Ch-ch-cha- Changes

Turn and face the strange – I love that song because it’s an elemental truth is that we constantly change, right?

Recently, after the whole lawsuit over image infringment on a few blogs, I went through all my posts, double checked to make sure I hadn’t used any illegal images and pulled them. I had only two in the almost four years of blogging, and in a way it was fun to look back at where I was the day Keri Ford asked me to join her blog. (Little secret – the blog is still saved under my favorites as “Keri Ford and Amy Talley.”)  See? Change already. I don’t blog under Amy Talley anymore.

But anywho, it was fun to see where I was at that time, struggling through trying to write a new Regency book while editing the first book to death. Many of those first posts were about my uncertainty, wondering if I should take the risk of submitting or piddling around trying to decipher my contest scores. Through those posts I watched myself grow as a writer. Starting with doubt, growing with frustration and small accomplishments. I giggled as I saw my mid-March post, knowing that a Golden Heart final was around the corner and wincing at the hopelessness evident in my early September post in 2009, the one where my discouragement was at an all-time high. Then rejoicing once again as I celebrated THE CALL. And then more years trickled by and here I am, so different yet still the same.  “Time may change me, but I can’t change time.”

We all change and that’s a good thing.

ONe change I’m currently excited about is the change to the line I write for- Superromance. When I was in Anaheim this past month, I got the chance to see the changes they’ll be making to the imprint…and it’s exciting. First, the word count is going up to 85,000 – a most welcome event because Superromances used to be SUPER but was cut down to 65K several years ago. That move paired with narrowing the focus to the Home and Hearth line diluted our brand and made the line mirror-image of other lines. Along with the beefed up word count, the subject matter has broadened. There will still be stories of ranchers and cops, but the focus has stretch to include the taboo football coaches and rock stars in more exotic locations. Small towns, big cities and all sizes in between, Superromance will cover a lot of ground. Another exciting change is Superromance will not longer be part of Home and Hearth and will instead be its own imprint – Romance and More!. With new shelving separate from some of the other lines, Superromance is making strides in showcasing the Single Title books of the category world. And even bettter – new covers. These new covers were vetted by industry professionals who study the publishing world, and they steered Superromance toward covers that don’t scream “Harlequin!” which I think gives the writers in this line a good shot at having better ebook sales. Oh, and no more bright yellow banner either. A small, tidy gold bar will go half way aross the page with Superomance in lowercase letters and small script. Understated elegance in a bigger book.

Can you tell I’m excited?

So, yeah, change is suiting me about right now. I’ve got my fingers crossed that a new look, a new vision and a new concept will help revive a line that has had a stellar past. Sure, I have my own reasons, but honestly, Superromances were some of the first romances I read back in the day and I would hate to see them fade away. This month over at the Harlequin website, it’s Superromance month. There are plenty of fun threads on which to chat, and I have a free online read starting on August 13th called “The Nerd Who Loved Me.” It’s a cute little romance between a secondary character in Under the Autumn Sky (Mary Belle) and the ugly duckling who grew up next door to her in Bonnet Creek. Hint: Tripp ain’t so nerdy anymore! It’s a fun, sexy little read about forgiveness. So if you’re looking for a nice way to start the day, you can click on the link and get a daily episode. Here’s the link in case you want to check it out – http://www.harlequin.com/community

So what changes are you facing in your life at present? Anything exciting or scary? Go ahead and use the blog for some therapy. We’ll talk you through it.

College Recruiting 101 – It’s Really Crazy, Y’all!

The hard thing about summer is not just dealing with the kids interrupting my writing for very important things like food, snacks, sodas and anything else they must have right now, but it’s the way I lose track of time. Like, say, this morning when I woke up with two thoughts in mind. “Scrubs!” “Blog!”

Thank goodness scrubs dry fast since I promised my hubbie I’d have them washed and folded, so I *almost* did that. And the other, of course, was this blog that I was supposed to type last night. But these crazy storms came through which led to all the animals freaking out, the kids piled on my bed and a rerun of Family Guy which meant I forgot about the blog. But never fear….I’m still here!

So I wanted to do a little excerpt from my book that should be on shelves near you…I hope. Never know with Walmart or Harlequin Distribution Center (or whatever they call it). But this book is special for a couple of reasons – it has no actual sex in it (in fact, it ends with Lou still a virgin), it has three POVs (a first for me) and it’s about college recruiting. Now, you may look at the idea of a book that revolves around college football as meh, but if you don’t know much about the craziness of recruting, well, you’re in for a treat.

