SUCH A HOT MESS AND I DON’T MEAN ME

CAT NAP

I have 5 more pages to edit of this hot mess of a current manuscript. I’m embarrassed to admit I started writing it a year ago, which may not sound like a long time for a novel, but in the world of romance, I should have written 3 novels in that time. A Harlequin author on Facebook posted, “I have to write a book in 5 ½ weeks!” and I was like, Huh? I can’t even formulate an outline for a book in 5 ½ weeks much less write the damn thing.

This is the third novel I have written. One would think writing gets easier over time. It doesn’t. My first book was a young adult novel written in 2000, back when YA was actually written for teens, rather than adults. I wrote it longhand while sitting on the most uncomfortable metal chair you can imagine in the middle of an outdoor mall in San Diego. I worked full-time at a kiosk selling spiritual items, books, and $3000 Thangka paintings that the owner had brought back from Nepal.

I had nothing to do for 8 straight hours but write. The kid in the kiosk next to me selling cell phone covers (which were a novelty back then) was waaaay busier. Needless to say, my boss closed up shop 5 months later, but I had an almost-completed novel and was pretty damn proud of myself. I polished it up and started subbing it, 9-11 happened, all things publishing halted, so I ended up shelving it. By the time I dusted it off again Twilight had been written, and since my YA had no vampires in it, it died a slow death.

My second book, The Accidental Cougar, which was published last November, was written under similar circumstances as the first. I was an office manager, alone all day, working for a company that was trying to sell a $30,000 piece of exercise equipment in a failing economy. It was very slow and I was so bored. I mean, there’s only so much porn one can watch on the office computer. I started writing, and the words flowed so effortlessly that I completed a first draft in 4 months. Because let’s face it, even when I didn’t feel like writing, when faced with another 8 straight hours of sitting on my ass, what are the choices? Porn, dusting (again), or writing. I chose writing.

I have come to the sad conclusion that in order for me to be able to complete a novel in a reasonable amount of time, I need to be working alone at a mind-numbing job for a company that will soon be going out of business. As it stands now, I work from home, where there are so many distractions it makes my head spin. Never before have I wanted to scrub a toilet more as when I have told myself I must sit down to write.

Manuscript #3 was excruciating to complete. It was like trying to give birth to a breech baby, or worse, being forced to watch a Keanu Reeves movie. Nothing flowed, and every day I questioned my ability to form simple sentences. The entire writing process from start to finish felt like Dana Carvey’s “Choppin’ Broccoli” skit, where he’s making fun of rock stars who write songs with insipid lyrics. If you’ve never seen this, you must. Right this second. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVGi7h2NTOg And while you’re watching it, think of me, sitting at my dining room table for a whole year, attempting to put together a story by pulling characters and motivations and words from my ass.

I think I’m going to print out all 286 pages of this hot mess, arrange it into a nice, neat pile and then stomp up and down on it like they do in the cartoons. Once I’m done stomping, off it will go to an editor. I can’t wait to be rid of it. I envision the euphoria will feel akin to how one would feel the day their freeloading, 36-year-old son finally gets a job and leaves the nest, or even better, the glee I would feel upon learning that Kim Kardashian has gone far, far away and will never be heard from again.

Have you ever despised a piece of writing or art, or any creative endeavor so much you wish you could have a funeral service for it and lay it to rest?

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I’M FEELING A LITTLE SLUTTY TODAY

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I’m kicking off my blog tour today for The Accidental Cougar. I decided to do it after the holidays so everyone would have their brand-spanking-new e-readers ready to be filled with tantalizing prose. Speaking of…and here is where I put on my Publicity Slut hat (and nothing else), Guilty Pleasures reviewed my book today and gave it 4 stars–a Recommended Read! “A True Gem”…

How happy am I? Very, since I’m sick and feel like crap, and a heinous review might have pushed me over the edge–even though it’s every author’s right of passage to get at least a few crappy reviews for their book. Those however, I expect from readers on Goodreads, where authors’ egos go to die. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to post those for you, so we can all have a good cry.

