Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Book Signing/Birthday Bash

Any author reading this blog knows the trepidation one feels as an "event" looms on the horizon. Unless you're on the same level as, say, Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich, there's a good chance no one is going to show up except the people you personally invite/nag/beg to come. And often it's only a very small percentage of those people who actually do make an appearance on the day of the event itself.

Not only is it embarrassing to hold an event and have no one show up, it can also put the author in an uncomfortable position with the bookstore. They just ordered a large number of your books, and it looks like they're not going to be able to sell them. (Yes, books can be returned, but it still doesn't leave a very good impression.) Maybe after a poor turnout, that bookstore won't invite you to do future events, and the booksellers aren't as likely to hand-sell your books.

So I spent the last couple of weeks trying not to dwell on the possibility of a disappointing turnout for my first signing for Shadows on the Soul. I'm not very good at not dwelling on things, especially when I'm dealing with my own nerves when a book is about to come out. So I was basically a nervous wreck.

I had decided to make the event not just a book signing, but also a birthday party (since the book actually did come out yesterday, on my birthday), in hopes that I could lure friends and acquaintances in with the prospect of food, but I had no idea how well that would work.

Right around 7:00, when the event was scheduled to begin, there were only about 5 or 6 people in the audience, and I was getting a nervous vibe from the bookseller who was helping me out. It was beginning to look dangerously like one of those dreaded flop events--and it didn't help that the store was sweltering, so I was already sweating just from the heat. I asked her to wait about 5 more minutes, because there were some people I really expected to come who weren't there yet. (Admittedly at that point, there were only a handful I was really expecting, but I figured if I could have a dozen or so people in the audience, that wouldn't be too bad.)

So we waited. And people started to trickle in. And they kept trickling, even after the event officially got started and I did a reading of the first chapter of The Devil Inside. By the time I was finished reading, it was standing room only, and I could have cried for happiness (and, I must admit, a good dose of relief as well).

So thanks to everyone who came out and supported me (even though you didn't eat anywhere near as many cookies and cupcakes as I was hoping, and I'm going to be on a fat and sugar high for the rest of the week)! And those of you who couldn't come for one reason or another (which is, of course, most of the people reading this blog, since you don't live near by), keep an eye out for authors appearing in your area. They will appreciate your attendance more than you can possibly know.

A great place to find out what authors are appearing in your area is You can enter your zip code and get a list of upcoming appearances. Also, if you're an author, think of signing up yourself. It's free, and I think it's a pretty neat service!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Interview, part 2

Part 2 of the interview I did at the Romantic Times convention is now available on Readers Entertainment TV. I still find it a bit surreal to watch myself talk on the Internet, but it's kind of cool, too. At least I didn't discover I talk in a monotone or anything like that!

Sorry for the long gap between blog posts. As so often happens in a writer's career, everything hit me at once. I got my revision letter for The Devil You Know (the second Morgan Kingsley book), and then immediately thereafter received the copyedits for Hungers of the Heart (the fourth Guardians of the Night book). That would be enough work on its own, but of course, Shadows on the Soul is coming out tomorrow (yay!), and there's lots of work to do in the days surrounding a book release. (At least, there is for those of us who are promo addicts. I think having promo work to do helps calm some of my pre-release jitters.)

As a reminder to any of my readers who live in comfortable driving distance from Durham, NC, I'll be doing a book signing/birthday party tomorrow (August 28), starting at 7 PM at the Barnes & Noble at New Hope Commons. There will be cake, cookies, and $250 worth of door prizes, so if you're in the area, please stop by and help me celebrate. (And no, I'm not telling you how old I'll be, so don't ask!)

I'll also be signing this Saturday (September 1) at the grand opening of Books-a-Million in Rocky Mount, NC. That signing begins at 1 PM. I've never signed at a grand opening before, so this is kind of exciting. Come join me!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I feel your pain

Let's face it: writers are an odd bunch. (Yes, that's a generalization, but if you're a writer and you're not odd, keep it to yourself!) We spend much of our lives envisioning what we would do and what we would feel if we were in another person's shoes. To me, that is one of the most fascinating aspects of reading, that in reading I can lose myself in someone else's world vision. It's as close to mind reading as we can get.

