Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Ninja lolcat

Don't know about you, but I could so totally see this happening at my house. lol

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guest Post By Victoria Simcox: Memories of an Austrian Christmas & Giveaway

When I was six years old, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a Christmas with my relatives in Austria—my Oma and Opa (grandmother and grandfather) on my mother's side of the family and my uncle Christian, my mother's younger brother. Unlike the American's, whose main celebration of Christmas is on the twenty fifth of December, the Austrian's is on the twenty fourth, on Christmas Eve. There is a long tradition they hold to that says that the Christkindl (The Christ Child) comes to Earth on the twenty fourth of December and that is the reason they celebrate on that eve. Saint Nicholas, or as they call him in Austria, Niklaus, actually comes before Christmas, either on the fifth, or the sixth of December with his opponent the devil, known as Krampus. Together they come to the villager's doors and ask the children whether they have been good or bad during the year. If the child says they were good, Niklaus may reward them with a small token, such as an apple, orange, cookie or some nuts. If the child says that they were bad, Krampus will try to catch and spank him or her. This may sound politically incorrect, but to the Austrians, its all in good fun and Niklaus will send the child running before Krampus has a chance to get them. Unfortunately, I missed this part of the holiday event because I didn't arrive in Austria until the week before Christmas. Even so, my mother has filled me in on how fun this tradition was for her as a child.

Waking up Christmas Eve morn, I can still faintly remember the sounds and the smells in the air. Oma and my mother were clanking around in the small kitchen down stairs, preparing the food for the day, and the smell of marzipan mingled together with ginger, allspice, and cinnamon filled my senses. Full of joyful wonder, I got up and headed down the narrow, old, squeaky staircase of my grandparent's small Vienna flat— half way down, I could see the living room, and with great bewilderment, I looked for the Christmas tree, but it was nowhere to be found—even a few days earlier, I had wondered why there wasn't one up, but with all the excitement of being somewhere different for the holidays, I had forgotten to bring it up. I went into the kitchen and asked my mother why there was no Christmas tree. My mother conversed with my Oma in German, and then in English, said to me, "Go now and get dressed. We could use your help in here." I decided not to pursue asking about the tree, seeing how busy they were, making marzipan, ginger cookies, and a very strong, brandy soaked, ladyfinger and whip cream cake. Later on that day, I was glad that I didn't, because after coming home in the evening from doing some last minute shopping with my uncle Christian, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised to see, standing in the small dark living room, a beautiful Christmas tree set aglow with real candles on its branches and under it toys for my sister and I. I never questioned my mother about why the tree was put up so late in the holiday until I was an adult and that is when I found out that it is tradition for the Austrians to put the tree up without the children knowing, as late as possible on Christmas Eve. The children are sent out to play, or do errands, and then when they return in the evening, they are surprised with a tree and unwrapped presents under it.

Today, my Oma and Opa are no longer with us, but I will never forget the special, cozy Christmas I was able to spend with them—as a matter of fact, I still have a gift, a cute, cuddly, stuffed, little, yellow lion with a red and white ribbon (the Austrian flag colors) tied in a bow around its neck, a present that my Oma had hand made and gave to me that Christmas Eve more then thirty something years ago.

By Victoria Simcox


Victoria, known as Vicki, was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She has one older sister. When she was 7, Vicki moved with her family to British Columbia. Then in her early twenties to Western Washington, where she now resides in Marysville WA. She has been married for almost 20 years, and has 3 children. For the past 10 years, she has home schooled her children, and she also teaches elementary school art. Her other family members are, a Chihuahua, named Pipsy, 2 cats, named Frodo and Fritz, and 1 parakeet, named Pauly. She did have a pet rat named Raymond; when she started writing The Magic Warble, but sad to say, he has since passed away of old age. Vicki enjoys writing, reading, painting watercolors, good movies and just hanging out with friends and family. Her favorite author is C.S. Lewis, and one of her fondest memories is when she was 12. She would sit at the kitchen table, and read the Chronicles of Narnia to her mother while she cooked dinner. These magical stories were very dear to Vicki, and she remembers wishing, If only I could go to Narnia like Lucy and Susan. Vicki hopes that maybe she can touch someone with her story in a similar way.

