lot dirtier than you thought, isn't it?"
  • "I'm going to spread this out nice and even."
  • "Watch how fast it can suck it up."
I wish I could say I made all that up, but those are real phrases he used. Each one sent me scrambling for my iPhone so I could write down whatever he'd just said. He probably wondered why I kept giggling like an idiot as I typed, but maybe not since I told him I'm a romantic comedy author.

He was just finishing up when my gentleman friend returned home. "Why are all the covers pulled back on the bed?"

"That dirty-talking vacuum guy asked me to do it," I informed him.

He's known me long enough not to be alarmed by such announcements. "Now you're going to tell me about all this sucking that went on in our bed today?"

"Maybe. Aren't you glad I just changed the sheets this morning?"

"I suspect he's glad."

Me, too. And I also suspect he won't be returning to my house anytime soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The waiting game and other forms of torture

Last week I read through my critique partners' suggestions on my newest manuscript, made the necessary changes, and handed everything off to my three beta readers.

Then I began the arduous process of hitting refresh every 10 minutes on my email.

No matter how many times I do it, the "hurry up and wait" aspect of the writing game never gets easier. It doesn't matter if you're waiting to hear from a critique partner, a beta reader, an agent, an editor, or the judge processing the restraining order after you grabbed the mailman by the throat and screamed, "I know you've got a book contract in there for me, I know it. CHECK AGAIN!"


As most of you know, I work part-time as the Communications & Public Relations manager for my city's tourism bureau, and the rest of my time is devoted to touching myself inappropriately being an author. It's an ideal schedule most of the time, but today....well, not so much.

I'm not due back at the day job until next Tuesday, which means I have five solid days devoted to writing. You know, writing that manuscript that's currently in the hands of my three beta readers.

Not much I can do with that.

A responsible, career-driven author would be busy plotting her next book or updating her website. I'm sitting here pondering my paper-strewn desk and wondering if there's anyplace I could meet my gentleman friend for lunch where no one would notice I'm still wearing pajamas.

I thought about devoting a day to cleaning and organizing my office. Then a nasty cold sucked all the energy out of my body, leaving behind a lot of snot and a bone-gripping fatigue that takes hold if I fold more than two pairs of socks.

And really, I need to conserve my energy for hitting refresh.

How do you handle the waiting game, either in writing or in other aspects of your life? Please share!

And for the record, that mailman is a lying jerk. Hypothetically.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Garage porn at the kitchen store

By now you're all familiar with the sort of filth lurking in your garage, at the grocery store, or on the aisles of your local home improvement store. If not, I'd suggest you go back and read previous posts under the label "garage porn."

You'd think there might be some measure of good taste and decorum in a high-end kitchen store. On the contrary, I discovered a veritable plethora of perversion when I dropped by the other day to cash in a gift certificate.

When your three-ways start to feel a little ho-hum, isn't it nice to shake things up with an adjustable one?
Everyone needs a promiscuous garlic press.

I remember the health class lesson on dental dams for safe oral stimulation, so I guess this is the precaution for the manual variation. I'm not sure how I feel about the stainless steel, but maybe it's easier to clean
I was tempted to ask the cute guy behind the counter to demonstrate this one.

When you're looking for a little pump and grind, it's crucial to pick the one with single-handed, one-finger pump action.

I'm not sure which is more terrifying – the name of this device, or the thought of how you might use it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grab me while I'm cheap & easy

What do you call it when two different publishers handling your books decide to do a sale the same week?

I feel like there should be a sexy punchline that uses phrases like "double-penetration" or "tag-team" but I can't come up with anything at the moment.

But I can give you the links for both amazing deals happening RIGHT NOW! (Er, that's assuming you read this post shortly after it goes live. If you're reading it the next day, the sales might have ended. But maybe I can offer a consolation prize of a free five-pound bag of freeze-dried brine shrimp eggs?)

OK, so first up, Sourcebooks is offering a 99-cent special on the e-book version of my second romantic comedy, Believe it or Not. This is the first time I've ever seen them do a sale on this title, and I have no idea how long it'll last (that's what she said)

So snag it now for your Kindle or Nook. If you've already done that, consider gifting it to friends or family members with e-readers. Where else can you get a fun holiday gift that only costs 99-cents and doesn't require you to shove quarters in a slot at the adult arcade?

The second sale is even better than the first, because it's FREE. Which isn't really a sale – it's more like a giveaway, huh?

No matter, Coliloquy (the publisher of my active fiction title Getting Dumped) is giving away the Kindle version of my first episode TOTALLY FREE. Obviously, it's a gimmick to lure new readers they hope will purchase the second episode, but who cares? It's a FREE BOOK! Those don't fall out of trees. And if they do, there's a big risk you'll be hit in the head, so obviously it's way safer to have the e-book.

In case you haven't read my previous posts on the subject, Coliloquy publishes "interactive fiction." They use the technology differently for all their books, but in the case of Getting Dumped, it's sort of like an e-book version of a choose-your-own-adventure. But with more groping and penis jokes and bulldozers and landfills a quirky mystery. Fun, right? And did I mention it's totally FREE?!?!

The Coliloquy giveaway for Getting Dumped ends at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, December 5, so you'll want to jump on this one fast (that's what he said).

So there you have it. Two ways to enjoy a little cheap & easy entertainment with minimal risk of contracting an STD. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Next to cozy pajamas and good wine, social media is an author's best friend

Every now and then I'm asked to give workshops to writers' groups on the subject of social media. After I've blathered for awhile about blogging and Twitter and Facebook, someone in the audience will raise a timid hand.

"It looks fun and all, but how does that sell books?"

It's a question I love answering even more than the one about how to have a steamy makeout session without messing up your lipstick (because frankly, I'm not sure about that one).

But the answer to the former question is that you have to redefine what you consider selling.

In the social media world, selling does not involve beating the consumer over the head with your product until he falls to his knees and throws his credit card at you as a means of self-defense. It involves forming connections and friendships over shared experiences, laughter, or what you had for lunch.

And because people like the idea of supporting their friends, they'll take it into their own hands to buy what you're offering and suggest their friends do the same.

If I'm organized enough to have a Powerpoint presentation prepared for my workshop, I'll show few screenshots that illustrate my point.

As soon as I saw this exchange on Twitter a few weeks ago, I knew I'd add it to my collection of favorite examples. It started with my blog post about people laughing at my new hat. I was delightfully surprised that a regular blog reader was kind enough to tweet about the post to her followers, and things unfolded from there:

And just like that, I have a new reader. Well, assuming she followed through. I've considered figuring out where she lives and peering in her windows to see if I can spot one of my books lying on the sofa, but my editor might frown on the negative publicity of having me arrested for stalking.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of social media, I also want to share this incredible video I saw last week at a marketing workshop I attended for the day job. The instant I saw it, I searched YouTube from my iPhone to find a link. I immediately emailed the link to three marketing colleagues, tweeted about it from my author Twitter account, and posted it to Facebook.

Talk about illustrating the point.