Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All's Fair in Love, War...and Publishing!

There's been a lot of bitching and moaning online about authors only giving reviews to their friends. Unprofessional? You might be surprised!

We as authors have far less time to read than we would like. Of every dozen books I'd like to read, I will actually get to read two or three--if I'm lucky. Whenever possible, I buy novels via Audible so I can enjoy a good book while doing other things--taking a walk, shopping, making dinner, doing laundry, having lunch...but be careful what you're listening to while eating. I've had more than one choking incident when listening to one of Janet Evanovich's books while having lunch, I've laughed so hard. And then there are the funny looks I get when doing it in a restaurant....

But I'm getting off topic here. The practice of endorsing books by friends--or as special favors--is quite common, even in conventional publishing. Especially in conventional publishing. Where did you think those blurbs on the front cover, back cover and inside front of the book came from?

Take a look at the cover of my novel Solitaire and you'll see endorsements from two bestselling authors, Sandra Brown and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. That's no coincidence. I've known both of them for many years. Sandra and I had the same agent. On the cover of Dance of the Gods, there's an endorsement by another bestselling author, Judith Gould. I don't know them personally (Judith Gould is actually two men, Nick Bienes and Rhea Gallaher), but at that time, we had the same agent, Maria Carvainis, who asked them to read and endorse the book. 

I had wanted, more than anything, an endorsement from Sidney Sheldon, so Maria approached his editor--who explained that he didn't have the time to read every book he had been asked to endorse, so he only endorsed books by personal friends. This is a common practice, not meant to offend anyone. It's just necessary.

We may not all have the demands on our time that Sidney Sheldon, Stephen King, Dan Brown or Janet Evanovich have had, but in order to write our own novels, we do find it necessary to restrict the number of books we review or endorse. I've done many endorsements myself, mostly for friends. For example, I reviewed Wall Street Wives by Ande-Ellen Winkler as a favor to my publisher, and Midnight in Marrakesh by Meryl Sawyer as a favor to my former editor, Damaris Rowland. I didn't know Meryl until then, but got to know her well afterward--it's because of Meryl that I later became "Mom" to my potbellied pig, Iggy--named for the potbellied pig in Meryl's novel!

So...I confess. I do review and endorse mostly books by friends. Am I more likely to review an author who's reviewed at least one of my books? Yes! Would I love to be able to do more? I would. I would love to write glowing reviews for every one of Janet Evanovich's books...but then, I don't think not having reviews from me is hurting her sales in any way. 

Come to think of it, I might be the one who would benefit from that! If you'll excuse me....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Deck the Halls (Part Three)

Pastor John says God wants us to be a blessing to others. There's a lot of that going around this Christmas, with layaway accounts being paid in full by mysterious strangers and other random acts of kindness we haven't seen much in decades past. I've asked myself if I have ever been a blessing to anyone. The answer is...I'm not so sure. I've always been more a holy terror than a heavenly gift. But I am still a work in progress, so as long as there's breath in me, there's hope.

Hope...that's what Christmas is really all about, isn't it? My hope for each of you, my friends, is that the spirit of Christmas finds its way into your heart an burrows deep so that it flourishes. One person really can change the world. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of one who did. Today, I leave you with the last repost for this year of my visits with the Ghosts of Christmases Past....


12/25/09: Merry Christmas, everybody! 

OK, it's not politically correct. I'm not politically correct. Stats say 80% of the U.S. is Christian. That means I'm in the majority, and last time I checked, majority rules. Even if it didn't, I'm a Christian and proud of it. 

I have a lot to apologize for, but that's not on the list. 

Last Christmas, for example. In Iraq, Santa was making the rounds wearing a bullet-proof vest and packin' heat. Who'd ever have thought Santa would have to travel with weapons? 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus--and he's armed and dangerous.Don't let him catch you being naughty. There's a stiff penalty for being naughty. 

In New Zealand in 2007, a bunch of drunken Santas invaded a cineplex. Drunken Santas? Wow...it's so hard to get good help these days. 

Normally, I try to be done with everything long before the Big Day because I detest crowds and insanity (except my own, of course), but yesterday, I not only ventured out into the last-minute chaos, I was oblivious to it. I had my trusty MP3 player with me, so all was well. 

Music really does soothe the savage beast. I'm living proof of that. 

First stop: the bank, to make a deposit before their early close at noon. We've been with the same bank for something like seventeen years, through numerous mergers and name changes. I've been there longer than most of the personnel. At the teller window (I don't think they call 'em teller cages anymore, though at times they probably should), Pat was smiling. She had good reason to smile: a holiday falling on a weekday. They get, if you'll pardon the expression, screwed on Sunday holidays. Not even a half day off. But this Christmas, it's going to be a day and a half. 