Website: www.themagicwarble.com

Blog: victoriasimcox.blogspot.com

Facebook: Victoria Simcox

youtube book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cax8Pbpa7E

If you'd like to win a copy of The Magic Warble, leave a comment about one of your own Christmas memories and include your email address so that I can contact you. 
Spread the word about the contest for a chance at a $10 Amazon gift certificate.
Ends December 31, 2009 at 11:59 p.m.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

Whew, I'm the last stop on Victoria Simcox's Virtual Book Tour for The Magic Warble Sponsored by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.  Many apologies to Ms. Simcox and Pump Up Your Book for the delay in posting this review.  Thank you all so much for sending me a copy of the book for review.

First, a bit about Victoria Simcox:
Victoria, known as Vicki, was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She has one older sister. When she was 7, Vicki moved with her family to British Columbia—then in her early twenties to Western Washington, where she now resides in Marysville WA. She has been married for almost 20 years and has 3 children. For the past 10 years, she has home schooled her children, and she also teaches elementary school art. Her other family members are, a Chihuahua, named Pipsy, 2 cats, named Frodo and Fritz, and 1 parakeet, named Pauly. She did have a pet rat named Raymond; when she started writing The Magic Warble, but sad to say, he has since passed away of old age. Vicki enjoys writing, reading, painting watercolors, good movies and just hanging out with friends and family. Her favorite author is C.S. Lewis, and one of her fondest memories is when she was 12. She would sit at the kitchen table, and read the Chronicles of Narnia to her mother while she cooked dinner. These magical stories were very dear to Vicki, and she remembers wishing, If only I could go to Narnia like Lucy and Susan. Vicki hopes that maybe she can touch someone with her story in a similar way. You can visit her website at http://www.themagicwarble.com/.

The Magic Warble
By: Victoria Simcox
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
Ages: 9-12
276 pages

    Twelve year old Kristina is a very less than extraordinary girl who has something quite extraordinary happen to her.  On the last day of school before Christmas break, she is gifted with a mysterious colored ball from her teacher.  Soon after, she finds herself along with her pet rat, babysitter and two other children who bully her, in a strange land called Bernovem, where all sorts of fantastical creatures live and even common animals are able to talk.  Kristina learns that she is the chosen one to return this magical ball, called the magic warble, to its resting place.  Along her journey, which is a perilous one indeed, she meets many people and creatures, some who help her and some who are only there to lead her astray.  One such person is the former prince of Bernovem, a boy named Werrien.  He becomes her friend and fellow traveler to restore peace to Bernovem by getting rid of the evil Queen Sentiz.  However, Sentiz and her zelbocks, who are nasty, vicious creatures are there to foil their plans in every way.

    The Magic Warble was a very enjoyable read.  I truly got caught up in all the drama of the journey, having my hopes dashed whenever Kristina's were and feeling joy when things went well.  I can relate to how Kristina must have felt having practically no friends, the loneliness of a pre-teen existence and how important it would have made her feel to serve such a useful purpose.  I also found myself tearing up at the end when she had to make difficult decisions as well.  The Magic Warble was an action-packed, emotional book with a satisfying ending.  Well done, Ms. Simcox!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Winner

Congrats to Anna ♥, who won a $25 Amazon e-certificate

and for everyone, a snowy picture of a lonely bird.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who went shopping on Black Friday?

Come on, fess up.
I actually managed not to, not even online and I'm quite proud of myself.
It really feels good, even if I did miss all the sales.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giveaway at All Things Urban Fantasy

Abigail of All Things Urban Fantasy is celebrating 100 followers with a nice contest.  Your choice of two books for three winners.  Some nice choices too.

Dead Over Heels by MaryJanice Davidson

Dead and Loving It by MaryJanice Davidson

Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre

Once Bitten by Kalayna Price

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Strange Brew Edited by P. N. Elrod
Ends November 29, so head on over to All Things Urban Fantasy to enter.

Congrats on the followers, Abigail!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas Romance Anthology Reading Challenge

I figure now is the time for my first reading challenge.
So, in honor of all the wonderful old and new romance anthologies for the Christmas holidays, I have decided to go with this one.
The rules are simple:  I know December is a busy month, so I'm starting the challenge at 2 books.  I'm hoping to read more than that myself as I have quite a few of these in my tbr pile.
2nd rule - none of your chosen books can have the same authors in them, that way we broaden our horizons a little more.
Sounds fun, huh?  If you'd like to sign up, please add your information to Mr. Linky below.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

It's Monday again.

