Sunday, March 21, 2010

Auditory Flashback

Sort of Haunted House--undergraduate a capella group version, sung by the Brown Derbies.

I haven't listened to this song in 12 years. Yet, as my National Boards deadline approaches, it's dominating my I-Pod. And every time hear it, I have a flashback to freshman year of college.

I was a bookworm, double-majoring in English and history. My roommate was an athlete, double-majoring in hockey and beer. We were the most mismatched pair in our hall. Everyone predicted we'd kill each other before Christmas. Not so!

That girl saved my sanity. Repeatedly.

Whenever I started stress-spiraling, my roommate would force me to put my book down. She'd cue the Derbies song on our CD player and start doing this ridiculous bouncy dance. It was my job to bounce--yes, ridiculously--next to her for the duration of the song. And if I still had that crazy look in my eye after it was over? Hello, repeat button. It never failed. I was always laughing by the end of our routine.

Obviously, my life has changed since then. I'm no longer sleeping on an extra-long twin mattress (thank goodness). My former roommate is now a Facebook friend, not a daily presence. I've traded in work-study poverty and terminal single status for a husband, a steady income, a cat, and a mortgage...

... And yet so much is still the same! I'm still a wacked-out stress case. I still push myself up against deadlines and then waste time berating myself for it. I still eat mass quantities of popcorn whenever I pull an all-nighter. And apparently, I still listen to Sort of Haunted House whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed.

You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again. Seriously. Yet for the past few weeks, I've enjoyed revisiting this part of my 18-year-old self. (Now excuse me while I go do the bouncy dance.)

What song connects you back to a specific memory? And what do you listen to when you're up against a deadline?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crazy Painted Man Proposes

I searched on our blog title and re-discovered Prerogative of Harlots, a blog musing about one of my 2009 posts (the one on archaeologists vs paleontologists in romance novels). It's safe to view at work, by the way - Harlots is a blog about museum life, not a Julia Roberts character. I regard being the catalyst for a line like "His heart racing, he tore the fossil from the dirt with his bare hands," as an honor akin to winning the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest. I'm excited that I sparked a near-dissertation on all the possible ways paleontology is not the stuff of romantic leads.

Although not as excited as I would be if I were the skip of the Canadian women's curling team and received this proposal. I sincerely hope none of my Canadian readers can identify him. I saw lots of proposal signs at the Olympics - Canadians must have been feeling the love - but this was the best. Depending, of course, on your definition of good.

And don't forget to watch some of the far-too-scant TV coverage of the 2010 Paralympics! If you have on-demand, the Opening Ceremony was an amazing showcase of talent. My children asked questions about why the heavy-metal singer didn't have an arm and a leg, why several athletes didn't have legs, why some athletes used wheelchairs and others used crutches. It was a rocking, exciting, moving show - far, far better at explaining the differences and similarities between people than the telethons of our childhood.

I'm sure the Paralympians will get their share of crazy painted man proposals this week too. NBC will be showing excerpts at random times, so be on the look-out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What Does Funny Look Like?

I've been gazing at the cover for my April release, The Sexorcist, (because those are some highly gaze-able abs, baby). It's got me wondering: What does my cover say to you? (Hopefully it says Pick me up and take me home with you! but besides that...) Light/dark? Playful/sensual? Paranormal? What do you think the story is about?

I've been pondering the mysterious art of romance covers. I feel I should preface this by saying I have the utmost respect for cover artists and I profess to know nothing of what sells on the front of a book. I'm just a reader and a writer. Marketing ain't my thing. I once heard Sue Grimshaw (of Borders True Romance fame) talking about cover art and my mind boggled at all the ways her definition of a great cover differed from my own.

You see, I want something that captures the feel of the book. Something that gives me a sense of tone. Playful book, playful cover. Serious dark story, serious dark cover. Sensual, body-parts-a-flyin' book, well then lets see some body parts a-flyin' on that cover!

But, from what Sue Grimshaw said, I'm not so sure others share my cover preferences. So I'm asking: What do you look for in a romance cover? Sexy manflesh? Something demure that won't embarrass you at the checkout line? A couple in a torrid embrace? An iconic image like a flower or a high heel? What catches your eye when you're browsing your bookseller of choice?

My cover has manflesh in abundance, and there is many a manflesh cover out there that would lend credence to the idea that manflesh sells... but would you believe me if I said The Sexorcist was a paranormal romantic comedy? Does it look funny?

I've been thinking about what humor looks like on the front of a book and I'm curious about what others see when they look at covers. I've grabbed eight books of similar genre to my own from the last few years and slapped their covers down below here. Judging these books purely by their covers: Which one looks funniest to you? Which one would make you pick it up and flip to read more? And (perhaps most importantly) which one would you be most likely to shell out your hard earned cash for?

Ready? Here are the candidates!



What say you, romance readers? Let the social experiment begin!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

What A Beautiful Mess I'm In

National Boards. Ye, gods.

The expression "biting of more than I can chew" comes instantly to mind.

For those of you not in the teaching biz, National Boards is a process akin to "super certification," a sign that the teacher in question's at the top of her game. To become an NBCT, teachers must meet rigorous standards--mostly through intensive study of their own classrooms. It involves videoing oneself (and one's students), analyzing those videos through a series of essays, and then submitting it all for peer review.

It's great professional development, but it's also incredibly nerve-wracking. There's only so much navel-gazing I can handle before I turn into an epic freak show. I'm so worried that my evaluators will confirm my worst fear: that I'm actually a horrible teacher. (Bonus worry: they'll be so distracted by my terrible taste in clothes that they won't be able to grade my videos.)

What's been really fun is having my teaching insecurities bump up against my writing insecurities. I've put off writing my essays because I fear showing them to anybody--much like the latest draft of my novel. This has made for some extreme stress!

Most candidates put in 200 to 400 hours of work in the course of their candidacy year... on top of full-time teaching responsibilities. Not to sound like a kid making homework excuses, but... this is why I haven't been working on my novel. This is why I've been a non-presence in the blogosphere.

And this is why I'm so looking forward to March 31st.

Yes, the end is in sight. Come hell or high water, my National Boards portfolio must be postmarked by midnight on March 31st. If you see a crazy lady at Kinko's/Fed Ex that night, it's probably me.

I'll be working down to the wire on this one. It's definitely time to stockpile the coffee and hunker down. Wish me luck! And while you're at it, do the same for Erin Eisenberg. She's a fellow romance writer and teacher, also suffering through the last weeks of National Boards.