This Stuff Ain’t Stayin’ in Vegas!

hotel viewSo, I’m here in Las Vegas, downtown at the Plaza Hotel. The hotel website referred to the pool as “iconic.” David asked me what that meant and I said probably that we’ll recognize it from movies. We’ve now decided it means “old, but not neat enough to be historic, but you still can’t bitch about it being ugly.” We’ve also labelled the elevators iconic, the strange service and the decades-old cigarette smell. I noticed this morning that a casino hotel on the next block is labelled “legendary,” which suspect means the same this as “iconic.”

I met my Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben, last night. He’s just lovely in person. Agent Pam arrives this morning, so it should be a good time to be had by all. Now I need to work on my presentation for tomorrow!

Also, I’m guesting on the fabulous Suzanne Johnson’s Preternatura blog today, talking about worldbuilding as gardening. Comment to win a copy of either Pawn or Possession!

But first… You guys have to read the joint review Bookpushers gave Rogue’s Possession. Okay, you don’t HAVE to, but it’s the most wonderful, amazing review ever. Just to indulge myself, here are some quotes. You’re welcome.

This is one of the most imaginative, seductive and darkly sensual fantasy romances I’ve ever read.

There is a real emphasis on the characters and the plot as well as the world-building which is explored in much more depth but retains the surreal and dreamy tone with great touches of humour as well as darkness.

This was another great installment that was well worth waiting for. Now I can’t wait for the next one!

The tension between them which I thought was hot and sizzling in the first book, was an inferno for this one!

I stayed up into the wee hours of a workday morning because I was so hooked.

All right. Thank you for indulging me. You may now go on about your business.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Vegas Baby!

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So far there are two entries in the Rogue’s Pawn Giveaway, and this is my favorite. Of course, the other is only slightly less brilliant:

BSs8eNjCUAA33cLYou’ll note that both of these are from Carien at Pearls Cast Before a McPig, so she stands to win Monday’s Cover Reveal drawing unless the rest of you plan to get busy this weekend! I know you all are thinking about it, cuz you’ve told me so. Make those fun ideas into reality! I totally want to see the Rogue Prawn interpretations.

Tomorrow I’ll be featured on the Dear Author blog for their August Extravaganza. Nice way to say goodbye to August. ~waves nostagically~ Stop by if you can!

Also, if you’re looking for a great local writers and readers conference this fall, check out Fiction Writing in the Digital Age, taking place in Las Vegas this October. Among others, my Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben, and my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, will be there. I’ll be giving what should be a very fun cross-genre workshop:

More than Wham, Bam, Thank-You M’am – Wooing the Female Reader

Over and over, statistics show that more women are reading fiction than men, particularly on e-Readers. With the overwhelming success of works like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, it bears examining just what female readers are looking for – and what they’re buying. This workshop will examine how romance can be used to both attract readers and illuminate characterization. Sexual attraction can both entice and ratchet up the overall tension of any plot. Jeffe Kennedy, award-winning author of numerous series of erotic romance and fantasy, will walk participants through examples from literature and movies, to illustrate what women really want from a story.

Small conferences like this are great for meeting the industry folks in a more informal way. And besides, Vegas Baby! You’ll also see on the schedule that there are a couple of signings, so if you’re in the area, stop by and say hello!

Last Days of the Publishing Dinosaurs

Las Vegas is a fun place to visit for a party. All glitz, glamour and sizzle. None of it is real. From the massive water features in the middle of a desert to the faux architecture to the illusion that you could win big, it’s all a big show of smoke and mirrors.

And we willingly engage in it, embracing the fancy that we could really be dining in Paris or riding a roller coaster through the skyline of New York City. It’s fun and fabulous and absolutely without substance.

This is perfectly fine, as long as you keep a grip on what is real.

Not always easy to do.

I remember when I was a kid – the kind with ten-thousand questions – and my mom told me that, when I went to school, my teachers would know the answers. To my delight, they did. At least for a few years. Then, as I grew older, I discovered my teachers didn’t have all the answers. A few of the good ones taught me how to research answers for myself.

But the lesson stuck: just because a person appears to be in a position of knowledge, doesn’t mean what they say is real.

Yeah – I’m on a bit of a rant again.

