Saturday, July 30, 2011

Some People

I don't know how many people I interact with on a daily basis.  Even if you don't count Facebook, Twitter, and E-mail, the number still must reach into dozens.  I guess it's only natural that not every interaction leaves me with the warm fuzzies.

Nat - back when we did Rally Obedience class

The normal routine in the morning is that I get out of bed and let Nat and Pyxi out into the yard so they can run around, sniff, do their doggy business, and have some exercise.  I spend the time getting ready for the day.  It's a good arrangement for all three of us.

Pyxi doing Rally O
Yesterday, however, I heard a truck pull up to the house next door, guys voices, and then my dogs began to bark and wouldn't stop.  Since this gets annoying to me even when I'm in the house, I know it has to bug other people, so I went back out to the porch and called them to come in.  They ignored me and continued to bark at the guys next door.

"It's okay, lady, we're playing with them," said this one smiling guy. 

I thought that was kind of nice . . . until I realized that what they thought was playing was actually freaking out the dogs.  Pyxi has issues with warming up to other people.  She startles easily.  Even my friends who she's known since she was 7 months old know to ignore her when they first come in the house and then to let all interaction come from her.  They don't make loud noises and they definitely don't reach for the top of her head, which she hates.  Instead, they let her come up and sniff their hands, remain calm, and then, if she sticks around, they'll rub under her chin or her chest.

While I watched yesterday morning, Pyxi barked, and then bravely ran up to the fence to sniff the guys' pant legs.  Instead of remaining calm, the guys thought it was fun to roar, wave their arms, and then reach over the fence as if to grab her.  So, of course, she jumped back and started barking again. 

If you know dogs at all, you can tell by their body language whether they're playing or agitated.  Clearly, Pyxi was not playing.  On top of that, the guys even scared Nat who is much calmer and relaxed, usually, around people, so they wound him up, too. 

I was dressed only in my sleep shirt (sans bra), so this was not the place or time to explain things to the guys.  I just called the dogs again until they came and went back in the house.  Inside I was fuming.  I know the guys thought they were doing was okay, but all I could think was, "Thanks for reinforcing my dog's anxiety about approaching people."  Grrrrr.

On the drive to work, I was behind a Ford Escape.  The driver put on the left blinker and pulled into the left-hand lane in order to pass a car.  He' never turned off his blinker so the left light continued to flash red red red.  Unfortunately, he got stuck behind a truck, which meant that I gradually pulled alongside.  All of a sudden, he veered into my lane.

I honked the horn and he pulled back into the left lane -- and then started to cuss me out through his window.  Apparently it was my fault that he didn't see me and, I guess, that I didn't divine that he was about to pull over. I could have pointed out that A) I'm not psychic and B) His left blinker was still on so how was I supposed to know he was going to pull over in the other direction?  Instead, I decided not to argue with someone while we were both driving and simply continued on my way.

I'd like to think that, in both situations, I elected to take the high road instead of just the path of least resistance.

Some people just don't get it, do they?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome to Lani Diane Rich

A few years back, one of my goddess author idols Jennifer Crusie began blogging about a book named Dogs and Goddesses that she was writing with Anne Stuart and someone I wasn't familiar with named Lani Diane Rich.  When Jenny writes about the writing process, it's not only informative, but it's darned near almost as entertaining as her books.  I was also already a big fan of Anne Stuart and I figured if this Lani woman was writing with them, she sure couldn't be a slouch.  Plus, getting to know her a little through Jenny's blog, she sounded smart and funny.  So, I bought some of her books  - Wish You Were Here and Crazy in Love - and became a fan.  Some time later, Lani created a blog called A Year and Change under her pseudonym Lucy March.  I was drawn to her gut-wrenching honesty and the story of where her life had been, where she was, and where she hoped to go.  So were many really remarkable women and somewhere along the line we all became Betties.

Okay, that's enough backstory.  Like many wonderful authors, Lani has regained rights to some of her books and made them available electronically.  Plus she has a new book (as Lucy) coming out in January 2012.  I think Lani's a terrific writer and teacher, and one hell of a woman, so I asked if she'd let me interview her for the blog.  I'm delighted she agreed.  Without further delay, here goes!

Me: You describe your books as Funny Women’s Fiction. Could you explain for us how women’s fiction differs from romance and why this genre appeals to you as a writer?

