Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm A Guest Today at Romance Novel TV

The lovely ladies of Romance Novel TV are having me as the guest author today! We'll be chatting all day about my books, my characters, and things that go bump in the night!

Stop by and say hello!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The End of An Aura

In yesterday's blog about the TAPSCON Paranormal convention I went to this past weekend, I mentioned auras. Auras, in metaphysical terms, are the supposedly invisible fields of energy that emanate from the human body (most strongly around the head). These fields of energy are expressed in colors, and the color of your aura is what determines the type of person you are. Some people claim to be able to see auras with the naked eye, but others claim that they can be captured on film. An "aura photographer" was available at convention, and my friend Stefani was game enough to go for it.

What you're looking at here is Stefani's "aura", the field of energy surrounding her head. (If you look very closely, you'll see her forehead and both eyes near the center of the picture, in the dark area). The bright yellow-orange color is emanating from her neck, chest and shoulders, while above and around her head, the colors shift into pinks, violets and, at the very top, a lovely purplish-blue. According to the "aura reader" who took the picture, all these colors are extremely important, and are broken down (in general) like this:

Orange: artistic, creative expressive, successful.
Yellow: sunny, intelligent, playful, center of attention
Pink: loving, spiritual, caring, sensual, tender
Red: energetic, vital, passionate
Blue: deep feelings, communication, peace, love

All in all, Stefani is just a wonderful person (or at least her aura says she is!). Here she is as she prepares to have her aura photo taken (the woman in front is the aura reader herself). You may notice the look of amusement on her face - and why not? We'd been hanging around this booth for about ten minutes, and were already highly amused. A steady stream of people had gotten their aura photos taken, and we couldn't help but notice a pattern: every single one of them was a wonderful person!

The aura photographs themselves followed a pattern - a beautiful orangey-yellow one like Stefani's, then a more "rainbow-like" one, where the colors were sharply defined, not blended as much as Stefani's. Then an orangey-yellow one, then a rainbow one. No black or brown or gray auras here! The aura reader (who I'm sure was a wonderful person herself) seemed to be repeating the same phrases over and over as she interpreted the aura photos for the person who bought them: "Kind, loving, must learn to say "no" more often, seeking knowledge, etc., etc., etc.,).

Our conclusion was, quite simply, that these were phrases that everyone would love to hear said about themselves. Alas, while we were not sold on the validity of aura photography, we had a great time, and Stefani got a great souvenir. We can't wait to use it when we set up our fortune-teller hut on Halloween. :-)

And Stefani, aura or no aura, you ARE a lovely person!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why Be Normal, When You Can Be Paranormal?

Anybody out there watch the TV show, Ghosthunters? Familiar with the acronym TAPS? (The Atlantic Paranormal Society, which is the ghosthunting group behind the show.) Well, a couple of weeks ago I found out that a local landmark hotel called the Belleview Biltmore (reputedly haunted), was going to be the site of TAPSCON 2008, a paranormal convention involving members of the show and all things weird, complete with a midnight taping of a future Ghosthunters episode. Yes, for the cost of a VIP ticket, you could participate in an actual ghost hunt of the Belleview Biltmore with the TAPS crew! Did I do it? Nah, I'm too chicken. :-)

But I DID call up my ghoulfriend Stefani and ask if she wanted to go over for the day. Neither one of us had any idea what to expect, but we were both game for a little weekend weirdness.

Here's a shot of the Belleview Biltmore hotel from the outside:
The Belleview has long been rumored to be haunted: ghostly apparitions stalking the hallways, banging noises, smoky figures caught on film. It's been featured on the TV show Weird Travels, and offers regular weekend ghost tours for the locals at (I believe) $75.00 a pop.

We arrived and checked in, then went straight to the convention floor to see what kind of paranormal paraphenalia we could find, and we found plenty! There were a lot of people in the requisite black t-shirts, lots of books on ghosthunting and haunted places, booths where you could buy souvenirs (I got a cool black t-shirt of my own, with a little glow-in-the-dark ghostie on it), psychics available for readings, and some very strange (supposedly supernatural) artifacts.

Here's one of my favorites, a crystal skull carved from a single chunk of quartz which is rumored to be more than two thousand years old. It looks blue because it was lit from beneath, the better to see. The idea was that you place both hands on the skull, and concentrate on something important to you. Touching the skull is supposed to ground you and help you find "synergy", so here's a picture of me doing just that.

