Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who are my Readers?

Authors nowadays are being bombarded with the idea of an author brand, and targeting their core readers.

The first part I have no problem with. I write high-stakes romantic adventure and paranormal romance, and with a little help from a professional, I came up with "Love with a Shot of Adrenaline" as a catchy tagline.

But the concept of my core reader is difficult for me. I think I balk at defining my core reader because *I* don't want to be defined. I asked once if identifying my CR means "a 30-something married mother of two with a day job" or more like "someone who loves Suzanne Brockmann, Firefly, and the idea of jumping out of an airplane." The answer I got? Both. *sigh*

I feel like saying "my core readers are X" is exclusionary, even though branding experts insist it's not. I would be annoyed if someone said the most die-hard Suz Brockmann fans are 30-something, because I'm 40. I like Falling Skies and Modern Family, and those are diametrical opposites. Hence my resistance to defining you, my readers.

But in addition to being a rebel, I'm also pretty obedient to the people in authority over me, so I want to try to understand my readership better. (Honest, it's only PARTLY so I can say "neener neener, they're undefinable!")

So yay, fun survey time! :) Completely anonymous, of course. Also of course, you have to have read and liked at least one of my books. Please tweet and post on Facebook or link on your blog or send an e-mail to friends or whatever, so I can get more than, like, three responses. :)

I'm at the RWA National conference this week, probably with no Internet access (expensive hotels mean no free wifi, how dumb is that?), so I'll post about the results in two weeks. The poll will remain open indefinitely, so if you want to go buy one of my books now and THEN take the survey, that would be awesomeness. :)

Thank you!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On My Way to RWA

I'm getting ready to go to RWA National next week. (For the non-writers who read this blog, that's the Romance Writers of America conference.) Some of my fellow attendees had a 15-page planning document weeks ago. Some were so overwhelmed with what they needed to do, they just kept buying shoes. I'm somewhere in the middle.

Yes, I have a four-sheet spreadsheet with a color-coded schedule and all my packing planned out. But that only came together this week. I still have to sort through a half-inch-thick folder of papers—untouched because I had a long to-do list of things that I needed off my desk before I leave. I still have to practice my pitch and research my pitchees, and read through the book I'm pitching so I remember all the details they might ask me about.

But I'm close to ready. I bought a dress for the Harlequin Black and White Ball, and borrowed shoes and a purse from Number One. I know, I can't believe it either. She has big feet, but they're the 15-year-old feet of a normal-sized teenager. My big feet are 40 years old and have been through two pregnancies and support a not-normal-sized person. The style of the shoe, though, makes them fit perfectly.

The only problem is that they're kitten heels. Which is excellent, because my other "fancy dress" shoes are nearly three inches, and I don't want my feet to hurt like that for three events (the Carina and Harlequin parties one night and the awards ceremony another night). But I'm prone to turning my ankle while wearing flip-flops, so I'm a little nervous about that possibility on these teeny heels. When it happens, I generally go to the ground, and not very gracefully. So I'll be holding my breath all night for two nights. Especially the one where I have to go out of the hotel.

I think I've bought all the little things I needed, mainly travel stuff for efficient packing. I'm not flying, but I don't want bulky stuff in my suitcase, either. Plans are being finalized, and now I just need to find the train station before I'm in a time crunch, and I'm all set!

My goal for this conference is networking. I'll be meeting authors and editors from Carina and Entangled, members of YARWA, and old friends, some of whom I've never met in person. I have official editor and agent appointments and some opportunities for informal meet-and-greets, as well as multiple volunteering duties. So my plan is to build my professional presence a little.

And to have fun! I've added karaoke one night and hanging in the bar with some people another and I expect a few dinners out. The hotel is on Times Square, so there will be a lot to choose from, dining-wise! And since my TBR pile is dwindling, I'm eager to get my hands on some new books. If you live in NYC, come on over to the Marriott Marquis on Tuesday night from 5:30 to 7:30. There's a gigantic, 500+ author booksigning, with all the proceeds going to literacy. It's open to the public!

I'm finishing writing this at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning, but I'm setting it for Sunday, the day before I leave. I'll be gone for a week, likely with no Internet access. Pray for me. :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good for You, New York!

Last night, I heard Number One pounding through the house. "She has news," I said, and paused the TV. She flew down the stairs, and a prepared myself for a funny celebrity tidbit. But no, her excitement far outstripped normal.

"New York just legalized gay marriage!" she cried.

This morning, I spent some time reading articles, checking out the rainbow-lit Empire State Building, and crying a little. I have few friends or acquaintances who are gay, but this is a cause that I feel fiercely about—so fiercely, it's the only controversial topic I ever blog about.

This feels big. So much bigger than just adding a sixth state with legal gay marriage. I really believe this is going to start a cascade of legality. I think we've turned a corner, one we could only turn by time and pressure. Because honestly, the longer the argument goes on, the more ridiculous it sounds.

