That’s My Job

book-2The other day, over coffee in a café with a writer friend who lives around the corner from me, the topic turned from our writing to the great mystery of promotion and the elusive magical unicorn that leads readers to your books. We discussed when your new book comes out strong, gets well-reviewed, and then…slips into something like a zombie-like state where sales shuffle along, taking an occasional bite here and there. My friend and I wondered how much promo can you do for yourself, how can you market your work and get it noticed, get it ‘discovered’ without being annoying or spending a fuckton of money by hiring a marketing & PR firm.

Fun fact: Did you know fuckton is a now a standard unit of measurement?

The two of us talked and talked — and didn’t come up with any answers, had no suggestions to make, and we went back to sitting side by side drinking coffee, wearing headphones and writing. Because that’s what we do. We meet,we write, and drink coffee.

book1Like my friend, I’ve followed the advice I’ve been given, done blog tours, sent my books out for reviews, peddled my publications on Facebook, Twitter, Wattpad, Pinterest, in newspapers and local magazines, and radio, on my website, on other’s websites. I’ve gone to conferences, presented workshops and papers, and my books continue shuffling along. What I can say is that, while we spent quite some time discussing what to do, I don’t worry about my books doing a zombie shuffle. I set my focus on writing books. I write because THAT’S MY JOB.

I will be totally honest. I don’t write to make money. You may call bullshit on this, but  I have a great life and I do not define myself as a human being by the amount of dough my books do or do not bring in. As a pragmatist, I know this business is a crapshoot, that there are a shit-ton (slightly smaller than a fuckton) of writers and books out there, and very, very, very few make any real sort of money from the work. Making lotsa money would be nice and I’ll admit that royalties are kinda awesome, mostly because they keep me able to sit in a café, drink coffee and write, but as pleased as hell as I am when someone reads my work and buys me another cup of coffee, I do not write my books FOR anyone other than myself. I’m my own audience. And I know what I like

I started writing because I couldn’t find what I wanted to read, which, by now, all of you probably know that’s stories with women over 40 as the lead. Some of you out there happen to like what I like, and like what I write, and that’s totally bitchin’! Thank you for buying me coffee!

While my next two books continue my placing a 40+ woman as the heroine, they are a sligantonellicoverssmallht departure from my usual romance snark, and I still wrote them for myself first. I also wrote them for my friend Elle because she shares my love of coffee and the Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Cult status, coffee money, and Elle aside, what I’m pondering again today is this:

  1. How soon is too soon to market and promote a new book? If I begin this Friday, as I had planned to last week, will it be overkill of the fuckton of promotion?
  2. Is it too early for promo, considering that one of the books has garnered a little interest, but no publishing deal—yet.
  3. Is it too early for promo if I indie publish it and become a hybrid author, and if so see question 1?
  4. Is it possible to overfeed the elusive unicorn and kill it before it has a chance to become a zombie book?

The point of all this is that I am a writer. I am not schooled in marketing or promotion—I don’t even know if there’s a difference between marketing and promo. I am a writer and a coffee drinker.

Maybe one of you could mull this over and get back to me while I’ll carry on writing to please myself, drinking coffee, because contemplating the path to ultimate promomojo sure does get in the way of my job.

The Ick Factor and You: The Origin of the Notion Older People Having Sex Is Gross

Sometimes it doesn’t take much for me to jump on my soapbox. Last week, after I read Ann Brenoff‘s column Dear Hollywood, I May Be Invisible To You, But I’m Very Real on the Huffington Post I got in quite a lather (see what I did there, soapbox, lather?) with another reminder of the ‘culture of invisibility’ in Hollywood. You know the thing, that misguided idea that deems any woman over 40 as unviable, unwanted, unfuckable, unbankable onscreen. All lathered up, I pondered, again, the source of the idiotic invisibility. Since I have a PhD and wrote a dissertation that examined the culture of invisibility in romance fiction, I’m going to share my theory with you.

wtfRemember when you were 5 years-old, and your mother explained the penis and peegina* sex thing that time you were precocious and asked at the dinner table one night? Remember when, a short while after learning the revolting details of where babies came from, you realized that all the kissing you saw on TV, and in movies, was another incomprehensibly revolting thing that grown-ups like your parents did, and you thought every time your parents kissed they were trying to make a baby and you couldn’t fathom WHY your mother would let your father put his penis in her peegina?

Do you also remember how incredibly disgusted you were, but how your confused little kid mind tried to make sense of how you didn’t get pregnant when Raymond Michaud kissed you that time you played in the treehouse the big kids built in the woods near your house?

