Thursday, March 31, 2011

Le Jeudi Frotteurible: Olivier Sitruk

Another French edition of Thrusty Thursday! The first such occasion was inspired by my viewing of District B13, then there was my tribute to Parisian hairstylist Christian Marc, and this time it's in honor of my upcoming Samhain debut, The Reluctant Nude, which features a French hero. It's out on Tuesday, nudge nudge nudge. Okay, enough self-whoring. On to the thrustin'!

I know nothing about Olivier Sitruk other than a) you can find him by Googling "French actor" and b) he's a fox. Un vraiment grand renard. Oh and c) I suspect my insatiable beard-enthusiast friends will be pleased. Instead of boring you by rehashing his Wikipedia entry (like usual) here's a big old pensive collage I made, junior high-style! If you get understandably juiced by his obvious foxxitude and want to see what he's in, here's his IMDb link. Otherwise, bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prepare yourself…

Move over, shifters and vampires, SEALs and cowboys and sheikhs—2012 is going to be the Year of the Lumberjack! Sharpen your axe, fluff your beard, and stay tuned for exciting contest details in the coming weeks…

On Crustaceans and Bathroom Stalls

I'm not a narcissist. Not full-time, anyhow.

I won't claim to understand other writers' psyches or imply that we share a singular set of traits, but I suspect my part-time, selective narcissism is not exclusively mine to claim. I think many authors—perhaps even most of us—swing wildly between two states: abject spinelessness and soaring, improbable demigodism.

From hour to hour and day to day we go from cowering delusions of unworthiness to the height of self-worship. It's hard not to, given how this job is built. We work alone, trapped inside our heads for weeks or months at a time, struggling and second-guessing until a story is complete. Once it sells, we're on top of the world! Success! Edits may bring more doubts, but then release day douses us with a fresh fistful of confetti. The first review plunges us into despair yet again or buoys us to new heights of manic happiness. Up, down, up, down, until finally we're safely steeping in the next project and the bipolarity surrounding the previous story levels out.

Between the highs and lows we have days of relative calm, when we feel worthy without psychosis and humble without crippling self-doubt.

We live in a dangerous time for such mood swings. Though some of our lows come from the frustration (or crustation, as I typed at first, hence the new mascot) of writing itself, they often come from the outside. A snide review, a rejection, a comment or tweet that dings our previously shiny egos. As I've said before, participating in the internet is like living in the midst of a gigantic house party, and the more rooms you poke your nose into, the more likely it is you'll accidentally walk in on a conversation you might have preferred not to overhear. Not poking your nose in could also mean you don't overhear kind words, however, and some days you need that boost just to open the work-in-progress and jab at your keyboard with the bloody stumps we writers call our fingers. The trouble is, you can never predict what lies behind a given door.

I'll disclose my own insecurities so I don't have to talk in hypothetical terms. A Twitter friend of mine, @thedaisyharris, referred to the nose-poking as self-stalking a few weeks ago, which I thought was brilliant. I self-stalk, as most of us do, even though I like to pretend I'm totally above such things.

I self-stalk at different levels of obsessiveness on a given day. If I'm in the writing zone I might only pop onto Twitter a few times to be social and check my @ replies, and read my Google Alerts as they come in. Days when I've reached my writing goal early and have free time sometimes spiral into full-on self-stalking marathons. I'll search for my full name on Twitter to see if anyone's talking about any of my books or tweeting my links, spend way too much time on Goodreads trying to figure out what new review made my overall rating average fluctuate .02 stars. I check my publishers' sites for customer reviews, roll around in Google Analytics, monitor my meager blog visitation stats, and painstakingly tweak things on my websites.

But I do have my own limits. Even on my self-stalkiest day, I never check Amazon ratings for my books or track my sales. That's because one has to draw a line somewhere, and I choose to check Goodreads reviews and the ones on my publishers' sites, and the random blog-based ones that find me via Google Alerts or Twitter, and no others. Those are plenty. It's also because I've heard the vastness and anonymity of Amazon brings out the rock-throwing meanies, and they scare me. I also don't do Facebook, because I don't trust myself with it. Twitter is the right speed and commitment level for me, and anything more would cut too deeply into my actual fiction-writing time. Oh and also because I'm one of those snotty non-joiners who gets off on resisting trends (while embracing others—it's very selective, my self-importance).

Yesterday my erotica-writing alter ego finished a novella, and as such I get a day or two off from writing to recupe and catch up on other responsibilities. With writing no longer taking up the morning, it's easy to get one's wheels stuck in the self-stalking groove. I think we tend to live today based on what we did yesterday, and live this hour as we lived the previous hour. Creatures of habit. If I set a pattern of checking all my usual haunts for evidence of my existence in other people's consciousness, I may wind up cycling back, over and over, for the rest of the day, fiending for a fresh hit of validation. Is anyone talking about me? Did anyone tweet me? Refresh! Refresh!!

It doesn't take much to get brainwashed by the cult of self, and to find yourself spending an entire afternoon staggering around on the hinterwëbs, sniffing for a morsel of other people's admiration. It skews your thinking, as well. Your mind glazes over. You begin to read into things.

For example, I check my Analytics every morning while I drink my coffee. I like to see where my website traffic is coming from and what makes it spike. I'm also nosy and I love seeing what cities and countries visitors come from. So Analytics told me that yesterday a new visitor from New York City was on my site for five minutes! The crustacean of egomania immediately scuttled in and began rewiring my normally rational thought processes. "Surely it's an agent!" the crustacean said. "I mean, who else would it be? There's bound to be more high-powered agents looking you up than oh, I don't know, readers, in a city of seven million people, right? Better stare at your dusty phone for the next eight hours and wait with bated breath for a Very Important Call."

