Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chocolate Review: New Tree Alpha Thym

Looking for a small after-lunch treat, I went through The Stash for this wafer-like bar bought at Biagio. The New Tree company is known for chocolates that promote some kind of health benefit, and the Alpha line boasts Omega 3 fatty acids and dark cacao. The Thym disc is self-explanatory, thyme with 65% dark.

I opened the package to an immediate blast of cacao, but the thyme quickly overtook that once I got the flat disk completely out of the wrapper. The surface lacks the gloss of other high-end chocolates I've had, and the thinness of the bar highlights the grainy-looking interior - it's easy to see the flax seeds and puffed rice bubbled on the bottom.

A loud snap, and the bold taste of thyme on the palate came next, followed by the sweetness of the mid-level cacao. If you could imagine somebody knocking a jar of herbs into a vat of Nestle Crunch (with a different grade of chocolate) you'll have a good idea of the texture. If you don't mind savory flavors with chocolate, you might like this one. I wouldn't list it among my top daily choices, maybe a once in a while indulgence.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Putting away childish things

This weekend we are determined to clean out the house, and for us that means having to parse a good amount of toys and children's furniture to see what stays and what can be given away or sent to consignment. I find it difficult to believe that already four years have passed since we last changed a diaper on a baby changing table, and now we might have to upgrade the bed G is sleeping in now. Where did the time go?

We're also getting to the point where we need to upgrade her car seat, too. Right now she has this nice pink "Princess" seat that converts to an older child's booster. As tall as she is, though, she'll be out of it soon enough. In the garage we have baby strollers and playpens we haven't used in years, and seeing as we have no plans to reproduce again I don't know why we hold onto these things. Friends with little ones either have shiny new stuff or hand me downs from previous kids, so we're stuck. Voluntarily, at least.

I admit I have trouble putting away childish things in this respect. The way time has blown by, I miss everything that was when G still crawled and barely babbled. Yes, I even miss my old breast milk pump and the Boppy pillow I used to cradle her to sleep. Now she wants to do everything on her own, and it's hard to let go.

I suppose this is why people have more than one. It's tempting, I tell you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Call for Submissions: Yaoi Anthology

Lemon Kisses, A Yaoi Anthology
Edited by: Augusta Li
Publisher: Phaze Books
Deadline: December 1, 2009
Projected release date: July 2010
Format: eBook (initially, with possible print release)

You must be at least 18 years old to submit to this anthology.

I am looking for four well-written yaoi stories for this anthology. Before submitting, please be familiar with the yaoi genre. It’s not quite the same as m/m romance or gay erotica. If you’re not sure what qualifies as yaoi, please do a little research. Stories should be between 15 and 25K, and can be in any sub-genre (fantasy, contemporary, historical, etc.). Above all, I’m seeking unique works with solid plotting, good characterization, and a good balance between hot, erotic scenes and story. Explicit sex is encouraged.

Please be advised that I’m likely to reject cliché yaoi plots, such as Japanese school-boy romance, unless you have a really fresh take on it. Nor am I a fan of gay-just-for-you, again, unless it’s stellar. No anthropomorphic characters, please. Kemonomimi is acceptable if well-done. All characters involved in sexual situations must be at least 18, so sorry, no shota. Anything not normally allowed (rape, snuff, bestiality, necrophilia, bodily waste or pedophilia) isn’t allowed here either. I’ll consider forced seduction, but be very careful.

To submit, please attach your manuscript as an .rtf or .doc and send it, with the words YAOI ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSION in the subject line, to Please follow the Phaze Books formatting instructions located at Include a brief introduction, including your contact information and publishing history, if any.

If you have any questions, email me at the above address.

The month in chocolate

It was pointed out to me this weekend that I haven't blogged much about chocolate in the last few weeks. Granted, I certainly have been eating it, so don't think I've taken a sabbatical. Indeed, that extra boost of antioxidants and endorphins is basically what keeps me from taking a hostage most days. Lately, though, I've spent time whittling down what I have before buying more, yet I did make a few recent impulse buys:

Qbel Wafer Bars: I picked up a pack of the Dark Chocolate wafer bars with crisp rice. Imagine those Little Debbie wafer twins you used to get, with a dark coating and no peanut butter, just more dark chocolate. Very nice, a crunchy treat that isn't very big - you get two small sticks per pack. One for now and one for later.

Toffee Crisp: This is a UK Nestle product, described as puffy rice and soft toffee covered in milk chocolate. I haven't tried it yet, maybe I'll make this my chocolate for the day and Twitter my opinion. I love toffee, and I love that I can get the occasional European novelty at my local shop. It was a banner week for shopping there Friday - picked up a box of Quisp cereal, too!

