Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The thing about online dating

I have a big pet peeve when it comes to an online dating profile: A list of things you hate about people who are on the same site as you, and nothing else. (I hate the following: Slutty pictures! No pictures! Poor grammar! Etc.! So hit me up if you're not like that :))

Look, I get it. Online dating is the worst. The unmitigated, unqualified worst. But no one wants to date the person whose only personality description is "here is the stuff I hate."

I say this, knowing that I will soon be accused of the same behavior. But ladies and gents of Blogland, after a few rounds in the Online Dating Trenches, I feel like it is my obligation -- nay, my sacred duty -- to let you all in on a few tips to improve your own online dating misadventures.

Or at least, provide you some amusement.

1. For the gents: Do not post pictures of yourself with guns or dead animals on your dating profile.
For the ladies: Do not agree to meet a man who posts pictures of himself with guns or dead animals on his dating profile.

Friends, I don't have particularly strong feelings about guns or hunting. I do have a very strong feeling about the HORDES of young men who feel like it is appropriate to advertise how many guns/kills you have to anonymous women who are already 10% convinced you might be a serial murderer.

I saw a profile with the tagline, "Looking for my princess." And his profile pic was, I kid you not, him looking through the scope of an automatic rifle. Just think about how that looks to a stranger. For one minute.

I am potentially willing to date someone who hunts. I am not willing to date someone who thinks their best look is a picture of them dressed like the Unabomber, holding aloft a still-bleeding deer head. Do you see the distinction?

Thank you.

2. For the gents: No one cares about how many cars/motorcycles you own.
For the ladies: Do not agree to meet a man who has more pictures of his cars/motorcycles than of him and his friends.

Guys, what would you think of a girl who had pictures of all her shoes or dresses or books or whatever on her dating profile? Not much, right?


3. If you have to describe yourself as "nice" ... you aren't. If you think you're only looking for "nice" ... try harder.

If you're about to go on a three paragraph rant about how girls treat nice guys like crap and how guys are so shallow that they overlook nice girls ... newsflash: You aren't a nice person. Nice people don't make sweeping generalizations about others. Nice people aren't insanely bitter. Nice people don't consistently fail to identify their own flaws in dating and blame everything else on others.

And also, nice people are not entitled to getting a date, much less getting into a real relationship.

If the most you can say about yourself is, "I'm nice," then no wonder you're single. You are not owed romance because you meet the baseline for basic human decency. No one ever dated anyone for their "niceness," they date them because they are interesting. If you want a boyfriend/girlfriend, be interesting, not entitled. Mere kindness (assuming that you are actually kind, and not a closet lunatic) is the lesson you should have learned back in kindergarten.

4. For the gents: Don't call women sluts. Ever.
For the ladies: Don't date guys who call women sluts. Ever.

This one should be a no-brainer, but apparently it isn't: even Snow-Freaking-White doesn't like the word "slut." You want to decide which girls, based on their photos, are sluts and which ones aren't? Awesome. You want to declare yourself a Slut-Free-Zone? Cool.

Just keep in mind that even the "non-slutty" women don't really appreciate having their entire worth determined by some guy who has never even met them. All you're going to attract with that tactic is women who base their self-esteem on the high or low praise of men ... which might have been what you were going for, consciously or not.

Any advice you'd like to share with the universe, friends and readers?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Last week I attended Natalie Whipple's book launch for Transparent.* I got home and immediately started reading it (and cursing the delicious cupcakes that were offered at the bookstore and the havoc they created on my weight watchers points allotment for the week).

Transparent is pitched as The Godfather meets X-Men, and wouldn't you know it? I love both those things. Friends, countrymen, people who know "reluctant readers" ... you want this book. I finished it in two hours (my super power is freakish reading ability) and my only real disappointment is that it won't have a sequel. The back story is simple and clever -- during the Cold War, Americans were regularly popping a pill called Radiasure to protect themselves from inevitable nuclear war. The pill gave their babies various super powers which then multiplied over generations. The FDA pulled Radiasure from the market, but drug lords continued to manufacture it in order to create better powers (because some of them were close to worthless) and strengthen ones that already existed.

By present day, you have people born with the ability to fly (Fiona's gangster brother Graham) and invisibility (Fiona), as well as seeing in the dark, mimicking any sound, super strength, and others (you have to read the book to find out who got those).

From the back cover:

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible.

Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona's own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona's had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona's father isn't giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

* To be clear, at this event I also kept up my wonderful track record of being an awkward weirdo at book launches. An elderly man named Bill were bringing up the end of the line, and we got to chatting about his grandkids. When I got to the front of the line, I got Natalie's signature in my book and then started to leave, but then remembered I should say goodbye to Bill. So I turned back and said, "Nice meeting you Bill!" The only people who turned around were Natalie and a woman from the bookstore -- Bill was totally focused on getting the spelling of his granddaughter's name right in her book. So then I stood there awkwardly, waiting for Bill to finish so I could say a proper goodbye, while the bookstore woman kept glancing at me, like, "What are you still doing here? You know this is over, right?"

