Friday, May 30, 2014

Yeah, Yeah, I Know It's Cheating . . .

I had several great ideas for posts, but ran out of time. Blasted day job! Anyway, I wanted to make sure everyone knew about two great Romance Readers Luncheons going on in Alabama. And really, you need to go to both of them. If you've never been and you think $35 to $48 (amount determined at the time you sign up) is too much, let me list what you get by just signing up and walking in. (Quit laughing Nancy and Heather. Yes, I love lists.)

1) You get a meal that includes dessert. YES! Dessert. I don't know about you but if cake or pie is included, I'm there.

2) You get a goody bag of books, book marks, pens (everyone loves those - they're fun to use and embarrass your male friends, husband/boyfriend or whatever. They will never steal them too.), chocolate, and some of the most interesting swag you can imagine. If you're lucky and get some of mine, it will include two car cup-holder coasters. They're so useful and neat. Figure it would be best to let you know. Some people think they are just extra small coasters. Well, they are sorta.

3) You get to talk to your favorite author or new-to-you author(s). Yep. You can go up to an author and tell her/him how much you love her/his books.

4)  You get more goodies at the table you pick or land at. Nearly all of the authors have some type of treat waiting for you. And often there are two authors at the table (2 authors and 6 readers) and you know what that means! Double goodies! I've got some great goodies to give away at my table. My hint is on the right of what one of my two exciting swag looks like. Who's my table partner? They haven't said, but I know I will be as excited as you. Love meeting new-to-me authors. Of course, sitting next to those-I-already-know-and-love is fun too.

5) You get numerous opportunities to win door prizes. Every author who is attending brings a basket/box/purse/etc. of books and (more) goodies that is given away as individual door prizes. No tickets needed. Your name on the attendance roster is used in the drawings.

6) You get opportunities for more giveaways. So bring extra cash. We usually have some wonderful baskets that we made or someone donated. That usually includes e-readers.

7) You get to hear a New York Times bestselling author speak. And I tell you, I've never been bored. We have some great names!

8) You get a chance to have your books (in your goody bags or purchased on site) signed by the author at the end of the program.

That's a lot of GETS! So here is the information with links.

June 14, 2014, Saturday
Heart of Dixie Romance Readers Luncheon
Huntsville, Alabama
Keynote Speaker:  Eloisa James

November 1, 2014, Saturday
Southern Magic Romance Readers Luncheon
Birmingham, Alabama
Keynote Speaker:  Sylvia Day

Click here for list of authors (Should show up soon)

Hope to see you there!!

Carla Swafford
Coming soon! The Circle series novella!
Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Google+
Time Magazine, ". . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Green-Eyed Monster

Opera singers are notorious for being difficult, demanding, arrogant, vain and prone to fits of jealousy. And that's just the tenors. :) The first use of the term DIVA was to denote a female singer with phenomenal talent - "divine one." For many years this talent was accompanied by the aforementioned obnoxious behaviors. It was expected, in fact, almost required. Fireworks backstage meant fireworks onstage. Of course a singer's diva level had to be commiserate with her talent. Nasty behavior was not tolerated for long if the singer was just average.

I never played into the DIVA thing when I was singing professionally. Oh, I once told an opera director I refused to sing with a tenor who was a bigger bitch than I was, but frankly the guy could have given Cruella de Ville lessons in drama. Gunning down a 200 piece orchestra without the aid of a microphone (Opera stages were not miked in Europe then.) is tough enough without having to deal with a nervous breakdown looking for a place to happen who couldn't hold a high C as long as I could and therefore wanted me to bail early. I. Don't. Bail. Ever. The director replaced the tenor, by the way.

When I was in grad school my best friend was another soprano - taller, younger, prettier - who studied with the same voice coach I did. We were both very competitive and often up for the same roles and solos. Through six years of grad school people wondered how we went head to head for parts and never became jealous or petty when one of us won out over the other. The secret? We respected each others talent. Period. For us the music was the important thing. There was something bigger than either of us and that is what we served. We both ended up being asked to New York to audition for Fulbright scholarships - the first time two students from the same studio, let alone the same university, were afforded that honor. The trip to New York was a blast because we went together. She ended up going to Italy. I went to Salzburg, Austria. We critiqued each others work. We administered kicks in the butt when necessary and we gave no quarter when competing against each other. We were each others biggest fans and we never let anyone forget it.