Lani: From a genre perspective, romance is focused on the relationship, and women's fiction is focused on the protagonist's journey. When I say I write "funny women's fiction," I see all my books under that umbrella, because they're all funny books that appeal to women. I know that writers who write for women tend to get less respect, but I don't really care. I don't need respect. I like writing stories about women who transform their lives through adventure, love, adversity, and I'm damn lucky that I get to do it.

MS: I personally believe that, in every book, an author wants to explore something with her story. What did you want to explore or investigate in each of these books?

LDR: It's funny, because every book I've written, I've had one goal I wanted to achieve. With The Fortune Quilt, I wanted to write a story about a woman whose entire life falls apart. I wanted to walk her through that process of rebuilding, redefining what's important and figuring out what she really wants. With A Little Ray of Sunshine, I wanted to write something intensely emotional, to pull out all the stops and not shy away from that vulnerable space. Both books were an adventure to write!

MS: You started, and completed, a blog you called A Year and Change in which you were brutally and refreshingly honest about your life. Do you think the process ended up being more about self-transformation? What’s the best thing you learned in the journey?

LDR: 516 days, blogging (almost) every day, counting down to my 40th birthday. Sounds crazy, huh? It was intense, definitely, charting the course of my divorce, wading through the mess that was my sense of myself, and even - to my great surprise - falling in love again, all in this very public space. That process was very much about transformation. When I go back and read those early posts, I'm amazed at how many things I struggled with all my life that are simply gone now. Everything hasn't been fixed - I still have a tendency to stress out and imagine that everything in the world is my responsibility - but I'm so much more at peace now than I have ever been. I think the best thing I learned on that journey was that it's not just okay to be vulnerable and brutally honest, but necessary. Had I not confessed everything in that blog, I don't think I would have healed the way I did, and I definitely wouldn't have been ready for my new marriage, which is one of the greatest joys of my life. That blog, and the community that formed there, has been one of the biggest blessings of my life, and it taught me how to be truly honest, not just with others, but with myself.

MS: When you read a book, what sparks the “Wow, this is terrific” reaction for you?

LDR: Different things. Sometimes it's the author's sense of humor, sometimes it's her sense of adventure. In my classes, I teach that there is an innate magic to every author, and that the one thing you can bring to the page that no one else can is you. I think it relates back to what made my blog such a heady experience; there are certain things that are just you, and even if every story has been told a thousand times before, it's never been told quite this way. When an author relaxes and trusts that her unique voice matters, a book becomes fresh and exciting. Craft is important, getting the technical stuff down so it doesn't get in the way is essential, but nothing beats an author's own magic. That's what authors need to honor in their writing, and when they do, it's truly magical.

MS: You’ve started a new journey in your own writing career with the name switch to Lucy March. How is A Little Night Magic different from your Lani Diane Rich books? What about it will still connect with your current Lani fans?

LDR: A Little Night Magic was my attempt at writing a bigger story. I'm really enjoying adventure and magic and bigger themes. What happens when an ordinary woman is called upon to save the people she loves from death and catastrophe? That was fun to play with. It's different from the Lani Diane Rich books in that the magic is outright and manifest; this is a different world from ours. But I still wanted to hit all those notes that I loved hitting with the Lani Diane Rich books - humor mixed with strong emotion, tears and laughter. That savory-sweet combination has always been a lot of fun for me, and I don't think I could write a book without that.

MS: You’re also embarking on a “re-publishing” venture with the rerelease of Little Ray of Sunshine and Fortune Quilt. How did you reach this decision and what do you think about the whole e-pub/self-pub movement that’s going on?

LDR: NAL was kind enough to give me my rights back, and I decided to jump in. I love those books, passionately, but now they're older and out of print and that bums me out. They're great books. I know that sounds arrogant, but I don't care. Everyone should love their own writing. In my classes, I make everyone end every class by saying, "I'm a great writer." I think it's important. I love my writing and I love these books and I'm so grateful that I'm living in a moment when I have the opportunity to help these books find new readers.

The new revolution in e-publishing is fascinating to me. I love that authors are able to take their work and make it available. I love watching this whole new world unfold before me. I'm still in traditional publishing because I have the best editor in the whole world, and she makes me a better writer. I think it's important to do your best work, make sure it's good and that you give the reader the best possible experience; I don't think it's important that you publish with New York. I love that authors have new options out there. It's wonderful.

