These are my blog posts from a web site that a group of Ellora's Cave authors and I set up in 2010, which seems like eons ago. I thought I'd preserve them here for questionable posterity.
Romancing the author
I don’t trust easily and my heart is kept in a reinforced steel box under a lock I don’t even have the key to. It’s not that I mean to be unapproachable and difficult. I simply don’t know how to trust in the chemical explosion our culture calls love.
Odd for a romance writer to say, I know. My stories have an edge and I make my characters work for their happily ever after for precisely this reason–because love is work in addition to all the fun stuff that comes with a relationship worth having.
This weekend I met someone. We spent a total of an hour together all told. He was an absolute gentleman. Is it sad that I’ve never met a gentleman before? And that this aspect of his personality swept me completely and unexpectedly off my feet?
Handsome? Check. Body to die for? Check. Ready smile? Check. Concerned for my feelings and well being? Check. Seemed engaged and interested in what I had to say? Check. He put me at ease and went out of his way for me. Then he made himself vulnerable to me in return, in ways I’d never imagined.
How could such a short series of conversations lead to such an intimate connection, at least for my part? Me of the prickly heart and sealed off soul?
Honestly, I don’t know, and if I’d seen it all coming I simply would’ve run away before I had to face this reeling lack of emotional and mental control that always accompanies this sort of connection. It’s like having a love flu. You can only wait it out until your immune system seizes control of your brain once more and you return to something resembling sanity.
What does an author do when this happens? Well, this one would like to write a highly fictionalized account of this encounter. For an author, any author, their own likes and dislikes, passions and preferences tend to translate in one way or another to their characters, both male and female. It was incredible, therefore, to meet someone who seemed to walk off the page and into my life. Someone who left me with a sense of promise and hope in something I’d almost ceased to believe in–the reality of romance.
Love? Lust? As sexy as he was, honestly, it’s neither. There was a connection there, at least for my part, which created a deep seated need to know him better. To hear him speak about his life and his dreams. To get to know him as a friend, a person with three dimensions and a past as well as hopes for the future.
Yes, friendship. I’d like any relationship to begin and end there because when the going gets rough it’s a true friend who will see you through to the end. I think this man is someone I could count on and value as a friend. That’s the highest compliment I can give, and the quality I try to imbue in every character I place on the page.
A true hero is ultimately a friend worth having. That is the sort of man I want to write about, and the one to whom someday I might dare to trust my heart.
Scare you later…
Halloween creeps me out. From the cobwebs hanging on neighbors’ porches to the white fringed shawl someone hung from a tree at the end of my street. I jump at loud sounds and hate walking into dark rooms. I’ve never been a fan of horror and gore.
About the closest I ever came to enjoying the macabre was a three year stint watching every episode of CSI Las Vegas I could lay my hands on. Probably because I had a crush on Gil Grissom. His geeky intelligence flipped my switch so hard I didn’t even care that he had a love affair with bugs. And bugs on corpses. Lust, apparently, can do a lot to dim the creep factor.
I can remember 6 Halloween costumes I sported as a kid. A witch, a cat, my grandmother (I wore her robe and old glasses), a robot, Laura Ingalls, and Princess Leia. Yeah. I was a pretty lame kid. I hated the dark and the cold. Only the candy compelled me to go out.
Last week at work someone asked me why I was making a face when the Halloween decorations were being put out. I quickly squelched the sour expression I hadn’t realized I was making and went back to work. It got me thinking though, why do I dislike Halloween so much?
Here’s the the thing. I’m an author. I have the ability to visualize things. Suggest a ham sandwich to me and I’ll picture the toasted goodness complete with cheese and tomato right down to the sourdough bread. Salty, crunchy, and tangy with mustard. Yum.
Problem is, if you send someone in an chainsaw massacre costume to my doorstep the same thing happens. I picture the screams and blood and guts down to the last intestine. Right to the stench of excrement and hot sprays of fluid. Yeah. I’m going to puke now.
