Thursday, September 19, 2013

Groveling, Flowers, and Pearls

Romance novel covers have always been a little bit ... different. For years they mostly featured the steamy bodice ripper style paintings. I say steamy in a sarcastic tone. For the most part I never found those sexy. The heroine was always groveling at the hero's feet, billowy breasts on full display, while he clutched his sword manfully. Was she begging for the D? Was that what I was supposed to do? And why was there never a wind machine around when I had sex? It was confusing.
A sampling of old school bodice rippers. 

Then the genre moved on to pictures of things like jewels, and flowers, and silks. I thought those were boring.

In the early part of this century, romance novel covers started to feature bare chested men with only a portion of their face showing. I liked those covers. Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series were the first books I saw with that style. The bare chested man made sense. They're marketing those books predominantly to heterosexual females, so it makes sense to put what we like on the cover. And cutting off the face was also smart. I know for me that sometimes when I see an unattractive hero on the cover I put the book right back on the shelf. Taking off the face eliminated that problem.

So what do romance novel covers look like today? The genre is as vast as it ever was and there are lots of styles. But one that is pretty popular is the use of photos of seemingly innocuous objects that somehow manage to make you feel intrigued and aroused. Or maybe they make you go, hmmmm. For example, look at these two covers I found at Barnes and Noble.

At first glance I think, oh pretty. But then I wonder what the covers are trying to say. Pearl necklaces, being served as food and drink? Am I supposed to read a deeper meaning into that? Now I'm thinking this is weird and I don't know if I want to read it. But I know I will, I see them everywhere which means they're popular. And I am intrigued by those covers.

Other covers are down right scandalous. Mostly naked women bound with leather and ropes. And (gasp!) threesomes. I think this is a great example of what has become more acceptable in our society. Or maybe romance readers are all just freaks.

Regardless of the style, most romance novel covers all have one thing in common. Women are embarrassed to be seen reading them in public. Which means I have a dilemma. What type of cover should I choose for my upcoming book? Do I go for the scintillating image of a couple in a torrid embrace? A bolt of silk rippling across the cover? Or do I go with the deep thought image of an orchid blooming next to an erupting volcano? It's so hard to know what will be best received.

I think when it comes time for me to hire a cover artist, I'll do a survey to get your opinion on what makes a good romance cover. I'm counting on you to guide me right. Don't let me down.

*Books shown available at B&N, Amazon, etc. Give 'em a read!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I'm Christa Tomlinson, Bitch!

You may be wondering what I'm working on (more than likely you're not). I'm taking a story that I wrote and rewriting it in order to self-publish it this spring. Why am I rewriting it? Because the original story was fanfiction, posted on the giant archival site, Now you may be wondering, what the hell is fanfiction? Fanfiction, or FF, are basically stories that are written by fans of a particular movie, book, TV series etc. These stories feature the original characters and worlds in stories told by people who love to create and love their fandoms. Is a lot of the stuff crap? Oh boy is it ever. But some of it is good. And some of it is famous. You might know where I'm going with this.

EL James, author of the Fifty Shades series, started off as a FF writer. Her popular series is based off of the world created by Stephanie Meyer in Twilight. And I don't know much about her, but Cassandra Clare of Mortal Instruments started off as a fanfiction writer too.

Looking at the success of these women, I can't help but think, Hey, I can do that too! So that's my goal. Taking a story that found some success and popularity on and making huge changes to it. All in hopes of publishing it on my own and maybe making a little money off of it. Because I like money. And cheese.

Now maybe you're thinking, Who the hell does she think she is, EL James? Okay maybe that's not you. That's actually me in my head imagining you saying that. My invisible audience as I like to call it (Very judgey, that invisible audience). Like everybody else, creative types especially, I worry about people judging me and finding my work lacking. It can be hard to push past the voices of that invisible audience. And nothing stomps on my self confidence more than being scared that people will think I'm reaching above myself (it's a problem in derby too, but I digress). But James, Clare, and every other successful author out there are just people. Just like me. What separates us is the fact that they sat their asses down and PRODUCED.

