Book in a Minute: Paris in Love

Paris in Love: A MemoirParis in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delicious confection. Like a fine French pastry, Eloisa James’ Paris in Love offers a light, airy outer layer – college professor and family spend a year in Paris and have lots of comical adventures trying to adjust to the different pace of life, the new language, and of course, the food.

But also like a French pastry, that light exterior hides a rich, fulfilling interior – in which said college professor frankly discusses her own bout with breast cancer and its affect on her self-image, the state of her marriage, and the decline of her beloved poet father (Robert Bly).

If that makes it sound like heavy going, it’s really not. James writes with the insouciant wit that characterizes her best-selling historical romance novels. I especially loved her tales of her precocious (and rather theatrical) daughter Anna trying to adjust to her new school, and the stories about their chronically obese chihuahua were a riot. Food plays a big part in the book – naturallement, since we are in Paris, and James even includes some delicious recipes.

A delightful read – and also excellent as an audiobook narrated by the author.

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Book Covers & the Law of Unforeseen Consequences

I try not to use the blog to self-promote, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do with blogs. But I’m like that.

Nonetheless, this blog is mostly about my new/old book, Thirty-Nine Again, which was originally released over four years ago by a small indie ebook publisher. I’m sure they did their best, but small indie publishers nowadays seem like the worst of both worlds – you don’t get the kind of royalties you get when you self-publish and you also don’t get widespread distribution in bookstores. So Thirty-Nine Again, the original edition, sold maybe 250 copies. Since my other novel, Love Capri Style has now sold about 25,000 copies at Amazon, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to move more copies of Thirty-Nine Again in its new self–published edition.

Poor distribution certainly hurt Thirty-Nine Again, as it does most other novels published by very small publishers. But there was another problem with Thirty-Nine Again that I hadn’t foreseen at all. It was this:

Now, I thought this was a pretty awesome cover, and I still do. It’s got the romance, it’s got the danger. The chick is grinning mischievously at the camera, so it’s got the humor of the story too. My biggest objection to this cover was that it looked more like the book should be titled Twenty-Nine AgainBut that’s where Lynn’s Law of Unforeseen Consequences comes into play. Lynn’s Law of Unforeseen Consequences states that the more enthused you are about an idea, the more likely it is that it will blow up in your face.

As it turned out, the age of the heroine on the cover was the LEAST of my troubles. And so I will tell all my aspiring author friends a little secret: It doesn’t matter if you like the cover. If the target audience doesn’t like it, you are going to have a hard time promoting that book. My target audience was, as evidenced by the title, forty-something women. There are two things most forty-something women have – kids and failing eyesight. The first reaction to this cover from even my most liberal, artsy, aging Bohemian friends was, “Oh dear God, I’ll have to hide it in a drawer so the kids don’t see it when they come home.”

The second and far more disastrous reaction was: “Is that two WOMEN?? I didn’t know you wrote erotica! Is this a Lesbian porn novel???”

Because it turns out that if you need reading glasses, but you’re on that threshold where you think you can see clearly enough so you keep refusing to wear them – well, then that slender guy with the longish hair apparently looks to you like HE is a SHE.

Now, I’m as liberal as they come when it comes to sexual orientation, so I have no problem with Lesbians at all. In fact, if Scarlet Johansson was a Lesbian, I – well, never mind. Anyway, the problem here wasn’t that I was morally offended. The problem was marketing. If you’re trying to sell middle-aged moms a chick lit suspense story, they get confused if the cover looks like Gay Fifty Shades of Grey. It also makes local libraries and businesses reluctant to carry bookmarks with the cover image on them. I had to have new bookmarks done that showed only the lower half of the book cover – the title with the gun and roses. Some websites agreed to mention the book in posts but refused to put up an image of the cover. Ultimately, after only three appearances, it made me lose all interest in doing any in-person signings or talks about the book.

