Dress Up, Dress Down with Addison Brae

 Allison Brae

Allison Brae

Please join me in welcoming author Addison Brae!

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Harvard honors graduate. Accountant. Bartender. Narcotics dealer. Can Gillian’s clothes cover all roles?

1) What does the choice of clothing tell us about your heroine?

Becker Circle’s opening line starts with Gillian, the main character and heroine, heading to her first night bartending, her second job. She lacks confidence and feels like she’s jumping into uncomfortable territory. Her only boyfriend controlled her every move, cut her down, and sucked away her self-esteem.

I peek back at my butt in these loose-fitting jeans and all I see is sad.

2) Does your heroine change her style of dress over the course of the book? If so, how, and what does it mean, if anything?

Clothes often make a character—just like the way we dress can help us feel good about ourselves. So much to experience. Giant past to forget. Change is certain for Gillian. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to reach her dreams to believe in herself and find love.

3) Is this how she wants to dress? If yes, why? If not, what would she choose to wear and why?

Gillian asks a stylish neighbor to help her pick out new clothes the new Gillian would wear. She likes the results—at first.

All it takes is a haircut and new clothes for a three-hundred buck tip night? Until someone comments on her new look.

4) What happens when or if your character wears the opposite style

I’d rather crawl under the bar rather than believe someone really thinks I’m pretty. 

Some of you will understand how Gillian feels as she rebuilds her confidence whittled down by a narcissistic boyfriend. I’ve certainly had those moments. The way she dresses affects how her co-workers, customers, and guys respond to her. It takes time to grow into her new look that takes her down a rollercoaster path:

Harvard honors graduate. Accountant. Bartender. Narcotics dealer.

Can she live up to her style by the end of Becker Circle?

Bio

Addison Brae lives in Dallas, Texas on the edge of downtown. As a child, she was constantly in trouble for hiding under the bed to read when she was supposed to be napping. She has been writing since childhood starting with diaries, letters and short stories. She continues today with articles, video scripts and other content as an independent marketing consultant. 

When she’s not writing, Addison spends her time traveling the world, collecting interesting cocktail recipes and hosting parties. She’s still addicted to reading and enjoys jogging in her neighborhood park, sipping red wine, binge-watching TV series, vintage clothing, and hanging out with her artistic other half and their neurotic cat Lucy.

Learn more about Addison on her website. Connect with Addison on TwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookbub, her Amazon author pageTirgearr Publishing, and YouTube.

Purchase Becker Circle on Amazon USAAmazon UKAmazon CanadaSmashwordsiTunesKoboB&N Nook.

Book Blurb

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My first and only boyfriend believed I was too gutless to leave. He was dead wrong. My name’s Gillian, and I graduated Harvard early and left his hot temper and everyone else behind for Dallas. Determined to make it on my own, I land a second job bartending at the neighborhood pub smack in drama central where most every jerk in the neighborhood hits on me—at a huge price.

A week into the job, the neighborhood’s very popular drug dealer falls to his death a few feet from the table I’m serving. The cops say suicide, but the hot guitar player in the house band and I suspect foul play, and I intend to prove it. We dig deeper, grow closer, and make a shocking discovery. We know the murderer. Watch the trailer.

A portion of the author proceeds will go to Hope’s Door New Beginning Center to help fight domestic abuse.

Excerpt from chapter three

All it takes is a haircut and new clothes for a three-hundred buck tip night? And the pub was pretty slow for a Saturday. If I can top that today, or even come close, I’ll buy more.

It’s a football Sunday, so beer has to be well-stocked. On the way to the back, I check for my new Harvard opener in my back pocket and smooth the fitted blue top Julie picked out over my new jeans. At least it’s the game in some tropical destination between the playoffs and championship. People might actually pay more attention to eating and drinking. They might stay in a happier mood so they don’t skimp on tips.

Kyle’s at his usual table outside, bottle of his usual beer in hand and glued to the game. When I pop up from stocking the fridge, Moneybags Bobby stands next to the bar. The chair where the mystery guy sits and watches him remains empty.