But that ability to transport yourself into someone else's mind, to empathize, has its downsides. The realization of that has been a long time coming for me. I always just thought of myself as being very sensitive, never wondered why I was that way. But once I started wondering, it became obvious.

I have an enormous amount of trouble distancing myself from anyone else's distress. When someone I know is hurting, my sympathy pains are sometimes hard to live with. (This translates even to pets--when one of my dogs is sick, I'm absolutely miserable!)

Within the last month or so, a friend and former critique partner announced that she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been blogging about her experiences, which I'm sure is therapeutic for her, but also allows her to share information with her friends and family without having to repeat it umpteen million times. When I read her blog this morning and found that her hair is beginning to fall out less than two weeks after her first chemo, it was all I could do not to start crying. (Her prognosis is excellent, but that doesn't make the ordeal she has to go through much easier.) I can't help imagining what I would feel in her situation, and when I imagine it, I feel it.

I have another writer friend whose husband just had a major stroke this weekend (and no, he's not particularly old). More tears on my part, even though I've only met the guy briefly in passing. I keep thinking about how terrible she must feel, wishing I could do something to help, but knowing from personal experience with tragedy how little I, as a casual friend rather than a bosom buddy, can do. Last I heard, he's doing much better, but he's far from out of the woods. Then there was another friend, whose husband passed away recently . . .

I don't know how people who deal with death and misery every day cope with it. I know they must somehow be able to put some distance between themselves and every else's pain. I wish I knew how to do that. I wouldn't want to lose my ability to be a caring and compassionate person, but considering how much stress I've had in my own life over the last three years (I've lost both of my parents and my mother-in-law over that period), it would be nice to be able to turn it off, if only for a little while.

So did I lose my ability to distance myself because I'm a writer, or did I become a writer because I so easily can imagine how someone must be feeling? (We'll leave the question of how accurate my imaginings might be for another day.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My First Interview

When I was at the Romantic Times convention, Circle of Seven (who produced my book videos) arranged to film an interview with me. This was the first time I'd ever been interviewed on camera, and you're probably not shocked to hear that I was nervous.

Those of us being interviewed had been given the interview questions in advance (thank goodness!), so we could prepare ourselves, but of course I still had visions of my mind going blank and me flubbing lots of answers. My nerves got even worse when the lady behind the camera critiqued my first few answers, adding more instructions each time. However, after those first couple of questions, I calmed down and just talked like I normally would.

One of the Ellora's Cave cover models was asking me the questions, but he was never meant to be on camera, so I was supposed to answer the questions as if I were just spouting words of wisdom spontaneously--not as if I was directly responding to a question. That was probably the hardest part. Of course, it was also hard talking to the cover model, who was sitting right under the blinding spotlight. (Kind of like that old cop cliche where they shine the light on you while they ask you questions!) I knew he was there somewhere, but I couldn't exactly see him.

At the very end, they blindsided me with the frighteningly open-ended question, "Is there anything else you'd like to say?" That, of course, immediately caused brain freeze, but they turned off the camera and gave me a minute to think, and I eventually came up with something.

The interview will be posted in three parts on Readers Entertainment TV, and the first part is up now. Click here to see it. After it has been up for a week, I'll be allowed to post it to my own website and MySpace page as well. But I hope you'll give Readers Entertainment TV a look!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Letting go of the security blanket

Next year will be a really big year for me. Not because of my new releases, but because starting on January 1, 2008, I will finally let go of my security blanket and become the full-time writer I've wanted to be all my life.

I'm sure some of you see the number of books I'm putting out and are thinking, "you mean to tell me she's not doing this full time!" I have arranged with my day job to work 30-hour weeks instead of 40-hour weeks, but yes, I do still have a day job. And while I've been able to keep up with my writing deadlines (for the most part) so far, I've known for a while that there was only so long I could keep this up.

Right now, I'm writing at the pace of one book every six months--but that's one book every six months per publisher. And I have two publishers! How long could I do that while working a 30-hour a week day job? And, of course, doing promotional work for each of my releases--things like blogging, and website updates, and book signings.

