Ridiculously Addicted to this Show

I recently got sucked into a Netflix obsession. Admit it–you’ve either done it or been tempted. Streaming TV is my nemesis, and my great love.

It’s been probably seven or eight years since I’d seen it, but I started watching old seasons of What Not to Wear. You know, the makeover show on the TLC channel where two “fashion experts,” at the behest of the victim’s family and friends, stage a fashion intervention on an unsuspecting woman with low self esteem. It’s brutal. But sometimes it’s beautiful, the way the women react and then claim that this new style that’s been foisted on them has made them suddenly start respecting themselves. The women they attack often wear revealing clothing, and I love seeing how the new fashion rules they’re taught say that the woman should cover up to be attractive, not reveal too much. That part is refreshing.

The show is like crack. Ugh. I make myself ride the exercycle while I watch–that’s my punishment.

Someone else might not find it addictive, or even mildly entertaining. However, maybe because I love stories with really strong character arcs I’m just drawn to this bloodfest. Seeing people go from frump to fantastic in 42 minutes is just powerful stuff. The hosts are magically able, in almost every episode, to get to the bottom of the woman’s self-doubt and to her greatest fear. They pounce on it, repeat it over and over again, and then they insist that all her issues can be solved with the right pantsuit and a nice purse.

We know that’s false information. However, there’s something so tantalizing about that concept–that there’s a solution to what hurts so much inside us, and that it can be solved.

As an author, it’s a great chance to invent (or discover) fictional characters and either decide or find out what makes them tick. We dig deep into their psyches and discover that deepest fear. Then we POUNCE on it, gouge at it, make the characters just cry. Then we put them in situations where they meet the right foes or friends and where can solve their problem and discover their inner strength and become who they were always meant to be.

It’s tempting to think that all of life’s problems can be solved with fashion. They can’t. Sure, it’s good to take care of ourselves. To treat ourselves with respect and gentleness. And that can be the start of a beautiful friendship–kindness to ourselves. However, even beautiful, well-dressed people have struggles. Even wealthy, famous people have a “human experience.” No one can escape it. (Maybe that’s why it’s fun to read novels about beautiful, wealthy people who also struggle, even like the rest of us frumpy, financially-struggling folks. We relate.)

I still like writing about makeovers. And I’ll probably ride 42 minutes daily on that exercycle to get to watch that danged show. However, the most important makeovers we can undergo are the ones where we change our hearts, our minds, our attitudes. Where we surrender ourselves to truth and to divinity and become inside who we are meant to be.

I think that was the point of THE LOST ART, my most recent book. (I never discover the theme of the book myself until long after I’ve written it. Sometimes not until someone else points it out to me.)

The Woes of a Published Writer

It’s been a week slammed with conversations that all had the same theme: traditionally published writers feeling disenchanted with the marketing efforts of their publishers.

I’m sure this is an age-old complaint. “My book isn’t selling. The publisher won’t promote it.” Meanwhile, the publisher is probably thinking, “This book isn’t selling well. The author didn’t have the platform we expected. Let’s move on to the next project. It will sell better, and maybe pay our salaries.”

It’s a vicious cycle of blame. But where does the blame really lie?

Probably with the system. Bookstores with limited shelf space. Too many titles competing for a piece of an ever-shrinking pie of hardcover book attention. Too much competition from e-books that have almost no overhead invested in their production cost. Too few large publishers, too many very small publishers, too many authors, too few readers of “my brand of fiction.” It’s a blame game.

As far as I’m concerned, in my writing there’s only one method as a solution to this cycle: 1) Write what I love to write. 2) Publish it if I can — either traditionally or by self-publishing. 3) Let some people know I wrote it, people I think will enjoy it. 4) Hope it catches on, but learn more about how to get it to catch on and do those things. 5) Mostly ignore the reviews (unless I have to look through some for a blurb for a back cover for the paperback I’m producing.) 6) Meanwhile, enjoy thinking up another book. Get busy writing for the joy of it. Sales will follow. Or not. Don’t get too caught up in it.

Like I told one writer friend today: Most of the promotion efforts an author makes are like spitting in the wind. The best you can do is to promote it in all the ways you want to, so it doesn’t overtax either you or your family; don’t put too much unnecessary pressure on yourself. If it stops being fun, it’s a sign you should do something else for a bit — like write the next book.

