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Friday, February 25, 2011

New EC Lines!

Authors, get your typing fingers ready! We've got two new Lines (genres) to announce and we're itchin' for new submissions. The deets:

Ellora's Cave Shivers
You know those erotic horror subs our Editor-in-Chief (@EditMeThis) has been begging for on Twitter and Facebook? They've finally got a name, and the very first one releases on March 25 (Endless Lust by Lexxie Couper)! The horror genre is broad, and in the spirit of encompassing as wide a definition as possible and appealing to various types of readers, your horror submission can be:

* Psychologically scary
* Blood-and-guts scary
* Pee-your-pants, hide-under-the-covers scary

You catch that keyword? And let's not forget, above all, erotic. However, mindful that horror doesn't always lend itself to happy endings, HEAs and HFNs are optional in Shivers stories. But hey...if you can work a believable romance in there, we'll be impressed. And might even send you candy. Let crippling fear fuel your characters' lusts, authors...drive them to the brink of insanity and orgasm.

Ellora's Cave Kink
This aptly named Line is just what you'd expect -- kink and fetish. No, not BDSM. That has it's own Line (Taboo), and is less kinky these days than you might think (oh, those jaded readers!). We'll give most subject matter serious consideration if the execution is stellar, but remember what EC readers love most -- hot sex and happily ever afters. We want romantic relationships that develop not despite a kink, but because of it. A single foot-rub scene won't get the Kink banner on your cover. The sexual thrust of the story (no pun intended) should revolve around your chosen fetish or kink. Delve into the psychology behind it, both historically and from your characters' POVs. How does the fetish make the characters feel, physically and emotionally? How has it evolved? How did previous lovers handle it? And so, so much more; there are endless ways to develop your story -- but no dry History of Kink lessons here. Make it fresh, make it funky, make it fetish.  ;-)

Like all our Lines, Shivers and Kink are open to all EC book lengths (7K to 120K-ish), and can have as many themes as you'd like (menage, vampire, shifter, historical, Rubenesque, M/M, F/F, etc.).

Got something sitting on your computer right now that might work? Perhaps some idea brewing in that big brain? Then check out the Submissions page on http://www.ellorascave.com/, download the Author Info PDF for additional instructions, including submissions address, and start flooding our inbox!

And pass it on!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Diagram Prize: Oddest Book Title

It's that time again - cast your vote in the annual Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title!

The six finalists are:

8th International Friction Stir Welding Symposium Proceedings
Various authors (TWI)

The Generosity of the Dead
Graciela Nowenstein (Ashgate)

The Italian's One-night Love Child
Cathy Williams (Mills & Boon)

Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way
Michael R Young (Radcliffe)

Myth of the Social Volcano
Martin King Whyte (Stanford University Press)

What Color Is Your Dog?
Joel Silverman (Kennel Club)

Article about the Diagram Prize contest: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/diagram-prize-shortlist-announced.html

To vote, go to http://www.thebookseller.com/ . So far, Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way is way in the lead.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How to Query The Bible

by Raelene Gorlinsky

EC does not need or want query letters - just read our submission guidelines, send us a cover email with sample chapters. However, a query letter is the way to approach most agents and many publishing houses. (Always check their website to see what is required.) So if you are struggling with the task of writing that query, let me point you to an excellent - and highly entertaining - resource, agent Janet Reid's Query Shark blog.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

She dissects letters, explains what works and what doesn't. And she is very blunt, which is what is needed! Here's her analysis of part of a query letter, it's the same thing I've told writers many times.

Letter: I have become irrevocably attached to Jeromy and his heroic tale; I know that many readers will feel the same way, and I hope you will give him a glance and find out whether he is able to break your heart and put it back together.


Janet's Critique: This is a HUGE warning sign in a query. What you think it means is you're passionate about your work. What I think it means is you're the kind of writer who is more likely to take rejection personally, not be able to handle revisions with objectivity and be a total pain in the ass.

