Friday, January 23, 2015

Who's Appearing at the Annual KRAPFest?

In my last post, I mentioned having struggled with which direction to take with the sequel to Chasing the Wind, An Army of Angels. This is the excerpt I read at our writers group meeting. Told from the viewpoint of the female protagonist, Robyn Cantwell, it deals with her split-second decision to quit a frustrating job and make a move that will not only result in a more satisfying position, but may change her relationship with the elusive artist, Alex Stewart....





Robyn

“What do you do when you're not volunteering at the shelter?” Alex asked over dinner. We'd decided to eat out for a change, and ended up at a small Italian bistro in Pasadena. It was a cozy little place, great atmosphere. Okay, I confess. I suggested it in the hope that it might make Alex see me in a different light—as something more than a buddy.

I wasn't quite sure what he meant at first. “You mean my day job?” I asked, reaching for a breadstick. He knew just about everything else about me. I'd been as transparent as I could be, hadn't I? I sure wasn't playing hard to get.

He nodded. “For starters.”

I knew this was going to come up sooner or later. Oh, what the heck? Might as well give him a laugh, I thought. “I work at a radio station,” I told him.

“On the air?” he asked, interested.

Now it was my turn to laugh. “Hardly,” I said. “Only in my dreams. No, I'm in marketing and promotions.” I'd hoped that taking an entry-level position would open some doors for me, but after seven years, I still hadn't managed to get any further than marketing and promotions.

He took a bite and paused to chew. “Which station?” he asked.

“KRAP.”

He looked at me as though he wasn't sure he'd heard correctly—then burst into laughter. “You work for crap?”

“Not crap—K-R-A-P,” I said. “That's the station's call letters.” After seven years, I should have been accustomed to that response.

He shook his head as his laughter subsided to a low chuckle. “Has no one ever pointed out to them—”

“That their call letters spell crap? All the time,” I assured him. So many times, in fact, I'd lost count. “I suspect they chose those letters deliberately.”

He took a drink. “Somebody had a twisted sense of humor.”

“The station sponsored a huge concert last year,” I told him. “I had to book the performers. Try getting guys like Coldplay, Taylor Swift or Five for Fighting to agree to appear at the annual KRAPFest. It became a running joke in the local media."

“They actually called it a crapfest?” Alex asked, amused.

“My boss thought it was a clever play on the station's call letters—until all we could get were local rap acts who thought it was a rap festival. Most of them were too high to ask too many questions.” I remembered then that it had been almost a year since the last KRAPFest. Oh, not again. Larry Danvers is going to stick me with it this year, too, I'll bet.

“Robyn?”

Alex's voice made me forget about the fantasies I was having involving what I might do to my boss if he made me organize that hot mess again. “Sorry about that,” I apologized for my sudden lack of attentiveness.

I could get my brothers to pay him a visit. No...that would get me fired.

“Are you okay?” Alex asked.

“Oh, sure—just plotting against my boss,” I said, trying to make light of it. That's it, Robyn—waste the evening talking about that weasel Danvers. Alex is finally starting to lighten up, enjoy himself. Enjoy our time together. Don't blow it.  “But I'll kill him later.”

*****

There was a note from the boss on my desk when I arrived at the station the next morning. Need to get started on this year's KRAPFest. Come to my office when you get in.

I knew it. He was going to stick me with it again, and I'd be pulling my hair out by the time it was over. Last year, I had put in some serious overtime just trying to line up the talent. Sucking in a deep breath, I hung my backpack on the hook on the back of my office door and headed off to face Goliath.

He was alone in his office. Good. If I kill him, there will be no witnesses, I thought as I tapped lightly on the open door. He gestured to me to enter, but didn't speak at first.
"Got your note," I said.

"Sit down, Robyn." He still didn't look up. I was tempted to flip him off. Instead, I just pulled up a chair.

He finally looked up. "We're doing KRAPFest again this year," he said. "Here's a list of the acts we want to sign." He passed a file across the desk to me.

I opened the file and gave it a quick look. "They all turned us down last year," I reminded him. "What makes you think they'll change their minds this time around?"

"It's up to you to convince them," he said, as if it were no big deal.

I stared at him, incredulous. "The Pope himself couldn't sell them on this, Larry. Nobody wants to be in a crapfest. Change the event name, and maybe we'll get some takers."

