Thursday, February 25, 2010
(Post Number 257, that is) Wherein I say, farewell!
Oh, I'm not going anywhere...but my blogging is. For reasons I explain on the NEW blog, I'm more or less retiring Erotica with Soul. Of course all the past posts will stay here in their resplendent glory, but I don't currently plan on updating.
So please git yourself on over to the where it's all happening now. I said git. When you get there, it should look something like this:
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Everyone wants to be liked, but for entertainers--be they artists, musicians, actors, or writers like me--the matter is a little more serious. The old adage "you can't please all the people all the time" is true enough, but entertainers better be pleasing more than a few, or they are out of business fast.
That said, few of us want to be "sellouts." That is, we don't want to be slaves to public opinion, with nothing to say but what we think you want to hear. There may be money in that, but there's no satisfaction, nor are we making much of a contribution to art.
So it's quite a balancing act. As for me, I have a passion to be original, but at the same time, I really hate the "I'll write what pleases me and I don't care who else likes it" attitude. If I'm not entertaining and/or edifying anyone but myself, I should just shut up!
I'll admit though that I'd love huge popularity as much as the next person. Who wouldn't find it flattering to have their book on the New York Times Bestseller List, to be invited to be on talk shows, to get a movie deal? So I, like many of my fellows, am forever wondering what might be the next hot thing that half the world is dying to read about. If only there were some reliable way to know!
This very issue was addressed this week, of all places on the Sirius XM Broadway Channel. Host and Broadway genius Seth Rudetsky gave a little rant about popularity. He brought up how the now-famous and successful show "Avenue Q" was pooh-poohed when it first debuted. A musical with Sesame Street-style puppets singing about adult subjects like racism and homophobia and pornography? What audience was there for something like that? But shock of shocks, it became an enduring hit. Seth also brought up a favorite of mine, the TV show "Glee." Who would have thought a show about high school show choir kids would amass the rabid following it has garnered in merely a half season?
The point, according to Seth, is this: NO ONE KNOWS what is going to be popular. There is no way to predict it, no formula or science that will reveal a sure way to create a smash hit. The obscure beginnings of books like Harry Potter and Twilight and Carrie gave no sign that their authors would become wealthy celebrities. So if you're an artist, the best thing to do is be true to yourself, create what you do best, and not worry about popularity at all.
This is the first time I heard such a philosophy explained that way and it really hit home. It was so nice to have the burden lifted of trying to guess what might make it big!
I have a couple personal anecdotes to share here which really relate, I think. First anecdote: While my book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire has gotten like 95% great reviews, more than a few reviewers have suggested it was written simply to capitalize on the vampire romance craze. Well I can't speak for the motivations of my publisher when they originated the idea. But I accepted the project because I'd loved vampires all my life and had written vampire romance before anyone heard of Twilight. I had all kinds of ideas concerning vampire dating and couldn't wait to put them on paper.
I think this fact shows in the content of the book itself. As a reviewer wrote just this past week, "I love Diana Laurence's approach on an already heavily populated subject matter. She turned a prevalent idea into something unique." That's because I was sharing my own true insights, not trying to ride someone's coattails. Okay, that's the tooting-my-own-horn side of the issue. On the flip side....
This past week a reviewer also called the book boring. I admit it, she really disliked it. Which serves as my second anecdote and proves the point that no matter how an artist strives to produce something 100% irresistible, he or she just can't. You might have a dozen people who just adore it and become fans for life, but there will also be that occasional person who not only isn't won over, he or she actually thinks you sort of suck. There's no accounting for it.
And as Seth so wisely expressed, there's also no accounting for what will not only get an overwhelmingly positive reaction (every one of my books has that) but rise to prominence and widespread fame.
The past couple weeks I've watched as someone who created a "Can This Pickle Get More Fans Than Nickleback [sic]?" Facebook group amassed going on 1.4 million members. There's just no predicting something like that. Likewise Cake Wrecks, LOLcats, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Yup, a person has to just do his/her thing and try to make the world a better place in whatever size way comes to pass.
Monday, February 01, 2010
Those of us who keep track of the hottest villains in cinematic history have had to bump a new member to the head of the class: Christoph Waltz, who appears in Quentin Tarantino’s latest gem, “Inglourious Basterds.” The Austrian actor portrays Hans Landa, the Nazi officer known as “the Jew Hunter,” and his performance has garnered some two-dozen-plus acting award nominations and a growing list of wins.