But mostly I read this blog for the entertainment value. Whether you are an author or not, writing a query letter or not, you must read the query letter from The Lord, pitching his book THE BIBLE, a 775,000-word historical fiction/religious memoir.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2011/02/blog-post.html

Friday, February 18, 2011

2011 Conferences

We've been posting a lot about submissions and pitching to editors. So...are we going to see you at an upcoming conference where you can talk to us about your book (or anything else)? Here's where we'll be.

Liberty States Fiction Writers: March 19 in Iselin, New Jersey - Publisher Raelene Gorlinsky

Romantic Times: April 6-10, Los Angeles, CA - several EC staff, including Editor-in-Chief Kelli Collins

Cleveland Rocks Romance: May 13-14 in Cleveland, Ohio - Kelli Collins

Lori Foster Reader & Author Get Together: June 3-5 in Cincinnati, Ohio - Editor Meghan Conrad

IASPR Conference (International Association for the Study of Popular Romance): June 26-28 in New York City, Raelene Gorlinsky

RWA National Conference: June 28 - July 1 in New York City, Raelene Gorlinsky, Kelli Collins and Editor Grace Bradley

Authors After Dark: Aug. 11-14 in Philadelphia, PA - Raelene Gorlinsky

RomantiCon: Sept. 29-Oct. 2 in Akron, Ohio - ALL EC editors

NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference: Oct. 21-22 in Iselin, NJ - Kelli Collins

If you are involved in planning/organizing a 2011 or 2012 conference and would like to invite EC to participate, please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Not to Hit Send

by Meghan Conrad

The other day, Raelene was talking about Self-Rejection by Non-Submission--reasons authors don't submit their work, and why they should.

Today I'm going to look at the other side of that story--reasons you shouldn't submit your work, at least not yet.

1. You're really writing this story for yourself.
Raelene mentioned this in her point five--some people just love to write and don't have any desire to get published. There's nothing wrong with this, and if you fall into this category, not submitting is a perfectly okay thing to do. You can enjoy playing piano without wanting to be a concert pianist--writing's no different.

2. You're done writing, not revising.
Just because the book has a beginning, middle and end doesn't mean that it's done. Have you read the book? Have you set it aside for a month, then picked it up and reread it? Have your crit partners read it, and have you addressed (or at least considered) their criticisms? If you're not saying yes to all of those questions, you're not ready to submit.

3. You think the story is perfect.
I know, I know--I just told you to finish revising before you submit, but this is different. If you're not able to look at your book and admit to yourself that there are things that could make it better, even if you don't yet know what those things are, you're not ready to submit. We think that your baby's lovely--and it would be even lovelier if we were to edit its face just a little.

4. You don't have enough time to commit to the process.
Getting published isn't easy, and that doesn't change once you've signed a contract. First there's researching companies and submitting to them. Then if you're lucky enough to have your book signed, there's edits, more edits, promoting your book, more edits... If you're in your last year of grad school, are six months pregnant, have four children under three, work full time, and are moving across the country in two months, maybe you should consider waiting until your life settles down before submitting.

5. You're not prepared to be rejected.
It takes a fairly thick skin to be rejected over and over--and let's face it, most people are rejected over and over--and not let it destroy you. If you can't handle gentle comments from crit partners or you feel like being rejected might put you off writing altogether, consider that maybe you're not yet psychologically ready to go through the potentially grueling submission process.

There are plenty of really fantastic reasons to submit you work, but when you do submit, make sure you're ready to really go for it. Publishers will still be buying books next year, and for a long time after that. There's no shame in waiting.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pitchin' Good

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The stories about awful pitch experiences are always more entertaining (see Kelli's "Pitchy Behavior" post). But there are also some good "outside the scheduled appointment time" opportunities to talk to an editor or agent about your book.

Of course, there is the most common--as Meghan says, "Buy me a drink and I'll listen to anything." Editors often congregate in the bar at conferences. They are feeling chatty and friendly. Make conversation, offer to buy a drink or a plate of munchies. Just show common courtesy--if the editor is in a group or a general conversation, don't expect her to ignore everyone else just to talk to you. Maybe you can turn the conversation to "so, what's everyone working on now?" and get all the authors present talking. Throw in your WIP description, maybe the editor will look interested and ask for more info. Or if you can get a few private moments with her, ask her if you can talk to her about your book or if you can set up a time with her to do so.

