Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Truth Behind Your Profile Pic

I know most of you through the smiling faces of your profile pictures.  Some of them look professionally done.  Others look they were taken in a natural setting when you just happened to be smiling.  And others might be a cartoon or movie character or some significant piece of art or a label that you feel represents who you are here in the blogosphere.

I was thinking the other day about what kind of picture I’d want on the back of a book I wrote.  Most authors go out and get professional photo shoots just for the occasion.  Would I want a woodsy background?  Or would I go with some kind of solid color?  Or what about a sandy beach!...ooh...with sparkling turquoise water and white sands...and dolphins!?   

To be truthful, I haven’t had professional photos taken since my senior portraits about eleven years ago.  My blogging profile pic was taken when I was feeling particularly Jenny McCarthy-ish at a family get-together. 


Oh and that semi-professional looking one I use on my facebook account? 
Yeah, I had to cut all indecent parts out of the photo. 
If you zoom out you'll see I’m holding a beer in one hand and showing a little more boobage than a professional pic usually warrants (um, depending on the profession.)  Don’t believe me?  Behold: 

What’s the story behind your profile pic and what kind of background would you get for your author’s portrait?

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Are You Watching This Summer?

As most of my favorite shows came to their season’s end last month, I gotta say I couldn’t WAIT for True Blood to start back up.  I haven’t seen the first episode yet (no spoilers please:) but I’ll hopefully get to watch it on streaming tonight.  

Now, the hubs HATES any teen drama/paranormal shows so I have to wait until he’s not around and watch them on my computer.  I feel like I’m some kind of addict, hiding in a closet, snorting ABC family and the CW.

Shows that have sparked my interest this summer?-

TEEN WOLF – on MTV

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS- ABC Family

THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING – ABC Family

SWITCHED AT BIRTH- ABC Family

TRUE BLOOD- HBO

LOVE BITES-  NBC

What are you guys watching this summer or what are you looking forward to for this coming fall?

Hope you all had a good weekend!

*CQG*

Friday, June 24, 2011

Who's Bringing the Cake?

The French have a whole relationship with cakes that I haven’t  completely adapted to.  I still can’t eat yellow pound cake  for breakfast even though here it’s considered normal.  Or that chocolate cake or yogurt/lemon cake is often eaten for snack after school.  (It tastes too much like birthday cake without the frosting!)

The biggest difference in cake consumption, however is the yearly events- birthdays, holidays ect…  In France there is really no such thing as a ‘sheet cake’.   You can’t go to the grocery store and find a big ass chocolate or yellow cake covered in flavored lard mixed with sugar. 
And nobody here would dare make a cake for any special event.  Why should they when they can just hop over to the nearest boulangerie and get themselves one of these?:
strawberry and cream double decker called a 'fraisier'

Or these:
strawberry pistachio 'fraisier pistache'

Or these:
a 'mille feuille'- very thin layers of cake, cream, slate sugar, and chocolate

French cake is probably the most perfect dessert I’ve ever tasted- often involving fruit and cream and cake so light and airy it doesn’t take up nearly as much belly space as the chunks of compound carbs we Americans like to chomp down (with a large glass of milk on the side- in my case).

That said, when my birthday rolls around, (Which is coming up soon- July 1st!)- I make my husband get me an American type cake.  Even though they’re frozen and often involve Disney characters- They’ve got that double level chocolate cake and traditional frosting that I need in order to ‘feel’ like it’s my birthday:)  As you can imagine, my french relatives are less than impressed with my cake choice every year.

What’s your favorite kind of cake?  If you lived in France, would you be a stickler for sheet cake or would you bow to cultural cake consumption and head to your nearest boulangerie?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Raindrops on Roses

What ‘makes’ inspiration for you?  Is it a muse?  A person?  A place?  Or just the magic within, pure and simple?
For me, there’s a moment, right before a storm when the air is heavy with electricity and your heart beats faster, your instincts telling you something is about to happen.  All your senses are on high when mother nature gives you a heads up- something inside you rises to the occasion.  That feeling, the one where you feel like something huge is about to happen, something you don’t witness every day, something magical- for me that’s inspiration.  The feeling that anything is possible, any world, any story.

And then there are places that feel as though an entire tale is laid out for you already, just waiting to be told.  Everything about it has you wondering who walked these steps before you, what problems they might have had, who they were running from or who they were running to and what became of them-  It has you building ideas and outcomes in your head until you have no other choice but to spill them out and give that place a story.

What ‘makes’ inspiration for you?

