Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Real Scoop on Trends

If you read through the comments on the blog contest I ran last weekend, you might have noticed that readers' tastes in ice cream vary widely. Some people love Rocky Road- even consider it amongst their favorites- while others count it in the 'bleuch' category. And it's not just Rocky Road that has people on opposite sides of the fence. There are very few flavors repeated, either as a like or dislike, which got me to thinking:

Ice cream flavors are like books.

Say what? Hear me out. Readers listed their favorite flavors of ice cream and their least favorites, and no two posts were the same. I imagine that if I ran a similar contest and asked people to list the best and worst books they'd read, we'd have comparable results.

Different strokes for different folks, right?

What's great about this is that we have an abundance of ice cream flavors and a whole bookstore full of tomes that range from the highly literary to the downright fun. What's bad about this is that publishers (and, I imagine, ice cream manufacturers) are looking for products that will appeal to the crowd because the more they sell, the more money that they make.

So while they are looking for the next cookies and cream blockbuster, maybe I am busy at work perfecting my pumpkin ice cream novel. I am going to do my level best to make sure it's the richest, smoothest, creamiest dang pumpkin ice cream that ever graced a cone, but no matter what I do, it's still pumpkin ice cream. If you like pumpkin ice cream, you will love the book I'm dishing out. If you don't, then maybe you won't. That doesn't mean that there isn't room for my unique flavor, or that there won't be people who list it among their favorites. It just means that everyone is different.

Maybe the pumpkin craze will be sweeping the nation and my book will come out at just the right time. Or maybe red velvet cake will be 'in' and pumpkin will be so 'out' that no one reads it at all.

That's not up to me. My only concern is putting everything I have into making the best pumpkin ice cream I can so that when it touches your tongue, it has the greatest chance of finding a lifelong fan.

To that end, I've been burning countless brain cells editing my manuscript. Someday you may be curled up on the couch with your toes painted, holding a bowl of your favorite ice cream and my novel in your hands. If I've done my job right and the fates align, when you reach the end, you'll tell a friend, "You have got to try this. It is fantastic!" And that is the sweetest ending ever.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Marlene Breakfield!

Since she's a follower of the blog, Marlene won $25 in Amazon money, to spend to her heart's content. Congrats to Marlene and a big thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.

The record for the most number of comments on a blog post here at Love Stories was 15 until now. We hit 35 comments for this contest, all thanks to you! Woohoo!

Now, back to my book, ice cream and sly glances at those painted toes (Ted and Kurt- still waiting for those pics, ya know!).  Hee-hee...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We All Scream For... a $20 gift card!

This blog is called Love Stories, so let me tell you a little story about some things I love:

1) Pampering. I just bought a mani/pedi gift card at Bliss Spa for 50% off through Groupon. My friend Karin told me about Groupon, which is a free service that emails you rockin' local coupons every day. Check it out if you aren't already hooked up:

2) A good book. Mmmm... there's nothing better than curling up with a good book (unless it's curling up with a good book and occasionally glancing down at your newly painted toenails- see number 1).

3) Ice cream! I am a lifetime fan of the creamy cold stuff. So let's add a little (but too little) bowl of ice cream to this love story, shall we?

4) Winning stuff! Now we're really talking my love language. Painted toes- check. Romantic tome- check. Sweet frozen fabulousness in a bowl- check. AND I win money? Ok, sign me up.

In the off chance that you are like me, welcome to my very first contest! All you have to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite ice cream flavors and your least favorites. Feel free to go on and on (we don't mind) since this contest is really all about you.

"But Vanna, what do I win???" you ask... How about a $20 Amazon gift card to buy that book you've been pining for? Yes, you read that right. The easiest $20 bucks you ever scored.

You don't have to be a follower of the blog, or tweet this, or post it on Facebook, or feature it on your own blog since I don't have the time (or energy) to keep track of all that. Of course, please do all those things anyway, but we'll just go on the honor system and say that you did. I will, however, sweeten the deal if you happen to be a follower of the blog at the time I do the drawing.

Blog followers, should their name be chosen in the drawing, will win $25 instead of $20. Oooooh!