I have been fortunate enough to be in a couple of amazing writing critique groups. One of the first groups I was in included the amazing Lexi George

and the fabulous Debbie Herbert.

I can't tell you what a privilege it was to be one of the first people these ladies called when they sold! I was and continue to be so thrilled for their well-deserved success. These two aren't just extremely talented writers they are both wonderful women as well. Equally as important I respect these ladies as artists, as writers. I respect the work.

My present critique group is made up of some of the hardest working, most talented and most dedicated writers I know. They are also some of the most prolific writers in the business. I alternate between feeling like a complete slacker and simply being exhausted at the number of books they write in a year and the number of promotional events they do - online and off.

Some of them are traditionally published. Some of them are published by small presses and/or e-publishers. Some are self-published. Some are about to be published by two publishers. All of them take great pride in their work as well they should. They've written some of the most beautiful, powerful, funny, sexy romance novels I've ever read. They have my undying gratitude as critique partners and friends. They have my admiration as writers. They have my respect as artists.

You want to check out some great reads? Try one of these ladies' work.

Ella Quinn                                    Gina Danna

Collette Cameron                         Marie Higgins

Marie Higgins                              Angelyn Schmid

Jenna Jaxon                                  Lily George

Lauren Smith                                Robin Delany

Sandra Owens                              Nancy Goodman

Christi Caldwell

The point of this post is this. I have been on this journey since 2007. I have done well on the contest circuit. I've signed with an agent and after a few years fired said agent. I've had plenty of requests for partial and full manuscripts. I haven't made it yet. Am I disappointed? Sure. Do I get discouraged or angry sometimes? You bet your big ugly alligator with a nasty disposition I do. Have I made voodoo dolls of editors and agents who have turned me down? I'm pleading the fifth on that one.

There are two things I am not doing. I am not giving up. Ever. I've got the patience of a vulture on an island full of giant tortoises. Eventually one of those suckers is going to die and I'll figure out a way to get through that damned shell. I mean, one of those suckers is going to buy. You know what I mean. I've had good examples in the ladies I mentioned above and their success makes me all the more determined to step up my game.

The other thing I'm not doing? I'm not ever going to allow my desire to succeed in this business color the way I look at another author's work or success. When I say I am happy for the success of other authors I mean it to my very soul. I don't get anyone who doesn't see it that way. I've seen and heard some hurtful and petty remarks about who is or is not a real author recently. I've heard catty remarks about who deserves this sort of respect or treatment or that sort of respect or treatment. Jealousy serves no useful purpose. When it comes to the people of whom we are jealous - half of them don't know it and the other half don't care. There will always be people who are better writers than I am. There will always be people who are more successful than I am. (Hell, that's about everyone in the business these days. I am too plump and lazy to conjure up the energy to be jealous of that many people! Jealousy is hard work!)

Writers are artists, every bit as much as singers. The art is the important thing. That is what we serve. The success of romance as a genre, as a business and an art, depends on the positive support of those whose work is worthy of our respect. Even when we want to smack some writer upside the head for writing something so incredible we want to delete all of our manuscripts, shoot our laptop and bury it in the backyard. As writers our time is valuable. We would do well to spend it in support of all authors who are producing work that continues to expand the number of readers of romance. As for those who perhaps don't, do we really have the energy to take that on? Trust me, bad art will take care of itself. (Milli Vanilli, anyone?)

The very wise historical romance author, Anna Campbell, once told me she celebrated each time another author sold a book because it meant the editors were still buying. Perhaps we should celebrate every time a romance reader buys a book as well. It means we're still in business, ladies. Jealousy in any form gets us nowhere. Writing a better book each and every time we type "Chapter One?" That's art. We're artists and our limits are in the hands of no one save ourselves.          