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Dirty Little Secret

It’s not a secret exactly but I haven’t done much talking about my newest project other than mention it’s a YA romantic comedy- something I’ve never written before and also something I haven’t had a lot of experience reading. There are dramatic YA romances, contemporary romance or paranormal/supernatural/fantasy with romance.  And yes, some of them might have funny elements or situations, but I wouldn’t call them a comedy.

My current WIP, ‘Kissing for Coffee’ is a story about a girl who’s trying desperately to hold on to her status as the most popular girl in school and ends up starting a trend that spirals completely out of control. I haven’t perfected the query letter but this is a rough draft of the blurb:

After a freak dodge ball accident, seventeen-year-old Sadie Brook’s reputation has gone from ‘Princess of Popularity’ to the ‘Projectile Puss Wonder’.  She is desperate to keep up appearances.  So when her coffee geek,  Jake Sterling, decides he’s had enough of serving ‘her highness’, Sadie resorts to using her not-so-used womanly wiles in order to keep him in line.

But one secret kiss for coffee turns into something much bigger when word travels through Geekland that Sadie locks lips for her morning java.  She arrives at school to find her locker surrounded by a dozen candidates from the Land of Misfit Dudes- all of them holding coffee and hoping for the same payment.  In order to save face, Sadie kisses Jake Sterling in front of half the student body.  She never expected her friends to follow suit and take the geeks up on their offers.  

In a matter of days,‘Kissing for Coffee’ becomes the newest sign of popularity and a clear indication of desirability.  The more boys vying to hand you a cup, the more pretty and popular you must be.  Sadie has unknowingly lit the match on a full-out trend and it’s spreading through surrounding high school districts like wildfire. The owner of Coffee Lovers is contacting her, thanking her for the publicity.  News cameras are showing up at her school.  ‘Kissing for Coffee’ commercials are even running on TV!
 
But Sadie soon discovers that 'Kissing for Coffee' doesn’t only have its perks. 

She becomes the focus of controversy when Rebecca Marshall, President of the ‘Purity Waits’ club begins protesting against the act of ‘prostituting your lips out for a three dollar beverage’.  And then there’s Jake Sterling, whose deceptively talented mega mouth has Sadie craving his kisses at odd non-coffee hours.  Sadie needs to find a way to put a stop to the trend she set in motion before she ends up losing her popularity, her geek, and her coffee for good.

KISSING FOR COFFEE is (will be) a 70,000 word YA contemporary romantic comedy.


There you have it.  I’ve still got about 14k to go before it’s finished and I honestly have no idea how this kind of book will be received with agents.  There isn’t a huge call for YA romantic comedy out there.  What do you guys think?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Americans in Paris

One of the reasons I was so upset about losing my only American friend in France is because she was the first American I’d met here who was…how do I put this?...um… like me?--  In the sense that neither of us were:

Tourists.  I don’t think a lot of people realize just how many Americans visit Paris every year.  Throw a pair of mouse ears on top of the Eiffel Tower and you’d think you were at Disney on a Saturday afternoon.  American tourists are easily picked out by one of the following:
1. A fanny pack 
2. A baseball cap 
3. Socks with sandals 
4.Oversized sweatshirts or fleece jacket 
5. Sneakers (tennis shoes)
5. An ability to project their natural speaking voices loud enough to be heard within a 2 mile radius.

Married to filthy rich businessmen.  When I first arrived in Paris, my daughter was only about four months old so naturally I was excited to find a group of American mothers in the Paris suburbs.  After a couple meetings though, I realized I didn’t have much in common with these (very pleasant) ladies.  Their husbands were wealthy businessmen who had been assigned to France for some work-related project.  I visited their rented luxurious French suburban houses where most of the group members sat around complaining about …the French.  Or living in France.  Or their cleaning ladies.  They had nannies even though they didn’t work and spent most of their time at the gym or at the spa, getting coffee with friends, or meeting with their therapist.

Green to the point of actually sprouting roots.  The polar opposite of the rich American desperate housewife is what many refer to as the ‘Green’ mothers.  Now, I’m all for recycling your garbage, keeping an eye on power and water usage, buying local produce and I’d even go so far as to start a compost pile in our yard.  But the Green ladies I’m talking about are the kind of women who only wear recycled fabric clothes, don’t bathe more than necessary in an attempt to save our oceans, won’t go near a normal grocery store and married Frenchmen so they could live out their dreams of opening an organic breastmilk tapioca bar in the Parisian suburbs or something to that extent. 

 or High Culture Fanatics.  As a writer ex-pat living in France, I suppose I could be as eccentric as I wanted and everyone would just say  ‘Oh, well…she’s a writer in Paris.  Aren’t they all a little eccentric?’  Not all.  But many Americans who’ve chosen to come live in the bohemian city are a little eccentric to say the least.  Dressed like they’ve just stepped off the Gautier platform, (think Mad-Hatter top hats, square glasses and 'foulards') They hang out in the literary caf├ęs and have in-depth conversations about existentialist art or the feminist movement.

