Monday, May 31, 2010

Booksellers' Best Awards!!

Many of you already know this, but I got some thrilling news over this long Memorial Day Weekend: According to Jane is a double finalist in the Booksellers' Best Awards (squee!!!), a contest where the judges are booksellers and librarians from around the country. I can't express how honored and delighted I was to find out that my debut novel was a finalist in the Single Title/Mainstream category (along with Toni Blake's One Reckless Summer, Robin Kaye's Breakfast in Bed, Susan Mallery's Hot on Her Heels, and Karen White's The Lost Hours), as well as in the Best First Book category (with Red Garnier's The Satin Sash, Ann Hinnenkamp's Dyad Dreams, and Glynna Kaye's Dreaming of Home). It's wonderful to be in such excellent company!! 

 Also, in another delightful but unexpected piece of news, my first book was mentioned in this Suite 101 article last week on "Novels Inspired by Jane Austen." LOTS of terrific Austenesque books mentioned in Kristyn Hammond's article, and it was very nice to be included ;). 

 Finally, I LOVE Fresh Fiction (!!) and, since I've had a couple of excellent contest experiences with them, I decided I wanted to host monthly contests on their website over this next year. Over the summer, they give authors the opportunity to run not only a contest for each month but, also, to take part in some special promotions for readers. So, I've got a "Pack Your Beach Tote" giveaway that just started this past week (it goes until June 14th) AND, beginning tomorrow, I'll have my June contest up for the entire month, which will include the first ARC giveaway for Friday Mornings at Nine! (No, I haven't gotten the ARCs yet, but they should be here in a few weeks...) My Fresh Fiction Author Page will have updated contest details every month, so please check it out. I've been having a weekend of ice cream sundaes in celebration (take a peek at The Official Website of the Ice Cream Sundae--LOL), so I hope you'll join me and enjoy one or two this week as well! p.s. What are your favorite toppings???

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Answering Tough Questions

I may not have been actually blogging this week, but I was thinking about blogging frequently.

Yeah, I know. That's not an excuse.

How about this: I was editing the first 60K words of the new book and suffering alternating pangs of horror and panic, which had me yanking open random kitchen drawers in a futile hunt for plastic knives so I could mimic in real life the slow, painful, death-like experience of the revision process? Better, hmm?

Okay, then.

While taking a break yesterday from the life-affirming joy of revising, I came upon this Reader's Digest Magazine article by Jeanne Marie Laskas, answering 25 of Life's Toughest Questions. Since, "How do I edit my draft without reaching for dangerous plasticware?" was not, in fact, on their list of tough questions, I thought I'd share with you a few that were:

Can love really last a lifetime?
Absolutely -- but only if you chuck the fairy tale of living happily ever after. A team of scientists recently found that romantic love involves chemical changes in the brain that last 12 to 18 months. After that, you and your partner are on your own. Relationships require maintenance. Pay a visit to a nursing home if you want to see proof of lasting love. Recently I spoke to a man whose wife of 60 years was suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease. He came to sit with her every day and hold her hand. "She's been my best friend since high school," he told me. "We made a promise to stick together." Now, that's a love story.

Why do married folks begin to look like one another?
Watch any two people who like each other talking, and you'll see a lot of mirroring. One smiles, and so does the other. One nods or raises her eyebrows, and so does the other. Faces are like melodies with a natural urge to stay in sync. Multiply those movements by several decades of marriage, all those years of simultaneous sagging and drooping, and it's no wonder!

Can a marriage survive betrayal?
Yes. It takes time and work, but experts are pretty unanimous on this one. In her book The Monogamy Myth, Peggy Vaughan estimates that 60 percent of husbands and 40 percent of wives will have an affair at some point in their marriages. That's no advertisement for straying -- but the news is good for couples hoping to recover from devastating breaches of trust. The offended partner needs to make the choice to forgive -- and learn to live with a memory that can't simply be erased. Infidelity is never forgotten, but it can gradually fade into the murky background of a strong, mature marriage.

By what age should you know what you want to do with your life?
Any moment now. This used to be a question the young asked. Now it's a quandary for baby boomers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that younger boomers have abandoned the American ideal of picking a job and sticking with it. Between the ages of 18 and 36, these boomers held an average of 9.6 jobs. That's a lot of exploration. The wisdom of elders in all cultures seems to be this: There's nothing to do with a life but live it. As Gandhi pointed out, "Almost anything you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

When is your future behind you?
When you stop chasing dreams. So don't stop!

