Speaking Of Recycling…

Yesterday was Earth Day, and in honor of that, today I am recycling a piece I wrote last year in order to share it with you anew. If you print it out, I think you will also find that it is compostable, so it is doubly environmentally conscious. (Dang, I’m good!)

Isn’t It Romantic—Or…Could It Be the Death of You?

You might think that, as someone who writes romances, I would be prone to seeing opportunities for romance all around me in real life, too. And I am…to a certain extent. Problem is, I also like to write things like suspense and even the occasional sinister ghost story. Which means I have just as great a tendency to see the potential for harm in even the most innocent of situations.

What can I say? I’m an author. We’re a disturbed people.

So it makes it hard for me to plan elaborate romantic scenarios for my husband and me even though—in theory—I think date night is a wonderful idea. Maybe you do, too. If so, I feel it is my solemn duty to make you aware of some potential pitfalls you may not have anticipated. Consider these examples:

  • Go for a horse and carriage ride through the park. Surely you’re joking. Didn’t you see that Seinfeld episode? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google it, please. For your own protection.
  • Pass secret love notes in the library. Very romantic—until your love notes inadvertently get intercepted either by a militant librarian who shames you in front of the whole library…or by a secret government operative who mistakes your love-talk for an enemy agent’s code. Hey, it could happen.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through the woods, hand-in-hand. According to modern cinema, this is every axe murderer’s dream scenario. At least promise me you’ll bring pepper spray. Or a taser.
  • Meander along back roads without any particular destination in mind. Uh huh. Then your GPS breaks down, your car gets a flat tire, and three days later Search and Rescue workers find you and your sweetie battling it out over who gets to gorge themselves on that lone Tic Tac you discovered in the back of the glove compartment. Few relationships survive this kind of thing.
  • Share an ice cream cone on a scorching summer day. Certain people may be a tad possessive over their ice cream cones and turn feral if anyone else tries to take a bite. My husband has the scars to prove it.
  • Go for a midnight swim in a lake. Nothing good EVER lives at the bottom of a lake. Don’t you ever go to the movies?
  • Go singing/dancing in the rain. Concerned onlookers will likely call 911, and police will gently escort you to the psychiatric ward of the nearest hospital.
  • Walk barefoot in the park. Um…not everybody cleans up after their dogs when they walk them, you know.
  • Kidnap your special someone from work. A coworker gets the wrong idea, makes a call, and WHAMO!—a SWAT team tackles you in the parking lot.
  • Sign up for a sculpting class together. Sure it was romantic in Ghost. But it didn’t turn out so well in Naked Gun, did it? And who’s going to clean up the mess, I ask you? Who?

I hope these examples have given you reason to think twice before diving willy-nilly into something reckless like a moonlit picnic or any other hazardous activities with your special someone. Take my advice: just stay in, curl up on the couch together, and read a good book. Like, say…The Bargain, a delightful contemporary romance featuring a socially-awkward tomboy and the reformed ladies’ man she just might sweep off his feet. No, really, it’s delightful. My mother said so.

And in the meantime…let’s all be very careful out there.

Feldman’s How-To-Format-For-Self-Publishing Guide (Or…How To Wind Up In The Fetal Position)

Nearly every author who’s writing these days has at least considered going the self-publishing route, even if only for a brief moment.  Some authors then simply lie down until the feeling passes, but others decide to take the plunge.

After having a couple of books published the traditional way, I decided to take the self-publishing plunge myself to see what it was like.  And since I’m not exactly rolling in dough, I decided to save money on publishing costs by learning how to do the formatting myself. Lots of other people were doing it, and I figured I was a halfway-intelligent person.  How hard could it be, right?

Take Kindle formatting for example.  You’ll find plenty of technical advice online and elsewhere about how to go about formatting, but here’s my own personal approach and what worked for me:

1)  Scour internet for advice on Kindle formatting tips.  Wonder if you should be troubled by the fact that much of it is dated 2010 or thereabouts.  Keep searching despite the ominous cloud of doubt forming over your head…

2)  Stumble across assorted YouTube tutorials on Kindle formatting.  Start watching first tutorial.  Realize two hours later that you’ve somehow transitioned to watching funny cat videos instead.  Backtrack to original tutorial.

3)  Download help-guides such as Amazon’s Building Your Book For Kindle and read from cover to cover.  Discover you did everything WRONG when you first typed up your manuscript, including spacing, tabs, page breaks, etc. and will now have to figure out how to go back and alter it.  Weep gently.

4)  Eat ice cream.

5)  Go back and alter original manuscript to fit Kindle formatting parameters.  Wonder why your computer’s version of Word doesn’t seem to match ANY of the ones in the online YouTube tutorials.  Resist urge to go back and re-watch funny cat videos.