Depending on what my brain chemistry gets up to today, I will either tape this post onto the digital bathroom stall wall and wander away to tackle actual real-life projects, or else I will come back again and again, monitoring comments and checking traffic…basically returning ad nauseum to the same stall to see if anyone's decorated (or defaced) my flier. And so it goes.

If I had to offer advice for getting one's self out of the obsessive validation-seeking loop, it's not remotely revolutionary. Get away from your computer or your internet-connected phone. Take a walk. Meet a friend for lunch or a drink and talk about anyone aside from yourself. Drink less coffee. Read a book outside your genre. Unfollow the Eeyores and the industry bloggers on Twitter, if all their tweets or updates do is put you on edge and distract you from your actual job—putting words on a page with a modicum of confidence. If you've got it really bad and lack any measure of discipline, install one of those internet timers and literally shut off access to your self-stalking hot spots for a set period of time each day, and force yourself to do other things.

My personal solution has so far been to wait out the storm. If I'm feeling self-stalky, I do make sure I go for a walk that day. But most often, unless I really need to buckle down and write, I indulge and embrace the urge to self-obsess, binge on it, and before too long I always OD and wind up strung out and listless and just wander away to sober up. I get sick of myself, and thank goodness. It frees me of caring what others think for a while. Soon enough I want to go back to plotting the next story or painting the bathroom or posting on this silly blog, anything but think about me me me. After all, no one finds me as fascinating as I find myself. And how could I not? We're all—with the exception of those who put their children or partner at the center of their lives—the suns at the hearts of our own solar systems. In the absence of a higher power to worship and seek to please, we naturally become our own gods. That may not be especially healthy, but it is human. And until I wake up a more well adjusted person, I'll continue to indulge my inner narcissist whenever he scuttles up.

And refresh, refresh, refresh…

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle:

From puzzle writer Francis Heaney: Take the word "calm" and flip the letters A and L to get "clam." Take the last name of a film director known for using profanity, and flip two pairs of letters in place to get a word used as a substitute for profanity. Who's the director, and what's the word?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting, check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thrusty Thursday: Édgar Ramirez

It's a very special guest-curated Thrusty Thursday this week! My friend @drpuma sent me this nominee, and full disclosure, I know little to nothing about Édgar Ramirez. Though I did see The Bourne Ultimatum awhile back, and he played a CIA assassin in that…or so IMDb tells me. I'm awful with faces.

Some random, hastily-gleaned "facts" (according to Wikipedia) about Ramirez: he's thirty-three, hails from Venezuela, and spent much of his childhood traveling because his father worked for the military. He's currently working on a film called Killing Pablo, in which he stars as Pablo Escobar (the infamous Colombian drug lord) opposite fellow Thrusty Thursday honoree Christian Bale. Ramirez is also fluent in five languages—Spanish, German, English, French and Italian—and apparently you can even stick him right in your ears, as he "guest-stars" on a CD called Fluenz Spanish I. So, if you're looking for a foxier way to become multi-lingual, check that out. Or, just buy it, close your eyes, and imagine he's saying whatever it is you'd like him to be saying to you…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spotted in its natural habitat!

Yesss! It's the very first sighting of Caught on Camera in the wild! Big thanks to my Twitter buddy @EmilyCale. I don't suspect I'll ever fail to be excited by this, so if anyone else spots it, do feel free to e-mail me the evidence.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A thousand days later…

I won't ramble on and on, but I wanted to share that it's my very first [official] romance release day! Caught on Camera is out from Harlequin Blaze today. It's actually been out for a couple of weeks on eHarlequin, but now it's available everywhere as both a paperback and e-book, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and maybe even in bookstores (not sure—haven't gone out to hunt for it in the wild yet).

I haven't popped champagne for a release day since my first erotica release in February 2010… But I think today I'll relax my what's-woot-worthy policy and celebrate. After all, this is a day I've been dreaming about for exactly 995 days—since I first opened a blank Word doc and began to write my very first romance. Wow, from zero-to-mass-market-published in just under a thousand days! That's kind of cool.

I'll be cracking open the champs around four this afternoon, and also cracking open my iPad and celebrating with some Angry Birds Rio. A big thanks to everyone who made this day happen—my husband, my beta readers Jen and Amy, Blaze editors Laura Barth and Brenda Chin, my RWA New England chaptermates (I utlimately sold the story based on a two-sentence pitch at our 2009 conference), Les Stroud and Bear Grylls, and all my awesomely supportive family and friends, both tangible and digital!

Quick additonal note—I was recently invited to guest post on the RT Book Reviews blog, so I'm over there today, chatting about my personality disorder. Er, my writing.

Angry Birds Rio is out!

Hooray! Angry Birds Rio released this morning! March has been a great month for Angry Birds fans, with new "Ham 'Em High" levels for Angry Birds and the St. Patrick's Day edition of Angry Birds Seasons already released. Now a whole new game?

Rio is much like the franchise's previous incarnations, except with a new setting and a new mission—instead of merely bombing pigs, the angry birds are liberating smuggled parrots in Brazil! Oh and bombing monkeys.

The paid version has lots of new levels and the promise of even more to come in the next few months. There's also an animated movie set to release next month (the game is a tie-in) by the people who did Ice Age. Imagine if Pixar had jumped on that deal? That would have been amazing…though the movie probably wouldn't be ready until well after the Angry Birds craze has faded.