When I decided to self-publish a new edition of Thirty-Nine Again, I knew I needed a cover that would more clearly reflect the chick lit nature of the story. I call Thirty-Nine Again “chick noir,” not because it’s bleak and dark (it’s not), but because it combines the self-deprecating humor of good chick lit* with guns and gangsters. I hope the combo works, and I hope you’ll buy the new edition with the improved PG-13 cover by the lovely and talented Rita Baker-Schmidt. Most of all, I hope you’ll be able to look at the cover (even without reading glasses) and know what sort of story you’re getting into.

Next time – we’ll talk about tempting fate by making bad things happen to your characters.

Or maybe the Mayan Apocalypse. It’s getting mighty close, folks, so we really do need to be prepared.

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Getting Real

You know, taking a part-time receptionist job in a real estate office seemed like it would be easy, but that’s because I was assuming that people still have manners and that our instantaneous, multi-tasking mad society hadn’t rendered them all into blithering idiots in the space of just twenty years (the last time I was a receptionist).

Why the hell would you – a real estate agent from another office – call this office and say, “I got a call from your office, but I don’t know who called me.”

Duh. Neither do I, sister. There are 75 agents in this office, three loan agents, a branch vice-president, three receptionists, two office administrators and a nocturnal computer geek who shows up for five minutes once a week, crashes all the computers, and then goes home to play World of Warcraft.

If you don’t friggin’ know who you’re doing business with in this office, I sure as hell don’t.

Why would you dial a number and then say, “I got a voicemail message from this number, but I don’t know what it was about because I didn’t bother to listen to it.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes! That really happened!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was all, Whatty McWhat? Are you seriously calling ME to ask what the message is on YOUR voicemail? Because if you are, clearly you are not understanding how this voicemail thingy works, dude.

Or maybe you understand perfectly well how voicemail works but you are “too busy” to actually listen to yours? Clearly, you are angling to be the first up against the wall when the revolution comesBecause talk like that is going to get you there, and I will be happy to lead the firing squad.

And last but not least – Why would you call a real estate office while you are driving around in an unfamiliar area and say, “I saw a house with one of your signs on it and I’d like to make an appointment to see it. But I don’t know what street it’s on and I’m new around here so I’m not even entirely sure what town I’m in right now.”

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921
Einstein in Vienna in 1921. He probably parked his car first. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Here’s a thought, Einstein. PARK THE DAMN CAR. Ask someone where you are. Get out and look at a street sign. Or if you are so high-tech that you can dial an unfamiliar number while driving, I bet you own a GPS. Click that button that says “My Location” or “Locate me.” GO ON, TRY IT!

Wow, isn’t that stupendous? Now you know where you are. Now you can say, “I’m interested in the house on Sputnik Street in Cowtown.”

Now I might be able to help you!

Although I suspect there is no help for you or any of the people I’ve talked to this week. I suspect we’re all just becoming plugged-in cogs in The Matrix, incapable of rational thought, deliberate decision-making skills, and simple common sense. Maybe we will all deserve exactly what we’re going to get when the Mayan Apocalypse comes in December.

But more about that next time.

Book in a Minute: Girl Unmoored

Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Mirabile Fabulam! as Apron might say.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Apron is the delightfully quirky twelve-year-old heroine of Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer. Her mother recently died and her dad is burying his grief in a pile of student essays – he’s a Latin teacher. Worse yet, Dad has also decided to marry his late wife’s sexy Brazilian nurse. About the only person who pays any attention to Apron is her eccentric grandma, who claims tiny people have been cleaning her house at night.

Then Apron meets Jesus. Well, really, she meets Mike, the guy who plays the lead in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Mike is gay and it’s the 1980’s, a time when AIDS was thought of as only a gay disease and no one was sure just how contagious it might be. Mike and his partner Chad, who own a flower shop together, are not popular people in town. But their isolation is a boon for Apron, who insinuates herself into their lives and even badgers them into going to the parent-teacher conference in place of her pre-occupied father.

Mike and Chad teach Apron the ins and out of the florist business and how to be true to herself. And surprisingly, Apron has a lot to teach them too.

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