Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Super Followers Contest

So it's my turn! I finally did it, I hit the big 100!!!!

I am quite excited to offer a contest for all my faithful followers.

I have no awesome books to offer you, but I do have two things:
1) $30
2) my amazing editing talents

So, here's what I'm offering: Your choice of either a $15 gift certificate, or a critique/edit of the first 30 pages (double-spaced) of something you've written/are writing.

I'm giving away at least two prizes. Maybe more.

Gift certificate to what, you may ask? That, my friend, is your choice. I'll be using the super gift certificate website giftcertificates.com. I issue you the $15 credit (in your email) and you choose what you want! Go ahead, take a look, imagine all the things you might be able to put on layaway with a $15 gift certificate. :)

As I'm quite lazy and usually only do the minimum requirements to get into a contest, all you have to do is BE A FOLLOWER and LEAVE A COMMENT. Then you are entered into my contest. Yippee! So easy.

HOWEVER, if you want to be entered one more time: Post about this contest on your blog/twitter page. And give me the link in the comments so I know about it. (Oh, each comment only counts one time.)

AND I'm holding another contest. Just for fun. Just to see if this outlandish goal is even possible. Be sure and tell everyone that you send my way to mention who sent them (you) in the comments. (Does that make sense?). If my blog gets to 150 followers, there will be a super prize (to be decided, if we get there) for both the 150th follower, and the person who sent them over.

Because of the above contest, I am TEMPORARILY deleting my followers page from the blog. Don't want everyone to linger around waiting for someone else to take #149. (I know you guys!)

Okay, I'm excited! Let's see if this works the way I hope it does. Both contests are open until Saturday, April 3.

Sweet tooth status: Spent $60 on Easter candy. (That's why the gift certificates are so cheap. Sorry.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Your Business Cards

I took the big jump a few weeks ago and ordered business cards. But first I wondered, what do I put on a business card? I mean, it's not a business, per say. (Per se?) No physical location. I'm not going to give my phone number out (note: there may be times when you want your phone number on there. I don't right now).

So I googled a few author business cards, of course. And here's what I came up with.

Things to include on your card:

1) Your name. Duh, right? Put your pen name, your author name, what you want people to recognize.

2) Your title. For me, I put "young adult author." If I ever branch out and publish in more than one genre, I'll either just put "author" or list all of the genres I write in.

3) Book title. This was easy for me because I only have one book contracted. If you've published several, you might want to list just the most recent ones, or your best sellers, or sets of series.

4) Your blog/website. You want people to be able to find you! I listed both my blog and website, though I included the disclaimer that the website isn't ready yet.

5) Your email. Include this if you want to be contacted. I'm not famous enough (yet) to be bombarded with spammers or hate mail. For now, I can pretty safely assume anyone who contacts me wants to know more about my book. Or loves me. :)

6) Your photo. If this were a business, you'd include a logo, and a snazzy one at that. So this is you. Your book. You want an author picture. Names are easy to forget, but pictures, not so much. You want people to remember you.

7) optional: your agent/publisher. Again, I only have one book out, so I listed my publisher and my release date.

8) optional: leave the back blank. Since I didn't include my phone number because I don't want to give it to everyone, I can put it here if I give the card to someone I want to have it. Or I can autograph it. Leave information about my next book signing. Whatever.

Some of these things are subject to change. So I wouldn't invest in a billion business cards at once. Buy a few hundred, give those away, and when it's time to reorder, make sure all of your information is correct.

And finally, an example:

Have you put anything different on your cards? Any other suggestions?

P.S. My sweet tooth is out of control. Making blueberry coffee cake for dinner. Yes, dinner.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Marketing After You Publish

I already blogged about marketing before your book comes out. Here's the second half to that post: marketing after your book comes out.


1) The most obvious: Book Signings. Immediately I thought of bookstores within twenty minutes of my home. Other bookstores I would like to reach include in other counties and in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. And then I'm going to travel all over the US 'visiting' friends--and arranging book signings close to them! I would also like to try the local grocery stores that also sell books.