Is money the root of all evil?
No. Greed is. Elvis nailed this one when he said, "Sharing money is what gives it its value."

Can a man and a woman ever just be friends?
For a short time perhaps. Making the friendship last requires that you find each other at least vaguely repulsive. Good luck!

How do you know when to end a friendship?
As soon as you get that sneaking suspicion that it never really began.

Why do we turn into our parents when we swore we wouldn't?
Because really, when all is said and done, we admire them.

Are any of the above ones you especially like? Any you completely disagree with? As always, I love reading your thoughts and opinions. (Plus, they're a very happy distraction, and I'd appreciate a little of that today. :)

*image from PetersonPC.com

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Musings

First of all, congrats to Sia McKye for winning the t-shirt of Friday Mornings at Nine! Please email me your address (marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com) and I'll send it out to you ;-). I'll be giving more of them away throughout the summer and, hopefully, there will be ARCs soon, too...

In other news, I've been finding myself increasingly fascinated by the whole Twilight scene, ever since reading that first book. I have a handful of plot- and characterization-specific criticisms of the novel (biology-class lustfulness aside--LOL), but if asked to choose Like or Dislike, I have to admit to being squarely in the Like category. And I'm a bit surprised by that because, although I've always enjoyed paranormals, I've never been into the vampire thing...and even less so into werewolves.

However, I adore love triangles, and this series has an incredibly compelling one at the heart of the story. Arguments can be made about the effectiveness of the introspective writing style and whether the themes/metaphors are or are not "anti-feminist" (who else finds equating "premarital sex" with "the death of the soul" worthy of intense debate?!), but I can't get away from how intriguing it is that this series has captured the imagination of so many. That it's tapped into a powerful vein of female fantasy. And that it touches upon primal elements at every turn.

Doesn't stop a great many people from despising these books, including some rather public figures. I recently read a criticism of Stephenie Meyer's writing by Stephen King, which was filled with the kind of vitrol that always seems...overly personal somehow. It reminded me of this article I'd read last month on 50 Author Putdowns, where authors get the chance to bash their literary rivals. For example, Mark Twain's loathing of Jane Austen was well documented. In 1898 he wrote: "I haven't any right to criticize books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

Yeah. Charlotte Bronte and Ralph Waldo Emerson weren't big Austen fans either... In stating the obvious, not every author is universally loved, and it's neither possible nor reasonable to expect it.

However, there's more to the Twilight craze than a polarization on her narrative style and use of symbolism. More even than the "Team Edward" vs. "Team Jacob" thing. And I've been trying to wrap my mind around the totality of it: the passionate fan identification with the characters, the thousands of pages of fan fiction, the endless stream of interviews/tweets/online debates that involve not just Meyer but the actors who were cast in the saga's movie roles (esp. Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner).

My first reaction, actually, was to be a little frightened for the actors when I realized this craze seems to have eclipsed (yeah, okay, the pun was intended) even the fanaticism surrounding the Harry Potter films. It made me wonder anew about both the blessing and the curse of such tremendous commercial success. How do they all deal with the constancy of it? With what feels, to me, like an overwhelming social responsibility in addition to the unrelenting pressure of attention and the claustrophobic scrutiny by both fans and rivals?

So, if it were YOU in the midst of this media storm (as either an author or an actor), what would you do to try to temper the insanity? Could you handle having a bodyguard 24/7? Would you be willing to give up your privacy and anonymity for the tremendous wealth, recognition and opportunities that such success would bring? Would love to know your thoughts!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Morning Giveaway

I just got the page proofs for Friday Mornings at Nine and have been working hard to make sure every line is free from errors. Well, that's the plan, anyway ;). I am left in awe of copy editors and proof readers each time I do this...they've helped me catch so many niggly things already...and it just makes me want to say THANK YOU!!

So, because it is indeed a "Friday morning at nine" right now (I'm probably the only person who doesn't tire of this joke--LOL), I just feel like giving something away! I've got some brand new t-shirts with the Friday Mornings cover on it, and I'll draw at random the name of one person who comments on this post between now and Monday the 17th at 9pm CST--and that person will win a t-shirt. Just leave a message to say "hello" or to tell me what you're doing for the weekend and you'll be automatically entered in the drawing. I'll post the winner's name on Tuesday.

Also, for some extra Friday fun, check out fellow Austen author Laurie Viera Rigler's sneak peek at her new web series "Sex and the Austen Girl," which starts on Monday. Very cute!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone :).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The upcoming summer months seem to be the season for high-school reunions and, while I'm not especially big on them myself (read: I haven't gone to one, nor do I anticipate doing so, but never say never, right?), I've been contemplating them with some interest over the past few weeks. 