I realize that you probably already know that.  I say it mostly for myself, mainly just to remind me that tomorrow is Tuesday and not Monday, most dreaded of all days. lol

First of all, I wanted to thank everybody who has stopped by so far to enter the Thankful Contest.  I've gotten the warm fuzzies from reading all of your comments.  We really do have so much to be thankful for and we definitely take too much for granted.  Our situation could always be worse.  Loved the comments on gratitude for all the wonderful books and authors.  I couldn't agree more.

What am I reading?  Well, I'm having a tough time getting through The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.  Not because it's bad.  It's just been so hectic lately that I've had practically zilch time to read, which depresses me most heinously.
Anybody else read it?  What are your thoughts on The Lost Symbol or any other Dan Brown novel for that matter?  I've read them all.  I didn't think that the movie did justice to the book for The Da Vinci Code and though I love Tom Hanks acting, I just don't think he was the man for the job.

I'm starting a new blog for children and young adult book reviews here.
If you have any ideas about how to decorate it let me know.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Are You Thankful for Contest

Want to win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon in time for the holidays?
Sure you do.  I know there are lots of great books on my holiday wishlist.
Just tell me what you're thankful for in the comments below to be entered.
+5 for spreading the word about the contest

Ends November 30th 11:59 eastern.

Wieners ahem I mean Winners to announce

Zapped goes to MarionG

Confessions of a Shopaholic goes to stacy stew

Montana Creeds: Dylan goes to Cecile

Marion & Stacy, I need your mailing addresses
I still have yours Cecile

Congrats ladies!

The Great Kindle Giveaway

Lots of ways to gain entries.
Enter over at Bibliofreak

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor by Willow

Outskirts Press
Published: August 27, 2009
338 pages

   Tirissa is a twelve year old girl from Oakenwood who is faced with a tremendous responsibility when she realizes that everyone she knows has become deadened as she calls it or without emotion and easily controlled.  She is apprentice to an herbwoman, Mistress Farleaf and when she shows up for work, there is a stranger present who makes her uncomfortable.  He learns that the deadening has not affected Tirissa and when she runs from him, he turns into a strange creature like nothing she's ever seen.  She decides that she must head to Kellayne, a nearby city in search of a witch who might be able to help.  While evading the creature, she meets the first of the friends that will be helping on her journey, Oglo the troll.  He seeks to protect her because he wasn't able to protect others from the creatures in his past.  He will make many sacrifices to help Tirissa who becomes his best friend.
   The two journey across the Three Kingdoms in search of the deadening stones as well as a book of spells used by a wizard whose plans are much more nefarious than just to control the people.  They gain and lose friends as they go, evading many villains and imprisonment along the way.  An ex-guard, Storge, joins their group.  They disguise themselves many times and never give up, showing extreme courage and strength through impossible circumstances.  Tirissa learns who she is and what she is capable of doing and uses these talents during the trip to Far Montayne in the west.  Many surprises and setbacks ensue.  So, does she succeed in saving the people of the Three Kingdoms?  I guess you'll have to read the book to find out.
   I was delighted and fascinated with Ms. Willow's fantasy world.   Her creatures and characters were vivid and unpredictable.  I rooted for Tirissa and her friends and found myself discouraged when things didn't go as planned.  There were also several sad moments.  Tirissa is one of the most resourceful pre-teens that I've ever had the pleasure of reading about.  The language is simple enough for youngsters but will not fail to keep adults interested as well.  I am looking forward to more fantastical stories by Ms. Willow in the near future, I hope.

Join Tirissa's Facebook fan page for a chance to win a free copy of the book

This is a Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tour for Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor by Willow

**I received this book courtesy of the author and Pump Up Your Book Promotions for the purpose of review**

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween and New Moon Winner

Congratulations MySpace Comments and Graphics

Congratulations go out to Amy J!
I'm sending you an email.
Thanks so much to all who entered and stay tuned for new contests.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Win a New Moon Prize Package!

How would you like to win these goodies? Yeah, I thought so. lol
I'm giving away a prize package featuring the New Moon Soundtrack, Love Triangle Keychain and This May Hurt Just a Little rubber bracelets.  All of these are available at Hot Topic by the way.

How do you win?
1st - Leave a comment on this post telling me why you want to win. Be sure to leave your email addy.  +1
2nd - Spread the word. +1 for each place and comment here with the link.
3rd - Become a follower. +1 Already a follower +2
4th - Subscribe to my feeds +1
Contest will end October 30th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time and winner announced and emailed on Halloween.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Skin Game by Ava Gray / Ann Aguirre


Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Berkley Sensation (November 3, 2009)

ISBN-10: 0425231534

ISBN-13: 978-0425231531

Pre-order Now

— Amazon

— Barnes and Noble

— Book Depository

— Books-a-Million

— Borders

— Indiebound

— Mysterious Galaxy

— Powell’s Books


A beautiful fugitive—wanted dead or alive.