Monday, May 26, 2014

Thank You to Those Who Served

Thank you to all of those who have served our country and fought for our freedom.  Your sacrifice is appreciated.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Trailer: Play With My Heart

Last week, I revealed the cover for Play With My Heart: Southland Romance Book 1. This week, it's the trailer reveal.

I never thought I'd make a book trailer because I've heard from more than one person in the industry that readers don't really care about them. I've recently connected with some fellow Soul Mate Publishing authors online, and I've noticed many of them use trailers. I've also seen more than one article recently about the popularity of YouTube and how people are using videos to grow their businesses. I thought, why not?

I combined some recent advice from workshops and industry articles about power words and the promise of an experience to the reader. I tried to keep that in mind when I made this. I also tried to keep it short because I know people might give up 30-60 seconds to watch, but 2-3 minutes might be asking too much.


Have you seen trailers by other authors you love? Do you think there's an audience for book trailers? Does this one give you expectations and make you feel something? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Little Reality With Your Fiction

Stewart Butterfield/Flickr
Sure, fiction is supposed to be made up. But when you write contemporary or historical fiction, you can pull a reader completely out of your story with a fact you might think is incidental and unimportant.

For example, my husband and I are huge geeks, and we both work in computer fields. Every time we watch movies and TV shows with unrealistic depictions of computers/software/technology, we begin to play more attention to the inaccuracies than to the story the show or movie is trying to tell. I once read a romance novel in which two teenagers are friends, and one moves across the country with his parents. The other friend says there are no worries, because they can Skype all the time. Only one small problem: Skype wasn't initially released until eight years after the chapter supposedly took place. Why do I know it was eight years? Because I knew that these kids couldn't possibly Skype, and I stopped reading the book to fact check it myself.

When writing a story, make sure the facts back up even the small things you're saying. In my story "One Last Road Trip," I used Google Maps to map out my character's trip back home to Georgia, finding places along the way to have him meet up with various family members. I made sure the teams, schools, and jobs everyone had made sense based on timeframe, location, and character age. I didn't want a reader to lose the story because I'd put the wrong person in the wrong place doing the wrong thing based on reality and history.

Feel free to completely make up cities and towns. Invent new NFL teams or colleges. After all, it's fiction. But if you reference persons, places, or things that actually exist (or existed in the past), make sure that your facts line up with reality. Otherwise, you may have someone like me still telling people three years after they read your book that you made teenagers Skype before Skype was invented.


Monday, May 19, 2014

To Angst or Not to Angst? It's All about B.A.L.A.N.C.E.

My daughter ran through the house the other day, dangling a stuffed toy in the air with the dog trailing behind her jumping. Giggles and barking easily blended as I watched them play keep-away.

Immediately the concept of writing craft came to mind. Why you ask would that spur an analogy? Well, I love to read books across all genre’s, but one thing is consistent with them all – the angst. The right amount will keep the reader going and interested in the book.

Admit it, we’ve all read the books (or have begun to read and then got frustrated and quit) where the heroine and hero are back and forth constantly. Bickering like a bunch of kids that are truly annoyed with each other. That type of behavior does not necessarily build a good lasting relationship. A certain amount of flirting/sparring is expected because that’s what we do in real life, but then there’s overkill. Let the reader get what they anticipate somewhere along the way otherwise frustration sets in.

Too much and the reader looses interest. Too little and the game is easily won. Either way, the reader looses interest. Balance is hard to find.

Books for me are an escape to another world for a short period of time. The book itself doesn’t matter as long as it is well written with a happy ending, which is easier said than done. The craft of storytelling is everything. Some readers have the perfect life looking to escape nothing. Some readers are in the midst of conquering cancer and need to read that somewhere life is exciting. This is where my great love of reading began, sitting in the oncologist chair with tubes connected to a pouch of chemicals designed to kill the cancer.

For hours, I could transport myself to the 17th or 18th Century and be a fair maid captured by a handsome pirate. Or I could be a college student rescued from certain death by the vampire of my dreams. Regardless, the result was the same in the end. Whatever the story was, it allowed me to endure the pain and left me with a happy feeling in my soul that the world around me was all right.