So go forth and download! Who wanted to get anything done today, anyhow?

WARNING: Turn your volume down a bit before watching the trailer—it's loud.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Please Use the Long and Less Deluded Detour 
Through Realityville →

When you are an aspiring author, you're taught to crave one moment of the writer's journey above all others:

The Call.

The first sale, the toiling unpubbed writer's ultimate drool-covered lust object. Oh, how things will change when you get The Call! Stress, to be sure, but exciting stress. You'll have an editor or an agent or both, professional deadlines like the big girls and boys, to be followed by cover art, perhaps an advance, a release day, fame and praise and endless, glowing reviews as everyone finally discovers your humble but undeniable genius!

Or not. I don't assume anyone apart from a true narcissist believes that it will quite so easy. And as we all know, authors are only selectively narcissistic. Most of the time we're quivering, shell-less masses of goo, cowering as we await the sticks that are surely poised at all times to poke our delicate viscera.

I decided to write this post to dispel some myths. Chiefly, that everything falls into place when you get that oft long-awaited call from a Being on High (your agent or editor). When we start out, The Call seems like the finish line—sprint or jog or crawl, it doesn't matter, but if you progress forward long enough, you'll break through the ribbon, triumphant.

I won't pretend I'm much of an authority on the industry. I still consider myself a newbie, having only begun writing two and a half years ago, and had titles available to readers for a little over one year now. I'm no seasoned veteran. Most of the time, I have no idea what I'm doing or how it is I've tricked someone into buying my work. But during my short journey, I have enjoyed more than one "call" of my own:

November 2009, an e-mail telling me Ellora's Cave wanted to buy an erotic novella I'd submitted to the slush pile, sans agent. I'm published! I'm published!

March 2010, a call letting me know I'd finaled in the Golden Heart—a contest some view as a shortcut to Easy Street, which turns all your queries to gold.

June 2010, an e-mail telling me that my Golden Heart manuscript was in fact going to sell to the progressive digital-first publisher Samhain—my first choice for the shorter-length romance, which wouldn't fly at a traditional print house looking for a longer single-title. Yes! Now I'd be published under two genres!

July 2010, an out-of-the-blue call from Harlequin Blaze, informing me they'd like to see revisions for a book I'd submitted fifteen months prior, before I'd even written any of the half dozen erotic novellas I'd since sold. I'd long ago given up on that book (only the second manuscript I'd ever completed), assuming it was so bad they'd burned it and blacklisted me. But no, they're just very busy people. Not long after the revision request, another call informed me that they liked my changes and wanted to buy the book. And by the way, where do we send your advance to?

And those four "calls"—though none of them what we think of as the BIG BREAK holy grail of selling a single-title to a huge New York house via an agent—when lumped together sort of imply that I've arrived. I made it to the party, and I didn't even have to sneak through an unlocked basement window! And many days I do feel as though I've arrived…but I won't for a single second tell you there's any such thing as Easy Street.

Nine months after selling to Harlequin, I'm still looking to land an agent to represent my two 90,000-word single-titles. Although I've made some efforts, they've so far been fruitless, met with a couple nibbles but no bites. Acquaintances say, "Oh, you should beating the agents off with a stick! You write for Harlequin!" But I'm sad to report that the offers, they are not busting my door down. This could be for all sorts of reasons, all of them legit… Agents are cagey about signing new authors when publishing is in the midst of such whopping-great flux, its future unclear. The book I'm hoping to sell doesn't have the wow-factor (in fact I suspect it does not—it's quirky and engaging, but not especially commercial or easy to boil down into a snappy, high concept pitch). Perhaps none of my shortlisted dream agents are intrigued by the premise, for the simple reason that it's not their personal cup of tea. Perhaps they got their purse stolen or their heart broken in New Zealand and don't want to read a book set there. Maybe all of those factors. Either way, my agent-beating stick is presently collecting dust.

Here's another myth—once you have an editor, you're in! They will buy everything you send them! I've been very fortunate with both Ellora's Cave and Samhain, in that they have yet to turn down any of my subsequent submissions. Their digital-first publishing models allow them to take chances on wonky-shaped pegs like me. Harlequin, however…that's an entirely differently ball game.

Cocky, freshly Harlequin'd newbie that I was, I expected that I had it made when I sold to Blaze. Part of this delusion came from the fact that my first sale to them—the first book I'd indeed ever written to target the line—sold. And in fact, the way in which I was invited to submit the full manuscript was very flukey, one of those right-place-right-time, make-your-own-luck strokes of good fortune you often hear about as an aspiring writer. Though I worked very hard to ultimately make the sale, in many ways the opportunity fell into my lap. Well, if I could sell to Blaze that [relatively] easily, I must be a natural! Surely I will go on to grace international bookstore shelves alongside my fellow Blaze Babes, in perpetuity, until I die peacefully of old age, swaddled in the glittering robes of my myriad successes! Well, I will share those shelves, as of April 1. But there may be crickets for some time after that.

My path to penning a winning Blaze proposal since Caught on Camera sold has been as daunting as the initial sale was "easy", and not for lack of trying. I've been rejected three times (once before Caught on Camera was accepted and twice on proposal, post-sale). My latest proposal is currently with my benevolent editor, and my fingers are crossed so tight they're turning gangrenous.

