Saturday, February 28, 2009

Truffle Trivia #3 (and February Contest Winners!)

It's just after noon on the last day of the month, so it must be time for a drawing!

The winners of the Victoria's Secret lotions are:
Gail Fuller (small VS Pink lotion)
Nancy Parra (small VS Very Sexy lotion)
Caryn Caldwell (large VS Dream Angels Wish lotion)
Congratulations to all three of you!!! Prizes will be headed your way soon...

Many thanks to those of you who signed up for my newsletter! The first issue went out this week, and I hope you enjoyed it. (I'm counting on you all to let me know if there were technical difficulties or any other annoying things. Please don't hesitate to email me if you spotted something or if you have any suggestions. :) Next issue will probably be out in late April/early May and will have a subscribers-only drawing as a part of it.

And, finally, because I have one last box of truffles remaining, I give you Truffle Trivia #3:

I've been thinking a lot about story structure lately and have, over the past 8 years, tried a number of different strategies for making sure the books I work on have some kind of plot. One of the first structures I learned about was Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, which details several steps a hero (or heroine) takes as he or she moves through the novel. The first step in Campbell's framework is the "Call to Adventure." It's followed by "Refusal of the Call" and "Supernatural Aid." What is the name of the step that follows this, and what's basically supposed to happen at this stage of the story?

First person to post the correct response, gets five tasty truffles. Good luck!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things to Eat During Lent

So, I went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon. I needed to get meals for that night and for the rest of the week. And, being that it was Ash Wednesday...and being that I'm still a reluctant Catholic (at least in guilt and tradition)...I chose a variety of meatless items. Shrimp. Angel food cake. Egg salad. Fresh mozzarella balls with cherry tomato halves, drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil. Chocolate.

And, I have to admit, there wasn't much of a sense of sacrifice in my shopping cart. I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but "giving up" meat is pretty easy for me. I've gone vegetarian on and off lots of times in the past 2 decades. I eat vegan a day or two every week, just kind of accidentally, because I'm really fond of Mediterranean dishes like stuffed grape leaves, hummus and tabouli.

Now, if someone were to take my mushroom-olive-and-roasted-red-pepper pizzas away from me and force me to eat only Whoppers and chicken nuggets (both of which I happen to like, but only sometimes), then it would feel more like a sacrifice. But--going out on a limb here--I don't think that's the kind of Lenten observation God had in mind either.

Religion aside, what are your favorite foods to eat during this time of year? Any good meatless meal ideas?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the curious incident of facebook in the night-time

Admittedly, it took me awhile to finally cave, but I did. I joined Facebook. I have a "Wall" of my very own. And I have friends--many wonderful people I know from my seven years in RWA (*waving wildly to those who've already "friended" me* during my first week--thank you! :). I know them from life in our little suburb, from my younger days, and from, well, being related to them, too. There are also people I don't know. Some I know by name but never met in person. Some I don't know in ANY sense whatsoever.

And yet, so far, it's been...nice. (Ah, that's lazy of me and a facile kind of spin at that. More truthfully, it's been chaotic and overwhelming, but it has likewise remained quite civilized conversationally. Pleasant. Frequently amusing.) Also, it's answered one of my longstanding questions: Where IS everyone when the Blogosphere seems so quiet? Are they working/working out/writing/sleeping/catching up on old episodes of Grey's Anatomy? Now I know: They're on Facebook. They're "Adding," "Confirming" and "Commenting on" their new friendships. And "Tagging" each other in pictures. And sending each other "Notes," "Gifts" and even "Good Karma"--so sweet! Yesterday I got a "Plant." I'm still not totally clear on how it worked, but it had something to do with saving the rainforest, which is certainly A Very Positive Thing.

My first few nights, I fiddled with my "Profile," visited other peoples' sites and wrote on their walls... Hours mysteriously disappeared as I bopped from one FB friend's page to the next. If I'd thought reading blogs had been a contender for Biggest Procrastination Tactic and Time-Sucking Black Hole, I suspected I'd now found the blue-ribbon winner.

