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Friday, August 30, 2013

"It's Like Pulling Teeth" by Aileen Fish

In theory, writing is easy. Stories show up in your thoughts and taunt you with paths leading into misty woods where excitement lies. Or you see someone do something and think, that man needs a story. 

That happened to me once and led to my first sale at Ellora’s Cave, but the places my mind went with him are too steamy for this blog! (If you want to know, check out Celtic Rhythm by Ari Thatcher, in Ellora’s Cavemen Flavors of Ecstasy Vol. 2. But it’s not suitable for work. Or when your mom’s visiting. Just sayin’.)

One night recently I saw an old photo in a local history book, read the caption beneath it, and suddenly had an entire series take shape in my mind. The heroine, the hero who has to make some life-altering choices in order to have her in the end. Her brothers, who will of course require their own stories after Book One.

It’s a blessing, right?

Not so much. Not when there are deadlines looming and edits coming in and the lawn needs mowing…again! Didn’t I just do that last week?

New ideas are gremlins, I’ve decided. All those words they sap from your system end up not missing from your word count on the story you have to finish yesterday. My characters sit in the room where I left them, their mouths open and minds blank, awaiting the words I’m supposed to give them.

“No, wait,” I insist. “You’re real. You guys talk it out, I’ll write it down and make note of your expression, and the way you keep polishing that spot on your boot so you don’t have to look her in the eye.”

And they say nothing.

I try another tact. Pulling out a notepad and pen, I lean back in my chair, donning a flimsy German accent in my best Freud impression. “So, tell me about your childhood.”

Nobody moves. Steam rises from their teacups. A horse whinnies outside. Another afternoon passes in my writing cave.

I see that meme that says something to the effect of some people hear voices and are called mad, yet others her them and are called writers. That’s so true. I just wish they would talk to me on demand.

Do you find yourself distracted at work, or working at your hobby? What do you do to get back on track?

You can visit me at my websitehttp://aileenfish.com or follow me on Facebook to watch the ebb and flow of stories and the panic when a deadline nears. With four novellas due out in the next three months, I’ll be doing lots of celebrating in the near future. I’m always looking for people to share the fun! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Into the Wild

Wasn't it Hemingway that said writing is easy, all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed?

I've got the bleeding down. Where's the easy button?

August was supposed to be a month of relaxation--a few weeks off from the writing to spend quality time with hubs and the kiddos. I released Angel Unleashed at the end of July so some downtime was in order.

That's how it works, right?

Apparently, to my brain, it does not.

It won't shut up, just keeps harping and harping at me to get on my lazy bum and slap some wordage on the page.

Demon Undamned, book three in the Deadly Sins series, has been plotted since Angel Unborn (book one). I know every dirty, rotten thing I'm going to do to my characters and all the consequences they'll face. *smiles maniacally* I could write this story with my hands tied behind my back... except for the whole needing them to type thing.

Somehow, I always forget (block out?) how hard a first draft is to write. Sure, I know it all (ask my husband), but getting it out in a coherent manner to look like what's in my head isn't near as easy as it sounds.

Picture this--*WARNING! SLIGHT EXAGGERATION DEAD AHEAD*--you're standing on the edge of miles of jungle, far as the eye can see. The treasure is smack dab in the middle. You know where it is, just not how to get there. It's hotter than Hell's a...er, um, basement. Bugs swarm around your head like a radio stuck on static. Sweat drips into your eyes and coats your skin, inviting every honking leaf and spiderweb to cling to you. And unless your ears are playing games, something very large and hungry just growled over your shoulder. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (heh, heh) is cut a creatively entertaining and maybe somewhat treacherous path through the wilds. Oh, and make it noticeable enough the reader can follow along but not so obvious that looters get to the treasure first and leave you empty-handed.

By the way, you're armed  with a pair of bobby socks and a spatula.

Go MacGuyver all over it, you big, bad bundle of writerly awesomeness!
 Or, curl up on the jungle floor and let the bugs eat you.

Yeah, that's what a first draft is like. You know what needs to be done and the only way to figure out how is to simply do it. But it's intimidating. It's exhausting. And frankly, I'm a little scared of myself.

