Friday, June 24, 2011

Start Spreadin' the News...

...well, I'm not actually leaving today, but I will be on my way to New York, New York pretty soon for the RWA National Conference. The last time I was in Manhattan it was in the summer of 2003 for my very first RWA conference.

A lot has happened since then ;).

I knew very few people in the publishing world eight years ago -- mostly just a handful of Chicago-North RWA members that I'd chatted with a dozen times or so in the nine months leading up to the conference. I'd completed just two manuscripts at that time -- my first (so dreadful it can't be saved!) women's fiction book and my first (eventually, after a lot of revision, not too bad) contemporary romance novel. It would be almost 4 years before I'd win the Golden Heart and another year beyond that before I'd finally sell a book. Back in 2003, I hadn't even thought of the premise for According to Jane yet...

Sometimes I get too caught up in the trials and tribulations of the present day. I'm overwhelmed by the challenges with the current WIP or with the proposal I recently finished (and, yes, those are two different projects -- publishing has such long, long timelines), the ever-shifting changes in the industry, print sales and ebook sales and upcoming bookseller orders and advertisements and reviews... Sometimes I can't see the forest OR the trees -- just lots and lots of leaves with details I know I'm supposed to pay attention to right now.

But, sometimes, like this week, I'm reminded of how many steps I've actually taken on this thousand-mile journey. Too often, I'm focused on looking ahead -- at all the perilous hiking yet to come. Today, though, I'm taking a moment to glance over my shoulder and sneak a peek at the path I've already walked. To say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who's been walking with me over these past several years.

You're appreciated.

Next week, I will wake up for several consecutive days in "the city that doesn't sleep" (and, depending on the reception my temperamental cell phone gets at the hotel, it may also be "the city with severely limited Internet access"), but I will be back. And I will bring stories and pictures to share with you. Until then, hugs of gratitude to you all...

What will you be doing next week?

p.s. I just saw an absolutely lovely review author Joan Reeves put up on her Sling Words blog today for On Any Given Sundae -- thanks so much, Joan!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chocolate Sunscreen

I'm over at the Girlfriends Book Club for the day talking about juggling multiple story ideas in a post called The Writer's Menu -- please stop by!

And, also, I just came across this happy health tidbit, thanks to the Real Age docs, which praises an unknown (at least to me) benefit of chocolate:

The best 100-calorie splurge this summer may be a little candy indulgence that acts like built-in sunscreen: dark chocolate.

Yep, in a recent study, people who snacked on a tiny bit -- just 100 calories -- of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate every day seemed to be more protected from ultraviolet (UV) radiation by the end of the 12-week study.

No one needs to tell me twice!

Here's wishing you all lots of sunshine and dark chocolate this summer ;). And, btw, what are a few of your favorite warm-weather places? Is it your homestate? A tropical island? A distant continent? I always seem to fantasize about being on Maui...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Contest Winner & A Visit to Austen Authors

First of all, a big congrats to my newsletter contest winner, Anita L. from Florida, who won the signed hardcover book-club edition of Friday Mornings at Nine. Anita, you should have already received a message from me sent to your email beginning "extexg..." Please just confirm your address with me when you have a chance. And, to everyone who entered, thank you!! I so enjoyed getting all of those wonderful emails and, yes, the correct answer to my question ("What is the fictional hometown of my characters in On Any Given Sundae?") was Wilmington Bay, WI.

BTW, all day tomorrow, Friday, June 17th, I'm hosting a one-day-only contest on Austen Authors. Anyone who stops by and leaves a comment on my post there about Jane Austen and ice cream (*grin*) is entered to win a digital copy of On Any Given Sundae, either as a Kindle ebook or as a PDF file. The post isn't up yet (it'll appear just after midnight tonight and will run for 24 hours), but if you'd like to be included in the drawing, please visit tomorrow. And for anyone who's curious about the story, you can read the entire Chapter One of the book posted in The Writer's Block.

Wishing you all a wonderful rest of the week & weekend!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Judy's Winner & A New Sundae Giveaway

Just did the random drawing and got...(drum roll)...PAMELA CAYNE as the winner of Judy Croome's gift voucher! Congrats, Pam!! (Will email you with the deets. :)

Also, today I'm at Magical Musings talking about On Any Given Sundae, ice cream and the joys of National Dairy month and, also, hosting a chocolate giveaway over there -- please stop by!

Wishing you all a fabulous weekend!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Judy Croome's Dancing in the Shadows of Love (+ giveaway!)

Due to the long geographical distance between us, I've not yet had the pleasure of meeting Judy Croome in person, but I've loved her thoughtful blog posts these past few years and couldn't have been more delighted when her first independently published novel, Dancing in the Shadows of Love (available on Amazon and Smashwords), was published recently. I snagged her at once for an interview so we could learn more about her book! Judy lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her short stories have been published in ITCH magazine and “Notes from Underground Anthology”. She was recently shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition.

Welcome, Judy!

Marilyn, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog. (I'm delighted to have you here, Judy. ;)

Please tell us a bit about your book, Dancing in the Shadows of Love: The story explores the sacrifices people make in the pursuit of a love that transcends everyday existence. Lulu’s quest, and that of Jamila and Zahra too, is to find the divine love that will fulfill their hopes and save their souls...if they can recognise the masks of those who seek to lead them astray.

What inspired you to write this story? There’s a Hebrew phrase “Tikkun Olam” which means ‘repairing the world’ and denotes the restoration of the right order and a true union; a correction of our spiritual selves to be made whole again. Kabbalists see a tikkun as a special healing: they experience themselves and each other as the Divine sefirot (Divine potentials; planes of God made manifest.) This act of healing connects across differences, without becoming the Other. In essence, for a person to find inner peace, there needs to be a healing (a sacred union) of the inner fractures of the soul which create dualities such as racial or gender divides (black vs white, male vs female.)