Of course, I'm able to navigate the blogging world much faster now than when I first started, and part of that is because I set down rules for myself. Like: I'm not going to be an everyday blogger. I'll just blog once, maybe twice per week. Or: I can only let myself check for comments or leave other people comments at specified times during the day or, better yet, after I've reached a reasonable daily word count on my manuscript. Or: If I found myself compulsively blog-hopping, I'd need to actually TURN OFF the computer and go draft by hand in another room. (A shockingly effective technique.)

So, here are my newly minted and highly necessary Facebook rules:
1) I can check Facebook twice a day, at most, and "change my status" only once.
2) I can leave occasional messages on other peoples' walls, but I cannot "chat."
3) No matter how tempting the "gifts" are (and, FYI, there's a Jane Austen gifty thing where you can bestow Regency dance lessons and other such delights on your friends...can you believe it?!) I will NOT be indulging in the virtual gift-giving frenzy since the accumulation of necessary "points" needed to select, buy and send these gifts to others is confusing and will require me to figure out FB features that are better left undiscovered.
4) Same goes for responding to "Notes" because I get too easily caught up in answering the 50-100 tag questions and, thus, curiously forget that I'm supposed to finish writing a novel this spring. Plus, I don't quite get how to do the posting. (No, don't teach me! Ignorance is my salvation!)

So, despite my general paranoia of cyber-TMI, I've experienced the addictive qualities of Facebook firsthand and I know why and how it became so popular. It's a little like those Ghiradelli milk chocolate squares with the caramel inside. You TELL yourself "just one"--one square, one minute, one message...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Truffle Trivia #2

First and foremost, Happy Valentine's Day to all!! Here's wishing each of you a weekend of kindness, chocolate and whatever brings a smile of delight to your face & warmth to your heart.

It's noon, so it must be time for the book giveaway drawing--YAY! And (drumroll) the winner of Carolyn Jewel's book MY WICKED ENEMY is...
L.A. Mitchell
Congrats, L.A.! I'll pass along your info to Carolyn so she can send you her wonderful book :-).

Of course, in honor of this holiday of Love & Friendship, I wanted everyone to receive a little treat, and thanks to the thoughtful and very talented Vesper (a.k.a. Chick with a Quill--if you haven't read her gorgeous poetry and short stories, you should!), who gave me this award, I have the pleasure of sharing it with all of you. You are "Superior Scribblers," my dear blog friends! Please feel free to take it, post it on your blogs, pass it along to others. And, yes, I'm really talking about ALL of you who have visited me and left me comments this year. I will not MAKE you use the award, of course...but please know it is yours just the same.

Regarding other prizes, there are drawings still coming this month for the 3 Victoria's Secret lotions and, for those of you who sign up for my newsletter (An exciting and unparalleled reading experience! Arriving to subscribers in about a week! :-), you will be entered twice to win.

Finally, because it's Valentine's Day, after all: Truffle Trivia Question #2!
In Roman mythology, Cupid (Latin: Cupido, also Amor) is the God of Erotic Love and Beauty. What's the name of the equivalent deity in Greek mythology???

The first person to post the correct response in the comment section wins a 5-pack of gourmet chocolate truffles. Good luck!

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Visit with Carolyn Jewel (and a Book Giveaway!)

I'm really excited to welcome author and GCC pal Carolyn Jewel to Brant Flakes today! Carolyn latest novel, just released this week, is called SCANDAL (Berkley Sensation, February 2009), and it is her 8th romance. It's gotten much praise already, including a great recommendation by the Smart Bitches: "Jewel weaves a furious sexual tension between Banallt and Sophie that reaches and maintains scorching levels....This book took my breath away."

