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30 posts from May 2006

May 31, 2006

What Happens in the Car Stays in the Car

What Happens in the Car Stays in the Car

by Susan (back from Omaha and gearing up for Chicago)

After five days at the RT Convention, you'd think I'd get a weekend off, huh?  But instead I flew to Omaha last Friday to do my seventh Mayhem in the Midlands, and I'm awfully glad I went.  I feel like the Travelogue Book Tart, 'cuz I do love to share my adventures with y'all, kind of like the relative who shows up at Thanksgiving with the slide show of his trip to the Galapagos Islands and you have to "oooh" and "aaah" over picture after picture of bird poop on rocks. 

Not that Mayhem is like bird poop.  Far from it.  I missed Friday's panels, but had the privilege of doing two panels and a "Conversation With" on Saturday, as well as hanging out with some of my dearest friends.  I saw Dusty Rhoades all dressed up and looking spiffy, and I got to admire the bottle of rum he'd purchased at the Old Marketplace.  Jon and Ruth Jordan were there, and Jon mentioned four of the, um, randiest crime writers on the circuit (without naming names, of course).  I guessed one, but he wouldn't spit out the rest.  He said that if I haunted hotel hallways at big conventions between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., I could see all the musical rooms going on for myself.  Well, geez, like that'll ever happen, since I'm usually in bed by eleven.  My adopted aunt Cae Carter flew in from Suecae Texas, and I adored spending time with her.  Hung at the bar with lots of great Buds and had the most wonderful dinner at the Flatiron.  (Thanks, Lulu!  You rock!)  Just amazing conversation and so many laughs.  And the fun didn't end with Sunday's brunch, where I listened to Denise Hamilton interview GOH Laura Lippman while I was cozily wrapped in a quilt (yes, I was cold, and Ellen Hart, who'd won a handmade quilt, noticed the napkin I'd slung over my arms and promptly draped her prize over me).

Donna Andrews and I split a room, and we did lots of yakking about blog subjects.  That topic spilled over to dinner, where Laura, Twist Phelan, Maria Lima, and Doris Ann Norris joined in, discussing privacy issues and bad advice being doled out by "experts," as well as the good stuff that encourages debate.  Like Chinese food, my time at Mayhem was devoured much too quickly, and I'm already hungry for more.

I had the pleasure of road-tripping to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a signing at Lee Booksellers with the faboo Denise Hamilton and the delightful Patty Smiley.  Which is where the "what happens in the car stays in the car" comes in.  Amazing what transpires when you toss three women together who get  along so well and whose sense of humor seems to click.  We ended up talking about all kinds of Lincolnsigning_1 things and made a pact not to breathe a word of it once the Pontiac G6 was turned back in at the car rental counter at the Omaha airport.  The hour to and from Lincoln passed in a snap because of the hilarious conversation.  The book signing went very well, too (thanks, Linda & Co!), and we were thrilled by the huge spread in the Lincoln Journal Star with color photos, color covers and terrific reviews of our latest books.  Julie Gerber, mystery reader, writerSuejulie2 and email pen pal, showed up with hubby and daughter Jamie (who's interested in writing herself).  In fact, several aspiring authors were in the crowd and asked about outlining vs. not...would you believe Denise, Patty and I are all "pantsers"?  Yay! 

Got home late Sunday night after an almost two-hour delay because of a broken plane in Las Vegas that had to be replaced.  Are delays more common than ever these days, or is it just me?

I'm driving to Chicago this weekend for Printers Row.  I'm there unofficially, signing at the Big Sleep Books booth on Saturday for a few hours as a favor to Helen Simpson, co-owner of the bookstore and a good friend.  The rest of the time, Ed and I will be enjoying the city and seeing my relatives.  That'll be almost like a real vacation, right?  Once I'm back from this trip, I can put away my suitcase for awhile, catch up on sleep, chill with Ed, and start writing the fifth Debutante Dropout book.

Oh, and I'll be blogging at Lipstick, of course, though I'm taking over a few of Harley's Mondays.  I'll be posting on the second and fourth Mondays of the month instead of every Wednesday, so I can focus more on my writing yet still drop in on y'all regularly.  I'd miss you too much if I didn't.