My guess (although not my personal experience yet) is that creating a body of nice stories that people want to read is the best way to make my writing hobby a “success” — success being defined in different ways. It can’t all be about money, because I personally wouldn’t term the person who wrote Fifty Shades a success. It has to be about creating something that makes a reader feel something. Maybe that feeling is relief. Maybe it’s escape. Maybe it’s joy or simply an uplift. Keep going. Enjoy it. Learn new stuff about improving skills. Try new ways to promote. Keep discovering fun plots, fun ways to promote the book, fun people with bright ideas and personalities. The writing community is vibrant and creative. Get excited about the hobby. Sell some books. But don’t overthink it. Just get going on the next project, and thank the fabulous readers of the stories I create! They’re the best.

Yours might differ, but that’s my plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

True Love in the Modern Age

I write romance. Um, romantic comedy. Whatever. But with that, I really should know what romance is, right?

Well, today while I was out on a mini-date with my husband I experienced it–real romance. First there was take-out pizza with lots of melty cheese. Then, at the Redbox while I was running the touch screen to rent the movie, my husband held up the sun screen for me.

Ah, yes. That, my dear friends, is true love in the modern age.

I wish you all love.

The Tornado of Craziness Soon Will End. Alas.

This last month has been a total whirlwind of crazy tornado-ness. More than anything, it’s been sucked up by driving (I’m not kidding) 4,000+ miles in the car. Yes, the thought of even driving to WalMart at this point sort of makes my knees shake. But besides the car mania, here’s what I’ve been plowing through:

 

*three manuscripts edited for friends

*a radio appearance

*a book-signing

*two multi-day family reunions

*a video interview for a web magazine

*a speaking engagement in California (part of the big driving fun)

*two Hobby Lobby runs (long drives, sadly! but so fun! I love that store) with my girls

*a book release — The Lost Art (which went to the top 100 on Kindle in three categories. Thank you so much, reading friends!)

*a talk in church

*three car repairs

*a camp-out and fishing trip on the mountain while the AC was on the fritz at our house in the desert

 

Plus some other stuff that’s probably less interesting. (Not that any of this is interesting, likely.) The other things were all the fun mom stuff, like time at the pool and cleaning out kids’ dresser drawers and teaching the 9 year-old to make a cake. Stuff like that. Yeah, I didn’t get much personal writing done, other than preparing the presentations and the talk.

I have to say, it’s been quite the busy month!

Unfortunately, there’s only a bit of summer left to spend with my kids. I wish I could stretch it another few weeks before school starts up. Alas, school registration looms next week, and we still haven’t had our fun “Phineas and Ferb Week,” so I am pretty booked for the next few days doing stuff like “Backyard Beach Day” where we build sandcastles and go to the aquatic park, and “Agent P Day” where we do spy stuff. It’s going to take all my self-discipline to make myself go shop for notebooks and pens.

This is going to be my first year in almost 17 with no kids at home during the day. Youngest darling starts first grade. (She had half-day Kindergarten.) Life will change. I’ll probably try to do a lot of writing. And some genealogy. (That’s my other great love.) I hope I get to do more church service. And plant some flowers in my front yard. And I might finish the job of painting my house that I started two years ago. Yeah, by now it probably all needs another coat of paint. Some aspects of the alone-time I relish; others, not so much.

Meanwhile, though, I have ten days left of this tornado of craziness. I’m going to jam it full of mom fun and laundry.

Until then, beware. We might be watching you as agents of Agent P.

Shouldn’t This Get Easier By Now?

I’m excited! I have a book signing today! And it’s in my hometown, at the Preston Citizen from noon to two. Or three. Depending.

But to be honest, I’m also pretty nervous.

Shouldn’t this get easier by now? It’s been 10 years (well, nine years and eleven months) since I first ever did a book signing. This is my seventh book. Well, I’ll be signing my sixth book Immersed, but since it came out in May, I’ve added another (The Lost Art, which, incidentally hit THREE top 100 categories on Kindle this week. OH, my HECK. Thank you, gentle readers of Kindle books. If I could give you all a big thank you hug, I would. Seriously.) I should possibly think this is standard, right?

