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.

Ever.

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 viaFoter.com / CC BY-NC-SA, David Gallagher viaFoter.com / CC BY-NC-SA, Leo Reynolds viaFoter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Thirty-One Days of Halloweenie Day 2: Om Nom nom

multipbudHi.

I’m an author who loves Halloween, peanut butter, coffee, cookies, and writing about fear because one of the scariest things on earth is falling in love. I write about that fear in my novels, A Basic SandrabooksRenovation, For Your Eyes Only, and Driving in Neutral, all of which feature one or more of those delicious things. For instance, there’s a peanut butter in A Basic Renovation

a-basic-renovation_finalLesley reached back into the car. Plastic crinkled in her hand. ‘Can I have one?’
‘Can you have one what?’
‘One of the Fifth Avenue candy bars you’ve hidden under the socks and condoms on the bottom.’
‘Never you mind what’s in there. Just take it inside.’
Those clunking cowboy boots of hers stopped clunking just a few feet from the front door. Martino looked over his shoulder to see Lesley smirking. ‘I think I need something to guarantee my silence,’ she said.
‘Extortion is a crime, just ask Eilish’s nephew.’
‘I will. I’m going out with him tonight.’
‘Well, I’m not giving you any of my rubbers.’
‘I want chocolate and peanut butter, not sex and condoms.’
‘Ha! You want both, but you’re not getting any.’
‘You really think you will?’
He narrowed his eyes. ‘One. You can have one, merdinucchia.’

Numerous coffee and peanut butter scenes appear in For Your Eyes Only0913-eyes-only_final1

Her stomach growled on cue.
Peanut butter. It’s what’s for dinner.
She unscrewed the top from a jar of Jif. The instant she smeared a slice of whole-wheat bread with creamy, peanutty goodness, the phone rang again and the doorbell chimed a backwards, off-key dong-ding. Ignoring Isabel’s persistence, licking her fingers, she went to unlock the deadbolt, peanut butter-coated knife still in hand. She sneezed as she opened the door.
“Gesundheit.”
One more sneeze and Willa found herself gazing at a pizza box and John’s lopsided smirk. His nose was red from the cold.
“Hi,” he said, his eyes traveling from bare feet to peanut butter-covered knife. “I’m here about the shirt and the note you left at my door. Thank you. You know, you didn’t need to replace anything. It’s sweet, but I told you, clothes can be washed and…” his eyebrows rose, “…should I cue the Psycho music?”

driving smallDriving in Neutral is all about fear, yet the story contains coffee and peanut butter on Ritz crackers.

It took Emerson a second before he grasped what she meant. He hadn’t intended the baseball game comment to be a come-on, but subconsciously, in that very Freud kind of way, maybe it was. He was turning into a sleaze who winked and soon he’d be into wearing gold chains and exposing his chest hair like Barry Gibb on the album cover of Saturday Night Fever. Would he be able to stuff himself into a pair of Bee Gees-tight pants?
Quickly, before he imagined how his genitals would look forming a moose knuckle in white satin pants, he changed the subject. “Are you enjoying the work here?”
“It’s interesting.” She took a small plastic bag from the fridge.
“Is that a euphemism for it sucks?”
“No. If that were the case I would have said, it’s different. Want one?” She held out the bag.
“What is it?”
“Peanut butter and jelly on Ritz crackers.”
“Peanut butter and jelly? Peanut butter’s for kids. I’m an adult. I eat adult snacks.”
“So that box of Coco Puffs over there with your name and DO NOT EAT all over it in purple marker isn’t yours?”

Oh, all right. I often write about peanut butter. Does that scare you? Yesterday, I was given a scarily large jar of homemade peanut butter cookies. That scares me because I know I WILL EAT THEM ALL!

The scariest thing about today’s post is that it is about really about cookies — Halloween cookies and by Halloween cookies you know I mean PUMPKIN cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar    1/2 cup butter softened

2 eggs                                              1/2 cup mashed pumpkin

2 ¾ cups flour                                   1/2 tsp saltpumpkincookie

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp  cinnamon                       1/4 tsp  ginger

1/4 tsp  nutmeg                       1/8 tsp  allspice

1/8 tsp ground cloves

 

In large bowl, beat sugar, butter, eggs, pumpkin with electric mixer on medium speed.

Stir in flour, salt, baking powder and spices. Drop dough by tablespoon onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Cool on racks, about 30 minutes. EAT.

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…

Romance Writers of Australia

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…

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?
I get most of my writing done from 8am to 1 pm, at the office I manage. I got in this habit when I was working on my PhD in romance fiction. Basically, I have three jobs, I manage the psychology practice we own, I write romance fiction, and make my husband lunch. I have a lovely view of swaying palms…

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