Monday, June 24, 2013

Judging my love life by my footwear

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. I'm vaguely ashamed to admit I have roughly 50 pairs of them, and that I enjoy admiring and acquiring them.

I just don't like wearing them.

My boss at the day job routinely alerts me when we have VIPs visiting the office. This isn't his way of asking me to shake hands or prepare a memo. It's his polite way of telling me, "put on your damn shoes."

Going shoeless in the winter months is a challenge in a city where snow and ice blanket the ground more than half the year, which is why I make extra efforts to be shoeless in the summer. The result is frequent mud-caked toes and the occasional pointed look from my gentleman friend asking, "you're not really getting into bed like that, are you?"

My relationship with shoes took an interesting turn around the time he and I began dating. As longtime blog readers know, I went through an unexpected divorce several years ago. Not long after that, my evil plan to seduce my chosen "divorce mentor" for a friends-with-benefits arrangement morphed into a delightfully surprising long-term relationship with my gentleman friend.

But we were talking about shoes.

Suffice it to say, I was a little glum at the start of this relationship-that-wasn't-supposed-to-be-a-relationship. Luckily, my chosen "divorce mentor" (now my gentleman friend) is exceptionally kindhearted. And intelligent. And empathetic. And a great listener.

He's also tall. Really tall.

And because I'm – well, not-so-tall – his hugs felt like the biggest, warmest, safest, most engulfing hugs imaginable. Instead of feeling fragile, I felt safe. Instead of feeling beaten-down, I felt supported.

And yeah, I also felt turned-on. But I digress.

As my fondness for those hugs grew, so did my sudden obsession with flats. When I do have to wear shoes (an unfortunate necessity when I want to leave the house) my short stature has always given me a fondness for shoes with heels. But when I began dating my gentleman friend, I also began acquiring flats at an alarming rate. Every thrift store trip ended with me toting a cute pair of ballet flats or low-heeled sandals to the register. We're not talking epic shopping sprees here, since my thrift store habits mean I pay an average of $1 to $5 a pair for shoes. Still, the act was significant.

Since I'm a writer prone to overanalyzing everything, I stopped to think about what prompted my sudden change in footwear preference. Many women dating tall men seize the excuse to wear skyscraper heels, but I did the opposite. It didn't take much introspection to realize I craved the feeling of being engulfed in the arms of someone bigger and stronger than me. It was a new and unexpected joy to yield to the pleasure of having someone else taking care of me.

Is that a sexist thing to suggest? Perhaps, but I won't feel bad about that. I see myself less as a damsel in distress and more as a woman who figured out what she needed at a low point in her life and found a way to get those needs met.

After hoeing the garden with my gentleman friend's 7yo
daughter. She's not the one with the tattoo.
For the record, I still wear flats now more than I did three years ago. I also have plenty of kick-ass stilettos and boots and sassy peep-toed heels for the other moods that might strike. Lucky for me, my gentleman friend doesn't seem to mind what sort of footwear I choose, as long as I occasionally remember to clean off the mud before crawling into bed.

What's your relationship like when it comes to footwear? Have you ever selected something based on how it will make you look or feel around someone else? Please share!

I'll be out hoeing the garden with my bare feet.

I just wanted to say hoeing in this blog post.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On e-publishing, indy presses, and the sliver of my brain that hasn't caught up yet

Early last week, I was tickled pink when RT Book Reviews (the same magazine that nominated Making Waves as a contender for 2011 Contemporary Romance of the Year) wrote about my upcoming novel with Entangled Publishing as one of their "most-anticipated upcoming releases across the genres."

You can check out that article and see what other books they're buzzing about here.

Or here's the little blurb about my book:

My agent and editor and I tweeted the link in all our giddy excitement, and I posted it to my Facebook page. We got lots of lovely comments and enthusiasm, including a comment from an astute reader who noticed the Download and Go notation above my category. "Will it be available in print, or just e-book?" she inquired.