Wrong.

Maybe it’s the ongoing anxiety in me, or maybe it’s the fact that I watched Cipher in the Snow (that Church movie about the little boy who gets bullied and ignored at school, then dies at the bus stop, lying in the snow, and no one notices, YIKES!) one too many times and have a wild imagination of that being how the book signing will feel. Probably the former. Anxiety stinks.

Today has the added nervousness of a radio interview this morning on KACH at 9:00. Well, 9:04, after the news. What if I say what’s on my mind? I honestly think I have no filter. If I think it, it’s out there for all to hear, instantly. Oh, dear. I might end up mentioning … oh, geez. I’d better not even type it.

Deep breaths.

Bear with me while I psych myself up for this-thing-that-I-did-t0-myself.

One, the ladies who work at The Preston Citizen are very nice. I get to talk to them. They’re lovely. That will be great.

Two, it’s a bookstore. If worse comes to worst, there are always nice books to pick up and browse. I might find something to buy. (Okay, who am I kidding? I can’t enter a bookstore without buying something.)

Three, my friend Donna K. Weaver will be there signing with me. She wrote Second Chances 101, another book in the Ripple Effect Romance series, and we have only met once in person, so we can have a great time visiting about writing and books and our family members living in China and stuff.

second chances 101

All good things! Anxiety not necessary. At all. Seriously. Right?

It’s going to be fine. Deep breaths.

Shouldn’t this get easier by now?

 

PS – If you’re in the area and stop by to say hi, that’d be great. No pressure to buy a book! Just visit with me?

Why I Write About Makeovers

Hi. My name is Jennifer and I’m a lazy personal groomer.

Sometimes I think I need a support group because I absolutely hate doing my hair and makeup. Yeah, I make the effort every day–sometimes not until 3 in the afternoon–but it’s not something I look forward to or enjoy.

I find myself feeling a little like Mr. Incredible after he saves the world, “How come the world can just stay saved?” Because how come my hair and makeup can’t just stay done?

This is probably why I write about makeovers. My last two books, oddly, have that theme. Granted, Immersed was about a girl who had to do a make-under so she could keep lecherous clients away. But that’s a change of appearance. And then there’s The Lost Art, where Ava is prompted by super duper meanness of her coworkers to change not only her looks but her demeanor. But there’s a bottle of peroxide involved.

Grudgingly I admit to having bought a bottle of Sun-In to spritz on my hair while writing this book this spring. Yeah, it was probably a rookie error because there’s more orange than gold highlights involved. Sigh.

But I think this all may stem back to my dislike of hairstyling and makeup application. Maybe if I write about my characters doing it in positive ways and with good effect, I can see their good example and say, “If my fake people from my head can do it, so can I.”

Broken logic. Just like the broken ends of my hair from too much time under the blowdryer and the super hot curling iron required to put even the slightest wave in my impossibly straight hair and the shellac-like hairspray I have to invest in to keep that minimal curl in it.

Sigh. I can’t wait until I’m an old lady and can go in once a week and have them comb my blue hair and have it stay that way for a week. That’ll probably be the one physical perk to old age.

And Now, For Your Beach-Reading Pleasure…(Plus it’s on Sale!!!)

It’s finally up! The Lost Art: A Romantic Comedy is available!

If you have a Kindle reader and are planning a trip to the beach or just need a little reading escape, here’s a summer “gift for you.” It’s quick, lighthearted fun. There’s romance, mystery, a billionaire, a handsome FBI agent… Summer love!

I’m offering this for an introductory price at $2.99 for the next few days.

TheLostArt_Cover

Dowdy art exhibit coordinator Ava Young is happy with her man-suits and sensible clogs. She likes the way they clip-clop on the museum’s tile floor. But they don’t win her any lovelorn looks from her office crush. In fact, the handsome new guy calls her “sir” when they first meet. Oh, well. She’s always known the only way a guy would take a second look at her was if she was the only person in the room. And on fire.

But after her workplace crush devastates her by, frankly, calling her something super-duper mean, Ava is ready to make some drastic changes inside and out, even if it means giving up chocolate, or taking hilariously out-of-date but strangely wise-sounding advice on femininity from a 1959 book on “How to Snare a Modern Man.”

