Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My Dirty Little Sex Books

     I do try to keep political commentary off my Facebook page, but sometimes my outrage just boils over, and I post a comment, usually on the funny or mocking side. I did so a few months back, and those who followed the thread will be aware of what happened next. Within minutes, I was verbally attacked by a man I'd know for twenty years. We'd always gotten along, and at times, I threw some personal business his way as he always seemed to be out of a job. One of my library staff members called these patrons the "poor souls" who came to the library for someone to talk to mostly.
      Anyhow, livid about my joke, he accused me of being a Communist, a corrupter of children with my opinions, and a terrible librarian who wasn't worth the salary I was paid. (Librarians are paid even worse than teachers.) Gently, I replied that I'd been a Democrat just slightly left of center since the age of twenty-one, had never worked with children as I was an administrative librarian, and I had been awarded a state medal for outstanding librarianship. When I retired, I left the library with several new branches, plans for more, and in good financial condition.
     Since that failed to get a rise out of me, he then went on to say that I now wrote "dirty little sex books", insults being the stock in trade of the man he worships. I pointed out that my books, all twenty-nine of them, were not little by far, being between 70,000 and 100,000 words. Though I hated to admit it, my books aren't very sexy and this is sometimes mentioned in reviews. As for being dirty, didn't we all come into the world because of sex? I do not consider two adults who care about each other making love a dirty act. I challenged him to read any of my books for free as the public library has them all, and then he could criticize.
     His reply--I can tell by the covers what kind of books you write. Isn't that a classic remark? He evidently doesn't know that published authors have little to say about their covers. I get some input, but not much. As I thought about my covers, they are fairly bland for the romance genre. I do have a lot of shirtless men, because, honey, that sells, I've been told. There isn't one clinch cover, and the women are all fully clothed in not particularly sexy garments.
     I told him that if he read my books, he'd notice they have strong family values. Not one of my heroes has ever paid a porn star for sex while his wife is recovering from childbirth and then paid $150,000 to cover up his yes, dirty, deed. I didn't wait for a reply, just simply blocked and unfriended him. A fanatic can't be reasoned with. I will add that other librarians and my readers did jump to my defense which left me feeling all warm and fuzzy.  Poor man, he'll never the pleasure of reading one of my books.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Corona Blues

     Lo and behold, it has come to pass--everything I predicted in my last post. One by one all of my spring promotional events were cancelled along with things I simply enjoy such as book club, theater presentations, movie nights, and water aerobics. Because of my hip surgery, I'd already been kept at home for four weeks before our governor issued the stay-at-home order. I experienced one glorious night of freedom with dinner in a restaurant and then attending Beautiful, the Carole King Story (wonderful, see it when life returns to normal) in a large auditorium packed with people. We ran into the manager of the place who knows my husband. He confided that the shutdown order was coming and the powers that be wanted to close the play, but he said he'd be in big trouble if he did. The night for March was almost balmy, and I stood talking to friends while waiting for my car to arrive and pack me and my walker inside for the ride home. I think of it as the Last Good Evening.
     The next day we were on lock down and have been ever since. My husband continued to work in his deserted museum until that, too, was shut down a week later. He has been kept busy getting our groceries (once a week only) and doing the housework I am not yet up to doing. We are keeping some of our local restaurants in business with takeout and even ordered our Easter dinner by mail. We Facetimed with the grandchildren and watched them do their egg bumping contest, a family custom. They observed ours done with only four eggs. Not much of a contest, but still fun. Other than that, it is lots of reading, working an incredibly hard puzzle with no picture and two puzzles mingled together, doing crosswords, and trying to watch Jeopardy which keeps getting knocked off for depressing Covid updates.