Drive the editor. This is my favorite. I greatly appreciate conferences that arrange to have someone meet me at the airport, rather than leaving me to struggle with finding a shuttle or expensive taxi. And of course while I'm in the car with you, my designated driver, I'm going to make polite conversation, starting with "What do you write?" That's your cue that I'm willing to listen. I've had authors fighting over who will take me back to the airport at the end of the conference, getting the chance to do a car pitch to me.

Feed the editor. There are always meals that are not included in the conference schedule. The editors have to eat somewhere with someone--so why not ask one if she is free to join you? This is good if there are several authors together. And it doesn't always mean you have to pick up the tab--just phrase the invitation appropriately: "would you like to join us" versus "can we take you to...". Do allow the editor time to chew and to have some general pleasant conversation; don't make the whole meal a series of book pitches.

Be kind to the editor.  These are serendipitous opportunities. There was the time I arrived at a conference with a painfully damaged knee and back. An author I bumped into in the hotel lobby helped me check in and drag my luggage to my room, offered to go get me something from the lobby coffee shop, and was generally helpful when I really needed the hand. So besides thanking her profusely, I did the conversation thing: "What do you write? Got anything ready to submit?"
At the lengthy and crowded pitch appointments at an RWA National conference, I was exhausted and commented on how I really, really needed some chocolate to keep me going. A few minutes later, a man I'd seen standing in line showed up with candy bars! No, he didn't have or need a pitch appointment with me. But his wife was an author, and I had a nice chat with her when I spotted them at dinner that night--we progressed from "You have such a wonderful, considerate husband" to "So, what do you write?".

In other words, editors are normal people who appreciate kindness and helpfulness, and will try to repay that with what they have to offer--their time to talk about your book or answer your questions.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Not to Submit

by Meghan Conrad

Ellora's Cave, as most of you know, only accepts electronic submissions. It's easier for the editors, easier on the environment, and arguably harder for the authors, who have even more to remember when sending in their manuscript.

This is a list of things we wish you'd avoid when submitting electronically. While none of these things will get you rejected, they certainly don't win you any points.

1. PDFs. Yes, they're wonderful when you need to control every aspect of the document, but this isn't that time. That's why it's called submitting. If you send us a PDF file, we will simply delete it and email back to ask you to send a doc file.

2. Locked documents. Maybe we hate Courier and want to change the font; maybe we need to add your contact info to the header; maybe we want to be able to leave notes to ourself in the document. If you lock it, we can't do any of those things.

3. Wrong file versions. If you realize you've sent the wrong version of your manuscript, send the right version immediately. If you don't realize that you sent the wrong version until you've heard back from the editor, you're probably out of luck unless you have a fantastic working relationship with that person--and even then, you're going to be waiting until your manuscript comes back to the top of the queue.

4. Missing attachments. Everyone does this once in a while--I did it earlier this week (sorry again, Dee!)--but it's worse when you're submitting. This goes double if you're submitting to a catch-all submissions address instead of a specific person. Making more work for people who deal with the tedious task of logging the slush submissions gets you a special place in hell.

5. Comments from your crit partners. I'm really thrilled that you have a crit partner. A good crit partner is worth their weight in rhodium. I do not, however, need or want to see their comments about your book. I promise that I can think of plenty of comments on my own.

6. Tracked changes. Invaluable while you're revising, but do you really want to have an editor reading over the scenes that you deleted? Because while I can't speak for anyone but myself, if the words are still there, I'm going to read them.

7. Unlabeled manuscripts. A manuscript that's named submission.doc could belong to anyone. Even worse is when it's called submission.doc and doesn't have the author's name or the title anywhere within the document.

8. Reply-to addresses that aren't the same as the from address. If you don't want me responding to your work email, then don't submit from your work email. Every major email provider offers web access--use it.