Cheers,

Susan

May 30, 2006

Meg Cabot's Big Mouth

(MEG CABOT is a wonderfully funny and diverse writer. You might know her best as the author of the YA PRINCESS DIARY novels (and movies with Julie Andrews), though she's also a nationally bestselling author of adult novels, including her latest THE QUEEN OF BABBLE, about a woman who gets on the Chunnel and blabs her worst secrets to a guy who turns out to be.....Well, you'll just have to read it. Let me just say that, in this case, having a Big Mouth is a good thing. Meg was nice enough to submit a very thoughtful, deep and serious blog about the matter.  We hope it will provoke intelligent, uhm, discourse.)

Meg By Meg Cabot:

The word was carved into a desktop in my algebra class: 

NAME OF GIRL I WON’T MENTION HERE BUT WHOM I HATED FOR BEING TOTALLY MEAN TO ME AT GIRL SCOUT CAMP AND WHO ALSO HAD THE GO-GO BOOTS I WANTED AND MY MOM WOULDN’T GET FOR ME BECAUSE SHE SAID THEY WERE SLUTTY gives good head,” the graffiti on the desk said.

I went home and was all, “Mom, what’s head?”



She told me.  And I was shocked.  I had a reputation back then (as I do now) for having a big mouth…but not that big!

But if we’re to believe the media, girls as young as twelve are performing oral sex on their male classmates right and left, and, not to put too fine a point on it, the boys aren’t returning the favor.

What’s up with that? 

As a writer who’s made her name primarily from writing fiction for young girls (most of it based on my own experiences), I try to keep in touch with my readers.  It’s true a lot of them (but by no means the majority) are engaging in oral sex.  In many cases, it is because they (thanks to Bush-endorsed abstinence programs) think this is a safer sexual act, disease-wise, than intercourse (clearly, they did not see the episode of “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” where Emma contracted gonorrhea of the throat).

In “The Notebook Girls,” the allegedly “real” notebook kept by four teens who attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City, we are repeatedly told how “empowering” blow jobs are…which left me wondering, as always, what’s so empowering about giving sexual pleasure without receiving any in return.

This is exactly what the heroine of my new book (QUEEN OF BABBLE), wonders as well.  Like me, Lizzie doesn’t consider blow jobs empowering—unless she’s getting one in return.

And when this very issue comes to a head—ouch, sorry—while visiting her boyfriend in his native England, Lizzie makes her dissatisfaction known…and finds herself basically homeless until the departure date on her non-changeable airline.  What’s a girl with a big mouth (but an equally big heart) to do?

Obviously, QUEEN OF BABBLE isn’t for kids…but like all my books, it’s for readers who are still young at heart.  And like all my books, yes, it’s semi-autobiographical.  I do have a big mouth, and it does get me into trouble…although not necessarily THAT kind of trouble, Mom, I swear!

As for NAME OF GIRL I WON’T MENTION HERE, I heard that at our twentieth high school reunion last summer, she was seen in the backseat of the car of one of the most popular guys in my class—while both their spouses were still at the dance. 

I sincerely hope that, being older and wiser now, she’s started demanding a little satisfaction of her own in return for her favors. 

In the meantime, her secret is safe with me.

Oh, wait…no, I guess it isn’t!  Oops, sorry!

May 29, 2006

Save the Internet

By Sarah

To me the Internet is magic; I don't really understand how it works. Oh, sure, I've read technical descriptions. I know there are mega computers that act as servers, which are kind of like trays waiters hold, and that we, the users, put something on the tray that the server then delivers. Blahdiddy, blah, blah, blah.

All I know is that the Internet as we know it is in danger.

Not in danger like there's a powerful Dr. Evil bent on nuking its basic structure, though that's not far from wrong. In this case the Dr. Evil is AT&T (no surprise there) which wants to start charging mega fees for access to their customers. There are other Big Corporations, too, bent on making a big buck on what we, the common users, have come to view as essentially free  - monthly internet access and computer costs aside.

Under the Big Corporations' scheme, web sites - such as The Lipstick Chronicles - which could not pay Big Fees would not be seen, or would be seen at a slower pace. If AT&T and their ilk succeed, the World Wide Web would quicky divide into the have and the have nots - the way Big Corprations are used to operating. For example, I can't pay for a $10,000-a-plate dinner at a political fundraiser and therefore I don't have access to the President that let's say AT&T has. But I can blog about something the President can come across while Googling "Lipstick" - you know, in case he has a hankering for a tube of Clinique's Blazing Red #9 or something.

That's what makes the Internet so cool.

I've been shocked and amazed by who's read my posts. I've received private emails from people whom I never imagined I'd ever meet. Heroes, heroines and some not so much. This is an age thing. My teenage daughter is perfectly well aware of how the Internet reaches across the world and back in a flash. Not me. I guess I'm still stuck in the age of newspapers and circulation figures. What's the circulation of the Lipstick Chronicles? It's impossible to measure.