To prepare for the book signings, have posters and bookmarks with the novel cover on them and get it into the local newspaper. The bookmarks should have author info and a snippet of the book, perhaps with brief excerpt on the back. And advertise everywhere: church, facebook, library, grocery stores.

At the book signing, ask every guest to sign an email list, if they don’t mind. This list will be to notify them about future signings, giveaways, sequels, etc. Have refreshments (like Dove chocolates) and something cheap to give away for every sale (like light-up key chains), as well as being entered into a drawing for every sale for something big (like bath and body gift bag, or gift card to the bookstore the signing's at). Also bring cookies for the bookstore staff.

2) Do an author reading of the first chapter and post it on youtube, etc.

3) Speak at local libraries/schools. Even if they don’t want you to sign books, sell, you can start a platform, speaking about writing, publishing, promoting, etc. And of course leave a bookmark so they all want to read the book/visit the website.

4) Speak at book clubs. Some of the ladies I know at the gym have already said they’d like me to speak at their book club. I don’t know much about selling books out of my car trunk, but I’m sure I’ll learn!

5) Blog tours! Of course! These are great and cheap and I love them. Of course with a book giveaway.

6) Book giveaway for a donation. For example (online): “For a limited time only, this book is yours for the monetary donation of your choice. Your commitment: An online review at Barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.” I collect email address and info and provide snippets so they want to ‘buy’ the book. I ‘sell’ books, though at a cheaper rate, and hopefully gain new fans. I also get online reviews! Probably easiest to do through paypal.

7) Contact radio stations (local and blogtalk) to arrange interviews.

8) Contact local magazines (most are free) and ask for interviews/reviews in exchange for advertising on your blog/website.

9) Word of mouth. Ask everyone who buys the book to tell ten people about it, if they like it. (But to keep their mouths shut if they don't!)

Happy promoting!

What's worked for you? What hasn't? What do you plan to try?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Today was the day. You know, THE day. The find-out-what-kind-of-baby-we're-having day.

Well, it's a human baby!

All right, all right. We got a good look at the sweet little face, the kicking legs, the waving hand, and the buttocks. As well as the thick umbilical cord the baby straddled between the legs.

Silly baby!!!

The nurse tried and tried to get a clear view. She thinks it's a girl...but she's not sure. But she thinks so. She really does.

Good enough for us!

We're quite excited to announce that we're having a GIRL!*

*Until further notice.

Any stories about last-minute gender changes from you guys?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marketing Before You Publish

Someone asked me yesterday to talk about some of my marketing ideas. Happy to oblige! (Coincidentally, WiDo's marketing team asked me to send my plans over in an email.) I can't remember what I was going to blog about today, anyway. That will have to wait until later.

I don't want to make this too long, so I'll split it into two posts. Today: Prepublication Promotion. Tomorrow (or the next time I blog): Post-publication Promotion.

Prepublication Promotion

1) Business cards. I just ordered my first set for the Storymaker’s conference. People are always asking about my book, and I tell them to visit my blog, but I doubt very many ever make it this far. This way, they will have a name, an expected release date, and my blog site.

I also spend a lot of time subbing in local junior high and high schools. My target audience is mature teens, 16+. Often the students ask me what I majored in, what I like to read, and I end up talking about my book deal. They are always very excited to buy a book from someone they “know.” The business cards will be an easier way to help them remember. And all the random people I meet on the street, at church, the store, etc.

2) blog. I started a blog last June after I got my contract, and it’s been a great way to meet people, interact with others, and post information about my book.

3) Website. I have purchased the web domain, tamarahartheiner.com, though I haven’t made a website yet. I hope to have one up by May 2010.