Number One said a lot of the talk among her peers was about Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen, those paragons of traditional marriage. Seriously, when proponents of "family values" are getting flicked off their political pedestals because of infidelity, how on earth can they claim gay marriage threatens the institution? If having sex with prostitutes and posting your junk on Twitter doesn't do it, how will two men or two women getting married do it?

My neighbor's divorce did not undermine my partnership with my husband. Heck my parents' divorce didn't damage my marriage! So how would two guys getting married be any kind of a threat? If two people live together for 15 years, support each other through their careers, and even raise kids together, why would legalizing all of that so they can actually benefit from it instead of getting penalized do any harm to the rest of us?

I have still never heard a satisfactory explanation. Because there isn't one. And the longer the argument goes on, the more apparent that will come, and the more states will realize it doesn't help anyone to keep fighting.

So congratulations, New York and New Yorkers. May your marriages be long and loving.

Summer TV Tryouts

Hi, my name is Natalie, and I'm a TV addict.

Okay, not really. I only watch TV at night, after all my work is done, although I don't always make sure it's ALL done before I watch TV. If I were an addict, I would never care about getting my work done.

But I admit I really, really hate when there's a long lull in new programming. It makes me happy that summers now have their own seasons, mainly via cable, and there are always new shows to try out. Here are the ones I've tried so far, and my thoughts on them:

Love Bites
This show is short stories containing overlapping characters. I liked it better than I expected. I think I watched it mainly for Becki Newton (Amanda from Ugly Betty), but have so far enjoyed all the vignettes, especially the ones featuring Greg Grunberg. (Between him and Bradley Cooper being all over the movies, I'm really wanting Alias back.) I wouldn't miss the show if it was gone, but it's a nice diversion for an hour a week.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King
Meh. I'm intrigued enough to give the pilot a pass and watch episode 2. Chloe is adopted, her father left them 10 years ago, and she just turned 16 and died. She's a descendant of an ancient race and has partial shapeshifter powers. (If she fully shifts into an animal, I'm done with the show. I haven't read the book(s) so I don't know if she does or not.) Since she was pushed off Coit Tower and "survived," she's apparently marked as some special version of her race, which makes her a target and stuff.

The acting was a little too much of the wide-eyed, exaggerated teenager variety. A little too much Disney Channel, not enough Kyle XY. The best friend is super-annoying, the dialogue was often weak. But I like the other characters, and the father thing is intriguing, so like I said, I'll give it another try.

Franklin & Bash
I am quite shocked to say I love this show. It belongs on the USA Network, with its quirky characters and irreverent storylines. I usually don't go for courtroom dramas, but this is far more comedy than drama, and it has tons of chemistry. Kind of reminds me of Eyes without the edginess. Of course, the best part is the very close friendship between the two main characters. I'm really into those guy relationships for some reason. (Ref. Prison Break and Numb3rs and...oh, yeah, Supernatural! :) )

Falling Skies
We watched the "two-hour premiere" on Sunday. (I hate when they call it a two-hour premiere or finale or special episode, when it's really just two stand-alone episodes aired back to back. That's NOT the same thing as a longer, cohesive storyline.) I really, really liked it. Lots of action, an intriguing overarching storyline, complex characters—some you can only like, some you hate but understand, some you are supposed to hate but are probably going to really like. Of course, I love the father/son relationship already. Tom has a 17-year-old son who's a scout for the military, an 8-year-old son, and one in the middle who's been taken by the aliens as a slave. They're often in three different places, making decisions ultra-hard. This one is already on my "favorites" list, too.

Future tryouts will feature Unnecessary Roughness, Wilfred, and Alphas. UN because it has football, though I'm not convinced I'll like it. W because my husband thinks it will be funny. A because I'm very into the whole super-powered thing. :) We'll see who makes the cut!

Tell me what you think about these or other shows! What else should I be watching?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Super 8 and Ryan Reynolds in his Underwear

I kind of miss the summers of 4 or 5 years ago, when the kids went to Camp Nana every week and J and I went to a movie the night they were gone. Back then, we couldn't do anything until they were asleep, so it made us giddy to be alone and on a date at 7:00 p.m. with no kids at home and no babysitter. Back then, there were also new movies almost every week that I was dying to see.

Things are so different now! No Camp Nana this year, but the kids can stay home alone, so we can do whatever we want. Unfortunately, while there are movies I really want to see, none of them are at the "OMGgot-to" level. Not even Harry Potter, but that's a post for another day.

Anyway, J and I have seen two movies in the last two weeks, but we saw them on the weekend! At night! On opening weekend, no less!

