Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Friday...What was I THINKING?

In the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, my mind began to turn to Christmas. That's unusual for me. Really. I tend to completely relax about it, not think about it, until after Thanksgiving has come and gone but not this year. Odd thing. My husband started it. It's all his fault. He kept finding 'deals' in the circulars in our daily newspaper and like an idiot, I began to pour over them. As I'm sure you can imagine, with two kids setting up their own households, they just need EVERYTHING. Now, I've never done Black Friday shopping before, scoffed at the idea as a matter of fact. Shopping the day after Thanksgiving sounds to me like the worst sort of torture but I let myself be 'lead' by the lure of huge bargains.

So when I randomly mentioned to Mr. Regina that I thought I'd check it out this year, he gamely offered to go along and 'share the experience'. I checked to see if maybe he was drinking or something and when I realized he was completely serious, I said...okay, it's a date. On Thanksgiving night, I poured through the ads and found the stores where I thought we should go and we set the alarm clock for 4 am. My honey jumps out of bed and leans over to whisper in my ear...Blue Light Special, Blue Light Special. Yeah, he's a smart ass.

At the butt-crack of dawn, we bundled up and headed out. I was immediately surprised by the number of cars out. Yes, there were others as crazy as we. What a relief! We arrived at our local Target store to a packed parking lot and trudged inside to be greeted by a cheerful dude wearing a stocking cap. "Welcome, welcome, folks! Come on in! Cold this morning, huh?" Okay, friendly greeting so I figure this might be a pleasant experience until I learned there were no shopping carts left. GAH! There went our big plan to each grab a cart for the large items we were hunting down. Instead, I headed back out into the parking lot to scrounge up a cart from SOMEWHERE. After a frantic search (while freezing my ASS off) I finally located one and wheeled it inside. I knew it was unlikely we could fit all of our items into one cart but I was game to try. We could do this.

The next indication that we might have made a huge mistake was when, upon entering, we see lines had already formed all the way to the back of the store. Now anyone who has been inside a Target knows these are big, big buildings and there were about five of these lines. Everyone IN the lines looked pissed off, tired or bored mindless. Three teenaged girls were actually sitting on the floor, in line, playing cards. My brave hubby and I looked at each other and knew we were in big trouble here. I smile and say...hey, it's a new experience! Right? We can do this!

Thirty minutes later, we scarfed up on great deals, our basket was loaded to the gills and we were ready to check out. As it turned out, he stood in one line and I was in another. Nobody to talk to. Bummer. That's when the real fun began. Most of the folks had no basket and simply nudged their piles of toys and games with the toes of their shoes as the line inched slowly forward. My 'electronics' item was at the counter already so I didn't have to deal with that. A good thing. Gave me lots of time to look around and wonder about things.

Why would anyone bring a toddler to Black Friday? Why? I saw several and barely managed to refrain from shaking my head in wonder. In front of me stood elderly twins. They were roughly seventy, wore identical clothing and hair styles, each held a box of Life cereal and a dvd. You notice these things while standing in line. I wondered WHY. Why would anyone stand in line for an hour and a half to buy a box of cereal? Others had small items that on any day of the year might sell for twenty bucks. Were their savings so much they felt the urge to stand in line to purchase?

As the sun was coming up, we loaded our purchases and looked at each other. "Well now, wasn't that an experience," I said. "You want to do this again?" he asked. "Nope, think I'll pass." In the end, we bought about $1,000 worth of stuff for a bit less than $500 and that was good. We had most of our Christmas shopping done and found bargains. But the experience? It was pretty much unforgettable.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dueling Banjos OR Venus vs. Mars

Do you hear banjo music? I do. Why? Because it’s Venus vs. Mars Day here at Three Wicked Writers Plus Two, and Brindle Chase and I are facing off! Brindle doesn’t particularly like banjo music—a leftover scar from watching the movie Deliverance, LOL, but I love these little critters, and well, I just couldn’t resist.

Now all of you have come to know me as a woman with as many opinions as she has hair on her head—and I have LOTS of hair. But I’ve found someone who has just as many opinions and probably just as much hair too. Brindle. A man who must have nerves of steel to have joined this almost all female club of erotic romance writers. Kind of like a lonely little petunia in a cabbage patch—or is that onion patch?—but in this case, he’s the cabbage and all us gals are petunias—sorry, Brindle, I can’t be a damn cabbage. That’s men stuff. LOL And I’m a pink petunia too!

Brindle is published with Loose-Id Books, Breathless Press, and The Wild Rose Press. He’s become a regular commenter here at Three Wicked Writers Plus Two, and I like his style. AND--I get tired of talking with women all the time. (Admit it, all you ladies do too. LOL) Plus, Brindle and I don’t always agree. But we DO always agree to disagree. So we decided it would be fun to pick a topic and see where it takes us. Visit his website here: http://www.forlorn-hope.net So without further ado, let the games begin!!!!!

Why Men Don’t Read Romances

Tess: They don’t read them probably for the same reason they don’t eat quiche. It’s NOT very manly, now is it? Why isn’t it manly enough? Because there’s honest-to-god emotion in romance books. And we all know men are emotionally constipated, don’t we? Not to mention the fact that modern romances feature a lot of kick-ass women, and it wouldn’t do for a man to read about one of his own kind getting his ass kicked—metaphorically speaking, of course. (Well, sometimes they DO get their butts kicked physically too.)
Brindle: Makes a mental note to spank Tess later for the banjo music and…cabbage? How about a field of wild orchids and I’m the Canadian thistle who has taken refuge in the surrounding beauty? I like that better. Except by nationality, I’m Norwegian…A Viking Thistle?…Huh? Oh yeah, this is totally not about me. Onto the topic at hand.

Okay, in hockey, you know, that man’s sport, we have a saying, “Off come the gloves.” Men are not emotionally constipated. Well, not entirely. We do, however, process and interpret emotions quite differently. The main reason most men pass on the romance genre is the heroes within. These Greek God billionaires, that look like Adonis himself. Romances work for the female reader because she can relate to the heroine. If you can’t, then the story is much less enjoyable. However the male reader will try to relate to the hero but feel emasculated by the hero’s perfection. Not only are they super strong, super rich, super intelligent, super stable, and super gorgeous, but they seem to have received an instruction manual on how to push the heroine’s buttons, but all in the good way. The hero can piss off the heroine and be rewarded by the fiercest sex imaginable. If we mere mortal men try the same thing… we get a week on the couch. In short, we can’t compare, can’t relate, so for most male readers, there is little enjoyment in a romance novel. I like them but confess often the heroes make me laugh.

Tess: Note to Brindle—threatening an erotic romance writer with a spanking has no teeth. And thistle? Is that a flower—or something with thorns? Hmmm…now wild orchids I love. I remember the movie—Mickey Rourke—before his plastic surgery days, of course. What a hunk—great actor too—has this James Dean kind of quality. Saw him in something not too long ago and it looked like…wait, we’re talking about men not reading romance. Okay, back on topic.

When you’re right, you’re right, Brindle. Men DO interpret and process emotions differently. They interpret tears as meaning they might have to comfort, and therefore find something else to do real quick. They process a smile as an overture for sex and all of a sudden they sprout tentacles. Swat one away and another one latches on. Yep, lots of different stuff going on there for sure. Now let me see if I’m getting this right. You say men don’t read romance primarily because of the way the writers paint the hero. He’s not real, impossible to relate to by virtue of his super intelligence, strength, wealth, looks, etc. etc. etc. Interesting. Because almost all romance books are about women who don’t look or behave at all like real size twelve and up women. Do you honestly think we all have those Barbie Doll measurements? Hell no. Do you think we all just appear wearing just the right thing and meet just the right man by chance? That we always land these ab fab jobs and can identify with living happily ever after—and the house is ALWAYS CLEAN? Women, for some odd reason, seem to have NO trouble putting ourselves in the shoes of the heroine even though we’re nothing like the heroine. Do men not do the same thing when they read their spy thrillers? And when they read them, don’t they put themselves in the shoes of OO7? Is it any different than going to a hockey game and watching those dudes out there swing their sticks (just an extension of you-know-what) and getting INTO the game and feeling every swing, every slam into the wall? You’re NOT the player, yet you’re into the game—you ARE the player.