My former governor Howard Dean (don't worry, I won't go there) tapped into the Internet phenomenon - which in the end worked against him. (Need I remind you of the scream heard 'round the world.) And I hold out great hope that the Internet will be what saves us politically and morally, that it will bring us closer together and bring out the truth.

That's why I think we need to band together and save the Internet. Not "hands off the Internet" - that's a crafty slogan manufactured by the crafty Big Corporations which want the government to lay off on passing legislation that would keep the Internet free. No, where you want to go is to the website: savetheinternet.com. It is gathering petitions and signatures to present to Congress to stop Big Corporations from dividing and conquering.

And the thing I love about this movement is that all sides of political spectrum are agreed. This may be the one issue where Moveon.org is aligned with the Christian Coalition, where pro-choice and pro-life see eye to eye.

Magic? I think so.

Happy Memorial Day,

Sarah

May 27, 2006

Romantic Convention of the Vanities

Romantic Convention of the Vanities

by Cinema Dave, Guest Blogger and Pal o' the Book Tarts

As I write this column, I am watching "ESPN Classics:  The Joe Louis Story" in the hopes that my Dad does not call me a girlie man. I attended the Romantic Times Convention in Daytona and this is my story.

First, let me introduce myself, my name is Dave Montalbano, alias Cinema Dave. By day, I work for the Broward County Libraries Division in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My free time is full as a crusading journalist for The Observer, a local newspaper in North Broward County. Actually the term "crusading journalist“ is laying it on too thick. I write movie reviews.

This is how I got involved with the Book Tarts. A female patron of the library mentioned to me that she enjoyed reading a mystery series about a greeting card salesperson who goes on dates and solves mysteries.  She told me that the author is an actress, and we deduced that it was Harley Jane Kozak. After reading DATING IS MURDER the patron was eagerly awaiting for DATING DEAD MEN.

Given that I also write a film column, I did extensive Research, found Harley's website and sent her an e-mail. Golly! She wrote back! We continued writing as we swap stories about family matters and  football predictions. She has also helped me with some film columns and lectures for my free film program, “Literary Cinema.”

After covering ten film festivals, five horror and science fiction conventions in the state of Florida, I felt I was ready to take on the challenge of attending the Romantic Times Convention in Daytona, Florida. Mixing business with pleasure and, in the spirit of the Ernst Lubitsch comedies from the 1930s, I was hoping to run into the future Mrs. Cinema Dave.

My credentials as a swashbuckling journalist meant nothing, nor did my employment stability with the Broward County Libraries Division. I was doomed the minute the minute I entered Ellora's Cave. The 2007 Men of Romance Calendar had entered the room.

These guys had to be the forgotten love children of Conan the Barbarian and the Fabulous Moolah. These gentlemen represented all colors and creeds, all shapes and sizes. Some had long hair and spoke with a foreign accent. They were friendly, so I did not fear that they were going to beat me up and take away my milk money. Of course, I could not like these hybrid humans, these were the sensitive guys that most girls from my high school seemed to flock to, the gymnasts who could recite Shakespearean sonnets while stoned.

Those old feelings from high school inferiority returned to me the next night with the Vampires of the Caribbean. As I stood around, literally doing nothing, I raised my elbow, which bumped into a woman's bust.  The Anne Rice wannabe yelled at me, “Careful, they're real!” I apologized and mentioned that if they weren't real, my brother-in-law is a plastic surgeon and he can fix them if I break them. The vampire princess seemed impressed with my brother-in-law, until one of the super male romance models walked by. End of conversation.

Just like my high school career, I buried my heartbreak in academics. Wednesday had workshops on the theme of Erotica. From this workshop I learned the importance of word choice when describing the act of...well...er....um...you know. Thursday mostly focused on Vampires. This subject received the most popular attendance and the echoes of laughter could be heard from the other rooms. Poor Bela Lugosi must be must be pulling the hair out of his undead head.

Thursday also featured a workshop on blogs conducted by our heroines; Harley, Susan, Sarah and Nancy. While there is diverse opinion with regards to self censorship, the Beatles of Blogging all agreed on the one rule for the Lipstick Chronicles, “Thou shall not be boring!”

As a token male guest blogger at The Lipstick Chronicles, it is my goal to provide a different point of view on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the realm of the Book Tarts.