Kyra is a con woman and a particular kind of thief. She steals with a touch, but she only takes one thing: her target’s strongest skill. Which means she can be a fighter, an athlete, a musician, an artist—anything she wants… for a limited time. Heartbroken, she turns her gift toward avenging her father’s murder; with deadly patience, Kyra works her way into casino owner Gerard Serrano’s inner circle. After pulling off the ultimate con, she flees with his money and his pride.

A hit man who never misses the mark.

Reyes has nothing but his work. Pity for Kyra, he’s the best and mercy never sways him once he takes a job. He’s been hired to find out where Kyra hid the cash—and bring her back to face Serrano’s “justice.” Dead will do, if he can’t locate the loot. He’s never failed to complete a contract, but Kyra tempts him with her fierce heat and her outlaw heart. So Reyes has a hell of a choice: forsake his word or kill the woman he might love.

Doesn't this sound amazing?  Everybody rush to pre-order or buy Skin Game as soon as it is out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Coming soon: Blog Tour for Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor by Willow

One day twelve-year-old Tirissa discovers that everyone in her village is under a spell. Everyone but her!

Then she sees a mysterious stranger change into a huge bird, a bird with a beak like a sword. Did he cast the spell?

Desperate to find someone who can break it, she flees, leaving her village behind. An old herbwoman tells her to seek help from a wizard who lives far away, and her journey takes her across the Three Kingdoms.

Along the way she’s joined by a kindly troll and a short, fat palace guard. They are pursued by the twin princes of Kellayne, the best hunters in the Blue River Kingdom, as well as by the huge, dangerous bird.

Meanwhile, an evil wizard watches Tirissa and her friends in his magic mirror and plans a second spell that will kill everyone in the Three Kingdoms.

Chapter One

Tirissa climbed Oakenwood Hill at dawn, following the path between the big, gnarled oak trees she loved so well. The misty light filtered down through the autumn leaves and the Full Moon hung low in the West, white against the pale sky. She climbed the hill every morning at first light, but today seemed different because the birds weren’t singing. Even when she scattered the breadcrumbs she’d brought, none of her little friends flew down from the trees or bushes. She looked around for anything that might have scared them away, but no hawks were gliding above and no cats were prowling below. Something was wrong, though—she could feel it.

Her skin prickled.

Just then a huge shadow passed overhead. It went by so quickly that when she looked up, whatever had flown over was gone and the sky was empty. A moment later nearby branches creaked as though about to break. Something had landed in a tree. Something big. She turned and raced for home, back down the hill, across the meadow, and past the plum orchard. Smoke rose from the chimney of her family’s stone cottage and she ran to it and threw open the door.

Her sister Mori, her father, and her brother Gart were seated at the table and they looked up from their bowls of oatmeal. Her mother turned from the fireplace where she was tending a pot, her round face reddened from the heat. She said, “Tirissa, sit down and have your oatmeal while it’s still warm. I put in some ripe plums and honey, just the way you like it.”

“I have to tell you what happened,” she said, trying to catch her breath.

“Tell us while you eat,” her mother said.

Tirissa sat down. “When I was up on the hill, a big shadow passed over and then something heavy landed in a tree.”

“A giant bird?” Mori’s eyes widened.

Gart shouted, “Let’s go look!”

“Settle down, son.” Tirissa’s father spoke calmly. “So you didn’t actually see what it was, Tirissa?”

“No, but it had to be a bird bigger than me!”

Gart jumped up.

“Sit down.” His father gave him a pointed look. “None of you are going up there.”

“And don’t you either,” Tirissa’s mother said to her husband.

“I’d best see what’s going on.” He ate the last of his oatmeal and stood up. “Son, go on to the fields and start stacking the hay we cut yesterday. Soon as I check up on the hill, I’ll join you.”

“But Father, a giant bird!” Gart said.

Tirissa and Mori rolled their eyes at each other—Gart was crazy to want to go looking for some big, scary thing.

“Father, please let me come!” Gart begged.

“Absolutely not.” His father put on his jacket. “Off to the fields now.”

“Good thing you knew enough to hurry home, Tirissa,” her mother said to her.

Just then something shifted, as though the air had shivered or the Earth had trembled. Tirissa said, “What was that?”