4) Networking. I believe that writer’s conferences are one of the best ways to network. I’m excited to attend the LDS Storymaker’s conference in April 2010 and meet a few people. I hope to make a good enough impression that people will remember my name and face, and maybe a few will be willing to read and blurb my book.

I am also planning on attending the Arkansas Writer’s conference in October 2010. Both of these conferences will be beneficial after my book is released, as well, since I can do book signings at the conferences.

5) Press release. Closer to release time, I will put together a press packet for the local newspapers.

6) book trailer. I have read books solely based on the book trailer. Post it online, website, blog, and youtube. I don't know much about technology, film, etc...I might be asking for favors on this one. (Emily? Emily, are you there?)

There you have it, folks! Some of my marketing ideas before your book even hits the shelves! You want to create the buzz...you want people talking, excited!

P.S. Tomorrow's the day.

Did I miss anything? What else can I do before the book is released?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Countdown: 7: Securing a Contract

I submitted my novel Perilous on June 16, 2009, to five different publishing companies. On June 25, nine days after submission, I got an email from WiDo Publishing's acquisition editor. The email said that my novel was under review and WiDo wanted to know if there was a sequel, since the story didn't conclude.

That was by far the quickest response I had ever gotten! I got all excited, too, because it looked like someone was interested enough to inquire about a sequel. (I mean, if you didn't like the first one, would you care about a sequel?)

Of course I responded right away, letting her know about my outlined sequel. Then I sat on pins and needles, waiting.

Five days later, on June 30, I got this email:

Your submission... is currently under review, but before a final decision is made, the marketing team has a couple questions for you.

They are wondering if you have any ideas of how you would like to promote your book, and what kind of network you could establish to get the word out prior to publication? We notice you live in Arkansas, is there a local bookstore you're familiar with that would be willing to promote a local author, perhaps host a launch party? Do you have any media contacts where you could get articles and/or book reviews? Do you have an author blog? Are you part of a writer's group, or book club, where you could speak and create a buzz before or after publication?

I was prepared for this question. Several people had told me that this is important for a publishing company to know, especially a small press that must make a huge investment in you. So I cracked my fingers and fired back an email about my marketing plans. Then I hopped online and bit the bullet: I started a blog. This blog! And oh, wow, I know so much more about marketing now than I did then!

And of course I told my critique group, who cheered and gave me virtual high fives and pumped me up by saying this was a very encouraging question. I felt it. I felt encouraged. And I checked my email every two minutes.

About a week later, on July 6, I received another email. This one said:

We are very impressed with your submission. Several editors have reviewed it and all had a positive response. Our major concern with it is that the demographic it's apparently written for-- LDS adolescent and teen girls-- are generally scared to death of being kidnapped, murdered and/or raped; and here in this book it all happens.

One editor's suggestion was to bring in the opening cop characters more, to intertwine their investigation into the story, and thus make it more of an... adventure/thriller, in order to broaden the demographic. The four girls would still be the main characters and focus, but a team of investigators as introduced in your prologue would also be developed and followed in the background. Is this something you could consider doing?

Overall, your story is incredible, fast-paced and a really, really good read. Your plot development is excellent, and the characters are also well-developed and likeable, except for the villains, who are incredibly frightening. Again, this would make a highly marketable book as long as it could be broadened to an adult demographic. There still might be plenty of teenagers who would read it and enjoy it.

In conclusion, WiDo would like to offer you a contract and work with you on the editing, as long as you are willing to revise so that it could be marketed to a broader demographic. The suggestion about the investigators is merely that, and you may have other ideas of how to make your story more "adult friendly."

If you are agreeable to this offer, please respond by return email and a contract will be on its way.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Um, yeah? Wow, yes! Of course I said yes. Thus my novel went from being a YA coming-of-age novel to a YA thriller/suspense novel. And it's been quite a journey, but it's so fulfilling to find someone who believes in you, someone who backs you up and is willing to see you through to the end of that dream.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gender Selection

We find out in four days if we're having a boy or a girl, and I'm nervous.

