Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year in review


In 2008, I published two books. I wrote at least three. I made the Locus bestseller list, and a number of readers have put my books on their "best of 2008" lists. I've made a number of new friends. I've learned from my mistakes.

So here are my resolutions for 2009:

1) Stay positive
2) Worry less
3) Meet all my deadlines
4) Practice random acts of kindness
5) Never forget how lucky I am
6) Continue to give my best
7) Offer understanding to someone who needs it
8) Keep raising wonderful kids
9) Remember I write because it's my great love
10) Share my favorite books with readers

Can I do it? I hope so. What are your resolutions?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Houston? Methinks we have a problem.

It's so much fun to be here with the Wicked girls. Angie and I share an editor, and Ann and I share an agent, so this feels sorta like home. Thanks for hosting me today, ladies!

This is a big day for me. My debut romantic suspense, STOLEN FURY, releases today! I've waited a long time for this moment, but I have to be honest and tell you that release day is not the only thing on my mind right now. You see, I have three kids (my Gremlins, or so I call them). They're 9, 6 and 3 (well, 4 later this month). And thanks to some unseasonably snowy weather (curse those blasted cold fronts!), their two week break has stretched into three.

Wait. Let me say that again in case you didn't catch it…THREE WEEKS. Stuck. In a house. With them.

Yes, I know those of you with gremlins of your own feel my pain. You know what it's like to be locked in a house with rambunctious boys who think Spiderman Underoos, Buzz Lighyear slippers and a Darth Vader cape constitutes a raging outfit. Toss in a preteen daughter who is in love with the phrase, "I'm bored," and I'm sure you can understand why I'm having trouble concentrating on anything…even my release.

However, amidst all the chaos and excitement, I have learned one very valuable lesson:
I have a serious problem on my hands.

You see, my husband has renamed our 3 year-old, Casanova. Not only does the littlest Gremlin strip down to his skivvies whenever the mood strikes (which is all the freakin' time), but he loves girls. Babysitters are his favorite. Cute teenagers he can drag up to his bedroom to play Power Rangers when the DH and I are on our way out for a few hours. I never thought much of it before. Honestly, I thought it was cute and that he was just being "friendly". But now I know the truth.

It sank in the other day while the DH and I were watching Into The Blue. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, it stars Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. They're both treasure hunters in the Bahamas, searching for a Spanish galleon rumored to be carrying a fortune in sunken treasure. Both Paul and Jessica wear swim attire through most of the movie. And, of course, Jessica's bikini is just a wee bit too skimpy. The movie is really very tame until the end when the suspense heats up, but I didn't realize the littlest Gremlin had sneaked into the room and was watching the opening scuba diving scenes with us. When I did, I immediately turned it off and kicked him out of the room. But lo and behold, later in the day, he brought me the movie case (which also has a picture of good ol' Jessica in her bikini on the front) and said, "Mom. I want to watch this."

Shocked, I replied, "Why?"

And he said (shoving it in my face), "Because it's a girl movie."

Well, you can guess my response. I think I sputtered (a lot) when I asked, "Why would you want to watch a girl movie?"

And his answer? "Because she's cute. And she looks good. And I really like her."

Yeah. Major problem. This was said just before he turned, grabbed a plastic sword from the floor and charged his 6 year-old brother while screaming, "Arrghghg!" at the top of his lungs. My DH, as you can well imagine, is thrilled. His boy is both a lover and a fighter. Serious hero material if ever there was one. But to me, he's still my baby.

My Casanova Baby.

One reviewer called the hero in my release, STOLEN FURY, "a modern day Hans Solo-Indiana Jones rogue". As far as comparisons go, I love that one. Rafe is definitely a rogue - a little rough around the edges, a lot sexy, a Casanova who isn't afraid to get down and dirty. My biggest worry now, though? It really has nothing to do with the release of the book, but rather…when the heck did the 3 year-old learn to read? And who on earth told him about my book?!

Anyone else have any other Casanova's in the making? I will admit, the romance author in me finds this quite amusing. The mom? Not so much.

***
Before I forget…In honor of STOLEN FURY's release, I'm running a FUN, interactive contest on my website. Are you searching for Fortune & Glory? (And who isn't in this economy?) Simply go to www.elisabethnaughton.com/fortune.html to enter and play. Embark on your very own quest, partner up with a sexy treasure hunting guide and enter to win a $100 VISA gift card!


Share image!Enter today!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Headache of Doom

I woke up this morning with a headache and an impending sense of doom. Did you know that 2008 is nearly over? Can anyone tell me how that happened? Where the [bleep!] did this year go?