Big smiles all around. 

"I'm going to get my turkey," I mentioned. 

She didn't miss a beat. "I thought he was at work," she deadpanned, referring to Collin, not the edible turkey awaiting me at Dierbergs' deli. 

I laughed like a looney tune. Couldn't help it. That was a good line. Wish I'd thought of it. 

We had a pre-fab (OK, pre-cooked) turkey. My son, the aspiring chef, had no intention of preparing the Christmas dinner. (Did I mention this before? Or maybe I only mentioned it repeatedly to HIM.) He worked all week at the restaurant and had no interest in cooking on his one and only day off. So with our pre-cooked bird, instant sides and my aversion to cooking anything other than in a microwave, dinner was ready in a record 30 minutes. 

Hey, I have better things to do on Christmas Day than cook.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deck the Halls (Part Two)

It's now three days before Christmas and I still have not sent out Christmas cards. Okay, I have no excuse--I do ecards. Don't make fun of me--contrary to popular opinion, they are NOT free. They are cute (I love the animated cards) and no trees are killed to make them. So there! I have a bit more grocery shopping to do and revisions to finish, so here, hopefully for your enjoyment, is another Blog of Christmas Past....


And a parrot in a pear tree.... 

Ooops! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah...Mom had a roll of TP under the tree and Dad was trying to explain a box of poop to Homeland Security. Well, not exactly.But he was a repeat offender. As a matter of fact, he chose one victim twice simply because she swore he'd never fool her again. 

The target was Cathy, a friend of mine from high school. After Poopapalooza 1, she tried and tried to find a way to exact her revenge--but a whoopee cushion in his truck just didn't quite equal Dad's prank. When she told him she'd never fall for it again, well, that was like throwing down the gauntlet. He looked for a way to trick her into opening the box for a second time, and she unwittingly gave him the solution when she commented on a local souvenir--an outhouse ashtray. (Yep, we're about as redneck as you can get without being Jeff Foxworthy's blood relative.) 

I was seven months pregnant with Collin at the time and had been visiting Cathy, her then-husband, Ralph, and their son Damien (no connection to the character in "The Omen"). Dad sent the ashtray to Cathy with a message I was to relate: he knew she liked it and was sending it as a peace offering. She was touched--until she opened the little outhouse and saw the tiny turd, standing straight up in the tiny potty. 

                           (Not exactly like the one he gave Cathy, but close enough.)

"I'm gonna kill that old man!" Cathy shrieked. (She didn't know it couldn't be done without a silver bullet.) 

I've got a lot of Christmases to cover, so please bear with me. Twelve days may not be enough.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deck the Halls (Part One)

I had a few ideas for Christmas blogs that never quite developed, since I've been preoccupied with getting the revised edition on Chasing the Wind up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other retail sites by Christmas. So I decided to repost my Blogs of Christmas Past for the next few days....


I love Christmas. I love the big dinners and the music and the presents and the family all together for that one special day. Most of all I love the real reason for Christmas. I love knowing that 2000 years ago, God came to earth to live among us, to know us and to save us. I love thinking about what that first Christmas must have been like, and being able to see it so clearly in my own mind. 

I don't love so much of what Christmas has become: angry people on the roads and in the malls, pushing and shoving, jostling for position in the lines for the most popular gift items. I don't love crowds and high-pressured sales pitches and lazy bums who prefer to steal someone else's money and/or gifts instead of working for their own. 

I was at the mall one Christmas. It was funny, actually--as I went from one store to another, a young man attempted to charm his way to a sale: arms outstretched, big smile, big tube of very expensive lotion in hand in a bid to convince me I could not live without that lotion. Little did he know. I changed lanes, moving to the other side of the aisle, and that big smile instantly vanished. I can only imagine what I was called in that disappointing moment! 

Then there was the turkey who attempted to help himself to my cash. I felt his hand the minute it hit the zipper on my messenger bag. I came down hard on the trespassing hand. "If you want to keep that, buddy, you'd better take it back NOW." 

These days, I shop online....

I think he had an accident, if you know what I mean. 

I don't love that there are some who want to celebrate Christmas even though they don't believe in God, in Jesus. And I'm not referring to religions other than Christianity. Our Jewish friends celebrate Hannukah. Our Muslim neighbors have their holy days. I don't know much about other religions, but I'm sure they have theirs as well. No...my gripe is with atheists, the real party poopers. They don't believe in God, don't believe that he came to live in our world as the infant Jesus, but they want the holiday anyway. They want to say the more politically correct "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so they can have all of the fun without belonging to the club. 

