Everybody needs a little romance–and a transition

In August, my husband of 30 years surprised me.  He’s this Type A, Rock of Gibraltar personality who’d been at the same job for 25 years.  He’d been talking retirement and I’d been slightly panicking.  Having a husband home all the time would take some getting used to.

He talked about April 2013, and that gave me some time to prepare.  In my heart of hearts, I didn’t think he’d actually do it.   Although he’s been at the same job for 25 years, we’re still relatively young and this economy had us both worried.

But the main reason I didn’t want him home all the time was a selfish one. I’m a writer.  During daylight hours, the house is mine.

Most writers don’t sit in a chair, where inspiration flows into their fingertips.  When I want to brainstorm, or I get stuck, I jump up from the chair, pick up the phone, and call someone like blog partner Cynthia D’Alba.  I literally take up the first floor of my house to do this.  I walk out of my office, into the den, walk through the kitchen, into the living room then traverse that same area again and again until I get a plot point figured out.

That’s such a freeing process for me.  And that process didn’t include walking out of my office, to find a man on the couch with the television blaring, wondering, what in the heck is she doing?

Even so, I had plenty of time to prepare, right?  He’d said April 2013.  My budget-minded husband studied his Excel spreadsheets with a specific dollar amount in mind and he was like the proverbial racehorse winding down for the homestretch.

Wrong.  I forgot to calculate into all his preparedness the amount of stress he was under.  In August, when I was at RWA National, he out-and-out quit his job.  The stress he’d just released fell onto my shoulders in a big, thick thud!

There’s a happily ever after to this story—he’s well-respected at work and his bosses wouldn’t accept his resignation.  They offered him a sabbatical and a new position when he returns in January.  It’s also given us a chance to layout some guidelines for when both of us are home full time.  I explained my crazy little writing process and he laughed. The last place he planned to be after 25 years was sitting on a couch and watching TV.

He obviously meant it.  So far, he’s gone to Arizona to hike the Grand Canyon, climbed Pikes Peak, he went elk hunting with buddies; every morning he gets up and either runs or bicycles for a good part of the day.

In a week, after hiring a house sitter, we’re heading to Fort Worth to see our son and his new wife, and then to Las Cruces for a couple of weeks.

I think I might actually be sad when he has to go back to work in January.  I’m blessed I guess to have a man who appreciates that I take up a lot of room as a writer 😉 And I admit it’s been rather fun having him home as he’s not underfoot all the time.  Guess along with everybody needing a little romance—everybody now and then needs a transition.

What do you think?  Ever reached a point where you’ve said enough is enough?

Happy Friday, all.

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?

Happiness: Before or after success?

I recently sold my first book.  I was elated.  I still am. I was before.  Selling a book didn’t make me happy—it increased my happiness factor.  You see, I wake up with the need to be positive.  I’ve read The Secret, and there’s a lot to be said for positive affirmations, visualizing our hopes and dreams and casting them out to the universe.  But if you’re miserable before, during and after, will obtaining The Secret change anything for the better? Maybe you’ll be richer, more successful, but will you be any happier?

Think about it.  How many of us have said:   If I could lose five pounds, I’d be happy?  If I work harder, it’ll lead to a promotion and then I’ll be happy?  When I finish this manuscript, it’ll lead to a publishing career, and then I’ll be happy?

My point?  Happiness needs to come before your success.

I attend Toastmasters.  I belong to a great group in Colorado Springs, and one of our speakers gave a speech on Happiness.  In it, she referenced psychologist Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.  Achor, an expert on human potential, claims that happiness is an advantage and the precursor to greater success.

He states that every single relationship, business and educational outcome improves when the brain is positive first.  He further writes, it’s hard to find happiness after success if the goalposts of success keep changing. 

Anyone think he was talking about publishing after reading those statements?  Probably not directly, but I had some real aha moments after reading this book.

In The Happiness Advantage, Achor defines rational optimism as a “realistic assessment of the present, while maintaining a belief that our behavior will eventually create a better reality.”