I'll confess, I felt a tiny flicker of embarrassment when I replied that for the time being, my new three-book series with Entangled will be e-book only. Since I don't embarrass easily, it was enough to make me sit back and ask myself, "what the hell?"

It won't surprise you to know I ask that a lot.

What I realized is that a small sliver of my brain still operates with the assumptions I had about publishing four or five years ago. What that brain-sliver doesn't realize is how wildly the industry has changed in that time, and how many of my previous assumptions have either been rendered incorrect, or were never correct to start with. Like what? you ask.

Allow me to share.

MISGUIDED THOUGHT #1: Books published only in e-book format or by independent publishers = not good enough to be traditionally published
The first time I saw my book at WalMart.
It's a snobby thought to have, and I'll own up to having it more than once five or six years ago. It was always my goal to have printed books on the shelves at major bookstores and retailers across the country, and I'm glad I got to experience the thrill of walking into my local WalMart and squealing like a $10 hooker upon seeing my book on the shelves for the first time.

But things have changed, both in my own mind, and in the publishing industry. Plenty of awesome books are available in e-book only or published through smaller, independent presses. In the last two years, I've watched a number of mid-list authors with extremely strong writing careers make the switch from traditional publishing to these formats. It's essentially the reverse of what used to happen, where an author might opt for a smaller e-book only deal in hopes of eventually working her way toward a print deal. Why are they doing it? Well, that leads me to my next misguided thought.

MISGUIDED THOUGHT #2: Authors can't make any real money with e-publishers or independent presses
Once upon a time, romance authors in particular saw most of their sales from impulse buyers at WalMart or big-box bookstores. Oh, how times have changed. According to stats from RWA, and other e-commerce or e-book/audiobookretailers accounted for 54% of romance novel sales in 2012. By contrast, WalMart sold 13%, while Barnes & Noble got 11%. That's a pretty big shift from the days the complete opposite was true. According to RWA, "E-book sales of romance books have proportionally doubled in one year, from 22 percent in Q1 2011 to 44 percent in Q1 2012." You can bet that number will continue to climb as more and more people purchase e-readers. Speaking for myself, I can say without question I purchase more books on my Kindle (thanks to my heavy trigger-finger and the "buy with one click" option) than I ever used to buy in paperback. I still make impulse purchases, but I do it in my jammies with a glass of wine in hand.

What does all this mean for authors? Well, book sales = money. Higher book sales = more money. Authors are notoriously tight-lipped about the financial side of what they do, but many of us chatter privately to keep tabs on the industry. I can think of at least half-a-dozen author pals who've segued into indy publishing or e-book only deals in the last two years, and every single one of them is doing better financially than she was before. That's hard to ignore, especially for struggling mid-listers. As my agent has steered me toward book deals with Coliloquy and Entangled in the last year, this is the carrot she's dangled. I love carrots, and not just for their phallic shape.

MISGUIDED THOUGHT #3: Only the younger demographic owns e-readers I do a lot of chats with book clubs, and I was smacked squarely in the face by the ignorance of my own assumption in one of the very first Skype sessions with a group in the Midwest. The book club consisted of about a dozen women, all of whom were over 50. We'd been visiting maybe 30 minutes when I mentioned Getting Dumped, my interactive fiction title that allows for a sort of choose-your-own-adventure quality, thanks to e-book technology. The women were so excited about it, that I hated to burst their bubble by telling them it's only available in e-book format. "That's perfect!" they declared. "We can buy it right now." And every single one of them – including the woman who'd announced her age as 84 – whipped out her e-reader. Color me dumbfounded. I shouldn't have been, really. While younger readers may have an affinity for technology, older readers have the disposable income to afford it. Those with aging eyes like bumping up the type size with ease, and those who travel a lot love the convenience of packing hundreds of books in a device that fits easily in a purse and weighs only a few ounces. Are there still people who don't have e-readers? Absolutely, either because they can't afford the purchase or because they cling to the look and feel of a paperback book. I feel bad about that, and I can relate to wanting to stroke the pages and gaze lovingly at the cover of a paperback. But the more the market swings toward e-readers, the more I have to accept that I can reach the biggest audience that way.