I think I prefer thrillers to horror movies because unless we’re talking a real blood bath of a movie a thriller is more cerebral. Less likely to include bits of blood and bone and body parts flying across the screen. October to me is a month of horror. I spend 31 days looking over my shoulder, jumping at the moans of the ghosts in the supermarket candy aisle, and wondering what new horror my co-workers will plant on the reception desk the next day.
I hope if you are a fan of the holiday you’ll forgive my squeamishness and enjoy the parties and costumes. Romance. I write it for a reason. I like the dark stuff–vampires and a ghost here and there–but only when it’s combined with a dose of love and lust that distracts me from the less desirable kind of “bump” in the night. The sex I imagine for my books is just as graphic as the gore I picture at Halloween, so I guess my abilities are both a blessing and a curse.
Give me love and lust any old day. As long as it’s not with zombies…
Life’s a beach
Oceans seem to be my vacation theme this year. In May I visited L.A. and author A.J. Llewellyn to get my first glimpse of the Pacific. Having grown up on the East Coast, I’m not unfamiliar with the ocean, but I’d always wanted to see the waves on the other side of the continent. Something about the power of the Pacific has always called to me. Venice Beach and the views of Malibu were amazing. Much more so than I’d expected.
This week I’m spending time vacationing on a writer’s retreat with three author friends: Amanda Alvarez, Gina Lamm, and Denise Tompkins. We’ve been writing, discussing writing, eating far too much food (or at least I’ve been!) and catching up on our catnaps. Daily walks to the beach are the balm to break up the working day.
The ocean here in North Carolina was much more tame for the first few days than that of the Pacific. Yesterday, however, a storm blew in and the waves have become muddy and angry. The time indoors, cuddled up under a blanket, has been just as rejuvenating as the time we’ve spent in the hot tub and on the sandy shores of the Outer Banks. Oh! And Gina Lamm makes a KILLER chicken pot pie!
I’ll be sad to leave. Not so much the place, however, as the people. Nothing beats sharing time with kindred spirits. These women have been a balm and a boost. Intelligent, creative, fun, and fabulous, I shall love them and remember this time we’ve spent together fondly for years to come.
The not so jolly Roger
This week I performed my monthly exercise of trolling for web sites where my books are available to download. For free. You know, by pirates to thieves.
I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m probably one of the more generous folks you’ll meet. It’s tough for me to say no when someone asks me for something. I’ve even bought copies of my own books for people who’ve asked for a freebie when they were down on their luck and genuinely wanted to read the story. I can’t afford to do this for the world, but so far the world hasn’t come asking.
If you know me at all you know how desperately I want to make a living as a full time author. So far, I haven’t earned enough to do that. Not even close. Yet, while I was trolling sites for those pirated books so I could ask my publisher to plaster them with take down notices, I noticed something I’ve never seen before: the download numbers for each of my works on these sites.
Hypothetically, let’s say I earn a $1.00 in royalties for ever book I sell. (This is a bit low on average, but contractually I’m not allowed to tell you how much I earn per book and $1.00 is an easy number to work with.) To earn enough money to live off of, after self employment taxes, etc., I’d have to sell about 4,000 books a month. Now, let’s look at the download numbers for one site (NO I’m not posting the #@(!*& link).
150 copies. One site. One book.
There were 30 sites in my take down list this month before I got depressed and gave up, leaving countless others. 150 x 30 = 4,500. In one month. Because, remember, I do this once a month.
Now, I realize I’m using some squidgy math here, and this is nowhere near a scientific study. Let’s say if people were forced to pay for the books and couldn’t steal them, only half of them would actually buy it. So, we’re working with 2,250 copies a month now, just from the 30 sites I could bear to look at.
I will tell you, at 2,500 copies per month at my true royalty rate, I could actually squeak by with a living from my craft. I could write full time, put out more books and be fairly compensated for something I already spend 30 to 40 hours a week working at on top of my day job. And believe me, it is work even if it is a labor of love. You try to write a book and then tell me it’s only a walk in the park, all sunshine and roses. No matter how much you love the outcome of your toils, I guarantee you’ll lose at least a few strands of hair in the process.