Let me preface this by saying, of course the health is the most important. And the baby will be sweet and precious, no matter what the gender. And since we want five kids and this is #3, we still have lots of chances.

Now, let me say that we really hope this baby is a girl.

I've got two darling boys, and a part me feels like they are as perfect and beautiful as any boy could ever be. I'm nervous I won't be able to love another little boy as much as I love these two! All the older moms around reassure me that this isn't the case; as soon as that tiny person is put in your arms, you love him. (Or her, for that matter.)

I sure hope that's true!!! Plus I also feel if I don't get the experience of raising a daughter, I'll be missing something. The sooner I get my girl, the sooner I can stop feeling anxious with each pregnancy. (Because, let's be honest, I'm not stopping at five if I don't get my girl. I'm THAT determined.)

Nothing guarantees a girl, but we tried not to leave anything to chance. We practiced Dr. Shettle's method for gender conception, having sex on certain days in certain positions. But we didn't leave it at that. Nope. We also followed the Chinese gender calendar, waiting for the right month for a girl. Since it was right with both of my boys, maybe it will be right for a girl!

Then again, maybe not. A reflexologist at my gym checked the bottoms of my feet, said I have no bumps, and am thus having a boy. An astrologist checked my star chart and said it's a boy. And there are seven baby boys being born in my church congregation this year. Who am I to break the trend?

Just a few more days.

Votes? What do you think we're having? Any natural selection things work for you?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why Go to a Writer's Conference?

I've always avoided thinking about how great a writer's conference was because I knew I couldn't afford to go to one. I comforted myself with thoughts like, "I already have a contract. I have a critique group. I'm a good enough writer anyway. I'm doing good with my own networking."

But in my heart, I always envied everyone who went to one. I wanted to meet people, learn with them, bond with them--the kind of 'church camp' experience, only for writers.

Why, though? What are the benefits of going to a writer's conference?

First of all, a writer's conference has something for all levels of writers. (And of course, anyone can participate in these events, no matter what level.)

For the aspiring writer:
1) Writing contests. These are a good way to exercise your growing talent and stretch yourself, sometimes uncomfortably. And usually, there is immediate feedback.
2) One-on-one mentoring. For an additional fee, conferences usually have a 'writing lab' where you can sit down with a published author/editor and share something you've written. Make sure you wear your tough skin and take all of the advice/critique to heart.
3) Genre studies. You can learn about what genres are getting published now, as well as what makes a novel fit into these genres.
4) Workshops about pace, point of view, cliches, and everything you need to improve your craft.

For the writer seeking publication:
1) Writing contests. If you win, what a great thing to add to your resume! And if you don't win, you have another story to try and publish.
2) You will meet editors and agents. Some of them are book shopping at the conference. While you may not sell a manuscript, it's a good time to make an impression, help them to remember who you are.
3) Agent advice. Often there's a workshop by an agent, who will share with you what to do and what not to do when submitting.
4) Query workshops. What could be better than fine-tuning your query while an agent peeks over your shoulder?

For the newly published writer:
1) Professional networking! Bring your business cards. See how many you can collect. Get them autographed! Autograph them! Buying a book from an author you know is so much more gratifying than buying from an unknown author. You want everyone to feel that way about you. You are a friend; they know you. Looking for someone to write the blurb for your next book? This might be the place!
2) Marketing workshops. You have a release date, or a new book. You have some marketing ideas. Need a few more? A writer's conference will help you.
3) Website help. Every writer needs a website. Not ready to pay the money for a professional one? You might find a workshop that will teach you how to do it.
4) Making the most of launches. Booksignings can be successful--or not, and a lot of it depends on you. Learn how to the most out of yours.