“Usual?” I ask even though I’ve already started pouring. He nods and hands me the two twenties I’ve come to expect, and then works his way around the bar speaking to each person. Every time he walks near the sofa, I wonder if someone else dives in deeper with another score.

The TV by the fireplace isn’t tuned to ESPN yet, and it’s the blasted one that doesn’t work right. The remote has to be about five inches from the TV, so I climb onto a barstool, and then I feel a sting on my butt. “Ahhh!” I wave my arms to get my balance.

“Steve! What the…?”

“You’re looking pretty hot in those jeans, Gillian.”

“Don’t smack me again. Scared the crap out of me!” I right myself and put both feet safely on the ground. “Do you fancy taking this shift solo tonight while they put me back together in the emergency room?”

“Sorry, love, didn’t mean to.” His braided beard bounces as he chuckles. “You just look different than when we first met. The hair. The clothes and makeup. Lookin’ good.”

He’s the first one to notice and actually say something. “You think so?” I’m never sure if people really mean what they say or if they just want something.

He stops wiping down the bar and looks straight at me. “Wouldn’t say it if I didn’t.”

“Thank you.” I’m glad my hair covers my ears so Steve doesn’t notice they’ve turned fiery red.

“Have you seen yourself?”

I look up and Steve’s pointing his phone at me. “Did you take my picture?”

“Look. Especially the smile.” He shows me the photo he took. “You look so much happier with yourself. You’re very pretty.”

I’d rather crawl under the bar rather than believe someone really thinks I’m pretty.

“I’m sending this to you so you remember.” Then he turns his attention to the bar.

Dress Up Dress Down With James DiBenedetto #MFRWAuthor

Join me in welcoming Jamies DiBenedetto to LAM!

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•   Tell us about your hero’s or heroine’s typical style of dress. What is the condition of the clothing?

Sara is the heroine of the Dream Doctor Mysteries. She starts off as a quiet and studious college student, but over the course of the series, she gets married, becomes a doctor, has a family, and solves murders and other mysteries with the help of her supernatural dreams.

Sara is a pretty conservative dresser, which goes along with her shy and reserved personality, especially when we first meet her. She’s in college, so it’s usually jeans and a sweatshirt, without regard to style as long as it’s clean.  But as events force her out of her shell, and she finds herself in new situations, she changes things up on a few occasions.

•   What does the choice of clothing tell us about him/her?

Sara’s preferred style goes along with who she is at first – she’s quiet, and her clothes don’t make a big impression, either. When she does dress up (for a New Year’s Eve dinner at a fancy restaurant with her new boyfriend), she barely recognizes herself in the mirror.  

•   What happens when or if your character wears the opposite style?

When Sara dresses against her usual style, she usually finds herself acting against her usual behavior, too – almost as if she’s wearing a costume and acting out a part.

•   Does your hero or heroine change his style of dress over the course of the book? If so, how, and what does it mean, if anything?

As the book goes on, and in later books, Sara becomes a lot more confident, and while she’s still has a pretty conservative style, she’s much more willing to try new things, and to try to make a statement with her outfits when the occasion calls for it.

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EXCERPT:

It’s nine o’clock, and everyone’s waiting downstairs for Beth and me.  She looks great, which is no surprise.  She generally does.  What isa little surprising, at least to me, is just how good Ilook.  That sounds immodest, but what the heck.  I’m allowed to be immodest once in a while, right?   

Beth spent the last two hours helping me do my hair and makeup, and she absolutely demanded that I wear the dress I bought with my birthday money.  It doesn’t quite say “do me”–nothing I own says that–but it might say “buy me some drinks and dance with me and I’ll think about it” if I wear it with the proper attitude.  It’s black and strapless and–for me, at least–very short.  It’s such a change from my usual wardrobe that I barely recognize myself in the mirror.   Especially with my hair up and the way-more-than-usual makeup job.