There is a certain trick to writing series romance, and it requires you to understand your line intuitively. I fear I'm still learning the nuances of my line and my audience. It doesn't come merely from reading every Blaze that comes out, or absorbing every scrap of advice my patient editor has generously offered. It is a skill that many authors possess, but I do not rank among them. This was a very disheartening hunk of reality to stumble over, and after two rejected proposals I began to think my first flukey sale was just that—a fluke. I'd never crack the code and sell another Blaze ever again. But goddamn, I'll keep trying until my editor files a restraining order.

After a series of calm, professional conversations with said benevolent editor (followed always by bouts of private, hysterical sobbing once I'd hung up) I came to accept that precocious or not, I was not a magical wunderkind, shat from the heavens in a gilded gown and anointed with immunity to the trials of publishing. The reasons for my rejections were gently and frankly tendered—this story was too dark for the imprint, this other one just didn't have a solid enough "sexy hook", the required DNA of a successful Blaze.

Dag, I needed help. It's been offered most kindly from the same mouth that's rejected me. Because my editor wants me to be successful, she has very patiently allowed me to submit multiple Blaze premises to her for her opinions before I begin writing the actual proposals, as it's coming up with the right Blaze-y hook that's most challenging to my woefully non-commercial, marketing-inept brain. But I want to sell more Blazes and I believe I could be good at the job, and so I must train myself to understand the line the way my editor and my fellow authors do, much the same way I taught myself to self-edit for all those new-writer foibles when I began this whole journey. If that requires a bit of hand-holding in the beginning (or anywhere else along the way), I'm no longer too proud to ask for it. And I count myself very lucky to have a editor (a very busy editor) willing to offer it.

I have discovered something intensely important during this painful process—I am not a natural at every aspect of writerdom. But I do have the drive and the willingness to take criticism and wring all the pain out of it (after a few days of healthy sniffling) and use it to make my next attempt more likely to hit the bulls eye. Or at least the dartboard.

Later this week, I have a call scheduled to discuss my latest Blaze proposal with my editor. Gone are my illusions that I'm the second coming and my expectations that all I squeeze from my noggin and into a Word doc will be ready to publish. But I hope to hear that my story has promise, and with tweaks could be accepted. I've adjusted my assumptions and my definition of success. I'm also about to send an agent query out into the world, to precede me before I meet with said agent at a conference next month. She may reward me with nothing more than a handshake and a polite "pass", but should more heartening news be in store…well, I'll never know if I don't print the pages out and stick them in the mailbox.

I hope it's clear that this is not a woe-is-me post. Nor is it a slap in the face to aspiring authors, some bitter old crone looking to take the shine off that glorious moment they'll likely one day experience, if they're patient and ambitious—The Call. The Call is wondrous, no matter what form it takes, and you should wallow in it when it arrives. Wallow and gloat and toast, just don't expect that feeling to last forever. It can't, and it won't, and even if it did, you'd be too high on it to appreciate the next bit of good news.

What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that writers, no matter what stage they're at, are equal beings. Perhaps not so tidily, according to the numbers on their paychecks or their Amazon ranking, but no matter what stage we're each at, we have the struggle in common. We share the struggle, along with triumphs both small and large, hopes for new successes in the coming weeks or months or years, and thrilling news to share with those who care about us and have watched us struggle and get knocked to the mat only to stand up again and invite the next punch en route to victory.

I better cut this off before the boxing metaphors get much worse. Fingers crossed for myself for my queries and phone calls, and crossed for all of you, for whatever your own goals may be, no matter how modest or lofty, looming or distant.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle:

From Ed Pegg Jr., who runs the website Take the phrase "consumer protection laws," and rearrange the letters to name a person in broadcasting and an issue of public debate. Hints: The name of the person in broadcasting has five letters in the first name and five letters in the last name. For the issue of public debate, it's a familiar two-word phrase with seven letters in the first word and five letters in the second. What name and phrase are these?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting [once it's up], check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Doubly Thrusty Friday Fu Review

So just last week I "discovered" Jason Statham for myself and promptly dedicated Thrusty Thursday to him and his extraordinary foxxitude. Then I asked my Twitter cohorts—who know everything—which of his movies I ought to gorge myself upon first. The unanimous and resounding response was "TRANSPORTER!" And off I scampered to add it to my Netflix queue.

The Transporter ★ ½ 
Fun and foxy, if not strictly a
true martial arts flick.
I watched it on Wednesday night with the manfriend and enjoyed it a lot. Strictly speaking, The Transporter (2002) is not a Kung Fu movie, but the scenes that do feature martial arts-style combat are exceptional, so I'm rounding it up. It's fast-paced, well choreographed, and the action sequences are very clever and original. Statham plays the protagonist, a man whose job is to deliver anything to anyone, no questions asked. Matt Schulze plays the lead baddie, who's involved in human trafficking and attempts to blow Statham up, after using his services. Vengeance ensues!

As an aside, I didn't know until he popped up on screen that Matt Schulze was in this film. I owe Schulze more than a few solids, as his Thrusty Thursday post attracts (no exaggeration, I busted out the calculator) nearly twenty percent of all the traffic for this blog. And "Matt Schulze" is the most popular keywording used to find the Super Lucky #1 Fun Blog by light years.