For the seasoned writer:
1) Helping others learn from your skill. You might be the instrument that jump-starts a career.
2) Social networking. Okay, you've got your fan base and several published novels. Now's your chance to make new friends. Break into a new niche.
3) Broadening your market. Maybe you've always written suspense and want to give fantasy a try. Maybe you want something different but don't know what. A writer's conference will help you learn about other genres, maybe ones you haven't considered before.
4) Leaving your comfort zone. Don't write children's books? Take a picture book workshop. The knowledge you gain might give you something new to work with on your next book.
5) Ready to try to get your book onto the big screen? A conference may have the advice and contacts you need to make it happen.
6) Writing full-time. Sometimes forcing yourself to be creative on a schedule (and someone else's schedule, at that) can be difficult. Other authors share their tips for survival at writer's conferences--or at least, their common frustrations.

And the things that are beneficial to all writers:

1) Meeting other writers. I don't know if most writers are extroverts or introverts, but one thing I've noticed: we are all very willing to help. We want you to succeed. We know you want us to succeed. There is an instant camaraderie and friendship at a writer's conference.

2) Learning new things. Whether a new writer or a seasoned writer, we love learning. We are curious. And any little, "Huh. I didn't know that" can end up improving our writing.

3) Energy! We feed off each other, encourage each other, and come away ready to attack our manuscript again.

Of course, there's always the cost to consider. A conference is an investment, for sure. If you live right next door to the conference, you only have to pay the conference fee, which could be from $50 to $600. A hefty expense, but that does usually cover your meals for the duration of the conference. If you have to travel at all, you'll probably need a hotel room. Conferences often have rooms reserved at a cheaper rate. And if you really live far away, you'll have travel expenses. These days, flying or driving can be quite costly. But if you've ever started a business or know someone who has, you know that it requires a much bigger investment than one writer's conference.

The good news? These are all tax-deductible business expenses. So really, what have you got to lose?

Now you just need to find the right one for you! Check out comprehensive writer's conference websites, like this one or this one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Sometimes, our husbands do things that make us wonder who they are. And sometimes, they do things that make us wonder how we got so lucky.

I just have to gloat about mine. Like all marriages (right?), ours has its ups and downs. But there are some things I can always count on: his generosity and his compassion.

For example. I wanted new maternity clothes. I don't have to ask, but I did. Of course he said, "Whatever makes you feel better." And he means it. If nicer clothes raise my self-esteem, then by all means, he wants me to have it.

Three days later I woke him up from his nap with, "Can I have $600?"

If it were me, I know I would've said, "Why?" or at least, "$600?? That's a lot of money!" But he didn't say either of those things. He didn't even say, "Yeah, if you give me back massages every Friday for the next year." All he said was, "Yes." That was it. I said, "Okay!" and giggled, and then he said, "What for?" I told him, "I want to go to a writer's conference in Utah and I need money for the plane and the hotel and the conference." His response? "Oh, of course you can. Take an extra $100 for shopping."

Silly man. I'm not going shopping.

Granted, his response might not have been so mellow if we weren't getting back a very nice tax return. But even so, I'm trying so hard to be as generous as him. I have the tendency to question every time he spends $20 on candy at the grocery store. And it makes me feel like a horrible nagging wife, especially when he is so kind to me.

But yesterday took the cake. After our oldest's soccer game, we went to Fun City (kind of like Chuck E Cheese, but bigger and cheaper!). We'd been planning this all weekend. All of the sudden, in the middle of the soccer game, the rorovirus attacked me. I didn't know that was what it was, but I spent all of Fun City in the bathroom, vomiting and--er--you know.

My parents were with us. They offered to take the kids and Mark took me home, with me throwing up in a plastic bag the whole way there.

There's something about having the flu. You forget how bad it is unless you're in the throes of it. You don't realize how it jerks your whole body forward, giving you whiplash. You don't remember that you grip the toilet, trembling, gasping, shaking, frothing at the mouth, thinking you are going to die.

