Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Miley Cyrus, foam fingers, and why you maybe shouldn't buy my books

By now, you've surely heard of Miley Cyrus's booty-shaking, tongue-lolling, foam-finger-flicking performance at the Video Music Awards.

Yes, I watched it. Yes, I kinda wanted to grab her tongue and yank it the way I do with my dog when she won't stop licking my ankle under the desk while I write. Yes, I really hope she washed that foam finger afterward.

But as a woman who makes a living writing and marketing somewhat risque romantic comedy, here are a few things I'm pondering:

  •  Why is every headline, every blog post, expressing horror and outrage over the performance of a 20-year-old woman while ignoring the 30-something man gyrating with her in a freakishly-tight suit and singing about the "Blurred Lines" between consensual and non-consensual sex?
  • Why do people so often insist someone has a responsibility to be a role model to the children? Aren't parents the only ones who signed up for that duty?
  • It may be true the young lady woke remorseful the next morning with the foam finger curled limply beside her and glitter stuck to the sheets like the herpes of the craft world. It's also possible she woke up smiling, spent a few minutes with her favorite battery-operated companion, and thought, "hot damn, everyone's buzzing about me now."

This last one is of particular interest to me, since it speaks to the marketing side of my brain (the part that's actually put a roof over my head for the last 15 years during periods I'm waiting nervously by the mailbox for my author royalty checks to show up).

A lot of you probably pal around with me on Facebook and Twitter. If you don't, you probably should, since I'm a lot more active there on a day-to-day basis than I am here with my weekly blogging.

On the surface, it might seem like my posts are a random hodge-podge of details about stealing batteries from my vibrator to use in my wireless mouse or asking my gentleman friend to let me rub my boobs on his back so I can accurately complete the scene I'm writing (both true stories, thankyouverymuch). Posts like that might seem silly, hyper-sexualized, or even downright embarrassing if you happened to give birth to me (hi, Mom!)

If those are adjectives you've used to describe my posts, I'm begging you – PLEASE DO NOT BUY MY BOOKS. Seriously.

What I'm doing with those posts is signaling you about the tone of my books and novellas. I write risque romantic comedy packed with innuendo, sex, and a certain brand of humor not everyone finds amusing. If that's not your thing, no hard feelings. Seriously, we can still be friends. We can even have pillow fights in our underwear if you like, and I promise not to grab your butt if you don't want me to.

I'm just happy we've figured this out up front instead of after you've purchased one of my stories, gasped in horror on page five, and proceeded to write a scathing review on Amazon or Goodreads. Isn't it better if everyone knows in advance what to expect so you can decide for yourself if that's your cup of tea?

I don't know if that's what Miley Cyrus was doing with her VMA performance – signaling fans that she's going a more racy direction with her career. Hell, maybe she really was just a misguided 20-year-old doing something silly and regrettable. It happens.

It also just-so-happens that yesterday was release day for my new novella, Eat, Play, Lust. So you know up front what you're getting, this is a short novella – only 14,000 words, compared with my normal romantic comedies that come in around 85,000. That's why it's priced at only 99-cents.

It's also pretty risque. That's why I'm pleased most of the early reviews use terms like "food porn," or describe the story's dynamic like this (thanks, MsRomanticReads!):

This couple had fantastic (culinary) chemistry, and I especially loved the hilarious dialogue between them. From the nervous word diarrhea filled with double entendres to the food geekery. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a light, sexy and fun read that will leave you with a smile on your face and an ache in your belly, either because you’re hungry or because of laugh cramps. You’re guaranteed both.

If that's your cup of tea, by all means – please go drop 99-cents on Eat, Play, Lust. If it isn't, no worries.

Just don't come near me with any foam fingers, okay?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lookie lookie! I'm sharing the cover for Eat, Play, Lust

Thanks so much to everyone who pre-ordered Eat, Play, Lust and offered birthday wishes in last week's post. My backside is still stinging pleasantly, so I appreciate those who stepped up to provide birthday spankings.

I threw all the entries into a hat, and then realized the hat was sweaty and gross, so I tossed them in a mixing bowl instead and drew a name. Then I had to wash the mixing bowl, because ew. Congratulations to Snarky Mom Reads (who earned herself a couple extra entries by tweeting and blogging and Facebooking and even posting a really cool early review of Eat, Play, Lust). Snarky Mom gets her choice between Making Waves or Believe it or Not.

Advance reading copies of Eat, Play, Lust have been circulating among reviewers, which always makes me nervous. I always swear I WILL NOT READ REVIEWS for any of my novels or novellas. Then I do it anyway, because I have no self-control (which, incidentally, is why I sometimes miss deadlines).