A few weeks ago I managed to get the new Vosges organic Enchanted Mushroon (66% dark with reishi mushroom and walnuts). Much as I love Vosges, I have to say I was a bit disappointed by this one. The snap and smell are nice, but it seemed each bit tasted gritty. I don't know if it's the chocolate or the ingredients - this is really the first organic product of theirs I've tried, so I may find a second product to eliminate the chocolate as the culprit. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the flavor, but it just didn't have the smoothness of the Dark Bacon Bar I also got on that excursion. (BTW, loved loved loved the Dark Bacon).

So rest assured, there will be more choco-blogging. Just pacing right now so I don't break out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Worst Case Scenario for Authors, Pt. 1

It's occurred to me in the months I've blogged here, I've offered advice on how to catch a publisher's eye by not doing certain things that would automatically send your work to the reject pile. Given my experience today, I realize there aren't many tutorials on how to handle crises once you have been published. Perhaps tonight we'll amend that.

Scenario One: You are a published author preparing for a booksigning. You arrive at the venue and find the store was unable to order your books, and you have no books of your own to carry in.

What to Do: First thing, don't panic, and don't pitch a fit. How you respond to this situation could carry throughout the store (especially if you're tearing your hair out and cussing some poor clerk) and perhaps the rumor mill. Whatever the reason for the books being unavailable is not necessarily a reason to go home, especially if you're expecting readers. A bestselling author, published with NYC, once confided this happened to her - rather than turn around and leave, she stayed for her appointed time at the store and informed readers she had "sold out" of books. Luckily she had promo on hand to distribute and sign, giving readers a reminder of available titles to order.

If you are concerned about the availability of your books when doing an event, particularly if you must travel a long way, consider bringing books "just in case". Depending on the bookstore, you may be able to sell them on consignment. If not, you have a copy of your work to present an impromptu reading for people who do arrive to meet you.

I'll cover more "worst case" topics in later posts. Meanwhile, if you've been in this scenario before, please share your solutions.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Mystery Progresses

Part One - The Idea

About three years ago I attended RushCon, an annual gathering of Rush fans in Toronto. Every year brings a different theme, different activities, and about 48 straight hours of drinking. The year I attended marked the 25th anniversary of the release of their 2112 album, and much of the Saturday revolved around a small "film festival" featuring just about every instance of Rush referenced in TV and film. Great time spent with people I normally communicate with online.

Each year there is also an auction to benefit a local charity supported by the band. That year I donated a collection of signed novels and an offer to create a character for my next book based on the winning bidder. My auction brought in an impressive sum, and that evening I actually conceived an idea for the book.

As John Lennon sang, however, life gets in the way of other plans. Not long after returning from this trip did I become publisher of Phaze Books, and my priorities shifted from writing to editing/publishing. My mystery writing goals were put on hold until such a time I could manage to write and run a house without disrupting the balance.

It took a few years, but I think I am about there. Now comes the task of breaking writer's block and getting an actual story in motion. Three times since the auction I have started and stalled a story. The protagonist changed genders, and the POV shifted from third to first. Setting moved from north to south, and right now it appears I will move from a "pantsing" method of writing to plotting. It's almost necessary in mystery writing - the goal is to present a plausible conclusion to the crime, and in my brief mystery career I've found the only way I can do that well is if I plan ahead.

As of now, Dead Barchetta is 14K long with eight chapters. I've set a minimum completed count of 60K words, so we'll see how well we do. The goal is to contract through NYC, but I may change my mind again. We'll solve that mystery when we get to it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cash, Clunkers, Cars, Calloo-Callay

A client for whom I do SEO work operates a used car lot in town, and one challenge presented to me in promoting the place is this recent Cash for Clunkers deal. Recent news reports suggest the used car businesses won't be affected well by the program, so I will have to find another way to build his brand. We already do quite a bit of social media and article writing - it's just a matter of selling something in an economy that might not be time for it yet.

Usually around this time of year my husband is looking at car pictures on the Internet or browsing lots on the way home from work. We owned a Dodge truck and a Pontiac Firebird when the baby was born - the latter didn't last a year until we realized we needed something with room for a baby seat. Hubby traded in the bird for a Kia Sedona, which we still own. That's a nice little car, it's roomy enough for him to transport his bike when we go on a long trip, and until recently it handled well in bad weather. This recent storm, where he caught on a flooded road, really tested the car's endurance. Had he been driving my Outback it might not have been so bad.