Many of you know that I’m a LSU fan (no jibs here, you Razorbacks) and one of my favorite passions regarding the Tigers is the recruiting of potential players. It’s fascinating what a big business this has become. No longer is it word of mouth…oh, no. Now they actually have combines for high school athletes, not to mention, recruiting services that put together packages for the athletes. Can you say “MONEY!” It’s a big time business which is why there are so many regulations given out by the NCAA on recruiting. So what does this entail? Here’s how it might go for a kid:

Freshman/Sophomore year: You play good enough to generate some talk. A few college contact you to show interest (usually by letter)

Junior Year:  Attend Junior Days at several universities, make recrutiing highlight reel, sign up for multiple camps in the summer, find a 7 on 7 team, workout like a fiend to improve all times on 40 yd dash, bench press, etc.

Senior Year: If you have a 3-5 star ranking by places like Rivals or ESPN then you will endure one call a week from college coaches, visits to your highschool by coaches, official and unofficial visits where you’ll be wined and dined (but not with alcohol…or at least not where “they” aka NCAA can see it) And this lasts for a good six months until National Signing Day (first Tuesday in February)

It’s complex, exciting and terrifying for these KIDS and their families. It’s almost too much and for some of these recruits, the pressure is almost too much. So when I sat down to write a book about college football, I knew that the world of college recruiting was ripe for subject matter. So meet Waylon Boyd, my 6′ 3″ tight end prospect out of Bonnet Creek High School. He’s got 4 stars behind his name, mostly because he’s big, fast and plays like a tiger…or excuse me…a panther (didn’t use LSU – instead they’re the University of Louisiana, Baton Rouge Bayou Panthers) so he’s got lots of eyes on him with lots of expectations….including that of his own family. His older sister Lou is his gaurdian, and she never signed up for what happens with major recruiting, so everyone in the family – Lou, Lori and Waylon is struggling for balance. And for Waylon, well, he’s not sure he even wants it anymore.

“Well,” Lou said, picking up a throw blanket, folding it and tucking it away in the hollow ottoman. She also picked up a few soda cans and gum wrappers, tidying the house as was her habit every night before she went to bed. “I can understand not wanting things to change, but that’s how life is. It moves whether we want it to or not. But we have to remember, these programs wanting your brother is a good thing. Most guys only dream about what Waylon has.”

“What if I don’t want it anymore?”

Lou turned around to see her brother standing in the hall doorway, both hands braced against the doorframe. He looked big…and sort of sad. “You no longer want to play football?’

He shrugged. “Maybe I’m tired of it. Maybe I’m sick of being the school’s hero – everybody watching me, examining my grades, timing my runs. Maybe I want to be normal.”

Lou tossed the matching throw pillow onto the couch next to her sister – maybe a little harder than necessary. “Well, normal isn’t going out drinking and destroying other people’s property. It’s not lying to your family. Or failing American history tests. None of those things you’re doing are normal, Way.”

“Whatever,” he said, walking past her toward the kitchen.

So he was going to give her attitude after coming home in a cop car? No freaking way was he getting away with that kind of attitude. Lou followed her brother into the kitchen. “What is your problem, Waylon? You’re so close to getting everything you wanted and you’re trying to throw it away.”

He opened the refrigerator, pulled out the milk and took a swig straight from the carton because he knew it ticked her off. “Nothing’s wrong, and you don’t know what I want. No one ever asked me what I want. Maybe I don’t want to play football in college. I may not even go to college.”

“The hell you aren’t,” Lou walked over and plucked the carton from his hand. “And stop drinking from the carton. It’s gross.”

“You can’t make me go to college, and you can’t make me play football. I spend day and night lifting weights, doing cardio, and running drills. That doesn’t leave me time for anything else except homework and bed. Think I want to live that way? With no fun in my life?”

Lou tilted her head. “Oh, so you want to have fun?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Just a little glimpse into what it might be like dealing with that sort of pressure as a 16-17 year old kid. Has to be sorta wonderful and tough, huh? So when you were younger (or older) what kind of pressure did you feel exerted from areas in you life that you couldn’t control?

Blatant Promo Be Gone

So here’s the deal. It’s very late, I’m just home from a ball game, and I JUST remembered today is my day. (Obvioiusly I’m writing this on Tuesday night…and don’t even ask about the crazy late baseball All-star games!) So forgive me if this seems not quite as polished, but here I go anyway.

I’m tired of promo. There. I said it.