I wonder how they explain to their kids what they're celebrating? "Oh, we're celebrating Daddy being sober for a whole year!" 

I say to them, don't celebrate a holiday if you don't believe in it. Too bad, Mr. and Ms. Grinch. No presents for you. 

My former brother is a Jehovah's Witness. They don't celebrate holidays or birthdays. My father always said Jeff became a Witness not because he really believed in their doctrine, but because he was just plain cheap and didn't want to have to buy any gifts. Jeff bristled every year when we put up our Christmas tree. He thought we should give up our tree because he didn't believe in it. He claimed we were worshipping the tree, of all things! Dad couldn't resist--when he'd see Jeff's truck pull up in front of the house, he told us to get down on our knees and bow to the tree when Dipstick came through the door. 

Mom complained that was a little hard on the knees. 

Christmas was always a big deal for Mom and Dad, and it's at this time of the year that I miss them most. (Dad's been gone 16 years now, and Mom 9.) They were always like a couple of kids in their unabashed enthusiasm. They'd spend weeks preparing, shoping for gifts and trying to hide them from us. We were never allowed to put the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it was always the same: we'd get some form of takeout so Mom wouldn't have to cook--she'd begin preparing our Christmas dinner that night and couldn't deal with TWO meals at once. We'd watch a rerun of A Christmas Carol on TV--always the 1938 black-and-white version. 

Once the tree was up and completely decorated, the gifts would start to appear from their hiding places. They would be placed under the tree and Dad would do a count to make sure everyone had an equal number of packages. There was never one gift per person, always at least 7 or 8, usually 10. 

I remember one year Mom was a package short. Dad quickly remedied the problem with cash. He didn't want her to know it was cash, of course, so he wrapped it around a roll of toilet paper. Mom knew it probably wasn't just TP--Dad was notorious for gag gifts. He could be very creative in his gift-giving. His Christmas tradition was a little weird: instead of a lump of coal, the unfortunate target of his ire would get a beautifully-wrapped box of poop. 

I kid you not. POOP. Usually of the canine variety. I remember one Christmas when I was in college, he actually mailed the poop to a friend who was living in Tennessee at the time. I held my breath until it was received, wondering what would happen if postal inspectors happened to open the darned thing! 

I miss those good old days. 

Collin and I are making new traditions, new memories. Collin has never been good at keeping a secret--it's like lying. He didn't get that gene, for which I am grateful. 

Trouble is, I will know every gift he's giving me BEFORE Christmas. The Christmas before Dad died, he wanted a self-propelling lawn mower. He had a bad heart (only in the physical sense) and was having trouble using his old mower. To haul it in Mom's Escort, we'd have to put the back seat down, so we left Collin, then 11 years old, with Dad while we went to get it. All of our plans to sneak the thing into the back yard to hide it were, as it turned out, unnecessary--Dad came to the front door when we arrived, grinning from ear to ear. I knew immediately that my darling son had ratted me out. 

I miss those days.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Graveyard of the Psyche

If you've ever seen the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, you may be familiar with the episode titled Terrorform. If you're not familiar with it, you can watch it by using the link. It's pretty weird.

Red Dwarf - Series V - Episode 3: Terrorform - Kryten and Rimmer crash land on a "psi-moon", an artificial planetoid which terraforms itself to match the inner psyche and subconscious of anyone who lands on it. Kryten is cut in half in the crash, and Rimmer finds himself alone and taken prisoner by manifestations of his own inner demons. Lister, Cat and Holly arrive to rescue them, but find themselves trapped in an environment shaped by Rimmer's bizarre, self-loathing mind. 

In one scene,  Lister, Cat and Kryten find themselves in a graveyard that represents the lost aspects of Rimmer's personality. Charm is a particularly tiny grave. That says a lot about Rimmer's lack of same. Hope is an open grave. The others must find him and free him of his self-loathing before that grave is filled and the hideous monster that represents Rimmer's self-hatred destroys them all.

I wonder...what would each of our psyche's graveyards look like?

Mine would have a large tombstone for Pride: "Lived a Long and Bothersome Life. Lost 2008."

There would also be grave markers for Selfishness...Deceptiveness...Secrets...Irresponsibility. I was hoping to have laid Stubbornness and Temper to rest by now, but they seem to be thriving.

What have you laid to rest? What would you like to see in your own psyche's graveyard?