In the meantime, leave a comment at any of my blog stops for a chance to win a free e-copy of The Accidental Cougar, and a bookmark (which logically doesn’t make sense, only I didn’t realize it at the time).

GRAND PRIZE will be a copy of my e-book, a useless bookmark, and a $20 gift card to Starbucks, which I know you want more than my actual book! haha

Tour Schedule:

1/7 – Queen of the Night  (Review/Guest Blog) and Guilty Pleasures (Review)
1/8 – The Brunette Librarian (Guest Blog/Review) and Melissa Kendall (Review)
1/9 – Sultry Storyteller (Interview) and Harlie’s Book Blog (Review)
1/10 – Not Now Mommy’s Reading (Guest Blog) and The Muse Unleashed (Review)
1/11 – Black Raven’s Erotic Cafe (Interview/Review) and Turning The Pages (Review)
These wonderful reviewers were gracious enough to host me, so show them some love by checking out their sites!
Until then…

LOOK AT THE MUG ON THAT PUG!

First off, let me say congratulations to IGNEOUSIDOL for winning a copy of THE ACCIDENTAL COUGAR! I’ll contact you via email for your address.

And now for a silly post, because it’s dark and dreary today in Southern California, and my head feels like it’s filled with cotton and mothballs. Today I’m celebrating the PUG, because there’s a pug in The Accidental Cougar named Pez. For those of you who don’t know what a pug looks like, or even what a pug is (No, it’s not something to keep the water from draining out of your sink), it’s a dog with a face only a mother (or father) could love.

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Pez belongs to my heroine’s boss, Eric, or vice versa. Eric likes to dress Pez up in silly T-shirts with various sayings on them, like Talk to the paw and Shed Happens—brush it off!

Since Pez is brought to the office every day, his scrunched-up little pug face reminds everyone to keep a sense of humor.

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Why did I choose a pug to be in my novel? They’ve always fascinated and terrified me. In my neighborhood growing up, there was a tiny corner market called Dom’s, owned by an old Puerto Rican man, ironically named Dom. Dom brought his dog to the store every day. It was the ugliest/freakishly cute dog I had ever seen. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Yes, it was a pug—a pug who hated kids. This pug barked at me every time I stepped in that store, and would not stop barking at me until I left the store. Then he’d chase me down the street, eyes bulging out of its head, tongue wagging.

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What kid wouldn’t be terrified of this coming at her?

That dog stuck in my head for the next thirty years, so when I chose a dog to be in my book, I knew it had to be a pug. (It sure as hell wasn’t going to be a diva Chihuahua like the dog I’m stuck with now for the next 22 years.)

Think about coming home every evening from work and being greeted by this face:

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“How was your day? I missed you. You are God to me.”

Sure, there are other dogs more dignified, or handsome—a Lab or a Husky, for example. But to me, a pug is like having a child with a cowlick that can’t be tamed, or a lisp, or a learning disability—imperfectly perfect.

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What’s your favorite dog?

All photos courtesy of funpic.hu

BRAGGING, AND PROMO, AND A GIVEAWAY—OH MY!

photo by Crinity

I wouldn’t be a proper publicity slut in training if I failed to talk about my release day of THE ACCIDENTAL COUGAR on Black Friday, or what I have coming up this Monday and Tuesday. After months and months of waiting for the release of my romantic comedy from The Wild Rose Press, the date finally came.

Thank goodness the experience wasn’t like losing my virginity—where there was so much hype and hoopla over it for so long, that when it finally happened, I was like, “Meh.” The week of my release (appropriately called Hell week by authors) was stressful, I’m not going to lie. My son was off from school for the entire week. Let me repeat that so you can absorb the full effect of that statement:

My son was off from school for the entire week. Enough said.

We had Thanksgiving  with a good friend of mine at her house, and she must have sensed the aura of stress and tension emanating from my being—either that or she was tipped off when she asked how I was doing, and I told her I felt like going bungee jumping without the bungee. She graciously assumed guardianship of my son for two days. TWO DAYS! Two days of peace and quiet. Ahhh, who needs Xanax when I can be “without child,” instead.