I feel completely behind on all my projects. I've got reader's proofs in front of me for DEAD IF I DO, which I'm about half way through. Those are due back at the publisher's on January 7th. I've got less than a hundred pages written on its sequel HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, and that nagging sense that I should be a lot farther along given that that book is due at the beginning of May.

Sheesh.

Where did the year go, anyway?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caught in the act

Anyone who has known me for more than a week knows I'm pretty bad at hiding things. It's good in a way because I don't have to keep any big secrets straight. But it was bad last night.

My husband and I were downstairs, wrapping Santa's gifts for the kids when disaster struck in the form of a four-year-old at the bottom of the stairs. She'd been asleep when we started. Not so much when we had presents strewn all over the downstairs living room. I took her back to bed, where she denied seeing anything. Ya right. I've read enough mystery novels to know what a warm spot at the bottom of the stairs means.

She saw everything. No way we could make those gifts "from us." No way I could possibly return everything and start from scratch today. Once we knew she was back asleep, we holed up in the kitchen to brainstorm The Big Lie.

What could we tell her? We didn't even know how much she saw. Jim had his idea of what to say, I had mine. She found him first this morning and asked about what we were doing. Jim told her she must have dreamed the whole thing. Predictably, our almost-five-year-old was a bit too smart for that. Then she came to me and asked why daddy pretended she was dreaming. I told her that Santa had needed our help wrapping a few things and of course we said yes. But that Santa didn't want her to know, so that's why daddy said what he did. So basically, I lied about Jim's lie to cover up for the fact that there really is no Santa.

Is my nose growing yet?
But I'm a bit relieved because I think she bought it. She now claims she saw Santa downstairs too (another lie for those who are keeping track). In fact, she'd rather we not mention to Santa that she knows he was here early. So I suppose it all worked out. We'll see come Christmas morning...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Yule

I hope you all had a lovely Winter Solstice yesterday: the longest night of the year.

My family and I had been invited to a Yule Vigil on Saturday, but the weather here in Minnesota turned extremely nasty. We had about six inches (or more) of snow fall and then temperatures plummeted into the arctic -11 degrees F. Since my son is only five, I decided it was wisest to stay close to home and light our own Yule fire in the chimenea. Mason, my son, LOVED the idea of tending a fire ALL NIGHT LONG, but we all pooped out close to midnight. I brought in a flame from our outdoor fire and lit a candle that we kept burning all night long (and actually we kept the fire going until this dawn, since Yule was officially on Sunday.)

My parents came up from LaCrosse, Wisconsin to spend the day with us. We opened presents and lit the Yule log. We had homemade wild rice soup and french bread fresh from the oven. A good day, and a cozy way to spend the shortest day of the year.

Hope you're having a good holiday, whichever one you might be celebrating (happy 2nd day of Hanukkah!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past???



And the winner of last week's contest is Aimdel!! Shoot me an email with your address, and I'll get a copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE off to you as soon as I receive them!! And btw-I tried a lot of your suggestions-I went out with my girlfriends, cleaned my house, burned candles, read, listened to Christmas music...and made 100 bookmarks (not really Christmas "stuff", but something I needed to get done! 8) ) Yes, the tree is now up and all the decorations are out! (at least all the ones that are coming out this year! 8) ) I feel much, much better!!

Speaking of our Christmas tree-we (actually my oldest daughter and three grandsons. I was in the kitchen cooking!!) decorated the tree last Sunday, so I decided to post a picture. But when I downloaded them, I noticed something peculiar-there are little "fuzzies" in all the pictures. In one of the pictures I've posted, there's one by the clock, one over the cabinet, one over the coffee table, and one over the couch. Reflections of light? A dirty lens? Dust bunnies?...Orbs? I don't know, but whatever they are they're in a different spot in each one of the pictures! (If you click on the picture, you can see them better.) What do you think they are? Post your comment and you'll be entered in the contest to win a copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE!!

Merry Christmas!!
Shirley

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Christmas rant

I haven't done of these in a long time, so I figure I'll blow off some steam about an issue that really bugs me. I belong to various author loops, and on those loops, I sometimes see people complaining about their agents.

Now first of all, no matter what it claims, a loop is NOT private. That's not the place to air your grievances. It's stupid and it's unprofessional. If you have a problem with your agent, maybe you should put on your big girl panties and write her an email. I did that with my first agent, and it didn't solve anything, but at least I tried. We wound up parting company and I landed with my current fabulous agent, so it was best for all concerned. If you must talk the situation over with someone, use email to a close friend, or IM, or the telephone. Don't tell 1200 strangers why you're pissed off.

