Feed Fat Mario

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How can you refuse that handsome face?

 

For those who haven’t heard the Fat Mario story it goes like this:  DH and I own a house in a rural are on about three acres of land.  Somehow it seems to have gotten out that we’re animal rescue people, because every so often a cat or dog shows up.  Fat Mario appeared right before Christmas.  He planted his furry orange butt on porch and yowled to be let in for hours.  He was rather rotund so we estimated that he was pregnant and started feeding him, figuring he’d wander back to his home if he had one.  If he didn’t have one, we’d bring him inside and advertise for his owners.  Since it was right before Christmas, we named this pregnant cat Mary.

Three weeks later, he was still hanging around so we brought him inside and made a vet appointment for him to be spayed if he wasn’t pregnant.  Imagine my surprise when they called and told me he was a neutered male.  Definitely not pregnant.  They re-named him Mario and since I have a friend with that name, we chose to distinguish him by calling him Fat Mario.

Fat Mario got adopted pretty easily.  Then he was returned for litterbox habits.  Turns out he had a medical issue and by the time we got that resolved, he and DH had decided that he wasn’t getting adopted again.

Fat Mario was very insistent that he be a foster failure and people love his roly-poly, uncoordinated antics, so who better to beg for reviews?

Trust me, he doesn’t take no for an answer.

 

 

Amazon

iBook

Barnes and Noble

My First Time at a Fetish Club

I’m in the midst of doing that new author thing.  Primarily I’ve been making the rounds in Facebook parties, signing up for book signings and jumping at all local opportunities to sell book and meet book lovers.

ALL OPPORTUNITIES.

Which is how I wound up at a book swap at a Goth/Industrial/Fetish Club last night.  I heard about it on my Facebook feed, where it showed up as an event three of my friends were attending.  It involved getting rid of books I’ve read to make room for new, free books.  Needless to say, I was in.  Then I found that the promoter had invited local authors to set up and sell.  Definitely in.

I feel like my story should be a lot more exciting, dangerous and sexy than it is.  I went and dropped off some books.  I sold one book to a good friend, while we hung out and a Wes Craven movie played on TV.  Like a vulture, I descended on all newly donated books as they arrived and slowly built a pile of books I won’t have the time to read.   A few people peered skeptically at my book with it’s pink beach-y cover as they walked past to the bar.  One or two people flipped it over and read the blurb.  The organizer was incredibly nice.

And that’s it.  But it sounds so much more fun when I say I took my husband to a fetish club on a Monday night.  So that’s what I’m going with.

 

 

Boom

The outpouring of support the fellow #RRRsurvivors and I have received is overwhelming.

 

About two weeks ago I got in contact with NBC12.  Diane Walker of 12 On Your Side, quickly contacted me back and was interested in doing a story about this author scam.  She spent a considerable amount of time gathering information, interviewing authors and attempting to reach out to the organizer, Lauren Calhoun.

 

NBC 12 story and video

 

I’m linking the story here, which perfectly summarizes everything.  The fact that Lauren has not returned anyone’s efforts at contact (including the news and the police) AND has failed to refund anyone’s money should speak for itself.  There is a lot she didn’t realize about the authors she was working with (note:  I can’t bring myself to consider her a fellow author).

This is a tough industry.  Most of us aren’t making money off of our writing.  At the end of the day we’re trying to get our businesses (being an author is a business) off the ground and to do that we rely on the integrity of our names.  That’s our brand.  Our names are precious to us.  Our reputations are years in the making.

 

I genuinely don’t believe she realized how deeply we value our industry, our names, and the work we’re producing.  As authors we’re all in this together and we all need to have each other’s backs.  Obviously she didn’t value her name, or her brand or her business or her industry, the way the rest of us do.  Since I posted this video clip on Facebook yesterday it has been viewed 16,000 times.  Other event organizers have reached out to offer us discounted tables at their events.  Other authors and promotion companies have sent swag to give out at our new event.  In the end, the thirty three of us still remaining are bigger, better and stronger.  We’ve taken a challenge and flipped it on it’s head.

 

So thank you to everyone for their love and support.  Thank you for caring, thank you for reading authors who work their tails off, thanks for organizing great events, thanks for buying books.  Oddly enough, I will walk away from this experience feeling more a part of the author community, more supported and more in awe of our industry, because I was scammed.  Betcha Lauren didn’t plan on that!

