Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fan Mail and Andorra

Ever since The Wild Sight was offered as a free download back in March, all three of my books have experienced an upsurge in sales of their ebook versions. I'm thrilled, of course, because that means more readers are finding and enjoying my stories.

This is the reason I write -- to entertain readers!

A nice benefit of gaining new readers is receiving fan mail. Hearing from readers really does make all the other hassles that go with being a published author worthwhile! When someone takes the time to send me a note to tell me they liked one of my stories, I am so very gratified!

NO! I never get tired of getting fan mail as one reader asked not long ago. While it is true that I don't receive lots of mail, I can't imagine a time when I wouldn't be excited to hear from readers. For example, last week I got a post card from Andorra!

I've wanted to visit this tiny country on the mountainous border between Spain and France for years. I first learned of Andorra's existence when I was a young teen and read Mary Stewart's book Thunder on the Right, which is set in the Pyrenees near that area.

Well, one of my readers went on vacation there recently and she took a copy of The Wild Sight on her Kindle to read while on her holiday. And she was nice enough to send me a post card while she was there.

So BIG THANX to Hidi! And to everyone who has taken the time to write to me and let me know that you read one of my books and liked it! I truly appreciate your support more than I can say. Please keep those cards, letter, and emails coming!

What is the last out-of-the-way place you visted? Or maybe there's one on your list of places to see? Please share with Aunty and the rest of us!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Trish Milburn and Living In Color

My good friend and Bandita, Trish Millburn has a new book out, a lovely "women's fiction" story called Living in Color. It is available on Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook. Since Trish was nice enough to "blog sit" for me in the past while I was off cruising, I couldn't resist the opportunity to have her back while I was actually here to enjoy her visit!

Welcome back, Trish!

Thanks for having me back, Cindy. Always fun to hang out with you.

Please tell us a bit about Living in Color. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write this story?

Here’s the blurb for the book:

After the death of her father, Sabrina Bishop offers to take her mother on a road trip to expose her to a world she’s never seen in her sheltered, abuse-filled life. The trip becomes a journey of unexpected healing and self-discovery not only for her mother, but for Sabrina as well.

I really like road trips, long stretches of road where you can see all kinds of things that you can’t when you fly over them. I also thought about all those hours in a car is a good time to have lengthy conversations, so the idea for a story about a mother and daughter with a strained relationship popped into my head. During their travels, they find out things about each other and themselves that they never expected.

This book is a bit of a departure from your previously published books. Do you have more women’s fiction in mind for your readers?

I’ve written one other women’s fiction book that I need to go back over again. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at it, but it’s a story I really like too, one of those coming-back-home-from-the-place-you-fled stories. And now that I’ve dipped my toe into the women’s fiction waters, I’m sure my brain will be looking for new ideas for stories.

What’s next up for you in terms of books?

Right now, I’m in the midst of revising the first book in a new trilogy coming from Harlequin American, probably in 2012. Then it’s quickly on to revising the second book and finishing writing the third. I’ll also be working on some young adult projects too. So, busy, busy, busy.

I know you love visiting National Parks. Did any of your real life experiences make their way into this story?

Two of the places Sabrina and Ruby visit in Living in Color are Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. So I was able to use descriptions of those places from my personal memorial, particularly Yellowstone, which is one of my absolute favorite places. Though it’s not a National Park, they also end up visiting the Gulf Coast of Florida, another of my favorite places. It’s so much easier to write about places you’ve been.

Which National Park that you haven’t yet visited is at the top of your ‘bucket list?’

Oh, so many of them. I’d say the top two are the Grand Canyon and Yosemite in the continental U.S., and all of those gorgeous, enormous parks in Alaska.

Having been to both the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, Aunty can vouch that they are indeed FABULOUS and actually live up to all their hype! I've only been on the coast of Alaska (yes, on a cruise) and it was breath-taking, so I'm sure the interior will be equally stunning.

What about the rest of you? Have any road trips planned for the near future? What about those on the top of your 'Bucket List?' Please share with us!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Tax Man Cometh

"Let me tell you how it will be; There's one for you, nineteen for me. " Taxman by George Harrison

We're coming down to the wire. This is the last week before Federal (and in most cases State) taxes are due. I know plenty of people who have not only already filed their taxes, but have already received (and in most cases spent) their refunds. I've never been quite so organized. But I am happy to report that I did mail off both my tax returns a few days ago. I'm getting a small refund from the Feds and an even smaller one from the State. In fact, my refund from the State will cost more to process than the amount of money involved but, by gosh, it's MY MONEY and I want it back.