     Now, you'd think I'd be writing up a hurricane with all this free time, but pain and pain pills blunted that earlier. Now that I am feeling better, I also feel so out of sync. I've managed only to produce one solid chapter added to The Aussie Sinner in these many weeks. I did begin another but the progress is slow, not because of lack of ideas, but simply coping with the shut in situation. I need to share my beloved desk top computer with my husband who has now sketched out his planetarium programs until August. His annual convention set for June in Florida has been cancelled as well. I intended to go along and visit my sister in that state, but that too is gone. Just nothing to look forward to except a rescheduled dental appointment. Oh, joy.
     Yes, I may be a little depressed. I am old enough to know these things pass--but when? I do agree we need to stay inside as long as it takes. Did I mention I live in the plague state of Louisiana, the place that Texas and Florida have sealed off as if they had no sickness of their own? In fact, I am now a little afraid to go to Florida considering their governor has opened the beaches. Seems way imprudent. Five deaths in our small town, but New Orleans of course is a hotbed.
      Although some printers have closed down as have our local library and bookstore, publishing grinds on. Daughter of the Rainbow came out February first as promised, and I got my copies, now gathering dust, shortly thereafter. The Double Dilemma is slated for release on May first. I'm waiting to see if that happens. I swear I will find the energy and resolve to work on the new Sinners book, my promise to you. Meanwhile, stay safe and well.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Writer and the Corona Virus

     Many writers are introverts who probably welcome the idea of self-isolating themselves because of the corona virus and spending every second of that time creating their latest WIP. I'm not one of them. I enjoy the meet and greet, but I have said at least I can still write in this time of crisis. Maybe we'll all get a lot done. I had several books in the pipeline before this epidemic started. Daughter of the Rainbow came out right on time March first and The Double Dilemma is slated for May first. Both of these are part of the Longleigh historical series but can be read as stand-alones if someone craves a single, humorous Regency. Bet you can't read just one!
     Not doing so well in week four of my isolation (from hip surgery) is The Aussie Sinner. Between PT pain and painkillers, my will to create has been sapped. I know what I want to do and don't do it. Haven't completed that painting due for an April show either! None of this has anything to do with the virus, but I experienced my first hint of what might come to be.
     My first event of spring was an arts and crafts fair I always attend and do well at hand selling. When I sit down to calculate my earnings as a writer at the end of the year, I have several royalty statements and then books I sold myself. More than half of my income comes from the latter. The day dawned gray and chilly. Sitting outside from eight to three huckstering my books lost its appeal as I thought of my aching hip and the possibility of meeting someone with the virus. I stayed home. Sales lost along with the opportunity to promote The Longleigh Chronicles.
      My next event is a library conference. I haven't heard a word so far, but there is every chance it might be cancelled. While I don't sell well at library conferences, I do give out lots of cards on my current books and often see sales afterwards as people buy for their library collections, not themselves (and they get to read the new books first). As a librarian, I was guilty of this.
      In April, I have another big event where I sell well-a local literary festival. I am still holding my breath to see if it is cancelled. So far, no one in our area has come down with the virus. I am sure it won't be long. If these events don't take place, I lose half my modest income due to this disease. You can use all this time to write, but lack of promotion is going to take its toll on sales. And I have to weigh other considerations. Yes, I am old but not elderly, and recovering from a major operation. Should I be out and about at all? Not good at staying home, I think I will take my chances if I have toe opportunity.
     I don't think there will be a shortage of paper or printer ink, though I have heard that due to tariffs being raised, paper especially will be more expensive and raise the price of books. That means that even with an author's discount, I'll have to price my books higher to cover the higher price. More expensive equals fewer sales. Some people in our area are hoarding bottled water and toilet paper. Why, I am not sure. Our tap water is good and, as far as I know, corona virus does not cause diarrhea. This isn't a hurricane, folks. You'd be better off stocking TV dinners in the freezer in case you are isolated either voluntarily or by the national guard. Maybe, hoarding should be of peanut butter, sardines and saltines, or the mysterious "potted meat" that people only buy if a big storm is coming.
      To wrap this up, I will only say, "Keep Calm and Keep Writing."