(It’s always nice when I crush on someone age-appropriate.)
This character makes Anthony Perkin’s Norman Bates seem sane, and Malcolm MacDowell’s Caligula look nice. In case you haven’t seen the film yet, I won’t ruin any of the surprises...but suffice it to say, he commits all kinds of traditional Nazi acts of despicable vileness. The thing that sets Hans Landa apart is not so much what he does as how he does it.
Like the most well-bred of princes, he wields gestures both charming and graceful, all the while maintaining an air of menace so overpowering that you pray to just get it over with (whatever horror “it” will prove to be). Does his smile seem bright and congenial? Give it a second and it will wax demented and terrifying. And if you’re entertaining the hope that you might outsmart him, forget it—he’s three steps ahead and is simply toying with you.
In rereading that paragraph, I find that it could just as easily describe a number of characters that have come before Hans Landa. The charming but lethal Nazi is, after all, a cinematic cliché. I’m afraid words just can’t do justice to this particular performance, to this character who is equal parts fascinating and horrifying, and both at the same time. Mad props to Tarantino for writing him—and as I writer I recognize that element of the brilliance—but as Q.T. himself has said, it is Waltz who raises Landa to a triumphant level.
I think perhaps it is because Hans Landa is so utterly convinced of his own righteousness and even benevolence that he comes across not as an evil fellow who can feign charm, but rather a man whose graciousness is actually—somehow!—sincere. He seems to think he is utterly right, perfectly congenial, amusing, amiable, even while he inflicts unspeakable brutality on his fellow man. He is, in short, completely mad; and even after you embrace this truth about him, the depth and quality of his insanity will stun you again and again.
As will the fact that Hans is, somehow, likeable.
Not that a guy like this can evoke any true emotions but hate and fear...but he is endlessly entertaining to watch, from his employment of perfect English and French along with the German (it’s awesome that all the characters speak the languages they are supposed to), to his chess-player-style cool logic.
Why is it always so amusing to be attracted to characters who make your skin crawl? Just one of those quirks of the human race, I guess. I’m sure the last thing on Christoph Waltz’s agenda in executing this incredible performance was to be sexy, but I’m afraid like countless well-portrayed villains before him, he definitely is.
Next up, Waltz will be appearing as Sigmund Freud in “The Talking Cure,” scheduled for a 2011 release. I’m so glad he has finally broken into American film and only wish I’d discovered him before now. In the meantime, he’ll be raking in more deserved awards for his role as Hans, the least of which is his inclusion on my list of favorite film villains of all time.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Of all my blog posts, none is so popular as “How to Get Over a Crush” (not even the one I did about Erin eSurance, LOL). It’s obvious this problem plagues a good portion of the population.
One of the commenters on the post raised a very good question last week, and I promised to address it with its very own post. Rachele told me about her crush on a work associate and her temptation to leave her long-time boyfriend for the man. The problem? She’s lost the romantic feelings for her boyfriend, even though she knows he loves her. But Rachele is no dummy; she recognizes that she may be chasing a dream that can never be realized.
I’m a fiction writer, not a psychologist, but you can bet I have a few things to say about Rachele’s situation. So at the risk of attracting lovelorn googlers in droves once again, I will share them with you.
Anyone can figure out that a person you don’t know as well as you know your partner can be misleadingly attractive. If s/he has enough traits that appeal to you, your romantic imagination will fill in the blanks with all kinds of irresistible qualities. Your mate, on the other hand, is very much a known quantity. You know all about his/her flaws. You’ve discovered the incompatibilities. The mystery is gone, you can’t help but take each other for granted, and you wonder if you should trade for a new model.
It may actually be possible that the new person has opened your eyes to the shortcomings of your current relationship. You may indeed have settled for less, or gotten involved for the wrong reasons, or truly grown apart. The important thing is mentally to set aside the new guy or gal, eliminate them from the decision-making process, and take a clear-headed look at the pros and cons of what you have.
The litmus test for a good, “keeper” relationship is not “spark.” Feelings of romance, adulation, and raging sexual attraction are wonderful (I should know, I write that stuff), but they are not requirements for long-term love. In fact, familiarity inevitably dims them.