 What motivates you best? Guilt? Got some! Excitement? Got that covered too. Share with me your motivational how-to sparklies.

Or, if you have none, I also accept dark chocolate...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

To Costume. . . Or Not to Costume

So, both of my children were practically born with a prop in their hand, and an affinity for costumes.  Of any sort.  After Eldest first watched The Little Mermaid, he carried a yellow plastic fork around for three weeks, insisting to all that it was his trident. Later,  movies could not be watched without first assembling the props.  Jammies were no fun unless they also doubled as costumes.

Halloween, as you might guess, was always a Big Deal around here, and costumes usually reflected their latest obsessions.  Valiant Husband and I have dressed up several times through the years. Some of the families around here go all out and all dress up in a family theme, but we've never gone that far.

Now that the kids are a little older, they have gravitated to cosplay.  We have a couple of local Cons that they've dressed for.  Elaborately.  This is no 'throw it together' endeavor.  They take this stuff seriously, planning for months ahead of time and making everything they can by hand.  They are dying because this weekend is Dragon Con and I still haven't taken them to one.  Now there is a TV show about professional cosplayers that is setting them afire to go more, do more, create more.

Some of my friends like to dress up, but others are self avowed 'not costume' people--and wouldn't consider dressing up for any reason.  It does seem to be a love it or hate it sort of activity, doesn't it?
So which are you?  Do you dress up for Halloween?  Has your family ever dressed together in a theme?  Ever gone to a Anime or Comic Con?  What's your best costume?


Monday, August 26, 2013

Release Day Giveaway: THE MATCHBAKER!

Pop the champagne, please!! THE MATCHBAKER is HERE!

I can hardly believe this day has finally arrived. More than three years ago, I had this wacky idea to write a chick lit novel about a cupcake baker who had magical powers. The Matchbaker was set aside time and time again in favor of other writing projects, but Candy Cooper was always there, waiting for me to finish her story. So here we are, three years later, and Candy's story is finally ready for the masses.

So what is The Matchbaker, you may ask?

...A Romantic Comedy with a Magical Twist and Delicious Recipes



1C Chaos
1Tbsp Romance
3Tsp Betrayal
2C Comedy
1Pinch Magic

Candace Cooper is living the life she set out to live. With a posh apartment in Manhattan, a high-powered job that takes her all over the world, and designer clothes that most women would kill to have in their closet, she's definitely living the high life. But when her best friend drags her to a seedy section of Paris to meet with a crack-pot fortune teller, she hears things she doesn't want to hear. She desperately tries to ignore the unsolicited advice, but that becomes nearly impossible when her perfect life starts to unravel.

But you don't just get a [hopefully] fun read when you buy this book...you get amazing cupcake recipes from some amazing bakers and bakeries, including former Lady Scribe, Erin Knightley! My other contributors include Polkadot Cupcake Shop of NY/NJ & Sugarcain Cupcakes of Palm Beach. We're spanning the Eastern Seaboard with these cupcakes, people! Oh, and I threw in my own semi-homemade recipe for you too :)

Because I'm a tease...


Now here are 5 Fun Facts about the book...

Fun Fact #1 -- In the opening chapter, Candy's BFF drags her to meet with a fortune teller in Paris named Madame Antoinette. What you all might find interesting is that Madame Antoinette is real! She's not French, and she doesn't wear gawdy gypsy-style clothing, but she is a good friend of mine, who, by the way, does not know she inspired a character in my book. I suppose I should tell her before I post this :)

Fun Fact #2 -- Madame Antoinette predicts that Candy will meet a handsome stranger in the fall and fall in love. This really happened. My own Antoinette (or Toni, as we call her) gave me a reading years ago. I was still with my ex-boyfriend, but she told me we wouldn't be together forever. I was sure we were going to get married, so I thought she was totally heinous. She went on to say it was someone I already knew. Ha! I didn't know anyone that I was even remotely interested in (shhhh...don't tell my husband). So fast forward about 9 months to that fall, and lo and behold, I started to fall in love with one of my classmates...whom I had known for several years already. We've been together almost 13 years :) (To get in touch with Toni for your own reading, visit www.astrology-source.com)

Fun Fact #3 -- The Mac & Cheese Candy eats on her date is based on my all-time favorite Mac & Cheese from a place in Jersey City, NJ called Amelia's. It. Is. Heavenly.