Because of my journey, I was inspired to write and hope to have a book published some day. It’s a goal, a purpose to live, and a reason to inspire the next person that might fill the same oncologist chair. My point of all this is to remind the masses that drama for the sake of drama is not entertainment but annoyance. However, the right amount of angst will have your reader hooked ‘till the end. No matter what the circumstances, romance readers want that happy feeling at the end of the story.

What about you? Do you want the happy ever after (HEA), happy for now (HFN), or do you want the hook that leaves you dangling until the follow-on book?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cover Reveal: Play With My Heart

Here it is. The long-awaited (for me anyway) cover reveal of my first full length novel.

Play With My Heart: Southland Romance Book 1

Available from Soul Mate Publishing July 2014
Southern musician and closet geek Liz Baker enjoys her quiet life. While in Los Angeles helping her brother with a house project, the simple life gets complicated when British television actor Ian Clarke walks into the picture.
Ian enjoys his celebrity status in Hollywood and is determined nothing and no one will get in the way of his plans for success on the big screen. He never counted on meeting a woman like Liz, but she’s the only one who can help him with a personal problem.
Forced into close quarters where priorities and cultures clash, an intense attraction catches them both by surprise. Secrets, old lovers and the paparazzi threaten their new dreams and a chance for love could be lost forever.

The cover artist, Leah Kaye Suttle, was contracted through Soul Mate and she did a wonderful job with the design. We met on Twitter after I approved the final cover and she's excited about the reveal too. The only element missing is a guitar, but we couldn't figure out how to add it without cluttering things up. The guitar is the main instrument my heroine plays, but the title is really a "play" on words. I love puns. The cover is simple, elegant, and captures the sweet, sultry, and southern feel of the story.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Is That All You Ever Do?

I got a couple of phone calls recently from a family member (notice how I'm not naming names). Both calls went something like this:

Me: Hello

Nameless family member: What are you doing?

Me: Working on my book.

Nameless family member: Is that all you ever do?

Me: Well, it's not going to write itself :)

I tried to be nice and I think I succeeded, sorta. I did stop at that and change the subject so I wouldn't add, "If I didn't have to stop to answer silly questions it would go much faster." Really, it could have been much worse but I'm such a kind, considerate person ;)

Some just don't understand writers enjoy writing. It may seem like an obsession and okay, it is. We love it. I'm sure those who spend countless hours playing video games or watching silly movies and TV shows would understand, but not all do.

Many of us work full time jobs, have pets, children, or both to care for, spend time with family, or try to have a social life. We try to balance children's activities with school, sports, and home. Oh, and you have to feed everyone now and then. That's A LOT folks! Our plates are full! So, no, it's not all we ever do!

I read articles that give checklists to make time management work for you. Keep a calendar they say. I have a calendar. I keep meetings, blog dates, contest deadlines, conference dates, and dates I've promised something to someone . . . the list goes on and on. No calendar can create more hours in the day.

Am I alone in the time management / life tug of war? It's your turn now. Tell me how you really feel. Leave a comment and vent a little:)


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Monday, May 12, 2014

Favorite Words

Despite my mother assuring me that my first favorite word was "No," I've cultivated a few more over the years and tried to understand what it is about a word that is so attractive. A favorite word of mine has to meet several criteria:
  • It has to accurately capture a thought in my head
  • It has to sound like the thing it means to me
  • It has to feel good in my mouth
Most words are able to capture thoughts. We actually use words to disseminate and share
A young Aidee Ladnier without a care in the world.
information. Words are vital to how humans have lived and learned for thousands of years. So the first thing on my list--most words are able to do this. One of my favorite examples of this is the word "insouciant." It means "showing a casual lack of concern." In other words, it doesn't mean careless because that would mean the insouciant person was taking chances. It doesn't necessarily indicate malice, just that the person is not concerned. But it does mean that the person has a certain confidence in their lack of concern--like someone who hasn't yet seen enough of the world to be afraid or like someone with enough power to know the world cannot hurt them. There is something playful and powerful about being insouciant.