Instead, look at your partner and ask yourself these ten questions:
1. Does s/he make sacrifices for you? Is the relationship one of fair give-and-take?
2. Is s/he honest, loyal, trustworthy, faithful? (That sort of person is not as commonplace as you think.)
3. Is s/he reliable, dependable, there for you even when it’s not pleasant to be so?
4. Does s/he respect you, bolster your self-esteem, treat you well in the presence of others?
5. Does s/he support you in your personal goals and believe in your ability to achieve them?
6. Do you share a similar (or mutually respectful) attitude about important issues like religion, politics, family values, having or not having children?
7. Is it typical, when the challenges of life don’t interfere, for you to enjoy being together doing just about anything?
8. Do you have a reasonable amount in common, shared interests and tastes? And for those you don’t share, do you take an interest just for the sake of the other one?
9. Can you communicate effectively in spite of your personality differences, especially when mutual understanding takes some effort? Are you both willing to put in that effort?
10. Do you have a mutually satisfying physical relationship? (This has nothing to do with any perception of “normal” or “average”; all that matters is that you are both content.)
I have had one marriage that was sorely lacking in nearly all these areas, and one that succeeds in all ten, so I know whereof I speak. My current marriage is not perfect, and yes, there was a rocky time when I was even tempted like Rachele. But enough of the ten areas were strong and healthy that it was worth it to work on those that needed improvement. On the other hand, in my first marriage (which scored about a 1 out of 10), there absolutely wasn’t enough to work with.
In my humble opinion, if you examine your current relationship and find most of these areas to be healthy, you shouldn’t throw over your partner no matter how thrillingly attractive the new person appears to you. You have a solid thing going. It may not always be exciting, vibrant, and exhilarating, but if you switch to the new love-object, in a few years (or even months) he or she will likewise lose that luster.
And the day will come soon enough, believe me, when having a caring, trustworthy, devoted best friend will mean a lot more to you than having a partner in heated romance.
For the latter, I recommend fantasy and fiction. Which brings us back to my real job. :-)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I suppose this is as good a topic as any for Christmas Week....
A new visitor to this blog might not expect this of the author of a blog with “erotica” in the title, but anyone who knows me at all is well aware: I am a total goody-goody. Yes, even about sex, which I really want to be wholesome and healthy all the time. While I’m anything but perfect (I could list dozens of faults for you, but that would not be Christmas-y, LOL), I am also a ridiculously upstanding citizen. I have fears of and/or aversions to drugs, drunkenness, breaking the rules (even jaywalking), sexual perversions, cruelty in any form, etc.
Meanwhile, I harbor no illusions that reality is a safe or comfortable haven for goody-goodies, as must as I wish it were so. You see, I grew up influenced equally by Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals and the terrible headlines of the late 60’s. I love books and movies with happy endings, but I’ve found very few people in real life who behave anything like the fictional characters I idolize. I spent 15 years married to a gay man who (understandably really) was unfaithful to me for all of them. Meanwhile, I am now married 15 years to a man who has been faithful to me for all of them.
Life has certainly sent me a mixed message.
I am not really changing topics now, as you will see shortly.
My regular readers know that I spent a lot of months quite devotedly fixated with Neil Gaiman. Certainly that wasn’t the only crush upon which I’ve expounded here, but probably the one you could most thoroughly study were you interested enough to go back to all the posts (and who would be? LOL).
So what happened with that? Well, as always happens, I eventually saw enough about him that I didn’t like, and my infatuation died. Don’t get me wrong, I still admire (and one might even say am still in love with) the genius qualities about the man. I certainly adore his work. but I couldn’t sustain the romance with those faults just so up-in-my-face. The emotions went dormant...they only come out occasionally when they are directed toward an utterly imagined version of Neil that is obviously all my concoction.
I recognize that it is neither fair nor reasonable for me to withhold my infatuations from less-than-perfect guys. I know all about real life and real people. But I just can’t help it. When the guy I crushed on all freshman year was snide in the way he signed my yearbook, I was devastated. I’ve reacted likewise to idols who have (1) gotten arrested for public drunkenness, (2) “defected” to another sports team, (3) been caught using drugs, (4) treated their fans coldly, (5) divorced their wives for other women, etc. (I’m not referring to Tiger Woods here, but you can guess my opinion of him.)
Christmas is a very romantic time to my mind. Just as we all strive to find the perfect gift, throw the perfect party, have the perfect family gathering, at holiday time I think about perfect romance. I get really sentimental about whatever celebrity I might currently be dreaming about. So more than ever, my demanding goody-goody heart cannot tolerate less than heroic behavior.