I’m tired of trying to find ways to slip my book into an online conversation. I’m tired of trying to be witty on Twitter and butting my big nose into someone elses’ conversation (and being ignored). I’m tired of posting links to my books, give aways, etc on FB. And I’m really, really tired of everytime I check my email, having someone ask me to an online book launch…or to comment on their blog….or to like their page. I know, I know. We all do it. But, by jimney, I don’t have to like it. But here’s the ol’ rub…I feel like if I don’t spend X amount of time online hawking, participating, and, yes, even blogging that I won’t be doing my job. And, really, is that my job?

I guess it is, but I sure as H-E-double hockey sticks never wanted it.

I wanted to be a writer.

Writer.

Not a publicist. Not a cover designer. An editor. A marketing executive. A bookmark maker. A clever, witty online personality who leads the multitudes to her fabulous, witty Southern romance books.

I mean, really? Really?

After reading a post on Dear Author about authors correcting their work to suit readers, giving apologies, explaining themselves, I wonder…has it really come to this?

Natalie’s post and the responses yesterday really made me think about the world we live in and the consumers we try to seduce with our words. We live in a please-me-now society that doesn’t really value art in many forms. Gone is the appreciation of the aesthetics in favor of the cheapest, give-it-to-me fast music, books and television. No one wants to wait for anything. The public wants it yesterday. And there’s something to be said for having to sell your work so hard and have it valued so little. Have we come to whoring ourselves out to readers, asking for their approval, changing our books to suit them? If so, I want no part of it. I’m not a whore. I’m a writer. I’m not begging people to read my work. I’m happy if they do, but I’m not going to go on every social media known to man and sell myself. It takes too much out of me for such little result.

I’d like to enjoy blogging because I get to connect with cool people…not just so I can sell them my books, but so I can learn from them and share in their world. I want to go on Twitter to learn the scores on my favorite teams, to enjoy the comraderie of being with other writers, to spy on movies stars. I want to go on Facebook and communicate with my old high school friends, and, sure, share information about what’s going on in my life, including my books. But I don’t want to guilt them into buying them, make them uncomfortable about me being an author.

Somehow, sometime, I have to draw the line. I have to do the job I set out to do…you know, writing.

I’ve treasured the communities I’m in, but more and more, I feel the pressure to claw my way to the top by constantly tweeting about my books, my writing, my covers and anything else that might help me make yet another sale. For those of you who bought my book(s), I thank you. I really, sincerely appreciate your support. But I don’t want my presence online to be defined by how many books I can sell to the people reading my posts or tweets because I’m pretty sure my time would be better served by reading good books and doing my best to write the same.

What about you? If you’re a writer, do you feel like you are plugging up cracks in the vase of promotion. If you’re a reader, what suggestions do you have for writers looking to climb out of the enormous mountain of books offered?

Blueberries, Waffles and Golf – a day for the Forgotten

I know. Weird title, right?

So Monday was my youngest’s birthday. He turned 10 and I’m thinking that’s like the entry age for a Tween. So guess my baby’s not so much a baby anymore and with the oldest turning 13 on Sunday, I’m feeling a little old and a lot melancholy. I know everyone says to cherish the days because they grow up so fast, but “they” are right. It does go fast and I’m trying to juggle cherishing the boys with deadlines, laundry and bill paying.

But yesterday was all about Beebs (our nickname for him) and we did whatever he wanted that day…which wasnt’ much. That little guy – oh, excuse me, big boy – likes to fly beneath the radar. No singing at the restaurant, no friends over, no cake. Nothing. He’s the easiest kid as far as birthdays go because he DOES NOT like to draw attention to himself in any way. His idea of a horror movie is his name in lights and everyone looking at him. Forget about chainsaws and hockey masks. Beeb’s biggest fear is everyone looking at him. So no party. I had to sing at home. All he wanted was to eat waffles at IHOP and go to the movies that evening. Just me, him and his dad.

But funny thing is, the family is use to him being this way so sometimes they forget about him. And the person least likely to forget his birthday is the person who forgot it yesterday…my mom.

Mim (as the g-kids call her) has a special little relationship with Beebs. We all understand this. For some reason they are peas and carrots and my son will tell my mom more than he will tell me. She scratches his back, makes him special fruit salad and comes to almost all his baseball games. When Beebs was a toddler, he cried to go home with his Mim every time he saw her. They have a bond I’m so glad they share. But yesterday she forgot hsi birthday. Usually my mom calls and sings “Happy Birthday” to whoever’s birthday it is. So when he didn’t receive the call by 9:00, he said, “Let’s call her.” So I’m driving down the road (after the waffles) and he’s talking to his Mim, shooting the breeze, and finally after about five minutes of chitchat, he smiles and says, “I think you forgot something.” It was pretty funny because she freaked out.