Luckily, the reviews popping up on Goodreads have been positive, which makes my heart swell bigger than a purple-headed yogurt slinger. I've had tons of people telling me they've pre-ordered the novella at Amazon or  Barnes and Noble, which is also pretty swell.

Wanna see the cover? I officially got permission to share, which makes me very happy, because you should always share things you love. Unless you happen to love herpes, in which case you should keep that to yourself.

So here's the cover:

Pretty cool, huh? In case you missed it last week, here's what the novella is about:

Cami Pressman is a yoga instructor with a lifelong secret love of junk food. Not even an irresistible man can replace the mouthwatering wickedness of her favorite foods.
Until, that is, Paul Hammond signs up for her class. He’s a gourmet chef looking to score some fitness tips, and a date with Cami. Suddenly Cami’s lust for junk food isn’t the only thing making her tingle.
When this sinful chef and hot yoga teacher eat, play, and lust together, they just might bring their obsession to a new level.

A few interesting tidbits about this novella:
  • I already shared the story of how this little novella was born from my agent's suggestion that I needed to rediscover the things that made me love writing. Part of that involved sitting down and thinking about other things I loved. On my list: gourmet cooking, yoga, sex, tater tots, innuendo, standup paddleboarding, kissing a man with facial hair, sunshine, and risqué humor. I smushed all those things together and voila! Eat, Play, Lust was born.
  • I've had a few people ask the difference between a novel and a novella. My normal romantic comedy novels are about 85,000 words, but this little story is only 14,000. It has all the elements of a regular novel like fully developed characters, plot arc, conflict, and resolution, but it's super short (one of the few occasions that's an asset, rather than a disappointment). Think of it like an appetizer – if you've never read one of my books before, you might be more apt to commit to a little 99-cent taster that only requires a few hours to read. If you like it, you might take a shot at one of my full-length books.
  • This book is dedicated in honor of my grandmother and my gentleman friend's mother, both of whom passed away after battling with Alzheimer's. (Sidenote: Fuck you, Alzheimer's). The story itself has nothing to do with Alzheimer's, but I'm donating a portion of the proceeds to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research. Buy a copy for yourself, your friends, your loved ones, or your bikini waxer, and you're supporting a pretty good cause. Also, fuck you, Alzheimer's.
The novella is scheduled for release August 26, but you can pre-order at Amazon or  Barnes and Noble. Questions? Concerns? STD symptoms you'd like to discuss in hopes of getting a non-professional diagnosis? Please share!

Monday, August 12, 2013

How about I give YOU something for my birthday?

Today I turn 29 for the tenth time.

I woke to a lovely array of flowers and gropes from my gentleman friend, sweet text messages from his offspring, coughed-up hairballs from the pets, sweet  notes from you guys via Facebook, Twitter, and email, plus one big surprise . . .

The pre-order links for Eat, Play, Lust just went live!

Here's how Entangled Publishing describes the story:

Cami Pressman is a yoga instructor with a lifelong secret love of junk food. Not even an irresistible man can replace the mouthwatering wickedness of her favorite foods.

Until, that is, Paul Hammond signs up for her class. He’s a gourmet chef looking to score some fitness tips, and a date with Cami. Suddenly Cami’s lust for junk food isn’t the only thing making her tingle.

When this sinful chef and hot yoga teacher eat, play, and lust together, they just might bring their obsession to a new level.
The novella (a short little novel, not "a novel for chicks" as my brother concluded, though to be fair, it is sorta that) will officially release August 26, but you can pre-order it now for a whopping 99-cents. It's less than an iced tea at McDonalds, a pack of gum at the gas station, or a tube of generic KY Jelly at the Dollar Store.

Just go here to find it at Amazon for your Kindle or go here to Barnes & Noble if you're a Nook user, or tell me in the comments if you use some other sort of ebook format and I'll try to track down those links.

Yes, this novella is only available in electronic form. Sorry for those of you clinging fiercely to your paperbacks, but if it's any comfort, this 14,000-word story is short enough to read on your laptop without hurting your eyes (by comparison, my regular romantic comedy novels are about 85,000 words).

And speaking of my regular romantic comedy novels, how about we do a little giveaway? It's my birthday, after all, so gifts seem like a good idea no matter who's getting them.

Everyone who comments here in the next week will be entered to win his or her choice of a signed copy of Making Waves or Believe it or Not in paperback. If you tell me in your comment that you've pre-ordered Eat, Play, Lust, you get an extra entry. Tell me you've shared the pre-order link via Facebook, Twitter, or a strategically-placed tattoo on your choice of butt cheeks and you get an extra entry for each of those.