She gives me a final once over, and claps her hands.  She’s thrilled.  “There may be hope for you yet!”  She doesn’t need me to check her over, she knows without even looking in the mirror that everything’s right, not a hair or anything else out of place.  

I have to take one last good long look at myself, though.  The woman staring back at me has my eyes, but the rest of her…

I hear my own voice asking, “Who is that?”  

Blurb:

 College junior Sara Barnes thought her life was totally under control.  All she had to worry about was her final exams, Christmas shopping, applying to medical school – and what to do about the cute freshman in the next dorm with a crush on her.  Everything was going according to plan, until the night she started seeing other people’s dreams.

It’s bad enough that Sara is learning more than she ever needed to know about her friends and classmates, watching their most secret fantasies whether she wants to or not. Much worse are the other dreams, the ones she sees nearly every night, featuring a strange, terrifying man who commits unspeakable crimes.  Now Sara wonders if she’s the only witness to a serial killer – and the only one who knows when and where he’s going to strike next.

Dream Student is the prequel to the Dream Doctor Mysteries.

BIO:

J.J. DiBenedetto is author of the Dream Series and the Jane Barnaby Adventures and lives in Arlington, Virginia with the love of his life and a white cat who rules the roost. 

His passions are photography, travel, the opera, the New York Giants, and of course writing. 

Mr. DiBenedetto is devoted to writing books with a sense of mysticism to entertain and perhaps invite his readers to suspend belief in a way they might never have.

Since he was very young , he has always been intrigued with the supernatural and things that can't be explained rationally.

By always asking way too many questions, it piqued his interest to the point of setting his writing off and running when he grew up! All the curiosity building up all those years were finally getting put into words to captivate readers. And it hasn't ended. His main goal is to share all the stories he has inside, putting pen to paper. And that's how the Dream Doctor Mysteries were born.

Mr. DiBenedetto welcomes queries and feedback from his loyal readers. You can email him at jj@jjdibenedetto.com or at his website www.jjdibenedetto.com.

The next Jane Barnaby Adventure will be ready soon and he's anxious to hear what you think!

Social Media:

www.jjdibenedetto.com

www.facebook.com/jjdibenedettoauthor

www.twitter.com/jjdibenedetto

www.tinyurl.com/jjdaudio

www.tinyurl.com/jjdvideo

http://viewAuthor.at/JJDiBenedetto

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Thanks for stopping by, James!

Dress up Dress Down Tuesday Featuring Daryl Devore #MFRWAuthor

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Please Welcome Daryl Devore to Living After Midnight!

Hello. I’m happy to be on Dress Up Dress Down Tuesday.

Dark Chocolate and Strawberries revolves around junior accountant Esmerelda “Red” Hood. She works at Hood’s Chocolatier -the largest independent chocolate maker in the country.

Her work wear is “Corporate World”. She prefers to wear slacks than dresses. As her personality is more laid back and casual, she feels more comfortable wearing slacks. But there are days when she’s feeling sexy and flirty and a designer dress and heels is her clothing style of choice. 

When the story begins it’s in the middle of a miserably cold Chicago winter. Parka, scarf, mitts, thick wool sweaters and snow boots make up the majority of her clothing.

An unexpected cruise to the Caribbean makes a rapid change in her attire and summery shirts, shorts and sandals fill her suitcase. Oh and of course – a bathing suit.

On the cruise, she meets two men – Chopper and Willem.

Chopper is a low paid, over worked teacher. His style is super dress downcasual – scruffy blue jeans, and a crumpled shirt.

Willem is a fashion photographer. His style is a casual jacket over a white T and well fitting jeans.

The really interesting parts happen when no one is wearing anything – but I’ll leave that to your imagination.

I’ve created a Pinterest board for this - https://www.pinterest.ca/daryldevore2013/dark-chocolate-and-strawberries/

Plus there are boards for my other books.

Here’s an excerpt – The moment Red meets Willem and Chopper

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“My grandmother is a passenger. Can you tell me if she’s boarded yet?”