Good times.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Secondary characters bloghop

(So sorry, so fat. So totally forgot to post this yesterday)

So what's the deal with secondary characters? Or, as I like to think of them ... characters. Some are big, some are small, some are used by our main characters (as they should be) and some take on a life of their own.

I guess the question is, when is a secondary character just a tool, and when do they add an additional layer of realism to your story?

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,        115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet are probably the best examples of secondary characters that serve no purpose other than to move the plot along. What do we know about them? Before Act I, they were supposedly friends with Hamlet, since he seems so upset at their betrayal. They must have been close with the queen and Hamlet's uncle, since the usurping king brought them into his confidence. And yet, after they have done their part, they are summarily dispensed with--Hamlet has them executed and ambassadors from England arrive just long enough to announce that "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead." 

Just like that. No fanfare. Two characters that used to be on stage will no longer be joining us for the denouement, but will return for curtain calls. In fact, Tom Stoppard actually wrote an absurdist version of Hamlet called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which shows the action from the perspective of arguably the least interesting secondary characters ever.

Sometimes writing a Rosencrantz or a Guildenstern is necessary--I mean, even Shakespeare did it. But as T.S. Eliot points out in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, no one wants to be a secondary character. Everyone wants to be the star.

How would The Hunger Games have looked if it was retold from Finnick's perspective? A political prisoner advising his own tributes in the Games, who die early on, and then watching as some girl from District 12 eliminates all her other competitors. I mean, it's even grimmer when you look at it like that.

The Hunger Games doesn't need to actually be re-written for us to imagine what book 1 was like for Finnick Odair, who doesn't even appear until book 2. That's because he's a well-drawn secondary character. We know his motivations, his personality, and we've got some guesses about his internal life, even though he's just part of Katniss' chorus.

So who are some good secondary characters in the vein of Finnick Odair, you might ask?

Petyr Baelish from A Song of Ice and Fire -- he's one of the few characters George RR Martin never uses for a point-of-view chapter (and if you've gotten through book 4, you know why), and yet he propels almost all of the action in Kings Landing.

The Weasley twins in Harry Potter.

Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Margo in Gone Girl. 

Isaac in The Fault in Our Stars. 

Wendy in The Shining. (The book, not the movie. In the movie, she's really more of a Guildenstern.)

And speaking of him .... what about good secondary characters in the vein of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

I think a solid example is Ruby Oliver's therapist in E. Lockhart's books, Dr. Z. Ruby is telling her stories to Dr. Z, writing everything in a journal. Dr. Z is actually the narrative device for the entire series. Does it really matter that we don't know anything about Dr. Z? Not really.

What are some of your favorite secondary characters?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book review: Insomnia by JR Johansson

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get an advanced readers' copy of INSOMNIA by JR Johansson.* 
(Please don't sue me, Flux. Thanks!)
From the back cover:

Every night instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he's had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people's fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets--and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia's eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he's gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it's Parker.
Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

Awesome set up, right? I've been wanting to read this one for awhile.

When I was a kid, I read a lot of R.L. Stein and Christopher Pike. INSOMNIA reminded me of those old-school thrillers in the best possible way. Parker's predicament is delightfully creepy, but treated in a way that is still accessible to teen readers. The secondary characters were relatable and realistic, particularly Parker's best friend Finn. The mystery was compelling and the flow of the book was really smooth.

Highly recommended for teen readers, or adults feeling nostalgic for a shot of Fear Street

* In case you're wondering if this makes me a biased reviewer, I had to give the copy back. Full disclosure.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More on publicity

If you'd like to comment on yesterday's post about what you think works (and what doesn't) when writers are trying to promote their books, please click here.

The way I see it (and I could be wrong) is that there are two (potentially overlapping) ways to look at book promotion. The first is that any exposure (barring accusations of something truly nasty) is GOOD exposure. More twitter followers, more blog posts, more Goodreads reviews = a wider reach.

The second is to look at promotion from a return-on-investment perspective. If activity X requires Y amount of resources (energy, time, money) and results in Z book sales, was that a wise investment? Would activity A (requiring B resources and resulting in C book sales) have been a better use of time?

Once upon a time, I was a marketing assistant for a local, independent book publisher called Deseret Book and its imprint, Shadow Mountain. Like most publishers, DB/Shadow Mountain was looking for the best way to promote its books while remaining cost effective.

The marketing department put together tours (in bookstores as well as schools), websites, launches, television interviews, you name it. Each book had its own angle -- middle grade authors got school appearances, nonfiction authors went on talk shows, etc.

One of my more memorable experiences while I was there was helping to set up an online, interactive "Author Appearance" for dozens of schools. Teachers would log on to the chat and type in questions from students. The author would answer, live, via Skype and all the classrooms could watch.