Super 8 was as good as I expected it to be. I mean, JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg! Not that they never make duds, but this wasn't one of them. It was like they said "what if ET was captured before Elliott found him, and was held for 20 years?" The story isn't focused on the alien, but on the kids and families in the town where he escapes. The acting was superb, especially from the kids, and with the exception of one unnecessary, heavy-handed symbolic moment, the whole thing was well done.

The other movie we saw was Green Lantern. Call me superficial, but I greatly enjoyed Ryan Reynolds in his underwear. I mean, in this role. He did very well with both the cocky, snarky fighter pilot aspect of his personality, and the side of him that was convinced he wasn't good enough. We had just enough hints at his relationships to see how much he cared. The rest, of course, was all spectacle. The actress from Gossip Girl seemed like she'd had surgery two days before shooting and was trying to act through a haze of morphine. The subvillain was balanced, and the Big Bad as gorgeous as he was frightening. All in all, not the best superhero movie ever, but far from the worst.

Did you see these two yet? What did you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Carina Free Book Week

It's FREE BOOK WEEK at Carina Press!!!
Starting on June 20th, every weekday, all week, Carina is offering a spectacular title for free download. And when they say free, they mean ACTUALLY free. Not "sorta free", or "free with a $50 purchase" free, but actually, totally, no strings attached FREE! So, get thee to Carina press to download a free book every day! Here are the books being offered, and the links and promo codes for your free download:

Monday's FREE BOOK is:
The Debutante's Dilemma by Elyse Mady
Just type in the promo code DEBUTANTEFREE at checkout

Tuesday's FREE BOOK is:
Demon's Fall by Karalynn Lee
Just type in the promo code DEMONFREE at checkout

Wednesday's FREE BOOK is:
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
Just type in the promo code TWISTEDFREE at checkout

Thursday's FREE BOOK is:
Blue Galaxy by Diane Dooley
Just type in the promo code GALAXYFREE at checkout

Friday's FREE BOOK is:
Friendly Fire by Megan Hart
Just type in the promo code FRIENDLYFREE at checkout

But wait, there's more! You can retweet and win! Follow @_ChristineBell and @ElyseMady on Twitter and retweet any of their tweets that mention the hashtag #CarinaFree and you'll be entered to win the following fabulous prize pack:

  • An autographed print copy of "The Debutante's Dilemma" by Elyse Mady and an e-copy of her latest novel "Learning Curves"
  • Christine Bell's souped up RWA swag bag including Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale mug, magnet, romance trading cards and Carina Press coupon, and a bag of hershey kisses and any book off her backlist
  • A $25 Amazon Gift Card

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's Not the Romance Novels...

Recently, a psychiatrist and life coach declared romance novels addictive and destructive. The Internet exploded with hysterical laughter from sane people, but as always, there was a backlash from people who agreed with the original ridiculousness. Also as usual, it expanded to include such things as the damaging nature of Disney princesses.

Something similar occurred regarding the material in many young adult novels, though I was squashed flat under my workload and refrained from exploring that explosion.

I wish people would stop blaming STUFF for broadly described social ills. You think there's a problem? Target the actual source, please.

My kids loved the Disney princesses, and all the movies of that ilk. You know why they're not subjugating themselves to be-all-end-all relationships, or declaring themselves incomplete without the love of a shiny prince?

Because Disney princesses weren't the only influence in their lives.

Is it so astonishing that the loving, equal partnership her father and I share might have a little more sway than a two-hour bit of fluffy entertainment?

I'm so tired of "experts" blaming third parties for the problems of individuals. For one thing, I have a really hard time believing all the young women in our society think they should be living in castles and married to princes. But even if some do think that, the problem isn't that there are a few movies out there that make them think that way. The problem is just as likely to be a harried, overworked father struggling to keep his pampered wife in their cavernous house while she spends all the money he earns on anything the kids demand.

If a woman reads a romance novel about a guy who is loving and supportive, and is then dissatisfied that her spouse comes home every day and yells at her until bedtime, the problem is not with the romance novel being "unrealistic." It's with the woman being told she needs to settle and work harder at the relationship she has. I call bullshit!

(I apologize, Number Two, for the profanity.)

If my neighbor can't keep herself from mowing her grass four times a week, ripping out my lawn isn't going to fix her. If the guy across town is addicted to pink socks and can't go to work if they're all in the laundry, telling everyone in the world to stop wearing pink socks is not going to solve his problem.

So please, all you supposed experts, stop globalizing all the problems out there. I know you have self-help programs to sell, or practices to fill with patients, or an ego that craves the attention. Some of you are probably also well-meaning people who really believe what you say and want to help others, but this isn't the way to do it.

I'm healthy. Please leave my romances/movies/TV shows/lawn/pink socks alone.

My Favorite Part of Summer

I blogged yesterday about one of my favorite parts of summer, going to City Islanders games with my kids. Number Two told me to post it here, too, but I'm just linking to it.

