Monday, April 7, 2014

My long good bye to Social Media

I think the whole social media thing has finally beaten me.  After three years of pumping up my blog, League of British Artists, beyond a point where I ever thought it would go, tweeting and tumbling - I think I'm through.  It's been a long, dry, boring process, begun solely to sell my books. Most of the people I've encountered have been very kind and gracious, but there are some women who are downright cruel.   Those are the ones, the few and far between, that are getting to me.

It all began with a Jane Austen site called...A***** A****** (not their real name)

When I first got the book deal for "Darcy and Fitzwilliam" I was completely unprepared for it.  I am not a writer, never claimed to be.  How the book contract came to me so easily is a mystery.  It's not like I struggled through writing classes, submitting articles to magazines, facing year after year of rejections.  I never have had a burning desire to write, but I do have stories that float into my mind, fantasies like everyone else.  When Sourcebooks said they would publish my book I was stunned.  I had no knowledge of the publishing world or what would happen next.  I guess not many people do, since I was constantly asked about when I would be having the 'book launch' and when I would have a 'book signing' and just how much money would I see from the 'movie rights'.  Certainly, I was going to be rich.

I was lucky that Sourcebooks gave me $1,000 advance, and believe me, they took every penny of that back through the dozens of deductions they made to my laughably meager royalties - but, that's their business I suppose.  I had no agent, no legal representation.  I trust them, I guess.

There was very little provided by them for promotion of the book - they just sent it to stores and I had a publicist there who sent the book to some reviewers and arranged for blog interviews (I was by no means important enough for actual print interviews to be put together.)  She suggested I get into a writing group on the internet called A***** A******, so I did.  I wrote with those girls for a while, a monthly article under my name on their blog with links to my book.  I started to look around the web to find other sites where I could reach people, publicize the book (Sourcebooks certainly wasn't - it was all up to me).

What a nightmare that opened up.  A woman at A***** A****** had begun another of the sites I joined and had left them after nasty disagreements.  She told me they have a habit of going onto Amazon and Goodreads (never did get involved with Goodreads, which was a big mistake on my part) and these women would  post one star reviews on all the other Austen writers publishing with Sourcebooks (the group was setting up it's own self-publishing section and wanted to destroy my publisher).   They would set out to deliberately tank a book, and they did so with great success.   There is a stigma to writing a sequel to an Austen novel.  Among other obstacles, Austen purists absolutely hate you and will do whatever they can to ruin you.

I didn't need too much help though, at being ruined.  I had Sourcebooks.

So, a few months before my book is to come out I show the girls at A***** A****** my new book cover, proud as a peacock.  The book jacket description of  Darcy and Fitzwilliam, unfortunately, did not mention any women in it.  It read like it was about the two men alone, so one of the ladies in AA suggested it would be regarded as a 'slash' book - those are famous works turned into gay porn.  Panicky, I called my editor and told her.  She assured me she would rewrite the book jacket - which she did.  Unfortunately, the book she described on the jacket is NOTHING like the book I wrote.  Nothing.  That screw up by my publisher has caused me a lot of trouble over the years, people thinking they're getting a bodice ripper when it's not.  There was no mention of the 'wicked funny', as my editor called it, story that was within.  She just wrote a generic jacket, hinting at wild romance between Darcy and Lizzy.  I should sue her.

Well, so now I'm involved with a writing group (not AA, the other one) who deliberately tanks Austen books that are published by Sourcebooks.  Great. I got out of there and went into the fire - D******* (not the group's real name)

Here is a group that began with the idolization of Matthew Macfadyen (Darcy from 2005 Pride and Prejudice).  These days they follow any great looking Brit with a pulse, but I digress.  On D******* I met a lot of nice women - except for their leaders, two odd women whose names I can't remember.  Anyway, I became friendly with Bev (not her real name).  She seemed friendly (what did I know) and it was fun to pretend for a while that I was a kid again, swooning over an actor.  (Turns out a lot of those women are nearly my age, all pretending to be kids again.  Who knew.  The leader of the group is a doctor for heaven's sake.  She's also a fruitcake, in my humble opinion).

Well, the end came swiftly.  Macfadyen was in Germany making a film - the awful Three Musketeers - and all the girls on D****** were waiting for pictures, any pictures, of the production.  (I, on the other hand, was slipping in links to the sale of my book any chance I got)  When Bev finally expressed her annoyance in the chatroom that we weren't seeing any shots of Matthew she was severely reprimanded by our leader, Eva Braun.   I was becoming a bit tired, by this time, of the endless "squeeing" they call it, over the man, so I wrote in the post, after Il Duce's reprimand of Bev,  "Bev means no harm.  She's just excited."