Back to the review. I liked this movie, let me say that right now. But there were a few things that ding it some points. For one, Matt Schulze was issued a haircut that did not best exhibit his foxiness. The dialogue was not nearly as clever as the action. The chemistry between Statham and the female lead was a bit unconvincing, and worse still, we don't get to see anything in the way of NC-17 bedroom shenanigans. However, perverts like me will be vindicated, because later in the movie Statham uses his shirt to incapacitate some baddies and spends a bunch of time fighting topless. Schulze, in my opinion, is a good actor for playing bad guys…he has a Stephen Dorff-esque charisma. However, I think he plays a better asshole than a true villain, and I enjoyed his smaller part in The Fast and the Furious more than this role.

Of course I couldn't post this without sourcing a clip (and a long one, as it turns out) that features Jason Statham fighting Matt Schulze…at least at the start. Then to make up for the lack of Schulze, Statham gets his shirt off and rolls about in a puddle of oil. No, really! Watch and see.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My book, you knows you wants it.

Quick note—it's my day to post on the Blaze Authors Blog, and as it's St. Patrick's Day, a holiday all about luck, I'm giving away a paperback copy (or perhaps two) of my Blaze debut, Caught on Camera (out in bookstores next month). Head over HERE for a chance to win!

Thrusty Thursday: Dylan Moran

When you're as pasty and freckly as I am, you can't in good conscience let St. Patrick's Day pass without making a bit of a to-do. And as it lands on a Thursday this year, how better to celebrate than by thrusting against an authentic Irishman?

No, not Colin Farrell. Not Liam Neeson. Not Cillian Murphy or Johnathan Rhys Meyers or Gabriel Byrne. Nope, when I think of my homeland, I think first of Dylan Moran, whose face and accent and dry, spastic humor personify Ireland for me. If you haven't seen the series Black Books, you're truly doing yourself a disservice. Especially if you've got a personal relationship with books. I missed seeing Moran live during the New Zealand Comedy Festival on my 2007 trip to Wellington by a single day. Heartbreak!

Do enjoy this quick, theme-appropriate clip responsibly (warning: it contains profanity, in case you're watching it out loud in a room full of toddlers, in which case, why are you on this smutty blog to begin with?), and Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

DA BWAHA 2011: It's ON!

Sorry to cross-pollinate again, but my erotica-writing alter ego Cara McKenna's novella Willing Victim got tapped for DA BWAHA 2011 (the March Madness-style book tournament put on jointly by the romance review blogs Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) and shameless self-pimping by the authors is compulsory. The deadline to create your bracket for a chance to win mad-good prizes is midnight tonight, CST. Voting begins shortly on the DA BWAHA blog!

The man-titty war has officially begun, set off by this gem from Meljean Brook. Well I didn't earn that BFA in graphic design to just let my Photoshop skillz rest on their laurels when the shrapnel begins to fly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Don't you judge me, Tex.

Gasp! Caught on Camera, caught on camera! My beloved beta reader sent me this photo over the weekend. She'd lent my book to a friend, and while she and said friend were out for drinks, her friend received this picture plus a text from her fiancé reading, "Tex and I both want to know what the fuck this is about." Apparently, steamy romance novels are not something commonly left lying around their house, incriminating absent parties. I won't lie—it is just a bit thrilling to traumatize another woman's fiancé and pet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle:

Think of a five-letter girl's name that ends in a "J" sound. Change that to a CH sound to get a five-letter boy's name. What names are these?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting [once it's up], check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thrusty Thursday: Jason Statham

I have been in the dark on this one! I haven't seen Jason Statham in a film since around 2003, which is when I watched both Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch in a single weekend. And even then I didn't really register who he was.

Then the other week I was working on a blog post for my erotica-writing alter ego, celebrating a new sale in my favorite, narcissistic author way—playing Fantasy Casting Couch. It's the shameless outside-of-your-head version of a game many authors and readers play, which consists of casting the books we write and read with familiar (usually celebrity) faces. For me, it makes animating the movie that plays in my head while I write easier. The celebrities usually fade away once I get to know my characters inside-out, but I love hearing what familiar faces other authors picked to envision their heroes and heroines, to see if their vision was anything like mine. It usually isn't. I also love hearing who readers cast as my own characters. Matt Damon as Flynn? Really?

Anyway, I was Googling "action movie star" in a frantic attempt to cast one of the book's male leads, and wouldn't you know it, Jason Statham popped right up! I knew his name from panting tweets bandied about by my contemporaries, but I didn't really know what he looked like. Lo and behold, he is three kinds of nonstandard sextasticalz—balding, hairy-chested, and over forty. I have no issue with any of those things, and bundle them all together and slap a British accent and a six-pack on that shit…for swoon! And he used to be a commercial diver? And he was in a movie set in a prison?! Where have you been all my life? The anti-hero I was attempting to cast (who, serendipitously enough, is a commercial diver) isn't balding or British, but Statham's face alone, with that charmingly, gruffly smug expression, was enough for me to shout, "You're hired! Here's your trailer. Would you like a relaxing massage? Go ahead, take off your shirt."

While doing the half-assed research I always dedicate to this feature, I noticed he's in a movie with Jet Li, called War. I'm hoping this means it involves a modicum of Kung Fu, as I plan to watch it tonight while drinking too much wine then run an overdue Friday Night Fu Review for it tomorrow. For now, I will leave you with this, a quick clip I picked simply because when I see the word "training" my brain goes blank. Enjoy:

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Someone already hates your book."

No amount of philosophy can ever prevent the screaming. 
Those are my husband's grim words of wisdom on the topic of reviews. They sound harsh, but he means them philosophically. As many writers will agree, we live our lives in cycles of pain and joy, fear and delight. I'm now entering the pre-release phase on two books, my first two romances. I already know from my experience publishing erotica that book pre-release is a time of jitters, of both the happy and terrified varieties. Excitement for the world to finally have access to my work, and fear that it will disappoint them. Greater fear that it will disappoint them and they will share their displeasure with the internet and shave away a little sliver of my self-worth. (Luckily, self-worth regenerates, much like a starfish's appendages.)