6)  Learn what that Hyperlink option is in Word that you’ve never even known you had before.  Use it to create a Table of Contents that allows you to hop around to desired spots in your manuscript.  Hop to every single one just to make sure they work, cackling with glee when they actually do and earning worried looks from your spouse/roommate/hamster.

7)  Upload cover art to Kindle Direct that you have either A) purchased from an experienced and professional cover artist or B) attempted to create yourself for free and now would like to burn before someone else sees it.  (Now while it’s true there are some folks out there who have great confidence in their abilities to doodle around with software and create something marvelous, I am not one of them, so options A and B were the only possibilities for me.)

8)  Try to convert your manuscript to HTML.

9)  Fail miserably and curl up into fetal position.  Unfurl after spouse has coaxed you out with offers of more ice cream.

10)  Eat proffered ice cream.

11)  Reread directions on converting to HTML.  Attempt conversion for second time.  Jump up and down with joy when it finally works.

12)  Enter book’s information on Kindle Direct website (description, keywords, etc.) and upload brand-spanking new HTML version.

13)  Preview book on the handy dandy Kindle Previewer tool.  Wonder why book has mysterious extra symbols showing up that you don’t remember putting there.  Find a gazillion typos that you’re positive weren’t there before.  Wonder if God is punishing you.

14)  Consider having ice cream pumped into you intravenously.

15)  Fix typos, convert to HTML again, upload revised file, and preview.

16)  See mysterious extra symbols are just as mysteriously gone now.  Don’t know why, don’t care.  Grab spouse/roommate/hamster and dance around the room.

17)  Publish.

18)  Celebrate by eating ice cream.

Again, this is just what worked for me.  You might prefer a different approach.  Some writers prefer to hire someone to do the formatting for them, which–in hindsight–might actually have been cheaper for me considering all the money I spent on ice cream.  On the other hand, I did feel a tremendous sense of pride afterwards, knowing that I had accomplished this particular feat myself.  After I stopped twitching, at least.

And on that note… best of luck in your self-publishing adventures.  :)

Sending Stories Abroad

Since I can’t afford to send myself to Europe, I’ve been wondering if the next best thing would be to see if it would be feasible to send my books there instead, à la foreign translations (although I’m sure they wouldn’t enjoy the food nearly as much as I would). Foreign markets are both an intriguing possibility and a bit of a mystery to me.  What exactly is involved in translating a book for a foreign market?  What are the legal ramifications of undertaking such a project?  Would I get to work with someone who has a charming Italian accent?  So many questions…

Recently, I was fortunate enough to stumble onto a podcast featuring author Courtney Milan and her experiences with foreign publishing rights that helped answer the question: can I really do something like that with my own books?  And basically the answer is no, not unless I come into a large sum of money sometime soon.  Drat.  Guess I’ll have to start buying lottery tickets again.

I know what you’re thinking: buying lottery tickets is not a practical way to plan for a project such as this one.  Not to worry!  I have a back-up plan!  Namely, to learn a foreign language and write the translations for my upcoming contemporary romances myself. Foolproof, eh?  Granted, it will take some time, but I’m already off to a good start.  For example, I already know how to ask where the post office is in Japanese, and from there it’s really just a hop, skip, and a jump to “Darling, I love you, and I cannot live without you. Let us go to the post office together and mail off our wedding invitations.  But…where is the post office?”

I’m working on my French, too.  I can count to ten, ask where the toilets are, and explain that my sister would like bread and milk.  The storyline practically writes itself.  I’m telling you, I think I’m on to something…

C’est vrai, n’est-ce pas?  :)

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

We can’t all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going to Ireland–although it sure would be lovely, wouldn’t it?  So here’s a little music and some beautiful landscapes to help you travel there even if it’s only in your imagination…


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  :)

And The Nominees Are…

No, I’m not going to the next Academy Awards, but I am tickled pink to share the news that my second Crimson Romance novel, The Bargain, is one of the nominees for a RONE Award in the category of Contemporary – General:

TheBargainCover

Pardon me while I do a few fist pumps in the air…

…Okay, I’m done.  (For now…)

2013_RONE_Nominee_200

The RONE Awards are featured on the online magazine InD’Tale’s site here, and the folks at InD’Tale are very supportive of self- and small-publishers–thank you, InD’Tale!  I was thrilled when an InD’Tale reviewer gave The Bargain a lovely 5-star review a few months ago, and to be included as a RONE nominee now is a wonderful bonus.

Voting for the Contemporary – General category will be March 17- 23, and if you’ve read The Bargain and are interested in voting for it, here are the directions on InD’Tale’s website:

“You must be a subscriber to vote online.  If you choose not to sign-up, you can still vote by sending your specific votes to:  anasmith@indtale.com   Emails will only be accepted during corresponding week of voting. Please include Genre, book and author in your email.”