“What was what?” Mori glanced up but kept eating her oatmeal.

“I don’t know, but I felt something.” Tirissa stared at Mori. The gleam had gone out of her sister’s eyes, now no livelier than the oatmeal congealing in her bowl.

Her father stood at the door. “Let’s go, Gart.” His voice was flat. “That hay won’t stack itself.”

Tirissa was puzzled. “Aren’t you going up on the hill?”

“About that fool story you told?” He looked at her as though he didn’t know her and didn’t want to. “Bunch of nonsense. You’re imagining things.”

Mori said, “So you saw a shadow—so what?”

Tirissa felt frozen out of the family. “What’s the matter with everyone?”

“Don’t know what you mean.” From the blank look her father gave her, it seemed like he really didn’t know. “Come on, Gart.”

Gart stood up without his usual protests and made no mention of the huge bird. He put on his jacket and headed out the door with his father.

Their mother said nothing to them as they left and then she turned to Tirissa with cold eyes. “I wish you’d be on time in the morning. I don’t see why you have to go up on the hill anyway.”

“I thought you understood,” Tirissa said, downcast. She loved walking among the trees. It felt as though just beyond them was a magical place, if only she could get there.

She looked at the door where her father had gone out and she realized he hadn’t hugged her mother when he left. She’d never seen them take leave of each other without a quick kiss. Had everyone in the family stopped caring about one another all of a sudden? She felt sick to her stomach.

Her mother stood up and said, “Wash those dishes, Mori,” as she did every morning when she went to her loom. Most days Mori, dawdling and complaining, waited to be told again, but today she jumped to her feet and gathered up the dirty bowls and spoons. Usually quick to chatter, she didn’t say a word to Tirissa or even look her way.

Tirissa went out to the pens to feed the pigs, goats, and chick¬ens. Until today, she’d always felt as much a part of the family as the rest of them, but now she thought of something she didn’t often remember, that she hadn’t been born into this family. Instead, she’d been adopted. One day a woman had come to the village and given birth to Tirissa. The woman died the same day and a kind family had taken her in—now they were her family. Surely that didn’t have anything to do with how they’d pulled away from her today—no, because they’d pulled away from each other. What could be going on? She took comfort from the animals that gathered around her and the baby that goat nuzzled her and tried to eat one of the buttons on her dress. When she went back into the cottage, Mori was still washing dishes, her long blond braid hanging down her back.

“Mori, what’s wrong?”

Mori turned around, and for a moment she looked puzzled, as though wondering the same thing, but then her eyes went dead again. She turned back and continued washing the dishes. Tirissa felt a chill down to her bones. From one moment to the next, they had become strangers. She didn’t ask any more questions.

About Willow

Willow lives in Northern California with her husband, her elderly dog, and the two invisible dragons that guard their house.
You can visit Willow’s website at http://www.tirissa.com/

November 4th - Review of Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor
November 10th - Willow's Guest Post
November 19th - Interview with Willow

The how do you want to win contest

So I have a contest for you and I want to know how you want to win.  I have three books to give away.  In the comments vote for whether it should be one prize or three different prizes, so more folks can win.  If you vote for three prizes, choose which book you would like to win.  The one with the most votes is the way I'll give away the prize or prizes.
Was that clear? lol
Any-hoo, here are the prizes:

Contest ends November 1st at 11:59 p.m. eastern time.
Winner announced and emailed the following day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Covenant

I was reminded of this movie when I commented over at Cecile's place.  This is one of my favorite movies.  I could watch it over and over for the eye candy alone, but I also love the story.  Male witches = delicious in my book. 

Enjoy this video that dreamchugh0915 put together. Great job on this.

Plug for a great site where you can win some smokin' hot ebooks.

Resplendence Publishing has their own blog where they list new books and reviews where you can win.  I've won several over there and they need new folks to enter, you know, to make the competion a little stiffer and what-not. lol
Be sure to read the sidebar for details on how to win and scroll down for other contests still open.
Here's the newest book up on their blog that you can comment to win.

Now, dontcha want that?

2009 Halloween Specials on TV

Check out all the Halloween specials on TV here.  *sigh* I just love this time of year!

Happy watching!

Congratulations Cecile!

She won a copy of Stephanie Laurens' Edge of Desire.
Lucky duck!