You Can’t Make This Shit Up

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I do horrible things to my characters.  In the first chapter of The Wedding Date, Kate’s phone plays a raunchy ring tone in an elevator full of her stuffy, uptight lawyer coworkers. She also recounts a story where her dog locked her out of her car while it was running.  (This happened to me).  Oh, and there’s a disaster with a wine glass, and a falling apart dress at a wedding, but I won’t spoil those for you.

I write these things because they happen to real people all the time.  And I make them funny because I’d rather laugh than cry.  Also, I like to laugh.

So what happens when something shitty happens and you can’t make it funny?  If you’re me, and the co-survivors of Richmond’s Readers Rehab #RRRsurvivor, you try harder.  Oh, and you share your story so it doesn’t happen to someone else.  Which brings me to the following.

Back in September I attended a great Richmond author event organized by Danielle Allen, author of The One, and her PA Geisha Indie Services.  It was fantastic.  In the middle of a hurricane all of these authors came together and had a blast with their readers.  I left knowing I want to be that kind of author:  the kind who is warm and welcoming, who has fun, and who connects with her readers.  So when I saw a sign up for Richmond Readers Rehab, I was all over it.  The event was scheduled a few weeks after my first book released and it was in my town, so it all seemed like fate.

Who knows.  Maybe it was.  Maybe I’m in this group of screwed over authors for a reason.  I hope so.

In the Fall one of the organizers pulled out stating a family medical issue.  The remaining organizer still planned to go forward with the event.  In February she sent a panicked email that reader tickets were low and she owed the hotel money.  A few other authors in my agency stepped up to organize things like promo, raffle baskets, swag bags, etc.  At that time she told us she had a $5,000 food and beverage minimum at the hotel.  She had paid the $1,000 deposit to hold the space.  The flyer announced over 60 authors signed up and the minimum registration fee was $85.  I know others who paid significantly more, including a sponsor who contributed $500.

A little over a week ago the organizer sent a panicked email threatening to cancel the attend for low attendance.  She’d told us she was locked into the hotel contract and wouldn’t be able to refund table fees unless people were “patient”, so again, several of us rallied to promote the event.  We arranged ticket giveaways with a few local radio stations and posted flyers at all the local book stores.

 

I began privately messaging her trying to figure out how much she owed and to whom.  My main concern was that if she cancelled, she had to refund table fees.  I didn’t want her to fall further into the hole and lose a lot of money on the event.  She told me she had paid the hotel food and beverage minimum in full and the charges “have been hitting my debit card”.  We called the hotel to make sure we could still hold the event and they informed us she’d never paid anything beyond the $1,000 deposit.

 

What follows is a cluster of epic proportions.  I’ve committed to publicly only stating facts I know and letting others draw their own conclusions.

  1. I messaged her that she needed to tell me immediately where the table fees had gone.  At this point she was only responding to messages (emails, Facebook) sporadically.
  2. Approximately two hours later she sent out an email stating the event was being cancelled because someone had been sending nasty emails threatening her, her family, her children, the event, and other authors attending.  She said the police had advised her to cancel the event and she’d filed a report.
  3. No one has heard from her since.
  4. One of the original organizers sent me screenshots from the Paypal account for the event.  The records show that the cancelling organizer had been using the Paypal account for personal expenses for a period of several months.  It does not show any money other than table fees being deposited in the account.
  5. I have reached out to multiple police departments and have been unable to confirm that the cancelling organizer filed a police report for harassment or threats.

Apparently this is not uncommon in the author world.  I’ve gotten dozens of emails and messages from people who say they’ve fallen victim to similar scenarios.  I genuinely hope she pays everyone back before the schedule event, but I’m not holding my breath.  According to the hotel, if she cancels the event and violates the contract she owes them about $20,000.  I don’t know how anyone comes back from that, in terms of finances or in terms of their professional reputation.

Meanwhile, the rest of us got together, secured a space and have decided to hold a free event for romance readers.  It will be awesome and I will post it on my blog, but for now, I think this post should stand alone.  I hope it will help someone avoid the same situation these fifty authors and I found ourselves in.  I’ll keep you posted in terms of how it plays out.

 

 

WOW

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For a writer I seem to be at a serious loss for words.

 

I cannot describe my gratitude to everyone for your love and support this last week as I launched my first book, The Wedding Date.  I’ll be blogging later this month about the ever present Imposter Syndrome, which I’m told plagues all adult human beings, but for now I have to say:  I have the best family and friends.  The best.  (This might be something all authors say, but in my case it’s true).