I honestly can't say whether I found synergy or not. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that it was a little warm, but that could've come from the hands of all the people who were touching it before me. It was cool, though!

There was another artifact there that completely creeped me out, so much so that I couldn't even bring myself to take a picture of it. Robert the Doll, which I blogged about last week. There was a sign taped to Robert's glass case that said, "Please ask Robert's permission before taking his picture." Seriously.

My friend Stefani and I had a great time at the booth where you could have a picture of your "aura" taken and interpreted by the woman who took the photo, but that experience deserves a blog all its own, which I will do tomorrow. :-)She also got some portable dowsing rods, which were pretty interesting, too.

As for the TAPS crew, I did see one of the ghosthunters themselves, Dustin Pari, who was standing in the hallway, posing for photos with convention goers. He's really tall!! But I didn't get a picture - there were too many people clustered around him, and when I went back by, he was gone.

All in all, no ghosts, no hair-raising moments, but definitely a fun, weird way to spend the day!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Are You A Good Girl or a Bad Girl?

Are you a good girl, or a bad girl?

I'm blogging today at Avon Romance about the struggle some of us women often face (What? You don't struggle with this?). Trying to choose whether to be a good girl or a bad girl is quite a dilemma for Nicki Styx in my latest release, A Match Made In Hell.

Stop by and tell me how much of a dilemma it is for YOU!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Makes A Booksigning Successful?

I had a great time signing books yesterday at the Waldenbooks in West Shore Plaza - when all was said and done, I signed over 40 books in about two hours, most of which were copies of my lastest release, A Match Made In Hell. (I also signed copies of my June anthology, Weddings From Hell.)

It was a successful signing by anyone's measure -Carolyn, the manager at Waldenbooks, was thrilled, and the staff was great! I signed books for them as well (hi, Branwyn! hi, Jessica!), and have already been asked back to do more signings for each of my next upcoming releases.

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: selling a few books (even 40 of them) at a booksigning isn't going to make you, the author, tons of money, and if you're looking for an ego stroking, you're looking in the wrong place! :-) I mean, think about it - when was the last time you were in a bookstore, saw someone sitting at a table and rushed up to buy their book? If you're like me, the answer would be "never". When I go to a bookstore, I want to browse the shelves, pick up a few and read the back covers, and put them back without having to explain to the hopeful author herself why I don't want to buy it. Nobody likes to be put on the spot - whether you're a reader or a writer!

One of the first things people ask you when you become published is "When's the booksigning?" Many unpublished authors seem to think that a booksigning is the pinnacle of success, when the reality can be very, very different. You could sit there for two hours, all alone, having people avoid making eye contact with you. You can field questions like "Do you work here?" or "Where's the ladies room?" and never sell a single book.

So why do we authors do booksignings, and what's the best way to have them be successful? Most writers are introverts, not extroverts. We're not comfortable with hawking our wares to total strangers, asking "Wanna buy a book?". Here's what I do, and so far I've avoided the pitfalls of a bad booksigning experience.

1) I only do signings at stores where the manager is truly enthusiastic about my work. Nothing in the world beats "handselling", which is when the staff at the store continues to recommend your book even when you're not around. It's a two-way street as far as I'm concerned - the enthusiastic bookstore helps you sell your books, you help the bookstore by participating in a booksigning, which helps the store's bottom line. Believe me, the bookstore chain is making a lot more money per book than I am! So the more books I sell, the more profit for them. The more profit for them, the happier they are with me, and the more enthusiastic they'll be about selling my books. You see the pattern here? It's circular, and builds on itself.

2) I create my own audience. I'm not going to be that poor, lonely author sitting there by herself while people avoid eye contact if I can help it! So, I give the bookstore promotional material to hand out beforehand - bookmarks, a foamboard display (provided by my publisher), and even fliers to be slipped into bags at the bookstore, if they want them. I send out electronic "evites" to everyone I know in the local area, inviting them to the signing: friends, family, neighbors, local book clubs I've visited with, church members, anyone I can think of whose email address I have and who might be interested. I tell the people behind the counter at my dry cleaner, my pharmacy, even the lady who regularly checks me out at the grocery store. I notify the local newspaper so they can publish the time and date in the "Local Events" section. I'm never pushy - I just LET PEOPLE KNOW when and where I'm doing a booksigning.