Here’s a link to an interesting Youtube video featuring Shawn Achor during one of his talks at Harvard.  http://www.bing.com/search?q=Youtube+and+Shawn+Achor&form=LENMHP&pc=LEN2&x=78&y=19

We are inundated daily with negatives in this world.  Worse, if you’re pursuing a publishing career, prepare for decisions to be slow to nonexistent, for rejection to be commonplace, and for some to view you as a competitor instead of a colleague.  If you’re miserable when you enter this field, you’re in for a terrible, heartbreaking road.  Happiness will be your cushion for the myriad disappointments you are bound to encounter.

Achor says our society’s formula for success and happiness is broken.  The happy news is it’s reversible.

I think Achor is on to something.  What do you think?

How to Make a Tentpole Summer Movie Work When Expectations are Stratospheric

1. Set it up with well done introductory movies.

Some (Number One. Loudly.) can argue that Iron Man 2 sucked. But Iron Man did not. Thor had some weaknesses, but held up on all the important points: Shirtless God, emotional family conflict, epic battles. Captain America also received some criticism for feeling like an introductory film, but I think that’s just because of the way it ended. I thought the rest of the movie was very strong. Much like hunky Steve. In any case, all three of these were liked well enough by enough people that anticipation for The Avengers was high.

2. Fix what was wrong with the other introductory movies when you bring that character back, and play down his role a little bit in promotion.

I don’t think most of the people who saw The Avengers cared much about the Incredible Hulk’s presence. The two movies that focused solely on him in the past didn’t do so well. I admit, I didn’t see either one. But it’s hard to get behind a superhero who’s actually kind of a villain. So The Avengers brought in Bruce Banner instead. They concentrated on the conflict of him not wanting to be “the other guy,” made him a tool for the enemy, and redeemed him magnificently in the climactic ending.

3. Make it funny.

This cannot be stressed enough. But it can’t just be competing one-liners. They have to mean something, like this fantabulous exchange:

Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: Have a care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.
Thor: He’s adopted.

Make some of the humor visual. Get actors willing to look a bit silly for the sake of a gag, but make that gag fit seamlessly into the whole. Provide different kinds of humor: Coulson’s deadpan delivery versus Nick Fury’s dramatic parting shots versus Tony Stark’s rapid-fire nicknames and pop culture references. Nothing ever gets stale.

4. Make it emotional.

Each character has something worth fighting for, whether it’s big, small, internal or external. They don’t get along, they’re all the best of the best so they’re cocky and arrogant, but when it comes time, they work perfectly together because they know how to exploit each other’s strengths.

Twist the conflict so some beloved characters wind up in places we don’t want them to be, and then sacrifice something unforgiveable—but leave room for hope, because there will be a sequel.

5. Make it accessible.

Comics fans need to be appeased, so give them lots of little things to look for, artifacts and references only they know. But your audience has to be bigger than comic book readers, so make sure we can understand the characters and where they came from, what their motivations are, what they want. Captain America’s loneliness, Thor’s ripped-apart family, Banner’s despair over a lack of a normal life, even Tony Stark’s need to have his brilliance recognized…these are all souped-up versions of things we regular people feel, too.

All of that put together is a pretty tall order. So throw in the destruction of New York City for the testosterone fueled (for the life of me, I’ll never understand why grown men love breaking things so much), special effects to awe us no matter how jaded we’ve become by special effects, and oh, yeah, one more thing:

Put Joss Whedon in charge of it.

The Avengers was probably the most-anticipated movie of the year, bigger than Spider-Man (which has a wary interest from a lot of us, being so soon after a full trilogy), bigger than Batman (which is dark and without the sense of fun of The Avengers). When expectations are stratospheric, a movie is doomed to disappoint, isn’t it?

Not this one. The Avengers earned a rare A+ Cinemascore rating (they poll moviegoers on the way out of the theater, getting their honest and immediate reactions). People laughed so much they missed stuff, so they had to go back and see it a second time. We’ll quote it at each other, put up posters, preorder the DVD, and start counting down until the sequel.