The purser clicked a few keys on her keyboard and asked, “Her name?”

“Sarah Hood or Mrs. S. Hood. I'd suggest Grandma but there seems to be a lot of them on the ship.”

“Yes, we're close to full. We do two senior cruises a year and this is the busier one. Yes, she boarded earlier.”

Red checked her own cabin number. “Even numbers on port side, right?”

“Yes. Is there anything else?”

“No, thank you.” Red walked in the direction of the elevators.

The immaculate gleam of the polished brass fittings sparkled in the late morning sunshine. Passengers passed by excitedly chatting to each other. Standing near the railing was a tall, dark haired, heart-melting, and close to her age, hunk of masculinity. Red pulled in her stomach and arched her back as she passed him. Her knees buckled when she caught a whiff of his aftershave. 

Two strong hands caught her. “Guess you don't have your sea legs yet,” a deep voice whispered in her ear as he helped her stand.

“And we're only in port. I'm going to be a disaster once we get out to sea.” She flashed her emerald green eyes at him and her best sexy smile.

“I guess I'll have to watch out for you and be ready to catch you if you fall.” His grin seemed to stretch from ear to ear displaying Hollywood white teeth. He reached for her hand and brushed a kiss across the back of it. “Willem Olf. My friends call me Will.”

“Red Hood. Pleasure to meet you.”

“Pleasure is all mine.” He bowed his head then slid his sunglasses on. “Much too bright. I'm more of a night creature.”

Stifling a giggle, Red said, “I gotta go. Still have to unpack and—”

The blast of the ship's horn cut off her sentence. She waved good-bye. That's one hot piece of man. Kinda continental. Sexy. And damn, he smells good.

Waiting for the elevator, Red checked her cell phone. Clicking through the messages, she found one titled Sara Hood's cabin number. She opened it and was pleased to discover she wouldn't be neighbors with her grandmother.

Room 1231, three floors apart and opposite sides of the ship. Good, this way hot and sexy Will can sneak into my room and not be seen by curious grandmother eyes.

The elevator doors opened. Red stood aside for the occupants to depart, then stepped inside, pressed button 15, port side. The ride was swift and silent. She held her plastic key card and checked her ticket as the doors opened. She stepped out as he stepped in…to her.

After bouncing off the stranger, Red picked up her purse and smartphone. “Oh my God. I'm so sorry. I wasn't paying attention.”

“No, no. My fault. I'm so lost.” He picked up his ticket and Red's, glanced at them then handed Red's to her. Adjusting his shoulder bag, he asked, “You wouldn't happen to know…” He held out his ticket.

Red checked his room location and tapped the elevator call button. “This side of the ship. When you get out of the elevator go left. Room should be on your right.”

“You seem to know your way around. Do you work on a cruise ship?”

She laughed and looked past the ticket at the man. He was nicely built, blue eyes and sandy blond hair and cheeks with adorable dimples. “No, I've cruised before.”

“This is my first. I'm so lost. Oh, I said that already.” He took a big breath and released it. “Andrew Woodsman. My friends call me Chopper.”

“Hi Chopper. I'm Red Hood.” Second cute introduction inside of ten minutes. And on a senior's cruise, at that.“You know, I have to ask - why Chopper?” Sexy helicopter fighter pilot?

“I'm gonna go for broke here. How about I tell you at lunch? Burgers and beer?”

His face had that lost puppy look that could melt any girl's heart. It melted Red's. Smiling, she nodded. “Sounds good.”

The elevator doors opened. He put his hand on it to hold it until he entered. “I'll come and get you, say, 12:15?”

Blurb

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What's a naughty fairy tale like Red Riding Hood without Red, the huntsman, grandma and especially, the big bad wolf?

Esmerelda 'Red' Hood is summoned to her mother's executive suite only to learn her sweet granny is headed for a romantic cruise with a gigolo. Horrified, Red races off to save her grandma before it's too late.