I awoke on Black Friday and checked my emails. There was a Google alert with the website of a reviewer. “Oh crap!” I said to the diva. My first review. This could be good, or very, very bad. I thought of all the authors and actors who swear they never read reviews, ever. I thought of the saying that goes something like “If you believe the good reviews, then you have to believe the bad reviews. And lastly, I thought, Yeah right, I’m not gonna read it. I’ve never had that type of self-control before, so I sure as hell am not going to start having it now.

This review had the potential to ruin my release day. Thankfully, it was a good one, or I wouldn’t be sober right now. Thank you again Kristi from Smitten with Reading. You’ll never know how much power you held over my well-being. I know you’re all dying to know what it said, so here it is:

My Rating: A-

This book was good. It’s been six years since Nicole’s divorce. Six years since she’s had any sort of man besides her son in her life. Honestly, she hasn’t even been interested. Her divorce was a surprise to her and left her with scars. So it’s as surprising to her as it is to anyone when someone piques her interest. Even more surprising is that he’s a guy who’s sixteen years younger than her. To her code of ethics, that just isn’t acceptable.

Wil missed that memo though and he isn’t a guy to give up when he sees something he wants. He’s young, but already is extremely successful, having started his own business from scratch and built it into an empire. He’s not a guy that takes “no” for an answer and he wants Nicole. I liked him. He, flat out, is just a great guy who would be an amazing catch, no matter what his age. He’s sweet and romantic. He hears Nicole’s concerns, but knows that if they can just spend some time together that he can convince her to come around to his way of thinking.

There were lots of moments in this book that I found felt really true. As a forty-something female, I could relate to a lot of Nicole’s issues. For the last six years, she has focused her life around her son, Josh. For the first time in her life, he’s not there to distract her and to give her a focus. Suddenly she has to find out who she is again and where her interests lie. She’s lost that over the last few years. So while this is a romantic story, there is also a great lesson about a woman finding importance in herself again. I really liked it. I really liked the characters, especially Nicole and Wil. I loved Nicole’s circle of friends….definitely a group of characters and their antics, and side romantic stories kept me giggling. Overall this was just a great read. An unusual romance, but one that I truly enjoyed.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

 

After reading that, I was over the moon. In fact, all those positive endorphins coursing through my body was quite a shock. I’m a glass is half-cracked kind of girl, so hopefully all those positive feelings of the day will ward off any catastrophic illnesses that might be manifesting in my body due to a lifetime of negative thinking.

Anyhoo, I’m a guest on two author blogs this week if you feel like checking either of them out.

Monday, Nov. 26th, I’ll be at www.nancyjardine.blogspot.com

Tuesday, Nov. 27th, I’ll have a more in-depth interview at www.babettejames.com

I promise that’s all I’ll bombard you with this month regarding promo!

Because I’m still feeling so groovy over my release, the review, being sonless for two days, and the fact that it’s been 80 freaking degrees where I live, I would like to give away a free autographed print copy, or e-book of THE ACCIDENTAL COUGAR—whichever you’d prefer. Just leave a comment with a way to get in touch with you, and I’ll throw all the names into a hat and let my son choose the winner.

And MEN, I’m slowly converting the guys I know into romance readers, so come and get in touch with your feminine sides—you know you want to.

Winner will be chosen on Friday, Nov. 30th, and I’ll announce the winner on Monday, Dec. 3rd.

 

 

 

I AM COUGAR HEAR ME ROAR

cougar status

Cougars, and pumas, and MILFs, oh my! The Online Slang Dictionary defines Cougar as “a middle-aged woman who seeks out much younger men for romance or physical intimacy.” If you’re not the one seeking, but rather the one being pursued, would you be called prey?