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Another Kind of Hiatus

     Last month I wrote about the impossibility of writing during December with the stress of preparing for Christmas, which is why so many publishers shut down for at least half the month. Come January, I face another kind of hiatus. My hip has reached the point of causing me so much pain it must be replaced. I scheduled the first surgical date I could get, February tenth, and every day as the time draws nearer I am in a panic to get things done before I go under the knife. From past experience, I know I can expect six weeks of healing while on pain killers and taking physical therapy that will be exhausting. So, I won't be writing a word during that time.
    Meanwhile, a contract came through for The Double Dilemma, the fourth of the Longleigh Chronicles. I explained to my editor about my upcoming situation, so she hurried the edits, and I am doing them now. Contrary to some beliefs, editors are not monsters and are usually understanding if you are frank with them. I've only had one I couldn't work with, and I do think she damaged that book. We parted. I am also trying to do all the other things that are required: getting the descriptions to the cover artist, writing the blurb (which I always do in advance and then have to cut for being too wordy or giving away to much), picking a scene for a teaser page. I think I can get it done in time and send it on to the line editor. Maybe I will be able to proof the galley while recuperating. I hope I will be sharp enough to do that. It is important for a really polished book.
     All writers age.  The work gets harder to complete. Hours sitting in front of a computer take their toll on the hips and eyes. I have two long running series,the Sinners Sports Romances, which have four more books to complete the cycle and the new historicals, the Longleigh Chronicles, which still have six books to go. I keep thinking of two new plots for The Roses series, too, but don't think they will ever come into being. I pray I can keep going until the first two series are complete. All best wishes, prayers and good vibes are accepted to get me through another life hiatus from writing.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Finding Time to Write--during the Holidays

     You won't. When I first started to write in earnest fifteen years ago, I had just retired. I set a strict schedule that I would write between one and four p.m. every day until I had 1,000 words down. Sounds easy, but it isn't.  I didn't answer the phone unless one of my kids' numbers came up on the caller ID. Nor did I accept offers for afternoon coffee or invites to join afternoon clubs. I got my errands run before noon, had lunch and then I wrote. This discipline helped me to create twelve novels in five years, none sold until Goals for a Sinner, my sixth try, broke through and started me on the course of writing a long running series of sports romances, now up to twelve books. With that success, a couple of other series, Mardi Gras and the Roses, were published and five single titles.
     I soon learned why the publishing industry virtually closes down in December. There is no way anyone but a Super Woman could do all the gift shopping for nine people, address the cards, write the family letter, wrap those gifts, get a tree up and decorated, and still maintain a writing schedule. I was going to dump the Christmas letter, then a few people told me how much they looked forward to it. I considered ordering Christmas dinner from a local grocery store, but was guilted by family who looked forward to the dishes and cookies I make every year. Unfortunately, all of the family lives out of town so having them bring side dishes isn't feasible.
     It's early in the month yet I had difficulty completing the corrections on a galley for Daughter of the Rainbow. There were only twelve corrections, but I did have to read the whole book carefully to find them .Anyhow, they are in my editor's hands now, and I hope she has time to move the manuscript along before the New Year. This third installment in the Longleigh Chronicles should be out in March if all goes well. But, not one word written on the new book which is bumping along like a car on Louisiana's heavily rutted roads.
     Last year in addition to the usual decorating and cards, etc., I hosted the whole family for a week. With four people sleeping in the computer room, I completed zero words on my next book. While trying to get a big turkey dinner on the table for nine, I finally had a meltdown and said, "I can't do this anymore."  This declaration had nothing to do with writing but rather age. Those turkeys get heavier to get out of an oven every year. Anyhow, I am not hosting this year but have turned that over to my grown children.  I still won't get any writing done as we will then be out of town for a week, but I have learned to just lean back and enjoy the holidays with the family.  Let your writing go for a month and get back on the treadmill of writing come January.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Another Authors Row

     I'm back from my third Author's Row in a six week period.  Let's face it. Unless you have a big New York publisher, if you are an indie or small press writer, you will be doing all of your own publicity and these Authors Rows are part of it. So many self-published writers now assail libraries for book signings, the librarians gather them all up and have one big event as do places like Barnes and Nobel, except the libraries don't take a 40% cut of your sales. Even our local book store is reluctant to have signings now unless the author can guarantee a turnout--or at least chip in for refreshments and advertising. But, there are Authors Rows and then Author Rows.