The book’s up against some other great titles, so regardless of the final outcome, I really am just honored to be nominated.  Thanks again, InD’Tale!  :)

Cover Reveal (Or, My Babies Are Growing Up)

An author’s books are sort of like her babies, and I love to coo over my babies as much as the next proud mama.  I haven’t started carrying photographs of my books around in my wallet yet, but that may not be far off…

Today I’m cooing a bit because my three Heavenly Bites novellas that have previously only been available as either Kindle or Nook ebooks are going to be available in paperback shortly, knock on wood.  Not as three individual paperbacks–because as novellas they would be pretty skinny and might wind up getting used as coasters more than as reading material–but as a collection.

So these three babies:

PastelsandJingleBells 200x300-1     LoveLessons 200x300     PlayingCupid 200x300

will soon be available in paperback with this cover:

HeavenlyBitesPrintSCALED-2

I’m expecting a proof copy in the mail any day now, and if everything looks hunky-dory, this baby will be up on Amazon soon afterwards.  Can’t wait to hold a copy in my hot little hands!

Yep, I’m a proud mama.  :)

Love And Your Local Car Dealership

Did you know that a car dealership can actually be an ideal place in which to test the strength of your romantic relationship?  Really, it’s true.  I just found that out for myself the other day…

Recently I had to make the difficult decision as to whether or not to repair my old car or bite the bullet and get a new one.  Actually it wasn’t really all that difficult a decision since my old car was about 24 years old and limped along more than it drove, but I was very anxious since buying a new car meant I would either have to negotiate with a salesperson myself or fake a seizure and motion for said salesperson to make a deal with my husband instead.  For an introvert like myself, the latter option held a certain appeal.

But while my loving husband did come along to the dealership with me, I actually tried to take the lead in the car-shopping process myself instead of just dumping the whole thing in his lap.  (We’re still not entirely sure if that was a good thing or not.)  After spending time researching online, I found a suitable automobile prospect at a local dealership, we called ahead, and then we went down to meet with a saleslady.  (For the purpose of this blog post, let’s call her Mabel, because quite frankly I think the name Mabel is grossly underused in today’s society.  And because it’s my blog, and I can do what I want.  Ha!)

On the way there, we discussed bargaining strategies and whether or not we should prearrange secret signals to use:  tugging on an earlobe meant “I don’t like this particular deal/car/upholstery/strange odor, let’s get out of here;” scratching a nose meant “They’re trying to play hardball with us, but I think we can take ‘em; offer to throw in a cheesecake;” and wrapping one’s arms around the steering wheel of the car being test driven and refusing to let go meant “I love this car and must have it, and if you try to talk me out of it, I will shriek like a banshee.”  Needless to say, our adrenaline levels were high.

As soon as we pulled into the lot, salespeople popped up on all sides.  Highly-trained military operatives could not have appeared on the scene with more speed or precision.  I may or may not have squeaked and tried to prevent my husband from unlocking our car doors at that point, but he calmed me down, squeezed my hand, and we made it inside the building without incident.

Since this was my first time taking the lead in buying a car, I was understandably anxious that I not come across as a gullible fool who would take the first deal that was offered to her.  This might have made me overly mistrustful, as evidenced by when the saleslady introduced herself to us by saying, “Hi, I’m Mabel,” and I responded with a sneer and an icy “Sure you are, lady.”  But somehow we made it through the test drive and wound up at a desk, discussing pricing.

I don’t consider myself a shrewd negotiator, primarily because I fear confrontation of any kind–which tends to work against you when you’re trying to talk someone down to a lower price range.  On the plus side, I remembered to start with a lower number than the actual sticker price, so I’m calling that a win.  There were a number of offers and counter-offers, each one leaving me more tense than the last because I was so sure I was going to say the wrong thing and wind up somehow ruining us financially.  Don’t ask me how; paranoia was in the driver’s seat by that point, not logic.

Plus I wasn’t confident in my ability to recognize a genuinely good deal, so every time “Mabel” got up to go speak to her boss, I’d give my husband a furtive look and say, “What do you think?”  At which point he would respond with, “I don’t know–what do you think?”  And this would go on until one of us would see the saleslady returning, hastily shush the other, and then try to blurt out an insightful question about the car that would convince her that we actually knew what we were doing.  (My husband and I are both remarkably indecisive people.  It’s kind of amazing that we managed to set a wedding date or even decided to get married at all:  “Should we get married?”  “I don’t know–do you think we should get married?”  “I asked you first…”)

We were there for a couple of tension-filled hours, but in the end a deal was struck with which we felt comfortable, and I staggered out of there on my husband’s arm feeling both triumphant and dizzy.  And also a little nauseous.  But we had done it!  And my husband held my hand throughout the whole stressful thing–sometimes literally–and I like to think our marriage is even stronger than it was before, because any man who can talk me off an emotional ledge like my husband can is a true keeper.