Now I move to the second part of my rant. When I see these posts, bitching about this or that (sometimes agent or editor related) I cannot help but think, wow, this person doesn't like being published very much, does she? Do you really think this stuff doesn't get back to the person you're talking about? That's naive. If you have no more care than that for your career, maybe you shouldn't be calling yourself a professional author. Then other people chime in and say stuff like, "Oh, you need to remind your agent who (s)he works for."

No. Big giant resounding no. Your agent doesn't work for you. Unless you pay her a weekly wage, cover 401K and offer benefits, you are not the employer. You are not the boss. Your agent works with you, not for you. It's more of a business partnership. You don't fire your agent if you part ways. You just give thirty days notification of terminating your agreement and move on. Authors have a lamentable tendency to get very full of themselves after they publish a few books.

Please, for the love of god, don't let this happen to you. Only you can prevent douchebaggery. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We interrupt Angie's Facebook session to bring you this blog


I have a real problem and it's getting worse. Soon (hopefully soon) there will be treatment centers opening up across the country. But for now, I'm forced to deal with my Facebook addiction with 188 of my closest friends.

How did it happen? Only a few months ago, I was checking Facebook every few days or so. No biggie. But then I found more friends, and darn it if they're not entertaining. And surprising. Take a look at what Lauren, an old college friend, posted the other day. Talk about a blast from the past, not to mention mall hair. (I'm the one in the second row, doing the bunny ears behind the girl in the plaid hat.)

Maybe that's what's so addicting about Facebook - re-capturing moments of our lives that we forgot about. Or seeing things how other people remember them. Or is it catching up with people via updates? Are you addicted to Facebook? If so, what's your favorite part?

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's on Your List?


My family celebrates both the pagan/Wiccan Yule/Solstice and Christmas. On Yule, we traditionally give each other gifts that are sentimental in value, rather than commercial. It's the time for handmade gifts or coupons that say, "Good for one day to sleep in until 10 am!"

This year, the present I'm MOST hoping for for Yule is a new journal. I'm one of those writers who LOVES all the accouterments that go along with being a writer... I love pens with smooth action, notebooks without lines (so I can sketch and doodle), and anything like that. I would probably be happiest if all I got for Yule/Christmas was six or seven different kinds of pens and notebooks and journals and colored pencils. (I'm also pretty fond of crayons, too, but I currently have a lot in the house thanks to having a five year old at home.)

So what about you? What present are you most hoping for this season (and, yes, feel free to say more books by your favorite author!!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Interactive Adventure! Starring Ethel the Space Pirate


Happy Friday! Today, I'd like to introduce Jess Granger, my critique partner, good friend and an all around awesome writer. She has her first book coming out from Berkley this August. It's called Beyond the Rain and of course I was honored to get the first peek. But while we're waiting for the rest of the world to see Jess's debut, she's been entertaining herself (and everyone else) with a super fun online story called The Many Adventures of Ethel The Space Pirate. It's a choose-your-own-adventure. Here's Jess to tell you more:

Hi everyone, Thank you for inviting me. It's funny how a writer's process changes over the course of trying to get and then stay published. When I started writing, I considered myself a "pantser". For those who aren't familiar with the term, it refers to writing by the seat of your pants. I didn't know where I was going, or what I was doing really, and I kinda didn't care much. The story just came out.

As I gradually learned more about writing, I found I thought ahead much more than I used to. I still considered myself a pantser. For the most part, Beyond the Rain was written off the cuff, then I met my critique partner, the fabulous Angie, and well all that changed. As in, I had to go back and change almost everything. (I love you, Angie, really.)

I officially had to turn in my pantser card just recently as I started work on the sequel to Beyond the Rain. I had not one outline, oh no. I had four.

So in a way, it is freeing to move back to my panster roots and write a serial interactive adventure story on my blog. The Many Adventures of Ethel the Space Pirate is a complete whim. Even the name was a whim. It was the first thing that came into my head when I tried to think of a fun name for a female space pirate. It completely doesn't fit, and so it fits perfectly.

You can join the dashing and sexy Ethel as she searches the galaxy for a hidden treasure and finds herself navigating the tricky waters between two sexy and dashing men. Either one could be the hero of this story. It is up to you to decide. At the end of each episode, you can vote to choose what Ethel does next. The story is in your hands, and completely out of mine. I have no idea where it is going, or what is going to happen.