Another industry giant – this time it’s Scott Turow, of legal thriller fame – has written a Missive of Doom about the impending demise of publishing. You can go read it, if you like, though I warn you, it’s just more of the same wailing and gnashing of teeth. The big NYC publishers are imperiled because the Justice Department is suing for price-fixing on ebooks, which is very likely exactly what occurred, and therefore Turow leaps to the worst possible conclusion: that writing and reading will be extinguished.

Ahem.

The part that really gets me is this:

Our concern about bookstores isn’t rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling.  Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online.  In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.

No, no citation or link on that. Just the assertion of “marketing studies” and that consistent return of data that is apparently so well-established that it’s common knowledge. No actual statistics necessary.

Now, I’m not saying it isn’t true. I’d just really love to see these numbers. Since I’ve never seen them before.

I’d also love to know exactly which era those numbers come from. Because if those studies refer to shopping habits older than the last two years, even the last year, I’d have to cry foul.

I remind myself that this kind of thing happens with major paradigm shifts. There will always be people rooted in the old paradigm who can only see that world crumbling away. They haven’t stepped through into the emerging world yet, so they can’t see the possibilities. Last year, at the RWA conference, a venerable agent gave a seminar on how to succeed in publishing. Someone in the audience asked a pointed question about how electronic publishing had changed things. He asserted that absolutely nothing had changed. He seemed to regard ebooks as a passing fad, if he noticed their existence at all. He also suggested that we buy his 20 year-old book on the industry, which was a hardback because it’s a valuable book, he assured us. After a stunned silence, people began bleeding out of the seminar.

Turow claims he’s not concerned for his own career, but for the lack of opportunity for new authors if the NYC publishers are hurt by this lawsuit. Meanwhile, as I wrote this, Angela James at Carina Press just tweeted that they acquired five brand new authors this week. I wonder how many new authors have been acquired by the big NYC publishers this week?

Times change. Technology grows at a rapid pace.

But the death of something old is not the end of the world. Only of that paradigm. A new one, full of vigor and growth takes its place.

I’m sure the world the dinosaurs lived in was a lovely place. But the climate changed and we now live in a different world. You can only bemoan the passing of the old world for so long. Otherwise you dwell only in the past, not the present.

And that’s not real anymore.

How to Stay Young Forever

We just spend the weekend in Las Vegas, celebrating my mom’s birthday.

I may or may not be hungover still.

This was a big birthday for her, with a zero at the end. I’m not allowed to say how old she is, but I’m 45 and she was 24 when I was born. You do the math.

And, yes, feel free to be awed by how fabulous she looks.

The four of us, my Mom, Stepdad Dave, my David and I had the best time. We went to see a burlesque show that was amazing (Crazy Horse, at the MGM), drank pitchers of mojitos at the pool, walked all over, saw Phantom of the Opera, lunched at Sammy Hagar’s and walked all over some more. My David commented that we could hardly keep up with them.

Good times.

When my David said how full of energy they are, they said they just don’t feel old.

Amen.

And many, many happy returns, Mom.

Ducklings

This morning we hit -20F. Our little adobe house isn’t meant for these temperatures, but we’ve gotten by just fine.

I find myself worrying about the birds and the wild animals.

It’s silly, I know. I should worry about the homeless people. About the poor living in poorly heated places and the kids going to school with too-thin jackets. But I have this thing where I fret about the animals. I wonder how the birds make it through the night and I’m relieved to see them in the morning, puffed up with indignation against the cold, clustering around the feeder. They know how to make it through the night.

It’s not like I can do anything to save them anyway.

Another feature of the Las Vegas strip are the rows of people handing out the little cards advertising the hookers. They have this technique where they pop the cards against each other, making loud clicks that draw your attention and they hand you the card. You have to get good at tuning out the sound – and the row of dour-faced men offering the cards – or you never get anywhere.

They mostly tried to hand them to David, though they’d give ’em to me, too, if I let them. As we walked down by the Mirage, enjoying the warm sunshine, I asked David what was on the cards. I’d so carefully not looked at them, that I then wondered. Pictures of girls, he told me.

We stopped by the fountains at the Mirage to admire the many kinds of palm trees in their landscaping. What? We like palm trees. Paddling around in the water was a duck and two very new ducklings. David was surprised they’d hatched in January. Some tourist guys tossed bread at the ducks, laughing as the little things tried to gobble the stuff down.