MS: What else is on the horizon for Lani/Lucy?

LDR: Right now, I'm podcasting every day with my husband over at It's a free podcast for writers, with some instruction, some chit-chat, lots of wonky stuff like etymology and vocabulary and writing challenges. I'm also teaching classes at Storywonk; I'm really looking forward to my Magic and Discovery classes coming up in September and October, to help people gear up for Nanowrimo. In addition, we're just now launching an editorial service for people who are self-publishing; covers, editorial, back cover copy, conversion. We had a great time doing my titles, and it's fun. I'm also working on the next Lucy March book, and I have a few other side projects in the hopper.

Mostly, I'm having fun, and I'm incredibly blessed. It's a good life.

MS: Any final words/thoughts to share?

LDR: Just to thank you for having me here. Such wonderful questions, and such great discussion. Mary Stella, you are a gem. Thanks!

Lani, thanks so much for taking part in this blog interview, for creating the Bettyverse, for being an enthusiastic and helpful teacher and for being all around terrific.   Let's make it easy for everyone to find you and your books with some helpful links!
Little Ray of Sunshine   The Fortune Quilt  A Little Night Magic (w/a Lucy March)
Find Lani/Lucy online at and The Bettyverse!

Special Announcement!

Head over to the Bettyverse!  To celebrate her book launch, Lani's running a contest.  Help us build and move the buzz!  Click here for the Bettyverse.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lani Diane Rich - Here on Monday!

Well, she won't actually be here as in here in the Keys.  However, the uber-talented author, teacher, blogger, community-builder Lani Diane Rich graciously consented to be interviewed for this blog.  She has two backlist books coming out in new electronic versions and we'll talk a little about what's next for her alter-ego Lucy March. 

Join us this Monday, July 25th!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mattress Dancing

I'm going mattress shopping in a little while.  I guess that's more mattress rolling than dancing, but dancing made for a better blog title. 

We spend around a third of every day in bed, give or take an hour, so choosing the mattress is no decision to take lightly.  I've been thinking about it for awhile, testing and assessing different hotel beds when I travel and asking some friends what they've chosen.  Guess you could say I've been sleeping on the matter before actually going shopping.

I really like the beds in some hotel chains like the Hampton Inns, Sheratons or Westins.  Sealy makes the mattresses for one chain; Serta the other two, I think.  I'm also considering Tempur-Pedic but I couldn't find a hotel chain that uses them, so I don't believe I have first hand, or first body, experience with that make.

The commercials are certainly enthusiastic for the Tempur-Pedic and, honestly, people who own them stop just short of bursting into actual song when singing their praises. 

Choices, choices, choices.

Thing is, with the exception of the Soma watermattress I bought, and loved, years ago, I've never shopped for a regular mattress before.  Apparently there's a process to follow and I should be prepared to take my time.  Literally.  According to things I've read, I should lie down on each mattress I'm considering and stay there for at least 15 minutes to see how my body feels about the degree of support, plushiness and other qualities.  After narrowing down the options, before I make that final commitment, I'm supposed to lie on the chosen mattress for a minimum of half an hour! 

This could take hours.  What's the etiquette of mattress shopping in this manner?  Does the salesperson stay with you the whole time?  Do you converse during the trial period?  I read in bed every night before turning off the light and actually going to sleep.  Should I bring my Kindle, to help kill the time if nothing else.  What if I get sleepy?  I can't imagine taking an actual nap on display in a furniture store. 

Do they sanitize the mattresses after someone has taken them for a test lie?  Not for nothing, but it's freaking hot in Florida right now.  People sweat walking from their cars into the stores.  Do they wait long enough for the air conditioning to dry their bodies?  Are they leaving sweat droplets or flaky skin on the mattress I'm about to stretch out on? 

Come to think of it, are those mattresses marked as samples only or do they later get sold as new by the stores?  When my new mattress is delivered, how many other bodies will have been on it before it gets to my house?  Maybe I should sanitize it once it's home.

I can tell that shopping for a new sleeping system is far from restful.  I'd best get ready to go.

I wonder if anyone has actually worn pajamas to test out mattresses.