Fun Fact #4 -- A certain character talks about having moved to Florida to a seaside town. That town is called Stuart and the coffee shop he worked in was the Stuart Coffee Company. It's an adorable town, with lots of character, that we love to visit on a nice weekend afternoon.

Fun Fact #5 -- Candy mentions her spin studio in Manhattan briefly (though there used to be a whole scene with her spin class). That spin studio is called Soul Cycle. My hubby set up their computers years ago, and a friend from college is an instructor there now. It is THE place to spin if you live in Manhattan!

OKAY, enough chit-chat! Go forth and buy The Matchbaker! Oh, but wait! Let's do a giveaway... I want to know if you've ever consulted a psychic and if the prediction(s) were accurate! One lucky commenter will win a free copy of The Matchbaker


Tales from the Bat Cave: Life Imitates Art

I enjoy a bit of irony as well as the next girl, but sometimes life takes it too far. Truth is rarely stranger than fiction when one writes paranormals. Except last week.

As Susannah Sandlin, I write paranormal romance featuring vampires, among other beings. The Penton Vampire Legacy series is set about 20 miles from where I live, out in the wilds of Chambers County, Alabama. But my home's in a bustling small city, a college town where the most frequently seen wildlife is the clueless college student walking in front of my car, oblivious to oncoming traffic, frantically texting as he walks, earbuds jammed into his ears so he can’t hear my furious horn-blowing.

At night, I write, and that was what I was doing last Tuesday night on a rainy evening about 9 p.m. I’d been ignoring the pitter-patter of little feet above my head for the last hour, convinced it was squirrels on the roof

Then I heard a rustle in my second-floor bathroom, adjacent to my office. Huh? A squirrel was in the bathroom?

My dogs are both geriatric cases, and one is deaf, so they were snoring peacefully downstairs as I made my way into the bathroom and saw OMG a freaking BAT. In the tub. 

I did what any mature, self-supporting career woman would do. I screamed and ran out the door, slamming it behind me. I paced. I chewed my nails. I gathered up boxes and clothes and anything I could find, eased the bathroom door open, and threw all of it on top of the bat, creating a big Mount Vesuvius of junk, before running back out and closing the door.

I am nothing if not mature and calm and rational, so I barricaded the bathroom door with boxes of books, in case the bat suddenly grew vampire strength and opposable thumbs and tried to escape.

A modern sort of woman, I consulted the Internet and found the number for my county’s animal control office. They didn’t answer the phone—it now being 9:30 p.m., but their message said they did not handle wildlife, only cats and dogs. Next, I found a 24-hour emergency number for wildlife control,
and it rolled over to the animal control office, which doesn’t handle wildlife.

Meanwhile, my resident senior adult, age 88, felt I was being too slow and, without my knowledge until it was too late, called 9-1-1, identified herself as ME, and told the operator I had a bat in the bathroom. Oh, the humiliation. It was almost enough to drown out the fear.

Ten minutes later, Officer Friendly arrived. He stopped his squad car in front of my house, walked into the front yard in the drizzling rain, and looked up. I joined him, apologizing for the 9-1-1 call. He pointed. “You got bats circling your chimney,” he said. “Sh*t,” I replied. Then had to apologize for my language as well as the 9-1-1 call. He gave me the phone number of a wildlife trapper out in Beauregard (i.e., the boonies), located not far at all from where my Penton Vampires live.

Batman, as I’ll call the trapper, arrived a half-hour later, which meant he'd driven like a bat out of hell to get there so fast. It was now 11 p.m., and I had spent the previous half-hour duct-taping a big cardboard box over my fireplace, where I'd heard suspicious squeaking and rustling.

Batman went into the upstairs bathroom after being warned about Mount Vesuvius, and rattled and banged for another half hour before announcing that he couldn’t find the bat and he'd just closed the bathroom back up. In creating Vesuvius, he said, I had provided a ladder for the bat to exit the tub. Awesome.