Cue Shitstorm.  I got slammed into the wall for that bit of insurrection.  I learned from this that you do not disagree with moderators on social media.  In a private message to me I was informed that I didn't know the great harm I had done.  In a public message to our leaders I told them to "go to hell".  I was kicked out shortly afterward.  In her gratitude, Bev remained with D*******.

So, now I'm still with A***** A******, but things there are getting strained there as well.  A good deal was my fault, I am jealous by nature.  I don't like attention taken from me at all, and yes, I know, I never should join any group.  But, I was also desperate for publicity.  I had learned that Soucebooks was dropping all of us Austen sequelists, or reimaginists, or whatever stupid term they're using these days.  We were all on our own.

The plot thickens.  Our AA leader decided to promote a writing marathon, we were all to pick the character we wanted to be.  Immediately, I chose to Lady Catherine deBourgh, because I enjoyed writing her so much in Darcy and Fitzwilliam, and because she's pretty much a total bitch, which was how I was feeling at the time.  I informed AA though that if someone else wanted her, I would like to be Colonel Fitzwilliam, a character I found infinitely more interesting than the perfect Darcy.  Now, remember I was the first to respond about the new writing marathon.  I even exchanged e-mails that all could see with another writer and we were having a nice time talking about the new venture.

By the end of the day an e-mail came out assigning Lady Catherine to one of the lead women in the group, Colonel Fitzwilliam to the only male in the group....and on and on.  I think I was to be the butcher who sells Mrs. Bennet the  pork shank.  I went nuts.  I was also kicked out of A***** A****** by noon.

Well, I was out in the cold now.  No A***** A*******, no D*********** (this is beginning to look like Morse code).  So Bev and I began League of British Artists.  Well, actually, I set it up, I created the format, I posted nearly all the stories...and Bev wrote the introduction.  You see where this was going don't you?  Bev and I eventually fell out of favor with each other.  She wanted to change the look of the blog every week, and I wanted some help with it.  I told her that I spent nearly eight hours a day on the blog and she said 'who asked you to.'   Yada, yada, yada.

Thus ended my friendship with Bev.  Interesting aside, I only actually spoke with her once, on the phone, and it was very awkward.  There is a completely different feel to meeting (or, in this case, speaking) with a human being, than communicating with them through the anonymous print of social media.  After a year of e-mails back and forth with Bev, on the phone, it was like speaking with a stranger.

That would happen to me again, years later, when I met Meg (not her real name) - the kindly woman from Twitter.

To be continued...

Friday, February 7, 2014

THIS AND THAT FRIDAY, Beatlemania and a terrifying Canadian Police Chase (very exciting - watch with caution)

(remember kids, these girls are your grandmothers now - don't let them tell you you're not a lady...)

It was 50 years ago today (almost) that this mop-topped band began to play (in America).

The Beatles made their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," America's must-see weekly variety show, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964. And officially kicked off Beatlemania on this side of the pond.

More than 70 million viewers were tuned to the program, airing live from the Manhattan studio now housing the "Late Show With David Letterman."

I was one of them.  I had only seen a small article about them, had heard the song a few times, but I screamed like everyone else when they came on screen.

My Beatle was Ringo, Diane's was Paul, Elena's was John and Mary's was George.  We were in fan girl heaven.


Next time you think you don't matter in the world, think of this nice gentleman.

Photo: Well...


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Men and Women - a Geography lesson

The Geography of a Woman

Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa...
Half discovered, half wild, fertile and naturally beautiful!

Between 23 and 30, a woman is like Europe...
Well developed and open to trade, especially for someone of real value.

Between 31 and 35, a woman is like Spain…
Very hot, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 36 and 40, a woman is like Greece…
Gently aging, but still a warm and desirable place to visit.

Between 41 and 50, a woman is like Great Britain…
With a glorious and all conquering past.

Between 51 and 60, a woman is like Israel…
Has been through war, doesn't make the same mistakes twice,
Takes care of business.

Between 61 and 70, a woman is like Canada…
Self-preserving, but open to meeting new people.

After 70, she becomes Tibet…
Wildly beautiful, with a mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages.
An adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge.

And now…


Between 1 and 80, a man is like Iran…
Ruled by a pair of nuts.

 Subject: Tom Luberda: Human geography

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sipping Vodka...and Matthew Macfadyen


This joke was forwarded to me by my sister-in-law.  If you love it, it's mine...if you're offended, call Susie, 555-1212.