I'm at a funky, unnerving point this week. Advanced review copies of my two romances are circulating, and the paperback and ebook versions of my April Blaze seem to already be available to buy from eHarlequin.

Reviews and ratings are already trickling in for both stories. Positive ones. Out of the blue I discovered that Caught on Camera (the Blaze) had earned four-and-a-half stars from Andrew Shaffer at Romantic Times (you need a subscription to view the review for the time being, but the highlights are on my books page). The story also received glowing praise from Penelope's Romance Reviews—Penny and I are RWA chaptermates, and she told me up front in her charmingly blunt way that if she hated it, she'd be diplomatic enough not to post her opinions. She doesn't mince words or kiss asses, so I was relieved as well as surprised when I earned a lovely write-up from her this morning. Also today, I Twitter-stumbled (twumbled?) across this review from a self-described Harlequin aficionado. Colored me flattered!

So I'm on cloud nine, right? Dear God, no! I'm terrified.

I've never owned a new car, but I have to imagine this is what it feels like, right after you've been handed the papers and keys to your dream ride. At this moment in time, it's perfect. Unmarred by scratches and mud and spilled drinks. The second it leaves the lot, the danger begins. You almost beg for a dent, just to get it out of the way, so that you may give up the suffocating dream of perfection and the pressure that comes with it. That's where I am now, waiting for the first inevitable ding. Practically praying for one, so I can breathe and move on in glorious, dignified imperfection.

When I reach this phase and become nervous and self-doubtful and sometimes downright paranoid, my husband likes to lay that line on me. "Someone already hates your book." What he means is, no matter how great a job a writer did, somebody, somewhere, won't like it. Quite possibly, many somebodies won't like it. It's a scientific fact. When he says that to me, he does so hoping to set me free from my own expectations. It pretty much works, at least in theory.

This job comes patterned in alternating stripes of relief and fear. Relief at the hands of a satisfied reviewer, fear that the next one that won't be so kind or impressed. Relief to have finished a book, sold a book, seen its cover, smelled its pages. Fear of what will happen to it, thrust out into the world and the interwebs. For each book, this pattern has a peak, and the descent down the other side eventually smooths out as my release day [or week, or month] high fades and my focus shifts to the next story. I'm not there yet, though. With a double romance debut ahead of me in the next month, the white-knuckling is just beginning. I am making the jerky, clunky ascent to the zenith of the roller coaster's highest drop, awaiting free fall, twists and turns before I'm deposited sweaty but safe back on the ground. And wouldn't you know it? The second I am, I'm already counting my tickets and scouting for the next ride.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Puzzle

It's Sunday again, and you know what that means—time for me to rip off the puzzle segment from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday!

Mustachioed enigmatologist
extraordinaire, Will Shortz
If you're a newcomer, each week on Weekend Edition Sunday, Will Shortz (the hardcore crossword puzzlers' almighty God) comes on the radio to do three things: share the solution to the previous week's puzzle, invite a winner who entered the correct answer to play another puzzle (usually word-related) on the air for word-nerdy prizes, and present everyone with the next week's puzzle (answers due in by Thursday afternoon via the WES website if you want a chance to play on the air).

Note: I never post the solutions on this blog…at least not before the submission deadline. I see lots of keyword traffic coming from people looking for the answers, which is at best impatient, and at worst, cheating. For shame.

Now without further ado, here's this week's new puzzle [the WES website is slow to update this week, but this I what I jotted down]:

Think of a two-word phrase that means a time long ago. Move the third, fourth and fifth letters to the end of the phrase, without rearranging those three letters, to get a new two-word phrase that means the beginning. What phrases are these?

Click here to see the original puzzle posting [once it's up], check the answer to last week's challenge, listen to the segment, or find the link to enter your answer.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Cheat for Jogglers

Right when Meager March began, I admitted that I would be cheating. Abstaining from frivolous purchases for myself alone isn't too hard, but denying myself activities with my manfriend or family or friends feels like a false economy. I also promised I'd fess up when I did cheat, which is what brings me to this post.

Today my manfriend and I went to a showing at the Salem Film Fest. I bravely resisted the concessions, so with the ticket price, my non-sanctioned frivolous purchases currently total:


But it was completely worth it. We saw a screening of Breaking and Entering, a joyful and eccentric documentary about Guinness World Record chasers and breakers. The director, Benjamin Fingerhut, was there, so we got to enjoy a Q&A with him afterward as well. It's a charming and hilarious film that features perhaps a dozen people—a handful of them in-depth—as they pursue their record-setting dreams, battle their rivals, and go for the glory.

My favorite story within the film was the rivalry between the two world champion jogglers (they run marathons while juggling three balls), Michal Kapral and Zach Warren. It should be amazing enough to finish a national marathon in thirteenth place overall, let alone to do so while juggling. I also enjoyed the various pursuits of Ashrita Furman, the man who currently holds the Guinness World Record for holding the most Guinness World Records (108; among them, running while balancing a milk bottle on his head, slicing the most apples in mid-air with a Samurai sword, and hula-ing the largest hula hoop). An awesome doco, and surprisingly emotional.