Needless to say, as you’re reading this we’re at Mim and Poppa’s house eating waffles, or picking blueberries, or playing golf or eating red beans and rice or…well, you get the drift. There’s an apology coming Beeb’s way and it’s in the form of his favorite things. It’s an easy way to slow down and savor the time I have with him. After all, I’m the driver so I get the perks of the “apology.” So tomorrow in the midst of revisions on a book, another waiting on a short story and a new book waiting to be started, I’m driving to my parents for breakfast, berry picking and lunch…and all the cherishing of my new ten year old I can get.

I’ll eat some blueberries for you 🙂

Take time and smell the waffles, people. LOL.

How about you? Ever forgot an important event? How did you make it up to the person you slighted?

Pulling the Trigger

Well, heck.

Wednesday snuck up on me…maybe because it feels like Tuesday. Memorial Day does that to you, kicks you all off balance so you don’t know what day of the week it is.

But it IS Wednesday and my blog day, so I’ll just get after it 🙂

So, I’m in this weird stratosphere – the Between Books World – and I’m kinding flip-flopping around with no direction. Thing is, I really need a direction because the next book is due in September and I’ve not written a word. So, there’s this big rollercoaster of a book sitting in my path. But I keep climbing on the carousel and gobbling up cotton candy (aka, research and character sketch) rather than just climbing into  a car and strapping in for the ride. The dog-gone book is right in front of me, awaiting me, the screams of those riding echoing in my ears, but I won’t get in line.

And that has me worried.

I wonder if I’m still tired from writing so hard and fast this year. I wonder if I don’t have enough story. I wonder if I need more research. I wonder if I want to even ride…the shade is kinda nice over here by the entrance gate.

I can’t pull the trigger.

So maybe I just need someone to say, “Liz, get your ass in line and stop being such a fraidy cat” or maybe I need to tell myself that. Not sure, but there’s one thing I do know, this book ain’t writing itself.

Sigh.

Life certainly gets in the way, crowding my intent to accomplish words, but today is the last day of school and with it goes the projects, the lunch money, the PTA jobs, the studying, the baseball, the other 99 little things a mother has to do when school is in session. No vacations on the horizon (except Nationals). No major undertakings (the office renovatioin for husband is complete). Just me, my computer and more time than I’ve had in a while. So why can’t I get my enthusiam up and running? Why am I not in line?

So what about you? Ever had moments when you couldn’t pull the trigger? I’d love to hear how you overcame your silly fears and hopped aboard with both guns blazing.

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Man

So I’ve been decorating stuff lately. Namely, I’ve been decorating my husband’s office and my home office. My husband’s office was built in 1979 and honestly some of the things in there were original, so we took out an improvement loan and set about updating the place and bringing it more into the 21st century.

Of course everything cost more than originally budgeted. That always happens, right? So by the time the granite was installed, the wallpaper removed and the walls retextured and painted, the cabinets sanded and painted and new carpet installed, there wasn’t much left over for new office furniture and artwork. That’s where cheap, bargain-shopping Liz Talley came in. And I figured while I was in the office frame of mind, I would spiff up my own digs. So off I went to all my favorite places to scoop up bargains.

At a furniture store I scored a nice leaning bookcase for $199.00 which meant I could give my old smaller bookcase to my husband to put in his closet for storage. Ding! Money saved and I got a new bookcase. Next, the office chair. I had recently bought a nice leather one for my home office that was too big for me and causing me to slump. With my Louisiana income tax return, I bought an ergonomic chair for me (something called a Quantum) and sent the distinguished leather and wood chair with my husband. More money saved! And lest you think he got all my leftovers, I found a beautiful Riverside desk and filing cabinet on sale at Dillards. Using my 10% off coupon meant I saved over a $100.00 there. Then I found an orginal painting won at an art auction, found a frame on sale at Michaels (using my 40% off coupon) and brought forth a nice, masculine Labrador Retriever piece to hang near his desk. I scored another large metal sculpture at Tuesday Morning and a wood table at a salvage store to hold the coffee, etc. So, yeah, I took my mad shopping skills and helped trim the budget down considerably. All in all, it looks pretty darn good.

So now you’re wondering about the title, right?

Well, after helping my husband put together my new chair last night, I felt empowered. So empowered that I decided I could put together the bookcase I bought for my office. Piece of cake, right?

Well, it was…mostly because I was determined it would be. I did use the eldest son’s brawn and asked for his help bringing it in the house. After that, I was on my own. They had homework. Whatever! But I let it slide because I do want them to do their homework and we had yet another baseball game. So I unboxed, laid out the parts and after a few slip ups trying to hold the sides up while I screwed the shelves in place, I found a rhythm and a system. Thirty minutes later, I had a completed bookshelf that I built ALL BY MYSELF! Trust me. This is an incredible feat. I don’t do well with instructions or screwdrivers…but when a gal needs a bookshelf up and functioinal, she does what it takes.