Have a great Saturday, everybody.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Care and Feeding of Your Empowerment

I was determined to take out my boat today.  Due to weather, travel, other responsibilities, a weekend when I was sick, etc. etc., the StardelaMar had not been off the lift for several weeks.  Lack of use is not good for the boat, nor for her captain.

I checked the tide charts to see when the water would be high enough to float the boat off of the lift and saw that a late-afternoon trip was doable.  Off and on throughout the day I kept an eye on the weather, hoping no sudden increase in wind or unexpected storm front would cancel my plans.

Around an hour or two before by ETD, I started feeling nervous.  This was completely unexpected.  I've had the boat for almost two years now and have taken her out by myself at least a dozen times.  I know I can handle her.  So why the nerves?   Little worms of insecurity tried to squirm into my conscious and undermine my confidence. 

The time drew closer.  I started worrying about the breeze.  Was it a little too much?  Would I have a problem steering the boat back onto the lift?  I wondered whether I should wait until the following weekend and line up someone to go with me while I reacquainted myself with the skills I needed to safely captain.

There are times when having a stubborn streak is a damned good thing.  Before I could talk myself out of the boat trip I'd been eagerly anticipating, I put my foot down and crushed the insecurity under my heel.  I grabbed my keys, hat and water, told the dogs that I'd be back in awhile and left the house.

I won't say that every last nerve was immediately satisfied, but at least I could look at them and know that being nervous about something didn't mean I should give up the attempt.  Instead of giving into the fear, I processed it by taking my time with every step in my preparation.  I reviewed procedures in my mind and then got on with the business of boating.

Even an hour on the water is good for the heart and the soul.  As soon as I smoothly backed off of the lift and guided the boat through the pilings into the open harbor, I felt my confidence flow back into my spirit.  Off I went, motoring smoothly through the harbor.  I love the ride out the pretty "creek" because it takes me past some lovely houses and then past the beach out to the open Atlantic.  As soon as I passed the last channel marker, I pushed up the throttles to increase the speed.  Within seconds the boat was up on plane, moving swiftly and smoothly over the waves. 

Before long, my hair was blowing back in the breeze, I'd turned up the stereo, and I was grinning!   Gone were the nerves and, for the life of me, I couldn't imagine why I'd considered cancelling the trip.

I cruised toward Sombrero Light, enjoying all the different jewel-like colors of the water. I spotted some regal frigate birds circling in the sky and wondered if they were searching for dinner in the ocean below.  After awhile, I began a slow turn toward the Seven Mile Bridge and headed for the channel markers to enter the harbor.  Slowing down gave me the chance to appreciate a few of the larger boats that are still docked at some of the marinas in town.  A few months ago, one that I swear was larger than my house, took up residence.  Beautiful on the outside, I can only imagine how luxurious it was inside. 

After a slow cruise past marinas, a restaurant, and dozens of moored boats, I was close to home.  The wind had come up a bit, but I just knew I could handle the docking.  I glided between the pilings, turned parallel with the sea wall and motored right up onto the lift.  It was one of my smoothest dockings ever.  I wish there had been people around to watch!

After shutting everything down, pulling on the console cover and making sure everything was in order, I leaned against the gunwale for a few minutes before leaving.  I relished the feeling of reconnecting with something I love to do.  Running my own boat is a source of empowerment for me, and I'd almost let insecurity rob me of the moment.  After thinking it through, I realize that I wouldn't have felt this way if so much time hadn't passed between trips. I felt out of practice and had lost trust in my captaining skills.  Confidence hungers for fuel.

I learned more than one lesson today.   Empowerment needs to be cared for and fed on a regular basis.  I definitely need to get out on the water whenever possible!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

eBook of the Day - All Keyed Up!

As I continue my efforts in world domination rejuvenation of my books through republishing them electronically, I invested in a sponsorship at Kindle Nation Daily.  If you have a Kindle, this is a great resource for linking to books that are available for your e-reader addiction. Click here to check it out. 

For that sponsorship, my book All Keyed Up is designated as eBook of the Day!  Yes, I know this is a paid sponsorship, but I still feel a little thrill to see my book cover and text up there on the page.