Doesn't help that I recently read Twilight for the first time. (I know, I know--it's been out for 5 years--but I was busy...) It was a story that piqued my curiosity for a number of reasons, not the least of which was because I remember high-school biology. Vividly. [*Pausing to wave to Erika J.B., my very nice lab partner for Bio I* :-).] We dissected a mink once. Don't ask. The teacher made us take LOTS of notes on the structure of plant life. (Little good it did my black thumb.) And, sometime when I was 16, I remember falling deeply in love with Mendelian genetics. I'm sure you need no further proof of my geekiness than that, but it was a fascinating subject. 

What I don't remember is having a potent bio-lab romantic experience. Really. Not ever. And not just because I was a geek. There were no lustful glances across a table cluttered with glass slides, scalpels or petri dishes. No heated stares filled with intensity or longing taking place anywhere within the vicinity of a human-body chart. No heady scents, save that of formaldehyde. I won my high school's "senior science award." I started college as a bio major and even had a partial scholarship for biology. You understand what I'm saying, right? I spent HOURS in those freakin' labs. Yet, there was not one single hot bio moment in either high school or college. Probably why I eventually switched majors. 

But I heard stories. I knew some people out there--somewhere--were doing way more than analyzing amoebas through a microscope on those flat, black and rather cold lab tables. No trihybrid crosses or double helixes for them, baby. And these tales (at least 70% fantasy, I was sure of it!) were enough to make me watch with rapt interest in subsequent years any teen program that featured a bio class as the setting. Who else remembers the first season of "Roswell," hmm? Katherine Heigl, the early years... Her TV-show brother and fellow teen alien, Jason Behr, had bio lab with the doe-eyed human Shiri Appleby. Never before had the study of cheek cells and bacteria been so invigoratingly passionate. 

Fastforward a bit and we get Stephenie Meyer's Bella and Edward. OMG, the sexual tension in merely looking at onion slices! These scenes are in no way reminiscent of my personal science-class experiences. And it occurred to me this week, as I was thinking about high-school reunions, that I'm very, very glad. That in some things, I'm grateful my memories are devoid of teen crushes, adolescent angst and the gut-twisting awkwardness of youth. I'll take my bio labs plain and untainted, thank you. There were too many other subjects that weren't so lucky. 

Have any of you gone to your high-school reunions? If so, which one(s)? What were your impressions? And, most of all, would you do it again?!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who's the Leader of the Club...

So, the RWA National Conference is going to be in ORLANDO!! Holy Disney Passes, Batman! I've got some rearranging to do...

Still trying to work out departure details here, but this'll be a first for me. I was in Disneyland (CA) once when I was 15. I've never been to Disney World. I was, however, a big fan of "The New Mickey Mouse Club" when I was in about 4th grade. Who else remembers those toe-tapping musical numbers "Discovery Day" and "Climb Aboard to a Dream," hmm?

Anyway, I just wanted to say: People of Nashville, you're still in my thoughts. RWA Board and Conference Committee, you ladies are amazing--thank you! And everyone out there who's been to Orlando, help! What are the "Can't Miss" spots??!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ups, Downs

The past couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster of events and emotions, some things tipping delightfully in my favor, others not so much. I'm overwhelmed and saddened by all that's been going on in the world lately: The volcanic eruptions in Iceland, the strains on the global economy, the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf and, most recently, the horrible flooding in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi...including Nashville, of course, where our summer RWA National Conference was supposed to be held. My heart goes out to all of the individuals, families and animals/sea creatures affected by these catastrophes. It reminds me again why it's so important to have friends and storytellers in our world. IMO, both help us find solace, meaning and connection amidst the sadness.

Thankfully, there are bits and pieces of good news, too: Writers I love who have new books coming out (so happy for you!), friends who continue to top Bestseller Lists (yay, Simone!), the successes of dear family members who persevered and now get to enjoy some well-deserved recognition (way to go, A!!) and even I have something happy to share... I was thrilled to get the call last week that According to Jane is a Best First Book Finalist in the 2010 Golden Quill! Many thanks to all of the judges for this tremendous honor.

This morning, I'm taking a deep breath (several, actually ;) and reminding myself that there's only so much I can control...but I need to do the best I can with those few things under my influence. With that thought in mind, I'm going to get offline and get some writing done. Right now, in fact!

Wishing you all good health and happiness today.