I confess I fretted about them. Did they hide when Mirage does its volcano effects? Would some idiot feed them something poisonous or try to play with them? I blew out my breath and let it go. The ducklings lived before I knew about them and I can’t sweep in and save them anyway.

As we got near our hotel, David started accepting the girlie cards. Like a wave, the grim-faces turned to smiles and the guys happily handed him cards. Within seconds he had a handful. I asked why he started taking them and he said “I thought you wanted to see them.”

So, we drank wine in our pretty hotel room, watched the sunset and flipped through the nearly 50 cards he’d acquired in the course of crossing the street. We talked about which girls were pretty and which poses looked sexy and which not. Then one card caught my eye. Kari, thin, red-head pale and with a glassy-eyed, lost look on her face.

“She looks way too young to me,” I commented.

David took the card from me. “She looks strung out on drugs, is what she looks like.”

She probably is. And she might be legal and she might not. I wondered where in all that tumult of noise and lights she might be. And I realized I fretted about her like I worried about the ducklings. There’s something about the small, the young and the weak dealing with a frequently harsh world that tears a little piece from my heart.

I meant to save Kari’s card. David threw them all away and I formed the idea that I should write about this and go dig the little card out of the trash. I could scan in her picture and tell this story. I fantasized that someone would recognize her, save her, perhaps. Then we checked out before dawn and I forgot in the flurry.

In the end, I suppose, as for all of us, it will be up to her to save herself. As it’s up to the birds to survive the cold snap and the ducklings to enjoy their bit of tropical paradise and avoid the dangers.

Still I remember Kari’s face and send hopeful thoughts her way.

The Guy in the Pink Suit

In the Las Vegas trip recap yesterday, I told you the saga of us trying to eat outside at The Restaurant that Shall No Longer Be Named because they made me mad.

Still, when the manager got involved, he magically cleared a table for us right at the rail in a prime people-watching spot, as our lovely waitress noted. I don’t remember it being so prevalent before, but now that there are such better sidewalks between the casinos, there’s an unending stream of people walking up and down the strip. Not a population to waste an opportunity, other people dress up in various costumes and entice the passers-by to pose with them for a tip.

One guy had a big snake. Another dressed up (barely) as a mostly naked Trojan warrior. There were Star Wars characters, cartoon characters and variations on fantasies. (See aforementioned mostly naked Trojan warrior.) Right by our table was a couple dressed up as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Tigger kept taking off her costume head, revealing a slightly dumpy, very displeased looking young woman. Pooh – a slightly dumpy, not very prepossessing guy, it turned out – kept trying to coach her along. She would put her costume back on and wave from time to time.

But she was clearly not into their money-making scheme. The nearby Cookie Monster/Elmo duo were doing far better.

David and I watched this for some time and we agreed this would be a miserable way to try to make money.

Then came along the Guy in the Pink Suit. David snapped a pic of him for me. It’s not great, but it’s the best we could get without drawing his attention. This was his “costume.” White slacks, pink shirt, pink tie, pink sports coat. He affected a New York Italian accent and manner. He worked the crowd with a “Hey, how ya doin’?” shaking hands and shmoozing the women.

We weren’t sure what his angle was. Pooh and Tigger had stuck up a hand-lettered sign saying they did pics for tips. The Guy in the Pink Suit carried a little gym bag and mainly talked to people. We speculated he was a pimping a show or a club. We asked the waitress and she said she sees him all the time and has no idea who he is. The others, she said, pose for pictures – though that sign is new. She wrinkled her nose at the hand-lettered sign. I said I thought the sign was a little tacky and she said yes, that she doesn’t have a sign around her neck saying she waitresses for tips. As for The Guy in the Pink Suit, she really didn’t see him getting tips.

At our leisure, we watched him. For every ten, twenty or thirty people who passed him by, refused to shake his hand, gave him suspicious or mean looks, one would smile and talk to him. Once he got the smile, he’d talk them into a photo. He picked out the women – usually the moms no one paid attention to, or the gussied up young women looking for admiration. We could hear him saying how beautiful they were, kissing their hands, slipping a familiar arm around their shoulders. When they tipped him – which they sometimes did – he kissed them. Usually on the cheek, sometimes on the lips. If the woman was part of a couple, he’d talk the male companion into a photo, too, where they’d mug for the camera and act like Wise Guys on the strip.