Brindle: Note to self: Tess likes spanking… Yes, we’re in agreement there, Wild Orchid was a hot movie. Of the Zalman King movies, Two Moon Junction was my favorite. Anywho…I think the reason men slink away from tears is they don’t understand them. I confess to not understanding completely, but I’ve never crept away. Making love to a woman, for the man, is not a sad occasion. So if she is moved to tears, he is not stricken with angst to get away from the crazy chick as you imply, but guilt for somehow hurting the woman he adores (At least I would and any man worth bedding in the first place should). I would feel guilt for bringing this beautiful woman, during this beautiful moment, to tears. Women understand why it moves the heroine in such a way. Most men would not. The emotions involved are not the same as he is feeling. His love, lust, adoration or whatever for her is expressed through his physical actions, so when hers are shown through emotional actions, he is at a loss. I concede that. However, 007 is different. We men can live vicariously through James Bond because his thoughts are similar to ours. When James happens upon Pussy Galore, we male readers are in tune to James’ thoughts. She’s easy on the eyes, sleek, mysterious and obviously, sexy. We connect with that, because when we meet a beautiful woman, wrong or right, we naturally appraise her in similar fashion. The romance hero, with all his unending reserves and excess of testosterone, does not. His first thoughts are sometimes how sexy she is, but his actions thereafter attune without any guidance, to the heroine’s emotional needs. He kisses her tears away. Holds her tenderly while she processes her emotional reaction to the lovemaking. A normal guy is terrified by her tears, let alone being clueless how to correctly deal with them. It’s just one example of how a normal male can’t understand or relate to the hero, let alone the heroine. Why is she crying? It’s rarely, if ever explained, because in the genre, it is assumed beforehand that the reader will be female and therefore, not need an explanation.

Tess: Did you know Zalman King starred on a soap opera for years and years before he got into making movies? I forget which one, but my granny watched and just loved his character. And you didn’t get what I was saying. Typical man. I was speaking of two entirely different scenarios. When a woman is reduced to tears, a man runs. Not talking about crying in the middle of sex here—just crying anytime. In other words, their ability to give comfort is seriously flawed. They can’t be bothered—so, of course, they wouldn’t understand and enjoy a romance novel. And men mistake the slightest smile from a woman as a come on. They turn just about anything a woman says into an invitation for sex. A simple look from a woman will get a comment from a man like: “Yeah, she wants me.” Uhhh…NOOOOOOOO. And men can identify with James Bond when the romance hero is far too unrealistic? OMG…I am cracking up here. James Bond. The man who jumps out of a plane with nothing for a parachute but a damn handkerchief, lands in the middle of the ocean, is picked up by a luxury yacht—probably JDepp’s—and his hair never moves? His clothes are never wet? And he’s never out of breath? Puhhhleeeze. You say James Bond’s thoughts are similar to the typical man and therefore men can identify. Okay, here we go. “The name is Bond. James Bond. I’ll have a martini. Whisper of vermouth please, stirred not shaken—don’t bruise the olive.” James flicks a piece of imaginary lint from his Armani tuxedo. “And by the by, is Pussy around? It would be a shame if she missed me this trip. I AM the sexiest man on the face of the Earth, after all. And, of course, if you shot me out into space I’d claim that title as well.” Oh yeah, Brindle. Identifying with James Bond, Mr. Conceit himself, the ultimate commitment phobe, is really the way for men to go. Face it! Men don’t read romance because they don’t want to know how miserably they miss the mark of being what a woman wants.

Brindle: Hmmm, I didn’t know that about Z. King. I remember when his Red Shoe Diaries first came out on HBO, where David Ducovney (sp?) got his start. Excellent little erotic shorts!

Typical man am I? Guilty in many respects, but I contest that I am typical. I think your allusions are warranted, but fall short in several degrees. You promote that men are shallow, but I disagree and contend that men are not shallow. Human beings are shallow. How shallow a person is, is not determined by their gender. I agree that James Bond is an impossible human being, but that is not what I was trying to convey. The romance hero and James Bond are both impossible human beings. But I was trying to show that 007 is who of the two, that men can relate too. Can we be him? No. Not even close, but just as the romance hero is the female reader’s illusion of a perfect man, James Bond is who men wish they could be.

I understand it is shallow to want women to swoon in a cascading wake as we pass through a room, allowing us to pick our flavor for the evening. That impossibly gorgeous women would throw themselves at us with no more effort than a perfectly witty opening line. All men wish this, except gay men and then the fantasy only changes the gender of those they wish would throw themselves at them. But is that any different or more shallow than what the romance reader wants in an hero? A super-alpha, mega-rich, sculpted with muscles, devastatingly handsome, who begs to wallow at the feet of the heroine (who the reader imagines themselves as)?

As for men not reading romance because they fear seeing what women wish they would be like? I agree. The bar is set so impossibly high, they feel completely inadequate for even the least demanding women. I forget who said it, but I contend there is a level of truth to the saying “Women marry men, hoping they can change him. Men marry women, hoping she will never change.” Or something to that effect.

And crying, well…yes. Men don’t understand how to react to crying. We were taught all our lives by our mothers, that big boys don’t cry. If a child dies, we cry. If we lose our wives, we cry. But if we cried because the toaster just won’t brown the bread like we want…the alpha-loving romance reader wouldn’t want anything to do with us. That’s why the alpha-romance hero works where a real man cannot. He attunes exactly to the needs of a woman. He is sensitive emotionally when it is exactly appropriate. Hard as nails, when that is what she wants. But I digress…

Therein should be our common ground. Readers don’t read romance for reality. They want an escape from the real men of her world, because if her man in real life was a romance hero, she wouldn’t have time to read, nor would she need the escape. As romance writers, we know we are casting a fantasy. Our heroes must appeal to the reader’s fantasy, before all else. The heroine must be relatable to the reader. The romance must carry the entire book and leave the reader with feelings of satiation and contentment. But the male reader is often left feeling inadequate and/or alienated, which is why the genre appeals only to a small minority of men.

Tess: I never watched Red Shoe Diaries. At the time I was way too busy to even watch TV. Careers have the tendency to rob you blind of relaxing evenings in front of the tube. So does writing and promotions—but that’s fodder for another blog. And I thought that old saying was “Men marry to get laid and women marry for love.” Lol Now, of course, you’re not typical, Brindle. I was referring to the male population at large. YOU could never be typical or I wouldn’t talk to you. Lol. I do have to agree that shallow doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with gender—although, I do think men have the edge—at least the men I’ve known. And that’s fodder for yet another blog. HA! But back to the subject at hand. You still have yet to explain to my satisfaction why men can read all kinds of books and identify with the men in those books---but can’t identify with the Alphas of romance. The heroes in those books that you do read and identify with are just as impossibly painted as those in romance novels. What I’m getting from you as to why men don’t read romance isn’t so much about the characteristics given to the men in romance vs. the ones you identify with—those rippling muscles, chiseled features, knows just what to say and when to say it, a sex drive to match a god’s, money out the ying yang, etc.—because the dudes in the books you CAN identify with are basically painted the same way. In essence, what I think you’re saying is it’s all about the failure of romance authors to write male POV correctly. Not about how they are painting impossible heroes. It’s a genre dominated by women—and I do mean dominated. In other words, we female writers are not thinking like men. I get that.

Brindle: I still think it stems from the confusion between real alpha males and romance heroes. But maybe I can explain myself more clearly if we look at motivation, rather than actions. An alpha would deck the villain in his way, as would a romance hero. Both want to get to the girl and won’t let someone stand in their way. But the romance hero is motivated by his undying, passionate love for her. The real alpha is motivated by his territorial defense. A real alpha male may not even give a crap about the girl, but he’ll be damned if anything’s gonna keep him away from his property! That’s his bitch and he’ll kick anyone’s ass that trespasses on that claim. A pimp is a textbook example of an alpha male.

So you see, when a male reader reads romance, he’s not seeing it by the actions of the romance hero. He reads an alpha and therefore the hero is a dickhead to the male reader. The alphas we, as men grew up with, were the bullies in school. The lying braggarts in the locker room, and the backstabbing, step on anyone to get a promotion at work, guys. It is actually very hard (I wouldn’t know how) to write it, so your hero would overcome this automatic assumption by the male reader, without detracting from the hero’s appeal to the female reader. I’m not saying women like jerks, but there are enough women who go for these cretins, as is evidenced by the sheer amount of battered women’s shelters across the nation.

But I think maybe we’re onto something here, that it is that the male hero’s motivation is not clearly defined, so the male reader knows right way, this hero is not an alpha dickhead. He’s a romantic James Bond. He resembles an alpha, but his motivation comes from love. A desire to protect the heroine. Not just bang her.

Anyway, I concede, that in general, men may seem outwardly more shallow than women. Where on the opposite side of the coin, I’m sure you’d agree that women tend to be more catty than men. By gender, we have distinct characteristics, but those attributes are also seen in the opposing gender as well, just at lower levels.

