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This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 29, 1998. The

remainder of the Preview section consisted of a detailed calendar of

events (http://www.princetoninfo.com/us1evts.html plus the

Summer Fiction Issue — short stories and poems that are not available

on this page. All rights reserved.

Rhona’s Tip: Go Slow, Don’t Inhale

You’ve seen them in lavish color on the cover of Cigar

Aficionado — or if not there, then in larger-than-life full-page

ads in the New York Times — the cigar smoking women of the ’90s.

Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Claudia Schiffer, and Linda Evangelista

are just a few of the celebrities who have lent their fame to the

upscale fad.

But before these women climbed on the bandwagon, there was Rhona

Kasper,

Princeton businesswoman, cigar enthusiast, and author who

self-published

her first diminutive "Woman’s Guide to Cigar Smoking" in 1996.

Now St. Martin’s Press has published an enlarged, upbeat hardback

edition of Kasper’s amusing musings (128 pages; $13.95). Kasper talks

about and signs the book at Encore Books in Princeton Shopping Center

on Friday, August 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Kasper is her own model for the cover of the new book, in which she

looks out, cigar in hand, over an oversize cigar band. From her very

down-to-earth chapter on "How to tell if it’s a good cigar,"

to the more questionable issue of "Licking your cigar?!",

Kasper has a quip for every occasion. "When smoking a cigar, make

like molasses in January and Bill Clinton in college… go slow and

don’t inhale!" And on the licking controversy: "It’s a real

head turner when a woman coyly licks her cigar from end to end. And

I am definitely not one to waste a chance to turn some

heads."

"It’s all about cigars for fun, having a good time, and as a way

to meet men," says Kasper, who notes that the best place to meet

the man of your dreams in the ’90s is at the cigar dinner, the cigar

bar, or the tobacco shop. Here’s why:

1. The ratio of men to women is terrific — at least 100

to one.

2. Not only will you get noticed, but you have a conversation

piece right at your fingertips.

3. You’ll find men who have money, flare (sic), or just good

taste.

"Cigar lovers are not commitment-phobic," says Kasper,

(it takes a while to smoke one — a relaxing experience during

which she recommends unplugging the phone). "And according to

research, they earn more than the average Joe. The cigar smoker’s

average household income exceeds $148,000."

How a modest self-publishing idea became a mainstream book is an

illustration

of the author’s entrepreneurial, go-get-’em nature. "This is truly

a story of perseverance," says Kasper, who now runs a home-based

marketing consulting firm.

It began in 1996 with a tiny (4-inch square), attractive, claret and

gold cover, 56-page stapled paperback of which she sold 1,000 copies

at $4.95. This relative success motivated her to upgrade to a slightly

bigger, 64-page perfect-bound paperback that retailed for $6.95. She

marketed and shipped 18,000 copies of the second edition.

At this point a friend suggested she get an agent, and Kasper went

straight to William Morris. "I called the receptionist at William

Morris and she started to give me the runaround, so I asked to go

straight to voice mail. A couple of days later someone called back,

and within six weeks I had a book deal." It took about a year

from sale to the appearance of the hardback in bookstores from coast

to coast.

"I should have done that in the beginning," says Kasper in

hindsight. "All that work, all those paper cuts, but I learned

to put cardboard shipping boxes together really well."

Kasper grew up in Oklahoma, the daughter of a physician and a physical

therapist. She graduated with honors in German language from

Vanderbilt

in 1983, and has a master’s degree in international business from

the University of South Carolina. Before settling in Princeton, she

held several positions as an international marketing director for

high tech companies. A columnist for Cigar Friendly, Cigar Affair,

and Chicago Smoker magazines, she has been an official taster for

Smoke magazine and is the Online Cigar Goddess for America Online’s

CigarCafe. Over the past two years she’s been invited to present at

least 40 cigar events around the country.

Kasper says she shares today’s health concerns about smoking. She

has never been a cigarette smoker and limits her enjoyment of cigars

to a couple of times a week.

"My father’s a doctor, a general practitioner, and he’s completely

anti-smoking. But he takes my book as it was intended: it’s about

cigars for fun and in moderation. And hopefully it’ll help get his

little girl married off."

Although she’s not giving out her home phone, she invites E-mail at

cigargddss@aol.com.

Rhona Kasper, Encore Books, Princeton Shopping

Center, 609-252-0608. The Princeton author of "A Woman’s Guide to

Cigar Smoking: Everything You Need to Know to be the Ultimate Cigar

Aficionado" (St. Martin’s Press). Free. Friday, August 7, 7:30

p.m.

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