On board, Red meets Andrew Woodsman and Willem Olf. One a cutie with the biggest puppy eyes and the other a dark, sophisticated predator. Her grandmother's warning rings in Red's ear "Never trust a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Even with the warning, Red has trouble choosing which man could be the big bad wolf and which could be her happily ever after.

Note: This book was previously published by New Dawning Bookfair under the title Sexy Red Hood.

Tag line:

What's a naughty fairy tale like Red Riding Hood without Red, the huntsman, grandma and especially, the big bad wolf?

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Where to Find Daryl Devoré 

Blog - Romance - Sweet to Heat

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Thanks for stopping by, Daryl! You’re welcome any time!

All That Remains the Same is Change

Welcome to Living After Midnight 2.0. It was time to upgrade and to explore new horizons. That, and my other host made my site vulnerable to too many spam comments. So please, while you’re here, take a moment to look around and let me know what you think. 

I’m one of those people who loves change. I like exploring new places and meeting new people. I like rearranging the furniture and painting a room in a wild new color. I like moving, although admittedly I don’t do it as often as I used to. I even enjoy learning about why people resist change so vehemently.

What about you? Do you embrace change?

A Viking Weekend

My partner and I headed off to Mystic, Connecticut for Viking Weekend at Mystic Seaport. I’m not sure why we were so interested (other than we’re members of the Seaport and it was a gorgeous weekend), but off we went for a two day adventure. It was a blast. On the Commons, a settlement of tents depicted how they may have lived. Many men and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes were dressed in Viking warrior or period garb. (Some were actors paid by the Seaport but most were simply Viking enthusiasts.) There were Viking ships, exhibits of tools, battle gear and weapons. Vendors sold all sorts of paraphernalia, from hand crafted satchels to leather sword shields. Still other sellers offered authentic food of the period, or so they claimed.  And if you wanted to learn how to make mead, they had you covered too.

Knowing little about Viking culture, we attended three lectures. My favorite was given by one of the Seaport’s boat builders and lead shipwrights . He’d spent three months reconstructing a Viking ship using only the tools available in that time and shared his experiences through stories, pictures and videos of his journey.

The two other lectures were given by purported experts in Viking culture, but interestingly they contradicted each other on many points so I can’t vouch for accuracy. Here’s a smattering of what was said:

  • Vikings were not pillaging raiders, but young sons seeking their fortunes.
  • Viking warriors operated under a strict moral code, never stealing or hurting the weak.
  • They routinely raided monasteries, sometimes returning to ones previously attacked.
  • Their raids extended as far as Northern Africa.
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See what I mean? What they both agreed on, however, was that we have scant records of this time period, leaving much for experts to interpret from a few stories and reverse engineering. For example, there is no information about fighting strategies, but what we believe to be true was gleaned from a small handful of personal accounts, as well as assumed from artifacts and remains.

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All in all, it was a great event. The weather was beautiful, the people were friendly, and we learned a thing or two. Now to find some Viking clothes and gear for our next excursion. Any idea where we can find a good leather arm guard?

A Concert to Remember: Sir Tom Jones

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It should be no surprise to those who know me that I go to as many concerts as I can. Even in the wake of the passing of the One and Only (Prince), I still have an appetite for good music and talented musicians. When I had the opportunity to see Tom Jones in concert, I knew I had to do it.

I was just a kid when he was on TV, but I remember watching his variety show with my mother. She, like many women in her day, was entirely smitten by him. Not only could the man sing, but he could Move. That's Move, with a capital M. Move in the way that, even just watching, your body remembers. Yeah, my mother would have been one to toss her bra and panties on stage if she'd gone to a show. (They don't still do that, by the way. I wish they did. I probably would have joined in.)