9. Uninformative emails--or, worse, emails with no text in the body. Don't attach a cover letter--that should go in the body of the email. And, as with all cover letters, it should have the title, word count, genre, your name and your contact information.

10. Email stationary. We don't need fancy backgrounds, sparkles, or theme music when we open your email. It's the digital equivalent of submitting with your cover letter written on Lisa Frank stationary--not a fantastic first impression...unless you're writing to an eight-year-old.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Self-Rejection by Non-Submission

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I am frequently amazed by how many writers will write and write...and never submit their work to be considered for publication. Why pour all that effort and commitment into a product that you then hide away? Talking to such writers, I've come up with some of the reasons. Do you see yourself in any of these?

1. Fear of rejection/failure
"If I submit, I may be rejected." Well, yes, acceptances are rare, rejections frequent. But if you don't submit, you are just rejecting yourself. You'll never get feedback, never find out what publishing professionals (editors, agents) think of your work, never get the chance to incorporate that advice into improving your work.

2. Lack of knowledge on how to take the next step
You've labored over that story for months or years. You've self-edited, you've had others critique and proofread it, you've polished and polished. But then you don't know what to do next! How and where do you submit your story, what are the requirements, the process?
Okay, here's where you have to accept that writing for publication is a profession, not a hobby. Join a professional writing organization! Study the profession, subscribe to the appropriate magazines, e-newsletters. Join writer groups, in person and online. Attend workshops. All the information you need is out there--go find it.

3. Love to write, hate the "business" end of things

Researching agents and publishers. Writing query letters, preparing and sending submissions, then keeping track of them all. If you do get a wonderful acceptance, then it's analyzing the offer, wading through the contract language. Then deadlines and other commitments on the way to seeing that story actually be published. Does all that make you scream "But I just want to WRITE!"? Time to ask yourself the question again--is writing a hobby you enjoy for itself alone, or is it a profession involving publication?

4. Love to write, hate to market yourself

This is a business, remember? It does no good to produce a product if you don't get out there and sell it. Nowadays, all publishers expect the author to handle much of the promotion of their book and their author name. Even the large NY publishers expend minimal promotional dollars on most of their authors; only a small percentage of the very top sellers get heavy marketing support. So as an author (or aspiring author), you do have to put effort into things like a website, blog, e-newsletter, presence on the social networks. Belong to writing groups that offer you networking and cross-promotional opportunities, take workshops on self-promotion and book marketing that are offered by author organizations. If your book is contracted by a publisher, you will indeed need a plan for how you will promote the book. Your potential income from a book is dependent on how much you put into publicizing your book and your author name.

5. Priorities and commitment: Love to write, less interest in being published

This is for the writers who are willing to honestly admit that what they enjoy is the process of writing, and admiring their finished product themselves--but they don't necessary need or want to or can commit the effort to getting published. Writing as a hobby is perfectly valid, don't feel guilty about it. But don't pretend to yourself or others that you are striving for professional publication if you are not.

I have to admit that I fall into the "why I haven't submitted" group for this reason. I write children's picture books. I love doing it, I love sharing them with my friends, my crit group, my family. (Nothing will erase the memory of my father's joy when, for his 80th birthday, I gave him a story based on his tradition of making special pancakes for my sisters and me when we were children.) Sure, I would love to see my stories professionally illustrated and published, I'd even like to make money from them. BUT--I have an incredibly busy and stressful life, many things I'd like to do but can't get to. So the huge amount of time needed to do all the steps of submitting my stories to children's publishers just hasn't made it high enough on my personal priority list. Maybe someday, but meanwhile I can enjoy the writing itself.

What's your reason for not submitting your story?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pitchy Behavior

By Kelli Collins

There's tons of info on the Net regarding pitch protocol. I’ll let you find that. You don’t really want me to regurgitate all the stuff you can find with a simple Google search, do you? Of course you don’t. Not when personal pitch stories are so much more interesting. The following are based on past experiences, both mine and other EC editors. If you want the short-short version of this post, the overarching theme is: Don’t pitch in inappropriate places. If you want to know why, specifically…keep reading.