A few days before Christmas this year I glommed on to my holiday-time fixation for 2009. I saw singer/songwriter Ben Folds as a judge on the NBC show “The Sing-Off.” I can’t resist anyone who can talk intelligently about music, particularly in such an upbeat and good-natured way. I checked out his music more fully and found I really love it.
The Internet is a curse to goody-goodies such as myself. You can hold on to your illusions about a celebrity for only as long as it takes to Google them and read some biographies. Ben Folds’ “crime” is that he’s on his fourth wife. Now the rational, cynical, coldly realistic part of me says, “You can’t judge a guy (a) when you’ve never walked in his shoes and (b) when you don’t know him in the slightest.” My best guess is that Ben is like most people: really wonderful in many ways, really terrible in others, and no worse than average.
Still, my goody-goody self yearns for a man who can talk brilliantly about music in an upbeat and good-natured way, and also has no flaws at all. Yes, I know I’m a terrible person. Didn’t I mention that right up front? The best I can do is be in love with the part of Ben Folds that initially caught my fancy, and give the rest of him the benefit of the doubt. That sort of works, but not as well as I would wish for. Bummer, but that’s life.
That said, what keeps my goody-goody hopes alive is that not all my idols have done things to let me down. I’m sure they’ve got faults too, but they are not such apparent and glaring ones that I can’t overlook them, even with my insane standards. A couple of examples of my personal heroes who have not failed me in any respect are Guy Carbonneau and Les Stroud. Both of them are brilliantly talented in their respective fields, and seem also to be good, principled, disciplined men.
While I don’t necessarily fantasize about these two every night anymore (not that I’m admitting I ever did, ahem!), I can and do think of them fondly whenever they come to mind. I appreciate and treasure them for being in that tiny category of heroes that have managed to remain on their pedestals. And icing on the cake is that both have had actual personal dealings with me and treated me with great kindness.
By the way, there’s one more guy in this tiny, special category that I should mention: The one I’ve been married to for the past 15 years. I figured out pretty fast that David was a man of principles and integrity, and time has proven me right.
I may have a ridiculous way of crushing and uncrushing on people, but in the final analysis, I’m no dummy.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Three years ago I blogged about my favorite holiday fantasies and I’m in the mood to indulge again likewise. While my real life is pretty darn good Christmas-wise (happy, healthy, employed family; super awesome husband; great cats hiding under the tree, etc.), it’s still fun to imagine the holiday in some alternate universes....
A Dexter Christmas in Miami. The charming serial killer takes me for a ride on the good ship Slice of Life, as the sun sets on a glorious tropical day. His boombox plays “Christmas Island,” Jimmy Buffett carol covers, and steel drum songs, and we sip mojitos. Dexter’s heart blooms with holiday cheer as I tell him that even though I know all about his nefarious career, I completely get it. No one should be alone on Christmas, after all! Forget Rita and “the kids” for now; this is a night for me to enjoy Dexter’s wit and dangerous good looks.
A “Lie to Me” Christmas in Las Vegas. Cal Lightman takes me on a preview of the Strip (I’m going in real life in January for the first time), for who better knows the ins and outs of Vegas? Watching him see through every poker face, and listening to him whisper about hidden truths in that great British accent, I’m eager to get him back to our glamorous suite. We’ll eat pricey hors d’oeuvres from room service, drink champagne, and play Truth or Dare. Of course he always wins, but that’s not a bad thing....
WMHS Christmas Concert with Mr. Schu. In this one I can sing exactly like Idina Menzel, and get to join the “Glee” gang as guest artist at the McKinley High Christmas Concert. What fun being conducted by the handsome and sexy Will! He and I bring the house down with our duet of “O Holy Night” (what a voice he has). But my personal favorite moment is singing and dancing with him to “The Christmas Waltz.” Of course, afterwards in private he’ll treat me to a glorious performance of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Whatever you are, Mr. Schu.
The Merlotte’s Christmas Party/Fangtasia Holiday Bash. I just have to jet down to Bon Temps to hang out with the gang at Merlotte’s. Definitely will need to get Sam, Bill, and Jason all under the mistletoe. Wow, that would be something, wouldn’t it? And just as good would be hanging out with the vampires at Fangtasia. I’m sure Eric would be in a generous mood for the holiday. I’d be happy to sit at his feet waiting for a little nip, and I don’t mean eggnog.