I can't recommend this movie enough. If you have a chance to watch it, do so! For now, check out its charming trailer:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Twips for Tweeps

I'm the editor for my RWA chapter's newsletter, and this month I came across the following article by writer Lisa Hughey. Since I'm a proponent of sanity and self-restraint in social networking, I promptly followed her (@lisahughey), and she kindly gave me permission to share her words of wisdom here.

TEN DOs and DON'Ts
for using Twitter as a promotional tool

Twitter has grown from a little networking site to over 200 million users. There are many varied, creative uses for the social networking site. If you aren’t just using Twitter to connect with friends, shadow your favorite celebrities, or follow a particular cause or political party, but also to interact with your audience (readers) as a promotional tool, here are some general reminders of what you should and shouldn’t do.

1. Don’t openly diss agents, editors or other writers. No matter how much you think they have wronged you, an open forum like Twitter is not the place to voice your discontent. All you will do is torpedo your career.

2. Do retweet. If your friend, colleague, favorite author has good news, retweet. Share the love. Good news should be celebrated by everyone.

3. Do promote current blog posts. If you guest post on a website, let your followers know. If you’ve posted a new recipe on your own blog, let your followers know! Twitter is a promotional tool. Use it.

4. Don’t rant. If someone cuts you off in traffic, please don’t give followers a three or four tweet rant on it. If someone gives you a bad review or doesn’t choose your workshop to be included in a conference, don’t complain about it to your Twitter followers. Vent to your friends or vent to yourself but don’t, don’t vent to your readers.

5. Do share interesting articles or research tidbits. Especially if they relate to the business of publishing or promote your agent, publisher, or friends. Or if you find out some really fascinating information about how violets grow and your story is about a Violet Hunter, then share.

6. Don’t talk about religion or politics. Just as it holds true at dinner parties, your position on religion and your political affiliation are going to be controversial for someone. Discussing either subject leaves you open to arguments and rants from someone who follows you. Conversely, if you follow someone and they post something you feel is incendiary...unfollow them but don’t argue with them!

7. Do network with publishing professionals you don’t personally know. It’s okay to post responses to an author whose work you admire. It’s such a small business. You may even know some of the same people. But don’t DM them requesting they buy your book. You also want to follow people in the publishing industry. There are editors, publishing houses, and agents all on Twitter who sometimes run impromptu Tweet Chats. Lots of great information about what the editors/agents do and don’t want to see is available. But you need to follow them.

8. Do use organizational software. If the number of people you are following has gotten crazy large, use organizational software. Use TweetDeck, HootSuite, Echofon. There are many software tools out there to help you create group filters. Maybe you need separate filters for actors you follow, publishing industry professionals, chapter members, critique group members, close friends. Create filters for them all, that way you can get your tweets organized for more efficient reading.

9. Don’t over-share. No one needs to know that you are sick of your husband leaving his underwear on the bathroom floor, or that your son has the stomach flu and puked all over his bedroom. Instead, post something that alludes to your problems without going into specific agonizing detail. Make it clever, make it cute, make it suggestive, but don’t be graphic!

10. Do be professional. Twitter is a promotional platform. Every tweet puts you and your author brand out into the Twitterverse. Don’t post indiscriminately. Pause for three seconds and this something you want associated with your name? Then press send or delete the tweet.

Happy Tweeting!

P.S. One last personal Don’t: don’t post your children’s names (mine have nicknames which I use when I’m proud of them or want to strangle them) online. It’s just a good safety precaution.

Lisa Hughey is an avid romance reader and aspiring author. She has several projects under submission with publishers and spends her time on the web at and on Twitter @lisahughey. Come visit!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thrusty Thursday: Christian Bale

In honor of his recent (and much deserved) Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor, I'm encouraging everyone to thrust against Christian Bale this week!

I watched The Fighter not long ago at our little local theater, knowing I'd love it in advance. Set in working-class Massachusetts and centered around boxing and dysfunctional families, it couldn't help but make me swoon. Bonus—while I watched I pretended that it was the inaccurate film adaptation of one of my erotica-writing alter ego's 2010 novellas. "The Fighter: Cara McKenna's Willing Victim (without all the shady bedroom role-playing) now a major motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg!"

Starring Mark Wahlberg—who did an amazing job as boxer Mickey Ward—but Bale really stole the show. He plays Micky's older brother Dicky, a former fighter turned crack addict, and his performance is just brilliant. If you like down-and-out romance and family life, boxing, comebacks and long-shots, or simply the dulcet tones of a Massachusetts accent, do see it.

The film doesn't showcase Bale at his foxiest, but here's the trailer anyhow, since I have such a mad crush on the movie:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

That's My Name, Don't Wear It Out

I've been thinking about a book I have coming out soon, The Reluctant Nude. At the final stage of proofing, my [brilliant and attractive] editor from Samhain sent me a PDF of the "finished" e-book. Just like the real deal you'd upload to your e-reader, it featured an excerpt from another romance to entice you at the end. Oddly enough, though, the hero in the excerpt had the same name as my wackadoo French hero from The Reluctant Nude—Max. I mean, how often do we really meet Maxes in our lives, ones who weren't born in the last five to ten years? Granted mine is a Maxence, but still. This happens a lot in romance.

Contemporary romance character names are a pet peeve of mine. Don't worry, this isn't another rant-post about soap opera monickers like Rock and Stone and Lucian. What I want is for character names merely to be period realistic—period in this case meaning the seventies, when most heroes in current books would have been born. I have a sneaking suspicion that authors are choosing names from current baby name books. Have you really ever met a man in his thirties named Cayden or Brayden or Jaden or Jace? I promise I'm not picking on any author specifically—I've seen all of those multiple times. The worst is Aiden (Aidan, Aden). I'm sure someone will contradict me, but aside from Aidan Quinn, are there really all that many American men born before 1998 with that name? I blame Sex and the City.