We walked around the outside of the house in the rain, and I was treated to the sight of dozens of bats hanging from my eaves by little bat toes, taking in the night air. Bats flew in and out of what appeared to be an unscreened attic vent. They circled the chimney. It was a freaking episode of “Dark Shadows” come to life.

“This is bad,” Batman said solemnly between belches, because his tacos hadn’t agreed with him at dinner. “I’ll come back tomorrow and see what I can do.”

Twenty minutes later, I sat with my Kindle, comforted by the knowledge that the AWOL bat was still somewhere in the bathroom upstairs, locked in. My deaf 14-year-old retriever-chow mix, Tanker, raised his head, perked up his ears, and issued a single “woof.” I looked in frozen horror as a bat squeezed out of the fireplace around my cardboard barricade. I unfroze as he took flight straight toward my head.

I screamed, then chased him as he flew upstairs. Until he did a fast 180-degree turn and came back at me, chasing me downstairs. He flew into the kitchen. I slammed the kitchen door shut and called Batman, who did his own 180-degree turn and came back. This bat, he managed to catch, although it took him until 3 a.m. He found another bat, this one dead, in the corner of the living room. He put both in zip-loc bags and said he’d deliver them to the rabies-testing lab. Before leaving, he plastered my fireplace with gorilla tape and cardboard. I spent the rest of the night like Tippi Hedren in “The Birds,” listening to bats bang against the cardboard from inside the fireplace.

On Friday, Batman never showed up. His assistant, Robin, said it was Batman’s birthday and he decided to take the day off. But they’d both be there by 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Friday night, I did my Tippi Hedren impression again. I’d been up for 72 hours.

At 9 on Saturday, Robin arrived—Batman had partied too hard the night before (on the retainer I’d paid him, no doubt) and couldn’t get up. But Robin worked hard, sealed up all entrances to the house, installed a one-way “door” for the bats in the attic and walls, and caught that straggler in my bathroom. They could leave to get food and water, but couldn’t get back in. At some point, Batman staggered in to help. I’m now bat free, poor as a church mouse, but relieved. 

Last night, the rabies-testing office called. The live bat tested negative; the test was inconclusive on the already-dead bat. “See what your doctor recommends,” I’m told. Nice. The saga continues.

Oh, and I sold another book in the Penton Vampire Legacy series the day the bats arrived. Because I appreciate irony as well as the next girl.

Have a bat story of your own? Leave a comment to win copies of Redemption and Absolution, the first two books in the Penton Vampire Legacy series. Open internationally.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Last Post as a Lady Scribe

Today is my last post for Lady Scribes as a Lady.

But fear not.

Like when previous cast members of Saturday Night Live returned every so often to host, that'll be back. There's no way I could say good-bye good-bye to all the ladies.

For one Andris Bear is my crit partner. Plus, I see Ava Stone, Olivia Kelly, Erin Knightley, Jennifer Lohman, and Andris Bear once a month at our Heart of Carolina Romance Writers' meetings.

And I'm not saying goodbye to all of the readers either! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, talking about my latest book or how Hot Builder and Bromance (HB's BFF) want to be a couple on one of my novels.

*whispers help me*

In any case, I just want to say thank you for having me. Thank you for supporting me and reading my silly blog posts, not-so-silly blog posts, and the one about Colin Firth hugging me.

I know that I'm leaving you in very, very good hands with all the amazing new Lady Scribes!

So, what are everyone's plans for the weekend? Any good books I should add to my TBR pile?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Beginning of the End

There are beginnings, middles, and an end to every story. Beginnings are always fun and exciting. Middles should draw you into the characters and really let you enjoy who they are, and for me, endings are always bitter sweet. There will never be another time in my life in which this little bit of knowledge has so much meaning in my life.

You see twenty-one years ago my oldest son was born and four years later came my middle son. Both are well past the middle stage and well on their way into manhood. I was almost to the homestretch! The end of the road as they say…that point in my life when it would suddenly resort to being MY life once more. (And years ago I would have appreciated this a little.) And then out of nowhere five years ago I had another son. Kabam! My entire life changed but for the better I think.

I was much older. I was a little more patient. I was more appreciative of the little things. And then when my oldest son moved out last year it hit me that these years really don’t last forever—like we think they do. And it shed a new light on how little time I have spent with ALL of my kids.