That's what I have to do. I have to ignore all the time sucks out there. To help with that I set social media blockers on my computer for certain hours of the day. If I try to go to Twitter when I'm not supposed to up pops the home page for EL James as a gentle reminder to get back to work. So far it's helping me to laugh and stay on task. I've also found a way to fight off my insecurities of 'going above my station' whenever I'm working on my goals to become a successful author. As soon as that evil little voice asks me, Who do you think you are, EL James? I just reply with, "No. I'm Christa Tomlinson, bitch!"
Neither Rick James or Dave Chapelle have endorsed this message.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Glad I Didn't Eat Spaghetti Today

I’ve researched. I’ve outlined. I’ve created characters. Now it’s time. Time to sit and get started writing. Nervous doesn’t even begin to cover it. This moment feels big and scary and important. I’m even embracing a modern cliché and playing Eminem’s Lose Yourself. I know that I will finish this story, no doubt about it. I’ve done it before, right? So I can do it again. But what happens after that? So many things will go into making this story profitable. But I can’t think about that right now. All that is months in the future. Here in the present I have to put hands to keyboard and just write. No more stalling. So okay. Deep breath. Begin writing. Excuse any vomit on the keyboard. I didn't have any of my mom's spaghetti, but still ...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Well. That Ended Quickly.

Early in the summer I applied for a teaching position at a local high school. Two days after the interview, they were calling me to tell me I got the job. When I got the call I was relieved to know I'd be back to making a good salary. I was also smug that they'd chosen me so fast. Clearly I'm excellent at bull shitting through an interview. But was I excited? Nope. I was glad to have a job but that was about it.

Fast forward to the first day of school. I should be up and dressed, headed into campus with my lunch box and my satchel full of First Day of School lessons. But I wasn't. I was at home in the bed panicking because I didn't want to go. So I emailed (yes emailed, I was too afraid to call) my department chair and said I couldn't come in because I had a migraine. I actually ended up giving myself one I was so stressed, so I guess I wasn't lying.

I stayed home the first day of school for the first time ever. My plan was to get my shit together and be ready to go in the next day. Yeah, that didn't happen. I freaked out and did the same thing again. Halfway through the day (after I'd come back from hiding in the park so my niece wouldn't know I wasn't at work) I realized I was fucking glad not to be in that classroom. Not because of that school. I'm sure it's a great place. But there were some BIG RED FLAGS telling me that I didn't want to teach. If I'd paid attention to them, I would have realized that my dislike of teaching from two years before was still there. Let's take a look at those red flags, shall we?

1. I wasn't at all excited to have the job. See opening paragraph. After the initial phone call I went right back to lazing around the house instead of doing teacher type things to prepare.

2. I had an inner sneer all through my two weeks of professional development. As I sat through each of those meetings, I was annoyed at the people all excited to teach and sharing their ideas of what worked for them in the classroom. I'm pretty sure I glared at one guy and called him a nerd under my breath.  I felt like I didn't fit in amongst them.

3. I'm a big planner and organizer. But I hadn't planned anything for my classroom. No guidelines. No classroom policies. No reward system. Nothing.

4. I procrastinated on lesson plans until Monday morning at 4 a.m. GIANT red flag. I'm a head in sand kinda gal. Meaning if I don't want to do something I'll avoid doing it indefinitely if possible. I kept sitting down to start lessons, but I never once opened a Word doc or cracked a book. Clearly, my brain was not in teacher mode.

5. And the biggest red flag of all? I put off signing my contract. Well, I kept "forgetting" to go to HR with my paperwork. I'm totally ADD and forget stuff all the time. But something that important should have lit a fire under my ass.

Face? Meet Palm. How did I not see these signs? I taught before and ended up hating it. This time I thought it'd be better. But honestly, in the back of my mind I was telling myself to just stick it out. Any time you're saying that before the job even starts is a bad sign.

So I quit. I'm not a teacher. And I don't plan to ever try and be one again. Am I proud of the way I handled this situation? No. I feel really shitty about it. I know I let that school down. I did go up and apologize but that's not much help to them.  Plus, I know I'm insane for quitting my job without having another one lined up. I guess it just took all of that for me to finally see education is not for me.

Now I just gotta figure out a way to keep me in shoes and my dogs in kibble. What about you? Have you ever been in a similar situation?