Aside: while I was in art school in the late nineties and early oughts, I worked at a kids' furniture store, where I spent my days inhaling enamel paint fumes and decorating toy boxes and such with designs. We personalized just about everything with the kids' names, and since I worked there for four years, I got a first-hand education in the then-current baby naming trends and patterns. Hands-down, Aiden was the most overused boys' name. No wonder I get so irked by it now. Also popular: Jackson, Madeline, Cole, Sophie, and yes, Max. And all the Caydens and Braydens and Jadens. Properly posh names. Names people simply weren't given in the decades our heroes were born. Names aren't static—they're as fickle as fashion. Hugh is now a popular boys' name in the States, thanks largely to Hugh Jackman, I suspect. You may know a few babies named Hugh, but really, did you go to an American high school with any? (Actually I did, but he was the III.)

When I'm naming a character (bear in mind I write contemporary) the first thing I do is head to this website, which lists the 1,000 most popular American baby names by decade. Please note, Aiden's not even in the top thousand in the 1970s. Ditto Cayden, Jayden, and Jace. "Braden" comes 917th, right between "Dereck" and "Lon". There are other sites out there that even offer a year-specific list. Some readers are history buffs and can't stand when the place settings or the petticoats are wrong. Well that's me with names. I know, I know—it's fiction, authors can use whatever name they want, it's their right. Well it's my right to roll my eyes.

When creating my own characters, I usually limit myself to the top 200 from that aforementioned site and try to pick the one that resonates best. It means my heroes typically end up with names like Michael and Russ and Brian, instead of Colter or Avery or Chase, but I sort of like that. All of this goes for heroines as well. No heroines born in the late seventies christened Madison or Kaylee, please. I mean, you wouldn't likely name her Gertrude, since it's period inappropriate, right? That instinct should go for the too-trendy as well as the too-old-timey. I think only one of my female leads has an odd name, and that's Fallon from The Reluctant Nude. I stole her name from a twenty-something character on The Archers BBC radio soap opera, because dammit, it just fit her.

I guess what I'd like to say in closing is this: authors, your characters are already special. Don't name them as you would your baby, from fear of saddling them with a boring, forgettable name, and making them boring, forgettable characters. You don't dress them in fluorescent clothes to make them stand out, do you? Let them stand out in their words and actions. Think about who their mother was, and what she would name them, in what year. I honestly won't read another romance starring a hero named Aiden…unless perhaps it's historical (I'm a history know-nothing, so I'm not fussy about naming accuracy) or possibly set in the UK. For those exceptions, I might quit my huffing and come along for the ride. Otherwise, trust me. Save the posh baby names for your hero and heroine's firstborn.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Andy Whitfield with a beard…a free public service!

I noticed recently just how frequently this blog gets keyword traffic from people with good taste searching for "Andy Whitfield with a beard" and "Andy Whitfield with long hair". I'm afraid I've been luring those folks to my Thrusty Thursday post about the foxy Welsh / Australian Spartacus actor under false pretenses…but I'm now going to remedy that! And so I present, as a much-needed public service, screen grabs of Andy Whitfield with a beard and long hair! Get your sexy-Jesus kink on:

Meager March

Guess who's wearing mascara! After four weeks without makeup, I must say, putting a little on this morning felt like a chore, especially now that I realize nobody actually notices if I'm wearing it or not. Still, the fast has been broken. And it did feel good to smudge some concealer under my eyes.

Well, it's now officially Meager March, the third month of Discipline Year! I wish I'd begun ruminating on the rules for this challenge earlier than, say, this morning in the shower. But the basic idea is, I'm not allowed to make any frivolous purchases for the next few weeks—makeup, clothes, drinks and meals out, movie tickets, iTunes downloads, etc.

I was so cocky to think this month would be an easy one. It's not like I go shoe-shopping for sport or have my highlights done every two weeks. But after giving the concept a mere twenty minutes' thought, I realized there are a lot of things I'm going to be tempted by. All of them involve other people. I'm going to feel like a drip if my manfriend wants to go to the bar and maybe watch the Celtics play, and I have to cram a peanut butter sandwich in my face to stave off hunger and chug a glass of wine before leaving the house, then sit there while he enjoys a couple beers and an appetizer. I'll feel like a lame-o if any of my cousins want to meet up for a movie or lunch and I have to decline. And I'll most definitely be cheating in a week when my good friend (and faithful beta reader) is in town, orchestrating a small reunion from my old office. Men will be discussed, and wine will be consumed as a natural consequence.

There are some other expenses I'm yet undecided about—train fare to go in to the city for anything short of a doctor's appointment, gas and tolls to drive to Maine to visit my folks, cards or gifts for forgotten birthdays, postage for care packages, charitable donations… I'm going to be making a lot of this up as I go along. And fudging.

Luckily I bought hair dye ahead of time, so no moral panic there. I mentioned yesterday I also slipped a bottle of champagne in as a techniciality…if I make a new book sale I will be enjoying that frivolous pleasure in March, even if I made the actual purchase on the last day of February. So I suppose I'm confessing now: I'll do my best. And I will cheat. But when I do cheat, I'll fess up. That said, you should probably expect a lot of posts this month…