Years ago, I was too rushed. Too impatient. Too young to appreciate this thing called motherhood to the fullest. (Those of you who waited to have children will probably not understand this last part but it’s the truth for me. I was too young to really understand what “being a mother” really meant.)

Now I’m far past those years of impatiently rushing through my life and I’ve slowed down significantly, and I’m learning to take the time to enjoy “smelling the roses.” I did an excellent job raising—what I term “the last few gentleman of the world”— and I’m proud of that. But this go-round feels a little different for me. I’ve really taken some time to just hold my youngest— much to his chagrin—and while I feel like I held my first two boys just as often, something just feels different. This time I know it’s the last time. I know this part of my life will end and I catch a glimpse of that ending EVERY single time my oldest son gets into his car and drives home when he visits. I can see my very chaotic house suddenly growing very silent. Although I will finally have the time to do whatever I want,  I think the idea of “having more time for myself” is actually a little unnerving.

So this Monday my youngest son enters Kindergarten for the very first time and it has hit me: This is the last chance I have to get this right. This is my last chance at watching this incredibly beautiful child grow into a wonderfully, productive, bright young man, just like his brothers are.

So we’ve bought all of our school supplies, packed our bookbag, picked out the lunch box, and talked about all the wonderful things he will learn in school. He’s excited. And Mommy is a little miserable. I know I should be happy that I will have a little more time to myself but I keep seeing a glimpse of this empty house when all my kids are grown and gone. All that time I’ll have to do the things I’ve dreamed of. But I CAN wait. Because for now…I’m ready to just be Mommy. It’s my last chance to take hold of these moments and treasure each one. I have plenty of time left in my life to do other things. There is nothing that I can’t accomplish and with a little effort, I will do it well. But I CAN wait.

I hear other people say “I can’t wait for the kids to just go back to school.” And it makes me a little sad to hear that because I said those very same things. But someday they are going to watch their grown children get in the car and drive to their own homes, and then face an empty house. You’ll have time to run all your errands, write, read, work on your career, but you’ll never have these moments with your children again. They’ll be placed away in the memory box, treasured when you bring them out, and you’ll remember the wonderful smiles you shared with your kids, but you’ll never experience these moments again.

So here we stand, my son and I, at the beginning of his school years. Hand in hand, we’ll walk into that school together, and he’ll be so excited, and of course, mommy will cry. Because I know this is the last time I’ll have to drop off my children on their first day at school. The last time we’ll have to rush out to Walgreens to buy the supplies for a project that’s due the VERY next day. This is the last time he’ll forget his lunch on the dining room table and I’ll have to take it to school for him. This is the last time he’ll play hookie from school and I’ll come home to find him playing video games instead of staying in the bed sick. This is the last time we’ll have to pick out gifts for his teacher that “just right” and sign every Valentine card a different way because it’s important to him to do so. This is the last time I’ll have to attempt to bake cookies that I will burn and have to run to the store for “store-bought cookies” because I’m simply not proficient at baking. And my son and I will wink at each other when his teacher asks if he made these cookies for the class and then we’ll giggle about it later that night.
This is the last time he’ll be nervous before his first dance, he’ll ask me questions about girls, find his first girlfriend, break up with his first girlfriend, drive a car, buy a tux for Prom, and someday this will be the last graduation I attend. It’s bittersweet as endings usually are.

Whatever life brings you…I hope it’s bittersweet. I only want to leave you with this small piece of advice my mother gave me when I was very young “Enjoy the little moments every day.” Sometimes life isn’t this grand scheme…sometimes it is just a little bittersweet. Enjoy your day whatever it brings.    


First hair cut with "big" brother

 First Bicycle 

Brother's first football game. Caiden was his biggest fan. 
First mail from Grandma

  Mommy and Caiden on our way to the our last trip to the park for the summer. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Matchmaking Readers and Authors

Last week I followed an interesting discussion started on Facebook by reviewer Becky Condit of Mrs. Condit & Friends Read. The most thought-provoking part of the conversation for me began with the questions “So, do we write reviews for readers or writers? If for readers, are we part of the marketing team? If for writers, are we part of the editing team? Or are we some half-breed entity and does anyone really pay any attention to reviews?”