     The one I recently returned from did everything right. We were supposed to be in tents outside, but when chilly, wet weather was predicted, they moved us indoors, and not just to a far off meeting room, but in lines down both sides of the library. They held story times in  a room on one end and had speakers and even an Elvis impersonator on the other which kept the flow of people moving back and forth. Tables and chairs were provided. A lounge area set aside for authors contained fruit and cheese platters, pastry trays, granola bars, hot coffee and tea and other beverages and a place to sit and eat something. A jambalaya lunch was provided as well, but my favorite perk by far--a cadre of teens who helped lug my heavy box of books to and fro and even went back to make sure my I'd locked my car. I'd also asked to sit by a fellow author and friend. As we were asked to stay from eleven to four, our conversation passed the time.
      I drove two hours to this event, about the longest trip I am willing to do alone, but they made it worthwhile. How many books did I sell? My usual three. I handed out a lot of book cards with my information on the back in hopes of future sales and made conversation with many who may or may not look my books up later and get the e-books on Amazon or elsewhere. I also paused to speak to other authors whom I see at all these local events on my way back and forth to the bathroom. Oh, I must mention they did have folks to sit at your table while you did so and thus, you could go more than once if necessary. They didn't sell anything, but guarded your books and change sack.
     I also noted the newbies, mostly indie authors, who had piles of their books that no one wanted, usually inspiring stories of their lives or those of their mother's or a first book of fiction that no one will buy because they never heard of you. I watched the disappointment form on their faces as no one stopped at their tables (unless they'd invited relatives) and no sales were made. They pulled out early, probably realizing they'd have stacks of these books still in their closets when they die. Hey, not making fun here. You should see my storage area. An accountant said I should write the space off on my taxes. Heaven knows what my family will do with my backlog. I did leave an hour before closing, but mostly because of the long drive and the shortening of daylight.
     Of the two others I attended, one scattered us around the library and those in the meeting room got the added perk of having some authors doing readings, though that didn't seem to draw an audience. Spaces were first come, first serve which I think caused some resentment, again among new authors who didn't get there ridiculously early to claim a good space. We also had to haul our own tables and chairs, which seemed odd in a library that does lots of programming and craft classes. We were offered snacks and beverages in the lounge, a nice touch, but if it hadn't been nearby, I might not have gone. I am no longer able to haul furniture to further my career. This being close enough, my husband came along to do the setup, then retired to watch football at home until the closing. Number of books sold--none. Mostly people stepped around us as they perused the stacks and checked out free books.
     I had the most sales at the most grueling of the events, outdoors from nine to four, must tote your own tables, chairs, etc.  Bring a lunch or buy one from the food vendors.  The temperature soared to ninety-five degrees. A bottle of water, a Coke Zero, and a large snow cone kept me from dehydrating even though we were under trees. A person handed out homemade fans of the type once given away by funeral homes. We used them. It's a big arts and crafts fair that really brings people out. I made all four of my sales before noon. The crowd thinned as the temps soared, and I bailed at three when the heat was at its worst. My parting words-I'm getting to old for this. I'll probably be there next year.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Galapagos Survivor

     If you put going to the Galapagos Islands on your bucket list, go when you are younger. Still, I signed up for this trip when a opportunity came along, and nope, my steadily dwindling royalties did not pay for it. Not that I wasn't warned by the repeated question, "Can you get on and off a boat?" Sure, I can. I was not deterred even by pictures of Zodiacs washing up on beaches and rocky shores. And so we embarked, landing first in the good-sized city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, a city with many parks and enlivened by its painted buildings, which I never knew existed. After a city tour, a visit to a cocoa plantation (very interesting), and buying some of their famous chocolate, we flew away to Baltra Island where the wind was so strong, it nearly blew me off my feet walking from the plane to the terminal, quite a trek. I should have known then this trip would be rugged. 