 A new Priest at his first mass was so nervous he could hardly speak. After mass he asked the Monsignor how he had done.

The Monsignor replied, "When I am worried about getting nervous on the pulpit, I put a glass of vodka next to the water glass. If I start to get nervous, I take a sip.."

So next Sunday he took the Monsignor's advice.. At the beginning of the sermon, he got nervous and took a drink. He proceeded to talk up a storm.

Upon his return to his office after the mass, he found the following note on the door:

1) Sip the vodka, don't gulp.

2) There are 10 commandments, not 12.

3) There are 12 disciples, not 10.

4) Jesus was consecrated, not constipated.

5) Jacob wagered his donkey, he did not bet his ass.

6) We do not refer to Jesus Christ as the late J.C.

7) The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not referred to as Daddy, Junior and the Spook.

8) David slew Goliath; he did not kick the shit out of him.

9) When David was hit by a rock and was knocked off his donkey, don't say he was stoned off his ass.

10) We do not refer to the cross as the 'Big T.'

11) When Jesus broke the bread at the last supper he said,"Take this and eat it for this is my body.." He did not say,"Eat me."

12) The Virgin Mary is not called 'Mary with the Cherry'.

13) The recommended grace before a meal is not: Rub-A-Dub-Dub, thanks for the grub, Yeah God.

14) Next Sunday there will be a taffy pulling contest at St. Peter's not a peter pulling contest at St. Taffy's.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - Titanic, the long journey home

I am really sorry to have inflicted these memories on you all, but no one else will listen to me.  Evidently, no one really wants to hear of your own grand adventure.  The other day I broke down and said more than ten words about the trip and was met with silence on the phone.  I said, "Hello, are you there?"   I heard my oldest friend in the world scramble to pick up the phone, which, bored to tears, she evidently had placed on the counter.  I can forgive her because we've known each other since our parents met right after the flood.

Besides, I do exactly the same to her when she begins to tell me about her grandchildren.

So, here we are at the third part of the tale - the cruise home from Italy aboard the Celebrity cruise ship the Constellation.  We had a great state room, mainly because we lied and said we needed handicapped access - that gave us about ten extra feet in the room, plus we had a balcony, which would have been terribly romantic if we weren't already sick as dogs.

For the first few days we just stayed in the room, sneezing, coughing, ordering room service.  It was pretty nice, actually.  We were warm, finally, and it wasn't raining - of course, the rain had stopped in Italy and it was sunny and beautiful.  When we finally did start to venture out we tried to stay away from other passengers to keep from infecting anyone, and the cruise line had a crew member posted every five feet with hand sanitizer - they take this stuff very serious.  Infections can steamroll through a ship and we were all stuck together for the next fifteen days.

We missed the first port, Florence.  I was so sick I didn't care.  I just wanted cough syrup and hot coffee.  Now I'm thinking - when will I ever return there?  I don't want to fly again, that experience was horrible.  The planes are packing more and more passengers in there and first class to Europe is not ever going to happen unless we win lotto.  So, we missed Florence.  And 'The David' with the removable fig leaf.

Next port was Cartagena, Spain.

A beautiful city...and raining, of course.

Next was Agadir, Morocco

 These pictures look a whole lot nicer than the actual city is.  I was afraid of the people, the women covered up to their eyeballs, the scary men with their Hollywood terrorist five o'clock shadow.  It's a dump, and it's a scary dump.

This is where the shuttle bus dropped us off, at the far end of this decaying parking lot, or whatever it was, with no clue where to go or what was safe.  We found out later that you are forbidden to take photos of the mosques.  Luckily I had no interest in them.  Can't explain to you the smell of this place either - like something was rotting in the distance.

Immediately off the bus we were all surrounded by scary looking men who wanted us to believe they were taxi drivers.  Ha!  We lowered our eyes and walked swiftly away.  Then a guy caught up with Rich and I, said he was a cook with another cruise ship and on his way to a very special place to buy exotic spices and he badgered us to go with him.  We never ran so fast in our lives, ended up in a poor area with a Suk (?) they call it, a shopping district.

Found out later that there was a beautiful Suk about two miles away, and there was a five star resort area a few blocks in the other direction.  Who knew?  Why the cruise line shuttle bus dumped us here is a mystery - unless it was our punishment for not purchasing a more expensive tour.  We'll never know.

God, I hated Agadir.  I was upset at first that Casablanca had been taken off the itinerary and replaced with this - then I heard Casablanca is NOT like the movie.  It's like this.