But here’s hoping we don’t have to buy another car anytime soon…  :)

10 Valentine’s Day Ideas For The Unconventional

Valentine’s Day is nearly here, and if you’re still frantically trying to figure out the perfect way to celebrate, look no further!  I’ve complied a list of ten delightful romantic activities to present to your significant other, each of which I think will result in a special occasion he or she will never forget.  Even if they want to.

1.  Sign up for tango lessons.  Preferably with each other.  Don’t forget to stretch first–nothing ruins a good tango like a pulled hammy.

2.  Enjoy an elegant candlelight dinner on a luxurious yacht.  I do recommend that you get permission from the owner of the yacht first, or at the very least, confirm ahead of time that your pookie pie can swim in case you two will need to dive overboard to avoid an angry boat owner.

3.  Write an original poem for each other.  Set parameters in advance so one partner does not present the other with an epic work of multiple verses only to discover that his or her sweetie has chosen to go with a limerick and a few questionable choices in rhyme.

4.  Have a friend plan a “mystery date” for you and your honey bun.  Be sure this friend is someone you trust completely and who does not owe you such a significant amount of money that he or she would benefit if you never returned from said mystery date.

5.  Discover the hidden romance in yodeling.  In public.  Go ahead, I dare you.

6.  Give dining at a revolving restaurant a try.  Do pack Dramamine in case something goes horribly wrong.

7.  Play matchmaker with your single friends.  For added fun, do it without their knowledge and then laugh and laugh and laugh…

8.  Dance cheek-to-cheek.  Which cheeks you use are entirely up to you.

9.  Snuggle together with hot buttered rum in front of a roaring fire.  If you or your sweetheart don’t drink, just have hot butter.

10.  Role play “Pirate Captain” and “Saucy Wench.”  Flip a coin to see who gets which role.

There you go!  If those 10 activities don’t just scream “romance,” then I don’t know what does.  Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!  ;)

In Celebration of Furry Critters–And I Don’t Mean Hairy Football Players

It’s that time of year:  Groundhog Day!  Yay!  Did you get all your cards mailed out on time? Decorate the house and yard festively?  Plan the party of the season and invite all the A-listers?  Yeah, neither did I…  Well, I invited a few, but so far Tom Hiddleston STILL hasn’t RSVP’d.  :(

Maybe you’re sitting around in a football jersey instead with your face painted and your coffee table covered with enough chips and dip to feed a small nation, so caught up in the Superbowl frenzy that you forgot today was a very important day for one particular rodent: Punxsutawney Phil.   He’s a cute little fella, but since I just found out that he’s predicted six more weeks of cold, dark winter, he’s in the doghouse as far as I’m concerned.  Bad rodent!

Hope you all have a nice Groundhog Day nevertheless, and if you plan on watching the Superbowl–or, like me, just the commercials–I hope you enjoy that, too.  In the meantime, here’s a clip from the movie Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray re-lives the day over and over and–at least in this part–attempts to use that to his advantage.  Enjoy!  :)

Time To Introduce My Little Darling To The World–Or, Promo

PlayingCupid 200x300

Sure, Playing Cupid went live on Amazon and Barnes & Noble last week, but I was so busy writing it that I got a late start on lining up some promo for it (oops–heh heh…), but, hey–better late than never.  Besides, it’s a Valentine’s Day story, so I figure February is a good time to get a semi-official blog tour going, right?  Right.

Thank you to the bloggers and reviewers who very kindly squeezed me into their reading and/or blog schedules!  There are spotlights, excerpts, giveaways, and even a few reviews on tap.  Here’s what’s planned–and the first stop is actually still in January, so I’m feeling more on-the-ball by the minute:

January 31:  Romance & Beyond

February 3:  Le Book Squirrel

February 4:  My Recent Favorite Books

February 6:  Musings From An Addicted Reader; Lisa Is A Bookworm

February 7:  Read Your Writes Book Reviews; Zemfirka Blogs; Because Reading Is Better Than Real Life

February 8:  Toot’s Book Reviews; Aleksandra’s Corner

February 10:  Bookworm Brandee

February 14:  Rookie Romance; Paperbacks and Pastries; Getting Your Read On

February 24:  Lusty Penguin Reviews

Plus Tome Tender and A Novel Review Blog are going to try to schedule something in February, too, but I don’t have dates yet.  And thank you to those of you who have already left reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.  It is much appreciated!  :)