Food for Thought: So there I was, innocently standing in a buffet line at a conference, salad dressing ladle in hand, when I hear a polite “excuse me” to my right. I glance over to see a woman smiling broadly, who introduces herself as an author—and proceeds to pitch her book. I’ll admit it took me a full three minutes before I realized she was actually pitching me while I had a plate in one hand, a ladle full of now-dripping salad dressing in the other. The loud throat-clearing behind me helped. That person really wanted their salad.

I’m normally a champ at dissuading conversation. And I tried all the usual lines to clue the author in, up to and including, “I’d love to hear about it later,” and telling her my prescheduled time for pitch sessions. I even continued shuffling down the line, gingerly trying to make dinner selections via my peripheral vision (hey, I was starving. But also raised to look at someone when they’re talking to me). The author just shuffled along with me, talking all the while.

I finally broke away from the line and stepped to the side, listening for another fifteen minutes, half-full plate hovering between us. By the time she was done, my food was ice cold. I was so annoyed, she could have written the erotic version of War and Peace and I probably would have passed.

Stall Tactics: There’s really no easy lead-in on this one. So I’ll just say it: Don’t pitch to an editor when she’s in a bathroom stall. No, I’m not kidding. This happened to one of our editors during an RWA conference a few years back. I’ll let her explain:

“It was a male/female team. She was very petite; he was maybe 6’4” with a huge padlock on a choker around his neck, the size you’d see on a shed or storage unit. They’d pitched to me, I’d very politely declined, had given them my card. He had been very aggressive during the pitch, using his body language to loom over me at the table. It was a wee bit disconcerting but my Spidey senses were only tingling a little.

“The pitch session finished and I went to lunch. Afterward, I took a brief bathroom break. As I was in the stall, the outer door of the restroom thudded open. Next thing I knew, the woman was crouching under the stall, though I could only see her red hair trailing on the ground. The man’s hands were on the top of the stall door and it appeared he was trying to chin himself up. They kept saying things like ‘you have to accept this right now’, and ‘you don’t understand how good this book is’. They kept at it maybe a minute or two while I was trying to figure out an escape route. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the guts and unprofessionalism.

“Someone else came in the bathroom and was shocked that a man was in there, and the couple fled. For the rest of the conference the couple shot daggers at me and trailed after me like I was the Pied Editor playing their tune.”

Over your shock yet? I think I would have killed them. Plain and simple. If there’s more inappropriate pitch behavior, I’ve never witnessed. If your desperation has reached this height, seek help. Immediately.

The Electronic Advantage: I had taken a pitch at a conference, liked what the author had to say, and invited her to send the full manuscript directly to me for review. This is already more than most authors get. The author emailed me just a few weeks later, claiming to have lost the book in a computer crash, but would I like to see a slightly older book she’d had on another computer? She’d updated it and included a short synopsis and all the particulars with her query. This second story also sounded great, the query and synopsis were flawless, so I agreed. (This, despite the fact I was stunned she hadn’t somehow backed up her work on the other computer.) The author was thrilled, and sent the full manuscript.

Four days later, she sent another. You know, since I was “so kind to look at her work personally.”

Less than a week later, she sent three more.

The following day, I emailed the author to explain that the original offer was for book X, and because she viewed my willingness to review a replacement book as an open invitation to take advantage of my generosity, I was hereby rescinding my offer to review any of her work.

Sound harsh? Possibly. And given the first two books sounded good, I might have passed up some potentially good sellers. But look at it from my point of view: I couldn’t review the book I’d really wanted to review. The willingness to read a replacement submission is a pretty big deal already. And I’m super busy. I have more than a dozen submissions and active edits on my desk at any given time, above and beyond the daily work that comes with my position. It takes me roughly three to four weeks to read a submission, so the woman had just added about five months of unsolicited work to my plate. Thanks, but no thanks.

Hundreds of authors aren’t even lucky enough to get an invitation to submit. Get one book accepted first, then worry about the rest.