Take a look at this intriguing premise: The earl of Banallt is no stranger to scandal. But when he meets Sophie, the young wife of a fellow libertine, even he is shocked by his reaction. This unconventional and intelligent woman proves to be far more than an amusing distraction. Unlike the women who usually fall at Banallt's feet, and into his bed, Sophie refuses to be seduced. And soon Banallt desires her more than ever-- and for more than an illicit affair. Years later, the widowed Sophie is free, and Banallt is determined to win the woman he still loves. Unfortunately, she doesn't believe his declaration of love and chivalrous offer of marriage--her heart has already been broken by her scoundrel of a husband. And yet, Sophie is tempted to indulge in the torrid affair she's always fantasized about. Caught between her logical mind and her long-denied desire, Sophie must thwart Banallt's seduction--or risk being consumed by the one man she should avoid at all costs...

Ooohhh! Makes me wanna

Welcome, Carolyn! Thanks so much for being here with us today :).

What's the main thing you hope people take away from your book? A burning and insatiable desire to buy my backlist and everything else I ever write for the rest of my life. And to tell everyone they know to do the same thing. OK, seriously, I just hope they enjoy the heck out of the story.

If you could only own and read five books for the rest of your life, (excluding your own) what five books would you choose? Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Some edition of O'Henry Best Short Stories, A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh.

Name a few of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role? Paolo Nutini, James Blunt, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters. SCANDAL does not include any musical references, but if it had, it would not have been any of these four. Lord Banallt would probably prefer John Lee Hooker while Sophie would actually prefer Vampire Weekend for having written Oxford Comma.

What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? Hmm. My fantasies typically involve Adrian Paul or Jet Li. But I could live with 40 weeks on the NYT bestseller list. If I had to.

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? Dorothea Brande's section of Tapping the Unconscious in "Becoming A Writer” which included this warning: "If you fail repeatedly at this exercise, give up writing. Your resistance is actually greater than your desire to write and you may as well find some other outlet for your energy early as late." (79). Alas, I failed miserably and repeatedly at her freewriting exercise. It seems I am a no-talent amateur with delusions of grandeur. I can't explain my ten (counting through the end of 2009) published novels, given this failure. I think I must be a freak of some sort. Brande's book taught me that writing advice can, and possibly should, be ignored. Writers follow different paths to success and one path is never more valid than another. What works for me may not work for you and there's nothing wrong with that. The point is to actually go out and find what works for you.

Tell me a little about what inspired your book? Terror. I'm only partly kidding. Just about all my books are inspired by the terror of believing it isn't working and that, working or not, I won't be able to finish on time. More seriously, Scandal is set during the English Regency period (which was 1811-1820) and I very deliberately drew on my grad school research on a woman who wrote during this time period. Women of the English upper classes had few resources if the men in their lives did not, for whatever reason, fulfill their cultural obligation to take care of their female relatives. Writing novels was one of the few things a woman could do, openly or secretly, to make money. I was astonished to discover that the money a novelist could expect to make in 1815 isn't much different than it is today. The chief difference between then and now lies in the copyright. In 1815, publishers bought the copyright outright. The author was paid once and that was it. Today, authors typically retain the copyright to their work.

What's up next? In June, 2009, Grand Central Publishing will release My Forbidden Desire, the second of an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance set in a world that includes mages and demons. Indiscreet will be an October 2009 historical from Berkley Sensation.

Thanks, Carolyn! And, because you're all such exceptionally wonderful blog friends, Carolyn has generously offered to give away one of her novels--MY WICKED ENEMY (August 2008), her first paranormal/urban fantasy from Grand Central Publishing--to one lucky commenter on today's post. I'll draw the winner's name at noon on Valentine's Day! Hope you all have a great weekend :).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cyber Stalking & Other Suburban Hobbies

It's been an interesting week. For one thing, it's February. Is any Midwesterner shocked that the groundhog saw his shadow and we've got six more weeks of winter? I am... I suspected from the pile up of ice and snow outside that it might be more like sixteen weeks.

Of course, February does bring some good things. Valentine's Day, a.k.a. Another Excuse to Eat Chocolate. The latest release, TANGLED UP IN LOVE, by the lovely Heidi Betts. (Today! It's out today! Everyone, read Pam's great interview with her!) The premiere issue of the Marilyn Brant Newsletter... Okay, maybe that last one isn't on par with the previous two, but I'm excited about it! And I also have a new contest--The "Who Needs Valentine's Day?" Contest--which is a celebration of one sensuous thing you should treat yourself to anytime, not just on the upcoming heart-filled holiday: A Victoria's Secret lotion!

