Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Good News (which couldn't have come at a better time!)

I have news. But before I share that news, let me tell you the story of how I came by it.

I’ve had a rough week. I’m so incredibly close to sending my next manuscript to my publisher, but every time I get rolling, something gets in my way. This week, it has mostly been house drama. There’s this whole mold problem with the house we’ve been fighting with the HOA about for 6 months… that’s another story which I’m going to ignore for now. What it means is that I've had contractors in my house half the week while I fielded dozens of emails about the subject every day. Then there's my dryer, which I’m trying to fix… I ended up in the scary, dark crawl space behind the dryer for an hour or so yesterday. Good times. So when it didn’t work again today coupled with the whole to-do list crashing in on my head, I had a minor melt-down. Tears, cursing, cats hiding. The whole bit.

Once I wrung myself out, I picked up my laptop again, determined to accomplish something today. So I started on the little things I could get done in a hurry. One of these tasks happened to be grabbing a quote from Magick Charm’s review at Romantic Times Book Reviews for my publisher’s website. Easy enough. So I headed to RT’s page of my review and here’s what I saw:

What’s that yellow print? That wasn’t there the last time I saw this. A… nomination…??

My brain shorted out for a moment and then I started thinking again. While my book was published in 2010, the review was written in 2011. Therefore, the book could be nominated for the 2011 awards. I hadn’t even read through the nomination list before now. I completely missed it. So I clicked on the yellow link and find this:

Yep, that’s my name beside the nomination title.

About this time, John walked in the door and I called him over to the computer. I pointed out both web pages, just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind or anything. He couldn’t vouch for my sanity, but he did confirm that I was nominated for the RT Reviewers' Choice Awards!

So that’s the story of how it took me 3+ months to discover my nomination. And it was exactly what I needed after a long, frustrating week. I swear, I’m still shaking with excitement!

The winners will be announced in the June issue of RT, which I should have in my hands in about 3 weeks. I think my head would explode if I actually won my category, but I’ve discovered that it really is true what they say - it is an absolute thrill and an honor to be nominated. I am so amazingly happy that people like my book and they get my strange brand of humor. Thank you, readers, and thank you, RT!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some Silliness and a Confession

I have a confession to make: I’m a nerd. I love books. I play video games. I even play Dungeons & Dragons. And you know what? I’m proud of it! 

In high school, I carried around a book wherever I went. Hell, that hasn’t changed except now it’s usually a Kindle instead of a paperback jammed in my purse. (I even shop for purses based on whether they can accommodate my Kindle!) Often it was a different book for every day of the week, and a couple of my teachers were always curious about which book I’d be toting around on any given day. 

Today I write books, and I’m still just as much of a nerd as I ever was. I dream about my characters at night and play with those imaginary friends on my computer screen during the day. What I’ve discovered with writing is that you can’t really hide anything. So much of me goes into each character and each scenario. I couldn’t pretend to be something I’m not, even if I wanted to… and I don’t. 

So I confess... I’m a person who is happily married (shocker!), prefers my cats to kids (blasphemy!), has 10 bookcases (nerdy), still loves science (geeky), writes romance novels (trashy porn? Don’t even think it!), and believes in happy endings (how naïve!).

 Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How NOT to Deal with Negative Reviews

There’s been a lot of talk recently about writers and their relationships with reviewers and it reminded me of a blog that was so infamous as to have become viral. In it, a reviewer wrote an even-handed description of a novel he read, including both the good and not-so-good parts of it.

The novelist’s response? “Fuck off!” *

Let’s be honest. Anyone who has ever written a book has a less-than-glowing review of that book out there somewhere. And yeah, it’s quite possible that your first instinct on reading that review is to say “fuck off.” But professional writers might say it to an empty room or over drinks with some friends, not typed on a public blog. Three times.

Negative reviews hurt. I won’t deny that I’ve been reduced to tears once or twice because not everyone in the world thought my book was the most fantastic thing they’ve ever read. I had a little pity party for myself and did my best to get over it. In fact, I’ve often (after the sting has worn off) gone back to read the review again for any critical insight I can take from it. I’ve learned a couple of things that I’m incorporating into my next book this way.