I think for men to start reading and enjoying romance novels, the alpha romance heroes need to be a little more like James Bond. 007 is a womanizer to be sure, which is not the quality you want to use in the romance hero. But 007 is a hero. He does good. Fights the bad guys. He is not a bully and does not beat up on defenseless henchmen, unless he has to. Getting to his woman should never be conditioned on having to rely on fist-a-cuffs. If she does, she’s high maintenance, and not appealing to the male reader. Remember, the hero’s actions must be justified to the male mind if you want to appeal to male readers. Fighting for a girl is dangerous. No one really wins in a fight. We men know the hard way, that even when you win, you hurt, you break, you bleed. So she better be damn well worth it!!! Hehehe. So in closing, I think it’s a very precarious endeavor to appeal to both male and female readers with a romance story, which is why it hasn’t really been done well. Movies are more successful in this because men are visual creatures and a well crafted romance plotline is easier for men to digest on the big screen. It’s simply that critical first introduction of the hero that does it I think. Because the audience is overwhelmingly female, the hero must appeal to the female reader, which in turn sends the male readers running.

Tess: So we write pimps, huh? And I don’t cry over toast. Maybe a broken nail. And yep, I think we’re onto something here. Definitions change with their usage. And that’s definitely the case with the meaning of Alpha in romance novels. Alphas are not as you describe them. They might have similar characteristics to the school yard bully you talk about, but by no means are they the bully—that’s the bad guy’s job—the common foe the hero and heroine must thwart together. The other thing that most readers may not understand with romance books—authors too—is that writing male POV can’t be just about the man. Just like that fairy tale happily ever after that we so often argue is not realistic, but is a MUST HAVE for a romance book---the way we write male POV has definite rules as well. Some of those rules are pretty subtle—not easy to get. But there are rules. We’re writing FOR women because that is the nature of the romance beast. Ninety percent of all our readers are female. So we must target those readers. It’s not enough for the hero to say IN POV, “The blue dress looked damn good on her.” Which is exactly how a man would think of a blue dress. Lol He has to say it in such a way that the female reader—our target audience—is entertained by what he says. So he needs to say: “The ice blue dress hugged her body and showed off her ample curves.” Now it wouldn’t work for him to say: “The cobalt-blue gown clung to her body, the shimmer of the silk fabric as it cascaded over her ample curves accentuating her every movement.” Why wouldn’t that work? Because a man would NEVER say anything like that—at least not an Alpha. So in writing good male POV—male POV that entertains the target audience (again, women)— and at the same time does its best to satisfy what a man really would say, authors walk a fine fine line in finding the happy medium. In some instances going for realism is what’s needed (so that first line could work dependent upon the scene) and in others, we simply have to fudge. And because of the fact that romance is basically by women, written for women, I understand why men can’t get into romance. They simply aren’t our target audience. However, with that said, it might do them some good to pick up a couple of romances and see what their lady is fantasizing about. Just sayin’. Lol

Hey! We gotta wind this up—and being a woman—a catty female—hee hee hee—I am NOT going to give Brindle the last word. HA! Take that Brindle! Lol You ladies, and any gentlemen who might be here as well, should check out Brindle’s books. He’s a very talented author with a promising future ahead of him. Download his free read at Barnes and Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/2940011053313 and his latest release from Loose Id Books
Gothic City Lights http://www.loose-id.com/Gothic-City-Lights.aspx Stop by his website to take a look at other great reads. http://www.forlorn-hope.net

And because Brindle is such a good sport and played along today, I’m going to make up for those Dueling Banjos and give him some “Alpha Music”. The chest-beating kind. LOL

Friday, November 26, 2010

Five Stupid Things

1. With the absence of laundry detergent, and needing to wash something pronto, I used dishwashing liquid in my washing machine. I squeezed a few liberal squirts into the detergent drawer, set the machine to wash, and walked away, as you do. Only to return and find my kitchen floor a mass of thick bubbles, which had spewed out of the drawer, the base of the machine, and even from the door rim.

Needless to say, I didn’t learn from my experience and repeated it a few times over the years. Now, though, when I need to wash something in an emergency and I have no actual detergent, I’ve learned that only ONE squirt of dishwashing liquid is sufficient.

2. You’d think, from the above experience, I wouldn’t have squeezed liberal squirts of dishwashing liquid into my dishwasher when I’d run out of tablets either, but I, uh, did. With the same results as the washing machine. I must say, seeing the density of bubbles inside from the base to the top of my dishwasher looked appealing, and made me think of those foam parties people attend. Of course, I can’t fit in my dishwasher, more’s the pity, but if I could…

I spent some time scooping out the bubbles, flinging them out the back door. It took about three cycles to get rid of those bubbles and many towels were used to soak the mess from the floor.

3. I once fancied boiled eggs and set them on the hob to cook. While they bubbled away, I opened a WIP. Mistake. The water boiled dry, and my eggs, once I rescued them and took off the shells, resembled rubber. I threw one at the drainer beside the sink to test whether it would bounce. It didn’t. It made a rather loud thud, though.

4. I bought a pizza. A big pizza. The size of my oven’s width. I’d also bought a large so-called “pizza slice”, which would supposedly lift the pizza out with no problem at all. The pizza cooking instructions said to place the pizza on a baking tray, but I didn’t have one big enough. Oh well. I shoved the pizza directly onto the oven shelf—the kind with metal rungs—and waited for our dinner to cook.

I didn’t know it was one of those pizzas where the base isn’t like bread but literally dough. So, while the heat did its magic, defrosting the pizza, the cheese-and-tomato delight turned into a gloopy mess, which seeped between the shelf rungs and hung there. I smelled burning—the cheese melting and hitting the oven base—and rushed in to save the pizza. It couldn’t be saved. Also, the pizza slice didn’t work. Okay, it wouldn’t with the mess I’d created, but I wanted to use that slice, damn it! So instead I used the slice to abuse the pizza, hacking at it until my anger was assuaged. I remember reporting this on Facebook.

5. Do not ask me why I did the following. I have no clue myself.

After buying a plate, which rather buggingly had a label slapped in the centre, I proceeded to pick the label off—only to find it was one of those labels that don’t “peel easy” like the wording on the label proclaimed. The top layer of the label came off, leaving behind that irritating translucent remnant and the glue. So I scraped it with my fingernail, managing to get the paper part off, but that glue…ugh, it still remained. So I washed it. Thought it would come off with a bit of scrubbing with the scourer. It didn’t. So then I dried it with a tea towel, leaving the glue covered in tea towel fluff.

I thought about white spirit—yes, that would get it off—but as the plate was a decorative one I’d planned to use to hold my candles, I didn’t think white spirit was a wise idea. After all, I wasn’t sure whether, even though it would be dry, the white spirit might catch fire. You just don’t know these things, do you? Or is it just me who has these insane thoughts?

Anyway, beside me on the kitchen side was a can of de-icer. I know, I know…

I sprayed de-icer on the glue, which turned it into this snotty stuff that STILL wouldn’t come off the plate. And then I wondered if that had been a mistake too—would de-icer catch fire when I lit my candles? In the end, I scraped the glue off with a knife, but there was still a sticky feel where the label had been. The candles hide the sticky square, but I’ll admit I haven’t lit those candles through fear of igniting the damn plate—silly thought, I’m sure—and instead bought a different candle that I’ve placed on a little glass base and light every day.

What silly things have you done in and around the home? Please share so I don’t feel so alone in my stupidity!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am thankful

This has been a tough week. Sunday started out as any other day. Relaxing with my family, writing and reading. Mid afternoon I texted my best friend to give her a hard time about a book I've been harassing her to read, only to get a frantic reply. She unexpectedly lost her husband.

It's so sad that sometimes it takes a tragedy like this for other people to realize how truly lucky we are. My dear, sweet, wonderful friend has lost a husband at the age of 34. I just want to hold her tight and make everything go away. But I can't. All I can do is be there for her, love her and do anything she needs to help.

With Thanksgiving around the corner and the heartbreaking reminder I've just received on how SHORT live truly is, how you never ever know what will happen, I want to share some of the things I am grateful for. What I thank God for every day and will remember to hold a little tighter from now on.

1. For my family. I have the BEST husband a woman can ask for and two incredible, beautiful girls. I'm so lucky to have them. I will Cherish them every day.

2. My health and the health of my family. You never know when that will be taken away from you. We need to take care of ourselves. Health is a fragile, fragile thing.

3. My friends. Man, I have some of the best friends. People come in and out of your life, some stay longer than others and some you know you will have until the day you die. I am so grateful for all of them. For support, love, friendship, laughs. I don't know what I would do without them.

4. That I can do what I love. I write. I stay home with my totally rockin' daughters. How lucky am I? That I get to see every new thing they do. To pick up and drop my oldest off at school. Do homework with her. Bring my little one to the park and teach her how to count. AND, I get to tell stories, the one thing I've always wanted to do. I am so incredibly blessed.

There are SO many more things I'm grateful for. So much that makes me lucky that I would be here all day if I shared them all. Now, I'd like to know what YOU'RE thankful for. What do you thank your lucky stars for?

And please, I'd love any prayers for my friend. She has a long road ahead of her and can use any and all good thoughts.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Give Em What They Want

Coming in on the back of Tess's amazing post from yesterday, I knew this would be a tough act to follow. As authors we want to know why a reader will choose to buy one book over another. Important stuff. Is it the way the author presents herself on a yahoo group? Is it the look of her cover? Name recognition? Do sales generate from a cover ads, contests, and excerpts? These are all great things to know and help authors immensely in marketing a book.