Through this whole ordeal, my husband was right there (well, except when I was in the girl's bathroom). He stroked my arm, wiped my mouth, pulled back my hair. He helped into my pajamas, helped me get my contacts out, and tucked me into bed. He brought me a water bottle in case I got thirsty, gave me extra blankets, called all of my commitments/appointments and told them I was sick. Then he and my dad gave me a blessing that I would get better quickly.

Today I woke up feeling weak and shaky, but not nauseous (I know, the correct term is nauseated, but that sounds wrong!). And I am full of gratitude to my husband. He deserves some kind of metal.

What can I do to reward this man? What would you do? What has yours done for you that made you feel special?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maternity Clothes, Oh My!

For those of you who have been pregnant, you know there's an exciting moment in your life when you realize you've been handed a guaranteed shopping spree. That is, unless you plan on living your life in sweats and hubby's t-shirts.

I remember that moment when I was pregnant with my first child. I was 18 weeks pregnant, and hubby walked into my office one day, looked at me, and said, "You look like a hoochy. Buy some maternity clothes."

Well, after I had myself a good cry, that's exactly what I did. I headed off to JC Penny's, credit card in hand. I brought my little sister along, b/c a girl doesn't like to shop alone. And I love shopping!
Two hours later, we left, frustrated. I had two sweaters and two shirts to show for my efforts, and they didn't fit very well. See, there's this problem: I'm small. I look like a pregnant teenager. And guess what? They don't make junior-size maternity clothes. I checked.

I needed clothes for work, so I ended up buying a bunch of the generic V-neck, blocky, tie-in-the-back shirts. I rotated between about five of them, enough to get me through the work week. They worked fine. I made it through that pregnancy.

With my second pregnancy, I wanted more clothes. Fresher clothes. I won a $100 gift card to Motherhood Maternity, and I thought that would be the place for me.

WRONG. Do they think every pregnant woman has a D cup??? Well, they don't. I spent all of my gift card, but avoided those clothes for the majority of the pregnancy. Pity.

Then I discovered this awesome store. It's called Generation X, and guess what--they have junior-size maternity clothes!!! At decent prices! I'm not sure who their target clientele is, but I was one of them.
We moved away from Utah, away from Generation X and its fabulous clothes. And now I'm in my third pregnancy. I unpacked my pregnancy clothes and decided all the blocky clothes from pregnancy #1 were out. Bye-bye. And Motherhood Maternity? Yikes. No go.

Time for new clothes! My mom and I hit the road, determined to find a store that had great clothes for small women.

We didn't. The closest we came to was Kohl's, which had some cute clothes for Motherhood prices ($25-$30 a top--not a bargain). I bought two. Everyone said Old Navy had some, but not the one in my town. Even Gap Maternity was too--matronly.

A bit discouraged, I turned to the internet. I always hesitate to buy clothes online because I can't try them on. But I did a search, and found Kiki's fashions.

The prices were great. And the clothes were darling. Still, I hesitated to buy. I sent them an email, and they emailed me back, saying anything that doesn't fit is returnable within 14 days with tags still on it.
So I did it. I bought. As soon as the clothes arrived, I tried them on. Not only did they all fit, but they are darling!!! I couldn't be happier. Here's a dress I got for $10.

and this shirt, only in black, for $16.

Keep in mind, the inventory is always changing. I shouldn't have gone back to find those pictures. Now I want to shop some more!

Anyone else have a hard time finding cute maternity clothes? Or is it just me?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Writer's Conference

The only time I ever went to a writer's conference was in eighth grade, when my school sent four of us students to a youth writer's conference close by. It was really fun and we shared things we had written, but nobody offered contracts or did much of critiquing. Still, I made a friend and exchanged letters with her for years.

I doubt that normal writer's conferences are like that. But I wouldn't really know, since I've never been to one.

Last night I was reading on M. Gray's blog, where she talked about the upcoming Storymaker's conference, and all the fun things that are going to happen there. Once again, I felt envious. Jealous even. As I commented on her blog about my envy, it occurred to me that we're getting a fat tax return next week (thank you, Uncle Sam!) and there was no reason for me NOT to go.

