Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blurred Keys on the MacBook Air

Nope, your vision isn't blurry.  It's my keyboard:

The letters have slowly started wearing off my MacBook Air.  Much as I'd like to attribute this to the hours I spend typing my novels--a number that's not insignificant--I suspect there's another cause.  I don't wear any lotions, oils, etc. on my hands.  I don't clean the keyboard with anything caustic.  Any Mac aficionados who know what could be causing the worn keys?  Or--better yet--anyone have a fix?

For the record, this isn't my first worn-out keyboard.  I wore through three keyboards on my iBook about eight years ago.  Apple told me it was a freak occurrence.  In that instance, I was able to take apart the iBook and replace the keyboard myself.  Can't do that with an Air.

Anyone else experienced this?  Ever discover the cause?  What was your solution? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back To School

While the calendar and the increase in traffic near my local high school are dead giveaways that school is back in session, the other is a quick perusal of my inbox.  When school starts, I receive a flood of questions from readers who are either assigned one of my young adult books in class or who chose it as part of their summer reading. 

Some of the questions are great.  Other questions, however, are not so great.  Yes, when you ask me, "Who is the protagonist of the book?" I'm well aware that you haven't read the back cover, let alone the book.  However, I was a student once upon a time and buried under the homework of a million different classes, so I have sympathy.  I know the panic that sets in the day before a book report is due when you haven't the foggiest notion what to write, especially when you also have a math test the next day.

That being said, sending me e-mail while you're in panic mode isn't the best way for you to solve the problem.

First off, book reports have due dates.  My inbox doesn't, so when I'm traveling or on deadline, it's easy for me to get a few weeks behind on reading and responding to e-mail.  By the time I see your e-mail, it's quite possible your book report will be long overdue.  Second, if I answer one person's book report questions I'd feel obliged to answer them all, and I don't have time to write, walk my dog, AND answer book report questions.  (And when the dog's gotta go, she's gotta go.)  Finally, there are a lot of questions I can't answer, even if I want to answer them.  "What are examples of symbolism in Sticky Fingers?" is a question only you, as a reader, can answer.

That being said, I don't want to leave you stuck the night before you have homework due.  Here are a few suggestions for getting that report done:

   1)  If you're writing about a specific book of mine, go the main page of my Niki Burnham website and click on the link for that book.  There is an excerpt (which you should have already read, since you have the book and read the whole thing) and a section called Behind The Scenes.  The Behind The Scenes might be helpful to you. 
   2)  You can go to the About Niki page of my site to find out more about me.  Any of the biographical information that you see there is fine to use in your report. 
   3)  There is a page on the site called FAQ with answers to common questions about each book, about my writing process, and about where I get my ideas.  

Hope you find that helpful!  Again, as much as I wish I could explain themes and motifs, if I took the time to answer every e-mail I receive about book reports, I'd miss my own deadlines, and they rival the world's biggest homework assignment when it comes to pressure.

However, if you think this is rather uncool of me and that an author should simply write your book report for you (because believe it or not, students who've e-mailed me in the past asked for this)  I urge you to check out author Pete Hautman's website.  He's the author of several phenomenal books you may have already read, such as Godless, Blank Confession, and Hole In The Sky.  Pete has an entire page of book reports ready to go, right here.  I think you'll get a better grade if you follow my suggestions, rather than going for Pete Hautman's reports, but that's your call.  Good luck!

And P.S.:  Consider reading one of Pete's books.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Learning to Tango

While writing Slow Tango With a Prince, the third book in my Royal Scandals series, I was obliged to do a good deal of research on the tango. It was important to me that when Emily and Prince Vittorio dance, it would resonate both with those unfamiliar with the tango and those who live and breathe it. You can imagine my agony...the tango is a beautiful, sensual dance with a deep history and its own culture, one that comes to life nightly in the streets and salons of Buenos Aires.

While I wish I could say that I spent months in Argentina learning from a master, I had no such luck. However, for those of you hoping to learn more about the history, culture, and how-tos of tango, here are some of the resources I found. These are by no means exhaustive, but are a good starting point.

First, for the down-and-dirty on how to negotiate Buenos Aires, check Amazon for a quick guide like DK Eyewitness Top 10 Buenos Aires. I've used DK's Top 10 guides to navigate my way around Paris, Barcelona, and Istanbul with great success. They're regularly updated, so make sure you're getting the latest edition (the one I've linked to is the most current as of the date of this blog.)  It's also available on iBooks and at Barnes & Noble.

To learn about dance halls and etiquette, as well as to pick up tango-specific travel tips, I found two fantastic guides. The first, on iBooks, is Migdalia Romero's Tango Lover's Guide to Buenos Aires.  Part memoir, part how-to, it'll help you find your way through the milongas of Buenos Aires.  You can also find it on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

The second guide, and one I adored for its conversational style and been-there, done-that, made-that-mistake honesty is Sally Blake's Happy Tango: Sallycat's Guide to Dancing in Buenos Aires, which is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble. This book is flat-out fun and gives great advice on the social side of tango, including how to handle everything from the coat checks to flirtatious men. You can also check the references at the back for information on tango salons, instruction, and even shoe stores.

Even if you're far from Buenos Aires, don't be afraid to pick up the phone or search the internet for local tango clubs. Dance lessons and tango nights are easy to find in many major cities, and lectures on the history and culture of the tango are given at many colleges and libraries. There are also a number of tango social groups online. Do a search for "tango" on facebook and you'll be off to a good start.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Today's Guest on Tawny Weber's Blog

I'm this weekend's guest over at author Tawny Weber's blog, where I'm in the hot seat for her Quick Six, where an author answers questions such as "Star Wars or Star Trek?" There's a prize to be won (namely, a copy of the first book in the Royal Scandals series, Scandal With a Prince) and plenty of links to other author interviews. Pop on over for a chance to win or to learn fascinating info about some of your favorite authors.

For the record, I was not asked about my Star Trek/Star Wars preference. While I do like Star Wars (and plan to see the next movie when it's released), I'm a Trek girl all the way.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Release Day - Slow Tango With a Prince

Today is my birthday, but rather than celebrate with cake and gifts, I have something to share with my readers...a new book!  Today is the launch day for Slow Tango With a Prince, book three in the Royal Scandals series.

Slow Tango tells the story of dark, sexy Prince Vittorio Barrali, heir to the throne of Sarcaccia.  In the wake of his ex-girlfriend's suicide, he hatches a plan with his twin brother, Alessandro, that allows Vittorio to escape to Argentina for some much-needed downtime out of the spotlight.  But secrets can't be hidden forever...especially when Vittorio finds himself face-to-face with a gorgeous television host, one whose very presence threatens him both personally and professionally.

Slow Tango features palace intrigue, a secret royal, and one very sexy tango.  There's also a glimpse into the lives of other royals you've come to know.  I can't wait for you to read Slow Tango With a Prince and let me know what you think!

To find an ebook copy, visit any of the following retailers.  The print version will be available in the coming days, so stay tuned!

Slow Tango With a Prince:
Apple / iBooks
Barnes & Noble