Today, Sir Tom is 78. It would be untrue to say that he is sexy for a man of his age. He is gorgeous and sexy for ANY age! The salt and pepper hair and beard, that freaking twinkle in his eyes...The man still has it. But when he started to sing, I nearly slid off of my seat. His voice is exquisite. It has always been extraordinary and it is still. Strong. Perfect. One of the songs he sang was Tower of Song, by Leonard Cohen. It is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Tower of Song.  He also did a slow, uber sexy version of his hit, Sex Bomb. Sexy with a capital S. Sexy in the way that even just listening, your body remembers--Listen for yourself::Sex Bomb on YouTube

Unfortunately, the Foxwoods audience wasn't well-behaved enough for me to completely immerse myself in the music. The group of entitled, middle-aged beer drinkers sitting right in front of me (six deep, men and women) were loud, continually in and out of their seats getting--guess what--more beer. When they weren't shouting to each other or drinking, they were on their phones or drunkenly begging my friend to dance with them. I guess I looked too irritated to bother asking.

Sir Tom sang and played with the audience for a full two hours, no break. When he broke into his fast hits like  Delilah, What's New Pussycat?, She's a Lady and It's Not Unusual, the crowd went wild. So did I.

And its no wonder. Guess when he was born? June 7th.Same day as Prince.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are no coincidences.

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Characters and Settings: How I Keep It Together #MFRWAuthors

I stumbled around for a long time trying to work out a system of getting characters and settings settled in my mind. I usually start with an actor who could play the character I have in mind. Being able to see real people makes their physical characteristics easier to describe.But after awhile I tended to mix them up with other characters in the book—or even another book. Sometimes I totally forget what I’ve written. My haphazard records didn’t ensure that my characters eye color or hair didn’t change from one page to the next. In 2009, everything changed. I discovered a book called Break Into Fiction by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love. I worked through all the exercises and pulled all my notes together. I didn’t have to generate new information about my characters but this book gave me a record keeping system.

Since then I’ve looked at several systems for creating characters and settings but none have been as helpful as this book. Moreover, I attended two weekend workshops with Ms. Buckham which cleared up questions I had.

I’m afraid I’m not as particular about settings. The ones in my books tend to be real places I have been or seen. For example, Zander’s apartment in House of the Rising Son is modeled after Brian Kinney’s loft in Queer as Folk. Although I may change a few things, having concrete places in mind keeps me from having settings change constantly.

Today when I have a new plot percolating, one of the first things I do is to pull out my copy of Break Into Fiction and tackle those worksheets. I may not come up with all the answers when I start but this system reminds me that I need to know them to finish.

I Like Keeping Them With Me #MFRWAuthor

You may have heard the warning about never making a writer mad at you or you will meet a disastrous end in their book. I will admit to having desire to serve justice in writing on occasion but I don't believe I have ever done it. What would be the point? It would serve as a reminder of my anger every time I read it. I've never had a family member in a story either. They just don't fit into the kind of stories I write. Last time I checked they were all human and not a rock star in the bunch.

On the other hand, I have a few friends who have appeared on the page. Ria and Jewell are composites of people I know. Auntie Vi, a major player in Volume Two of Cheyenne's story, has been in the background for awhile waiting for her curtain call. Chance, the star of WOLVES (from my upcoming New Adult urban fantasy) is very much one of my friends. I wonder if he will recognize himself. My doctor will make an appearance in WOLVES, at his request. Yes, you read that correctly. He asked to be a character in the novel. My doctor is a very cool guy.

In truth, my characters are more likely based on actors, sports figures, or musicians who have the look I am going for. I will base my character on those looks, changing some of the details here and there as I see fit. My take on their personalities comes from what feelings their looks evoke.

Often, I'll develop a character and spend months playing in that character's world but not finish a story about him (it's usually a him). A hundred percent of the time, however, these beloved characters will appear in supporting roles in other stories--sometimes multiple other stories. I suppose I like keeping my “friends” with me.

Finishing a Book: Complex Endings and Beginnings

I have friends who throw parties when their manuscript is finished. One even rented a hall, catered it, and signed books for the occasion. Others unceremoniously set it aside and start the next one. And others who throw up their hands in exasperation and declare they are sick of the whole thing, refusing to look at it again. I have elements of each of those extreme reactions, with a healthy dose of relief that comes completing a big project that is personally significant, and a little bit of grief that it's over. Not that I ever finish a manuscript. Rather, I am more likely to have it taken from me before I “edit all the life out of it”. Even after it has been sent off to the editor, I am likely to keep rewriting it in my mind.My best luck at letting go seems to be when I can bury myself in a new project. I keep a notebook of ideas and rely on a gem inside to intrigue me enough to pull me away.