Keep getting your entries in for the New Moon contest guys and check back for a new contest starting tomorrow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Win a copy of Stephanie Laurens "Edge of Desire"

I know this is not a Halloween book, but somebody would still love a copy of it, right?
This cover is so eye-catching and what a gorgeous dress!
So, my question to you is where would you where this dress and with whom?
Contest ends October 18 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.  Winner announced and emailed Monday morning.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Those Glorious Men of Supernatural

What's your favorite episode?
Dibs on the one from last October where Dean was a scaredy-cat. lol
Plus five entries into the New Moon contest for your comment.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Got Ghosts?

Anybody watching tonight?
Leave a ghost story on this post for five additional entries in the New Moon contest.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bad Blogger Award

If there is one, I would definitely be a recipient.  I apologize and would like to make it up to everybody.  Fall is my favorite season and October my favorite month and Halloween my favorite holiday....well, you get the gist.  So, in honor of my favorite time of year, I'll be posting lots of dark delights and giveways, so stay tuned.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Seduced by a Stranger by Eve Silver Release Contest

Hi everybody! Long time, no talk. lol
Just slipping this in at the last second

SEDUCED BY A STRANGER Countdown to Release Contest!
There are three ways to enter, and you can enter multiple times, using any combination of these ways:1. Mention this contest in your blog and link to the contest page, email me (eve at evesilver dot net) with SEDUCED BY A STRANGER CONTEST in the header and a link to your post in the body of the email, and that's an entry.2. Leave a comment somewhere...on a blog or a message board, LibraryThing, Goodreads...anywhere appropriate, about SEDUCED BY A STRANGER and/or this contest. Please only leave a comment in appropriate places...don't leap into a discussion about petunias to chat up SEDUCED BY A STRANGER, and please don't violate any blog/board rules. Then email me (eve at evesilver dot net) with SEDUCED BY A STRANGER CONTEST in the header and a link to your post in the body of the email, and that's an entry. 3. Post a new review somewhere (your blog, amazon, barnes and noble, etc.) about any of my previous Eve Silver historicals, and email me (eve at evesilver dot net) with SEDUCED BY A STRANGER CONTEST in the header and a link to your post in the body of the email. Review must be posted during contest period. Reviews posted prior to the contest period are not eligible. (Previous Eve Silver historicals include: Dark Desires, His Dark Kiss, Dark Prince, His Wicked Sins, and the novella Kiss of the Vampire in the trade paperback anthology Nature of the Beast).The prizes:
GRAND PRIZE: $50 gift certificate to the online bookstore of your choice (barnes&noble, amazon, chapters, borders, etc.) PLUS a trade paperback edition of the anthology NATURE OF THE BEAST (by Hannah Howell, Adrienne Basso, and Eve Silver), signed by me.
1st runner-up: $25 gift certificate to the online bookstore of your choice (barnes&noble, amazon, chapters, borders, etc.) PLUS a trade paperback edition of the anthology NATURE OF THE BEAST (by Hannah Howell, Adrienne Basso, and Eve Silver), signed by me.
2nd runner-up: Trade paperback edition of the anthology NATURE OF THE BEAST (by Hannah Howell, Adrienne Basso, and Eve Silver), signed by me.Contest officially starts Saturday, July 25, 2009 and ends Monday, August 31, 2009 at midnight. Thanks to everyone for helping me get the word out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Author Joey Hill Talks About the Romantic Times Conference

Ready, Set….Time for the RT Conference!
Joey W. Hill

If you’re wired into the world of romance, you know many authors are deeply immersed in Romantic Times Conference preparations, integrating that with our usual deadline, email and promotional requirements. Oh, and family responsibilities – really, why DO pets and husbands require more than five minutes of attention a week? Eye rolling.

If you’re a reader, this post might give you some behind the scenes insight into the oh-so-relaxed looking author you meet there (which wouldn’t be me, btw – with my Type A personality, I always look like I’m jacked up on amphetamines). If you’re an author who hasn’t had the pleasure of RT, drop down to the last paragraph BEFORE you read the rest, so it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you (laughter). And if you’re an RT veteran, you’ll likely be snorting in agreement – or jumping in to share your perspective, wholly unique from mine.

This is the biggest romance conference in the industry, and it’s all about the READER, which is what makes it such a blast. Readers get direct, informal exposure to their favorite and new authors, enjoy the constant pleasure of cover models wandering about, attend great workshops with games and fun, pick up bunches of free books (seriously, pretty much everywhere you turn around) and bags of promotional goodies to help them add to their TBR pile.