Holiday Time in Alphabet City. As much as the storyline of “Rent” pulls no punches about the downside of life, I’d sure love some candlelight time with Roger and Mark in their cold New York apartment. We could sing carols (and my favorite songs from the show) while Roger played guitar. Mark could teach me how to play dreidel. Two guys for one girl? Heck, that’s la vie boheme, right?
A Christmas Drink with My Favorite Doctors. Speaking of two for one, I could take a side trip to New Jersey and swing by Princeton Plainsboro Hospital. Imagine martinis with Drs. House and Wilson...now that would be interesting. And by “interesting,” I mean, hard to decide which guy is sexier. And what could be more festive than watching House annoy Wilson while they each get progressively tipsier? I’d definitely volunteer to be designated driver in order to spend the night in that nice new condo of theirs.
Four Calling Nerds (yes, that’s a weak 12 Days of Christmas reference). Call out for Thai food and let’s play Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock under the tree! Yes, for some inexplicable reason I’d love to enjoy some holiday time with Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj from “The Big Bang Theory.” Now that I know how to play with dreidels, Howard could explain the physics. Leonard could provide some nice music on his cello while rolling his eyes at Howard. Raj wouldn’t speak at all of course, but he’d look darn cute. And Sheldon could say anything at all and I’d love it. I’m sure he’d wear a Christmas sweater with a diagram about quasars on it.
Christmas with My Dear Vampire Conner. How could my holiday be complete without celebrating with the hero of How to Catch and Keep a Vampire? As those of you who have read the book know, Conner was alive, er, undead in the time of Shakespeare. Consequently he knows how to celebrate Christmas in the 15th Century way, complete with decorating the Holy Bough, singing Medieval carols accompanied by the lute, and doing those incredibly cool Renaissance dances like the pavane. He’ll make a fine blaze in the hearth, pour us some nice hot wassail, and tell me stories literally of Christmases long, long ago. It will be my pleasure to give him a little holiday draught, and then he’ll sing me to sleep by singing the Coventry Carol. Lovely.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I supposed I asked for it.
My book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire is starting to raise questions like this one, and I realized it would be handy to have a blog post that addressed it, so I’d have a spot to refer those inquiring along these lines. For example, a fan of the book recently asked me, “I want to meet a vampire, but I’m too shy to approach one, especially since they are so attractive...what can I do to get over my shyness?”
So let me start by saying, I have an aversion to being a buzzkill, especially when the “buzz” involves being imaginative. For example, let’s say you’re talking to fellow fans of a TV series. Let’s work with the example of “True Blood.” Everyone is going off about how much they’d love to date Bill, how cool it would be to talk to him about Civil War days, how dreamy his eyes are, etc. I’m not going to be the one to say, “Look guys, there is no Bill, and I doubt that Stephen Moyer knows anything special about the Civil War.” Au contraire, I’m going to be the one saying, “If Bill came to Milwaukee, I wonder where I’d take him on a first date.”
Recently at one of my book signing appearances, an obviously very intelligent and mature teen girl asked me, “Have you had imaginary friends?” I said (with total honesty), “Only like dozens! I have them right now, several of them.” And this girl proceeded to tell me about her imaginary friend with wonderful enthusiasm, very much as if he were real. Maybe someone not like me would have said to her, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” But think about it a minute: she said “imaginary friend.” It’s not like she’s deceiving herself that the guy is real, in a flesh-and-blood way. It’s just that she’s clever enough to take him just as seriously as her flesh-and-blood friends. And in my opinion, she should.
So, if you really must have me say it in black-and-white: No, I have not dated any real vampires. No, I am not in my book offering tips for finding real vampires and going out with them. But what fun is it to dwell on that?
The fact is, I (and millions of other people) have hung out with vampires in our imaginations. As well as with pirates, space aliens, satyrs, etc. Well, fewer with the satyrs I’m sure. Our inner, imaginative lives mean a lot to us. We’d like to understand them, know how to handle them, realize ways of making them more interesting and helpful. And that, if you must know, is why I wrote my book.
Now if you know anything about effective fantasizing, you know Rule #1 is to set aside reality. At the climax of the play, the villain is not going to turn to the audience, “breaking the fourth wall” as they say, and tell them “You do realize I’m not really going to kill the hero in this scene--we’re just acting.” Just as you get to the moment of the hot love scene in your bedtime fantasy, you do not tell yourself “I must keep in mind I’m not really Hugh Jackman’s girlfriend.”