Needless to say, there is a reason I only had one American friend around here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

*CQG*

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If Your Ex was a Soap Opera Star...

Would you watch?  Well, that is the dilemma facing Stephanie Haefner’s main character Robyn Miller in her recently released novella SOAP DREAMS.   Check out the blurb!:

Robyn Miller is perfectly happy in her immaculate home, playing stay-at-home mom and devoted wife. That is, until she's channel surfing one day and sees her high school sweetheart Derek, acting in a lead role in her favorite old soap. Watching Derek's show becomes her secret pleasure...and brings back memories best forgotten. When Derek's mother throws him a big celebration in town, Robyn tries to avoid seeing him, but ends up in his arms for a dance. 

Derek has finally hit the big-time, but he hasn't found happiness. He regrets losing Robyn, and his show's ratings are falling. He longs to get her back in his life--both personally, and as a writer on the show. Those love scenes she used to dream up were Emmy material. Knowing her marriage is a sham, can he convince her to follow her dreams and give the show--and him--a shot? 

Today I’m super excited to welcome the author, fellow blogger and romance novelist Stephanie Haefner for an interview.  I first discovered Stephanie through reviews for her book A BITCH NAMED KARMA  (love that title) which was published by Lyrical Press in 2010.
Q: Have you always written romance ?

S.H.: No, actually! :) When I first started out, I wrote chick lit....that now taboo genre title! But everything I wrote revolved around romance and the relationship between my main character and her love interest. And I still write chick lit/women's fiction that focuses more on the main character's journey. For me, there are very thin lines between contemporary romance, chick lit, and women's fiction. 


Q: How did you discover Lyrical Press and what has your experience with them been like?

S.H.: It was a few years ago when I was searching for magazines and other publications that published shorter romance pieces. I had written Soap Dreams, and another shorty called Paradise Cove, for a romance mag. Nothing came out of it, but I had these stories and I wanted to find a home for them. I was searching www.duotrope.com and came across listings for digital publishers. I was intrigued immediately by Lyrical's website...such awesome cover art. They sounded like a good fit for a story I'd had on the back burner for quite some time (A Bitch Named Karma), so I sent it in. Two weeks later there was a contract in my inbox. They have been nothing but amazing since then. The owners are fantastic and I don't know if I've ever witnessed anyone so on top of their business. My editor is awesome...we clicked immediately. I had already known of her...she is also an author for Lyrical, and I'd loved the premise of her books.


Q:  Lately we’ve been discussing the Ebook revolution here on the blog and around the blogosphere.  As someone who’s already involved with an EPublisher, do you think it might be a better venue for some authors more than others ?  Why or why not?

S.H.: Yes. For erotic romance authors, there is SUCH a huge community in the ePublishing world. Let's face it, romance in general has a stigma attached to it...now add erotic romance, m/m, f/f, m/f/m, f/m/f, bdsm....it's pretty tough to find a place in the print publishing world for stories that are a little more risque. And I think readers are less likely to go to a Barnes and Noble to buy them anyway. I think it's safe to guess that many erotic romance readers read the majority of their titles on a Kindle or other eReader. 


Q: What was the inspiration behind SOAP DREAMS ?

S.H.: The idea came to me a while back, when out of the blue I'd come in contact with my high school boyfriend online. He'd told me he was pursuing acting and modeling. And it kind of blew me away. He wasn't exactly model or actor material when I'd dated him!! (There is actually a scene in the book where the mc wonders "Where did those washboard abs come from? He hadn’t had those in high school." And I imagined him showing up on the soap opera I watched every day. What would I do if I suddenly saw him on tv??? 


Q: How long did it take you to write SOAP DREAMS and have you found your writing process has changed since your first book?

S.H.: This is a shortie, only about 17,000 words. The first draft was under 10,000 though, since that was the max word count for the magazine I was originally targeting it for. So, it probably only took a few weeks. But then when I was gearing up to submit it to my editor at Lyrical, I needed to bump the word count to 15,000, their minimum. Probably took another week or so. :) My process has most definitely changed since writing my first book. I had no plans back then. Now I do plot, though not extensively like some. But I make tons and tons of notes as I go. I do more characterization ahead of time. Now I write with the business end in my mind...I recently started a new story and already I am crafting a query, and will probably write the synopsis right along with it. 