There is so much that has to happen to successfully launch a book I am not sure how anyone finds the time to celebrate at all. And because for me, writing is something I'm driven to do, have no choice but to do, I forget what a monumental accomplishment completing a novel truly is. Going forward, I plan to honor my achievement by buying myself something nice. Some possibilities?

  • A Barnes and Noble shopping Spree
  • An Amazon gift card
  • A new tote bag
  • A fancy pen
  • A fancy journal
  • Chocolate

Hmm. Now that I look at these all in a row like that, it seems what I want for finishing a book includes only books and writing related things. Which bring me right back to writing. Oh, well.

Yes. Chocolate is involved. Chocolate is always involved. #don'tjudgeme

I Can Hardly Imagine Worse

I don't understand negative book reviews, and I have never been compelled to write one. If a book doesn't click with me, it doesn't click with me. Maybe if the book were racist, sexiest, and undecipherable, maybe I'd think that it would benefit society to hear my opinion. Otherwise, I recognize that nothing pleases everyone so if I read a book I don't like, I move on to the next book. My opinion about negative reviews was, unfortunately, exacerbated by my very worst one. You see, my worst review was also my FIRST review.

That's right. The very first review I received for my debut novel, HOUSE OF THE RISING SON, was a 1-star review. And it gets worse. The reviewer remarked, "I admit it. I skimmed it." She went on to say that she didn't like the main characters.

She hadn't even read it.

I am a realist. I hadn't expected the world to fall in love with me at first reading. I didn't think I was the next Laurell K. Hamilton. I just hoped some folks would find my book and enjoy the story, maybe connect with my characters. I knew that a book about a bisexual incubus with kids and a screwed up childhood wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. Still, I couldn't have anticipated that someone who "skimmed" the book would be so publicly and permanently negative. Yes, 1-star reviews are permanent. They affect an overall rating in a way that is difficult to overcome, mathematically speaking. Fortunately, I'm surrounded by kind, generous, and experienced authors who talked me off of the ledge. I recall, in particular, a letter from syndicated columnist and author Vicki Williams. Her words of support and encouragement meant (and still mean) so much to me.

For giggles I read the 1-star reviews of my favorite books.Doing so helped me to understand something about the review process. Since nothing pleases everyone and we live in a world where the internet makes it easy for people to express all sorts of views, negative reviews are the cost of being a writer. Our work is public, therefore opinions about it will be too. It is also clear to me that most people don't understand the ramifications of negative reviews and consequently don't hesitate to give a very low rating for peculiar reasons. For instance:

  • "I skimmed it."  How do you know if it was good or bad?
  • "I hated the cover." Not a commentary on the story.
  • "Just got the book, I'll change the review after I read it." No. Just no.
  • "Not the type of book I care to read." And that deserves a low rating?
  • "I skipped every scene this character was in...The book was confusing." Of course it was confusing.

Overtime, House of the Rising Son received more reviews, including many 4 and 5-star accolades. The fact that readers enjoy Cheyenne's story (and find him as sexy as I do) is encouraging, and has strengthened my commitment to continue writing. I do still read my reviews (can't help myself) but I take them for what they are: One person's experience. Bad reviews are going to happen. So are good ones.

Writing Contests: An Unfortunate Peek Behind the Curtain

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I don't “do” contests, either to enter or to judge. As a newbie writer, I competed in a couple of them early on, but a few meetings of various writer’s group cured me of thinking the feedback would be worth the money they charged. A writing group I'd joined spent several meetings trying to come up with money making ideas. One such idea was to offer critiques for a fee. Although I admit that I was skeptical of this as a fundraising strategy, I listened to seasoned writers refusing to “waste their time”. I listened to people with one or two books under their belts wanting to charge hundreds of dollars to read and comment on entries. I listened to someone who had never been able to pitch a book successfully wanting to charge to critique pitches and offer developmental critiques. The entire process had me wondering if we might do more harm than good offering such services.