Either way, she’d better hurry because when a priceless art exhibit gets a theft threat on Ava’s watch, a billionaire bachelor and a handsome FBI agent will be taking a good, long look at the art.

 And at Ava.

 The Lost Art is another fluffy romantic comedy from award-winning author Jennifer Griffith.

Can I ask a favor, gentle readers?

Would you please share the news with your friends? Thanks!

Introducing: The Lost Art: A Romantic Comedy

I’m really excited about this book! And at long last, I’ve got a blurb. Well, it might be a work in progress.

All her life, Ava Young assumed the only way a guy would take a second look at her was if she was the only person in the room. And on fire. So she’s been distant, and possibly a little cold. At least on the outside.

But after her workplace crush says some crushing things, she’s ready to do something big about it–inside and out. And she’d better hurry because when a priceless art exhibit hits the Phoenix Metropolitan Art Museum and Ava’s in charge, a billionaire bachelor and a handsome FBI agent will be taking a second glance at the art.

And at Ava.

But tell me what you think. Does it sound like a beach read? Is it fluffy enough of escapist fiction for ya?

Coming soon! Really soon, I hope! I’ll let you know!

TheLostArt_Cover

Saints and Sinners: Author Interview

Hi, friends. If you’re a neighbor of mine and you love books set in places you know very well, you’re in for a treat today. Virgil Alexander has written a second book set in the Gila Valley of Arizona. He’s a history buff, and this bit of desert is one of the great loves of his life. I had a chance to interview him about this new release. Eventually I’ll cut it down into article length, but it’s interesting stuff, so I’m reproducing it in its entirety for you. Enjoy!

CF - Saints and Sinners final front

 

Jennifer: I really enjoyed reading SAINTS AND SINNERS. It was a fun follow-up to THE WHAM CURSE, which you published a couple of years ago, with some of the same characters reappearing. Would you talk about the characters that appear in both?

 

Virgil: The three main characters in both books are Deputies Bren Allred and Manny Sanchez, and San Carlo Tribal Officer Al Victor.  Allred and Victor are longtime friends who worked together in the Globe Police Department.  Sanchez had just been hired in his first full-time job as a law officer in The Wham Curse.

Victor is a full-blood Apache who grew up near San Carlos and now lives in Bylas, policing the eastern edge of the reservation.  He is a veteran of the Middle East war, and served as a military policeman; he was trained by the army in Native American tracking skills and is an expert tracker.  After returning home he hired on with the Globe PD. When he married his childhood friend and sweetheart, Bonnie, he went to work for the San Carlos Police and was assigned to Bylas.

Bren graduated from EAC with a double major in agriculture and law enforcement.  He still has an interest in the family farm and helps out with some of the work and decision making, but he enjoys police work more.  He served a mission for his church, and after finishing his last semester at EAC, took a job at the Globe Police Department.  He married a Gila Valley girl he met at ASU, Monica, and after four years he was hired by the Mesa PD and he and Monica lived in east Tempe.  He received regular promotions becoming a detective.  He and Monica decided to move back to the Gila Valley to raise their family, so he hired on with the Graham County Sheriff.

Manny Sanchez is a highly intelligent and widely read young man of 21 in The Wham Curse, who has just completed his training in the Sheriff’s office and been assigned the rural Klondyke beat, with Bren as his supervisor.  He is just learning the ropes, some of them the hard way, when he first appears.  He makes good progress through the course of the first book, and continues to gain experience and mature in Saints & Sinners.  He and his girlfriend, Jenny, add of touch of romance and humor to the stories, as we see their romance begin to mature in the second book.

Beside the protagonists’ love interests; there are several other recurring characters, their children, the Sheriff and other law officers, ranchers and towns people, and a few odd characters.

 

Jennifer: One of the great things in this series is the setting. It’s especially interesting to those of us here in the Gila Valley.

Virgil: I have long had a deep interest in the Southwest, especially my native Arizona. My stories have been centered in Eastern Arizona, particularly in the upper Gila Valley, Sulfur Springs Valley, Aravaipa Creek, the eastern portion of the San Carlos Reservation, and the beautiful mountains, desert, and wilderness encompassed in this region.  The great farms and ranches and the remoteness from large urban centers has preserved a bit of the old west that you can no longer find in much of the state.  This means places from Safford to Superior, Winkleman to Young, and Wilcox to Morenci-Duncan are not only a unique and varied habitat, but kind of a unique brand of civilization as well.  It’s a great place to live and a fun place to write about.  It’s an easy place to fall in love with, and I am hopelessly smitten.