"We have to use the KRAP," he insisted. "It's our promo."

I was having a hard time keeping the lid on the laughter. "But nobody wants to participate in an event called KRAPFest," I told him. "They feel it, well, reflects poorly on them as musicians."

He ignored my objections. No matter what point I made--or tried to make--he shot me down every time. Finally, I gave up. He wasn't going to listen.

I stood up. "I quit," I told him.

Even then, he just looked at me as if he hadn't heard me at all. "We don't have time for this, Robyn," he said, irritated.

"I just told you. I quit." I drew in a breath. "When I started here, I expected to work my way up to being on the air. Maybe even drive time. I see now, that's not going to happen. I'm stuck in a position I hate, and as if that's not bad enough, now I get stuck with the crappiest assignment available. I quit."

Now he was angry. "I'll make sure you never work in local media again," he warned.

"Oh, I'm shaking in my boots!" I snapped back at him. "Okay, done shaking."
And I walked out, leaving him staring after me.

*****

It didn't really sink in, what I had done, until I left the building with all of my personal belongings in a file box. Could I really afford to quit a job that paid reasonably well, no matter how much I hated it? KRAPFest wasn't really the problem, just a symptom of a bigger problem. I'd been unhappy at KRAP for a long time, but hadn't admitted it, even to myself.

But what was I going to do now?

It came to me as I was driving home. Alex was good, good enough to be successful in the art world. Better than good, actually. He needed a good rep, someone to get his work into the galleries. Someone to tell the world how talented he was, to support him and launch his career.

That someone was me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Now, If I Could Only Remember Where I Put the Prozac....

It's been a busy crazy week--and it's only Wednesday!

First off, I'm participating in Hilary Grossman's Valentine's Day book giveaway. This is her third giveaway. I contributed books to the previous two events, and am happy to say I saw a boost in sales after each of them. There's something for everyone, and all formats are represented, so head over to her blog, Feeling Beachie, and enter!


Second, I registered my domain name here at Blogger yesterday. See the new URL? I know, it's a long one, but I wasn't given any short options, since my blog has a loooooong title. I'm not really interested in having an author website these days. I had one. I found it so boring, I would forget to check on it. If I found it boring, how could I get anybody else interested? It's a big time suck anyway, and I'd rather be writing.

In my own defense, I have yet to find any author websites interesting. They're either limited to author bios, PR stuff and a calendar of appearances, or they're full of stuff like recipes. Unless the author is a foodie writer or cookbook author (like fellow blogger The Happy Whisk), I really don't care about seeing recipes on an author page. I can't cook, anyway. Restaurant reviews would be nice.

And why would I need a website anyway? I already have author pages at Amazon and Smashwords, where they're more likely to be seen. I also have one at Facebook, though I'm not sure why I need that one. Author opinions are divided on the need for a Facebook author page. Self-published authors tend to have them, while the conventionally-published authors I know usually don't. Carla Neggers, Jill Marie Landis, Kay Hooper, Karen Moline, Karen Tintori, Heather Graham Pozzessere, Sally Fairchild, Gayle Lynds, James Patterson, Sherryl Woods and Carole Nelson Douglas, all on my Friends list and most of them New York Times bestsellers, are divided on this one. Self-pubbed authors often use "Author" as part of their Facebook name, while conventionally-published authors usually don't.

I currently have FOUR Facebook pages: my personal page, my Beishir Books author page (shared with Collin), a collaboration page shared with William and a humor page, The International Intruder, shared with both Collin and William. 

In my opinion, neither the Facebook Author Page or the use of "Author" before or after one's name really accomplishes anything. You can find groups and pages on Facebook where you can join just to trade Likes. Seriously. Unless there's some kind of reward I don't know about for the number of Likes one gets, getting a lot of strangers to Like you is pointless, because if they're only doing it for a reciprocal Like, it's a safe bet they'll only visit your page once. But I'm sure some of my friends will disagree with me on both issues, so if you're an author, do whatever works best for you. 

I confess: the only reason I keep my Facebook Author Page is because if I dump it, I have to give up my Minion header and avatar on my personal page and go with something more authorlike.