I just wanted to add that I’m always so impressed by authors who are able to write a short stand alone story that hooks us onto the character and into their plight in so few words.  It’s definitely not as easy as it might seem.

Some fun questions :

Q: Where do you do the most brainstorming for your stories ?

S.H.: No specific place...stories come to me at the most random times and places..the shower, in bed, driving around town, hanging with my family or friends.

Q:  What is your favorite snack food when writing ?

S.H.: Depends...sometimes I crave sweet, other times, salty! I would love to snack on chips or chocolate all day, but I have to be good.....it's usually a granola bar, Nutra Grain bar, pretzels, almonds, etc...

Q:  If you could choose a superpower what would it be ?

S.H.:  Hmmm.....I would love to be able to just teleport myself and my family wherever we wanted to go. Disney World for the day, sure! Hollywood for an awards event, presto! Rainy day at home...boom, we're in Hawaii!

Q:  Who is your favorite character from one of your own books and why?

S.H.:  Oh, it has to be Lexi from A Bitch Named Karma! She's been with me the longest and we've been through so much together. She was the first character I wrote who was such a departure from who I am...it was so fun and so liberating! She says what's on her mind! She makes no apologies. But she can be the most loyal friend ever. 

Thanks so much to Stephanie for stopping by and please check out her and her books at her blog or through Lyrical Press! All commenters will be entered to win a Grand Prize Drawing!! A signed copy of A Bitch Named Karma (US only, sorry), and digital copies of both Paradise Cove and Soap Dreams!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cry Monster

Today’s ‘living in France’ post doesn’t have much to do with French culture.   Yesterday I said ‘goodbye’ to my only American ex-pat friend. 

She was my go-to American friend here in France.  We actually met through Babycenter.com six years ago. and started getting together for Thanksgiving and Halloween every year, celebrated birthdays with our kids and had green beer on St. Patricks Day- stuff the French don’t really understand.

So as you can imagine, I was a little sad when I heard the news she was moving ‘back’- don’t know who I’m going to celebrate all that stuff with anymore.   But I was also excited for her and her family, a little envious that things worked out so well for them going back to the U.S. after living nine years in France.

But as the time for ‘goodbye’ drew closer, I couldn’t ignore the strange heavy weight in my chest I’d had for the last two days.  Or the lump in my throat as I was heading towards our final ‘lunch’.  And finally, yes, the tears - lots and lots and lots of tears.  In fact I was pretty much an incoherent sniveling mess the entire time. The 'cry monster' totally took over- which is so unlike me.  I’m not usually an overly-emotional person. Plus I look absolutely ridiculous when I cry (squeaks, strange noises, snot, red blotchy face...you name it) so I try not to do it too often in public.

She was just as upset- after all she was the one leaving her whole life behind.  But anyone walking by would have thought she’d just told me someone died.   I felt like a total freak.  After some serious introspection I still couldn’t tell you why her departure is hitting me so hard.

I think it’s an accumulation of things.  Living in a foreign country is a choice.  That doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice or that it’s easy to live with all the time.  Even though I love it here, there are times I wish I was closer to some of the people I love.

But after awhile you get used to missing people – Family, friends, everyone who saw you grow into adulthood.   And I think the hardest part is knowing my friend is now one more person ‘on the other side’.  Another person I have to miss.  We’ll connect through facebook and skype like I do all my other family.  But it’s not the same.  She was really here. And now she’s not. 

Sorry to poo on you all this Friday with my melancholy.  Guess homesickness is just another part of 'living in France' and it comes in many weird shapes and forms.

Hope you all have a good weekend!

*CQG*

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Coincidence? I think not.

‘Coincidence’ is one of those plotting tools used in basically every storyline ever told – Those instances where things just kinda ‘happen’? 

The guy the MC has her eye on just ‘happens’ to sit next to her in class. 

The antagonist just ‘happens’ to be at the right place at the right time and discover exactly the secret the MC is trying hide.

Other times the character’s motivation and actions are trying to promote one outcome when ‘coincidence’ has things going in a completely different direction.

Like when a bunch of human-blood-drinking vampires ‘just happen’ to show up to a family baseball game and then ‘just happen’ to decide to chase after the mortal MC because she smells good.