Today I want to know what readers are looking for in their reading material. That's a tough nut to crack, folks, because let's face it, we are all individuals with individual tastes. However, authors and publishers watch trends. Romantic reading covers all the bases from inspiration to erotic. There is sweet, spicy, sensual (I've always wondered what the difference is between 'spicy' and 'sensual'...does anyone know?) and the hot hot stuff that is labeled either erotic or erotic romance. As to erotic and erotic romance there are so many sub-genres it makes the head spin. We have heterosexual along with male/male, female/female, bdsm, menage, cougar, paranormal, contemporary, historical, etc. The list seems to go on endlessly. The authors here at Three Wicked Writers plus Two write erotic romances...erotic but with strong romantic elements and most usually containing a happy-ever-after ending. siiiiigh. Who DOESN'T like a happy ending?

I'll start here by stating my preferrences. I'm an author but also a reader. I love contemporary, erotic historicals, and paranormals. In my paranormal reading I love shifters and I'm DONE with vamps...sick of them. Vamps exploded onto the scene years ago and before long it seems every new title out there featured the sexy blood-suckers. Don't get me wrong...I liked them but now they are kind of 'been there, done that' for me. I like reading menage, especially if it's set in the paranormal realm and the menage is built into the mythos of the storyline. I enjoy a lot of humor and my personal reading material isn't always erotic romance. Sometimes HOT does it for me. Longer or shorter books? Depends on how much time I have. Novella length is usually a good choice for my busy lifestyle and provides a more meaty story than what a 'quickie' will do. If I have a long, slow weekend with no pressing things to deal with, give me a full length novel that I can curl up with.

During Ellora's Cave's Romanticon convention in October, authors Fran Lee and Amber Skyze presented an informative reader-track forum where readers (not authors) told us their likes and dislikes. I'll try to summarize here but it might be more helpful to check out EC's Redlines and Deadlines blog post about it. Readers loved novella length and contemporaries were as popular as paranormals. Readers identified five key elements they look for in a story.

•Hot, delicious sex
•Strong romance
•Believable plot/conflict
•Strong, engaging (and enjoyable) characters

Sex for the sake of sex wasn't necessarily a good thing for these readers. So all you authors out there? Ramp up the sexual tension and keep it appropriate to the story. Yes, they want it hot and they want it often but make it true to the characters. Readers emphasized they wanted a strong emotional impact. Make them LOVE your hero and heroine.

So here are my questions to you 'readers' out there.
1. What is your favorite genre
2. What is your least favorite genre
3. What settings are your faves? Urban? Fantansy/Sci Fi? Small town or country?
4. What types of heroes and heroines make you keep reading?
5. What is your preferred book length?

Tell us what you think. Authors are always interested in giving readers what they want more of. Cowboys? Cops? Bad-boys? Friends to lovers? You name it and I promise you, we'll try our best to provide it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Readers Really Think

Last week wound up my posts on Promo School. But none of that matters one flip if we don’t look at promo and writing from the reader’s perspective, does it? With that in mind, I created a survey for readers. This survey was very informal, and there were no right or wrong answers. Just opinions. As someone who worked in the polling industry for a while, I understand the meaning of pure sample, and therefore chose to interview only readers—not authors or aspiring authors. Yes, authors read too. But when they do, they look at the books in a totally different way than someone who doesn’t write. It’s hard to separate the writer from the reader. Can you imagine me asking a writer what they think of their own promotions or writing? I think they might be just a tad biased in what they had to say. So, for the purpose of the survey, I chose readers only.

So I’m going to tackle what readers think of the way we authors promote our books, and tomorrow, Regina Carlysle is going to post on readers and their likes and dislikes on romance writing in general. She’ll be using the opinions in the survey along with her years of writing experience and all the workshop details she’s gathered along the way. Together, these two posts should be packed full of info and lead us into some great discussion. But heads up, some of the material may overlap as what pertains to promotions does at times involve the actual book content.

My initial questions revolved around cover art. Why cover art? Cover art is the first point of sale —a readers first look. Readers definitely think great cover art is a must. We all do, don’t we? But readers also think cover art with a hot man on it is a must in erotic romance. They also want to see quality cover art. Don’t skimp on the photos, don’t skimp on the gloss. They want the whole enchilada. And they want the cover art to reflect what is inside the book. Make the cover art a window that allows them a glimpse into the book.

Readers were split about evenly on the length they prefer for book titles. Short or long, as long as its memorable, they’re happy. Linda particularly likes “sexy” titles. She was also very specific about “sexy” hunks on the covers too. LOL Go Linda!

Let’s talk about Yahoo groups. All but one of the survey respondents belong to Yahoo groups. And almost all of them lurk. Contests tend to bring them out—maybe not to chat—but definitely to enter. Yvonne says, “A lot of the times, I'll participate and if I don't win, after reading the excerpts I'm so excited that I purchase the book.” When asked what they’d like to see more of on Yahoo groups, Mindy responded with, “MORE EXCERPTS!”

Tina at Two Lips Reviews really likes Yahoo groups and says, “I love getting to know the authors, but it’s a double-edged sword. If the author has a crappy attitude I might not pick up their novels ever again.” So authors—definitely watch the attitude. Be courteous and professional on groups. It’s a must. Anne Rainey posted about professionalism this past Thursday.

In addition, here is what Tina wants more of on groups: “I would like to see hour-long author chats with just the author, and blurbs, simply getting to know them.” All of the readers liked the idea of getting to know authors, but it wasn’t essential. Not all will respond to chatting. But they do read what you post apparently. And here’s a bit of a heads up from Regina: “If I had the time, I’d chat all day with the groups that interest me! LOL And I love the Hot pictures, but I don’t like the same subject sent over and over. People should clean up the emails before replying.”

Trim, trim, trim. LOL I’m with Regina. Although, I do forget to trim a lot of times, but that comes more from being out of time and simply not thinking about it than anything else.

And Mindy is a very organized reader it seems. “I do lurk quite a bit and I do read ALL the excerpts. My favorite excerpts I put in a file on my computer so I can look up a particular book I want to buy.” Yvonne prefers promotion days, “…where a certain day is picked and excerpts are posted for new releases”.

When asked if she was more apt to purchase a book from an author if she’d chatted with him/her, Roni had this to say: “If authors are on day chats on the groups. And I like them—Yes I will. But I also know the authors who show up on promo day-drop a dozen emails and hit the road…yeah…not so much running for their stuff.” And I’d say Roni hit the nail on the head there. Promo drops aren’t always the way to go.

So what I found in so far as Yahoo groups are concerned is this:

Readers sometimes chat, especially when there is a contest. They like getting to know authors but they don’t have to know an author to buy from them. Basically, they’re paying attention and reading excerpts. Evidently, all is not lost where Yahoo groups are concerned. And when you’re on and chatting, they’re at work or busy with life and simply reading your excerpts on digest, catching them when they can. It’s convenient. Just the way it’s supposed to be.

What about other ways authors advertise? Tina was very specific. “Tag lines will stick with me and make me wanna go back and get the book.” And Yvonne has apparently seen some signature lines from authors she really liked. Another specific comment came from Regina when asked about promotions that turned her off. “THE AUTHOR SENDING ME HER PROMOTION 10 TIMES!!

So authors, don’t spam. Catchy tag lines win, and pay attention to what you put in your signature lines. Also worth noting is that readers do buy sometimes based on author ads they see on the Internet. Catchy tag lines on banners are a real draw. Blurbs posted along with book covers do it too.

Now let’s touch on review sites. The most interesting thing I discovered is that all who took the survey do subscribe to review site newsletters—most subscribe to several. And all had purchased books based on those newsletter ads. Tina especially likes newsletter ads where the blurb is included. What about review ratings? Overall, none of the readers would buy a book rated lower than 3, although, if the book was in a series they were reading they’d buy it anyway. But they all considered three to be the definite cut off for a review recommendation with some saying they don’t buy books rated less than a 4. But it was interesting to note that the readers surveyed who were not reviewers, didn't look to review sites to always recommend their purchases.

I asked about what they thought of free reads and every single one responded positively. But when I asked if they preferred serial reads—such as posting a chapter or scene on a blog and then more the following day or week, most all of them much preferred to download the free read in its entirety. Personally, I can identify with that. The other day I purchased Destiny Blaine’s newest release, Breakfast by the Sea, http://destinyblaine.com (yep, getting in a plug here, lol) and have only had time to read a little here and there. I finally put it down after I’d taken two days to read two chapters and decided to wait until Thanksgiving evening when I had the time and read the book as it should be read. Just me, the book, and no distractions--all in one sitting. lol

Now, readers still read some of the serial reads, but they’re hard to keep up with. Sometimes they simply forget to go back and read or don’t have the time. So those free reads are much easier if they are sitting there on their computers or e readers when they do have the time. Yvonne has this to say about free reads: “I like a variation of both. The serial free reads with the option to download once the free read is finished. Podcasts are also a fun way to do this.”