On the contrary, effective pretending is enhanced by anything you can do to make it seem more real. Why do you think so many people get a charge out of seeing there’s a Web site for Oceanic Airlines? Or buying a four-pack of TruBlood from the HBO Store? Or following Dexter on Twitter? Of course you know you can’t buy tickets on an Oceanic flight to get to the Lost island. You know there’s soda, not synthetic blood, in those bottles. And you know some marketing person is posting as Dexter. But what fun is it to dwell on those facts?
I suppose in the interest of full disclosure and so I don’t get sued by someone, I have to go on record in this regard. But it’s not like I’m enjoying having to write this post.
The way I truly prefer to reply to the girl asking about her shyness problem is this: Don’t worry...the happy thing is that vampires, with their mind-control talents, can simply hypnotize you into not being so shy. Just walk up to the vampire in question, showing off the red satin ribbon on your wrist, and he’ll be happy to solve the problem for you.
That’s my “story,” and I’m sticking to it. Get it? Good.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
As I occasionally mention, I don’t usually write too much about the doings in my little world on this blog. But a couple people have suggested that readers might actually find it interesting to hear what its like when you experience the success of publishing a book in wide release. So, I thought it might be fun to reflect upon what has happened to me in that regard.
Fun? Yes. Exhausting? Yes! Satisfying? Well, considering I’ve been working towards this goal since I was in grade school, definitely yes.
As a little kid I’m sure I thought there could be nothing so thrilling as publishing a book. But, blame it on human nature, there’s a negative side to everything. I want to save the good stuff till later, so let’s get that out of the way.
The negative side to my experience can pretty much be blamed totally upon myself and my own attitude. Much to my amazement, I found that when I saw my book on the shelf of my neighborhood Border’s store, my prevailing emotion was, “No one will ever find it! Why can’t it be in a big display?”
[By the way, if you are confused about the back story--like why it is that although I had eleven books in print already, this book was such a big deal--you can read the story of my publishing house here.]
Ironically, I remember quite clearly countless other occasions in bookstores when I looked wistfully at the books on the shelves and sighed, “If only my books were in stores everywhere, instead of just for sale on the Web! Will it ever happen?” Wait, let’s back up a couple more steps: There was a time, just a few years ago, when I was blown away seeing my book covers on Amazon, and a time, a decade ago, when I was thrilled just to hold a printed book with my name on it in my hand.
Ah, humans...we are our own worst enemies, are we not?
And this was a lot of my problem during this experience. Whatever I achieved, it always seemed that my brain set the bar of “true success” as higher. My book is the #5 vampire humor book sold by Borders; I wanted it at #1, or better still, somewhere on the New York Times Bestsellers List. To date, reviews are running 35 to 3 as enthusiastically favorable, but those three bad ones made me think--against all reason--that I had failed a little. I got to appear on local radio; but TV wasn’t interested, and my shot at being on CBS didn’t pan out.
One thing authors really need to do to judge their success reasonably is to set aside the completely preposterous picture so many people have of the opportunities in publishing. Even I, who have been freelancing for decades, forget to be realistic.
Sure, some authors become true celebrities, but even the most famous are not like celebrities in other fields. Neil Gaiman is a rock star in the writing field, but 75% of the time I bring him up to someone, they haven’t heard of him. Literally hundreds of thousands of books get published each year--and that many people simply can’t become famous. Did you know that selling over 5,000 copies of a book is consider decent? Did you know you can sell fewer than 100,000 copies of a book and it could be on the NYT Bestsellers List? Doesn’t seem like much, and having 100,000 people know you does not make you much of a celebrity, in the grand scheme of things.
When I signed my book contract, a lot of people said, “Now you’re going to quit your day job and write full time, right?” Well, I’ll put it to you this way: That super successful author who sold 100,000 copies of his book got substantially less money for it than my day job salary pays me. It would be a fairly comfortable living...but only if you knew for sure you could repeat it once a year, every year!
So I guess I’m not completely to blame for feeling unsuccessful. My friends’ idea of success was that I had it made and now could be a full time author, and that didn’t happen. The thing is, it’s pretty rare that even successful, multi-published authors can live on their royalties alone...at least not in any fashion we spoiled Americans call living well! LOL
But now I come to a good transition point. Let’s talk about the upside of all this, and I will say now that if a person has a good job and the royalties are just bonus, then YES, the money is indeed a wonderful thing! Not only as money, but also as validation. Writers, even successful ones, spend a lot of hours in their lives writing for absolutely nothing. To receive the remuneration your talent and hard work merit is a wonderful thing.