It's a very freeing way to write. I hope you'll stop by and share the adventure. Who knows, you might just find yourself in the story.

Jess Granger

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ho, ho, ho????

Happy Thursday everyone!! Is anyone else feeling the Christmas jitters?? You know the ones-don't have the tree up, haven't gone Christmas shopping, and Christmas cards??? Forget about it!! I'm trying to deal with them...I really am...but it's like there's a clock ticking away inside my head. Christmas is only TWO weeks away! Throw in that THE WITCH'S GRAVE's release is two weeks and five days away (but who's counting!), and I'm feeling just a tad bit on the stressed side! (so what else is new, right??)

Okay, here's my question, other than being terribly organized, anyone care to share how they deal with this hectic time of year? What do you do to get away from the hustle and bustle? A good soak in a hot tub? A glass of wine? I'm open to any and all suggestions! 8) Any post will put your name in the hat for a signed copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE!

Oh, two more things before I close. Stop back next week and I'll be giving away more copies. Second thing...I'm having a great time this week blogging on Amber Katze's book blog! Her bloggers are asking terrific questions and I appreciate their interest. (We're giving away copies of THE WITCH'S GRAVE on that site, too!!) So if you're so inclined stop by and check it out!

Got to run-everyone have a great weekend!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We have a winner!


Thanks again to Cynthia Eden for stopping by. We have a winner for an autographed copy of Midnight Sins - Zita H! Drop me an email, Zita, and I'll put you in touch with Cynthia.

Random

I'm percolating a short story for an anthology. I'm catching up on TV, but the power has been fluctuating wildly here. We had a transformer blow and the grid was down for almost twenty-four hours, which kind of sucked.

I'm gearing up for several contests. I'll start the Lauren Dane extravaganza when I have the graphic from Frauke to promote UNDERCOVER, which has been nominated for an RT award and has put her on the bestseller lists. Go, Lauren! I'm also putting together a fun week of authors and prizes for my second annual Early Christmas extravaganza.

Look for that next week. I'll be featuring authors Annie Solomon, Colby Hodge, Gwyneth Bolton, Meljean Brook and Carrie Vaughn. (Can you believe they all agreed to post something on my blog? Yay!)

funny pictures of cats with captions

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why can't life be like a romance novel? ...Just once?

I was writing the third Accidental Demon Slayer book yesterday when I received a gift every writer loves - a "given" scene. It was one of those times where it unfolded perfectly in my head - everything fit together. It was like I was transcribing instead of writing and it was, to put it mildly, a lot of fun. Some writers have even had "given" books. That hasn't happened to me yet, and frankly, I'm quite happy with days like yesterday.

But that kind of ideal morning comes with a catch. It's followed by real life. Now that scene was between Lizzie and Dimitri, the heroine and hero of my book. Sure they have their issues, but all was forgotten yesterday. He knew what she wanted. She knew what to say. He even took her flying (and, yes, I know that doesn't happen in real life - unless people really do date griffins).

I was telling my husband about it when we were relaxing last night. We'll usually spend an hour or so talking before we go to sleep. So as I'm telling him about this perfect interaction, he steals the covers. Dimitri would never do that. Then my husband answers a phone call. Who calls at 10:00 p.m.? A colleague. Dimitri's werewolf buddies haven't done that yet. And I'm pretty sure Dimitri does his own laundry. And he doesn't wear jeans for two hours in the evening and then throw them in the dirty laundry basket.

Which started me wondering - does romance spoil us for real life? Can we really expect our men to act like a guy in a "given" scene on a given day? And if I do say yes to that, will my husband expect me to look as good as Lizzie in a mini skirt?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book on Amazon!!


My new release which doesn't officially come out until May of 2009 is available for pre-order from Amazon.com. I know what you're thinking: Hooray, just in time for Solstice! Exactly! Now go out and buy a million copies for all of your friends, you know they want one (or two... or three.)

But, wait, there's more: if you want to read an excerpt of the first chapter, I've put it up on my website, just for you!

Also, in case you've forgotten. Here's the back cover blurb:

I’ve finally found Mr. Right. Sure, he might not have a pulse, but coming from a girl who’s sharing a body with a short tempered goddess, I’m not one to judge. Sebastian is the vampire of my dreams and I’m dying to walk down the aisle. Everything couldn’t be more perfect.