If I took away one lesson from the Romantic Times Convention in Daytona - it's the need to work on my abdominal muscles. As I watch Joe Louis lose his last fight to the future heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano, the Brown Bomber was considered an old man at age 38 and fat at 212 lbs. As for me, I am older and I weigh more.

Yet, no old enough or fat enough to fear being called a “girlie man” by my World War II Veteran father. Vanity can be a positive motivator sometimes.

Ciao!

Cinema Dave

"...for those who enjoy the entire experience of movies, from the promotional hype to the criticism given at the dinner table....."

May 26, 2006

12 Million Dollars

By Nancy

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You're sick of reading about RT, so how about a change of pace?

A couple of weeks ago, the love of my life misplaced 12 million dollars.

My husband is a banker, and in the course of a pretty standard transaction, he wired 12 million from his bank to another bank, and that was that.  Except the next day, the other bank called to ask, "Where's our dough?"

It hadn't arrived.  Fifteen minutes of life-threatening panic ensued.  Turns out, they had given him the wrong account numbers, and the money was essentially-but-not-quite where it was supposed to be, kinda like when you put your son's socks accidentally in your daughter's drawer. 

So, for a day, somebody might have had 12 million that didn't belong to her.

And, because I'm a crime writer, my first thought was, "Would I steal it?"

If you had 12 million turn up in your checking account one day, would you buy a ticket to the Caymans and say good-bye forever to your friends and family? Because you couldn't ever come back, could you? And you could never return the money with the proverbial shit-eating grin and say, "Oops, sorry."  Because you'd go to jail.

If you took the money, you'd have to go somewhere tropical and make a new life for yourself.  Presumably a better one than you already have.  Maybe you'd buy a boat.  Live on the beach. Or enjoy a hotel suite with 24-hour room service for the rest of your days. You'd buy all new clothes, play the casinos and eat lobster as long as the money held out. Maybe get that face lift you've been wondering about.  Buy a dog track.  Raise orchids. Go on a quest for the perfect martini. Send a carton of horse manure to your former boss every year for Christmas.

Maybe you'd send plane tickets for a few family members---everybody except your mother-in-law, if you're so inclined. Your choice.

If you were a banker, maybe once in your whole career you'd be given the chance to do it. (My husband says no, there are too many controls in the system, but I think he's just not the larcenous type and wouldn't see the situation as an opportunity, just a problem that would need to be fixed.) And you would have no warning at all.  The opportunity would land on your desk, and you've have to act pronto--get on a plane that very day and vanish.  No time to think it over.  No time to dwell on the consequences.  No time to kiss your mom good-bye.  Seize the day and go.

Sure, every once in a while we read about some low-level bank employee or public servant or fire company treasurer or church secretary who embezzles a hundred thousand dollars, but they always get caught.  Always.  Accountants are vigilant. The IRS is ruthless.

Besides, is a hundred thousand dollars really worth it?  Even 12 million might not be enough to tempt some of us.  I mean, the yacht alone would cost as easy 25  million, right? Then there's the matter of flying my kids around the world to be with me. 

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Or maybe they'd rather stay here in their own lives. 

I guess it all comes down to whether or not you're the impulsive type.  Easily swept into the excitement. The person who leaps into the bubbling hot spring without thinking it might boil you alive. You have wild sex without protection. Drink absinthe without worrying about the hallucinations. Eat that weird Japanese fish that might kill you if it's cooked wrong.

It also depends on how much you like the life you have now.  Can you imagine a better one?  Would the money make it happen?

So? Would you take the money and run?

May 25, 2006

Overheard in the Publishing Game

Rebecca is the pseudonym for a friend of the Book Tarts and good writers everywhere---a bookseller and writer, albeit one who writes legal briefs rather than novels. She lives with her husband and two children in a Midwestern city where bookstores and libraries are important.

   Even for those of us who have been around long enough to have seen all of the trends in publishing come and go and return only to go again, the latest development is unnerving. I'm talking, of course, about the polarity in today's fiction.

   On one hand, we have the fast-growing Inspirational segment, which advocates physical displays of affection only in a loving, monogamous relationship with a religious foundation between a man and woman. That's one of each, and it takes place behind the bedroom door. On the other, we have the Erotica segment, which advocates a no-holds barred, man-on-woman-on-man-on-another woman-on-wolf-on-vampire (all you need is Donner and Blitzen for a holiday special) combinations of frenzied physical acts so intimate that one dare not post them here. Love? Who needs it.  Monogamy? Don't be ridiculous.