So there you have it – three misguided thoughts I've been working to guide differently in recent years. How about you? Have your perceptions of publishing or e-readers changed in recent years? If so, how? Please share!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I don't trust technology that doesn't use AA batteries

I recently decided it would be technologically responsible to upgrade my iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5 to provide expanded access to professional applications and greater processing speeds conducive to more streamlined business transactions.

That's a lie.

I actually dropped my iPhone in a brewery parking lot and smashed the glass. Even after we bought a cheap repair kit from China and my gentleman friend spent the whole day replacing the touch screen, the damn thing never worked right. I figured my agent was getting tired of having conversations in which I sounded like I was speaking into a coffee can, so I ponied up the cash to get an iPhone 5.

Which is how I ended up with Siri. I'm not terribly tech-savvy, but I was dimly aware that Siri is some magical creature who lives in my iPhone and takes orders from me. Since I don't like to read instructions, that's as far as I got with learning how to use this new feature on my phone.

"Siri," I said to my phone on the way home from the store. "Where's the dog park?"


My gentleman friend looked at me. "I think you have to push that button."

"Oh." I tried again. "Siri, where's the dog park?"

Siri beeped twice, then began to speak. "Okay, let's take a look," she announced. "Georgia Bulldogs, Missisippi State Bulldogs, UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Yale Bulldogs, Drake Bulldogs–"

"What is she doing?" called my gentleman friend's 7-year-old daughter from the backseat.

"Smoking crack?" I speculated. "Say no to drugs, kids."

I tried again, thinking perhaps another question was in order. "Siri," I began. "Where's Dairy Queen?"

Siri beeped helpfully. "Okay, let's take a look. Georgia Bulldogs, Missisippi State Bulldogs, UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Yale Bulldogs, Drake Bulldogs–"

"Siri really likes bulldogs," observed my gentleman friend.

I looked over at him, noticed for the hundredth time how hot he is, and decided I should ask Siri her opinion of him.

Siri beeped again. "Would you like me to search the web for Greg Fingers?"

My gentleman friend – whose first name is not Greg, nor is his last name Fingers – looked alarmed.

"Who is Greg Fingers?" asked the 7-year-old.

"Apparently, that's your daddy's new name," I told her.

We arrived home and began preparing dinner, while the kids perched at the counter and offered to help. There wasn't much for them to do that didn't involve sharp knives or boiling sauces, so they asked to play with Siri instead.

"Sure, why not?" I mused. "Just be careful."

The 7-year-old considered her question carefully. "Siri," she began. "Are you a boy or a girl?"

Beep-beep! "I'm not sure we have time for this."

The 7-year-old furrowed her brow and tried again. "What color are your panties?"

Siri beeped. "Would you like me to search the web for, 'what color are your panties?'"

"No!" yelled my gentleman friend, and snatched the phone away. He handed it to the 11-year-old, who was growing tired of Siri at this point. "Siri, why are you such an idiot?"

Beep-beep. "I would rather you didn't."

We all considered that response. The kids proceeded to ask Siri a variety of useful questions, ranging from her hair color to the location of the Xbox controller. She provided equally useful responses, ranging from the location of our nearest Home Depot to the proper cooking temperature for pork.

Finally, the 11-year-old rattled off a monologue that made little sense to us or to Siri. She repeated it back in her helpful, robot-like monotone:

"Searching the web for, 'Siri Siri I just farted Siri hey Siri hey Siri and my annoying you Siri you sure are annoying me Siri ha ha yes yes yes versus being serious thing ha ha d-penicillamine we were not just talking about you Siri yeah. We are talking about another person get enough of it okay on google images.'"

We all stared at the phone, not sure where to go from there. "How about we give Siri a rest for tonight?"

I nodded. "Whatever you say, Greg Fingers."