So there you have it. I talked to my husband and talked to M. Gray, and I'm going!!! M. Gray and I are even going to share a hotel room! How exciting is that? I'm going to meet a fellow author being published by WiDo, someone I've been friends with online for almost a year! And I'm going to meet so many other authors! I really can't wait. Now I'm going to go study the conference itinerary some more before I take my son to his soccer game.

Who's going to be there??? Who else am I going to meet?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Chosen Picture

I finally sat down today and tallied up the votes for my author pictures. Honestly, I was quite surprised at how many people chose certain pictures. I thought there would be one that nobody liked.

For picture #1: 4 votes

For picture #2: 9 votes

For picture #3: 16 votes

So the winning picture is: I'll admit I'm relieved, because this was my favorite picture. It's the one I want to see on my book jacket. :)

Thanks for looking and voting!

Monday, March 8, 2010

No, You May Not Drive on my Side of the Road

I have a lot of driving pet peeves.

The ones I noticed today are:

1) crossing the line into my lane on the curves. No, I'm not sharing my side with you. If your car/truck/suburban is too big for your side of the road, then get off the road. Or slow down.

2) glaring at me when I honk. Um, hello? You're the one crossing into my lane, remember? Or did you just want me to call your insurance (assuming you have some) after you hit me?

3) cars pacing each other at ten below the speed limit. Sure, your license plate says your handicapped. You're fine in the slow lane. It's the car next to you, the one matching your speed, that's getting on my nerves.

Time for a nap.

Is it just me, or is the village idiot on the road--with lots of different cars?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ah, the Melting Pot

Several years ago, a friend of mine online mentioned that her favorite restaurant is The Melting Pot. I had never heard of it, so I quickly Googled it. Wow! It looked fantastic! Every course is a fondue course, except the salad. Yum.

Right away I wanted to go there. As we lived in Utah at the time, I was thrilled to find a location in Salt Lake City, only an hour from our house. I joined their club, and got all kinds of coupons for my birthday and our anniversary, and even Valentine's Day.

But the time to go never came. We were busy. And then, we were moving.

There's not a Melting Pot in Arkansas. I checked. I felt sad every time one of those coupons arrived in my inbox. Sigh.

But there is one in Tulsa. And Tulsa is only two and a half hours away.

So when my husband asked me last week what I wanted to do for my birthday, I already knew. Right away I said, "I want to go Tulsa."

Tulsa? He looked at me funny and said okay.

Hee hee hee.
Yesterday we went to Tulsa for my birthday. And look! There's The Melting Pot! Yay! Of course we ate there.

I wish I had my pictures uploaded already, but I don't. It was fantastic. Let me give you a run-down of how it went.

First, we got the cheese fondue. We ordered the arichoke and spinach. In the middle of the table is a flat stove burner, with a big metal pot. Our waiter put our food together for us, then brought us fruit, vegetables, and bread to dip. So good!! We did not think we would be able to eat it all, but we did!

Second, we got salads. Mark and I ordered different salads. They were yummy and not fondue-ey at all.

Third, the main course. We chose to have our food cooked in the citrus-garlic flavor, so our waiter placed the broth on the burner, brought us out raw chopped chicken, New York strip steak, shrimp, filet mignon, ravioli, broccoli, bratwurst, potatoes, mushrooms, and seven different dips. Then he showed us how to cook our food in the boiling broth.

I thought our broth was a little too garlicky. Next time, I think I would just get the plain vegetable broth. They have other meats, such as salmon and lobster, but we didn't get all those. What we got was plenty.

The food comes and goes so slowly (the whole meal took about two hours) that it seemed we always had room for more. So when the waiter brought out the dessert menu, we were ready. We chose the s'mores: milk chocolate, marshmallow creme, and crumbled graham crackers. For our dippers, we got marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, rice crispy treats, brownies, and cheesecake.