   If you thought the Red State/Blue State division was disturbing, you need to sit down and take a couple of Valium.  The very same stores that were bullied into removing Playboy Magazine are carrying paperback books that make Playboy look like Reader's Digest. The mainstream publishers, never ones to shy away from making a buck, are pushing their authors for either more sexual content or no sexual content. In fact, I overheard an author lamenting that in order for her publisher to release her back list, she needed to edit them and remove all the sex scenes--none of which would even have garnered a PG-13 rating--so they can be sold at Wal-Mart.  Good luck, Goldilocks, finding something that is just right.

   Readers and acolytes on both sides will defend their choices---and their favorite authors--to the death. But some writers are clever enough to have it all. Also overhead: Two reps of the biggest romance house in the world chuckling over the fact that they have authors who write on both sides.  Now THAT is delicious. Much like politicians who waffle--or flip-flop, depending on who is doing the spinning--these writers deliver the goods to whichever audience is buying them.

   And who can blame them? When advances become little more than a couple of tanks of gas, and royalty checks won't cover the utility bills, it's no Hobson's choice is one wants to make a living. The more things change, the more they stay the same:  the big money is in piety and porn.

May 24, 2006

Hanging with the Homeys

Hanging with the Homeys

by Susan

I'm quite enjoying all the other Tarts' posts on the RT Convention, as well as the rehashes I'm reading on other blogs.  Like anything else, everyone comes away from an event with, well, something.  Whatever it is, it's different for each of us.  We learn more about the business we're in, Rt13 the people around us, and ourselves.  I like that about life.  We're never too old to wise up.  I figure, even if I live to be 100, I'll still be asking Charlaine stupid questions, and she'll still be saying, "I don't know, for Pete's sake!"  But that's part of the fun of waking up each day.  (No, not realizing how fun it is to torment Charlaine by having the curiosity of a three-year-old, but appreciating the surprises ahead of me).

So I wanted to mull over my take on RT and what I brought home with me.  And it doesn't have to do with the hot trends or the half-nekked cover model dudes (okay, just a little with that) or how much I missed Ed while I was gone ('cuz that's a given).  What I enjoyed most about hanging around other writers and readers Rt10 and booksellers and aspiring authors is the energy, the charge from knowing we all share something weird and wonderful:  the love of books, of words, of fantasy worlds that only exist in our heads.  You couldn't turn around at RT without encountering someone who wanted to discuss a fabulous series they'd just discovered, a novel in progress that had them buzzing like bees, or an idea for a book that got hold and wouldn't let go.

Rt6_1 While I had a blast with the panels, playing Vanna during a trivia game, and schmoozing all over the place, some of my favorite moments were walking and talking on the beach in the early morning with buddy Laura Durham, discussing books, life and love...seeing Harley's photos of her kids and hubby spread out all over the desk in our hotel room...laughing hysterically with Nancie, Sharon, Heather, Denise, Margaret, Laura and Charlaine at Char's pizza party...and spending two hours in conversation with the wonderful, best-selling romance author Cathie Linz as we sat on the terrace of Rt8 the hotel, within sight of the beach but oblivious to the noise of the surf or the cackle of seagulls.  Cathie and I got to yakking about our books and how we write (yes, we're both "Pantsers" and proud of it), and the time whizzed by faster than the proverbial speeding bullet.  Nothing like finding another soul sister who understands why you do what you do and how you do it. 

Sometimes writing can be a lonely business.  I know that when I'm working on a novel, it's pretty much me and my Dell (and though I went to high school with Mike Dell, he doesn't give me free computers, dang it).  For months at a time, we seclude ourselves--I call it hibernating--and concentrate on putting that story swirling around in our brain onto the blank pages that fill our monitors.  We try to limit distractions, other than those immediate things in real-life that require our attention, and focus on our fictional world.  So when I'm done with a book and start traveling to promote what's newly released, I feel like a critter who's escaped from her zoo cage.  I want to hang with my homeys, I want to play the social butterfly and let loose my inner ham.  Doing conventions like RT fills a need in me.  Maybe not the same way my writing does, but it's there just the same.

Ed's at a Windows convention in Seattle this week, and I'm sure it's the same for him.  Talking to other people all gathered together who share your interests, whose brains operate a lot like yours, who don't look at you and think, "freak" or "geek" or "nutball writer," because they're your people.