Blogging or Yahoo groups? There really was no preference here and just as you’d expect, readers only comment when something piques their interest. So put some effort into your blog posts and into what you post on groups and you’re more likely to see reader response. As far as what kind of blog posts appeal? Well, all kinds, really. Humorous seemed to get the biggest mention. Mindy said that she liked character blogs. But just as I said in my Promo School posts, blogging in such a way that you can connect with readers is the key.

The last thing I want to mention is that I did get a few comments on what turned readers off. And I already mentioned “spamming” them with the same promotion. But there were two more things that were mentioned. One: Offering free reads in exchange for votes in a contest. And two: Begging for votes in a contest. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about those two turn offs.

As I said, Regina Carlysle will be here tomorrow with more reader insight. So make sure you stop back by and see what she has to say. I know it’s going to be very interesting because she’s already told me a bit about her post. LOL

Hope everyone who reads, finds the result of this very informal survey as valuable as I did. Authors, AND MOST CERTAINLY READERS, are more than welcome to comment. I hope you do.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inspiring The Future Through Writing

Today at Three Wicked Writers Plus Two, we turn the floor over to Qwillia Rain. Qwillia is published with Loose Id Books and is having her seventh release there on November 16th. Qwillia is my "go to" person with all things BDSM as she has thoroughly researched the lifestyle and I consider her to be a true expert of the genre. Her stories are sexy as hell and always include a heart-warming romance. Stop by Loose Id Books and pick up one of her titles. I'm sure you'll become just as big a fan as me. http://www.loose-id.com/Our-Authors/Qwillia-Rain

Take it away, Qwillia!

I’ve always disliked the phrase “Those who Can - Do; Those who Can’t - Teach” not just because it devalues a huge population of the world. I am a teacher and I Can and Do! And my students know it.
Just what do I do? you ask.

I inspire. I tickle to life the dream of sharing an idea within each of my students. Currently, I am utilizing the Young Writers Program (YWP) associated with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to guide nine students -- from kindergarten through eighth grade -- in writing their own ‘novel.’ At the same time, they are egging me on to a goal they set for me, to write a young adult novel they can read.

Why would my kids set a goal for me instead of me setting it -- well, probably because they know I’m a published author, but the genre I write (erotic romance) is one I have told them they are not allowed to read until they turn eighteen (although I would prefer they be twenty-one). Being under the age of thirteen, none of them have the patience to wait until they grow up. Go figure.

I introduced YWP NaNo to my students two years ago. The first time it was an assignment in my computer class, allowing students from second through eighth grade to use the forty minutes once a week to key in their story and work toward meeting their word count goal. The second time, several students approached me about participating, so I told them they could use the class time to write or do the assignments I gave them.

With this being the third year, how did I prepare for YWP NaNo with a pack of novice and not-so-novice writers? Very carefully. More importantly, I waited for them to ask first. Which, in this situation, started in August. No sooner had we finished the first week of school than I had three students approach me about NaNoWriMo. The previous two years I’d seen some success, but I thought I’d try an afterschool program.

A program that almost didn’t start since I resigned my teaching position the week the writing club started. Fortunately, the school allowed me to continue and for the last six weeks, two afternoons a week for ninety minutes each day, the kids worked on completing plotting and prewriting exercises. YWP has some great resources, too. There are even three great preparation workbooks for the different grade levels (elementary, middle, and high school) which I’d used in the two previous experiences with NaNo.

As part of the writing club activities, I discussed setting as character, including back story, and character motivation. The kids scribbled away like fiends, bouncing ideas off one another and asking ‘what if’ questions. They’ve very diligently filled in worksheets; analyzed how to start and where to start; brainstormed directions for their story to go. Good thing about YWP, the kids aren’t required to produce 50,000 words by the end of November like the grownups do. They only have to produce approximately one thousand words per grade level. Which means my kindergartener needs to write at least 500 word; my first grader -- 1,000; my third grader -- 3,000; my three fourth graders (one just began today) -- 4,000; my two sixth graders -- 6,000; and my two eighth graders -- 8,000.

I’m sure there will be great moaning and gnashing of teeth, but I’m excited. The kids are too. They were especially excited to learn that a group of NaNoWriMo authors would be meeting at a coffee shop on the first night. After I talked to the parents of the kids, we made arrangements to meet and see what it was like.
November arrived with a great deal of anticipation. Not because it heralded the beginning of the holiday season but it marked the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Picture this -- A packed coffee shop, every table, booth and chair occupied by furiously typing/writing men, women, teenagers of both sexes, and in walk five elementary age students. Their dark brown eyes go wide as they move closer to their mom. Pure terror, right?


Pure amazement and churning excitement. As their ‘teacher’ I’ve been warning them that when an author writes her book, she tends to put everything down on the page. The first draft is a quick, get-the-idea-on-paper, and worry about it making sense later.

They didn’t believe me. At least not until they entered the coffee shop to see my words in action.

What made everything even better was how impressed and supportive the kids’ mothers were. Once the initial shock dissipated and we were able to claim an area of the shop for ourselves, those kids (three boys and two girls) garnered their own audience.

Several times in the ninety minutes we were there, I would look up to catch one of the grownups grinning at the sight of the children bent over their papers, feverishly scribbling away. There were a few comments from the boys -- ‘I’m not sure I like this’; ‘I need to start over’; ‘Maybe I should try writing about …’
Every time they started to doubt what they were doing, how their stories were progressing, I kept reminding them -- “NaNoWriMo isn’t about editing, it’s about getting the story on the page. This is the dirty rough draft stage. We’ll polish and edit it after you get it all down on the page.”

Which was all they needed to get right back to writing.

And what I need to do is pay attention to my own advice, because of all of us, I was the only one without a word count by the end of the night. Heck, even the kindergartener had dictated over three hundred words to her mom!
So, remember, NaNo isn’t about making the story perfect, it’s about getting it on the page.

With that, here’s to making your word count in November -- I’m off… to get the story on the page.

About Qwillia Rain:
Qwillia Rain writes erotic romance for Loose Id, LLC. Her first book, Santa’s Elf, was published in December 2007, and her seventh novel, Diablo Blanco Club: Rite of First Claim, becomes available on November 16, 2010. http://www.loose-id.com

Diablo Blanco Club: Rite of First Claim


What’s a dom to do when the submissive he wants runs from the feelings between them? From the moment he met Lyssa Lawrence, Mike knew what he felt was love -- not lust. Convincing her has been an uphill battle even after the two steamy hours they’d shared at the Diablo Blanco Club four years earlier.

Lyssa Lawrence wished the man who claimed to love her wasn’t so damned appealing. Her repeated denials almost went up in smoke four years ago, but she’d gathered the nerve to tell him no when he asked for more. She’d have stayed away and ignored the submissive nature within herself if her biological clock hadn’t hiccupped, threatening her dreams of motherhood.

In the same way she’d strategized her success in fashion design, Lyssa worked out a plan to get the baby she wanted. The Diablo Blanco Club’s annual Midnight Masquerade would provide a number of potential donors to choose from. What she hadn’t bargained on was Mike’s interference through an arcane Club rule.

When Mike invokes Rite of First Claim, he has one month to prove the role of submissive was one she was born to but only for him.

Friday, November 19, 2010


First up, I’d like to congratulate the winners of last week’s competition. WOOT!

I’ve had a wonderful week of doing blog revamps. As well as writing and reading, I’ve found, when I open Photoshop, I get lost in another world. I feel so lucky that I have three things I can do where everything fades away except for what I’m writing, reading, or creating. When I’m in no mood to write, I usually open PS and lose a few hours.

So, for those returning to see how the blogs turned out, they are listed below, plus some blogs I did for others this week. It must have looked like I’d vanished off the face of the online planet, because once in PS, I was away with the fairies. Fab week.

Amber Skyze – Winner. Amber chose a pre-made template. I’ve had many complimentary comments in email about this blog. Thanks for those, guys!

D.L. Jackson – Winner. I created a custom-made background for this one. Sci-Fi. Much fun to make.

Melisse Aires – Winner because it was her birthday on the day I picked the names out of the hat and I couldn’t resist! Melisse chose a pre-made template but wanted a cream middle section instead of the white the template originally had. I adore the pink of this one.

Tonya Callihan – Winner of the book cover contest but became a blog client. Custom-made template. She chose a lovely colour. And that cowboy…yummy!

Taylor Tryst – Client. Taylor’s blog was a pleasure to create. Custom-made template. Love the colours and the lady. Taylor is partial to the man candy LOL.