So, contest rules: I have 3 lotions to give away. 2 of the lotions (one "Pink" and one "Very Sexy") are in the smaller 1.7 fl.oz. size, and 1 lotion (Dream Angels "Wish") is in the significantly larger 8.4 fl.oz. size. I will be sending out Newsletter #1 toward the end of the month and would love and appreciate any new subscribers. (I'm trying very hard to be entertaining and add in little extras. :) That said, you do NOT have to sign up for my newsletter to be entered into the drawing, you just need to post a comment on my blog anytime between now and noon on February 28th. However, if you ARE a current or soon-to-be newsletter subscriber, I will enter your name TWICE in this month's contest, so you'll have double the chance of winning. And, just so I'm being fully transparent in my bribery, newsletter subscribers will have special contests JUST FOR THEM coming up soon--with even bigger and better prizes! That's right--you, too, could be one of the few, the proud, the Marilyn Brant Newsletter Readers! (Here...I'll even helpfully provide you with the link. :-)

Whew. End of promo.

In other news, the convergence of life and art is sometimes kinda creepy. I've had numerous conversations with several friends over the past two months on cyber stalking and related topics, such as Googling one's exs. Perhaps some of you have done a bit of the latter. Most people I've talked to have looked up themselves, a few past loves or, at the very least, some hot movie star. Since I'm currently writing about a couple of characters who have far more techno proficiency than I have, I've got them doing a little Internet "research" on each other. To make sure I understood the depth of information that might be possibly retrieved, I figured I ought to test out my real-life investigating skills.

Turns out, it's pretty difficult to hide online, even with lots of privacy measures in place. One friend I spoke with claimed it would be easier to find old buddies with unusual names, but she suggested I'd run into roadblocks trying to hunt down someone with a much more common one.

Not so.

On my first attempt, I selected an individual (okay, I guy I'd dated briefly and was mildly curious about), whom I hadn't seen or communicated with since 1989. This person has a name so common it could almost be Jim Smith. It ISN'T, but you get the idea.... Here's what I knew about him aside from his first and last name: the state he grew up in, his middle name, his undergraduate university and his age.

Long story short--I found him. Right down to his work profile/address/phone number (in a state he had no history or interest in when we last spoke), the other cities he'd lived in over the past 20 years, a recent photograph, his house (an aerial view in addition to the address), his wife and her work profile/picture, awards and work recognition for them both, the names of their children, and even his sister and her husband. And I did it all in under 2 hours.

Now, lest you think I'm some super-detective chick, I'm afraid this is not the case. Or, perhaps, you already know how easy it is... With a tidbit or two of insider knowledge, some directed motivation and a willingness to deal with trial and error, you can cross-correlate the available online data on almost anyone and catch up on their life. To prove to myself that my first results weren't a fluke, I went on to pinpoint the locations of four other people--two that lived in foreign countries, three that had lives that were in no way "public," and none that I'd been in touch with in any way since the early '90s. In the process, I learned about their marriages/divorces/or lack of significant others and, in one memorable case, I even got to see someone's wedding photos (they were posted online, on a supposedly private site!). All of this without the benefit of even being a Facebook member yet...

Now, I don't have the interest or the inclination to contact any of these people, but the ease in which I COULD was enough to make me want to shout out a warning to you all: Beware, my friends! Take care in what you say online. Make sure you don't mind the world at large reading it. Yes, those of us who are writers DO choose to put a public face on our lives, and we tend to know our cyber community well enough to feel we're chatting with dear pals, but people do lurk with the intent of gathering personal information, even if they plan to do nothing malicious with it. This past week I was one of them. And, quite honestly, I don't know what scared me more: skulking through old friends' lives the way I did or knowing how easily someone else might do the same.