This phrase lies at the heart of my story. As an ordinary person, happy in my ordinary little life, I’ve always tried to be a “good” person. But South Africa’s tragic history, as revealed by the TRC, left me questioning so many things about myself . I came to the conclusion I just don’t have the warrior personality that wants to change the world. That made me wonder what I could have done to prevent or heal the wounds of our past.

Through the eyes of three very different women, Dancing in the Shadows of Love explores how an ordinary person, one who doesn’t have what it takes to be hero, can also find a way to repair the fractures of a broken world.

Dancing in the Shadows of Love is being published independently. These days publishers require their authors to do a lot of the selling and promotion themselves. How much more work (and risk? and funds?) do you think it takes to publish independently? With the changing face of the publishing world, budding writers have never had it so good! The creative freedom is exhilarating. But there are as many risks in independent publishing as there are in traditional publishing. The difference lies mainly in where the buck stops. With traditional publishing, the buck stops with other people (the editor, the marketing department.) With independent publishing, the buck begins and starts with the author. So, unless you’re willing to take total responsibility for your book, don’t even consider independent publishing. There may be the potential for much greater financial rewards, but there are as many risks—and much more responsibility—than the traditional route.

The eBook edition is being released before paper. Do you think this is going to become the norm, regardless of being published independently or traditionally? Yes. Amazon has recently announced that, for the first time, eBooks have outsold print books. eBooks are the future, and the future is now. A caveat, though, is that sweeping changes take time to filter through as an accepted part of life. There are still many people who enjoy the feel and weight of a paper book in their hands. Paper books have not died yet, but their demise may come quicker than expected. I’m still weighing up the option of doing a print version of my novel, as I’m getting quite a few requests for a print version.

You've made a lovely book trailer for Dancing in the Shadows of Love. What inspired this idea? Book trailers are common on the ‘net and when blogging friend Damaria Senne asked me who was doing my book trailer, I decided I’d try to make one. You can read how I did it on my guest post “12 Easy Steps to Make a Book Trailer” on self-publishing guru Joel Friedlanders’ blog. (View Judy's wonderful book trailer HERE!!)

The life of a writer is full of ups and downs. What (or who) helps pull you up from the pits? Meditation is my most important tool for keeping centred. I also have fantastic support from my husband Beric, my Mom and Dad and the rest of my family.

Marilyn, thanks so much for hosting me here. I really enjoyed my visit and, to say thanks, I’d like to ask you to draw the name of a random commentor, who will win a US$15 gift voucher (from their preferred choice of Amazon or Barnes and Noble).

Thank you, Judy! Wishing you much success with your novel. I'll use random.org to select a name on Thursday night after 10pm (June 9th) and will post the winner's name on Friday morning. Good luck, everyone!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

$2.99 Ebook Deals & a NEW Ebook Release!

Okay, this totally took me by surprise yesterday (in a good way), but I found out that According to Jane is part of a special Kindle sale -- called Sunshine Deals -- for "numerous bestselling and award-winning authors" (yes, I had a squeee moment at that description!) between now and June 15th. If you don't have it on Kindle and would like it for $2.99, you can get it here!! One of the reasons I was so stunned was because I'd been up until 2am the night before trying to puzzle through the uploading-a-novel process at Amazon, Smashwords and B&N. I've had this little side project in the works for months and I was preparing to announce it this week, so to have Amazon unexpectedly include my debut novel in their June promotion...well, it couldn't have come at a more exciting time. 

Why, you ask? Well, because as of today, I have my first ebook-only release up at Amazon and Smashwords (B&N is coming soon, too). I'm thrilled about it -- and, as always, a little nervous! It's a book I wrote several years ago, around the same time as According to Jane, but it's a short romantic comedy geared toward what was the Harlequin Flipside line (R.I.P.), which I'd loved. Two of my good friends -- Simone Elkeles and Sara Daniel -- read it and critiqued it. I revised it. And revised it some more. I had an RWA pitch appointment scheduled with one of the editors of the line when, two weeks before the conference, we all found out Flipside would be discontinued. Sigh. So, six years went by. This winter, when I read through the story again, I still loved the characters and the quirky little community they lived in, and I couldn't wait to play with the manuscript again...to update and polish it now that I'd gone through the process of editing so many more novels. It's a tad lighter in tone than my women's fiction books and shorter, too (about 57,000 words), but a part of my writer's heart will always love short contemporary romances as well as those longer relationship novels. It's called On Any Given Sundae, and it's the story of a shy dessert cookbook writer and the high-school football star (turned successful restaurant owner) she always had a crush on. The two of them end up running an ice cream parlor for the summer and, well, it is a romantic comedy...so love is in the air, along with the delectable scent of hot-fudge sauce, caramel and whipped cream... You all know me too well to be surprised that I'd write a whole book based around ice cream, right? *grin* The great news is that it's priced at only $2.99, too, and very much a summertime read for those who'd like a light romance with a little steaminess and a lot of dessert love. The talented Kim Killion designed my book cover last month, and I was delighted with that as well. (I want one of those strawberries!!) And I owe big hugs to awesome authors Edie Ramer and Marie Force for answering my endless questions about ebook formatting -- thank you, ladies! 
Now, I'm throwing virtual confetti in the air in celebration and trying to hand out massive ice cream sundaes to all of you before they melt... What's your favorite sundae topping?! Would you like whipped cream -- yes or no? Sprinkles? Happy June, Everyone!