It was around spring of this year when I began seeing the proverbial writing on the wall, but one thing you're never guaranteed to have as an author (unless you're on a level with the likes of Nora Roberts) is job security. And man, it's scary as hell to let go of the security blanket. Regular paychecks . . . group health insurance . . . gone. So while I knew intellectually that I couldn't continue working what amounted to three full-time jobs at once forever, I still wasn't ready to let go.

Usually, I'll say I don't believe in Fate, but sometimes I just have to wonder . . .

As I was pondering the question of my future employment, waffling and procrastinating, my company decided to close its North Carolina office. They gave me some options. I could work from home (which is what I'm doing now), but not in my current position. I'd have to take a different job, with which I would have little familiarity. Or I could move to Omaha. Yeah, right. Not happening! Or I could continue on until the end of this year, and then take a nice severance package.

As I said, moving to Omaha was out of the question. And if I'm having a hard time dealing with all three of my jobs now, the last thing I need is to learn a new job, which is always stressful, even when you're staying within the same company. I decided that Fate was giving me a swift kick in the rear, telling me it was time to be a full-time author.

I'm very much looking forward to being able to devote myself to my writing without those annoying conference calls, and meetings, and email flame-wars (which aren't called that, of course, because it's a corporate environment, but that's still what they are). And let's not even talk about the pain-in-the-butt customers. But man, I sure hope Fate knows what the hell she's doing!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Shadows on the Soul, the video

Today, I'm unveiling the book video for Shadows on the Soul, the third book in my Guardians of the Night series, which comes out at the end of this month. I think it turned out great, but then I'm a bit biased. Tell me what you think! Just click on the arrow below to start the video playing.

If you're viewing this via, it seems that the player doesn't work. Just click where it says "Jenna Black's Blog Experiment," and you'll be taken to Blogger, where the player will work.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What I've been reading

Those of you who've been reading my blog since its inception must think I have hired an evil twin to post blog entries for me. After all, I've often had weeks go by without a single post. The reason I'm posting so much lately is that for the time being, I am not under deadline. Which means I have time to blog. Yay!

Usually, I don't like to blog about what I'm reading. I'm hypersensitive (okay, maybe even paranoid) about not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings or make anyone feel left out. After all, I have a lot of writer friends, and I don't want to play favorites. However, today, I'm going to break my own rule. (Drumroll, please.)

I am an occasional reader of Jennifer Cruisie's blog, Argh Ink, and one day I read that she had 50 copies of her new collaborative novel, The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, which she co-authored with Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart, to give away. There would be a random drawing from amongst the first 100 bloggers who kept regular blogs to respond. Anyone who received a copy would agree to blog about it, although there was no obligation for us to review it favorably. I love anything Cruisie, so I put my name in the hat.

I didn't hear back immediately, so I went ahead and bought the book. A few days later, I received my free copy in the mail. (Wouldn't you just know it?) So now I'm fulfilling my end of the bargain and blogging about it.

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes is about three magical sisters who have serious difficulty controlling their magical powers, and their evil aunt who is out to "make their lives better" by stealing those powers for herself. Of course, they might die in the process, but that's only a minor inconvenience, at least to their aunt.

I first heard of this book when Jennifer Cruisie blogged about a review in which the reviewer lamented the fact that it was a collection of novellas rather than a novel. (Never mind that it clearly says "A Novel" on the front cover. Or the fact that there's no table of contents. Or the fact that there's only one title throughout the book. Or the fact that . . . You get the point.) Well, having read the book, I can now confirm what common sense already told me--there was no way that reviewer read the book and was somehow confused as to its nature. It is clearly, unmistakably a novel. The reviewer must have based her review on the back cover alone, which does rather make it sound like three separate stories.

While I certainly enjoyed the novel, and while there were plenty of laugh out loud moments that had my husband giving me that "uh-oh, I married a lunatic" look, I might have preferred that this actually be three novellas! At the time I was reading it, I never could sit down and do my usual reading binge, wherein I read until I'm ready to quit reading. I kept having to put the book down for one reason or another. With some books, that's not a problem. With this one, it was.