Authors, publishing professionals, the RT staff, etc. all put a lot of energy into this, because of course the reader is the key to their success. It’s a win-win. It’s astonishing, all that’s involved in getting ready for it. Yes, as an author, you could just throw something in a suitcase and go, hang out and recharge in the creative atmosphere, but midlist authors write multiple books a year, juggling that with a heavy load of marketing, and our budgets are often as limited as our time. The expense and preparation that goes into the Romantic Times conference, plus the week you take off to be there, means that this conference needs to grow your career. You’re making contacts, first impressions etc with other authors, agents, publishers, and that most important group of all – readers. You want to get your name and work in front of every one of them.

First thing to remember – it’s a lot like a wedding. SOMETHING is going to go wrong. Plan all you want, but a snafu will occur. Reconcile yourself to that and don’t let it make you crazy. That said, you also need to make sure you don’t screw up SO much that you leave the impression of “what a ditz!”

So enter preparation phase. Most of us, even on a limited promotional budget, begin preparing for RT months in advance if we want our participation to be effective and a worthwhile experience for the readers who meet us there. I know authors who start pretty much after the last one finishes. I’m not that good, but I start working on it about four months ahead. What are you preparing? Here are some highlights -

Packing – Lists are critical. I have an ongoing RT checklist on my Microsoft Notes as I draw together what I know needs to be in my car when I go. It’s important to know deadlines for having items shipped to the conference the RT staff or your publisher needs ahead of time (registration bag promo items, etc). Then there are costumes, additional promo materials, paperwork. I look at the schedule and determine what clothes might be required for each day and work that out. This includes workout clothes, because the fitness area is important for stress management. I doublecheck the panels I’m on and what props/paperwork/hardcopies I might need. All the promotional materials I haven’t shipped ahead are boxed, as well as display props for my signing table. Finally there are favorite small food/snack items and bottled water, because you never eat or drink enough at the conference during the day and can quickly dehydrate or let your blood sugar drop. That’s far more important than you realize until you’ve gone through one. Oh, and some cash would be good. Attend every meal or meeting with the idea you might need to pay for something, and be prepared with cash as well as credit. We had to pitch in for a tip at one meal, and believe me, it’s a bit embarrassing to hand about half a pound of change scraped from the bottom of your purse to one of your publishers (laughter). Fortunately, she has a dry sense of humor.

Scheduling – map out where you’re supposed to be when. This was the BIG mistake I made the first year. I was late to EVERYTHING. The most embarrassing moment? I arrived late at my publisher’s breakfast, and was so flustered by the 150+ heads that turned in my direction I plopped myself down at the first available table – which happened to be the speaker’s chair, at the executive management table. Ahem. Fortunately, I figured it out and slunk to the back when she was done speaking at the podium, hoping everyone would think I’d meant to sit there temporarily to minimize the interruption (of course now that I’ve told everyone…).

So now, lesson learned, a couple weeks ahead of time, I lay out my RT schedule. All my commitments, combined with the things I’d like to do there if I get a chance, such as panels I’m personally interested in attending. I’ll even pencil in get-togethers with author friends so I don’t miss the chance to do that – really, it’s amazing how quickly your time fills up at this event. I have this schedule not only on the computer screen but in hard copy to carry with me. It’s also not a bad thing to schedule a bit of quiet time for yourself each day so you don’t lose your mind.

Promotional materials – if you can, pay the extra amount to include your item in the registration bag that every conference attendee receives, between 1000-1200 people. You also want 300-500 items available for promotion lane, for random pick up. On top of that, if you can donate free books to the goody room and/or one of the evening events, that’s a plus as well. Then of course you offer a few promo items at the book signing, and carry some in a tote with you that you can give out. Obviously, you don’t want these items to be the same as what’s in your registration bag. Everyone’s going to have one of those, so you want to have something different to offer in the other places.

There are a lot of debates about these items. Determining what’s effective marketing is a shifting target, and what seems to work best in most cases (short of just dumb luck), is frequency and variety of promotional strategies. But one thing I AM sure about –choose what will inspire someone to read one of your books. Otherwise, what’s the point? My first year, I had these darling little pompom creatures with a ribbon tag of my website and little pill boxes. Cute as they could be, practically flew off the table. If I got even one extra hit on my website from them, I didn’t know about it, because nothing about that said “come read my book”. The general theory is that readers get tired of just bookmarks, so the next conference I laid out the money to make high quality free excerpt booklets and put them in a plastic sleeve with a piece of dark chocolate. The chocolate and the excellent cover (kudos to Berkley art department) helped them leave the table in a steady flow. At the book signing, I had a significant number of readers mention they’d read the excerpt booklet and would be seeking the book. I also received more hits and reader email after the conference that year. Mission accomplished. So the excerpt booklets may not have flown off the table like the cutesy items, but they accomplished my goal – more people reading my books. As much as I like giving out fun items, if your budget is limited, you want to make your promo items count toward increasing your reader base.