Cari Quinn – Client. Now this one…don’t ask me why, but I got it into my head that Cari needed a custom-made, “painted-look” background. I wasn’t going to rest until I achieved what I wanted—and I had to hope Cari liked it after I’d finished (hahaha!). If she hadn’t, of course I’d have created something different, but I’m happy to say she loved it. Phew!

Today I have some avatars to create and a book cover for a friend. I also have a new book release as Sarah Masters, so I need to spread the word on that, and then—dun dun duuuun!—the dreaded housework and laundry.

But for now, here’s my main post…

I just heard the most bizarre sound. Like a donkey braying in a neighbour’s back garden, or a child honked a hand-held horn. At one point, I thought I was hearing things. Turns out, when I went to my back window to look out, geese were flying over. It gave me one of those moments where you pause and “life” disappears. The simplicity of those geese heading to warmer climes, or wherever they’d decided they ought to fly today—Hey, let’s fly to the next lake over and seek out those fish, man!—sort of “got” to me.

I swear sometimes, that these moments are sent our way to help us take a step back and think. There is beauty in many forms on this planet, and none of them cost a penny. Some days we may not see them because we are too busy, our minds full of what we have to get done, what’s up ahead, worries, stress, all manner of things, but after seeing those geese, I told myself I’m going to look harder for the simple beauty presented to me every day. It could be so many things—the snap in the autumn air, the miracle that every year the leaves fall, the cycle the same as the decades pass, and every year they come back again. The glare of the sun on the windows of the houses across the street—I see it out my window now—and the white garage doors which look so bright. The cloudless sky, or even one full of grey-bellied clouds. It’s all amazing and beautiful when you really think about it.

I marvel at nature sometimes because it’s one of the constants in life. There will always be the weather, the cycles—sometimes so pretty it takes your breath away, and conversely, so frightening it takes life away—and no matter what we do, how we’re either plodding along or racing here and there, nature is there, something we can look to in order to get some semblance of peace.

I probably sound crazy. I’m not even sure anyone else will “get” what I’m trying to say. I mean, I’m a woman who, when things are troubling me, gazes at trees. {Yeah, Whacko Alert!} I have many at the bottom of my garden, and I only need to look at them for a little while and things come into perspective. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they speak to me—no, the men in white coats are not needed here today—but I do tend to think more clearly once I’ve had a tree gaze.

{We interrupt this post with a warning that Natalie Dae could possibly be going insane...}

This makes me wonder about whether the star signs we’re born under really do influence our thinking. I’m the Earth sign, so it’s hardly surprising that I love trees and sunrises, sunsets, the rising moon, a bright, can-almost-reach-out-and-touch-it sickle moon.

D’you know, I have no clue what I’m trying to say here. Perhaps I need a time of reflection, to think about all the things I’m grateful for, how lucky I am in so many aspects of my life. To forget about the things I dislike and wish were different, and concentrate on what I can change and revel in what I do have.
So, I’ll end this post with a couple of questions.

Do you feel the star sign you were born under reflects you as a person? For example, if water, do you love the ocean?

And also, what makes you stop for a moment and contemplate life? Would it be like those geese flying, or something different?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Few Words On Professionalism

Over the years I've seen authors do a lot of crazy things online. Today I'm going to talk about just a few of them.

Being an author means that a lot of my business is conducted online. This means the internet is essentially my office. I communicate with my boss (editor) via email. I interact with customers (readers) via blogs and social networking sites. Instead of drinks after work with coworkers, I socialize with fellow authors through private Yahoo groups and Instant Messengers. As in any business, it's important to be professional. You don't roll into work and start cursing and ranting to the room at large about your crappy paycheck. You don't shout from the rooftops when you have grievances about the company you work for. If we're unhappy about such issues, we go to our boss and discuss the matter in a civilized and intelligent manner.

However, there are some authors who either don't care or simply forget that the internet is indeed a public place. Anyone who happens across your name can read everything you say. So, I'll start by sharing a few things I've personally seen or experienced that left me dumbfounded. A quick note. The review site references below are things I've come face to face with over the last year and half as I do happen to work behind the scenes of a review site.

Text speak. I’m amazed at how many use text speak to send a message to a review site. Authors, words are your business. Do not use 'ur' in the body of an email when requesting a review.

Complaining about your publisher(s) on Facebook. Social networking sites have never been and will never be the proper place to air your dirty laundry. If you have legitimate issues take them to the appropriate people. Your agent, editor, publisher. If that fails, if nothing is resolved, then consider talking privately with other authors with the same publisher. Discuss how best to proceed. If there are real problems with this publisher (Dorchester for example) then clearly something has to be done. A lawyer might be required. If you're concerned about other authors being duped by this same publisher, then let places like P & E know what's going on. Talk to Publisher's Weekly and Dear Author. It's definitely good to get the word out, but do it the right way.

Royalty whining. Again, going on and on about your low royalties on Facebook or Twitter is not going to sell more books. I've personally seen authors plead with their Facebook friends, 'please buy my book'. That's so far from professional it should be a given.

Angry emails. Please, think before hitting send. Stop and breathe before leaving nasty comments to reviewers because they didn’t LOVE your book. I can't believe how often this happens. I've had my share of blah reviews, but firing off a message filled with curse words to the review site is not a smooth move. One important thing to remember here is that reviewers are avid readers. They review because it helps feed their addiction for books. They have friends. They blog. Do you really want to shoot off at the mouth because you got a 3 instead of a 5? Still, if you feel this strongly about a review site, maybe all the reviews you get from them are tepid or lame, then send a note to your publisher and ask them to stop sending your books to that site, but do it in a civilized way. If the review site is buying your books and reviewing them on their own, then just suck it up and count it as one more book sold. In the end, remember that a bad review is not the end of the world. We all get them.

Read before asking. I've seen this happen on my publisher author loops, often. So many of us are in a hurry and we tend to fire of a message filled with questions to our publisher before taking the time to see if the question was already answered elsewhere. For instance, a new way to receive your royalty statements can be confusing. However, check the publisher's business loop, or ask on the author loop before filling your publisher's inbox with questions that she/he already answered. The publishers I write for are busy people. They're working on statements, formatting, marketing, new releases, etc. Don't hold that process up because you failed to do a quick check first.

Cursing. I have a dirty mouth sometimes, I admit it. However, I save those nasty words for private email. Using the F word over and over in your status updates is beyond annoying and you're likely to offend someone. Readers, editors, agents. Clean it up. Most of us want editors and agents to take us seriously. When they read your disgusting *&%$#@$ status updates she/he is definitely not taking you seriously.

That massive backlist. This is not something I see often, but a few authors do this so regularly that I'm betting any reviewer reading this will automatically know exactly who I'm talking about. Please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT send a review site all 50 books in your backlist for review, then send them all again a month later when they don’t ALL get reviewed right away. And then again a month after that. And a month after that. I will not use names, but if you're reading this please please stop. They're in the database already!

Read those instructions. Every review site has a list of instructions on how to submit a book for review. They need certain information and they can't list your book until they get that information. So, sending a review site 50% of the info about your book and making them hunt down the other 50%, and then not even bothering to have said 50% on your website, yeah, that's incredibly annoying. We authors want those reviews completed yesterday, but that can't happen if they have to dig clear to China just find the ISBN or page count, or heat level, etc.

More about instructions. The same goes for submissions. Most publishers have specific writing guidelines. Please read them. You're wasting your time and theirs if you send them something that doesn't fit with their line.

Profile pictures. Oh boy. What can I say about this particular topic. I guess all I can really say is that using cleavage shots as your profile picture is...tacky. Potential editors and agents do not want to see your boobs. Keep your profile picture clean. Tess mentioned in one post about author branding. Definitely a great idea! Use an image that ties in with your website. If you don't have something of that nature, then do what a lot of authors do and use a nice headshot or book cover. Just please, keep those pretty D cups under wraps!

Be nice. Once upon a time, saying 'please' and 'thank you' was second nature. I've noticed that's not the case anymore. This is an example of what I've personally seen at the review company I work for:

My new RS bk called "Whatever Title". Pls review. Ty.

Okay, we all love our cell phones. And it's lots of fun to use text speak. But when asking for someone to review your book you might at least use complete sentences. And actually typing out the words 'thank you' is a good thing, trust me. Also, it never hurts to say something to the person your requesting a review from. If I submit my book myself to a review site--I don't have to very often because my publisher does it--then it's because I like their site. I've browsed their reviews and felt they were honest and well written. So, I let the review site know that in my email. Complimenting is not necessary, of course. It's simply a nice thing to do.

Those gorgeous signature lines. Yahoo Groups are a great way to promote your books. Talking to readers, getting to know them, sharing a little about yourself. It's all good. However, having 100 lines of stupid nonsense in your signature line that makes everyone on digest insane is NOT. You do not need a review quote for every book you ever wrote in your signature line. You do not need fifty banners either. Keep it short! One banner, your website/blog link, a few titles. That keeps the poor folks on digest from creating voodoo dolls of you.