I’ve been mulling over the relationship between reviewers/readers and authors for the past few days, and the truth is we have a unique relationship built on mutual dependence and equality. Readers love to read. (I know that’s a no-brainer.) Books provide a much needed respite from life. They build hope. They boost the spirits. They are there to serve the reader.

Authors, on the other hand, have a burning need to tell stories. I say it’s a burning need, because it's not logical to work in isolation for months for very little financial reward in most cases, and then open oneself up to public criticism. That takes passion. We write because we love it. But telling the story isn’t enough. We need someone to read our books and hopefully love our stories as much as we do.

We need readers. Readers need us. It’s the circle of literary life, and it is beautiful.

I’m not a reviewer and I know these questions were posed to reviewers, but I have some thoughts. Are reviews written for readers or authors? I say BOTH.

A well-written review can help a reader find books she will love, and it can help an author find her audience. This is true whether the reviewer liked the book or not as long as the review has substance. If it’s filled with inflammatory language like “worst book ever” or “TSTL” or “all the other reviewers must be the author’s family because no one could like this book”, there is very little—if any—useful information readers can take from it. (Does anyone else see putting down a reader's review and trying to discredit her through name-calling a form of cyber-bullying?) *edited to clarify the original intent of this question.  

Here are some of the things readers can expect from my books based on both positive and negative reviews: 

  1. My work has been described as historical chick-lit. My characters are nonconventional and they don’t always follow the rules of polite society. Lovers of traditional Regency probably won’t enjoy my books.
  2. My stories are humorous, light, and a fun romp. If a reader is looking for an angsty drama or heart-pounding thriller, she won’t find it in one of my books.
  3. My books have sex. Some people say too much. Some say not enough. But there is definitely sex.  
  4. Sometimes people want to strangle a character and sometimes they want to weep with them. Sometimes they love them and sometimes they hate them. Therefore, readers can feel reasonably certain they will have some emotional experience, although that’s not always the case.
  5. My stories don’t center on a big misunderstanding. Characters talk to each other, like each other, and often deal with an outer source of conflict together toward the end of the story, because falling in love is just the beginning in real life.        
  6. My work is “pretty much free of poor grammar and typos”, thanks to my critique partners, editor, copyeditor, and proofreader. If one slips through, I feel like it must be destiny. LOL

Does anyone pay any attention to reviews? I do! I do! (Raising hand and waving it madly) I was a reader long before I became a writer. Sometimes I check out reviews to help me decide what to read, although I’m most likely to read books friends have recommended. 

Rules I apply when reading reviews: 

  • I don’t pay attention to the mean-spirited reviews that attack the author or try to discredit the other readers. Those reviews only discredit the person writing it, IMO. A professional knows how to provide a critical analysis of a book without being condescending and resorting to name-calling when someone has a different opinion.
  • I automatically discount any reviews that use the word boring. I always picture a young reader, and I don’t think we would have similar reading likes.
  • I don’t factor into my decision reviews where the reader DNF. As one commenter in Mrs. Condit’s FB discussion said, where did the person stop reading? The first page? The first chapter? I don't feel I can base a decision on a reader’s opinion when she already admitted she didn’t read it. I might miss out on a book I might think is great.     
  • I’m less likely to buy a book that has several readers saying the work has typos and grammar mistakes. I figure if several people notice, it must be more than a couple. Lots of typos, missing words, and wrong words begin to distract me from the story.
  • I’m more likely to buy a book that has elements I enjoy, regardless of the rating.

I feel pretty lucky to have gotten several helpful reviews for my books, and I'd like to say thank you to reviewers for reading my books and taking time to write a thoughtful review. Even if it turns out I’m not your cup of tea, I am someone’s, and your reviews have gotten us one step closer to discovering each other. I guess that kind of makes you matchmakers. Happy reading, everyone!

Who do you think reviewers write for: readers, authors, or both? Do you pay attention to reviews? If so, do you have a set of rules you apply when reading reviews? How do you discover new authors?

If you haven’t tried one of my books and would like to, leave your email address along with your comment. I’ll draw one winner to receive their choice of book from my Beau Monde Bachelors series. (Open internationally.)