For my first bad personal experience, I was in a meeting where the officers were giving an update on the progress of the contest. A simple discussion turned into a tirade by members of the club’s contest who apparently thought they were unduly burdened. For more than 40 minutes people complained. They were sick of the horrendous writing and burdened by the contest rules which required them to offer meaningful critiques. On and on they lamented about wasting their time on writers who were clearly clueless and never going to be publishable. Yes, they actually said these things and worse. I was mortified for those in the room who, in good faith, had submitted their work. I vowed then to never enter another contest.

I decided to never again judge a contest due to a similar ridiculous circumstance. I was asked to help my group out and critique a few contest entries. I was skeptical of my ability as I was newly published and still learning to be a better writer myself. But I figured I'd view my role as one of a beta reader and offer my take on the author's story structure and ability to draw me in as a reader. I explained this and was assured that my plan was in line with the rules/goals of the contest. I was also assured (and in fact, the rules of the contest stated explicitly) that the judges' feedback and scores would be anonymous.

Flash forward to weeks after the winners were announced. To my horror, one of the contestants approached me and complained about the score she'd received. As you might imagine, I was stunned. I did keep my cool, and reminded her to look at my comments and not just the score because I, in fact, liked her story. I scored her in accordance with the judges' rubric and offered meaningful and kind feedback. To add insult to injury, every time we ran into each other over the next year or so, she pointed at me and announced to whoever was nearby (including agents and editors!) that "she hates my writing".

Yes, I did go back to the contest's organizers to complain. I was assured there was "no way she could know". Funny. Because she did know.

By no means do I discount all writing contests. There are many notable competitions resulting in significant accolades and opportunities for winners and runner ups. My advice to new writers would be to investigate each contest thoroughly. Just a few sample inquiries: What is the reputation of the sponsoring group? Are there many participants? What are the qualifications of the judges? What kind of feedback will you receive?

Have you entered or judged any writing contests? What was your experience? I hope lightyears better than mine.

That Which I’d Rather Not Do

Some things fill me with such dread that I can’t bear to think about them for more than seconds before my pulse starts to race and my brain becomes fuzzy in its retreat from facing the horror. You know the kind of thoughts we all run from. The age of our parents, siblings, pets. The health of said loved ones. To stay sane, I can’t allow myself to truly think about those. In fact, I’ll stop right here. So let’s see, what else do I avoid doing?

I procrastinate deliberately and fully when it is time to change out our seasonal clothes. I used to store out of season clothes in bins in the basement. But I got tired of the seemingly endless trips up and down the stairs. First trips to bring up the next season's clothes, then again to put away the season's. Eventually I could not face that anymore and began storing the bins in the mudroom/pantry. They still have to be stacked and unstacked and dragged through the house to the bedroom for examination. I’m really getting to old for this shit.

Each season I promise I am going to try on every piece of clothing and pass on any that don't fit or look like I want them too. But after a few bins, I am tired and start finding empty drawers to shove them into. At that point I promise to throw away anything I put on through the season and don't like. Of course I never do. I know which ones of those items is not going to fit like I want so I don’t bother to even touch them.

Winter to summer transition is easier because the clothes are less bulky and I am more likely to find a place in my drawers and closets for all of them. Summer to winter is a nightmare because I love heavy sweaters but I can only fit a couple of them in the drawer that held 15 t-shirts. There are usually several empty bins left over when summer clothes are put away.

The real problem is transition time when the weather does not know if it is going to be warm or cold and I need a variety of weights. Procrastination is at its peak. I don't want to hunt in those bins for specific pieces of clothing. So I do what any true American does.

I go shopping.

Tell me, is there something you’d rather not do, ever again?