And now some very good advice on professionalism from Ellora's Cave Editor-in-Chief, Kelli Collins:

Probably the most eye-popping examples of unprofessionalism I see on a regular basis are in query letters and submissions. Let me just say this: Yes, I work for an erotica publisher. And yes, I can discuss sex all day long…in the context of your book. Please, for the love of all that’s virginal, do NOT give me specifics on your personal life in your query letters. I don’t want to know about the experiences that make you an expert in BDSM, or threesomes, or certain ouchy sex acts. Really.

But the most shocking act of unprofessionalism I’ve personally witnessed? It was in a submission that contained – wait for it – visual aides. No, not the hot, somewhat tasteful nudes you can find in abundance online. These were personal photos of a couple engaging in hardcore booty knocking, complete with (*shudder*) the “happy ending” shot. If the author wanted my attention, that sub definitely got it. In the worst way possible. Be memorable through your stories, please, not by sharing intimate details or your personal sex portfolios.

A final word about professionalism. The fact is, every publisher and editor I've ever worked with told me straight up that they did indeed Google me first. My agent as well. So, before you do anything online you should know that the internet is an essential part of your query letter. Would you really use the F word in a query? A cleavage shot? Hmm...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paranormal: Still going strong or fading?

I've been a huge paranormal fan for a few years. I went from never reading it, to reading primarily paranormal romance. For a while there it seemed like every time you turned around there was a new paraormal series popping up. I'm not complaining, because like I said, paranormal girl here, but I'm curious if the huge blast of paranormals has started to wear on readers.

Now I know vampires, shifters, demons and all those other things that go bump in the night have been around forever. They will continue to be around and people will continue to read them. Who doesn't like to step out of reality for a little while and imagine a vampires bite? The paranormal world is dangerous and sexy as hell, but after a while are you looking for something...different? That new creature we've never heard of. A world so unique it blows your mind. Or is that forbidden romance...those delicious beasts are just so much more fun than the typical Joes.

I'm a lover of both genres equally. I can devoure some paranormal just like the next girl. Most of my favorite series or authors write about vampires or shifters, but I still have that soft spot for contemporary that burns just as brightly as my love of paranormal.

So for you writers out there, do you read and write both genres? Read one and write the other?

Readers, is there theme in contemporary or creature in paranormal that you're seeing too much of?

Things I Learned from Dad

I know the signs of Christmas are everywhere but I'd like to talk today about the holiday that is coming first. Thanksgiving. It happens to be my favorite of all the holidays and I just can't let the moment pass without telling you why. Thanksgiving makes me think of home and family and the lessons I learned from my dad. He's not with us anymore which makes the holiday all the more important to me.

I grew up in a super tiny no-stoplight town. It was a place dominated by strictly blue collar folks who lived paycheck to paycheck and I don't believe there was a single wealthy person in the whole place (although I don't think anybody really thought about it one way or another). We were just friends and neighbors. One year, when my sister and I were just little girls, I remember Dad loading up the back of our car with frozen turkeys. There had to be at least twenty of those things. Could have been thirty. I remember his telling my sister and I to grab our coats. We weren't sure where we were going. It was dark outside and very, very cold that year. As we drove through the quiet town, Dad would stop here and there near a house and he'd hand us a turkey and tell us to sit the turkey by the front door and hurry back. Weren't we supposed to knock? we'd ask. Nope, Dad said. We didn't have to do that.

We stopped near one house in particular and Dad told us to each take a turkey. This family, Dad said, needed two. This mother of five had lost her husband a few weeks earlier and there were so many mouths to feed. Dad said leaving them two was the right thing to do and no one should be hungry for Thanksgiving. I remember asking Dad why we never rang the doorbell so the people could at least thank us. Maybe a little part of me wanted these folks to know we'd provided Thanksgiving turkeys to most of the town. Shoot, I was just a kid. But Dad told us both that we don't give gifts or do good things just for a pat on the back. We do it because it's the right thing.

His words reached me even though I was just child and I've never forgotten them. So every Thanksgiving, I think of Dad and the lessons he taught me. I am thankful for my home, my kids and that we are lucky enough to simply be together.

We all have our holiday memories. I've shared one of mine and would love to hear yours.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Promo School Part III: To Pay Or Not To Pay

Today we wrap up Promo School. But before we get into all of that, I’m sure those of you who entered Natalie Dae’s blog makeover contest http://nataliedae.blogspot.com are anxious to see just who won. Well, Nat, being the sweet as pie gal she is, had a really tough time just picking one winner. You may recall she even came out in the middle of the contest and announced she was giving away two makeovers. But this morning in my email box she’d given me the name of two winners, plus an extra. In addition to that, she's giving away cover art to someone as well. So there are FOUR winners this morning.

First up, who won the blog makeovers? Congratulations Amber Skyze! You’re the winner of a blog makeover. Next! Congratulations D.L. Jackson! Another winner of Nat’s blog makeover.
And the cover art winner is…drum roll please…Tonya Callihan!

But I said there are FOUR winners, didn’t I? Sooooo…a very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MELISSA AIRES! In honor of your special day, you receive a blog makeover as well!

A big congratulations to all of you. I KNOW you’re going to love working with Nat. She’s an absolute doll. And she has the amazing gift of reading people. So she’ll find that special look just for you. As soon as the blog goes live, all of you will receive an email from Nat and you can each begin the process of brainstorming with her on your new blog!!!

Now onto Promo School Part III: To Pay or Not to Pay. (If you haven't read Promo School Parts I and II--here are the links: http://threewickedwriters.blogspot.com/2010/11/promo-school.html and http://threewickedwriters.blogspot.com/2010/11/promo-school-part-ii.html )

Most authors depend on free promotions to get the word out about their books. And there is certainly nothing at all wrong with that. Not at all. It’s kind of hard to invest money when your work hasn’t started making any, isn’t it? And then there is this: You can’t make money without spending money. Hmmm…reminds me of the chicken or egg thing. And when it comes to money, we almost always have to go with what’s in our wallet, don’t we?

Personally, I’d advise that you get your bearings in all of this promo before you venture out into the world of paid advertising. Dip your toes into the blogging waters and certainly join and participate on some Yahoo groups. You have to learn as much as you can before you can spend money. Makes no sense to invest dollars if you don’t know what you’re doing. As an editor, I’ve often been asked about house style. Usually writers want to know why there’s a need to learn all those punctuation rules and all those other little things that go along with writing if house style is different at each publisher and you never know what it is until you’re there. My answer has always been that in order to know where the rules CAN be broken, you must know the rules. If you have a firm understanding of writing, then you know what is truly important and what isn’t. It’s the same thing with promo in general. You’ve got to understand the nature of the beast.

Look at what other authors are doing promo-wise. Is it something that appeals to you? Take a step back and look at it as a reader. Will it turn a reader on or off? Is it something that you can put your own spin on and make it yours? Think about how much time you have to invest. You always need to leave NO stone unturned, but at the same time if you’re busting your buns at something and getting zero in return—let it go—or cut back on your efforts in that direction. What works for one author doesn’t always work for another. So I’m not suggesting you mimic other authors—just learn from them. Another thing—what works for one genre may not work for another. You have to pay attention.

Today I have a guest. Promo guru, Destiny Blaine. You can find her here: http://destinyblaine.com And here: http://www.destinyblaine.com/DestinyBlaineProductions.htm
Destiny is a full-time writer and she’s been at it for years. She is my go to person for promotion advice and myriad other things as well. When I’m looking for answers, I talk to Destiny. Lol She’s amazing. A straight shooter and a major talent. Let’s listen to what she has to say…

In today’s market, advertising is crucial. Promoting your book is, in my opinion, mandatory. If an author wants to stick around for the long haul, they should get out there and interact with readers and fellow authors. However, self-promotion alone won’t sell books to every potential reader because of the obvious reasons—not every reader will frequent blogs and Yahoo loops. That said, I’m sold on the power of self-promotion. However, the following old adage rings true in book sales—in order to make money, you have to spend money. If you want to sell your book, you should advertise in various places, online and off. It’s equally important to look for the most cost effective places to advertise. Tess asked if I had any thoughts on how much an author should spend on advertising. At one point, we were spending all over the board, no thanks to my method of keeping books—which more or less meant if I saw money in the business account I spent it until I hit the 20% cap—but now my husband manages our business office and he’s more structured and practical. Based on proof he’s provided, spending the 20% isn’t necessary. It’s better to spend 10% and find savvy ways to market ourselves in untapped markets.