The Islanders had a game last night, the first game in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup, and continued their time-honored tradition of losing for 85 minutes, then tying, and winning in stoppage time. So we go back next Tuesday! We've made the quarterfinals for the last two years, getting dumped by DC United, so expectations are high.

What's your favorite part of summer?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Victory, Dammit

Two years and four months ago, we bought a new front-load washing machine. No matter what machine I looked at in our price range, someone had a bad experience, so I went against my usual habit and bought the extended protection agreement.

The washing machine went wonky a couple of weeks ago. We called the repair number, and the guy told us we were covered, even though the protection agreement says 3 years for Kenmore and 2 years for other brands, and ours is Frigidaire. He said no, the model number was Kenmore. Okay, we said skeptically, and scheduled the first available repair date.

Eight days later.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Real Truth of the Hard Truth

I read a heartfelt article recently about the difficulties of having a writing career. It talked about the pressure of deadlines, the reality of having to write, even when awful things like spouses dying and mothers with cancer upend your entire existence.

We (those of us who've been "in the business" for a decade or plural), often caution new, excited, hopeful writers about the truth of aspiring for a writing career. The constant rejection, even after success; the sheer enormity of the competition; the ever-more-crowded marketplace, and on and on. We always say that if you can quit, do it. That you have to truly love writing, deep down, if you're going to get through all the hard stuff intact and sane.

But you know what? The real truth is a lot more complicated than that.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Happy Birthday, Carina Press!

In celebration of our one year anniversary, I asked as many of our Harlequin team members and Carina Press freelance editors as possible to write a short blog post, talking about what the past year or so has been like for them, working on Carina Press. I deliberately didn't provide any direction other than that, because I wanted to see what people came up with, in the spirit of Carina's 1st anniversary. I was so pleased when I saw what they'd all come up with, and had to say (and some of these posts made me just a little teary)! I hope you enjoy the post, and look for your opportunity to win a Carina Press book at the bottom of this post. ~Angela James

Dana Grimaldi is a member of the Carina Press acquisitions team. She loves to read sci-fi, fantasy, romance, mystery, steampunk, paranormal and any medley of these genres

Sometimes, when you start a new job, you find out that it comes with unfortunate surprises. For instance, sometimes you’re a camp counselor on your first overnight camping trip…in the middle of a thunderstorm. And then, when you wake the campers in the middle of the night so you can move the tents under a shelter, you discover that the shelter you’re trying to use is already occupied…by bats.

But other times, if you’re lucky, those surprises can be amazing. When I started working as the copy editor for Harlequin.com, the company was preparing to launch Harlequin’s digital-first imprint, Carina Press. Even though my job description didn’t say anything about Carina, it wasn’t long before I was copy editing back cover copy, pamphlets and author bios for Carina Press, too. I was lucky enough to find myself at the right place during a very exciting time. Before long, I joined the acquisitions team.

Right from the start, I knew this was an amazing opportunity. Being on the acquisitions team is like being part of the best book club ever. Every week, I get the chance to sit down with some of the smartest, funniest, most interesting women I’ve ever worked with and talk about something I love: books. But the most exciting part is that when I read a book, I get to pass on my thoughts and comments to the book’s editor.

Working on the acquisitions team has even changed the way I read. I’d never really considered getting an eReader. I was perfectly happy reading print books. I didn’t even call them print books; they were just books. But when I joined the acquisitions team, I realized very quickly that I’d need to find myself an eReader—there are no hard copy manuscripts at a digital-first publisher! I asked around—there was no shortage of opinions about eReaders here—and eventually decided to get a Kindle and a lighted case. The Kindle is really easy to use and the reading light doesn’t give me forehead crease marks like the light I use for print books.

Working for Carina Press has also expanded the types of books I read. I’ve always read a pretty wide variety of fiction, but even though I’ve read and loved fantasy books, I’d never read urban fantasy. Even though I love time travel stories, historical books and science fiction, I’d never even heard of steampunk. I found out that I love both these genres.

Looking forward to the upcoming year, I’m excited to continue reading books in new genres by fresh new voices. Hopefully this year will bring more good surprises—involving books—rather than not-so-good surprises—involving bats.

To celebrate Carina's one-year anniversary of publishing books, we're giving away some prizes. Today, on each of the nineteen blogs our team members are featured on, we're giving away a download of a Carina Press book to one random winner (that's nineteen total winners!) All you need to do to be entered to win is comment on this post. You can enter to win on all nineteen posts. In addition, on the Carina Press blog, we're giving away a grand prize of a Kobo ereader and 12 Carina Press books of the winner's choice. Visit the Carina Press blog to enter to win, and to see links to all 19 of today's blog posts.

And a sincere thank you from all of us, to our readers and authors, for making Carina Press's first year a success!