When I leave an event like RT, I am recharged mentally and spiritually (although wiped out physically--did I mention how I need a nap?).  I have a cadre of new homeys that I've swapped battle stories with and a host of new ideas fluttering around in my skull.  I feel like nothing's impossible, and I can't wait to tackle the next project on my plate.  I don't worry about the market or what anyone else is doing, because I realize it's up to me--and my publisher--to keep things moving forward in a way that's fresh and invigorating.  (Sort of sounds like an advertisement for a laundry detergent, huh?)

Rt14 So while I still have images of all the quirky costumes (thanks for that picture, Gun Tart!), crazy parties, and "Got Sex" calendar dudes on my mind, I'm already antsy to get to work on the fifth Debutante Dropout book, which I'll do right after my trip to Omaha for Mayhem in the Midlands this weekend and to Chicago for Printers Row the weekend after.  I'm anxious to dive into the writing again, to see what I can do next that's different from what I've done before.  And I'm thinking of setting Book Six in Bermuda so I can write it off as research (I'm sure Ed will agree it's a good idea, Ms. Cathie), plus a million other projects I ache to get rolling. 

To sum it up in two words, I went to Daytona and "Got Revved."  So thanks, homeys.  You're better than a Shock Triple Mocha with a billion milligrams of caffeine (especially since I don't like caffeine). 

Cheers,

Susan

May 23, 2006

My New Life as a Writer of Erotica

By Sarah

So, I'm sitting next to Ruby Storm, writer of erotica for Ellora's Cave, during the big book fair at Romantic Times. Just in case you're wondering, Ruby Storm is not her real name. Her real name is....wait. If I told you, she'd have to kill me. Guess that's out. Anyway, Ruby pens such titles as: Diamond Studs, Virgin Queen and the one she recommended to me, Double Diamonds.

Double Diamonds, strangely enough, is not about jewelry! Who knew? It's actually about two guys (one of whom happens to be a ghost, natch) and a woman. That's really all you need when it comes to erotica. That's enough. Trust me. I read it, part of it, and I'm still fanning myself in the freezer. People actually do that stuff? With ghosts?

Ruby's not what you'd expect. She's from Minnesota, like Northern Minnesota, and she has the accent that speaks of bridge clubs and detergent commercials. Ruby brought her mother and her nineteen-year-old daughter to the conference that was blatantly devoted to sex and the craft of writing about it. ("Aww, they're awfully proud.") She was eager to take a break for a smoke and, later, a cosmo. Ruby was as American and as hardworking as you could find in the Midwest. You'd trust her with your kids. I'm sure she has a complete set of matching Tupperware.

"Do you like menage?" she asked in all earnestness. "Or are you more into futuristic fantasy."

It was a hard call. Then again, that sounds like the title of an Ellora's Cave book. Scratch that.

The thing is, Ruby makes a lot of dough, or so she claims. Plus, she gets paid her royalties on a monthly basis. Now, that could mean anything depending on the royalty structure. The way Ellora's Cave works is that they try you out as an E-book and, if you sell, they switch you to paperback. These are the paperbacks you see front and center at Waldenbooks, which has become Ellora's Cave central. Barnes and Noble, from what I understand, is not far behind.

"You saved my marriage, Ruby Storm," one woman cried to her. "I love, love, love you."

And you know what? I think that woman was sincere. On my flight home from Daytona Beach, I saw three people reading Ellora's Cave books. They were engrossed. Were they hoping to save their marriages? Check.

A couple of years ago I didn't know what Ellora's Cave was. Last year, I wrote them off as a bunch of fruitcakes. This year, an editor for Kensington was stopping at the tables of all the Ellora's Cave writers and handing out her business card, inviting them to submit manuscripts. I asked her why and she said, "This is the only thing that's selling these days."

Double check.

So I'm thinking maybe I should try my hand at this. I'm sure it's harder than it looks. (That word again.) My new interest sent me to the Ellora's Cave website to review the writer's guidelines. Okay, it's erotica or, as Ellora's Cave likes to call it, "Romantica," but there are limits. Like no animals. This does not apply to shape shifters, by the way. In those situations animals are fine. Rape is okay as long as it's to drive the plot, but otherwise no. They will report any pedophiles to the authorities. "No knives and stabbing weapons stuffed in the female anatomy." That's straight from the website. "It's sad this has to be stated, but there it is." Also out are necrophelia and, uhm, "bodily functions." Don't ask. I didn't.