I didn't bother with Siri again for a few more days, and had almost forgotten about her until I was running late to an event and couldn't remember the exact location. "Siri," I called as I held her button with one hand and drove with the other. "Find me the Cascade Culinary Institute?"

Beep-beep! "I found a couple of places selling caskets fairly close to you."

And that, my friends, is how I gave up on technology.

Does anyone else have any better Siri experiences? Please share!

I'll be in the corner with Siri seeing if I have any luck talking dirty to her.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stupid, lazy author hasn't had a book out for how long? What the @#%$ has she been doing?

If you've been reading this blog awhile, you're already familiar with the story of my very long road to publication. For those new to this space (or for those who stumbled here by accident after googling monkey sex or garage porn), you can go here here to read the post I wrote more than three years ago.

Suffice it to say, getting to the point where I have actual books for sale in bookstores was a long journey involving canceled book deals, a few tears, copious curse words, and countless glasses of cheap wine.

Which is why I've become more than a little reluctant to post new book deals until things are absolutely, positively certain. Even then, I'm hesitant. More than once, I've opened a box of advance reading copies of one of my romantic comedies and looked around for the swarm of SWAT team members charging up my driveway to seize them from me.

"Sorry, ma'am," a gun-wielding man in full body armor will say as he wrestles the box from my arms. "There's been a mistake, and you aren't really going to have a book published."

And then with one hand I will rip the AK-47 from his grip, while I use the other hand to unbutton my blouse as I purr, "Surely there must be something we can to do–"

Wait, where was I?

Right, I'm nervous about announcing book deals. Which is why I refrained from saying much about these two deals until the announcements appeared in Publishers Marketplace last week:

So that means I have one short novella coming out this August, followed by a three-book series of full novels launching this November (with two more coming sometime around next March and July).

But wait – there's more!

Remember how I had a three-book deal for romantic comedies with Sourcebooks? And remember how Making Waves and Believe it or Not hit shelves when they were supposed to, but the third book kinda vanished? There's a long, grueling, tear-wrenching backstory that involves divorce, romance, editorial differences, a changing marketplace, ninjas, peanut butter, and nipple clamps. I might have made some of that up.

But all that aside, the third book is not only finished, it's slated for publication in May 2014. It doesn't have a title yet, and the cover artists are still working on what it'll look like, but here's what it's about:

Marley Cartman wants a guy with a tiny one.

Bank account, that is.

She’s had her fill of overbearing rich guys, from her dad to her ex-fiancée to the wealthy guys she rubs shoulders with working as a professional fund-raiser. When Marley takes a new job handling donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary in Central Oregon, she vows to make some changes in her personal life, too. She’s only dating blue-collar men with modest paychecks and a little dirt under their fingernails.

That sure as hell doesn’t describe William Barclay, the quirky board chairman who supervises Marley’s position. But Will’s not your typical millionaire, either, with his duct-taped shoes, his assortment of outcast canine companions, and his fondness for shaking up stuffy board meetings with wacky jokes.

Will has issues of his own, namely his ex-wife and his sister. He had no idea the two women were playing clap-the-cupcakes on the side, but he’s over it now, and they’re all friends. Mostly. But he’s had his fill of women pretending to be something they’re not, which is why Marley Cartman rubs Will the wrong way. Is she simply a people-pleasure in sharp suits, or something a little more scheming?

As Will and Marley butt heads over grumpy badgers and phallic artifacts, they discover they have more in common than they imagined. And sometimes, the opposite of what you think you want is exactly what you need.

So there's that. If you're keeping track, that means in the next 13 months, I'll be releasing one novella and FOUR full-length novels. But wait – there's more!

Because my agent figured I wasn't quite busy enough, she asked if I could fit in one more project. So I'm currently at work on a standalone project for Coliloquy that's part of my existing family of Getting Dumped romantic capers. I'm hesitant to say too much (see aforementioned paragraphs about acute paranoia) but we're aiming to have that release sometime in the early fall of 2013).

So, yeah. I've been busy. And happy. And busy. And happy. And horny. And busy. And–