So I posted a picture of the end result which I was very pleased with. Got the pillow on sale at Pier One for under $25.00, too. Another bargain since it’s really cute. The Louisiana Writers print was found in my grandfather’s storage shed after he passed away and the rug was a bit more than I like to pay but it had flowers on it and my office is the only place I seem to be able to do flowers in this masculine household.

So what about you? Ever done something on your own that you thought you couldn’t accomplish?

With a Little Help From my Friend – Beth Cornelison

Yesterday was the release day for Waters Run Deep, the first book in the Boys of Bayou Bridge series, and the first book I have taking place in my native state of Louisiana. It’s so exciting to bring my readers a new family, a new setting and a new venture into, well, semi-suspense. Here’s the link if you want to check it out  http://www.amazon.com/Waters-Run-Deep-Harlequin-Superromance/dp/0373717768 , but I didn’t want to spend my day talking about my book. I wanted to share a special friend with you….a friend who introduced me to my editor and started me on this entire adventure : Rita-nominated, Golden Heart winner BETH CORNELISON. Thanks for being here with me today, Beth, to talk about what you have going on 🙂

Thanks, Liz, for the chance to guest blog here at ENALR and give my testimony (Can I get a Hallelujah?) about how my great friends in the writing community have supported and encouraged me throughout my career.

I have no doubt in my mind that I would not be the multi-published, award winning author I am today if not for my writing buddies. My friends in the writing community, especially the lovely ladies (and you too, Dennis!) of the NOLA STARS chapter of RWA, patiently critiqued my earliest books and taught me craft of romance writing when I was a newbie who didn’t know point of view from a hole in the ground.  They encouraged me through the heartache of numerous rejections, introduced me to publishing professionals who could help my dream of publishing a reality, and guided me through the minefield of submitting my work to the right people. I remember one published author friend telling me “Never pass up the opportunity to meet an editor!” based on her advice and encouragement, I took an extra appointment at a conference with an editor from Harlequin. That editor ended up requesting my manuscript, loved my voice and stuck with me until we found the right manuscript to launch my career with Silhouette Intimate Moments (now called Harlequin Romantic Suspense).

When I finally received ‘The Call,’ my writer friends celebrated with me over the sale of my first book, complete with cake and balloons, and really understood what it meant to have  reached my dream. My writing friends have been my teachers, my fan club, my mentors and my sounding board for years and I treasure every one of them. It has been my pleasure to give back to each of them the same love and support they gave me.

When Liz sold her first book, I swear I was as happy for her as I was when I sold my own book. I’d been Liz’s roommate at her first RWA National conference, had critiqued one of her first contemporary books, and had introduced her to a certain editor I’d met through other friends earlier in my career. That editor just happened to later buy Liz’s books for Superromance– oh, happy day!!

I’m a big believer in karma when it comes to the writing community.  You get back what you give. I’m lucky to call Liz my friend and hope that I can continue to inspire, support and teach other writers the same way my friends have bolstered me. And in the spirit of good karma, I want to share two opportunities for you to get my books for FREE!  First, my small town romance TRUST IN ME is available for free download at Amazon May 3-7.

Escaping the cheating fiancé and sheltered life her father has arranged for her, Claire Albritton wants nothing more than to take control of her life and learn to fight her own battles. Kevin Fuller believes he must rescue damsels in distress, and Claire is decidedly out of her element in small town South Carolina. When trouble inevitably finds Claire, Kevin’s white knight protection and heroics are exactly what Claire doesn’t want. But his kisses…that’s another matter.

            I’m thrilled to be able to offer TRUST IN ME free for a few days, so be sure to head over to Amazon starting tomorrow and through the weekend.

Want more? Well, then leave a comment here and tell me something special a friend has done for you that meant the world to you. I’ll pick one comment at random on May 8 to win a copy of one of my backlist books (you can see your choices at www.bethcornelison.com) and a sweet treat. (Chocolate anyone?)

Thanks again, Liz, for all you do and your friendship too! Hugs!!

You are so welcome, Beth. I’ve loved having you as my mentor, roomie and all-around good friend, and I’m glad you dropped by to share with us a little about the friendships you’ve made on your journey 🙂 I have to say that I’m surrounded by such a wonderful support system, including these gals here at ENALR. Nothing like people who will buy your books, review them, retweet links and post testimonies about your books. Gotta say having friends makes the journey all the more sweet!

%d bloggers like this: