September 6, 2012

READ THE SAMPLE

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It gets busy at Costco during the lunch hour on any given day because they give out samples of various food products. Samples help me decide whether to purchase a product. Oftentimes, if I like the sample, I’ll try the product.

But what if I got the opportunity to sample something and chose not to because it came highly recommended?

Or I didn’t want to take the time to sample it, and only purchased it because it was on sale?

Would I be justified in feeling duped if this product I didn’t bother to sample fell short of my expectations?

Books and ebooks are one of the few products a consumer can sample beforehand. In a bookstore, you can stand there and read as much as you’d like. Online, you can generally read a percentage of an ebook, up to as much as the first 20%, to help you make your decision.

There’s been a lot of media coverage recently about book reviews. Any given review on any given book, whether the book was written by a traditionally published author or an indie, can be faked. A fake review will generally either sing the book’s praises or trash it. That’s not to say all five-star and one-star ratings are not to be trusted, but who has the time to investigate their veracity?

Further, even if you know a recommendation or condemnation is honest, you still have to take into consideration that it is one person’s opinion. Opinions are subjective. Even an honest appraisal of a product can be biased - or I should say will be biased based on that person’s likes and dislikes, which may be the polar opposite of yours whether you admire that person, hate them with a passion, or don’t know them at all. And sometimes an honest appraisal comes from someone who had the opportunity to sample, but didn’t, often because they got the ebook for free. The opinion is perfectly valid, but would that person have even chosen the book if it weren’t free?

My time is precious. I’d rather use it reading the sample, and let the product convince me whether or not to buy. Then if it doesn’t live up to my expectations, I’ll feel perfectly justified in giving my opinion.

Read the sample.
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September 3, 2012

THE DEVIL WENT ONLINE TO AMAZON

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Sung to the tune of
"The Devil Went Down To Georgia"

The Devil went online to Amazon. He was lookin’ for a book to read.
He was in a funk ‘cause all he found was junk. There was nothin’ but chicken feed.
When he came across an indie author, writin’ ebooks and sellin’ ‘em - not,
And the Devil posted on the Internet, and said, “Scribe, you ain’t makin’ squat.”

"I bet you didn't know it, but I'm a published author, too.
And if you’d care to be aware, I’ll share trade secrets with you.
Now you spin a pretty good yarn there, Scribe, but give the system its due.
I’ll bet a book deal of gold against your soul I can sell more books than you.”

The indie said, "I’m an Author, and it might be a sin,
But I’ll take that bet; ‘cause I don’t want to regret that I’d do anything to win.”

Author, sharpen up your pen and write that novel hard,
‘Cause the trolls are loose on Amazon, and reviewers deal the cards,
And if you win you get this shiny book deal from trad-pub,
But if you lose - welcome to the club!

The Devil conjured up his fakes and he said, "Five-star reviews."
And lies spewed from his sock-puppets as his readership grew.
And he bought a thousand paid raves and smiled in entrepreneurial bliss.
And a band of wannabes joined in and didn’t sense anything amiss.

When the Devil wrapped up, Author said, "Well, you're pretty corrupt ol' son,
But sit down in that forum right there and let me message you how it's done."

"Fraud in the book world." Run, boys, run!
Devil's in the publishing house of the rising sun;
Public found out and he’s eatin’ crow.
Author, does your book suck? No, reader, no.

The Devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat.
And he sent that golden book deal to the box on Author’s street.
Author said, "Devil, just come on back if you can’t stop bein’ a crook,
'Cause I've told you once--you son of a hack--it’s the sample that sells the book."

And he wrote:

"Fraud in the book world." Run, boys, run!
Devil's in the publishing house of the rising sun;
Public found out and he’s eatin’ crow.
Author, does your book suck? No, reader, no.
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August 19, 2012

Now an official Award Winner!



There's a new addition to the cover of Xenofreak Nation: the WINNER sticker from the 2012 Global Ebook Awards!  I'm happy to report it won the top prize in its category: Speculative Fiction - Science Fiction.

In other news, I'm heading into the home stretch on the sequel, titled Xenofreak Nation Book Two: Mad Eye. Tentatively scheduled for publication early this fall! Like me on my Facebook Author page to get updates:

https://www.facebook.com/MelissaConwayAuthor?ref=hl

June 25, 2012

Liebster Blog 'Award'


I have been tagged with a ‘Liebster Blog Award’ by Manu Bedo at her new blog, Hunt of Books.  It’s not really an award, of course, but a question and answer game. I happen to think these are kind of fun, so I’m going to play along, with a twist. Below are the questions Manu asked the bloggers she tagged, and my answers. Below that are the questions I’m asking - and I will be tagging my blogger friends who are most likely to respond. The twist is: my questions are not about books or reading, but are completely random things I’m simply dying to know.

Manu's questions:

1. Hardcover or Paperback?

Depends on how badly I want to read the book. I’ll pay extra for a hardcover if I’m really jonesing for that particular read.

2. What are your hobbies and interests?

Photography, digital art, genealogy, antiques, nutrition.

3. If you could meet any author who would it be?

I’d like to meet some of the authors I’ve befriended on the internet. They’re wonderful people I’ve never met face-to-face.

4. Favorite book series?

Of all time? I suppose The Dragonriders of Pern.

5. What's your favorite 2012 reads?

The Child of the Eyrines series by Rebecca Lochlann and The Halo Revelations by J. S. Colley.

6. What books would you like to read again?

I rarely read a book twice. Those that I have include:  A Deepness in the Dark by Vernor Vinge and Emergence by David. A. Palmer.

7. Favorite author?

I don’t have just one at the moment.

8. Favorite movie based on books?

Harry Potter, hands down.

9. Do you think there would be a World War III?

If there is, I suspect it won’t reach the point where it is referred to as WWIII, because there won’t be anyone left to name it that.

10. Favorite quote from a book?

I’m drawing a blank on this one....

11. Which one is better: The Hunger Games or Harry Potter?

I haven’t read/watched The Hunger Games. I’ll probably wait until the movie comes out on Netflix, but I highly doubt it will surpass Harry Potter in my estimation.


NOW for my questions to you, the unfortunate victims - I mean, friends - I’ve tagged as ‘winners’ of this ‘award’:

1. Does cilantro taste like soap to you?

2. Do you think jumping spiders (with their shiny button eyes) are cute?

3. Do you say the word ‘obviously’ in your head like Severus Snape does here?

4. Who would win in a battle of wits: Betty White or George Takei?

5. Which movie was more painful to watch: The Forty Year Old Virgin or Bridesmaids?

6. Who would you like to play the main characters in the movie version of the last book you wrote?

7. How many fillings do you have?

8. If you could give truth serum to anyone on the planet right now, who would it be and why?

9. Which is the worse gift to receive from a man - a bouquet of flowers that will die in a few weeks, or a live plant that you will kill from ineptitude or neglect in a few weeks?

10. Have you ever been tempted to write an anonymous memoir?

~~~

June 6, 2012

Calamity Jill and the Wind Tunnel


This is an excerpt from a manuscript I never finished called Calamity Jill.  It won the Kathryn Hayes Love and Laughter contest in 2008 and I thought I'd share it:

As soon as they pulled into the parking lot of their destination, Jill recognized that the evening was going to be a “litmus” date.  He’d be watching closely, and her reaction to his choice of entertainment would give him a better idea of their relationship potential.  Tonight she was in for a rousing evening of indoor skydiving.  Jill mentally cracked her knuckles.

The first thing they did upon entering was read and sign a waiver that graphically depicted a long list of possible wind-tunnel injuries.  Tom looked like a kid who had just presented her with the best gift of all time, so she was determined to enjoy herself.  Or at least survive.

“Hey Zeke,” he said to the guy behind the counter.

“What’s up, Tommy-my-man?”

“Sam said chamber two was mine if I wanted it at seven.”

“Yeah, it’s dead tonight.  She certified?”  Zeke asked.

“Nah, I’ll give her the basics.”

“We got a party coming in at eight, so no unzipping.”

“Got it.”

Tom led her into a narrow room and retrieved two blue jumpsuits from a rack.  Jill slipped the one-piece garment over her clothes and pulled the zipper from mid-thigh up to her chest.  Even though the lightweight nylon was loose-fitting everywhere else, the inseam was not long enough for her torso.  It was uncomfortably snug from shoulder to crotch, but she didn’t want to complain.  The next size up was big on Tom.  If she said anything, he’d outfit her in what amounted to a tent.

 “What did he mean by ‘no unzipping?’” she asked as they entered the main arena.

He reached out, pinched Jill’s zipper pull and slowly pulled it down, holding her gaze with a sexy smile.

“Oh.” She looked at the octagon-shaped vertical wind tunnel.  Although the facility appeared for the moment to be deserted, anyone walking by could see through the clear plexiglass lower walls right into the chamber.   Not very private for the ‘unzipping,’ Jill thought.  She wanted to ask if he’d ever unzipped anyone, but was afraid of the answer.

Tom must have seen her dubious expression, because he laughed and said, “It’s a joke, Jill.”

“Oh,” she said again.

He helped her fasten elbow and knee pads, and handed her a helmet with goggles attached. 

“Ready?”

“Sure,” she said with what she hoped was the right quantity of enthusiasm.

He explained the rules and instructed her on the basic hand signals they would need to communicate over the noise of the fans.

“So can I do flips and stuff?” She was getting excited now.

“Not on your first try.  You’ll see what I mean.  It’s a challenge just balancing your body against the wind.  I’m going to hop in first and show you some of the stuff you can do once you’ve tried it a few times.  Then it’s your turn.  Oh, and Jill?”

“Mm?”

“Don’t open your mouth in there.”

“Bugs?”

“Nope.  You may not be able to close it again.”

He winked, tucked a bright orange silicon earplug into each ear and entered a small room attached to the chamber.  He tapped some keys and turned some dials, stepped out onto the elastic mesh floor in the tunnel, and was rewarded with a hum that within seconds built to an almost deafening roar.  He put his head back and his arms out in a dramatic pose as he slowly lifted into the air.

After watching Tom cavort in the 120 mile-per-hour wind for a minute or so, Jill suspected he’d tried it more than a few times.  People began to gather on the observation deck to watch him.  He expertly flew front-wise, on his back, head-down and he even pretended to sit cross-legged.  Despite the chill of the blasting wind, Jill was almost overheated watching him, but his gymnastic skill was not her primary focus.  Ignoring the comical flapping of his cheeks in the wind, she examined the lean, muscular contours of his body revealed through the thin fabric plastered against him.  She’d already been treated to the memorable sight of his chest, and now she got a teasing sample of the rest of the package.

Tom finally stopped showing off and brought Jill into the chamber with him.  The goggles protected her eyes from the force of the wind, but it was hard to breathe with her mouth firmly clamped shut.  She was very unsteady at first, since every movement changed her body’s aerodynamic profile.  Tom placed his hands on her, impersonally guiding the position of her shoulders and arms, the arch of her back and the angle of her hips.  Within seconds he must have gotten an intimate portrait of the shape of her, like a blind man seeing with touch.  Under his tutelage, Jill soon learned to hold a steady horizontal pose, turn right and left, and slide forward and back.  If she wasn’t afraid her mouth would get stuck open like a puffer-fish, she would have laughed aloud in the wake of each accomplishment.

After her miserable performance on the slopes, Jill just knew her quick grasp of free-fall choreography was impressing him.  He hovered next to her with a big smile, and she was riding such a wave of exultation that for a split second she forgot every cautionary lesson he’d just taught her.  She threw her arms wide for a spontaneous embrace, maybe even prelude to a little ‘unzipping.’  Before her mistake had time to register, the wind fired her at him.  Like a battering ram, her helmeted head made contact with his chin.  The repercussion sent her flipping head over heels and instinctively she thrust her arms and legs out.  The convulsive action put too much strain on her already overburdened jumpsuit seam.  She felt the back split from crotch to waistband.  Not sure if her jeans had exploded along with the jumpsuit she shot one arm behind her to cover herself.  Her body immediately curled backwards in another flip and her compromised jumpsuit poofed full of air.  She felt one foot connect solidly with something soft in Tom’s midsection.  Upside down now, rolling like an inflatable beach ball, she glimpsed him doubled over in a slow agonized spin.  Without his guidance, Jill had no idea how to stop her momentum.  Still trying to beat the torn fabric down to hide her exposed rear-end, she bounced off the mesh floor and headed like a pinball on another course straight for the out-of-commission Tom.

Just before her flailing limbs made contact, the air cut off abruptly.  Like cartoon characters falling off a cliff, she and Tom seemed to float for a split second before collapsing in a tangle of arms and legs.

“What the heck are you doing?” cried Zeke from the control room

“Everything’s fine.  No problem here.” Over the ringing in her ears, Tom’s groaning voice came from somewhere beneath her, and she realized with alarm that his head was pressed face-down into the mesh.  As soon as she scrambled off him she heard a muted sound like the fans were starting back up, and thought for a brief, frightened moment that she was about to be launched back into the air.  When she pulled her helmet and goggles off, however, she saw to her ultimate humiliation that the entire observation deck had erupted in laughter and applause.

May 23, 2012

INSPIRATION: MY MUSIC PLAYLIST

I don’t listen to music when I write. It’s too distracting. Music inspires emotion, and I need to be in control of my emotions when I’m writing or else the scene may end up with a completely different feel than I’d intended. I also don’t listen to music when I’m driving, because that’s my thinking time. I do my best plotting when I’m driving or cleaning house or taking a shower.

So when DO I listen to music? When I’m walking the dog, or running for exercise. I have a little SanDisk music player that I loaded with the following songs - hand-picked to help get me in the writing mood.

How it makes me feel: Strong
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “The scars of your love remind me of us, they keep me thinking that we almost had it all.”
Movie you’ve heard this song in: I am Number Four.
Note: Currently my favorite song.

The Adventure, by Angels and Airwaves
How it makes me feel: Hopeful
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “Here we go, life’s waiting to begin.”

The Diary of Jane, by Breaking Benjamin
How it makes me feel: Formidable
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “Do you like that? Do you like that? No!”
 
Firework, by Katy Perry
How it makes me feel: Inspired
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “Baby you’re a firework. Come on show ‘em what you’re worth.”

You’re the Reason, by Victoria Justice
How it makes me feel: Sentimental
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “You’re the only reason that I’m not afraid to fly.”

This Kiss, by Faith Hill
How it makes me feel: Satisfied
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “All I wanted was a white knight with a good heart, soft touch, fast horse.”
Movie you’ve heard this song in: Practical Magic.
Note: I’m not a big fan of country music unless it crosses over into pop, like this song does.

All Around Me, by Flyleaf
How it makes me feel: Spiritual
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “I can feel you all around me, thickening the air I’m breathing.”

Bodran, by Young Dubliners
How it makes me feel: Exhilarated
Favorite quote from the lyrics: No lyrics; instrumental

Here with Me, by Dido
How it makes me feel: Sexy
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “Oh, I am what I am, I do what I want, but I can’t hide.”
Television show you’ve heard this song in: Roswell

I’m Like a Bird, by Nelly Furtado
How it makes me feel: Fatalistic
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “I’m like a bird; I’ll only fly away.”

Rush, by Aly & AJ
How it makes me feel: Invincible
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “Don’t let nobody tell you your life is over, be every color that you are.”
Movie you’ve heard this song in: Twitches (A Disney flick which I’ve never seen).

Poker Face, by Lady Gaga
How it makes me feel: Pumped
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “Can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my poker face.”
Movie you’ve heard this song in: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

Letters from the Sky, by Civil Twilight
How it makes me feel: Epic
Favorite quote from the lyrics: “That you and I were made for this, I was made to taste your kiss.”
Movie you’ve heard this song in: I am Number Four.


April 2, 2012

Indie Author - THE GAME

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Roll the dice. Move your token. Play the game everyone with a word processing program is playing! Learn as you go, because the rules change as fast as the publishing industry!

Land on the Goodreads square: Whoop! Whoop! Warning, Warning. Author approaching forum. Use extreme caution. Do not engage the indigenous readers in conversation about your book. Severe consequences will result! Move ahead one space.

Land on the Librarything square: Enter your ebook in the Member Giveaway program, where readers can get a free copy of your book in exchange for a review. Discover that ‘winners’ of Member Giveaway books are chosen at random, unlike the traditionally published books given away in the Early Reviewer program, where Librarything uses a complicated algorithm to ensure good placement. Give away fifty free ebooks, get two reviews and be thankful you got any!

Draw a Book Review card: Three Stars! A quick check on this person’s other reviews shows s/he is historically stingy with stars. You’re pathetically grateful s/he gave you the “It was okay” thumbs-unenthusiastically-up. Move ahead one space.

Land on the Publicity square: You’ve just been asked to appear on an unscripted podcast/internet radio talk show with an aggressive host, so polish your smile and prepare to field random questions LIVE on the internet in direct opposition to the introverted nature that made you a writer in the first place!

Draw an Expense card: You blow tons of money on video editing software that comes with a user’s manual written for a much earlier version. Then you spend weeks slaving to make a decent book trailer. After uploading to YouTube, you get seventeen views, two disgustingly profane comments (before you figure out how to change the settings to allow comments only with approval), and an anonymous thumbs-down. Go back three spaces.

Land on the Book Promotion square: Your endless marketing efforts have sucked every last drop of joy out of the thought of writing another book and your muse is actively trying to convince you to take up pottery. Go back three spaces.

Land on the Amazon Discussion square: Whoop! Whoop! Warning, Warning. You stumble into an Amazon Discussion titled ‘Badly Behaving Authors’ and are horrified at how much venom is directed your way. Leave with your tail tucked firmly between your legs and seriously consider changing your user name. Lose a turn.

Land on the ‘I Used to Enjoy Reading’ square: Your swaying TBR (To Be Read) pile is stacked a mile high with other indie authors’ books. You owe so many reads it will take you until the year 2525 to fulfill your obligation. Go back five spaces.

Land on the Facebook square: You are among friends of your own choosing, many of them indie authors like yourself. You may relax and spread the joy by clicking ‘like’ on other authors’ posts about their books. You may enjoy the steady stream of inspirational and funny pictures...until, that is, your former best friend begins tagging you in a series of embarrassing photos from your ‘wild’ days and your dad, who never learned that all-caps is shouting, posts a LOUD admonishment on your wall that you never call him. Bye-bye professionalism! Go back two spaces.

Land on the Twitter square: Welcome to the Land of Spam, where the one who dies with the most followers wins! Here, indie authors are free to spam each other to our hearts’ content. Make your followers happy and retweet their spam - they’ll return the favor and retweet yours! Spam it up! Nobody cares because with thousands of followers, we’d have to spend 24/7 reading tweets to keep up! Whee!

Land on the Family square: Of all your family members, the only one who bothers to read your book is ‘No-holds Barred’ Aunt Fanny, who promptly reviews it on Amazon and tells the world that funny story about how you lost your bikini bottoms while waterskiing on the Sacramento River. What a cute butt you had! Go back one space.

Land on the Kindle Forum square: Whoop! Whoop! Warning, Warning. You start a forum thread offering to swap reviews with other authors. Within 12.3 seconds, you have seven responses from the established forum cronies advising you that what you are proposing is sleazy and unethical. Leave with your tail tucked firmly between your legs and request from the forum administrator that your account be deleted. Lose a turn.

Draw an Expense card: You splurge for a portrait at the local J.C. Penny that makes you look like a refugee from an eighties Glamour Shot. In desperate need of an author headshot, you break out your ancient point-and-shoot and, ignoring the burning pain of holding your arm out straight for three hours, take exactly four hundred and twelve photos until you get one where both eyes are open the same width and your nose doesn’t look like it belongs on Mr. Ed.

Land on the Royalty square: You receive your first email from Amazon with your royalty statement. Take the family to McDonald’s in celebration, but restrict them to the dollar menu. Advance token to the Taxes square.

Land on the Taxes square: The IRS gleefully adds insult to injury by taxing your meager royalties. Enter the data into Turbotax and watch in horror as the extra income pushes you into a higher tax bracket. Attempt to conceal the information from your spouse, who always knew no good could come of this crazy author venture. Go back one space.

Draw a Book Review card: Two Stars! This reviewer got the book for free and admits to only reading the first chapter. S/he claims to not be in the habit of reviewing books s/he ‘couldn’t finish,’ but s/he immediately hated your flawed heroine and brilliantly deduced how the story would end anyway. S/he would have given it one star, but doesn’t like to be cruel. Go back three spaces.

Land on the Blog square: You’ve been blogging for years already, but have to go through and read all your old posts to clean out the ones in which you are ranting, raving, revealing TMI about yourself or your family, or otherwise coming across as unprofessional. From this point on your blog posts are strictly limited to discussion about books, writing, and the ‘author experience’ - just like all the other indie authors out there. Your followers, all six of them, don’t notice the changes.

Draw an Expense card: You purchase the cheapest drag-and-drop website design software on the market and begin the frustrating job of learning how to use it to create an author website. The user’s manual has been badly translated from some foreign language, but you eventually cobble together a somewhat professional-looking site. Advance token to the Domain square.

Land on the Domain square: Your dot com name is already taken, so you are forced to choose from an embarrassing dot net, dot org or dot biz. Once you own your spanking new domain, you begin to wade through the incomprehensible world of GoDaddy. You upload your site into the ether a dozen times before locating the problem on an obscure user’s forum thread. Yay, your site is finally live! Begin checking the site stats every day, several times a day. Be impressed at how many visitors you’ve gotten - until you find out what ‘spiders’ and ‘bots’ are. Move ahead one space.

Land on the Pirate square: Ahoy, Matey! You are happily Googling around to see where your ebook has been mentioned on the interwebs when you find that it is available, for free, on a site called Zippyshare. After you finish freaking out, you contact the site and accuse them of copyright violation. They quickly respond back that your book has been removed from their site, but you find it elsewhere, too - on sites that are using it as bait to get people to download it - but anyone who does will also be getting a nasty case of computer herpes! You struggle to reconcile your hatred for hackers who create viruses with your glee at the thought that there’s Karma out there for those who steal your book. You are at an impasse. Arrrr. Advance token one square anyway.

Land on the Formatting (alternate name: Author Hell) square: You spend three unwashed days in front of your monitor obsessed with figuring out how to format your manuscript to Smashwords and Kindle specifications. Several times you consider throwing the entire PC out the window. By the time you’ve uploaded and all seems right in the world, your family has taken to tip-toeing and whispering and you have several mounds of tear-stained tissues littering the floor around you. Move your token to the Upload square.

Land on the Upload square: Three days after uploading to Kindle, a writer friend contacts you with a long list of typos s/he spotted in your book. After suffering a debilitating anxiety attack, you fix the errors and reupload. You find yourself glad no one bought your book. Lose two turns.

Draw a Book Review card: One Star! Oh NOES! This reviewer did not read the book at all, but thinks since you are an indie author all your five-star reviews must be fake, so s/he wants to even the playing field by lowering your book’s overall stars.

Land on the Book Blurb space: A blood pressure spike sends you to the ER after several days spent attempting to write the perfect book blurb. Go back four spaces.

Draw an Expense card: You create an ad for your book and buy space on a popular reader’s site, among thousands of other so-tiny-you-can-barely-read-them authors’ ads. After two weeks, you’ve only received five accidental ‘clicks.’ Go back two spaces.

Draw a Book Review card: Four Stars! And from a stranger who paid actual money for your book without you having to beg them to buy it. Skip ahead two spaces.

Land on the Amazon square: You browse the Indie Book store looking for your book only to discover Amazon has limited the Indie Book store to only the first thirty best-selling (which does not mean ‘best’) self-published books. When you attempt to browse Amazon book categories, you give up after six hours of clicking through 7,000 pages. Your stomach begins to produce excess acid as the realization sinks in that the only way someone will find your book on Amazon is for them to use a direct link. Go back two spaces.

Land on the Author Interview square: Bloggers love author interviews because not only do you do all the work answering their list of questions, they don’t have to actually read your book. Plus, they get free content for their blog! Go ahead one space.

Land on the Book Blogger square: After three days of searching through blog after blog with big, bold “I DO NOT REVIEW SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS,” in the review policy, you finally find a blog that does! Too bad they only have three followers. Go back two spaces.

Draw a Book Review card: Five Stars! Too bad it’s from a coworker who admits to knowing you in the review. Here come the downvotes!

Draw an Expense card: Advance token to the Book Cover square.

Land on the Book Cover square: You’re no artist, but paying one to make your cover is out of the question, so you fire up the old photo editing software that came with your computer and begin the process of bringing your vision to life. You buy a cheap, royalty-free photo online and settle on a font that conveys the genre without being overbearing. Yay, your cover is complete and looks pretty good if you do say so yourself! The first book review you get calls it, “Hideously amateurish.” Go back two spaces.

Draw an Expense card: Your vision of the perfect book trailer includes music from your favorite band - but you can’t afford that and wouldn’t dream of using another artist’s work without permission, so you find a website that sells music from the public domain. Your choices range from scratchy old recordings of Amazing Grace to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. In the end, you find a royalty free music site and pay for a 15-second clip that you loop in the background and hope no one notices. Go ahead one space.

Draw a Book Review card: Five Stars! From a stranger who raved about it and posted their review on their blog as well as Amazon, Goodreads and Libarything! THIS is why you decided to self-publish. Skip ahead to the end of the game.

YOU SURVIVED - I MEAN WIN!
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April 1, 2012

Why I Hate April Fools Day

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In the fourth grade I was in love with all things horse. I had horse figurines, horse books, horse pictures, horse everything. I wanted a horse SO BAD.

One morning before school, my mother and older brother woke me up. “Lisa!” (That was my nickname) “Get up! You won the horse! You won the horse!”

I rubbed sleep out of my eyes, confused. “What?”

My mom said, “I entered you in a contest at McDonalds to win a horse and you WON! We just heard it announced on the radio!”

My eyes must have been as big as saucers as her words sank in. “Really?”

She urged me to get up. “We have to call them to claim your prize!”

Sleepy and dazed at the thought of my dream finally coming true, I followed her and my brother out into the living room. She picked up the phone and dialed, handing me the receiver.

“What do I say?” I asked.

“Say, ‘I’m the one that won the horse,’” she replied.

At the other end of the phone, a young male voice answered, “This is McDonalds. How may I help you?”

In a voice shaking with excitement, I said, “I’m the one that won the horse.”

“What?”

“I’m the one that won the horse!”

Click.

Surprised and confused that I’d been hung up on, I looked to my mother for answers. She was doubled over from laughter. My brother was actually on the floor rolling around.

“April fools!”

As a deeply heartbreaking sense of betrayal overtook me, I burst into tears and ran back to my room. It took my mom half an hour to calm me down.

I have disliked April Fools Day ever since.
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January 31, 2012

Imperfect Heroines

*The beautiful young woman is running as fast as her tight skirt and high heels will allow, but the monster is gaining. She trips, sprawls on the ground and screams just before the beast is upon her.

You roll your eyes and shake your head, saying, “If that was me, I would have kicked off my ridiculous shoes, ripped off that skirt and sprinted in my undies on bare feet across pointy rocks. No way would it catch me.”

Really? Because I’d be terrified. Monster victuals for sure, especially now that I’m older. Even if I dumped the shoes and went commando I’d start running and my hip would go out or I’d be so scared I’d run smack into a pole or something. Bong! Monster chow.

*The pretty teen is severely depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend. She stares out the window as the seasons go by, apathetic and pathetic.

You roll your eyes and shake your head, saying, “If that was me, I’d get right back in the saddle and find me a man who didn’t suck.”

Um, okay. Everyone handles grief in their own way. You go out and find yourself a rebound cowboy and ride into the sunset. I might need more time to bounce back. Others might benefit from a handful or two of Prozac.

*The bookish but attractive-behind-her-glasses girl is the constant butt of the local cheerleader’s jokes. It’s obvious the girl will get even by the end of the book, but you roll your eyes and shake your head, wondering why she waits so long to get her revenge.

“If that was me, I would have kicked that skank’s skinny behind the first time she dissed me.”

Alright, sure. Because some of us don’t cringe at the very thought of physical confrontation. Personally, I was forced into a fight or two in my youth and unless you have some kind of training, let me point out that you may be at a disadvantage to your opponent.

In the examples above, the first girl was overcome by terror, the second girl was overcome by sadness and the third girl was, well, smart. All normal reactions, right? So, why are you so uptight about it? The main female character isn’t perfect, isn’t flawless. So what? Prove me wrong here, but is anyone? Is it wrong for a character to fall short of being a role model for our daughters? Normal girls make mistakes, say stupid things on occasion and their motivation can be selfish.

I’ve seen one too many book reviews where the reviewer commits character assassination – giving low ratings because they didn’t like the main character’s attitude or the choices they made.

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading stories with a good, strong heroine just like the next person. But it’s not a requirement, and frankly, a few flaws tossed in here and there will make the character seem more believable to me. We all whine, we all rant, we all get pimples. Very few of us pee perfume and poop Hershey bars (and I don’t want to read about the character who does)!  ;o)