My next standard a favorite word must meet is that it sound like the the thing it means to me. Of course all onomatopoetic words fit this bill. Some of my favorite words are imitations of actual sounds around me--like "zoom" or "cuckoo" or "boom!"  But I also like words that don't necessarily seem at first glance to sound like what they represent--like Love.  Saying the word "love" starts out with opening your mouth and ends with your lips and teeth meeting. This sounds to me like the word version of a hug: you open your arms and then close them around the person you love.

And this leads to the last thing a favorite word should do--it should feel good in my mouth. Just as I write words on paper or keyboard, words are also an essential spoken form of communication. I want a favorite word that I speak to be lively and pop out of my mouth excited--like the word "apple pie". There's something fun in the repetition of the "p" and the strange "le" construction or maybe in the sighing finish of the "ie." I love saying "apple pie" just as much as I love eating it.

So tell me, do you have a favorite word?
Do you like the meaning or just the way it feels in your mouth?
Does it hold a special memory or remind you of something from your past?


AIDEE LADNIER is a short story writer who loves quirky characters. You can visit her website at or meet her at some of her favorite social media sites:  Twitter  |  Tumblr  |  Pinterest  |  Facebook

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Author's Unofficial Guide for RT Preparation (Or Not)

So, the big RT Booklovers Convention is less than a week away, right? Part of me knows it's coming. Part of me knows I have a couple of editor appointments to pitch projects, a couple of sessions or three in which I'm expected to actually participate, several meetings of, like, paramount importance to my future. But the day job had a deadline, and there's this book due, and there's this blog to write, and my dog needed a haircut, and, hell, I needed a haircut, and...

So here's a few new ways to prepare for a conference, an experiment I'm conducting this year for research purposes only. For the greater good, of course.

* You know those two editor/agent appointments you're signed up for, with publishers you'd like to write for one day? You know you have fifteen minutes to sell yourself, sell your talents, sell the hell out of anything you've got that sellable. DON'T THINK ABOUT IT. You know. Just get in there and wing it with that vague series idea you've had bouncing around in the back of your mind for a year now. The one that might or might not even be in a genre the editor buys. You'll astound the editors with your ability to think on your feet.

* Show up for your sessions on time, dressed to kill, clutching your most recent book in your hands, and DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT TOPIC YOU DON'T REMEMBER. Just wing it, especially if you're sitting on a panel with fabulously popular authors (which you're not, probably because you don't prepare). You'll astound people with your ability to say "er" and "um" and "I think Ilona Andrews should take that question." Should Mr. and Mrs. Andrews see this, I'll deny writing it. Lexi George wrote it and signed my name to it.

* When you are attending one of those multi-author things where you stand around and wait for someone to pretend an interest in your books, DO NOT DISCOURAGE MISTAKEN IDENTITY. Last year, I had three long conversations with a woman who kept talking about the hot love scenes in my books. Sometime near the end of the first conversation, I realized she thought I was another author with a similar name. At the book signing, she bought a couple of my books, thinking they were new titles by that other author. Who doesn't write paranormal. Who probably has a MUCH lower usage of four-letter words in her damn books. But it was too awkward to back out by that point. Just go with it. And if you ever ask me about this, I'll deny it.

* There are a lot of parties and costumed events during the RT convention, and people will be dressed to the nines. ACCEPT THAT YOU WILL NOT BE ONE OF THEM. Wash your day-job clothes and go with it. Throw in a few things with glitter or sequins and if they match, it was planned. If they don't, you're eccentric and boho. We're authors. We're expected to be crazy. I mean, this is the town that spawned Truman Capote and Lillian Hellman and Tennessee Williams and Anne Rice. They're going to raise brows at my purple sequins and houndstooth suit coat?

And there you have it. My guide to conference preparation, a la 2014. Er. Um. I'll let you know how it goes, or you can just ask Ilona Andrews.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Win a Kindle Fire, Free Erotic Historicals, and Lots of Other Author Swag!

Several erotic historical authors and I are helping Jess Michaels celebrate the release of her new historical, Beauty and the Earl, with a contest! Log in to the Rafflecopter giveaway and enter to win a Kindle Fire as well as other prizes which include free historical romance books and other author swag!