As soon as I hit thirty-eight I became prey. I had just moved in to my complex with my three-year-old son. I was checking my mail when my young neighbor came over to me and started chit-chatting. Somewhere in the conversation he asked me how old I was. He was surprised when I told him, and gave me the same compliment everyone else started giving me from age thirty-five on: “Wow, you look really good for your age.”

“How’s a thirty-eight year old supposed to look?” I asked.

“Old?” he said.

Ouch. So I was no longer pretty, I was well-preserved. Me being old didn’t stop him from asking me out. I think I laughed in his face, which probably bruised his ego a little, and when he told me he was nineteen, I’m pretty sure I laughed harder.

I didn’t take him up on his offer, but noticed soon after all these young buckaroos coming out of the woodwork—man-boys who were twenty-two, twenty-five—young enough to be my son, for goodness sake! What the hell was going on? I wondered. Was I emitting subliminal signals of desperation from my scent glands? I had never heard the term cougar before, but then again, I had thought LOL meant Lots of Luck, and DH signified Dumb Head, so I wasn’t exactly hip to the most current lingo.

So I did what I always do when I want to find out about something: a search on Google. I adore Google. I’d be lost without Google. If I could find the male equivalent of Google, I’d marry him. Lo and behold, I was bombarded with a slew of information. This older women with younger men thing had been happening since the dawn of time. My age and the fact that I was single qualified me to be a part of a secret club. A club where I was now known as a femme fatale, a self-assured, confident, sophisticated older woman who didn’t play games, knew what she wanted, and was able to run sexual circles around her younger counterparts. It was definitely better than being known as “Crazy old cat lady.”

I wish I could say I fell in love with a man half my age and we lived happily ever after, but I can’t. I did manage to get a novel out of the whole “cougar experience” though. The Accidental Cougar does have a happily ever after, and while my heroine was extremely resistant at first to the idea of being with a younger man, the hero managed to find ways to wear down that resistance.

When it comes right down to it, in the face of true love age is just a number.

SO YOU WANNA BE A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR

Photo by aurelio.asiain

The literary agent, Irene Goodman, wrote an article back in 2008, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Authors.” Most of her successful authors had these following habits in common. The article should be my Bible; it makes so much sense, and yet I fail at each one. I’ll paraphrase the article anyway, because if I were a highly effective author, here’s what my habits would look like:

1. STOP WAITING FOR LIGHTNING TO STRIKE AND SIT YOUR ASS DOWN ON A REGULAR BASIS.

Picture a writer as a lazy hooker, hanging out on the corner of Procrastination and Despair, south of Writer’s Block, whenever she (or he) feels like it, waiting for a john (an idea) to pick them up. Maybe one comes by, maybe one doesn’t, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have a family to support, or a crack habit to feed, or a book to write. As Janet Dailey said, “Someday is not a day of the week.” Treat writing like a job.

2. NEVER GIVE UP.

I used to pray to my God every day to take away the craving to write, the need to live a creative life, and replace it with a burning desire to be a banker instead.  I wanted the stability and routine of a normal job. Funny thing is whenever I’ve worked a normal job in the past, I’d have regular visions of jumping off bridges or cliffs or buildings—anything to avoid being at the same place at the same time, day in and day out. Those jobs equaled death of my spirit, and the perks just weren’t worth it. No matter how craptastic you think the writing life is, realize that the alternative is even worse. Ride out those downs.

3. DON’T LOOK A FEEDBACK HORSE IN THE MOUTH.

Nobody likes criticism, even less so when it’s about their writing. Writers always think whatever they’ve written is crap. So you can imagine how it feels when someone confirms it. I entered the first chapter of my romantic comedy, The Accidental Cougar, in a contest last year. Two judges trashed it, and one thought it was perfectly written. Guess what I focused on? The criticism, of course. I went back and forth between thinking the judges didn’t know shit to me feeling like the worst writer on the planet. When I received a contract for the manuscript soon after, and went through the editing process, I didn’t change much. But what I did have to change was indeed what the wise judges had suggested I should change. Hmmm, maybe I don’t know everything there is to know about writing.

4. IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT.

I understand writers become bored, they want to branch out and try new things, chase a trend, and hopefully target a new set of readers. But writers have fans for a reason, so if you up and change the program, or in my case, give me Fifty Shades of Grey when I’m expecting a well-written, sexy erotic romance that doesn’t resemble Twilight in the least, you’ll be met with a cranky bitch. Never alienate your bread-and-butter just because you have ADD. Nobody wants to see Cindy Crawford do Shakespeare, just like there’s a reason Matthew McConaughey takes his shirt off in movies. Give your audience what it wants, or be prepared to suffer their wrath.

5. ALWAYS WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR.

Accidents are when you rear end someone or the condom breaks. Very rarely should a career be accidental. Even E.L. James who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey had a plan in mind: Steal another writer’s idea, opps, I mean, write fanfiction; Don’t edit it; Have a well-known NY blogger talk it up; Sit back and rake in millions. While most writers will never come close to seeing their book translated somehow into makeup, bed sheets, or sex toys, it’s still no excuse for having a career without a sense of direction. Even though I despise this word, Plan, write down goals and meet them. Be the tortoise, not the hare in the race.

6. TAKE A VALIUM EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE, OR HAVE A GLASS OF WINE FOR GOD’S SAKE!

In other words…Chillax (Chill out + Relax) as my twelve-year-old neighbor would say. You must replenish the well, smell the flowers, enjoy the fruits of your labor—lest your creativity run dry. Um, yeah. Sorry, I can’t comment on this one, because I don’t relax. Ever. I have too much shit to do. Writing is a full-time job. You want eight-hour shifts, with a half-hour for lunch and two fifteens? Go work at Costco.

7. NEVER REFUSE SEX.

This is actually a metaphor about missed opportunities, although if a woman wants sex and her man tells her he needs to eat a sandwich first and take a shower? That man better be prepared to wait a long, long time before getting another offer again. Also, when you’re travelling, never turn down a meal. And those cute shoes you’re not sure you should buy? They won’t be there when you go back to the store. Ever notice how a lot of actors always say they didn’t want to do a certain movie, but then their agent convinces them to and they end up winning an Oscar for their performance? Same is true with writing. If a once-in-a-lifetime chance comes along, take it, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

There you have it—seven habits that make a successful author. Does anyone have anything to add?

JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

It’s here! Drum roll, please. The first unveiling of my cover to the public for THE ACCIDENTAL COUGAR.

Whaddya think?

Do you get that they’re salsa dancing? Because a writer friend of mine said it looked like she was giving him a BJ, and my nine-year-old son told me the woman looked like she was falling.

Hmmm, not quite the reactions I expected, although the insinuation of a BJ may help me in the long run by piquing the curiosity of readers. Yes, there is sex in my book. It should probably get a NC-17 rating.

What?! Did you actually expect anything less from me?

Usually, the cover is what motivates a reader to pick up a book in the first place, or in the age of e-publishing, click on a cover to see what the book’s about.

I opted not to have a half-naked man and generously-endowed woman in a steamy embrace on the cover, because, well, to me that’s just a tad unrealistic. I remember when, back in the 90s, Fabio was the prototype for every man on a romance cover. His hair color may have changed from cover to cover, but it was always Fabio—well-muscled torso, smooth as a baby’s butt hairless chest, and long, flowing locks.

Nowadays, romance readers expect a more sophisticated design, at least with contemporaries. A little bit left to the imagination, in my opinion. Or at the very least, a cover that won’t embarrass them on the subway.

I think just enough skin is shown here to be provocative, without being slutty. And really, isn’t that what many women attempt to achieve when they go out for the night? I mean, unless they’re from the Jersey Shore.

Salsa has a special significance in THE ACCIDENTAL COUGAR. It’s the first real “contact” my hero and heroine have together. What do you think of when you think of salsa dancing? Do the words sexy, hot, passionate, and sensual come to mind?

With any luck, those words will come to my readers’ minds as well.