And while this experience is not going to make “Diana Laurence” a household name, nor even make my other eleven paperbacks sell ten times more than before, it is still wonderful to have bathed a little in limelight. My publisher is very successful and has been for years; to be the top-selling author in their history, which it seems I will be, is definitely something to be grateful about.
So, that’s the deal regarding fame and fortune, the two things by which so many of us measure success. But in fact, the best things about this experience are in other categories. So let me share with you the things that brought me the most joy.
1. There were certainly many moments of excitement, possibilities that even though they didn’t pan out (so far) were great fun to contemplate. In this category: talk of pitching the book to Hollywood, the possibility of being on the CBS Morning Show, and the chance of having Charlaine Harris read the book and provide a quote. Fortunately I recognized these were all long shots, so I was more pleased that they were serious possibilities at all than disappointed that they didn’t happen.
2. Other things happened that truly were fantastically cool. Getting in Glamour magazine next to Charlaine Harris was awfully thrilling. There were other examples of when big media treated the book like something famous, like Publishers Weekly and Sugarscape.com. (And here’s a tip for you: “being treated like something famous” is actually what fame is, usually!)
3. Those 35 good reviews did not suck. Even though I tend to give negative reviews way too much weight, I really ought to recognize that appealing to over 90% of reviewers and averaging 4 stars out of 5 cannot be considered failure. Without doubt, some of the greatest moments of this experience were when one reader or another really grasped what I was trying to do with the book, or reacted with joy or laughter or enlightenment. Seriously, that’s pretty much the best thing about being an author.
4. While no one started up a fan site like the Twilight fans so often do, on a smaller scale a lot of people were lovely enough to treat me like a rock star. Most gratifying was the support and response of my Facebook friends, most of whom friended me because of this book or my other writing, and have never met me face to face. Without doubt my friend/fan CC Rogers made me blissfully happy by doing gorgeous portraits of all the vampires in the book, as well as making me a charm bracelet from them. So many people were genuinely thrilled by my good fortune, it was amazing.
5. It was so fun seeing word of my book spread to various corners of the world (real and virtual). I found that a random person had tweeted “The author’s a Maven, a great read!” Wow, how did that happen? My publisher reported crazy sales to countries like Trinidad and Tobago, and Lebanon. The book appeared on retailers lists, like Chapters/Indigo’s Top Five Vampire, Werewolf and Zombie Guides. Who picked it? Huh! I saw (via WorldCat) countless copies appearing in libraries all over the U.S....and being reserved! Crazy. Most incredible of all was walking into a random tiny bookstore in a small town and actually finding copies on the shelf. Man, was it everywhere?
6. I am addicted to “True Blood,” and it was so amazing encountering mutual fans who loved my book, via reviews and interviews on TrueBloodNet and TrueBlood-Online. Just being associated with something so successful was very cool.
7. It was a blast sharing my experiences with my family and [non-Web-only] friends. Doing my author appearance presentation for a crew of them at a bookstore was incredibly fun. And what could top going with my 83-year-old dad to a couple bookstores where I would be speaking, and having him see the book displays and posters of his daughter? Everyone was so happy for me and so encouraging, I’ll never forget it. My own husband made me feel so important, too! And he certainly was a true Personal Assistant that I couldn’t have done without.
8. While my bookstore appearances were not overrun with people (truth be told, book signings seldom are), I loved being in the environment of those lovely stores and meeting the people who work at them. Without exception my hosts were kind and informative and really loved everything I did. My radio appearance also went really well and my host was charming and urged me to do it again soon. My appearance on a trolley for Halloween was a huge success; the people aboard laughed at every tiny thing I said--and that’s always a great time, for sure! I did not feel like a star doing any of these things, but I definitely enjoyed the positive, delighted response of all who heard or saw me. And that rocked!
9. And possibly best of all, I met all kinds of wonderful people. The people I worked with at my publisher acted like true friends throughout the process. The new fans I made online have been amazing. And I met one fabulous family of four women (three generations) who loved my presentation and the book so much, I need never make another fan and my work will have been worthwhile! I know some of these new relationships will last a lifetime, all because of this book.