Are there reviews that an author can’t find the positive in at all? Sure, but the vast majority of reviewers will offer a fair and balanced accounting of a book. Rarely, a reviewer will attack a book like a possessed howler monkey with a personal grudge. In those cases, the novelist has to learn to turn off the web browser and walk away. Silently.

A reviewer isn’t a genius when he grants you a glowing review and an idiot when he gives you one star. He is a person who has his own opinions, feelings, experiences, and yes, bad days, just like you. No one person’s opinion, good or bad, should weigh so heavily on any writer.

The author has since removed her comments from the blog.

Friday, March 9, 2012

2nd & Charles

Anyone who knows me or has been reading my blogs knows how unhappy I am at the loss of the two local Borders bookstores and the Borders Express I frequented. Then last month I discovered that the used bookstore I enjoyed was closing as well. It’s not been a good year for the brick and mortar bookstores.

The back wall art is made entirely of books.
Like the honey badger, it's pretty badass!
But there is a tiny bright spot in the vast wasteland of bookstore-less-ness in my area. Where my favorite Borders store had once been, a used bookstore opened, and I was able to spend a couple blissful hours there earlier this week.

It’s called 2nd & Charles, part of a chain I hadn’t encountered before now. It sells – of course — used books, but also movies, video games (from the 360 all the way back to the old Nintendo cartridges!), and music. Pretty cool.

There’s no longer a café in the corner of the store, but they didn’t mind me bringing in my Starbucks. Book browsing is always better with a cup of chai in my hand! In fact, with the loss of the café comes plenty of extra room for all of those books. There are more and higher bookshelves than before, resulting in an overall increase in literary biomass (so to speak… though books do have a life of their own!).

No, it doesn’t completely make up for the loss of the Borders, but any day I come home with a bag full of books is a good one!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sh*t Happens

Some days are just gonna suck.  It’s a fact of life.

About two years ago, after a series of maintenance problems ending with our landlord refusing to replace a heating/cooling system that no longer worked (yeah, tell me about it!), John and I decided simply to move.  We found a nice townhouse, signed a lease with the owner, who was moving to a larger home, and gave notice.  With only days remaining until the move, the woman who owned the townhouse informed us she hadn’t received the mortgage approval she’d been counting on.  She wasn’t going to move, and we were going to be homeless in a matter of days. 

“But we have a lease,” we said, but she just didn’t care.  Her attitude was pretty much “too bad, so sad.”

Could we have sued her?  Sure.  But what for?  To punish her?  To made a quick buck?  That just didn’t sit well with me.  The bottom line was we couldn’t force her to rent us her house – and wouldn’t that have been a fun relationship to have with our landlord? – and we couldn’t stay where we were. 

Now, I admit I have a bad temper.  And of course I can freak out and melt down and cry with the best of them!  But my point is this: shit happens.  What matters is how you deal with it.

In our situation, we started apartment hunting again that evening and ended up finding a much better townhouse that we absolutely love!  And we moved out of the old apartment right on time.

My other thought is that sometimes things happen for a reason.  My grandfather, another PA Dutch pragmatist, was a big proponent of this idea.  I think he’s right.  How many times has something – usually bad – happened to you that has led to one thing, then another, and finally to something great?

So here’s what I tell myself – while doing deep breathing exercises or blotting tears or downing a mai tai – whenever shit happens to me:
  • ·      Is this really going to matter a year from now?
  • ·      Can I do anything to fix this problem?
  • ·      Remember that things sometimes happen for a reason.
  • ·      How you respond to adversity can say a lot about you. 

After the problem has passed, I’m certainly not above using the drama as inspiration in a novel - and you thought my “don’t make me put you in my book” shirt was just for laughs!

Well, I didn’t mean this blog to come out like a self-help book!  I just wanted to share my thoughts on how I try to deal when I’m having a crappy day.  What are your thoughts?  How do you deal?