Our goal is to spend 10% of our gross income in advertising. However, we aren’t obligated or committed to spending every dollar in online advertising and won’t necessarily allocate a certain amount to review sites or online magazines. With several pen names, it makes sense for us to try various forms of media, online and off, and try a little bit of everything so we can see for ourselves what works. We shop rates and ask for deals, particularly if we’re a regular advertising customer. If I could send out one piece of advice, it’s this—don’t follow the crowd. Find your own unique place to advertise and whatever you do, don’t pay outrageous prices for print advertisement. Ask for package rates and discounts. The market is tight right now. Those selling print ads know this and if they’re smart, they’ll cut some slack. If they don’t, find a way to co-op. Don’t just ask your publishers, approach other authors.

New authors won’t always have 10% to spend on advertising. I’d love to tell them to spend it anyway. In my experience, the more you advertise, the more return you’ll see if you’re targeting correctly. By that I mean, it wouldn’t make sense for someone to advertise a ménage romance in an inspirational magazine. As authors, I think it’s important to know what market we’re targeting and to spend what we can afford. However, that said, if an author wants to make an impact, he or she needs to set their sights on at least 10%. It’s working for us.

Authors often ask me about advertising suggestions. Some recommendations are listed below. I’ve also heard a lot of questions flying around about publisher obligation. Very often if an author writes and asks for publisher recommendations, they’ll ask which publisher advertises and promotes their authors fairly and most effectively.

I’ve given this a lot of thought and finally came up with one answer—none of them. Why? It’s simple really. A publisher can’t advertise an author as effectively as that author can advertise and market his or her own books. That said, there are some publishers who do advertise and they advertise a lot, but even if an author is the best selling darling of the company, that publisher will never be able to advertise that particular author as well as he or she can promote and advertise his or her own work.

Some of you may disagree but here’s why I’ve formed my opinions. As far as I know, no one advertised my erotic romance books for me in 2010. If I’m wrong, please forgive me, but I haven’t seen an ad that I didn’t pay for this past year. That said, that’s probably a good thing. I’m in control of my own ads and that allows me to choose who my name is affiliated with and where my books are advertised. Honestly, there are some books out there that I wouldn’t want placed with my titles in an ad campaign. I could help them and they could ruin me, or vice versa. I stress the vice-versa because let’s face it—my books won’t appeal to everyone and not every book matched with my novels or novellas will appeal to my readers.
There’s a strategy to marketing and advertising and on this end, we like to be in control of what we do and then work a plan that benefits the books we hope to sell. If you’re an author, you need a marketing plan and it’s probably a good idea to develop a strategy for working your plan.

There are various ‘secrets’ to advertising and marketing. It would take me all week to cover the high points. However, if you start with some of the suggestions below, the effort you make will pay off.

Top Five Advertising Tips:

1. Rotate your ads. Don’t run the same campaigns at the same place over and over again.
2. Look for cheap offline advertisement in penny saver magazines, print magazines, and newspapers. Co-op with your fellow authors.
3. Support/sponsor an adult team. A lot of towns have recreational sports teams and they need sponsors to offset the cost of T-shirts and equipment. T-shirts are costly, at times, but depending on the team you sponsor, you may get a lot of bang for your buck. If you're a YA author, this can be very effective. Support/sponsor a T-ball team. Get your name on the back of their shirts.
4. Lead, don’t follow. Go first. Don’t tell everyone you know where you’re advertising, just get out there and advertise. Then, after you see some success, you can share your knowledge with all your friends. Then, go somewhere else and be first again. Shake things up. Dare to be different. Use your imagination.
5. Want to know what really works? Car signs. Magnetic signs are a GREAT form of advertising. I’m talking about those large magnetic banner ads placed on a car door. These work for real estate agents, product sales, and services. This form of advertising can work for you too.

Finally, this past year, I advertised Destiny Blaine and Natalie Acres, another one of my pen names, at the following locations. Check them out when you’re ready to advertise:

The Romance Studio—http://theromancestudio.com/blue

Manic Readers—http://manicreaders.com

Two Lips Reviews— http://www.twolipsreviews.com

Love Romances and More –http://loveromancesandmore.blogspot.com

Affaire de Coeur Magazine—http://www.affairedecoeur.com

Romance Times Magazine—http://www.rtbookreviews.com/rt-daily-blog

Night Owl Romance—http://nightowlromance.com/nor


Millennium Promotion— http://millenniumpromotion.com

Romance Reviews Today—http://www.romrevtoday.com

Coffee Time Romance—http://coffeetimeromance.com

Romance Junkies— http://www.romancejunkies.com

Destiny Blaine is a bestselling author in various genres. Her non-fiction books have won several nominations and awards, securing the #1 spot on Amazon in various career-oriented categories for several years. Writing as Natalie Acres, her books earned #1 spots in the western and erotica categories for several titles. Destiny Blaine’s latest ménage western romance title, Breakfast by the Sea, releases from Siren Publishing on November 17th. To find out more, visit the publisher website here: http://www.bookstrand.com/breakfast-by-the-sea or stop by Destiny's blog at www.destinyblaine.blogspot.com

WOW! Destiny knows her stuff, doesn't she? So there you have it from someone who has put her money where her mouth is. If there is one piece of advice that I’d give you all right now, it’s this—go slowly. Don’t jump until you know what you’re doing. If you decide to go with paid advertising, don’t spend tons of money. If you’re an author with his/her first published book—don’t take several hundred dollars out of your savings account and buy ad space everywhere. I’ve known quite a few authors who’ve made that mistake. Quite a few authors who’ve had all kinds of promotional items made for giveaway, spending several hundred dollars to do it—and they spent that money on one book—stamping those promo items with just that one title. So a little tip, spend twenty to fifty bucks out your first time with advertising. And if you buy promo items—key chains, magnets, book marks, etc—make sure those items sell YOU, not one particular book title. Let YOUR brand, YOUR name be the focus of that promo item. Make sure YOUR website info is on that promo item and NOT just a title for a single book.

Like Destiny said, there is so much more that could go into all of this. Little things that you’ll learn as you go. Too much to continue with here on the blog. But don’t despair, lol, I’ve got a personal blog—http:tessmackall.blogspot.com—and I’ve decided that it would be nice to post promo and writing tips once or twice a week. I need to blog about something, don’t I? LOL And I love sharing what I’ve learned. So, if you’re not a friend of mine on Facebook, Good Reads, or MySpace, friend me and you’ll be notified of when I post these tips. OR, simply go to my blog and FOLLOW ME. I’ll continue to gather expert advice and dole out some of my own too.

Next week I have one more item that might be of interest to all of you. I’m interviewing several honest-to-god readers. I’ll be asking them a lot of questions in general, but some specifically geared to their reactions as to how authors promote their work as well. It could make for some interesting insights. So, stop back by Three Wicked Writers Plus Two on Monday—and every day. There’s always something going on here for sure! http://tessmackall.com

I'm going to leave you with the blurb for Destiny Blaine's upcoming release--Breakfast By The Sea--available November 17th from Siren Publishing. http://www.bookstrand.com/breakfast-by-the-sea


This new release is offered at a 15% discount for four weeks.

[Menage Amour: Erotic Cowboy Menage Romanctic Suspense, M/F/M/M/M/M, M/F/M]

A beautiful woman with a checkered past runs a legitimate bed and breakfast on Jekyll Island. Several young men posing as cowboys move in Breakfast by the Sea and things become chaotic right from the start when the oceanfront B&B turns into a command center for a very determined group of special Super-Op Forces.

Pursuing a man known as the King of Hearts, five tough operatives fall fast for a woman they’re supposed to eliminate. When the team discovers Paige Lambert is in fact the Queen of Hearts, they can’t ignore their handler’s orders. Is the bed and breakfast owner destined to die for her past crimes or will she end up under the protective custody of the men hired to kill her?

A Siren Erotic Romance

ENJOY! I know I will!!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's Blog Revamp Time Again!

It’s the time again, folks! I promised another blog revamp competition, and here it is. As before, you’ll get:

Template and matching banner

Fancy title/sidebar font

Blog post divider

Post signature

And also a “branding” avatar for your Blogger profile that matches your theme/banner.

To see what kind of site you can win, here are a few I’ve done. Just click on the names to view the sites:

Sarah Masters

I can create a custom-made template for you, or you can choose one from these two sites:


Shabby Blogs

Also on offer today is a cover, providing I have the pictures to create what you want or you have the pictures I’d need. If you have an upcoming book and your publisher allows you to provide your own cover, here’s your chance to win one. Below are three covers I created last week for Got Romance Reviews, who are giving away Christmas freebies from Thanksgiving onward. These are all “themed” where they have a similar look with the colours and fonts, but it gives you an idea of the kind of cover I can create. I’ve made all my Sarah Masters covers too, so for a peek at those, go HERE.

So, all you have to do is comment. If you just want a blog revamp, write BLOG. Just a cover, write COVER, and if you want both, write BOTH.

Simple as that! Names will be placed in my rather lovely winter hat and drawn on Sunday. Tess will announce the winner in her post on Monday. I’ll then contact you and discuss what you would like.

Good luck everyone, and have a great day!