By providing my own audience and giving the bookstore the tools to promote me, I'm once again making them happy, and they are once again even happier to sell my book when I'm not around. See that circular pattern again?

3) I approach each booksigning as a way to build relationships. If I've prepared properly, I'm going to see some people I haven't seen in a while, meet some new ones, and get my name (and my books) out there. And yes, I'm going to sell a few books to total strangers, who aren't as afraid to approach me if I'm already talking to people and signing books, instead of sitting there looking like I'm ready to pounce on them. :-)

The thing to remember here is that it really isn't about me making money at the signing - I've already been paid my advance, and the average author royalty on mass market paperbacks is about 8% per book, which means I've really only made less than $25 for two hours work, which I will not see until I've earned back my advance. It's about building relationships with the bookstore staff, who will remember me and recommend me to readers, and to the readers themselves, who will hopefully want to read more of my books, and recommend them to others. :-)

Make any sense? And hey, wanna buy a book? LOL

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Robert the Doll is really, really spooky!

I have a confession to make: I've never liked dolls. Never played with them, never carried them around, never liked the ones who blinked, or cried, or drank from fake baby bottles. I never played with Barbies like all the other little girls. My mother, who LOVED collecting dolls, tried to give me one now and then, but I always preferred a cute, cuddly stuffed animal of some kind, and still do.

There is one particular doll that gives me the complete and utter creeps. His name is Robert, he's over a hundred years old, and he's quite famous in his own right. He's a bit of a paranormal celebrity, you see, and is kept in a museum in Key West, which is where he was "born" in 1896. He's so creepy, in fact, that I can't bring myself to post a picture of him on my blog, because I don't like looking at him. I will, however, post a link to a YouTube video that explains all about this weird little supernatural icon. You can see and hear all about him right here: Robert The Doll.

I'll give you his background in a nutshell: He was given to a Key West artist named Robert Eugene Otto, when Otto was a child, by his nanny (who was rumored to be into Voodoo). Otto became extremely taken with the little boy doll (who he named Robert, after himself), but his "imaginary" friend soon became a problem to the Otto family. Strange voices, strange happenings, nightmares, moving furniture, reports of the doll peering out the window all by itself, making faces at the neighboring children. When questioned by his frantic parents, Otto's inevitable reply was "Robert did it." Robert the doll was banished to the attic, but he didn't stay there. When Eugene Otto became an adult, he found the doll again, and apparently became mesmerized by him all over again - he brought him downstairs and gave him his own room, kept him by him while he painted, talked to him, and if reports are to be believed, would engage of bouts of bizarre behavior that would always be explained away with the phrase, "Robert did it." After Otto's death, Robert was once again banished to the attic, and the house sold. The new owners reported hearing a child giggling and running in the attic, and eventually Robert was rediscovered. When their 10 yr. old daughter began having fits of hysterics, claiming the doll was "alive and wanted to kill her", Robert was banished to the attic once again.

Interesting how no one could ever bring themselves to destroy the creepy little thing, isn't it? Eugene Otto's wife hated it, everyone who saw it was afraid of it, and there are reports of its face changing and its stuffed body moving before people's eyes. I'm not sure how Robert ended up in a museum, where he sits to this day, looking much as he did in 1896. A three foot, straw-stuffed boy doll with a crudely carved wooden face, dressed in a little sailor suit, clutching a stuffed lion.

I dare you to watch the video and not be creeped out.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

So Much For The Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer...

No, I don't have a hammock hanging in my back yard, but if it did, it would be as empty as this one. This summer is a busy one for me! Here's what I'll be up to, and I hope you get the chance to stop by and say hello, either in person or on the web!

July 7th - Guest blogging at Romance Bandits

July 12th - Booksigning at Waldenbooks, Westshore Plaza, in Tampa, Florida

July 18th - Guest blogging at Avon Romance

July 22nd - Guest author on Romance Novel TV

July 30th - Booksigning from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the
San Francisco Marriott

July 30th - Join me LIVE at 8:00pm on BlogTalk Radio

August 1st -booksigning from 10:15 to 10:45am at the
San Francisco Marriott

August 2nd - Attending the RITA Award Ceremony at Romance Writers Of America's 28th Annual National Conference (I'm a nominee for Best First Book and Best Paranormal Romance of 2007, so keep your fingers crossed for me!)

August 3rd - Guest blogging at Pop Syndicate

Not enough for you? (What are you, a glutton for punishment or something?) :-)