Sunday, May 31, 2009

Electronic violation

It had been my intent to blog this week about the beautiful sunny weekend. It's been a perfect sunny 25 degrees celsius since Friday and in Scotland this is an event worth celebrating. I went to the beach twice and took my dog for a drive along our lovely coast. However yesterday there was a cloud ruining my fun. A telephone call from my credit card company asking me if I had just spent almost $600 in a Walmart in America a few moments ago. Sitting in my car in Scotland my heart sank along with the sunset I had been watching. After a run of security questions my credit card company told me it was all fine. They had cancelled the card, I wouldn't be charged for the false transactions and they would have a new card sent to me in a few days. Really all it will cost me is the inconvenience of changing any charges set up for the old card over to the new one.
So why do I still feel angry and violated?

I am angry that right now someone is sitting enjoying $600 worth of stolen goods and will very likely never pay for it. I am angry that someone took the trust I gave them by using my credit card and violated it by selling my details on to god knows how many other people. I am very glad and thankful to my credit card company for their vigilance which has prevented any more fraudulent use of my card and making this process as easy as possible so far. At the end of the day, it will only be a little inconvenience...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You know you're a Mennonite when...

In keeping with the rather...religious theme of my new release, ESSENTIAL SEDUCTION, and the fact that I've recently started reading a book (A Complicated Kindness) written by a woman who, I swear, has lived at least part of my life as a Mennonite and has now set it to paper...I thought I'd give you all a little glimpse of life as a "Modern Mennonite." i.e. the kind who use electricity and are allowed to wear jeans. It is a past I have thankfully left far behind, but there is no denying it is a part of me. So, here goes...

You know you’re a Mennonite when:

You have learned to laugh politely when someone asks where you parked your buggy. So original. OMG! I can’t contain myself. Ahem. Moving on…

You find elaborate hand stitched quilts to be quite passé. I grew up maneuvering around the quilt frames that were constantly being set up in major living areas in my house. My cousins and I used to make a game out of crawling around under the quilt and batting balls and blocks in a crazy game of “quilt soccer.” Btw, I tried quilting many times. I suck at it.

You have a “potluck kit” ready to go at a moment’s notice, for all those special church basement moments.

You’ve had your feet washed by a relatively casual acquaintance…also in the church basement.

You have drunk grape juice at communion rather than wine, because alcohol is verboten!

You have eaten cook cheese (fermented skim milk that has the consistency of mucous. Actually quite tasty with caraway), straema pie (I have no idea if that’s spelled correctly, but it’s basically applesauce pie) and cream dressing on your iceberg lettuce. Mmmm….and so healthy, too!

You have eaten butter bread dipped in maple syrup rather than flavored oils. (Now that IS nummy!)

You have played card games such as “Rook” or “Dutch Blitz”.

You have debated whether those card games were appropriate to play on a Sunday.

You know what crokinole is.

You have roller skated to the likes of Amy Grant and Petra. Because it’s okay to roller skate to Christian rock, rather than dance to the Devil’s music. (I guess the Christian beat is somehow less corrupting, and you can’t swing your hips as much when you’re on wheels.)

You can swear like a sailor…only in Pennsylvania Dutch.

I could go on and on... but I'll leave it at that! Does anyone share any of these little idiosyncracies? Any questions? I'm here to educate!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Power of Music

I graduated from high school in 1974. (You do the math.) All through high school, I listened to The Beatles, The Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bread, Bobby Sherman. (I had SUCH a crush on Bobby Sherman! I even had a huge poster of him taped to the ceiling over my bed.) Yep, I was a pop music junkie. While most of my friends had their radios tuned to country stations (this was Texas, after all), I bebopped around my bedroom to The Partridge Family.

I've always loved music. Any job became easier if I could listen to my favorite songs. When I started writing, music naturally went along with it. The type of music depends on what I'm writing. Sometimes I want to bebop along with those great 70s tunes. Sometimes a movie soundtrack will put me in the exact mood I need. Classical, rock, pop, soft instrumental... It all depends on the scene and the characters.

Imagine a funky bubblegum song playing instead of the "da dum da dum" you expect when Jaws is in the water. Doesn't work at all, does it? It's the same with writing. The music has to be right or the mood is broken.

I write erotic romance for Ellora's Cave and Avon Red. I have to really concentrate when I write a love scene for I want it to be right. I want the reader to *feel* everything my characters are feeling...every sigh, every kiss, every whisk of fingertips over bare skin. Listening to songs with lyrics distracts me during those crucial scenes, so I turn to New Age instrumentals. The strings, harps, and flutes all go along with the sexy mood I'm trying to convey. "Da dum da dum" definitely wouldn't work while writing a love scene.

Does music play an important part in your life? Tell me about it.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Tours

We’ve all heard about them. Some of us maybe have actually done them. Most of us have imagined them. And every author I’ve ever talked to who has done one, dreads them...the Book Tour.

It seems glamorous doesn’t it? Going from bookstore to bookstore, talking about your book, signing copies for adoring fans, the booksellers wining and dining you (or at least providing cookies and tea).

Recently (as in last week), I got the opportunity to peek in on the book tour of a NYT bestselling author. A friend of mine, James Rollins (best known for writing international thrillers with a scientific twist) was on book tour for his YA novel “Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow.” I happened to be in town and he let me tag along for a day.

We started out at 10:00 AM and drove for ninety minutes to get to the first stop. The escort picked us up at noon and we headed off to the first presentation/book signing. After that was finished, the escort drove Jim around the Bay area going from bookstore to bookstore to sign stock. The schedule was well laid out by the escort but distance, travel time and traffic put us in a bit of rush. Several hours and four or more bookstores later (I lost count) we returned to the first location, where Jim did another presentation and signing before the return drive. We finished that signing about 7:30 PM.

This was a “short” day on Jim’s tour.

At no point during the day did we stop. Not for lunch or snacks. And the imagined leisurely moments of lingering amongst all those lovely books turned into glancing at the end caps as I tried to find the bathroom before we took off for the next store.

I can understand now why authors dread these days. Many of us have introverted tendencies so being cheerful and “on” all the time, is draining. By the time we got back in the car to head home, I was tired, hungry and crabby and I didn’t even have to be nice to people.

I'm glad I got to go for the day. The company was good, I got to go across the Golden Gate Bridge, and it gave me some insight into a different side of the publishing world.

Just from my short experience, it seems like chatting with readers and booksellers one on one is the best part of the tour. The travel part is the worst. Still the whole process intrigued me enough to give me something to aspire to…write a book that my publisher (and readers) think is worthy of a book tour.

My only advice…pack a lunch.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Pre Summer Everyone!

FINALLY! It’s finally warming up here in northern Minnesota. And boy has it been a long time coming. We experienced one of the most grueling winters we’ve had in a long time. LOTS of snow and many, many days of below normal temps.

I remember the days of yore being this way when I was a child. Huge snow banks, artic winds blowing, and spit freezing before it hit the ground. Of course, back then my body was a mass of youthful joints and muscles and my brain surely wasn’t at full capacity. We spent many days outside playing when it was -20. (That’s the ‘not at full capacity’ kicking in.)You simply bundled in layers and did what you had to do. The big game was to see how quickly your chin would freeze – well, not actually freeze, but it would stiffen up, making it a bit more difficult to get your face muscles moving properly. Then me and my cohort playmates would laugh our asses off because our faces would be a mess as we tried to smile and our words jumbled because our lips didn’t move.

We were always looking for something to do. The times were perfect for kids who were always looking for something new to experience since there were only four channels on the television, no VCR’s, DVD players or Playstations, and we really had no choice because our parents shoved us out the door and said, “See you at suppertime.”

My sisters and I had the greatest dog when we were young. Spike was a combination of about every big breed of canine you could imagine. And that crazy idiot loved to retrieve. Didn’t matter if it were a rock, a ball, or a cantaloupe. As long as you threw it, he’d chase it. So one day we got this bright idea of implementing his animal-god-given talent. We tied a flying saucer (remember those?) to the back of our toboggan, then spent the next thirty minutes rolling snowballs and loading up the front of the sled. Finding a harness, we hooked the dog up, loaded our little sister onto the saucer and climbed aboard the toboggan. We spent the next thirty minutes screaming in joy as we whipped one snowball after another and Spike just kept up the chase. We were given the rides of our lives around town as we clung on tightly with one arm and kept the stream of snowballs airborne.

Then along came the advent of snowmobiling. Not the same machines that are sold now but a safe little 10 horsepower chunk of metal with skis and a hard vinyl seat. Perfect for tying a long rope to as one of us drove and the other strapped on old alpine skis. It makes me shake my head in wonder that we’re all still alive. We took out more trees, hit more parked cars, and took more headers than should have been allowable. I remember once we found some cardboard so we came up with the bright idea to have two people sit on the cardboard as one held on tightly with one hand, using the other to wrap around the person in front of us. The job the person in front had was to hold the rope tightly as we were pulled around. Sheesh. We never did get more than a five second ride on the cardboard because immediately we’d fly off it but weren’t smart enough to let go. So down and around we’d go, sliding on our ass and screaming in delight.

Oh, hey. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the cold, cold winter we experienced the past year. So easy to get off track. So now as an adult, I’m thinking I experienced childhood with a helluva lot more enthusiasm and imagination than the kids of today. But we’ll talk more of that later. I just got out of the hottub. I had to soak my sore joints. Wonder why my shoulders, my hips, and my knees ache all the time? Well, I’ll figure it out when I’m sitting in the chair watching my taped shows. Oh hell, I could go out and sit in the sun since it FINALLY WARMED UP!