By the way, this has happened to several of our editors. Authors taking excessive advantage of a contact is extremely common.

Just Plane Crazy: This time I hadn’t even reached the conference before the fun began. I was winging my way from Tampa to St. Louis and happened to end up on a plane chockablock with romance authors. Including the woman sitting next to me. When she found out I was an editor, she immediately began to pitch her latest work. Okay, no surprise. And we’re on a plane, so what else is there to do, really? I politely listened, offered some advice and agreed to let her pitch in a more official capacity at the conference.

The author excused herself and left her seat. I didn’t give it a second thought. Until the woman who reclaimed said seat was someone else entirely. She said her author friend (my former travel companion) said I was an editor and I was nice enough to take her pitch, and I might be willing to hear another.

She had pointed out her friend and I looked up the aisle. There was my old seat mate, waving and smiling back at me encouragingly from farther up the aisle.

From there it was airplane hopscotch as authors continually swapped seats for a chance to sit next to the editor who was taking pitches at 30,000 feet. Worse, I was stuck in a window seat and the authors were swapping places so quickly, I couldn’t even escape to the bathroom for a moment of cramped peace. At one point, the line to sit next to me had to be dispersed by the flight attendant—who gave me a dirty look. The nerve.

Personal Touch: I was in a hotel coffee shop when I met an author who had missed her chance to pitch during normal sessions. I had time to spare, so I invited her to join me and pitch while I finished my coffee, because that’s the kind of nice person I am. (What? I am! Who told you otherwise? I want names and social security numbers.)

The woman was excitedly grateful and, after getting a coffee, sat and pitched her book. The first part went well. She told me the title, word count and a short, pitch-worthy blurb. I wasn’t certain of the genre—it could have been a couple different ones—so I asked, “It sounds like BDSM. Is it for our Taboo Line?”

“Oh yes,” she said, pausing to rummage in her large purse, “it’s a subject I’m intimately familiar with.” She punctuated this last by cracking her palm with the riding crop she’d taken from her bag. Loudly.

I was equal parts amused and mortified. I remember feeling the blush spreading up my neck to my face. (Note: Making an erotica editor blush? No small feat.) I looked around; the place was pretty busy. It was a hotel coffee shop, after all. And yes, I immediately confirmed the crack of the crop had caught the attention of several patrons. The men looked amused/interested. The women looked amused/shocked. The one woman with a toddler in tow looked disgusted before hauling her precious cargo the hell out of there. The author didn’t notice any of the attention (or my blush, presumably), and just smoothly transitioned from her pitch to particular details about her personal life, and why they made her an "authentic" BDSM author.

This is another thing that happens all the time during pitches—over-sharing. I’m gonna go out on a limb and declare it’s probably worse for erotica editors. But yes, non-erotic romance authors over-share too, it’s just that their personal details tend to be less blush-worthy.

Is there a difference between pitching an erotic and non-erotic romance (for instance, something for EC’s Blush Line, versus all the others)? No. Not at all. This is a business meeting, not a gabfest with your girlfriends. I expect authors to stick to the details during pitches, regardless of genre, and when/if I have questions about erotic content, I expect the answers to be equally professional. Leave the props (and crops) at home, pretty please.

This post originally appeared on http://www.pitch-university.com/school-is-in-session/2011/1/16/lesson-13-pitchy-behavior.html.


You can find Kelli on Twitter and Facebook, and pitch your erotic and non-erotic romances to her in person at RT (April; Los Angeles), Cleveland Rocks Romance (May; Strongsville, OH), RWA National (June; New York City) and RomantiCon (September; Akron). Just don’t get between her and her food or bathroom breaks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Luddites Unite

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I don't really want to go around smashing textile looms or laptop computers. I don't reject or resist new technology. (Don't listen to Kelli or Meghan! It's not true!) But the hardware and software are not toys to me, they are just tools to accomplish tasks--technology is not an end it itself, it is merely something I need to do my real job. And it's always difficult when the tools change, it temporarily slows down my ability to get the real job done. You need to feed me changes slowly, give me time to learn and adjust without being overwhelmed or unable to get things done. I'm of the generation that did not grow up with computers (yes, I am indeed old enough to be Kelli's, Meghan's, and Jaime's mother, sigh), that wants to read the user manual first (they don't even provide manuals anymore!), that doesn't start just pushing buttons or clicking on things--I might break it!