So, what’s an author to do? Well, when I first saw those numbers I considered never writing again. Or at least never publishing anything I write again. Which isn’t realistic because I can’t not write and I love sharing my stuff with readers too much to stop. And hey, let’s face it, some royalties are better than no royalties at all.
So, then I considered finding a quiet corner and asking someone to put me out of my misery. This was too melodramatic for even my tastes, but for about 5 minutes I really felt that depressed.
Next, a friend suggested I put a retroactive payment button on my web site and hope some people who enjoyed the books grew a conscience and actually paid me for them. This is leaving the publisher out in the cold, however, and I’m betting that would cause me a rightful legal battle in the long run. Also? My conscience says my publisher deserves the money just as much as I do for taking a chance on me, doing all the work that goes into publishing the book, and being all around decent human beings.
Net effect, after all of these mental gyrations and internal angst, I’ve got nothing in way of an answer. Except to tell you that every time someone steals one of my books, one of Tinkerbell’s relatives snuffs out of existence. That is to say, a piece of me that used to believe in wonder and magic and hope and love bites the big one. I lose faith in myself, my dreams, people, and the idea that trying to be a good person means a darned thing.
For each of you who’ve bought my work and loved it, or even bought it and then found it didn’t scratch the itch in the middle of your back where you can’t reach, thank you. You’ve kept at least a spark of light and life alive in my creative soul. You are the people I write for. The readers I connect with and cherish. You are what keeps me moving forward on this journey even when that crummy little corner of nonexistence gets really tempting. For that, I can’t thank you enough.
As for the pirates and thieves? You’re all black hearted fairy killers with warts on your behinds.
Gift horses and gratitude
So much of what I want in life it seems I don’t want once I actually get it. The fantasy is better than the reality. Or, I find out, like Dorothy, that there’s no place like home and sometimes what I really wanted all along was standing right next to me.
Lately I’ve been going through huge emotional upheavals over lack of time to write, not having enough vacation days to travel, wanting to live someplace new and different, and wanting to see my teenage dreams of fame and fortune come true. What use is life, sometimes I ask myself, if I can’t make my fantasies a reality?
Yeah. I really can get that bratty and ungrateful, though my petulance seems to coincide with *that* time of the month. So, since I’m feeling like ripping out my uterus tonight and burning it in a fire before my hormones eat the last vestiges of my contentment, I have decided to list five things that I have that other people might have on *their* wish list. Things I can be grateful for.
I’m betting I’m not the only person who sometimes forgets the good in life and focuses on the “I wannas”, so I’m inviting you to join me in sharing the things that make you smile when you wake up in the morning and remember they are yours.
1. As I type this, and every summer just about since I was born, I’ve been able to hear the crickets and tree toads singing to me outside my window. My great grandmother used to tell me stories from this very same house while I fell asleep at night listening to these very same sounds. Wow. How lucky am I to have had that experience and to still carry a piece of it with me every summer?
2. I am a published author. I worked hard to get here, and continue to work hard to improve my craft, but it was a goal I set for myself that I can be proud of achieving and feel very thankful for.
3. I have friends who love me very much. These are people with amazing integrity and intelligence who seem, against all odds, to see past my moodiness and insecurities to the good things underneath and who remind me of those good things on a regular basis. I won’t mention them by name, but (*cough* Denise Tompkins) they are all kindred spirits and beautiful souls.
4. There are so many amazing people who have read my books and shared their thoughts with me on them. Each and every one of them enriches my spirit daily. I am so grateful to be able to connect with these beautiful human beings all over the world on a level I never dreamed possible.
5. Though I complain about the time it takes away from writing, my day job allows me so many other freedoms. In this unstable economy where so many people have so much less than I do, I’m thankful to have the gift of 40 hours a week where I can trade my skills for things that make my life comfortable and secure.