The problem for me was that there were too many characters and subplots to keep track of when I had to keep putting the book down and then picking it back up. This isn't the book's fault. It's just that some books lend themselves to being read over multiple sittings better than others. Even so, I did find it an enjoyable read, and as I mentioned, there were some astonishingly funny moments that made the occasional brain strain worth it.

My recommendations to anyone planning to read this book are:
1. Do not have coffee or any other beverage anywhere near you while you are reading, or you'll end up with soggy pages.
2. Try to read it in as few sittings as possible so you can keep it all in your head at once. (Of course, others may have no problem keeping all the names and stories straight, so maybe it's just me.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gotta Love Those Bad Boys!

Now that I'm past yesterday's dentist visit, I can finally focus on what's really important to me. Shadows on the Soul is coming out this very month! (On my birthday, no less! Neat present, huh?)

You might think that since this is my third book, I'd be cool as a cucumber. Just another day at the office. Uh . . . no.

I don't think I'll ever get over the thrill of a new book coming out. After all, I toiled for more than sixteen years to get where I am now, and it's only fair I should get at least sixteen years of thrills out of seeing my books in print. But with Shadows on the Soul, it's even more.

Yes, I'm excited, as always. But I'm also nervous. (Also as always, alas.) Each book in the Guardians of the Night series has gotten a little edgier than the last, and each time I find myself worrying whether romance fans are going to accept the latest level of edginess. If you've read Secrets in the Shadows, then you know just how bad a bad boy Gabriel, the hero of Shadows on the Soul is. For those of you who aren't familiar with him, you can read the sample chapter on my website and get a good idea of what he's like.

He's a vampire. He's a Killer. He seethes with anger. And he's even got a bit of a sadistic streak. How can I hope romance readers will be able to sympathize with him? *Takes deep breath* I remind myself that my agent and editor both read it and loved it. I remind myself that in general, the romances put out by Tor aren't as conventional as those put out by many other houses. And now I can even remind myself that the book got a 4 1/2 star Top Pick from Romantic Times! Obviously, there are others out there who see his redeeming features.

None of that quells the self-doubt. I love Gabriel. He's one of my favorite characters I've ever written, and I've sympathized with him ever since he made his first appearance, popping out of my sub-conscious from God-only-knows where. That means that with this book, I feel like I have a little bit more personally at stake. One of the major themes that colors all my books is the idea that no matter how screwed up your life is, no matter what mistakes you've made in the past, there is always hope for redemption. It will bother me when people are unable to accept Gabriel--and I know some people won't. I had a well-known author decline to give me a blurb because he was just too dark, and I know she won't be the only one to think so.

This month and the next will be very tense for me as I await the public's reaction to this hero who means so much to me. And I will be extra grateful to my review-screening partner. (We read each other's reviews and then forward on only the good ones, so we don't spend too much time agonizing.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Escape from the Dentist's Chair

I don't know about everyone else, but when I get home after a dentist's appointment, I sometimes have a near-euphoric feeling of relief. Thank God it's over!!

I have been terrified of the dentist ever since I was a little girl. You see, my baby teeth came in without any enamel, which meant I had approximately one zillion cavities. I was also deathly afraid of needles. My mother and my dentist, in their infinite wisdom, decided to humor that fear. So I had all those cavities filled without anesthetic. You know that scene in "Marathon Man" that makes everyone cringe? (Shudder.) Now imagine it with a little girl under that drill.

Is it any surprise that as an adult, the dentist is my own personal bogeyman? It didn't help that the first time I had to have any serious dental work done (a root canal), my then-dentist told me that if I let myself get all scared about it, it would hurt like hell. Yeah, just the thing to say to make me relax!

I got a new dentist after that, and things are much better now. All I was having done today was a whole bunch of little fillings that I'd been procrastinating about, but she still gave me Valium and nitrous. Amazing how much less traumatic it is that way! (I really don't miss having the dental assistant hold me down while the dentist drilled away. And I would love to go back in time and slap my mom and my pediatric dentist silly for not insisting I get the Novocaine shots!)

So, yay, it's over! And thanks to drugs and gas, it really wasn't that bad at all. Now all I have to do is wait until the Novocaine wears off so I can feel like a real human being again.




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