Well, except for the fact that the awesome band I hired for the reception has been replaced by some guy with an accordion and lederhosen. And the bridesmaids’ dresses somehow got switched to salmon pink taffeta with butt-bows. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that Sebastian’s ex-lover, the zombie-slash-vampire-slash-witch who just happens to be the mother of his undead son, wants the both of us six feet under. Now I know why some girls turn into Bridezilla…

Friday, December 5, 2008

Being Bad…

Happy Friday! Today we're welcoming Cynthia Eden, the uber talented author of Midnight Sins. And wouldn't you know it? She's giving away a copy right here. Today. You can think of it as an early Christmas present. So without further ado, here's Cynthia.

Hi, everyone! It’s great to be back here with the wicked authors. Angie—thank you very much for the invite.

I love the tagline for this blog…Something Wicked…

You see, lately, I’ve started to really enjoy wicked characters. Heroes who aren’t 100% heroic. Those guys who’ve got more than a touch of the bad. I like those guys. Call them anti-heroes, call them bad boys. I just like the men who dance a bit with the dark side.

And you know what? I like for my heroines to dance with the darkness, too. I like a woman who isn’t perfect. A woman who has a past, who has her own inner demons (or, um, is a demon). And I like for her to be strong.

After all, a wilting flower couldn’t really put up with the bad boys of today’s romance novels.
I’ve got a heroine with a dark side in bookstores right now. Cara Maloan, the heroine of my very recently released MIDNIGHT SINS, isn’t your average girl-next door. She’s a succubus—one with a very shady history. You know that thin line between good and evil? Well, she has jumped that line once or twice.

But Cara’s character wants more than just darkness. She also wants light—and a chance at love. Funny thing about love…in the fairy tales, you never hear about the handsome prince running off with the wicked step-mother. The wicked witch never gets her happily ever after. And I wonder—why not? Villains (and certainly villainesses) need love, too.

But what about you? How do you feel about “bad” characters? Do you like your heroes and heroines to be a bit wicked? Or do you prefer for your characters to have never tangled with the dark?

Leave me a comment and you could win an autographed copy of MIDNIGHT SINS. And thanks for checking out my post!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Winners Are!!!

And the winners from last week's contest are...(drum role please!)...

LadyVampire2
Megan
Blackroze37

Shoot me an email (shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com) with your name and address and I'll get signed copies of WITCH WAY TO MURDER, CHARMED TO DEATH, and THE TROUBLE WITH WITCHES off to you!

Thanks to everyone for posting, and not to worry, with THE WITCH'S GRAVE's release coming up December 30th, I'm planning on doing more contests to celebrate, so please stop back!

And speaking of stopping by, if you're so inclined this weekend, cruise by Amberkatze.blogspot.com. Starting December 7th through December 14th, Amber is graciously posting an interview that we did. She had great questions for me, and I hope you all enjoy reading my answers!! (P.S. prizes are involved for those who stop by!!) Also, I'll be visiting her blog that week and I'll try and answer any additional questions that anyone might have.

That's it for now-everyone have a terrific weekend and I'll see you next week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In which I wallow in my geekery because it's chic-ery.

Gamers, unite! The following is a slightly cleaned up chat about FALLOUT 3, which was my most recent obsession. If you don't like games, you won't want to read this. Names have been changed where necessary to protect the guilty. In reading this, it's kind of a cool interview and a glimpse at what I talk about when I can't sleep at midnight and I find somebody willing to put up with my ramblings.

Warning, warning! Fallout spoilers ahoy!



me:
Ok, so here's the story... I played Fallout obsessively for several days on my PC. Until I got mouse-hand. Ever had mouse-hand? It hurts.

Gamer-friend: i hate mouse-hand

me: It's all crampy.

Gamer-friend:
i get it constantly

me: So I laid off it. And I was close to solving it. I'm in the whatchallit bunker. Trying to go see the president asshat. (also known as Eden)

Gamer-friend: heh. damn, you're super close to finishing it. like, 30 mins away

me: And they have decided instead of VIP, I'm now a KoS. My dog is gone. And I lost Charon. Sonsabitches Which pissed me off.

Gamer-friend: are you playing as eeeeevil?

me: Nope. I'm white hat all the way. I bought Charon's contract like a good girl. (Then he killed the dude and I stole all my stuff back)

Gamer-friend:
heh, nice

me: I opened his safe :D But I had bad mouse-hand. (And questionable person hygiene)

Gamer-friend:
oh lord

me: So I decided I had better go be a normal person.

Gamer-friend: = )

me: And I stopped playing.