We ate it all. Oh my.

Let me tell you...I walked in looking four months pregnant. I walked out looking six months pregnant. The drive home was very uncomfortable.

Oh, but I can't forget the bathroom. Of course I had to go, after three glasses of water. And guess what--the bathroom not only had soap and lotion, but hairspray and after-dinner mints. Mints! And hairspray! I got a kick out of that one.

Since leaving Tulsa, I've thought about how many times a month I would go to the Melting Pot if there was one close by. Once a month there's "girls night out", where a girl can eat all four courses for $35. Then they have happy hour during the weekday, where all cheese and chocolate fondues are half off. So you could eat a cheese and chocolate fondue dinner (you get as many dippers as you want) for $16.

Then again, maybe it's a good thing there's not one close by.

What's your favorite restaurant??? Why?? Maybe I'll go there next!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Eeek! Author pics!!!!

So, as I am pregnant and starting to swell, I decided it was time to take my author photographs. After all, as I told the photographer, "I don't want to be immortalized in my pregnant body."

This was kind of on my own initiative, because WiDo hadn't asked me for author photos. But I saw lots of other authors posting about their photos, and figured it would be a good thing to do. And then I checked in the back of Ghost Waves when I got it. Whew! There's an author's picture!

Now, it being the first week of March in Arkansas, we can usually expect 60 to 70 degree weather. Not this year. Seems like if we want to take pictures outside, we have to brave the cold, because it always happens to us. In fact, on the day I was getting my pictures taking, it started flurrying. What??? So, each picture where I took my jacket and gloves off and smiled for the camera (and it was windy), you can just tell yourself that I'm a great actress.

Yeah. My smile didn't come off so well in some pictures.

But overall, they turned out great!!! Now, I have my favorite, but I want to hear your opinions. Which one would you choose? Number 1, 2, or 3?




Much thanks to Nicole at Dorothy Nicole Photography for the excellent photos!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing a Thriller

Before I got my publishing contract with WiDo, I didn't know what it meant to write a thriller. I wrote a book. I thought my novel (then titled Walk Beside Me), was kind of like a coming-of-age story. It had all the elements of a thriller, but I didn't know it. I was just writing about horrible, dramatic events that happened to these teenage girls, forcing them to question their faith and grow up.

When WiDo asked me to change it to a thriller, I though, "Sure! No biggie!" My editor gave me suggestions and I did them. "Perfect," I thought.

Except it wasn't. Turns out, there's a whole lot more to writing a thriller than I thought. It's all about the suspense, the mystery, the uneasy feeling that persists through the entire book. Now that was a bit harder to do.

I've spent the past two weeks working on pace. Making sure that the novel doesn't ever stop being a thriller. It's okay to have moments of breathing, I think. And comic relief. But then, the heart-stopping action must pick up again.

Yesterday on Twitter there was a chat on thriller novels that I, unfortunately, wasn't able to attend. Turns out they do these chats frequently, with a slightly different twist on the topic. Isn't that amazing? I can research writing a thriller from Twitter! Last night's topic was "The Thrill of Keeping it Real" or something like that. The entire chat has been transcribed here. Let me share with you some things that readers want out of a thriller:

"what matters is if it SOUNDS real. There may actually be real things that no one would believe!"

"author needs to be careful about complex things, too. For instance, In Dan Brown's Digital Fprtress, he has all kinds of computer details and he gets some critical stuff wrong. Ruined book 4 me as a programmer."

"people will accept fantastic things if it doesn't *contradict* reality."

"Building on reality to create new possibly realities is where I believe the cool factor resides."

"I love stories that make me believe things my rational mind wouldn't normally accept. Storytelling at its best!"

"The writer's job is to make anything seem possible. This is so much harder than it sounds like it should be!"

"Making it realistic enough that people suspend disbelief is certainly key."

What do you look for in a good thriller? What is it that keeps you interested?

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