They welcome emails. They're friendly. They're based in Akron, for heaven's sake, not snooty New York with its SASE's and tough agents and "don't call us, we'll call you," attitude. Ellora's Cave was started by a single mother, Jaid Black, real name Tina Engler, who was an unwed mother at age 17 and a former welfare recipient. This explains the monthly royalties. Writers on a string can't afford to wait six months.

By age 30 Tina was a millionaire. By 32, a multi-millionaire with investments in numerous and diverse entities. She has two big causes: women on welfare and prisoners rights. Those are causes most people aren't willing to champion.

Interesting?  Well, it's worth noticing. My question is whether this might be the start of a trend. Could Ohio trump New York? If the last presidential elections are any indication, the answer is a definitive yes. So watch out. This could be our reading future - two guys and a ghost.

Sarah

May 22, 2006

You Had to See It to Believe It

You Had to See It to Believe It

by Susan (which is why I'm posting loads of pictures)

Well, the 2006 RT Book Lovers Convention is finito for another year, and I'm almost fully recovered after 24 hours back home.  I truly had a blast, though I kept busy nearly every moment and wish I'd scheduled in more time to relax.  Ah, shoot, maybe next year.  I've now been to four RT conventions, and I can say I've enjoyed them all.  It's a chance to see what's going on over yonder in the romance/paranormal/anything-goes world, and I'm often left speechless (just wait'll you see some of the costumes!).  But it's such a ripe opportunity to meet new friends, talk to booksellers who specialize in romance--and also love funny, romantic mysteries--and let loose.  Because you won't see most of what goes on at RT at any of the mystery cons.  That's for darn tootin'.  What I'll do here is just throw up a bunch of pics, some that I took and many that Gun Tart Nancie Hays shot (she was EVERYWHERE with that camera, I swear, and thank God).  So here goes.

Rt1Upon arrival, we hit the bar, of course, and here's me, Laura Durham (FOR BETTER OR HEARSE) and Nancy Cohen (DEAD ROOTS) doing a "Mystery Chicks" pose.  Dana Cameron bought me a margarita, and, boy, was it strong!  I think it increased my appetite, too, as I pigged out at the dinner buffet, again proving I have a hollow leg.  Ask anyone at my table if you don't believe me.

Rt15 The first mystery panel was at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.  Called "Homicide in High Heels," it concerned mixing love, murder and romance in modern-day crime novels.  Claire Matturo (SKINNY-DIPPING), Laura Durham, Harley, Sarah, Lori Avocato (DEEP SEA DEAD), and Alesia Holliday were my willing victims...er, panelists.  Lots of laughs, and Harley did a faboo job plugging Sarah's CINDERELLA PACT.  What are Tarts for, eh?

Rt16 The "Digging Up Bones:  History, Mystery & the Paranormal" panel followed, with Rt17_1 great chat from Cara Black (MURDER IN THE CLICHY), Dana Cameron (MORE BITTER THAN DEATH), Charlaine Harris (DEFINITELY DEAD), Carole Nelson Douglas (the Midnight Louie series), and Lois Greiman (UNZIPPED).  After that, it was "Sex & Murder" with Nancy Martin, Margaret Dumas (SPEAK NOW), Denise Hamilton (PRISONER OF MEMORY), Swanson (MURDER OF A SMART COOKIE), Nancy Cohen, and Michele Scott (MURDER BY THE GLASS).  I tossed out Margaret's little red bags o' Hersey's kisses to the crowd and only beanedRt19 a couple people. Not bad.

That night, a dozen or so of us signed at the Wednesday Mini Book Fair, as we'd be missing all or part of Saturday's big Book Fair.  I happened to be seated next to the table with the Ellora's Cave models.  They were signing their calendar (and, surprisingly, actually spelled out their names instead of using "X's," as I'd Rt5 imagined).  A little later, it was time for the Ellora's Cave party.  I caught Laura Durham giving bridal tips to one of the shirtless calendar dudes.  If I was just a wee bit moreRt3 evil, I might use it to blackmail her.  But I won't.  I'll just send a copy to her hubby JuRt20an Carlos for Christmas.  At least she wasn't wearing a costume.  We saw plenty of those, and I'm still getting over it.  I scrounged up a few extra decks of Ellora's Cave playing cards for my mom to use for her bridge group, then I went back to my room and called Ed...while Sarah hit the dance floor.  I heard she was groovin', baby.  Good thing Nancie Hays got it on camera.