Humor me, please!  :-)

The whole e-repubbing adventure continues to fascinate me and it is certainly capturing the interest of everyone in publishing.  There are no hard and fast, or particularly uniform, steps to success.   Six authors might do six things exactly alike for their books and see different sales results.  I met a woman at last week's RWA Conference who has never published her books in print.  She put two of them up online and priced the first in the series at .99 with the second on sale for 2.99.  Within eight weeks, she's sold well over 2000 copies of the first, less expensive book, and over 500 copies of the second.  Her sales are remaining consistently strong.

I put my books up in March at 2.99 a piece and was thrilled when I'd sold over 100 copies total, but I still pondered what else I could do to boost the sales numbers.  A couple of weeks ago, I dropped the price of All Keyed Up to .99 and saw a slight uptick in sales, but nothing earth-shattering.

Today, with the eBook of the Day exposure, I've already sold over 50 additional copies.  This has boosted my sales ranking on Amazon's Kindle Store to #1200 when I last checked.  That is a HUGE improvement over, say #54,000 or #129,000.

The woman at RWA advised me to add additional keywords and tags, which I did.  She also said that it helps when people post reviews, particularly if the reviews are good.  So, if you've read my books and have some free time, I'd love it if you'd consider sharing your opinions in a review. 

Apparently, the more that you improve your ranking, the more attention your book receives which should achieve more sales that further improve the ranking, get you more attention and result in more sales, and so on and so on and so on. 

That's the theory anyway.   I will say that this is certainly an interesting adventure from my perspective.  My initial goal for doing it in the first place was to empower myself in terms of my writing career and to rescue my books, which I love, from the death of being out of print, remaindered and unavailable.   Is it nice to earn some money?  Of course.  I'm still a long way from recouping my investment in new covers, formatting, advertising, etc., but at least I'm recouping a little every day. 

It really does matter to me that my books are reaching more readers.  As a storyteller, that matters to me and it does my heart good to think that I might bring enjoyment to more than 50 new readers today.

Thank you everyone!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

E-Readers - Smashwords Sale In Progress!

If you have an e-reader, have you discovered Smashwords?  At, you can purchase books in pretty much every electronic format.  Think of it as one-stop shopping whether you have a Kindle, Nook, Sony-e-reader, iPad or whatever. 

Right now, there's a sale going on for the month of July.  I, and some colleagues have marked down books for some really good deals.  (I've signed up for a coupon, bringing the price to $1.50 on All Keyed Up for formats other than Kindle and Nook.  For those two specific e-readers, you can still get All Keyed Up for only .99!)

Writer Doranna Durgin is letting authors list their books and links to Smashword so you don't have to visit site after site after site.

Check it out at her blog!

Friday, July 01, 2011

20 Things I Learned or Remembered at RWA National

I attended the national conference of RWA this week in New York City.  I'm biased, but believe that this is the best writers' organization in the world.  In random order, here are 20 things that I learned, remembered, felt, or experienced at RWA.

1) I love being a writer.
2) Publishing is a business and there are many aspects out of my control.  About all I can control is the book that I write.
3) Michael Hauge's workshops were terrific.  I finally understand and can use three act structure in my book and unite it with the characters' development.
4) Jenny Crusie is brilliant.
5) Madeline Hunter is intelligent, thoughtful, witty, and very wise!
6) I have some terrific friends who are also writers.
7) No matter how tough the business gets, there are always opportunities.
8) Writers have the best, most entertaining conversations.
9) Manhattan is big, busy, energetic and noisy.
10) The skills you use in calling a cab can help you in other ways.  Stand out, whistle and get yourself noticed but don't shove someone out of your way to do so.
11) Loving to read is a blessing.
12) Comfortable shoes can save you from a ruined day.
13) E-publishing my backlisted books was a great idea but shouldn't mean that I ignore traditional print publishers in the future.
14) Everybody has a story to tell and no matter where we are in our careers, we all have something to contribute to the conversation.
15) Do not act like a bitch to the person in line ahead of you waiting for Starbucks.  He/she could turn out to be the editor or agent to whom you're about to pitch.  (Saw someone make this mistake.)  Acxtually, don't act like a bitch to anyone.  It serves no purpose.
16) Be happy for the successes of others. 
17) Good news for any romance writers spreads out and is good news for all romance writers.
18)You might get knocked down by circumstances, but the only person who can take you out of the game is you.
19) There is no other writer in the world like you.  (Thank you, Jenny Crusie.)
20) The next valuable piece of information/knowledge is waiting just around the corner.