Favorite stories of the week

It’s Friday. Time to chill out and collect our favorite links from around the interwebs for a little weekend reading.

There’s no theme. Just stories that made me smile or made me think, and I thought you might like them too.

1. The U.S. government has found NO evidence that mermaids are real.

It’s a sad fact, but mermaids do not exist. Or, at least, there’s no evidence, despite the fact that some people got confused by a TV program and called the government to ask whether mermaids are real.

2. How did your state get its name?

Ever wondered? Me neither. But this blog post on how all 50 states got their names is awesome. I had no idea that California was a fictional island in European literature before the west coast was “discovered”.

3. My hometown screws up its 4th of July fireworks show…

One of San Diego’s biggest fireworks displays had a technical fault, which meant all of the fireworks went off at once. Well done, San Diego. Way to disprove the pothead surfer stereotype.

Tell me this sight wouldn’t make you crap your pants:

5. …and closes a beach because of a great white shark sighting.

Yep, bad week for San Diego. A lifeguard spotted a great white off La Jolla Shores – where great white mamas apparently leave their young. Also where my mama dropped me off when I was learning to scuba dive. Thank God I thought that “great white nursery” story was a myth at the time.

6. Don’t date these men!

Here are 25 online dating profiles that may have missed their mark. You don’t have to be a marketing expert to know that this is not the best first impression to make.

Have you found any great stories online this week? Please share!

Writing goals: Did you meet 2011’s? Set 2012’s?

Success and failure sign
©cobrasoft/sxc.hu

I can hardly believe another year has gone by. I don’t know about you, but I love looking back to the goals I set myself on January 1 and remembering what I’ve accomplished this year.

I had set myself some day-job goals (not to be a jerk-wad manager, since I was about to hire my first managee), personal goals (to roll with the punches, since Smarty Pants was set to finish his PhD and would be looking for jobs around the world), and writing goals.

I’m happy to say I met most of my goals.

  1. I wrote and revised my contemporary romance All Things Easy, which I pitched to agents at my first RWA National Conference in July.
  2. I wrote the first draft of another contemporary romance, No Fragile Heart.
  3. I got half-way through revising my first manuscript, First Aid for a Broken Heart.
  4. I made more friends than I could’ve imagined on this blog and on Twitter (thank you, everyone, for the many hours of chatting and thoughtful comments and conversation!).

Goals for 2012

Day job

Since Smarty Pants got a job in the Netherlands, we moved in October and I now have a new day job. I’m so excited about it because it’s full of challenges and opportunities. My main goal is to tackle all of those without sacrificing my sanity, since I usually let myself be consumed by work.

I will probably get to go to Bangladesh and India for work this year, so my other goal is to make the most of those opportunities.

Personal life

I want to start learning Dutch. In the Netherlands, people speak such amazing English that I haven’t had to so far, but I feel awful asking people to speak to me in English. Smarty Pants and I may hire a tutor or take a class so we can at least learn the basics of the language.

Writing goals

This year I will:

  1. Finish revising First Aid for a Broken Heart.
  2. Revise No Fragile Heart.
  3. Write and revise the book that comes after All Things Easy.
  4. Judge three contests and enter three contests.
  5. Go to RWA Nationals and pitch to agents and editors.
  6. Build myself a website.
  7. Continue growing my blog and social media conversations.
  8. Keep track of the books I read on Goodreads.

How about you? How did you do with last year’s goals? What are this year’s goals?

Greatest hits of 2011 – thank you, readers!

I wanted to say a big, huge thank-you to everyone who subscribed to, commented on and read my blog last year. You guys rock, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you all!

WordPress.com created a 2011 annual report for this blog, and since you’ve all been part of it, I wanted to share it with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Since I’m completely un-musical, it’s the only time in my life I’ll ever get to picture the Syndey Opera House packed for my performance.

In case you missed ’em, these were the five most popular posts this year:

  1. The worst thing I’ve ever written didn’t kill me
  2. Why my romance novel hero is the ugliest man in the world (not popular because of the points I made but because I used two phrases that’re Google gold dust: “ugliest man in the world” and “massive penis”)
  3. Guest post by Sara Megibow: being a feminist romance reader
  4. Five things romance novelists should know about vaginas
  5. Describing how a man smells

Click here to see the complete report, including who commented the most.

I can’t wait to connect with you even more in 2012!

Romance Writers of New Zealand magazine

The Romance Writers of New Zealand very kindly printed one of my blog posts in the June issue of their members’ magazine Heart to Heart!

Even more kindly, they’ve said I could make the pdf available here so people can read it.

My entry is on what novelists should do when writing for the web, but having read through the magazine I’m incredibly flattered to be included alongside some of my favorite writers. Seriously, check out these amazingly helpful articles:

  • How Do You Mend a Broken Scene? by Roxanne St. Claire
  • Five Tips for Getting to Know Your Characters by Tawne Fenske
  • Writing the Best Body Language And Dialogue Cues by Margie Lawson

Here’s the Heart to Heart pdf. Hope you enjoy reading it this weekend, and many thanks to RWNZ!

Does it matter what an author looks like?

Have you ever scheduled a professional photography session, then woken up five minutes beforehand, not taking time to wash, brush your hair or gather enough energy to smile?

Neither have I—at least, not since a hot guy I liked looked at my college ID photo and said, “Ugh! Looks like you just woke up from a crack sleep.”

Authors take a lot of care over the photo that will be printed in the back of their books and all around the internet as they promote their work. Debut authors today even get their blog, Facebook and Twitter followers involved in selecting the best photo.

Why? Because, to a certain extent, it matters what we look like. We all want to present ourselves in a way that makes readers feel connected with us, and humans connect when they can read signals in each other’s faces—like a friendly smile. And thank God we do that, because looking around the animal kingdom, it seems that the alternative is sniffing each other’s rear-bits, and I dread to think how publishers would replicate that in the back of a book.

The problem is that we’ve all got insecurities, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Several weeks ago I asked a professional photographer friend at work if he’d take some pictures of me for my blog. Most of the photos I have of myself are taken on holiday, where I look happy but sweaty or tired. Ever since Mat agreed to take my picture, I’ve been putting off the date. My hair’s too shaggy. My brows are too bushy. My chin’s too…well, let’s be kind and say “undefined”.

Those are mostly things I can control. But what about characteristics that we can’t control—like our age—which can lead to others judging us?

Continue reading “Does it matter what an author looks like?”