The scenery, ecology, and history make it a great place to stage any story.  But the reason Wham was written in this setting, is that it’s where the Wham Payroll Robbery happened, which was the basis of the story.  Saints & Sinners still has my main characters working their part of the mystery in the Gila and Aravaipa Valleys, while other officers work in Phoenix, Tucson, Mexico, and even Spain. 

 

Jennifer: I remember the WHAM CURSE plot as being something tied to the history of the Gila Valley. Is the plot for SAINTS AND SINNERS also a historically based story? Give us a snapshot of the plot—but no spoilers! (And I have to say, this plot had me hooked from the first chapter.)

 Virgil: Saints & Sinners does touch on some history as part of the setting, but it is not central to the plot as it was in The Wham Curse.  Instead there is a strong involvement with illegal border crossing, drug smuggling, and both the problem with and plight of illegal aliens.  I had no idea when I started writing it that immigration would be at the top of the news when the book was released.

 The plot for any mystery generally includes a “treasure,” something desirable, which incites violence.  In my first book it was literally a trove of stolen gold and silver.  In this book it is beautiful and gifted young woman who inadvertently becomes a liability to a ruthless gang. The struggle of the gang to assassinate the girl is opposed by our three rural cops.  Like The Wham Curse, Saints & Sinners is a murder mystery, but it also has some elements of thriller, international intrigue, and adventure.

 

 Jennifer: I know you lived in Globe, just a few miles up the road, but what’s your personal connection to the Gila Valley?

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a connection to the Gila Valley, and that has grown through the years. I was born and grew up in the unincorporated community of Central Heights between Globe and Miami.  Even as a child I had some ties to the Gila and Sulfur Springs Valleys.  My uncle was the farm foreman on the Sierra Bonita Ranch and we would visit fairly frequently, travelling via Safford and Bonita.  Both my Uncle John and Uncle Harold married Mattice sisters from Pima, and a cousin still lives in Pima.  I was at Camp Snow Flat on Mt. Graham as a Boy Scout during four summer sessions.

 When I was sixteen I joined the LDS Church in Miami, which at the time was a part of the St. Joseph Stake of the church, based in Thatcher.  So we travelled frequently to Thatcher and Pima for various church functions and meetings.  I attended EAC and lived in Mark Allen Hall the first year it was opened, 1964.  When I married my high school sweetheart the connection to the Valley grew – her great-grandfather was Christopher Layton and her maternal grandmother was a Randall who lived in Thatcher, her mom was born in Thatcher and her Dad in Franklin.  I later taught classes for EAC in the Globe Gila Pueblo Campus, and Miami and San Carlos Learning Centers.  I worked for Inspiration Copper at Miami, which was owned in succession by eight different companies, now Freeport McMoran, where I worked in the corporate office (why I now live in Tempe) and spent a great deal of time working in Safford and Morenci.  Now my son lives near Solomon with his family.

 In short I consider that whole region from Superior to Duncan home.

 

Jennifer: Your main characters are a trio of cops: a white, a Hispanic and an Apache from the San Carlos Reservation. Is this cross-cultural cooperation something you think happens often?

 Virgil: While there is a tendency today (which I don’t agree with) to separate everybody into groups and subgroups by race, ethnicity, or other such things, I know of many situations where people of very diverse backgrounds work together and form friendships similar to those depicted in my books.  Particularly the Apache character Al Victor is created from two real people that I have worked closely with.  One was a policeman of Navajo descent on whom I based Al’s physical appearance and the other was an Apache instrument technician with whom I worked for about twenty years.  Much of Al’s personality, sense of humor, opinions, and character (and even his last name) come from my Apache friend, as do many of the stories and anecdotes about reservation life I use in my books.

 

Jennifer: In your books you give a real sense of the procedural aspects of the crime solving. What is your background? How do you know so much about how to solve robberies, murders and kidnappings?