Paying taxes is a hot topic and always has been. I mean, our forefathers rebelled against the mother country over "taxation without representation." Can't get much more American than that! I remember when my son was around ten or eleven, I had to explain to him why we pay taxes. The conversation went something like this:

He: Why do we have to pay taxes anyway?
Me: See all those nice roads and freeways? Taxes pay for those. That nice park you like to go to with your friends to play? Taxes pay for it to be clean, the grass cut, and the equipment to be in good repair.

He: (thoughtfully) Really? Okay, I guess we should pay taxes.

If only it really were that straightforward. The California state tax return has a whole list of charitable organizations that you can donate all or part of your refund to. If only they had a list of places you could designate where your tax dollars went! I don't think any local roads, parks, schools, fire and police protection would be strapped for funds if there were. Unfortunately, taxes tend to be more like George Harrison's song:

if you drive a car, - I’ll tax the street;
if you try to sit, - I’ll tax your seat;
if you get too cold, - I’ll tax the heat;
if you take a walk, - I'll tax your feet.

And I don't even want to think about the consequences of NOT paying your taxes.

Many years ago, my ex decided to get 'creative' with a few of our deductions and we wound up being audited. The memory still throws me into a cold sweat. Trust me when I say that every horror story you've heard about audits are TRUE! That's why whenever I am asked what I'm afraid of, I always answer the IRS! After all, the notorious gangster Al Capone was brought up on many, many charges, but the only one the authorities ever made stick was tax evasion.

If the IRS brought down Capone, then you better believe I am afraid of them!

Have you paid your taxes yet? Did you get a refund? If you have to pay, do you wait until the last minute, like I do?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rita Finalist Kendra Leigh Castle

Friday, March 25th was an exciting day for romance writers everywhere, because that was the day the finalists were announced in the Golden Heart and Rita contests -- the two BIGGIES in the world of romance!

This year, I was thrilled when I learned that my buddy Kendra Leigh Castle is a Rita Finalist in the Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure category! So without further adieu, here's Kendra talking about being a Rita finalist...

Thanks for letting me come over to celebrate, Aunty Cindy! I’m still doing the Dance of Joy. Well, okay, it’s more like a really happy shuffle by now, but I’m still really excited.

Did I sit around on Friday the 25th wishing for my very own “You’re a RITA finalist” call? Well, duh, yeah. But did I actually expect to GET a call? Nope.

Don’t get me wrong. RENEGADE ANGEL is a book I’m very proud of, one of those stories that showed up in my imagination and insisted I write it right now (and of course, I was writing a contracted book at the time, so it gave me fits trying to hold a big, bossy fallen angel at bay while I worked on something else that people were, you know, paying me for).

But lots of amazing authors enter the RITAs. Finaling isn’t something you expect. It’s just something you dream of, something you hope for. I’ll tell you what, though. Dreaming of how it would feel to have a member of the RWA board call me up and tell me my book was a RITA finalist was nowhere near as amazing as having it actually happen.

I’m never going to forget the sound of Jeanne Adams’ voice, and how lovely it was to have someone to be excited with me in that moment. She’ll probably remember me as the least coherent finalist she spoke with…I have vague memories of my mouth opening and increasingly high-pitched sounds coming out of it. And some words, which may or may not have made sense when strung together. I’m thinking “not”. Still, she was very nice. And I’m glad I waited until I hung up to sound my barbaric yawp (complete with booty-shaking victory dance).

RENEGADE ANGEL is a book that means a lot to me, for a few reasons. It marked a new chapter in my fledgling writing career, the beginning of my relationship with Harlequin (which is awesome, btw), and apart from all that, was just a hell of a lot of fun to write. Raum will probably always be one of my favorite heroes—see the picture I used for his inspiration and try not to melt—and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s found a way to get even more attention for his big, black-winged self.

It isn’t really important whether or not I win. I mean, yeah, I would love to! But right now, I’m just busy being honored that I’ve been singled out among all my amazing peers for contributing something special. Thanks for letting me share my excitement with you!

Thank YOU, Kendra for sharing your story and your very YUMMY hero with us! Oh, and thanks for telling us about your call from my lovely Bandita Le Duchesse, Jeanne. Actually, Aunty would be curious to hear that yawp and see your booty-shaking victory dance. If you do win (and my fingers are xxed that you will!), will you do an even more vigorous version of that dance? Will sequins be involved?!?!

Do any of you readers have any suggestions for Kendra when she goes up on stage to claim her Rita award on July 1st? Any dance moves or costume suggestions?

I happen to know that Kendra is taking her dad as her date for the big awards ceremony, but if you could go, who would you ask to go with you? And what would you wear?