Now for my third Big Deal of the Week--and this really is a biggie--An Army of Angels is back on the front burner! When I published Chasing the Wind back in 2008, the plan was to make it a trilogy. Had things gone according to plan, all three books would be in print by now. But I got stuck about a third of the way through book two. I decided I didn't want to write "serious stuff" anymore. I wanted to write lighter, more humorous novels. 

I ended up with lots of humor, but no plots.

I belong to a small writers group that meets at our church. We should really be called Writers Without Borders, as two of our members, William Kendall from Canada and April Morone from Virginia, participate by phone, with Cathy Smith, Nicole Tuberty, Kyle Tuberty and me at the church. We met on Saturday (I almost had to phone in, too, when I couldn't find my keys!), and I read a couple of humorous scenes, explaining to the rest of the group that while I had given up on An Army of Angels, I still wanted to write about those characters. The material got a positive response (and a lot of laughs) but also sparked a group discussion when Nicole commented that while she liked the funny stuff, she also liked the idea of my male protagonist, Alex, as the tortured artist with a troubled past. She reminded me that without conflict, there's no story.

I gave it some thought. A lot of thought. I realized that my favorite movies and TV shows share three elements: action, drama, and yes, humor. This story could work with Alex as he is, and Robyn, the daughter of former hippies, the only daughter and youngest of six children, with a rather embarrassing job, providing a contrast.

Thanks, guys!

The solution to my problem came just in time. Collin is finally formatting all of the ebooks for print editions (currently, we only have The Unicorn's Daughter, Chasing the Wind and Final Hours available in print format--and Chasing the Wind is in need of an update). When the updated edition of Chasing the Wind goes on sale, likely sometime this week, it will include an excerpt from An Army of Angels. A new edition of The Unicorn's Daughter with an excerpt from its first sequel, Ides of March will follow.

Hope you'll check them out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Coming Soon to the Living Room Wall...Oops!

Anybody here remember Pierce Brosnan's old TV series, Remington Steele?







In the series, his character had a great love of old movies, in which he often found connections to cases he and his private investigator partner (secretly his boss), Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) were working on. His love of these films was also reflected in the decor in his apartment. Framed movie posters adorned the walls. I loved that, and decided I wanted to collect and display posters from my favorite movies and other favorite things, like horses and pro wrestling (shut up, William, I know what's coming out of your mouth right about now). I started out having the posters custom framed--drop them off, pick them up a few days later in elegant, perfect frames. But there was one problem with that. The frames were so heavy, large hooks (and nasty holes in the walls) were needed to keep them in place--and even that didn't always work. I still have one poster in my closet in its custom frame. The glass is broken.

Not easy to see the cracks in the glass, but they're there!


I was convinced that one night, the poster hanging over my bed would fall and I'd end up with a fractured skull. Or worse. All the posters were taken down from the walls until I could come up with a better plan.

When we moved to our current apartment, the lease indicated holes in the walls would not be appreciated and might actually keep us from getting our deposit back, should we ever move. Okay, no holes. So what could I do about hanging my posters?



This stuff really works...
as long as you remember to change the strips 
from time to time!

I found the solution at Walgreens. They sold poster frames that were lightweight and could be hung without any holes in the wall whatsoever, using adhesive picture hanging strips. I came home one day with several large frames and packages of the adhesive strips and I went to work on the bare walls. The frames are cheap plastic and have to be pieced together once the posters are positioned between the cardboard backing and the transparent plastic covering. But my posters still look pretty darn good...or they did.

I should have realized that adhesive on the strips wasn't meant to last forever. The posters had been hanging on our walls for over six years. Last week, around one in the morning, I was awakened by a loud crash. One of the posters hanging in the dining room had fallen from the wall. The plastic frame, of course, had separated--but how the heck did the transparent sheet end up in pieces?



The frames may be cheap, but look
at the posters!


I told Collin we had to make some changes. From now on, nothing could hang over the TV or computer. Beds were also a no-hang zone. Those plastic framing strips could poke out an eye, after all. It was time for a change anyway. I'm on the lookout for posters from Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, which will occupy the place of honor over the couch. The Minions will also hang in the living room, though not as close to the TV as they were previously.


Yup. I want these hanging over my couch!