 Virgil: I come from a family with many law officers from local, county, state, and federal agencies; my dad was a reserve deputy and a member of the search and rescue team.  So I grew up hearing a lot of “cop talk.”  In the late 1960’s I worked as a grade inspector on Interstate 8 in the Yuma sector where I became friends with several of the local Border Patrolmen. I was an ardent reader from a very early age and read lots of crime and mystery magazines, and loved murder mysteries and spy thrillers, westerns (which often have law officers), science, and history.  I do quite a bit of research with my writing as well, and I belong to an organization, Public Safety Writers Association, that provides workshops, articles, conferences, etc. on police and emergency science and issues.

 

Jennifer:  In the first dozen or so pages of SAINTS AND SINNERS, some brutal things happen. However, the rest of the book is quite tame, violence-wise. I’d rate it a PG-13, or even a strong PG. Is that where you’d put it? Who do you see as the main audience for your books?

 Virgil: I agree with your assessment; I’m shooting for a “G” anytime I write.  This story deals with Mexican drug cartels, who commit up to 45,000 murders per year; telling a related story can’t ignore that fact.  I think because of the drug gang connection the book is much harder hitting than my first one, and about as “edgy” as I ever want to write.  I write things that I will never regret having my grandchildren read.  I have very traditional, family-oriented values and try hard to keep my stories safely in those bounds, so while violence is a part of a murder mystery, I portray it in a realistic, but non-lurid way.

 I don’t have any hard evidence of who my readers are.  My observation is that the Gila Valley is one of my strongest areas; I’ve made as many direct sales there as I have in metro Phoenix with a much larger population.  People in California, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Virginia have commented to me that they enjoy the descriptions of the “Arizona they used to live in” and can visualize the scenes.  I think most of my readers are regular readers of mysteries and the connection to the place adds to their enjoyment.

 

Jennifer: These days book buyers have lots of options for where to find things to read. Where can your books be purchased? Are any available in local libraries?

Saints & Sinners was released for sale on May 1, so it is just hitting the market.  It currently is available at Latter Day Cottage in Mesa & Tucson, and Pickle Barrel Trading Post in Globe; the Barnes & Noble at Metro Center in Phoenix has ordered it.  It will soon be at Eastern Arizona Historical Museum in Pima, and Book Worms in Safford.  It is also available online at Amazon in both print and Kindle versions; and online in print only at Barnes & Noble and Oak Tree Press.

 I maintain a list of bookstores carrying my books, and links to the three online booksellers, as well as a lot of interesting information on my author webpage:  http://virgilalexander.weebly.com/

Virgil

The Tempe Public Library is the only library I am aware of that is currently lending Saints & Sinners, but I expect it to soon be at libraries in Safford, EAC, Miami, and Mesa- libraries now lending The Wham Curse.

 

Jennifer: Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions! I really enjoyed the story in Saints and Sinners. I look forward to what you write next!

Cover and Title Reveal of My Coming-Soon Rom-Com

Exciting day! I’m finally ready to reveal the cover and title of my next novel.

This one has been in the works for a lot of years, with the concept gelling in my head about six years ago. But I got frustrated with it after about 85 pages and set it on the shelf. Then, a bit ago, I picked it back up and decided the time was finally right to finish the story.

Next week I’ll post a blurb about what it’s about. Then the week after that, I’m hoping it will be available for all to read! Assuming I don’t get sidetracked by summer and kids and the responsibilities of motherhood. Those always have to take precedence over the good ol’ writing hobby, of course. (Note: swimming and piano lessons and chore lists are all going pretty well this summer, thank you for asking. And my 16 year old did get 100% on his first College Algebra test he’s taking at the college. His Trig is going well too. Life is all right.)

And now… I present for your consideration, the cover of The Lost Art: A Romantic Comedy.

It's a quick. fluffy read, just in time for your summer trip to the beach. I hope!

It’s a quick. fluffy read, just in time for your summer trip to the beach. I hope!

 

What do you think? I think kudos to Laura Tolman for her mad skills in designing it. Thanks, Laura!

And yeah, soon I’ll be getting on the ball and writing up a blurb so you’ll know what it’s about. But I can leak at this time that there’s a makeover (another makeover novel, what?), a stolen painting, a billionaire and an FBI agent. So, maybe that’s fun, right?

Happy summer to you all!