6. Adding in an extra here: I’m so very lucky to have a mother who supports my endeavors both emotionally and financially. She is my best friend and as well. Who could be luckier than that?
Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you. I hope you’ll share yours with me too. Sometimes the best inspiration I can find is in looking outside myself.
Full Disclosure teaser
Weddings are stressful under the best of circumstances, which this certainly isn’t. Following the release of his debut movie, No Apologies, Greg Falkner is working hard to be a better man to fiancé, Aaron Blake, despite his baser instincts. When their alma mater contacts Greg and asks him to serve as their celebrity auctioneer for an upcoming charity gala, he grudgingly accepts at Aaron’s urging.
Aaron admires the new man Greg has become yet craves the old independence of his lover. He’d love to strike a compromise in the relationship and hopes that returning to their beginning will help Greg lay some of his personal demons to rest.
Neither man anticipates the violence that will befall one of them, potentially changing both lives in unimaginable ways. What emerges from the darkness, through frustrations and determination, is a remarkable story of true love with Full Disclosure.
NOTE: Full Disclosure follows Aaron and Greg’s lives after No Apologies, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.
For more Aaron and Greg, you might also enjoy Kit Harris and Jeremy Ash’s novel, Acting Out, in which the story of the making of Greg’s film, No Apologies, is told.
In less than two weeks, on August 14, 2012, Loose Id releases the follow-up story to No Apologies, titled Full Disclosure.
So many readers asked for more insight into Aaron and Greg’s relationship and their lives after No Apologies that my Muse brow beat me into complying. The result was a story that is as personally profound, ragingly sensual, and can’t-look-away compelling to me as No Apologies
If it weren’t for your votes of confidence in these fellas, and your cries for more, I might never have found the next chapter in Greg and Aaron’s story. You have given me such an amazing and unexpected gift with your support. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
When Full Disclosure was in draft stages, I posted a piece of the following scene (behind the cut), somewhere on the internet. Perhaps here. I wasn’t able to locate it in a search, however, and was going to suggest it might be fun and interesting for you to see the pre-edited and edited versions. Alas, unless someone can find the original and posts the link in the comments, this was not meant to be.
The teaser is longer than the one I previously posted. Other than a few swear words, it’s pretty safe but to my mind’s eye it’s one of the most sensual and beautiful pictures of two characters that I can imagine. I hope it reads the same way to you, because my heart aches with the desire to share these fellas and their lives with you.
Full Disclosure giveaway!
On August 14th Loose Id will release Full Disclosure, the next installment in the Hollywood series.
Full Disclosure follows screenwriter Greg Falkner and his longtime partner Aaron Blake back to the place where everything began for them both. When Aaron asks Greg to return to Lawson Academy, the elite private boarding school the two lovers attended as teens, each man must slay inner demons and face truths within himself. When circumstances test the bond of their love, secrets are revealed, hearts are laid bare, and old enemies are confronted in a final showdown.
I will be giving away three copies of Full Disclosure on August 14th and I’m too excited to wait to announce the contest! Comment here, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or GoodReads. You’ll gain one entry for each follow and like, as well as another point for a comment on this blog post.
To earn five entries at once, add No Apologies and Acting Out to your to-be-read (TBR) pile on Goodreads between now and Full Disclosure‘s release.
If you tweet about the contest or post it on your Facebook account, just say so in your comment here and you’ll gain another entry!
Why so many ways to enter? Because everyone has their favorite internet hangouts and I want to make it as easy as possible for you to join in the fun. I track all of your entries in an Excel spreadsheet and then use a random number generator to draw the names of the winners. You must be over 18 to enter and are responsible for complying with the laws in your little corner of the world on reading and owning materials of a sexually explicit nature.
Oh! And as soon as Full Disclosure is up on GoodReads, those of you who add the book to your TBR pile there will gain an additional five entries! I’ll keep you posted here, on my blog at http://www.tibbyarmstrong.com and on GoodReads.
Thanks for helping me celebrate the release of Full Disclosure!