On Thursday morning, I was Charlaine's guest at the Australian booksellers' breakfast honoring vampire aRt7uthors.  So, yes, Charlaine got the star treatment, Laurell Hamilton appeared with her very nice hubby, and I left with a box of Tim Tams (which I gave to my mother).  The blogging panel followed that and all the Rt12_1 Tarts were in attendance, as well as Gun Tart...Smart Tart...Arkansas Cyndi...Cinema Dave...Shanna Swendson...it was like old home week.  That's Gun Tart in the picture with the rest of us Lipstick chicks.

Rt4 Oh, wow, this is getting kinda long.  I'll post more photos from the Nancie Hays Late Night Party Collection and the Susan McBride Daytime Doings Library on Wednesday.  For now, adieu.  And enjoy this pic of Harley getting a tad wide-eyed over the centerfold in the Ellora's Cave calendar (shhhh, don't tell Greg).

Until Wednesday,Susan

May 20, 2006

Going Home

by Nancy

I have discovered the wonders of free internet service in airports, so here I am, one of those professional looking business types who appear to be saving a foreign currency or closing a deal on Trump Tower while waiting for a plane to Atlanta, except they all seem to be men wearing Dockers and cell phones clipped to their ears like Mr Spock waiting to be beamed up.  Me, I'm a wet noodle after the pleasures of RT.  In a minute, I may even take off my convention uniform heels and replace them with my pink sneakers.

RT is still going on.  I left the book fair after 3 hours because my flight leaves earlier than most. Perhaps one of my blog sisters will report later today or tomorrow to keep you updated.  For me, the culmination of the convention came last night which was my birthday.  (For those of you prone to sending elaborate good wishes on such occasions, please don't.  I'm not saying which birthday because I'm not having any more after this one.)  It was one of the best birthdays of all time (The Best was probably the year my parents borrowed the neighbor's ponies and spent hours leading all my little friends around the yard) because I had a fabulous night with my husband whom I never take to conventions, but it was, after all, Daytona (the home of Bike Week and someday I will tell you about my husband's motorcyle and the family upheaval that accompanied its arrival in our family) so I invited him along.  And a few friends did the same.  Amazingly enough, the husbands got along like best friends!  They spent the afternoons drinking beer on the beach and talking like fraternity brothers---which, perhaps, they are now.  We all went out to dinner where I was lavishly feted.  (Although slightly disappointed there was no serenade involving sombreros, I was surprised to see my name bring printed on every menu in the entire restaurant---when did that practice start??--and a chocolate lava cake worth the price of airfare to Daytona came at the end of the meal.)  We talked politics and vacation destinations and got to know each other better. 

After the party, I'm feeling pampered and indulged and better capable of understanding what happens at an event like RT.  Some distance gives you perspective.  I'll think more and report back.

But my basic impression:  I don't think RT is the place for me. And you don't know that kind of stuff until you dip your toes into the waters. RT is hugely successful, mind you, with lots of books sold and plenty of pals to be made and new contacts to be nurtured, but the whole focus was---well, not one for mystery writers.  Maybe others will disagree, and I will welcome those thoughts.  But for a magazine that appears to cater primarily to erotica readers and vampire lovers, it seems a poor fit for the likes of me. I write a witty, character-heavy series with plenty of sexual tension, but not a lot of heaving or thrusting or jokes about male anatomy.  ("Got sex?" was the T-shirt of the weekend, and okay, maybe my books have a little sex, but not enough to please those readers who were out on the dance floor grinding with the cover models.)  I don't know that I'll rush to go back to RT.  Not that I disapprove of their direction.  Obviously, the trends are traveling a different path than I am.

But we had a great time dancing at the fairy ball last night.  (We didn't attend the dinner, Harley, just the part where the music started and the bar opened.)  We admired the fantastic costumes and danced beside some amazing bodies.  On the way back to our room, my husband said, "It's a lot like a Star Trek convention, isn't it?" Yes, perhaps.

It was delightful to meet a few mystery readers at today's book fair. 

The beach was gorgeous, too.  The pool divine.  (No alligators.)  We've made a few new friends--possible guests here at TLC.  (We're always on the quest to find smart, clever, witty writers with great voices for your entertainment!) I find it stimulating to be with writers whose books I enjoy and conversation makes me think.  I love meeting readers and hearing them talk about what books they like and why. Listening to that audience is an invaluable part of convention-going.  No, this convention wasn't a waste of time (or considerable money) by any means.  It was a learning experience.  A fun one! 

So I'm going home to plant my garden and mull my new book idea and try to decide if it's something that readers will want to buy.

They're calling my flight....