Next port was Gran Caneria in the Canary Islands.

We both liked Gran Caneria - they were having a festival and a run with their dogs.  The streets were crowed with people and canines.  The trouble with going to exotic places with palm trees and flowers all over is that  we live in Florida.  That's pretty much the same as where we live already. 

That was it for the ports - now we had the seven days on the Atlantic to sail home and every night they added an hour as we passed through the time zones.  It seemed endless, never have I been so bored in my life.  Besides that, the food was awful.  Maybe it was the colds, but it was not the feeding frenzy I had hoped for.  Best thing about the cruise was our captain - Captain Tasos something or other.  A very charming young man, his first captaincy, his first crossing as a captain and he was only 32.

 Captain Tasos

 This is a passenger/crew game.  Six crew members against about twelve passengers - it was fun to watch, and it was the day before we landed in Miami.  I was in a good mood by then.

 The buffet on the ship.  Actually, there wasn't much of a selection.  There was sushi and a lot of middle eastern dishes, neither of which we were fond of, and the smell of curry was overwhelming.

 Two days before we landed and we finally were well enough to walk on the deck a little.

And so we bid fond farewell to our transatlantic adventure.  I hated the food, I hated the people on the boat and I still have the cough.  But you know what, we're going across again in July 2014 on the Queen Mary and returning by sea as well.

I never learn.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Plaines, Trains and Automobiles Part Deux...and Matthew Macfadyen

Next stop - Paris

We hated leaving London but it was time to move on to Paris so we caught the train that runs beneath the English Channel to arrive in Paris.  Amazing.

Paris was the only place where we had trouble with our taxi.  Not with the driver, but with this odd little man that came up to us and led us to an empty taxi outside the terminal.  He wouldn't back out of the car once we were in.  He kept saying he loved Americans and God Bless America and there is nothing like Americans...until we gave him a tip.  Then he left.

I don't have many pictures of Paris.  By the time we got into our room, which was very tiny and on the fourth floor, all I was concerned about was getting my husband warm (it was beginning to get very cold outside now) and having him rest.  Rich's colds almost always morph into pneumonia and I knew what we were in for.  That was when I ran outside in the rain looking for a place to buy him food, or at least a cup of coffee. (I rambled on about that in Part One)

Forget Paris, we'll have to go back someday.  All we saw of the city was the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse which we saw from our freezing Hop On Hop Off bus, the one where we only hopped on since we were too cold to hop off.

The only thing of note that happened in Paris was a fire alarm that went off late in the afternoon.  Rich had finally warmed up and was crawling into bed so we got him dressed once again and walked the four flights downstairs, terrified that the place was on fire.  The lady at the desk said it was a fire drill and we should ignore it.  I didn't slap her but it was a thought.

The next evening we caught a sleeper train to Rome. It was raining and cold.  We arrived at the station a few hours early hoping that there would be a warm place to wait.  There wasn't.  I sat Rich down in the information office and dared anyone to kick him out, then I went to get food for us and to see when the train would be leaving.  Finally, after several hours, we were able to board, with one small problem.  Our suitcase would not fit down the incredibly narrow passage to our compartment.  Rich struggled mightily with that monster of a bag I brought; he had to turn it sideways to squeeze it through the passage.  Also, there was no where to store luggage except in your room so we put it on the floor and rested our feet on them.

Once we were on our way I realized there was no heat in the train  (the food car was even worse than our room).  It was freezing and Rich was getting sicker.  I crawled up to the third bunk and brought down all the covers I could find, even stole a cover from a cabinet in the hall, and we huddled together all night like that, colder than I have been in years, and trying to sleep sitting up, since no one came to turn down the bed.
We rolled into Rome eighteen hours later (and three hours past when we were supposed to).


It was raining and bitter cold.

All right, at some point someone has to be saying WHAT DID YOU EXPECT when you travel in November.  Remember, we live in Florida.  We think it's chilly at 60 degrees.

Our hotel was lovely - the St. Anna - and just a block from Vatican Square.  The crowds there were unbelievable, all of us standing in the rain to go through a metal detector before we could enter St. Peter's - and the line never lessened, it was continuous all day, rain or shine.

Really St. Peters was all we saw of Rome too.  Richie was getting much worse and I felt very guilty dragging him to see this.  Luckily he was too out of it to fight me.

That was it.  After our second day in Rome we grabbed a shuttle car to Civitivecchia, where we would board our fabulous fifteen day cruise home.  As you can guess, nothing there was as we planned it either.

And, it was raining...