It has taken me awhile to catch up.  I was lucky enough to have blog tours with both Xpresso and Tasty Books (they each exceeded my expectations).  Meanwhile my agency Blue Ridge Literary and all it’s associated authors, as well as my critique partners Jules Dixon and Ekaterine Xia, have coached me through the process.  And my amazing friends and family have read my book and shared it with others, tweeting and instagramming and facebooking photos along the way.

 

I’ve tried to reach out to everyone individually, both the friends who’ve shared, and the bloggers and authors who’ve welcomed me into this crazy world.  Kelly Moran took time from her busy author schedule to coach me on deep point of view, back when I started writing.  This week many established authors including Marina Adair and Sarah Grimm joined in the Facebook party Megan Ryder and I threw to celebrate our releases.

 

I feel loved, guys.  And I hope you know I love you back.  So, with all my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.

A Cover and an Excerpt!

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She gave her hair one more pass with the brush and glanced in the mirror.
This isn’t a date. So why did it matter how she looked?
Her heart did a little tap dance. It mattered because James would arrive any minute to pick her up for dinner. The doorbell rang and Wally launched into his happy dance. His back half flopped from side to side, and his giant fluffy tail whipped through the air.
“Sit.” She pointed a finger at him and he immediately dropped his rear. That was another benefit to adopting an adult dog. They came fully trained.
She twisted the doorknob and pulled it open.
The sight of him tied her in knots. He was gorgeous in his khakis and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. A day’s worth of stubble dotted his chin and his gray eyes drank her in.
The room spun for a second. Without thinking she stepped forward to inhale his masculine, sandalwood-tinged scent and gripped his arm for support. She stared at him and fumbled for something to say. She could have sworn his lips were drawing her in, daring her to taste them.
Her stomach lurched and she dropped her eyes to the ground.
Not a date. She took a step back, then spun to grab her purse.
“Is this your dog?” The low rumble of his voice made her pulse skip.
She steeled herself before she turned her attention back to him. “Yes. This is Wally.”
People loved Wally. He was big enough to look intimidating but worked himself into a state of pure bliss every time he encountered a person. The only threat with Wally was the possibility of being accidentally whipped by his wagging tail.
“What kind of dog is he?” James knelt and Wally rested his head on James’s shoulder.
“Ummm, big fluffy black dog?” People asked all the time, and it was the best answer she’d been able to come up with. “There’s a rescue in New Jersey called Last Chance Resort.
They pull dogs from high-kill shelters in the South and transport them for adoption. I saw his face on their Facebook page and fell head over heels in love. They helped me adopt him and now he’s my baby.” She leaned over and rubbed Wally’s soft ears. He’d come closer to running out of time than she liked to think about.
“Was his name always Wally?”
Kate patted his thick fur. “Nope. He used to hide a lot, but he’s so big, he’d bury his head somewhere and think we couldn’t see the rest of him. I named him after Where’s
Waldo? because he’d always hide with his big fuzzy butt hanging out.”
He chuckled. “That’s one of the best dog names I’ve ever heard.”
Her face heated and she stared at her purse strap as she wound and unwound it around her hand. “Thanks.”
“All right, big man.” James scratched Wally’s ears. “Your mom and I need to head out.”
Kate’s heart skipped a beat. Few people understood her bond with Wally. In the last two years he’d become her best friend. Wally understood her and he’d gotten her through a tough period. It wasn’t the same as having a child, by any stretch, but Wally was her family. And Kate had very little family.
She followed him onto the porch and locked the door behind her. “Where are we going?”
James flashed a grin. “It’s a surprise.”
For a second she was lost in his eyes. They were piercing gray, but when he joked and smiled, they appeared lighter.
Then he turned to the car and she came crashing back down to earth. Get a grip.
He led her to the Range Rover parked on her street, opened the passenger door, and held out his hand to help her in. The warmth of his skin on hers was enough to make her heart race. How was she supposed to get through the next week without melting into a puddle of desire?

Festival of the Book

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One of the best parts of being in a smaller agency is the chance to meet with other authors and your agent on a regular basis. Our agency is based in Virginia, which works great for me because Virginia book events mean the chance to see lots of other authors. Even better is the fact that we have a lot of great authors at Blue Ridge. They make me laugh, all the time.