I do miss that Firebird, though. We got it in Atlanta just before we moved here - I had it narrowed between that and a Chevrolet Camaro, but the fire engine red of the bird proved too sexy to resist. Once the little one is old enough to ride up front I might revisit getting a sports car...if we can afford one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Change is Good

This from today's Florida Times-Union:

High School Name

The discovery of the remains of Navy Capt. Scott Speicher has re-energized those who wish to see Nathan Bedford Forrest High School renamed in honor of the downed pilot. Speicher graduated from the Westside school in 1975, and his name has long been floated as a replacement for Forrest, whose current namesake was a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Such a change would require community involvement, said school board member Stan Jordan, who during his time as a state representative sponsored a bill extending educational benefits to the children of service members captured or missing in action. The bill, written specifically with Speicher’s children in mind, expanded benefits formerly only available to children of MIAs or POWs of the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

"That's something that's a deep rooted community issue out there," Jordan said about the name change. "You have to understand the linage of these school. There's an awful lot of Forrest graduates out there."

That is true. This Forrest graduate, however, would rather have had a diploma bearing the name of a man who died serving his country than somebody who helped form the Klan. Speicher had ties to the area, Forrest did not. Consider the percentage of minorities who attend that school, why would the city cling to that name?

Change is good. Try it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Love is in the stars

We at mission control have talked for a few years about releasing a line that featured two different stories, united by theme or genre, under one title. Initially we had the mini-imprint Phaze Duets bounce around the idea room, but as thoughts progressed we thought to keep with the cosmic milieu, and finally Phaze Binary Stars is about to launch. To the right is the cover template, the solid colors will be replaced with artwork.

What prompted this line to fruition was a recent decision to limit submissions of short lengths (5-10K words) to in-house authors. When you try to sell works in that realm, the question of price gets sticky. Do you charge your absolute minimum, when works double that length cost the same, or do you lower the price and therefore bring fewer royalties for your authors? There are eBook publishers that consider works between 1K and 9K, and certainly some authors prefer to write that length. Marketing such stories is a challenge, but we're going to give this a try. Technically, we've done a few of these already. Courtney Bee's College Grind/Ouch and Yvette Hines' Apprehension come to mind.

Volume One of Phaze Binary Stars, two M/M shorts by Jack Greene, will release early next year, and there is a second work contracted as well. With success and interest, we'll do more.

Here's how it will work: For this line Phaze Books will consider two stories, either by the same author or two authors, where the total minimum word count is 10K. The stories don't have to be 5K and 5K exactly - just any combination that adds up to ten thou. Maximum word count: 25K. The few in-house authors I've talked to about this line are enthusiastic about it. I like that a "double-shot" title showcases a short work, rather than have it get lost in an anthology. We'll still do anthologies in the future, but I'm looking forward to these duets.

Any genre of erotic romance is considered, though we would prefer to see at least one thing connecting the stories (two M/M stories, two historicals, paranormals, etc.). You can submit two different stories, maybe a he-said/she-said piece, or a work in two-parts. The standard squicks apply: no incest, minors, bodily waste, etc.

Please check our guidelines before you submit, use Phaze Binary in the subject line of your mail, and good luck! I plan to contribute to a set of stars myself. Details to follow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Taking a left turn

I came into the ePublishing world as a mystery writer. I cut my teeth on tattered Agatha Christie paperbacks, devoured Dick Francis' horseracing themed thrillers all through college, and learned the alphabet with Sue Grafton. In my former life, under my real name, I had published one inspirational suspense/romance and two cozies - presently two are out of print and one is reissued in self-pubbed format. I had another mystery I distributed for free online, which is currently out of circulation. Despite the success I now enjoy in romance and erotica, it's my intent to return to mystery. I'm about a sixth of the way there.

If you follow my Twitter or Facebook statuses, you can track the progress of Dead Barchetta, the work that will hopefully become the first in a series of books. Once finished and polished, I'll have a better idea of how I wish to proceed with publication - NY or e. Bear in mind this doesn't mean I will abandon the racier stuff, I still have a few more stories to tell in that realm. I am just enjoying this return to familiar territory.

The more I write, too, the more the idea of taking complete control of the project appeals to me. This week I have learned of the demise of another eBook imprint and the suspension of another one. Piers Anthony has reported that Swimming Kangaroo Books has closed submissions until next year, and Erotique Press, which published the wonderful Bridget Midway, has folded. Sign of the current times, but hopefully not a trend. Hearing talk, too, of major NY and UK pubs either closing lines (RIP Black Lace) or reducing print runs and advances makes me wonder if I'm better off going the eBook route. If I could be assured a non-erotic work could sell well against the slew of releases from the top dogs I'd feel better, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I still have to finish the damn thing. :)

I'll have more details as I get closer to the end. Wish me luck.