Remember when the whole notion of sex was absolutely repugnant and then one day it wasn’t? It didn’t seem that far-fetched or icky. But then, when you were about 11, your older brother told you about anal sex and you were all sex was never going to be something you did.


Remember when you were 17 or 19, or 22 and kissing and sex was like perpetual springtime and a raging thunderstorm of emotion and passion and excitement? Remember when you joined the club you never thought you’d join? You wondered how you ever thought sex wasn’t something you would want to DO and be DONE TO, and you finally, FINALLY got why everyone on TV, in books and movies wanted to do it. Everyone had sex, all the time—except your parents.

Or grandparents.

Or your unmarried, forty-something aunt.

You thought this because never saw parents or grandparents or spinster aunts on TV, in books or movies doing it or even interested in doing it. They were too mature, tool old, too busy with work and retirembunsent, and went to bed early after their 4:30 dinnertime. And movies, books, and TV didn’t lie. The message was subtle, but you noticed, unconsciously, that people only ever had sex when they were young. You never saw people over 40, like your grandparents, kissing or groping, grinding, or dry humping on TV, in books or movies, and because you never saw it the idea of people over 40 kissing—or humping—was as incomprehensibly revolting as your mother letting your father put his penis in her peegina. The only reason your parents and grandparents still kissed was because they were Italian, Italians are affectionate, and that sort display of affection was allowed on TV, in movies and books. Your parents and grandparents weren’t really passionate because passion was for the young. The perpetual springtime raging thunderstorm of emotion and passion and excitement was for the young you saw on TV, in movies, in books, in romance fiction.

The images of youth are everywhere in the media, on TV, in books, movies, advertising, and this is the insidious way the Ick Factor is enacted. You are indoctrinated without knowing. You are misled to believe sex and passion is only for the young since that is all you see. This perpetual lack of truth is the way stereotypes of age and sex are maintained. The erasure of a huge portion of the population from view has led to the notion that sex is something only human beings under 40 want and enjoy. But it’s worse. If you’re a woman, you notice there’s a double standard when it comes men and women and sex. As you get a little older, maybe when you hit 30, you realize there’s an additional aspect to the Ick Factor you didn’t notice before, when you were younger. Men over 40 continue to get it on in books, movies and on TV.

Women grando not.

Even more sinister is way the Ick Factor works, the continual lack of truth is the way stereotypes of woman and age are maintained, the way women over 40 are cast in stereotyped roles (Hey, grandma!) or dismissed, excluded from appearing on TV, in movies and books. This is truly incomprehensibly revolting, and this is how we are conditioned to think. We erase women over 40 from being when we know this is NOT how women over 40 are.

In a world of reality television, isn’t it time to change the Ick Factor to a Truth Factor? Isn’t it time we show life as it really is, show people of all ages as whole, passionate, sexual human beings in love? Isn’t it time we grow up from being grossed out little five year olds who can’t comprehend how mommy would let daddy put his penis into her peegina?

I battle the Ick Factor. I write books that challenge the ‘younger’ norm of romance fiction. My lead characters are all over 40; the romance heroines are older than the standard twenty-something romance heroine.  The women I write are whole, intelligent, vibrant, sexual humAntonellicoverssmallan beings, not stereotypes of age. I write outside the norm because I believe it is beyond time to change. Discussing the Ick Factor and the ‘culture of invisibility’ is excellent, important, but what good is all the talk about age discrimination and sexism if no one challenges the ‘usual?” For decades, Romance fiction has been at the forefront of adapting to social and cultural change for women. What better place to shift the attitudes about women age, sexuality, make women of a certain age visible, and kill the Ick Factor?

Trust me on this. I’m a doctor who writes romance fiction.

*Becasue Pee comes out of a boy’s penis and pee comes out of a girl’s peegina

Next to You and An Introvert on Book Release Day

NextToYou_V1_FINAL Round3-Harlequin1920_1920x3022It’s BOOK RELEASE DAY for Next to You

This is the point where there are a choice of ways for me to react. Let’s examine them and break them down.

I could have a Book Launch Brunch, except… As much as I LOVE the breakfast-lunch amalgam that allows others to imbibe and relax with alcohol whilst I get hyped-up on caffeine, I’m an introvert who hates parties where there are more than six people, and no one, except me, would get up and boogie to the Partridge Family’s I Woke Up In Love This Morning from William Murphy’s Bubblegum pop classics playlist if there’s hollandaise, coffee, and booze.