Um, the links. Not the butt cheeks, though if you have more than two of those, I'd really like to see a photo.

Thanks for celebrating with me, guys (both the birthday and the pre-order linkage).

Now line up over there to contribute to my birthday spanking.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Who's got your back when you get lost?

Yesterday, my gentleman friend and I set out for a hike. Our chosen quest promised beautiful wildflowers and mountain views on a moderately difficult 6.6 mile loop.

Both seasoned hikers, we packed plenty of water and snacks and studied the map and some directions from a hiking website. Things went well for the first couple miles. My gentleman friend (a freelance photographer on the side) paused often to snap pictures.

Maybe it was the frequent stops.

Maybe I was overly distracted by the views on our frequent stops.
I never tire of this view.

Whatever the reason, we took a wrong turn. Two mountain peaks marked the path along our journey, both about 5,500 feet in elevation. The one we intended to climb boasted well-marked trails, gradual ascents, and a lovely viewing platform at the top.

The other had long stretches with no trails and steep expanses of treacherously loose soil and gravel.

Guess which one we picked?

The climb up was difficult, but manageable. The climb down was downright dangerous. Then the real fun began.

"Where's the trail?" I panted as we stumbled down the side of a cliff.

"It should be over there." He paused. "I think."

I frowned. "Is that the tree where we stopped for a snack?"

"No, that's down there."

Onward we staggered, our water supply dwindling and our sense of direction becoming more twisted. Even the dog looked nervous. The later it got, the more I fretted.

I'm a worrier by nature, and it took a lot for me not to panic. My gentleman friend – admittedly as lost as I was – kept his cool. He led the way along dry creek beds aimed in the general direction we knew we should be headed. He pulled out his iPhone and used the compass to reorient us. He stayed calm even as I heard my own voice rising in fear. When I suggested we were veering too far from a plateau we'd pinpointed as a landmark, he didn't pooh-pooh my proposal go bushwhacking through the forest in hopes of discovering a clearing.

Eventually, we found our way back to the trail. We were a little battered and scraped up, and our water supply was perilously low. But we were safe. More importantly, we were still relatively jolly, never once bitching at each other or turning surly.

It called to mind my novella that's scheduled for release August 26 (though pre-order links are slated to go up this week, so watch for it here).

I wrote Eat, Play, Lust in the early summer of 2012 during what was arguably one of the lowest points in my writing career. The novel I'd written as the third in my romantic comedy contract with Sourcebooks was deemed excellent, but "not the right next book for your career." My editor and I were struggling to see eye-to-eye on what the right next book would be, and I'll admit it – I was on the brink of throwing in the towel. I was frustrated, disheartened, and ready to be done with the whole thing.

It's about as lost as I've ever felt along my publishing journey.

My amazing agent – who always seems to know exactly what to say – talked me off the ledge.

"You need to take a break and write something fun," she said. "Something to remind you why you got into writing in the first place."

"Like porn?"

"Maybe not porn. How about a novella for the Flirt line at Entangled Publishing?" she suggested, explaining that she'd already talked with an editor about me. "It's only 10,000 to 15,000 words. You can do that."

Compared to my normal 80,000-90,000-word novels, it did sound manageable. Before I knew it, I was off and running with a story about a yoga instructor with secret cravings and a hot gourmet chef with a habit of putting his foot in his mouth. The story flowed easily, and I finished in record time. More importantly, I found myself in love with the writing process again.

In other words, it was exactly what I needed when I was lost.

After that, I got back on my horse and wrote a new book for my Sourcebooks contract (now titled Frisky Business, and slated for release May 2014). And the novella with Entangled led to a separate three-book deal with them, with full-length novels now scheduled for release November 2013, March 2014, and July 2014.

All of it can be traced back to that one simple move from my agent. Instead of getting annoyed with me or allowing me to flail or rage or panic when I felt lost, she channeled all those emotions into something productive.

Suffice it to say, I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with the right people in times of trouble. It's paid off for me more than once.

As my gentleman friend and I stumbled back to the car yesterday afternoon, we rehashed our hiking adventure.

"Do you think it was some sort of relationship test?" I asked.

"How do you mean?"

"Like to see if we got snarky with each other or started blaming one another or stomping off in opposite directions."

He laughed. "How do you think we did?"

"Pretty damn well."

"We should probably make out to celebrate," he suggested. "And then go get french fries."

Got your own story of getting back on track after stumbling around lost? Did someone have your back, or did you find your own way? Please share!

And please let me know if you'd be willing to take a turn rubbing Bengay on my legs. I'm getting too old for this.