This year I went to Barnes and Noble for a panel led by Kimberly Dalferes, who writes non-fiction and has a wicked sense of humor. One of her books is titled “Magic Fishing Panties”. Doesn’t that already make you want to be her best friend? Magic Fishing Panties

Also on the panel were fellow BRLA authors Betsy Ashton and Ellen Butler. Recently Ellen has been a huge help to me as I navigate all the planning of my book launch. I had a chance to read the first hundred pages of a new spy novel she’s writing and the two of us have been helping organize Richmond Reader’s Rehab together, which is April 30th in Richmond VA. Needles to say, Ellen is a saint, and I’m pretty sure she’d destined to be my guru when it comes to balancing author life and regular life. Betsy is a riot. She writes mysteries with a quirky main character and announced during the panel on writing series that she re-wrote her first novel between ten and fifteen times.

The audience gasped. My agent Dawn Dowdle glanced at me. Yup, I also re-wrote The Wedding Date ten to fifteen times.

Also on the panel were Avery Flynn and Tracey Livesay. Avery was hysterical and Tracey really impressed me because she is completely no nonsense and went to the same law school as me. I think we have similar writing styles in that we plan and then get in there and get it done. Her newest book has a male lead with Asperger’s and was inspired by her son and her hope that he finds love in his future. You guys, I cried as she talked about it. And I’m cold hearted. Plus, her cover was HOT.

And then I got to cap it off with lunch, where we were joined by Colleen Shogan.

All in all, an awesome author get together and I have another to look forward to in April. In the meantime, get excited, because The Wedding Date comes out Monday and Megan Ryder and I are having a Facebook party April 7th….where we give away a Kindle Fire!

Fuck Cancer!

This was my friend Biz’s status last night.  I met her through her fiance, Andy and he lost his two year battle to colon cancer at 8:20 pm.  He was 34.  In honor of his life, everyone did a shot of Wild Turkey.  Unfortunately I missed the tribute to Andy, as we now live a few hours away, but I’ve been thinking of them constantly the last week or so since he entered hospice.

I’ve repeatedly found myself telling Biz and their friends, “If there’s anything I can do…”  I cringe every time I say it.  It’s one of my most hated phrases from my mother’s illness, but I get it now.  I love them and want to support them, but I know nothing I can do will take away the terrible pain and sadness  we all feel.  “If there’s anything I can do..” is the easiest way to say I love you, I’m thinking of you, I wish I could make this better for you.  Everyone on both sides knows it’s wholly inadequate and yet none of us can think of anything better to say.

This past Tuesday was the six year anniversary of my mom’s death to cancer, after a multi-year fight.  All of this has got me thinking, what can we really do to help someone who is sick, or someone who is losing a loved one to a long term illness?  If I’ve learned anything over the last six years, it’s that each of us handles these things differently.  I tend to revert to a stoic, tough exterior and to pull into myself.  I tell everyone, including myself, that I’m fine.  Even when my husband asks me how I am, and looks at me with pure understanding, I can’t force my walls down long enough to let myself feel all of the emotions.  They like to sneak up and catch me entirely off guard.  I’ve learned to let go of the idea that there is a right way to grieve.  What everyone wants or needs may be different, but there’s really only one rule:  Don’t forget.  If a loved one is diagnosed, don’t disappear.  Don’t feel like you need to avoid the subject.  Cancer treatment and the illness has become a part of their every day routine and identity.  Give them the opportunity to talk about it when they need.  Andy and I became closer when I ran into him after his diagnosis and asked him about his treatment.  To my surprise he thanked me for asking and explained that good friends and people he’d known for years had begun avoiding him.  He understood that they didn’t know the right thing to say, but their absence hurt more than any bumbling attempts to provide sympathy.  He and I became closer because I wanted to hear how he was doing and didn’t cringe away from details.  That one simple, “How are you?” led to a meaningful friendship with Andy and his fiance Biz, as well as a number of other friends we came to share.  Knowing them was one of the best parts of my life in Lexington.

In the end, I think that’s the only solid piece of advice I have.  Be present.  Remember.  Even six years after my mom’s death, I love when people stop to tell me a story or memory that involves her.  It doesn’t bring back the pain and sadness, I’ve learned to live with those feelings and to incorporate them into my identity without crumbling.  Rather, they help me feel less alone.  I like to know that her legacy exists not only through me, but through others.  I like to be reassured that my dad and brother and I are not the only ones who remember her every day.

For now, all I can say to Biz and Andy’s family is that I’m glad to have known him.  I will always remember his loyalty, his infectious smile and his smartass sense of humor.  I’m better for having had him as a friend and no matter where time takes me, I won’t forget him.