I could be obsessive and check my sales rank on Amazon, today and tomorrow because it’s July 25th here in Australia, but not yet in the UK or North America. However, Amazon boggles my mind and means nothing much at all to me, except for the fact that I’ll eventually get a royalty statement showing that I made enough money from selling a few copies of Next to You to allow me to buy three to ten cups of coffee.Antonellicoffe

Those three-to ten cups of coffee—OH WHAT JOY!!

It’s a proud moment and I’d like to burst into my favourite local café and shout COFFEE FOR EVERYONE, which, for me is the equivalent of popping a cork on something, tossing confetti and SQUEEEING and stuff…except that introvert, more-than-six people thing again, and I SQUEE better on paper. So I’m gonna go to my favourite local café and continue writing my new book at my favourite table in the corner, and have 2 cups of coffee that, thanks to my readers, my royalties have allowed me to buy. And coffee OH WHAT JOY!

I’m really, really incredibly happy to have William Murphy and Caroline finally meet and have you meet them. Thank you for sharing this moment with me and, well, if you happen to stop by and see me at my favourite café, know that I am truly enjoying the coffee you bought me when you bought my book. 

Pop Goes the Culture Breakfast At Tiffany’s Club

writingSometimes I get together with my writerly-type friends and we talk about writing advice we’ve been given. You non-writerly types have probably heard the cliché “write what you know.” There’s also the gem “write the book you want to read.”

I admit there are times adhere to one or both of those little pearls of ‘wisdom’ without noticing–until someone points it out to me. For instance, pop culture, I’m full of it, and so are my books. My novels are chock full of pop culture references to songs, TV shows, movies, books, public and fictional figures.  The characters I write, William Murphy from Next to You in particular, are all jam-packed and bursting wiNextToYou_V1_FINAL Round3-Harlequin1920_1920x3022th pop culture goodness. I write books that way because that’s what I know.

Of course I didn’t realise this was what I did until my publisher said I was “The smart-talking, quip-cracking, pop-culture addicted author” that I really noticed my books are chock-full of pop culture references.

It seems I can’t help myself. I cram pop culture into my books because pop culture is sorta ingrained in my life.  I bet it’s ingrained in your life too. Pop culture is familiar, everyday. Some see it as superficial, consumerist, and silly, but it’s the mainstream and has been since the last part of the 20th century. Pop culture has an impact, whether you want it to or not.

The interesting thing about pop culture is how it crosses generations. Things that were hot and popular in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s–from rock and roll, Elvis, Leave it to Beaver, The Beatles, John Lennon, Hippies, Woodstock, Vietnam, I Dream of Jeannie, Watergate, The Brady Bunch, Charlie’s Angles, Punk, Disco, “Greed is Good,” Thatcherism, The Simpsons, Reaganism, Grunge, multiculturalism, Tiananmen Square and on and on, have had a cultural impact. Those people, moments, movements, TV shows and music have become part of western culture daily life, instantly recognisable, even if one wasn’t alive when those things came into being.

I’m from a generation sliver between Baby Boomers and GenX, a generation that someone, way back in 2004, referred to as ‘Cuspers.’ I don’t quite identify with either generation (See here and here for more on Cuspers), but being in between two generations means I am privy the pop cultural influences of both, and perhaps this is why William Murphy enjoys TV shows Baby Boomers watched AND has such an unshakable love for 60s and 70s Bubblegum pop music. This is what I know.

TigerbeatThe sad thing of it is, that no matter how I wrote about what I knew, no matter that I wrote a book I wanted to read, I couldn’t figure out a way to make Will a fan of reading Tiger Beat magazine.

Next to You is available for pre-order now and hits stores on 25 July!

A Reading Challenge Where YOU Get to SHOUT!

Few Kidbingogames conjure up images of childhood and being elderly as BINGO.

You know what I mean.  You spent your kid days singing that earwormy song that I bet is earworming through you because you simply saw the word.

A second or two later, as you realised you were humming the tune, or outright singing There was a farmer who had a dog… you automatically went to your inner kid place — or thought about retirement communities where some stereotyped imaged of the aged popped into your mind’s eye and you pictured rows and rows of old folk with their big-assed magic markers/Sharpies/Nikko pens/marker pens (choose the pen that best fits your dialect of English). You saw the tumbler and the game show host who calls out the number he pulls whilst making smarmy game-show host quips about the numbers and/or Bingo participants… OH DEAR GOD! I’ve been brainwashed into having instant images of how retired elderly folk are ‘supposed to’ spend their days!

BingoI should slink away in shame.