Even without a release date, it’s still way too far away…

QR Codes – A Newbies Quick Take

Warning! Lesson Time!

Put your thinking caps on. This will only hurt a little. 🙂 

Technology wins another round! LOL

Here’s hoping I’m not the only one behind the times with all this new technology popping up. How many of you know what a QR code is? (I’m imagining the song from Jeopardy here as I wait. LOL)

QR Codes, or Quick Read Codes, are similar to the barcodes used by retailers for inventory and pricing. I’m pretty sure everyone has seen those on the products at the store. Long rectangular boxes filled with a bunch of lines and numbers that make no sense to the human eye.

But the QR Code is so much cooler.  This is a smaller square box that seems to be popping up on just about everything I pick up now. Not on products so much, but on paper documents like magazines, coupons in the Sunday newspaper, even books. So what the heck are they? These tiny squares are links that contain so much information, I find it mind boggling. 

  • QR codes (Microsoft Tags, Datamatix, etc.) are two-dimensional codes that can be generated free and easily to display for anyone to scan with a smart phone.
  • They enable easy connections between physical objects and the digital world. (Wow!)
  • By scanning a QR code with a mobile phone a person can link to a URL, bookmark, text, phone number, SMS or a vCard (contact)

I tried the one from Google called Goo.gl.com.   But there’s a great list of others here on this blog.  http://2d-code.co.uk/qr-code-generators

As I said, I’m behind and still in the learning process, so I need to do a bit more research on which one will work best for me. The one I made using Google’s version directs people to my book on Amazon so they can add it to their wish list.

Scan with a smart phone and bingo, your there. No trying to type in the url using those ity bity phone buttons.

 Or how about this one from Likify.net to help people find you on Facebook.

 Sorry, you’ll have to have a smartphone to actually see the results from these little squares. First step is downloading a free QR reader app to your phone and then you’re set to go.

The big picture is this. Anyone doing business today can make these free and easily and then put them on anything. Marketing for a generation that is never without their cell phones.  Unbelievable! Quick, easy and convenient. Doesn’t get any better. Business cards, post cards, flyers, T-shirts anything you can print up and get in the hands of your readers or potential readers/customers is prime QR code space.

Give them a free short story or product after purchasing a novel or another product. Have a print copy of your book? How cool would it be to place a QR code at the back with your bio so when the reader is finished they can immediately find your next book online and purchase it? Bingo your new release is on its way and all they needed was their cell phone. How about a link to enter a contest on your blog or website? Or a coupon for something else. Online marketing and social media is great if you’re sitting at your computer.  But what about all those people sitting in the doctor’s office, carpool lines or public transportation? This opens up all kinds of new doors to reach them.

I leave post cards with my book covers, website, blog and facebook fanpage in hotel rooms when we travel. The next person who comes along may not have a computer with them to look up the information if they wanted to, but odds are really great they’ll have that smartphone. 🙂  The possibilities are endless. Don’t have a novel out yet, how about one to direct them to your blog or website or another place you visit often. What a great new way to interact with others on the go.

This one is for the ENLR blog ladies.  🙂

Reading about this new technology has my creative juices flowing in so many directions I can barely keep up. Just another way to procrastinate for me. But at least this little venture will be so beneficial in the long run.  🙂

 How many of you use these codes already? Have I peeked your interest? Would love to hear your take on this!

Summertime, and the living is…easy?

Today is the last day of the school year. I’m so looking forward to summer break. I’m so dreading it.

My sons are on two different schedules (one half-day kindergartner and two middle schoolers). Because of some…ahem…”issues” I’ve ended up driving them to and fro rather than putting them on the bus I paid for with my property taxes fueled by the gas I paid for–but I digress. They’ve had track, band, academic team, robotics, music lessons–all of those things I swore when I wasn’t yet a parent that I wouldn’t let them get into so that they could “just be children.”

As a result, most days of the week I haven’t had more than two or three consecutive, uninterrupted hours to do anything. My days are as broken up as the stale spaghetti noodles I poured into the pot for dinner last night.

