Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cigars? Dinner?

In a strange coincidence, tobacco tax has shot up just as Obama relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba. Not sure if the U.S. will impose purchasing limits, but according to the Cuban government's regulations, each traveler may leave Cuba with 25 cigars. That's a lot of cigars. I don't think I'm going take advantage of that offer, though.

Despite the The New York Times's report that Cuba is ready for a deluge of American visitors, expecting 1.5 million, um, guys, not that many of us want to go back, or have immediate family to visit.

I'd love to go but have no immediate family there. My mother, who remembers the vibrant place that Cuba was in the 1950's, doesn't want to see the sad derelict it is today. Me, I remember the playground, the kindergarten, the front yard and the swings on our porch. At four, my world was limited.

How many people like me have the many thousands of dollars that it costs to visit Cuba, especially when our own economy is in turmoil?

The exciting change, for me, is that now we can once again send money to our Cuban family members. As long as the government doesn't get too big a chunk of it, I think my relatives on the island are going to have a much rosier life in the near future. It depends on how the rules are laid out. I may go back, but it will be with a Habitat for Humanity crew, or a church mission. One thing's for certain: those 25 cigars are going to stay on the store shelf. I was never a smoker, and you can't eat cigars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's Spring! Romance is in the air--at WalMart?

It was gratifying to read the big article on romance in today's New York Times. For one, it verifies what I've noticed in several economic downturns, that movie box office receipts and escapist literature sales stay strong. According to the Times article, it even increases: romance sales were up 7% last year according to BookScan, and that's probably low because BookScan does not track WalMart sales.

This is great news for romance authors, but tinged with caution: due to mergers and downsizing, the market has shrunk, and with it author advances. I think every career romance author would do well to diversify, writing for different houses, expanding to young adult and nonfiction.

I wish I could remember where I read recently in a blog that now is not the time to write the book of your heart. The blog's author recommended that aspiring authors write something commercially viable. She obviously does not know the ladies of Georgia Romance Writers, a pragmatic group of writers who write for the thrill, but with an eye out for the market.

We know that the bonbon-munching, martini-swilling author is a myth (well, except for the martini part, at my house) and work hard at our craft. Now's the time to get those proposals in the mail!

Can't open the link for the NYT article? Email me at and I'll send you the pdf.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Writing Blizzard and the Meandering Post

I've been writing like wild the last few days. I have one proposal off to my agent, synopsis and four chapters, and another one almost ready to go. I've also mapped out key scenes of the next Gillian Summers book and shared it with Michelle, who is on a writing blitz of her own. Knowing her, the next email she sends me will have the first 100 pages of the book. Speedy is her middle name.

The weather folk say we're in for some snow tonight, which I'll believe when I see it. In the meantime, I'll be shrink-wrapping my backyard to protect all my new green babies. I'm really sad about my dogwood, which is in full bloom and totally gorgeous. It's a tall tree, but before my house was plunked down in a shaved-out piece of forest, it was crowded by much taller trees. At some point a heavy, falling branch must have taken out most of its crown, so the tree grows straight up, then has one graceful branch, like a ballerina's gesture. When it's in bloom it looks like a Japanese flower arrangement. I'll try to snap a picture later and post it here, before the cold ruins it.

I had another idea for a book after church yesterday, and reading the earthquake coverage from Abruzzo today cemented the idea. I've been making notes like crazy. I would have wanted to live in the middle of Italy, until I found out about the earthquakes. Georgia is the best. Except for the occasional tornado that wanders through, we're immune from most bad weather events.