But I won’t because I know, despite my momentary (and shocking realisation that I’ve been indoctrinated by the media) lapse in reason, Bingo is a game for all ages, played by all ages.

Some Bingo games are more fun than other Bingo games. Grocery Shopping Bingo, for instance, or Number Plate Bingo (find all 50 US states/ European Countries/ All 8 Australian States and territories).

Some Bingo brings big bucks (love that alliteration, don’t you?).

Some Bingo, like The Shallowreader’s Bingo, brings you nothing but hours of reading pleasure, which YOU KNOW IS A HUGE PRIZE!

Some Bingo, Like The Shallowreader’s is simply a challenge, and who doesn’t like a challenge?

This is a reading Bingo Game.  A liberal reading Bingo game. You read and play Bingo with the books you are reading. Here’s what The Shallowreader is doing:

The rules are simple: cross the box as you read and when you get 5 in a row give out a Shallowreader Bingo call on either your blog, twitter or your favourite social media platform with a list of the items you have read. On the 29th of every month, I will put out a Bingo reminder and people can check their lists but I am happy for people to call #shallowreaderBingo whenever they like.

shallowreaderbingo-01I’m so playing along. Won’t you too? While a lot of you may be romance readers you are not limited to reading romance. Anything goes here. Just read, kids. READ! Follow the link to Shallowreader to join.

Come on. You know you wanna shout out BINGO!


Photos: garlandcannon / CC BY-NC-SA, David Gallagher / CC BY-NC-SA, Leo Reynolds / CC BY-NC-SA


A Day in the Writing Life of Sandra Antonelli– That’s Me

I bet you’re ALL so desperate to know about a day in my writing life. Hands up. Who thinks cookies and coffee play a part? Hop on over to the RWAus blog and see more and find out if you’re right.

Let’s give a good coffee fuelled morning to Sandra Antonelli, whose book Driving in Neutral is out now!

Antonelli pink sweaterIn one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling.
I write contemporary, smart-assed romantic comedy for grown ups who aren’t really very grown up at all, which is due to my smartassed nature. Although, I do have a dark side…

Hiding My Shame

Stop! Oh, yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman…

And allow me to point something out to you, pinhead. The mailbox at Shrinkytown does not have a flip-front opening, nor does it resemble a wide-mouth bass. One would think, going by your professional and vast experience delivering mail, that it would be bloody obvious how certain sized packages should NOT be crammed into the slot barely big enough for a love letter, or bill.

Allow me also, to thank you, so very much, for cracking the spine on my brand new book. It came all the way from another country.  In case you didn’t quite get that, in case you’re not down with sarcasm, I’m cheesed off, fartwad.

I don’t know about y’all out there in Biteyland, but I’m kinda persnickety about my books, especially when they’re paperback. I am very careful when I read them and I take care to preserve the spine, the cover, and the pages. I may be exaggerating the damage a little. His At Night, my spanking new Sherry Thomas, has a lovely yellow cover ( that is rather similar to Anna Cambell’s My Reckless Surrender–Hello, Bantam did your art department talk to Avon?) that is unscathed. The top of the spine, however, has a nice dent, like a deep pockmark left behind by bad acne.
  I feel so…ugly now, so ashamed.

Thank God for Swell and the gorgeous book covers she’s sewn for me. I can cover up the hideous scar with quilted beauty.

Besides offering unparalleled protection from gooky fingers and spills, Swell’s covers are like make-up for flawed, or damaged books. Swell makes things beautiful again.
She will make my Sherry Thomas the thing of glory that is once was.

But for now, until I get home, my injured Sherry Thomas will be obscured behind the veil of a pristine white envelope, and I will ease my pain with Chips Ahoy.

Biting into the Past

Among the things I love about books (and by books I mean ones made of paper not electronic Kindle do-hickeys, or audiobooks, which I have to admit I DO love), besides the smell of the crisp paper, the heft of the novel in my hand and, of course, being drawn into a well-told story, is the typeface. I love a good typeface, and well, honestly, who doesn’t?

I’ve got Diana Gabaldon’s latest Historical novel An Echo In the Bone. It’s a fair chunk of book, 814 pages, I am eager to gobble up in a day an a half. Besides being a fan of reading acknowledgement pages, I adore when an author makes a note about the book being set in such and such typeface. It’s a special thing when the history of the typeface is given. No, really it is!  Where would books be without the orginal heavy Gothic typeface like Bastarda and Schwabacher?  Sure, they were challenging to read–have any of you ever read Gutenberg–but they gave way to the Latin-styled to Roman types and those babies were way easier on the eyes. Any time you pick up a book to read, it’s been set in a font that had it’s roots back in ancient times.