And then there’s that ‘funny coincidence’, like in the commercial below. ( funniest commercial I think I’ve ever seen)



The difficulty with coincidence is that for the writer, nothing happens by accident.  Everything the characters do and say and every turn their lives take has been pre-plotted in order to help our story play out.

 The hard part is making things seem natural and plausible without being obvious about where it’s all going.  The last thing you want is a reader feeling like things ‘kinda happen’ just because ‘they kinda have to’ in order to move along the plot.

So tell me, what kind of coincidences do you use or notice most in your work or books you’ve read?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Today I Don't Feel Like Doing Anything

It’s official.  I don’t want to go to work anymore.  As a matter of fact, I don’t really want to do anything anymore.  It doesn’t help that the weather in France has been sunny and hot for the last few weeks.  My entire body is convinced I should be on vacation and every morning each one of my cells is chanting ‘call in sick!’  ‘ call in sick!’. 

Alas, I still have a few more weeks before true freedom shall ring.

Also- it seems like I’ve been having ‘mood swings’ when it comes to my current wip.  Sometimes I sit down and reread chapters and think ‘this is good stuf!’. 

Other times…well, let’s just say I start to wonder if I should let anybody else read this thing ever.   Every word seems lame.  I know I probably just need to take a step back, get some sleep and wait for my enthusiasm to return. 

So instead of writing, I’ve been watching back seasons of ‘Degrassi: the next generation’.  The episodes are only 20 minutes long and I’ve been popping them like they’re m&ms.  It’s almost as mind-numbing as ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ (but not quite).  Shows like these actually make me feel like a better writer.  At first I didn’t realize Degrassi was Canadian until they whipped out the ‘oot and aboot’ and used the phrase ‘coo coo banana’s’ in place of ‘crazy’.  Ah, those Canadians;)

What about you? What do you do when your in a funk?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Let's Eat Out(side)

After seven years I still don’t quite understand the French’s obsession with eating outdoors.  My husband used to look at all the big American houses with their impressive porches, decks, and backyard bbq’s and ask ‘Why don’t Americans eat outside all the time?  If I had a deck like that we’d eat outside from May through September!’

 Whenever I asked my mother-in-law why just about every summer meal is consumed outside (weather permitting)- she explained it’s because  ‘c’est agreeable’- it’s nice!  I guess being cooped up all winter and forced to eat indoors is kind of depressing to the French.  It never really bothered me, growing up in Connecticut.  We'd eat outside from time to time in the summer but most meals were consumed indoors.

I agree that on some occasions, like a picnic under a shady tree or a night time meal out on a screened-in veranda, eating outdoors can have a romantic, breezy feel to it that is pretty ‘nice’.
  
But to be honest I’m not a huge fan.  I’m more like those carnivores who prefer to take their dead carcasses to some isolated, shady place.  I don’t want it out in the open where bugs can get on it.  I don’t like wind blowing hair into my mouth when I go to take a bite or feeling as though I might faint of heat stroke before I get through the main course when the sun is actually cooking the food in front of me.

What about you?  Do you prefer to eat outdoors like the French or are you an indoor person when it comes to mealtimes?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When a Query Quits

I’ve never consciously stopped querying one of my projects.  It’s something that just kind of happened with each one over time.  I queried my first book pretty widely.  I must've hit up about a hundred agents.  I got seven or eight requests that never led anywhere before I moved on and wrote my second book, consequently placing my first ms on the shelf.

Then I wrote the contemporary romance and only queried that for a month or two because I felt it wasn't 'the one'.  It had been a lot of fun to write and was a great exercise in everything I'd learned but it still wasn't ready so I only sent out about twenty queries for that and had about three requests that didn't go anywhere.

I finished FOSSEGRIM and started querying it in October.  I've sent out around 80 queries and have had seven requests which resulted in rejections.  I didn’t think I’d give up with this one because I really felt like it was ready and just needed to find the right person.  

However, now that my new YA romance is underway I’ve pretty much stopped querying FOSSEGRIM without realizing it.  I sent out the last query over a month ago and since then I haven’t been actively seeking representation for it.  I do plan on querying agents with my new project when it’s ready, though. 

So, I guess I’ve decided to move on.  But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on FOSSEGRIM all together.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I can do with FOSSEGRIM.  It was originally meant to be a trilogy- each book told through the eyes of one of the main characters.  And after doing research on the new trends in Ebooks, self publishing and Epublishing- I’m thinking FOSSEGRIM would be a good fit for that route and will begin looking into it soon.

When do you finally stop querying agents with a project and why?

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