Panels – if you’re serving on a workshop panel, you need to prepare your materials, both oral and hardcopy, coordinate with your workshop captain, etc, so that those who attend the workshop come away with a worthwhile experience, and the sense that you’re an author with her stuff together. If you get invited to serve on a panel, or propose one that’s accepted (another thing you do way early in the year), it’s very worthwhile. Not just for your exposure to the other authors, but to be seen as an industry professional whose expertise is of value to the attendees. Now, if you have a problem with public speaking, like I do, you might worsen that impression (laughter), but workshop panels are nice. You’re sharing the light with other authors, not standing under a spotlight alone. If you can relax enough to get into the discussion, you can pretend you’re just hanging out with a bunch of fellow writers and readers, debating the craft you love.

Costumes/Wardrobe – I’m on the Faery Court this year, which throws the RT Faery Ball, so I’ve been pulling together an outfit for that, but even if I’m not on the official welcoming committee, it’s good to be reasonably prepared for the different balls and social events at night. There are jungle themed parties, street parties, pajama parties, 50’s parties, etc. Now, that said, the nighttime dance parties aren’t quite as important for authors to make a good showing – like a typical nightclub, they’re really loud events that are more about unwinding after the day’s schedule. You can cut loose a little bit more there, hang out in the lobbies and chat with other authors and readers, enjoy a mojito, etc.

Obviously, a hundred small details are involved with the things above. That’s why the lists are so important (yes, I’m OCD, but in this case, it comes in handy). I could go on for awhile, but as usual, my blog is too long, so I’ll wrap it up with a couple points.

If you have time, it’s a great idea to pitch in to help the conference staffs at RT. First, you learn a lot, working behind the scenes like that, and appreciate the enormous effort that goes into this conference. These folks honestly qualify for sainthood, because they handle so many last minute crises. My second RT conference, I didn’t realize I had to send my materials for a special giveaway bag in advance. I thought I was going to bring them and assemble them there, as I’d done before. So when I found out, I panicked. Jo Carol, the head saint, told me I could come in Tuesday when I arrived and put them in the bags. My mother and I arrived and quickly began to do that – 1200 of them, which takes a lot longer than you expect. There was a troop of RT staff/volunteers who’d spent a lot of the day assembling the bags, obviously exhausted. We of course did not expect them to help, but within 20 minutes, they were all pitching in, helping us. One of the RT staff told me he just “couldn’t stand by and watch us do it all alone.” I am of course NOT encouraging you to be clueless like I was that year – it surely goes more smoothly for you and them if you’re on top of things, but this is what I mean about appreciating what goes into this.

Volunteering for your publisher’s events is also a good thing if they need help, for many of the same reasons. And if you’re kind of shy, not the assertive marketing-yourself type, this gives you a way to interact with others in a functional way and make contacts.

So to wrap up, when I attend RT, I have three writing goals:

1) Interest new readers in my work
2) Meet existing readers and convey my great appreciation of their support
3) Improve my network of contacts–authors, publishers, editors, industry professionals

But there is one more extremely critical reason for attending RT. RT is just pure fun. Writing is solitary. I like that about it; I wouldn’t do it otherwise. But even the most hermit-like of us occasionally needs a connection with those who share our experiences and passions, and RT is the ultimate shot in the arm for that. A week with people who love romance means there’s lots of laughter and camaraderie to share. When you can combine that kind of pleasurable experience with your “job”, it’s worth all the planning, time and expense that goes into it. It’s an investment in your career not just on the professional level, but the inspiration level as well. I go home ready to write twenty more novels, my heart overflowing with love for everyone who adores this genre the way I do.
Short bio: Joey W. Hill is the author of nearly twenty works of paranormal and contemporary erotic romance for Berkley Heat, Berkley Sensation and Ellora’s Cave. Her newest release, A Vampire’s Claim, is the latest in the award winning, national bestselling Vampire Queen series. Free excerpts and more information about her work can be found at her website, www.storywitch.com. She loves to hear from readers!