(And it isn't just high-tech stuff that gives me trouble. After the stapler debacle--don't ask--I wasn't allowed to order an electronic pencil sharpener. Patty gave me a little red plastic manual sharpener, the kind you had in grade school. It works great, it's lasted me four years.)

So last Wednesday was off the charts in terms of stress level. It started with a new laptop. It's a lovely laptop--wide screen, number pad, more ports. But of course I have to adjust to a slightly different "feel" to the key spacing; it took two days before I could type a paragraph not filled with typos. And who the ha-ell decided to move the Delete key?!

Of course, this laptop has a newer Windows operating system and newer Microsoft Office software. Aack! Why did they change and move everything? Shortcuts, options, menus, all the stuff I'd customized to be just the way I wanted it -- I have to redo it all. And I can't even find it in order to change it! I went through a bag of malt balls, a brownie, and two chocolate chip cookies between 10 am and 5 pm. (Don't believe that nonsense that fruit or yogurt will make you feel better--only chocolate works.)

I'll learn it all, but I can't cope with everything at once. Thursday I focused on Microsoft Outlook, so I could do email. Friday I tore my hair out over Excel. (Note to Microsoft - the new way the Sort and Filter works is a pain in the ass. Why didn't you ask me first, I'd have told you how to do it right.) This week I'm fighting through Word. Coworkers have learned to ignore the shrieks and curses coming from my office.

And then there's trying to figure out what other software I had installed on the old system, and reinstalling it on the new one. (Actually, Randy does that--experience has shown it's not wise to let me try to install software. Did you know a PC can have a nervous breakdown?) It took three days to realize I couldn't get onto the company email or server from home because I was missing the appropriate program.

By 4 pm Wednesday I was trying hard not to hyperventilate or throw the new laptop across the room. Then the day crashed into final deadly overload. Darrell showed up in my office--with a brand-new cell phone! Everyone seemed under the truly false impression that I would be delighted to change from an old phone-that-only-makes-phone-calls to this monster that seems to do everything else except make a simple phone call. Kelli was drooling, "They got you an iPhone 4!" Darrell and Randy wanted to demonstrate everything. I just wanted to turn it off, except I couldn't find the Off button.

By the time I got home Wednesday, I think my eyes were vibrating and my body quivering. I walked in the door and blurted "I got a new laptop and cell phone" to my son. He looked warily at me, did not ask to see the laptop, and gently removed the cell phone from my clenched hand. When he returned the phone ten minutes later, he'd turned off WiFi and email, set it to a gentle ringtone, and found how to make the virtual keyboard larger--he knows me well, he simplified the thing so I can cope with the basics now. Of course, there was a setback later that night. The phone rang for the very first time. I whipped it out of my pocket, stared at it, then shrieked "How the hell do I answer the phone?" Hey, I didn't have my reading glasses on at the moment, without them the screen is just a blur. I sure didn't know there was a bar at the bottom I was supposed to slide to answer.

Kelli is now allowed to show me one new function a day on the cell. So far, I can check the local weather (after she changed it from Cupertino to Akron for me), find out what time it is in London or Australia (yes, Kelli set it up for me), and make a call via my Contacts list (I put in the Contacts, I didn't know Kelli was adding pictures for them). I haven't had to do text messaging yet, that's next. I might actually get brave enough to have her show me how to get driving directions.

Oh, there was one last "technology" debacle on Wednesday. There was a very expensive case provided with the phone, and it was stressed to me that these cell phone screens shattered easily if dropped, so I must put the protective case on. But I couldn't get the case open in order to put the cell phone in it! I struggled and struggled. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have to go to the IT support guy and ask him to show you how to open a cell phone case?