It was a lot of effort. It was an interesting experiment. And (in a different circumstance) it might have worked.

But it didn't, for whatever reason, have the result that the marketing department had been hoping for.

If we're only looking at book promotion from the first angle (all exposure is good exposure), then of course the live chat was a success--hundreds of kids heard about our author and his book. But given the time and resources it took to pull off the chat, maybe (from a return-on-investment perspective) we should have tried something else.

In 2013 (and onward), a lot of book promotion falls on the author, whether you're traditionally or self-published. Given that all of us have finite resources (time, energy, and money), it best to try to evaluate what works for your book, and what won't. Consider what you find easy (I find blogging easy and Twitter oddly difficult -- I'm sure the opposite is true for others) and what you find hard, and then try think about what you've never even thought about before. 

Thoughts? Disagreements? Inspirational quotes?

Monday, May 20, 2013

A random poll: Book publicity

Question for all your reader/writer types:

When an author is trying to promote a book, what works for you? What doesn't?

Do contests for gift cards and Kindles really prompt you to consider buying a book, or at least putting it on your to-be-read list? What about blog tours and interviews? Goodreads and Amazon reviews?

Cover reveals? Excerpts from the book? Tweets about the book? Release day countdown widgets?

Are there things you see that you find effective? Annoying? Whatever? Ideas that you'd always thought, "Hey, I wonder why no one does ___________?"

This is something I've been curious about for awhile, having followed a lot of writery blogs/twitter feeds. Any thoughts you might want to share would be greatly appreciated. For anyone who doesn't want to publicly comment, shoot me an email and I'll share your (name-free) suggestions on the old blogaroo for the greater enlightenment of us all.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

The weekend o' weddings

In case you have been wondering why I don't seem to post much these days (which I know probably no one is, but let's pretend), it is currently Wedding Central here in New Denver!

Last weekend was a wedding. (Theme wedding!)

The weekend before that was a destination bachelorette party.

The weekend before that I was hosting my sister Echo's bridal shower.

Tomorrow is Echo's wedding. The day after that is my friend ... (Susan? haven't used Susan yet) ... Susan's wedding. THE WEDDINGS ARE LITERALLY BACK-TO-BACK.

I just don't have any pep left in me for blogging.

But soon, friends. Soon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tips for life

If you ever visit New York City, people will tell you to visit Magnolia Bakery.

Do not do it. Crazy lines, subpar cupcakes.

Hashtag life lessons.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Disappointed, impressed

Today I am sleepy, internet. And when I am sleepy, it can be hard for me to focus. So although I have many (many, many) things to do, all I can think about is sprawling out on the couch for an hour to watch TV.

These days I am sadly disappointed with The Vampire Diaries. What happened to you, TV show? Why are your characters behaving so strangely? (And by strangely, I mean in the EXACT OPPOSITE way than they used to, or ought to?)

Take Damon. One year ago he was lamenting his lost humanity and admitting that most of his bad behavior stems from his depression over being a vampire. But when give the chance this year to become human again, he claims it is the last thing he'd want. Okaaaay.

Or Klaus and how everyone reacts toward Klaus. What I don't get is how trying to kill Klaus is forgivable (cough cough, Tyler) but Klaus wanting to not-be-killed seems so unreasonable (cough couch Caroline).

Also, wasn't Klaus an evil mastermind? Why is he suddenly so petty? And if he's got such a great appreciation for art and culture and food, why is he STILL hanging out in stupid Mystic Falls? (I know, I know. To set up the spin-off. Sigh.)

At least Bonnie is consistent. Consistently bland. (Zing!)

At least am constantly delighted by Game of Thrones. Go watch it, everyone!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New authors! New books!

I am so excited to help two authors get the word out about their books today on Ye Olde Blog.

The first one is The Buttersmith's Gold by Adam Sidwell. The Buttermith's Gold is a companion to Adam's middle grade Evertaster novel, and it releases tomorrow, May 2nd. To celebrate the release, Adam is giving away e-copies of his book at a $50 Amazon giftcard. Enter on the rafflecopter below!

The second book is Eyre House, a young adult novel by Cait Greer that I have wanted to read ever since I heard about it. It doesn't come out until July 9, but the cover is being revealed today!

Here's the blurb:

When eighteen-year-old orphan Evan Richardson signed up to work at Eyre House, on the sleepy tourist getaway of Edisto Island, SC, he never expected to find himself dodging ghosts. But Eyre House seems to have more than its fair share of things that go bump in the night, and most of them seem to surround his employer’s daughter.

Back from her freshman year of college, Ginny Eyre is dangerous from word one. She’s a bad girl with ghosts of her own, and trouble seems to follow her everywhere she goes. But living or dead, trouble isn’t just stalking Ginny. When her ex-boyfriend is found murdered in the pool, Evan knows he’s got two choices – figure out what’s going on, or become the next ghost to haunt Ginny Eyre.

And now for the cover!