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Friday, May 02, 2014

What the heck does that mean? Or Why I love the Urban Dictionary (with Giveaway)

I have a deep seated fear of looking stupid or foolish. Which is silly because I frequently act like a fool.  I’ve never been quite right.  But one thing I absolutely dread is seeing slang or acronyms in social media and not having a clue what it means.  And I hate to ask because again...feeling stupid. So discovering the Urban Dictionary was such a relief.  

I recently starting noticing SHIP on twitter and kept meaning to look it up.  Meme is another one that’s been floating around.  I had a general idea of what they meant, but I like definitions.  I also love how the English Language allows us to play with words.  One of my professors in graduate school talked a lot about how English was fluid and anything goes.  English actually gives you permission to play with words and create new ones.  That lecture was before Microsoft starting preloading AOL onto these new strange things that were just coming out call PCs.  Yeah, the dark ages.  

But my professor was right and no one has had more fun with the English Language than the Internet.
So here are a few of my favorite words and acronyms I had to look up or were suggested to me, then I had to look them up: 

MEME:   I know, I know, I know I should know what this memes…I mean means.  The Urban dictionary calls it “a virus of the mind” but I guess it’s like a running joke.   
                And there’s a great website that will explain it all for you

ICYMI  In case you missed it.  Well, DUH.   (>)  <<< ---- that’s a face palm, icymi  

SHIP    I’ve been seeing this one a lot on Twitter lately and usually I’m pretty good at telling what a word mean if I see it in context. Not this time.  @sharislade had to explain to me that SHIP is from relationSHIP and well it’s nice to have virtual friends who don’t make you feel stupid.  (You should follow Shari if you’re not already.  She heads up #buffyclub Tuesday nights on Twitter and her new book is out and it’s awesome:  The Opposite of Nothing.)

PDFIT @pb_reader brought this one to my attention.  And it’s actually kind of useful. It’s basically asking someone to put a Microsoft file into a pdf.  (You should follow Liz for awesome shoe and tattoo RTs << ------   Re Tweets on Twitter and she RTed this guy a few days ago for which she has my eternal gratitude)

Which brings me to my next term  Cougar Crush:  I’m sure everyone knows what this means, I just had no idea I was one until I saw THOR and discovered Chris Hemsworth was 27 at the time.  (Oh for Tardis and a weight loss program that actually worked for me.)  The tweet above has proven that my condition is chronic and there is no cure.

OTP My Facebook buddy Maggie Welsh’s son sent this one.  It means One True Pairing.  I had not seen this one before, but it has to do with putting two characters together, or two characters that you SHIP << -----  are you seeing how this works.  I’m having a light bulb moment….and the space between light and bulb is critical because you don’t want to be a lightbulb which means you’re either inbred or a third wheel, neither of which are fun to be. 

The follow up to OTP is NOTP meaning two people that should never be a couple.  Maggie’s example for this was great.  The Doctor and DonnaMy example would be Angel and Cordy.

FEELS   this is another one I was late to the party on.  I like this one because feels makes it possible to get all mushy and emotional about something while still appearing cool.  Wait, is cool still a thing?

FETCH   just kidding,  I know what this one means. It's just such delicious irony that ten years after Mean Girls came out, FETCH has more than just happened, it's totally a meme.  There's even a TUMBLR .  So I guess Gretchen Wins!

 But the Pièce de résistance  (which is actually in the Urban Dictionary but ironically I had to go to the musty old Merriam Webster to get the definition for the way I’m using it here) is without a doubt


I LOVE THIS WORD.  I HEART IT SO HARD!  If it has to be defined for you, then I envy you.  

Anyway, to sum up, I love the Urban Dictionary and appreciate that it significantly reduces my ability to look stupid on the internet. Oh and good news, according to the Urban dictionary, Cool is still a thing. 

And you can find the URBAN DICTIONARY here   

I'm giving a way a copy of Shari Slade's novella The Opposite of Nothing. Winner can choose ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  

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 Lexxi Callahan writes contemporary romance set in the Deep South.  The first book in her Southern Style series was released in June 2013.  She swear book two is coming out this summer.  You will most likely find Lexxi on Twitter at @callahanlexxie