Yes, that’s right! Reading a book, your favourite way to escape or relax,  whether you like it or not, whether you believe studying anything based in the Humanities is a waste of time, you have to understand It’s all about HISTORY people! 

You know me. I’m gadget happy. But guess what? I am such a massive fan of typeface on paper, that I don’t know if I’ll ever cross that line to e-books. I’ve read a few, but I found them difficult to… watch? It’s the screen you see, as well as the font. My eyes burn and dry out looking at an LCD the same way they do when I I sit in front of a computer all day. When I read a novel, I prefer to touch history as opposed to a touch-screen. I want my, I want my, I want my typeface. 

Bring on the Galliard based on the sixteenth-century typefaces of Frenchman Robert Granjon!

A writer’s tool

Mr Blue is back, Mr Sun is out, and it’s lookin’ like time to saddle up. If I was slightly taller I would have a Sportster, the “most girly bike”  Harley Davidson makes. In candy apple red. But I know my limitations. 

Honest. This is not some wild Glenn Tilbrook dream that will take 20 years to come true. It doesn’t take a brain like Newton’s to establish a Sportster is three times my body weight. 
Forty-five kilos -vs-  just does not compute.  
Oh, I may snarl just a loudly and people part ways for my thunder, but how the hell could I possibly hold this baby upright at the lights? Or set it on its side-stand? I’d look guuuuud on that mama, but I look damn fine on a scooter too. I think the word I’m actually looking for is stylish. I can do stylish. That word feeds my inner Grace Kelly and we all know Grace would have ridden a Vespa (or a Scoopy), not a Hog.

Whoa. My time’s up. I have to finish writing this chapter. But before I go, how do all you feel about books that start with a thunderous Harley clatter and end with a scootery whizz–a stand up-and-kick-to-move kind of scootery whizz?  The book I just finished was like surprisingly bad sex with someone who is a good kisser. Based on the lip action you expect delivery, yet the the goods just don’t live up to the promise. So with this story I was dazzled by a few brilliant first kisses, then it completely lost wood and I was left feeling depressingly…unsatisfied

My only choice was to imagine how I would have finished the story if I had written the book… Which led me to think that if Ghost writers are Viagra for books then computer keyboards are vibrators for writers.

Adolescent Rapture = Research Fodder

Oh man, at six-one, Jon-Erik Hexum as Phineas Bogg (big ol’ nod to Mr Verne) was this adolescent girl’s fantasy…A time traveller with Viking blue eyes and reddish blonde hair…Damn, had the man survived his accidental, on-the set of Cover Up, self-inflicted gunshot wound (pre and scarily like Brandon Lee) he could have been Jamie Fraser!

Besides that, I finally worked out my Simon Baker fixation came from (See Simon over there): A TV show that ran for one season.

 Voyagers! is now available on DVD. Of course I realise if I bought the set my teenage fantasies would all be dashed, because we’re talking 80’s adventure TV show aimed at kids. But just look at the man, he was beautiful—As is Simon Baker, whose face has a bit more of that crinkly handsomeness that comes with age. Check out the Romantic Comedy Something New for ultimate smiley crinkles
Maybe I’ll kick up a bit of fuss with the he could be Jamie Fraser quip. Diana Gabaldon might actually read this blog and laugh her arse off (just like you laughed your arse off at the idea she’d stumbled onto Oldbitey), but it’s my opinion and I’m stickin’ with it.

So how does this relate to my master’s research?

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s historical series features a rather scorching romance between the hero (Scotsman Jamie) and his time-travelling doctor wife (Englishwoman Claire). The books are masterful at showing the relationship between man and wife as it progresses over time. From when they meet in their 20’s, to the most recent book in the series, which finds them nearing sixty, their romance (and sex life) still burns brightly. It’s not a “relationship novel” or “womens’s fiction (she calls them historical fantasias)” I like the fact these two characters are each other’s Great Romance, a romace that didn’t end when Claire turned forty. It’s part Science Fiction, part Historical Fiction, and part Romance. It works on so many levels, especially on the romantic plane because true romance threads its way through a marriage, regardless of age.

Gabaldon’s series is probably the best-known example of mature, mid-life Romantic love. There is a small list of other books, or other stories where the mid-life romance is a subplot. TV and film are making a bit more headway with the mid-life romantic hero and heroine–e.g. Desperate Housewives & Something’s Gotta Give. Maybe publishing will catch up soon.

Cue Me.