10. And yes, it is patently awesome to publish a book. When I got my first [four-figure] advance check, it seemed like a miracle. When I heard (and saw the photo) that my book was on a display table at the Madison Square Garden Borders, I thought I was dreaming. When I saw myself on a huge poster (in full color! LOL) at Books-a-Million in downtown Chicago, I could barely believe it. And when I learned my book will be in Target stores soon and will be a Recommended Read in January, I thought, “This is not happening!” (I still don’t think I’ll believe it till I see it!)
So to wrap up this huge tome, I am not nor ever will be famous or rich. My book will not be touted by Oprah, or make any bestseller lists. I won’t be doing a cameo on “True Blood.” My book will not be made into a movie and there will not be action figures of my vampire friends (which is a shame, hey?). In fact, in two or three years my book will probably pretty much be forgotten, except by the people that it really touched in a significant way.
But really, those people are the reason I do this. And the best thing about this book deal was how many more of them there will be now than before.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Boy, am I happy to report the long-awaited release of the sequel to Bloodchained! I felt bad every time I saw someone googling "when will the sequel to Bloodchained be released?" Well, wait no more: It's available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and Living Beyond Reality Press...or simply ask your local store to order a copy for you. eBook versions also available...Kindle coming soon.
I'd love to tell you what happens in Bloodchained II, but there are people who read this blog who (mystifyingly! LOL) have not yet read the first novel, and I don't want to give away who lives, dies, is a good guy or a bad guy, etc. in Bloodchained. But if you like vampire romance, or suspense, or historicals (especially about the Renaissance), these could be books for you.
Fans of Bloodchained, you'll be reunited with your old friends from Audica, as well as meet some new, mysterious and alluring Roicans. There's plenty of the same suspense and surprises that you loved in the original novel. And it all ends up in a very interesting place.
For more information and buy links, please visit my Web site's Bloodchained II page or the official site, www.bloodchained.com.
And on a more personal note: This is my fifth book to come out in 2009 and I am ready to take it a little easier! (As if that were possible with all this How to Catch and Keep a Vampire stuff going on! LOL)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Things happen to me that I find very exciting, but ain’t necessarily so for you readers. That’s why I don’t really like to inundate you with every detail of the successes of my writing career.
But in this case, screw that, I just have to crow! LOL You see, what’s happening in my life right now is--and in no way am I kidding--the pinnacle. So please indulge me while I share a little update about my book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire on this, its official release day.
Some of the publications that have featured the book so far are Publisher's Weekly, Glamour, ForeWord, Ingrams Advance, Gifts and Decorative Accessories, and Greetings, as well as dozens of Web sites and blogs such as www.sugarscape.com (largest publication for teens in the UK), www.trueblood-online.com, and www.mediaite.com.
I’ve been doing interviews for a number of blogs, and this Sunday an interview I did with the Anniston (Alabama) Star will be appearing in their print and online editions. I live in Wisconsin...so that’s pretty interesting! I have five bookstore appearances in the next couple weeks, and will also be doing local Milwaukee radio on Monday.
Reviews are pouring in nearly every day now, and they have all been good to glowing. HTCAKAV was chosen #3 favorite vampire book by www.internetreviewofbooks.com, made the Chapters/Indigo top five vampire guidebooks list, and is an Ingrams featured title.
I got the biggest news of all this week when my publisher told me not only was my book going to be sold in Target stores, it was selected to be a preferred read for January 2010.
And the capper: they will be doing a second printing. The 50,000-copy first run is tapped out! May I remind you, all this before the official release date!
Do you see now why I need to be pinched?
Last weekend I took a little vacation Wisconsin Dells, a resort town in the middle of the state. We were shopping on the main drag and I made a joke about finding my book in a local shop. We came upon a little bookstore in the next block, I went in, and sure enough, there were five copies on display in the Romance section. It’s incredible enough to find one’s book in Barnes and Borders, but in a tiny Book World in the Dells? Well, my publisher tells me they’ve sold copies to Australia, Lebanon, and Trinidad and Tobago, so I guess I need to get used to this!
Oh and meanwhile, my own publishing house this week released my 12th paperback title, Bloodchained II: The Secret of Secrets. I’m starting to see stores stocking my backlist titles, so it seems this vampire book may be bringing my older works to a brand new audience.
That would really be a dream come true!