After a long day out--Collin had an appointment with his doctor and we stopped for lunch--we spent the evening re-framing and hanging some of the posters. The Babe poster, which had fallen from the dining room wall, is currently hanging over the couch beside Moulin Rouge (how's that for contrast?)--but I'm having a bit of trouble holding it together. The frame, I mean. It's in worse shape than I thought. Walgreens no longer carries the cheap frames I've been using, so now I have to make do until I find a retailer who does.

Terrible photo...but see that black strip?
That's the adhesive that's supposed to be on the BACK of
the frame!
 

I wish I had a valid excuse for this. Look closely. The adhesive strip that's supposed to be on the back of the frame somehow ended up under the transparent covering, stuck to the poster! And I made matters worse. In trying to fix it, I pushed the top part of the frame strip off the poster. And I can't reach it to put it back where it belongs (I'm not allowed to climb, either, not even short climbs--epilepsy sucks). Looks like we have another long evening ahead when Collin gets home. He is so going to hate this....





Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reflections on the Year Gone By...and a Look Ahead

I know, I was supposed to have posted this a week ago. Or was it two weeks? If it had been one of my New Year's Resolutions, I would have already blown it.


The year has gotten off to a dubious start. Just this past week, for example--I switched insurance carriers, so when I went to the pharmacy to pick up four prescription refills on Monday, I gave the pharmacy clerk my new insurance card, and he added the information to my file. No problem there. The problem came when Collin stopped on his way home from work last night to get two more refills for me. He didn't notice it, but I checked the receipts and found they'd billed my old insurance carrier. I phoned the pharmacy this morning. I got a call back a short time later. Problem resolved...or so I thought. I just got an email from them, letting me know they have two new prescriptions for me--the same two Collin picked up last night! They didn't just change it on my record, they filled them all over again!

Yep, 2015 is getting off to a brilliant start.

Now, as for 2014...I discovered I spent too much time dwelling on the calendar. When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to grow up. "Don't wish your life away," Dad would always tell me. "The older you get, the faster it seems to pass." And he was right.

Eighteen and twenty-one were especially special birthdays for me. Looking back, I don't know why they were such a big deal. Things didn't change all that much. My twenties were a special time--I was twenty-four when I got pregnant with Collin, twenty-five when he was born. I hadn't planned to have children, but once I knew he was coming, it was a real game-changer. He was the best thing that had ever happened to me. My thirties got off to a great start--I'd set a goal for myself, to sell my first novel before I was thirty-five (for the record, I was thirty-one when it sold, thirty-five when it was published). I traveled a lot. I worked at home, setting my own hours. Collin was healthy and happy. Thirties, forties, fifties...they were just numbers to me. Sixty, now--that was a different story. Mom was sixty-nine when she died. I started to wonder if I'd be around in another decade. It's a depressing thought.

Last week, I remembered something. Longevity runs in the family, Mom not withstanding. Her father made it well into his eighties. Most of her siblings did, as well--some made it even further.  Okay, so I'm epileptic and my blood pressure tends to be a little too high--I don't drink or smoke (Dad drank heavily for the first ten years of his retirement and he and Mom smoked like a pair of matching chimneys for as long as I could remember). Hmm...I might have more years left than I thought!

I've got my priorities in the right place for the first time. Who say you can't teach an old dog new tricks? When I sold that first novel, it was all about the money, the bestseller lists--and I had both. It was about possessions, recognition. Had those, too. But sometimes, you have to lose everything in order to find yourself. So here I am at the start of 2015, with a new set of priorities, more content than I've been in a very long time. I don't need to be rich. I don't want to be rich, just comfortable. I've stopped trying to be someone I'm not, just to measure up to the expectations of others. I can't remember the last time I wore makeup. I live in jeans and t-shirts. No more deadlines--I self-publish, writing what I want to write when I want to write it. And no matter what anyone says, my online friends are as loyal as any I've had in the "real" world. I'm simplifying my life a little more every day--like today, I closed out all but two of my blogs--this one and one at Wordpress, which will be a duplicate of this one (I confess, I couldn't give either one up--I have the most followers there, but I get the most comments here).

Life is good. Here's wishing all of you a fantastic 2015!

PS Those of you who have this blog set to Follow will probably be flooded with a bunch of posts today. I'm incorporating posts from my other blogs (which will be shut down later today). I don't know how to avoid this tsunami of posts. I'm a technmoron!