     A bus took us to our first experience with a panga, an inflatable boat like a Zodiac.  We received instructions on how to board,and I might add, the wind was still wild, which took us to our small but nice ship, our home for the next week. I managed the first boarding okay--step on the canvas side of the boat, step down one step, step down one immense step, and take a seat on the edge of the panga, which if you are lucky will have a handhold to grip for dear life. After a fairly long panga ride, or maybe it just seemed that way, we schooched down to the steps again, balanced on the rim, and were pulled aboard the water-washed steps into the ship by stalwart, muscular sailors. This routine would become common in days to come as it was the only way to get the various islands. There are no nice docks. A dry landing meant clambering over a pile of lava rocks while the guides held the panga more or less steady.  A wet landing consisted of sliding off the side of the boat like ill-trained Navy Seals into a foot of cold, moving water and squelching ashore in water shoes while carrying dry footwear. Actually, it was the easier of the two and I did several of these, but bowed out of the dry landings as I couldn't do the lava rock hikes anyhow.
     I won't go into all the wildlife we saw: dozens of unique birds in the process of nesting during the dry season, lots of sea life from sea lions to iguanas to turtles. I will only add one caveat: watch your step, lots of guano, and a fair amount of stink on some of those beaches. More often I chose the glass-bottomed boat experience despite having to roll from the panga onto the second small boat and then back again. I only fell once when I slid all the way down the side of the panga, but I couldn't get up--rescued again by our handsome, Hispanic guides, so there was some benefit. We observed rays, sea turtles, fish, but failed to find swimming iguanas. This was the dry season of winter. On land, the lizards just lay there in piles trying to stay warm. The sea lions liked to escort us. And we did see the little penguins and flightless cormorants on the rocky shore.
     As usual when I revealed I was a writer of romance, I took the common ribbing and answered a lot of questions. One of which I am always asked: Would they show up in my next book? Well, no. First, my current WIP uses what I learned in Australia. The Aussie Sinner should come out late next year.
Second, most of my characters are composites of many people, a trait here, a special smile there. So, they ask, how about a mystery based on our Galapagos trip where someone is killed by the fruit of the poison apple tree, about the only green bush on the islands this time of year. Most of the foliage looks dead or is cactus. My mind began working and came up with a title, Eden and the Poison Apple Tree, with an amateur sleuth named Eden. They deemed that too cheesy. Then, I thought, what are the exact symptoms of the poison apples? What is the motive to kill in such an isolated place? Not to mention that I'd need to do way more research on cruise ships. And this is why I don't write mysteries anymore. (See Mardi Gras Madness and Courir de Mardi Gras if you want to read my attempts.) So, I challenged them to write a first chapter which I would critique and not steal. Thus far, no takers.
      As the trip came to its end, I fell off lava rocks trying to put my shoes on, nearly wiped out my colleagues when the panga driver decided to pursue a whale, which we never saw, and I lost my grip and careened into the others, nearly pushing one into the sea. Pedro put his arm around me to hold me in place on the wild ride so the embarrassment might have been worth it. The sea was choppy, and I made my last and major fail trying to get back on the ship as both ship and panga bobbed wildly. I missed step number one, had to be hauled to number two where I fell again, and then was urged to make the leap to the ship's stairs as I froze trying to match both boats. I think I finally got aboard being pushed from behind and pulled from above when I finally got my feet to move. The ship's young, female doctor checked me out--bruised but not battered. Some said I was brave to go on this trip. I'd say fool hardy. Now I can imagine why someone might kill a person with poison apples--guides sick of hauling old ladies around in pangas. Heck, she was ancient anyhow. No great loss.