The remarkable part was how he put himself out there and took rejection after rejection, never losing his energy and spark. Sometimes five or ten minutes would go by before someone would accept his gambit.

I couldn’t do that, I said.

And then I realize, I do.

All writers do. Perhaps I should expand that to all entertainers. We offer a smile, a handshake, an offer to amuse you for a moment. And most people walk by with a turned-away face or an indifferent scowl. Every once in a while someone smiles. Will you get a tip? Maybe yes, maybe no. Sure, once you get the starring role with the twenty-story high billboard of yourself, you don’t worry about it so much. Until then, though, a lot of us are busking on the streets.

Tigger girl had a cute costume, but she didn’t know how to work it. Or didn’t care to. This guy took a pink jacket and turned it into a character.

More, he turned it into success. I’m sure I saw a couple of bigger face bills change hands.

After we finished eating, we went out front, so I could get my photo and my kiss. David had the camera and the $5 bill ready. Just as we got out there, The Guy in the Pink Suit gathered his gym bag and headed down the street at a good clip. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Every time I send a query now or read a review, I’ll think of him and how many times I saw him face rejection in the course of two hours.

And how he immediately turned to the next person.

Hi, Beautiful! How ya doin’?

Viva! Happy! Fun!


Not an elaborate blog post today.

Really it’s just a Las Vegas recap. For those following along, you know David and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary last Thursday.

I’d always kind of thought we’d have a big party for our 20th, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Because David has gone back to school for his Doctor of Oriental Medicine, our funding isn’t what it used to be. So instead of hosting a beach-party celebration of some sort, we just scooted to Las Vegas for the weekend.

Yes, we had a lovely time.

We’ve discovered over the years that we’re happier if we stay at a new place, instead of recapitulating something we enjoyed before. We never seem to like it as much the second time. This time we stayed at the Paris resort and casino. We didn’t get the priciest room, but had a decent view and a nice spot at the end of a tower.

The highlight was our anniversary dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, overlooking the Bellagio fountains.

We had a late dinner, after the Criss Angel/Cirque du Soleil show Believe. Sadly, we did not believe. The show was criminally disappointing. Alas.

But this seafood bonanza for two was beyond words.

Followed by the best chocolate souffle I’ve ever had in my life.

Everything about the Eiffel Tower Restaurant was perfect and lovely. They treated us like royalty.

Which was most welcome, because lunch at Mon Ami Gabi earlier that day was quite the fiasco. For a hotel where every single person smiled, said hello, and welcomed us from housekeeping to the pool attendant, the hostess for outside seating at Mon Ami stood out for her everlasting bitchiness. She screwed with us, made wait over an hour while she seated people who arrived later than we. Perhaps we were supposed to tip her to seat us at an outside table. After an hour and ten minutes, when she tried to seat us inside – at a table we could have had with our reservation when we arrived – I pitched a fit and the manager got involved. Amusingly, as we stood in the dining room next to the inside table I didn’t want, Carrot Top, walked by, twice. It was kind of a surreal moment. And yes, he looks exactly the same in person, with the same boyish grin. At any rate, the manager made it good and we finally got to sit outside and recapitulate the meal we had on our 15th Anniversary.

Hard won romance, there.


We did a lot of walking around and looking at stuff. David commented how amazing it is that the money in Las Vegas allows for such spectacular experimental architecture and frivolous art. Best, it’s accessible to anyone who cares to walk around and see. This wall of fountains (above) at Aria is a must-see. They pulse the water at various speeds and volumes, then it falls over a textured wall, creating gorgeous patterns. The resort is beautiful beyond belief. If we can afford it, I’d love to stay there next time.

I loved these heat lamps that look like table lamps. If you all feel like chipping in to get me a present, I want one for my patio, okay?

A big change in Las Vegas in the last few years is all the outside seating available now. Lots of places had decks and patios, with very fun heat lamps making it possible for year-round use. We also ate lunch at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina and Tequila bar. Great deck, fab music and really wonderful staff, too. The margaritas were excellent, too.

We saw Blue Man Group and they were as amazing and inventive as I’d heard. Well worth the ticket price.

All in all, it was a terrific celebration and a very fun time together.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the Guy in the Pink Suit and what I learned about rejection from him.