I'll kick this puppy off with my own likes and dislikes:

Cold Stone Creamery Founder's Favorite
Haagen Dazs Coffee and almond ice cream bars
Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby and Cinnamon Buns
Any old kind of Peppermint or Oreo Cookie

Rocky Road (cold marshmallows don't do it for me)
Anything with lots of coconut
Peach flavored ice cream
Chocolate and fruit together (love them separately, but not mixed- ewww)

The record for the most number of comments on a post is 15 so far. I think we can do better than that. Don't you? I'll draw a name on Monday night at 8pm PST and contact the winner directly.

So now it's your turn. What are your faves and least faves in the cold case? And feel free to send me a pic of you with painted toes, a book and some ice cream should you be the lucky winner (that includes Ted and Kurt- ha!).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Patience is a Four-Letter Word

So you can tell by the title that I am not a patient person. I want what I want when I want it. Is that so much to ask? And lately what I've been wanting most is that phone call from an agent telling me that my book is fabulous and exactly what XYZ editor is looking for. It hasn't come yet.

Le sigh.

So while I've been waiting for this, I've been revising the book and query. And guess what? It's better than it was before! Yippee! So now I want to shoot off queries to a batch of new agents, because now they'll love me for sure.

But wait. Breathe. Be patient.

These are the lessons I learned from the first go around. I won't query again until it's as spit-shined-polished as I can possibly make it. And since I've found a fabulous new critique partner, I'm seeing the manuscript in a new light. It's getting better each time I go through it. And I need to get all the way through it once (or twice) more before I wrap it in a bow and present it to that fabulous agent.

Waiting is hard. But being patient is divine. Like shredded wheat, it's *gulp* good for me. Yikes!

Monday, August 9, 2010

From This Life to the Next

This weekend, our 14 year-old cat, Mow, had a stroke and we had to put her down. She'd become decrepit little by little over the years, so it wasn't a real shock. Still, it was very sad, mostly just to see her in such a difficult state. My 9 year-old daughter took it really hard. She'd been through it before with other pets, but this one was particularly tough for her. I think it was because she got to say goodbye to Mow, whereas the other pets died without her seeing them in tough shape beforehand.

Grief is hard. It's especially hard to watch your kids mourn.

I curled up on the bed with my daughter as she cried it out. I stroked her forehead and told her stories about the cat I had as a little girl, an orange cat I named Butterscotch and called Bubs. She slowly came around and even laughed at my animated retelling of how Grandma used to get all upset when Bubs would weave in and out of her fragile mementos on the mantle without ever touching them.

I can't say for sure, but I think the time I spent with her, working through those emotions, will be locked in her long-term memory. When she's grown with kids of her own, she may well remember this weekend and how her mom loved her. I certainly won't forget it.

Godspeed, Mow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

God is now following you on Twitter!

I received this email today: Michael J. Smith is now following you on Twitter! I did a double-take. I was thinking Michael W. Smith, the famous Christian music recording artist (who I'm sure is secretly following me on Twitter). It got me to thinking...

What if God followed me on Twitter? What would he think of my tweets?

I am truly shocked sometimes by the content of what is put out there (the swearing, the sexual references, the snarky attitude). You take the bad with the good, though, so I mostly ignore it. It's easy, I think, to get sucked into the relative anonymity of the Internet and to say (well, type) things you would never say to a person face-to-face.

My grandmother taught me at a very young age that you can't take back something you've said. Once it's out there, it's out there, so you'd better think before you speak. Wise words, and applicable all the more in this digital world where once it's out there, it is truly out there forever.

I like the idea of God following my tweets. It reminds me to be encouraging and use my words to build others up instead of tearing them down. Go and do likewise, my friend!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Tweet Nectar of Twitter

I was inspired by today's blog post by Janet Reid regarding why authors need to be on Twitter.

I resisted joining Twitter for a good long time. I mean, what kind of real communication can people have when they are limited to 140 characters, right?


I finally succumbed and signed up for an account about a month ago and it has been amazing. I've met all kinds of people with common interests, and have even had interactions with authors Jill Mansell and Sherry Thomas (who recently won a RITA- congrats, Sherry!).

There is real community support for fledgling writers such as myself, where agents and editors routinely set up chats where you can ask questions to your heart's content. And if you're too shy, you can just 'lurk around', reading other people's questions and the answers.

It's a place where you can get immediate input from others 24/7. One person I 'follow' was working on a piece and couldn't think of the name for a culvert. He described it, I asked my hubby (who knows all kinds of random things), popped off the answer and voila, he had just what he needed to keep going.

It's very cool.

If you're on Twitter, what has been your experience. If you're not, why not?