Writing is actually easier when they are all at home. Or it should be. The older two (in theory) can feed, clothe, bathe and watch the youngest. Everyone can call 9-1-1 and the pizza guy. I should be able to lock myself in my office with my laptop and my imaginary friends and enemies in my imaginary town.

Before I was a parent, I chose myself a good man. A mellow man. A quiet man. A peaceful, calming person. The Spawn of Stevens look like him. They make his gestures and repeat phrases that have come straight from their father’s mouth.

SO WHAT IS WITH ALL OF THE BICKERING? Zom-GEE!

They LOVE each other. We had them so that long after we’re gone, they’d have each other. They cuddle together on the floor beside the bed when they’re asleep (because sleeping bags are always more fun than beds.) They drown army men together in the sandbox (which is full of mosquito-larva-infested water). So why won’t they stop with the bickering?

I make them stay on separate floors. Behind separate doors. I fine them for speaking to each other (I’ve made back most of their allowances). I make them hug and kiss one another when they fight. Nothing, but nothing creates peace.

Advise me, those of you who’ve been trapped shared halcyon summers with your offspring, the sun glinting on their hairs as they frolicked in slo-mo through non-wasteful sprinklers. I need you. My children’s lives may depend on you.

Truth or Fiction? Don’t Be Too Quick to Judge!

Good morning! Hope you’re all bright-eyed, bushy tailed and ready to tackle the day. Me, I’m still wishing the weekend was a tad bit longer. Still don’t understand how it can fly by like that.

We had a great chapter meeting on Saturday with a visit from a real live U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent. Talk about just what the doctor ordered! My head is still swimming with all the information and wild stories he was kind enough to share with us. Real life is truly stranger than fiction. I will never again worry that something I write will have readers saying, “That could never happen.” What people will do for money….Unbelievable!

From tarot card readers running drugs by using little old men and women to transport it, to a strange lady taping roaches to the wall with electrical tape the new story ideas are spreading like wild-fire in my brain and clogging up all my blogging ideas.

So I thought I’d share a great book with you today by one of my fellow chaptermates. I love Carla Rossi’s stories!  Carla is not only an awesome writer, but such a sweet lady with a wonderful sense of humor. I can’t wait to start reading this one!

Blurb:

A tattooed rocker and an uptight music teacher—who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Candi Canaberry has been the worship leader at Cornerstone Fellowship since the doors opened. Candi has dedicated her life to praise and worship, so when Cornerstone explodes into mega-church territory, Candi is sure she’ll be the one to take her team to the next level—isn’t she the obvious choice? Apparently not. Church leadership has other ideas. She’s given a partner to share her duties. But a one-time rocker with zero praise and worship experience?

Recently saved Samuel “Shade” Blackledge is new to Cornerstone Fellowship. He’s convinced a strong church family is what will help keep his head above water as he turns from things of the past and builds a new life. The Ex-Dead Lizard rock guitarist is shocked when the pastor suggests he might be just what the worship team needs.

But could God really want a tattooed veteran of the club scene? And what about his less-than-Godly lifestyle to this point—not the least of which is a baby girl he’s never seen?

Worship practice has never been this interesting as Candi and Shade work their way towards each other—and Unlikely Praise.

Links to make it easy. 🙂

View book trailer/video –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p17F9wnBUo4
Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Unlikely-Praise-ebook/dp/B007G4KJ5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1330715662&sr=8-1
Print book from Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Unlikely-Praise-Carla-Rossi/dp/1611161428/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1330872697&sr=8-3
Buy print book from publisher – http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/unlikely-praise-softcover
Buy downloadable e-book from publisher – http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/unlikely-praise
Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/unlikely-praise-carla-rossi/1109235827?ean=2940013920354&itm=1&usri=unlikely+praise

** I watch World’s Dumbest Criminals for ideas sometimes. So just for fun, and we’ll call it research too. LOL What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever heard of a criminal doing?

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