Gamer-friend: well, you are super-de-close to the end. BTW, i'd love to hear your take on the main plot once you're done

me:
Meanwhile, Andres got the game for 360. See, that's the problem. I was stuck somewhere shortly before. So I looked it up. And I wound up reading the end. In the walkthrough. So I know what happens.

Gamer-friend:
d'oh!

me: that kind of killed my motivation to go forward.

Gamer-friend: i'm the same way. if i know what's coming, it's no fun

me: Coz my choice is to die or sacrifice Lyons? or w/e?
I'm like, blerg.
That sucks.

Gamer-friend: honestly, the ending and the plotting sucks
hard

me: I have to admit I had loved the game and a HALF up til that point.
But just from what I read in the spoiler (not on purpose) I'm not too keen on getting to the ending.
So instead of going headfirst to the suckage... I started over on 360.
And I'm trying to be evil enough to get Jericho, but I keep getting karma for random shit. I'm running around stealing everything that isn't nailed down.

Gamer-friend: heh
just build up some levels and then kill everyone in sight

me: But I kind of got bored playing klepto.
And I just can't play a toon who will just murder random people for no reason.
Hi, nice to see you, BLAM in TEH FACE! I always end up a lightside jedi too.

Gamer-friend:
i usually don't either but i must say that it was rather pleasant to go back to megaton and let Moriarty have it

me: I've never successfully played darkside.
i tried once.
But I just couldn't say the cheesy darkside dialog.
The whole, will you please help me, NO, I will crush you like a bug! angle doesn't work for me.
I need more of a reason.

Gamer-friend: yeah, it's usually pretty over-the-top

me: So while I haven't played through the Fallout endgame, I'm dreading it.

Gamer-friend: well i think the peripheral stories are way better than the main one, for sure

me:
Because I had been so totally enamored, so dizzy in love, that I didn't want to fall face first in the crapping end. I was pretty flippin' pissed off when they killed Liam Neeson. I was like, ffs, I been chasin' this bastard for 18 levels!
Or w.e.
Now we had five mins together and he's iced?
bastages!
I want him to call me sweetheart again.

Gamer-friend: yeah, seriously. that was misplayed

me: (in my world he is NOT my dad.)

Gamer-friend: heh
kinky
in my game, it was super retarded... i had Fawkes (the good mutant) who can withstand radiation, and i was like "why don't YOU go in there???"

me: :D

Gamer-friend: my ending made NO sense
and he is my dad in my world. so i'm gonna let that lie

me: I helped him and made a deal for the GECK
Or whatever
Fawkes that is.
I understand he will join me later on if I want him to.
after I escape from something or other.

Gamer-friend: yeah, he kicks all sorts of crazy ass with his chaingun

me: But then I just got majorly bummed at the idea that somebody's gotta die to end the game.
But I was kind of bummed over losing Charon too.
I build up imaginary relationships with my NPCs to entertain myself.
Like, I'm such a tool that I RELOAD if the flippin' dog dies.
Whoop, Dogmeat bit it. Gotta reload.

Gamer-friend: well, you can play through a chunk of it and just wait for the new DLC coming soon, just to avoid the end
keeping the dog alive is like, mission impossible

me: And it's not that I can't fight without him. He's my dog, k?
I can't kill him.
I've done it.

Gamer-friend: you gotta drop him off at home, and then lock him up

me: he was alive and well with me when they kidnapped me.
No.
I didn't.
He went with me all the way.

Gamer-friend: serious?!?

me: Yeps.
If he bit it, I reloaded.

Gamer-friend: whoa, that's pretty hardcore... he gets killed in like, two shots

me: But for me it wasn't a huge issue coz I went heavy sniper . sneak.

Gamer-friend: ah

me: I'd kill em in a headshot.
blam blam blam.
He seldom got to tank.
he was there for company and to find me shit.
Go get me ammo, boy! good dog!

Gamer-friend:
did he ever not come back?

me: Nope.
I wonder if positive reinforcement matter.
I was always telling him, "good dog!"
I never told him bad dog.

Gamer-friend: i was all stoked to get him and then he kept running off and getting wasted. i had to pull a loner on him and move on

me: Ahhh.
Poor Dogmeat.
I had no trouble with him, but my spec path was geared to protect him.

Gamer-friend: i felt bad, but there was only so much i could do.

me: I went small guns, sneak, sniper, lockpick, science, medicine.
Those were my highest ones.
Speech was good too.

Gamer-friend: i was small guns, repair, medicine, lockpick, speech

me:
But I couldn't use anything else, weapons wise.
Useless with the big stuff.
And lasers.
But a headshot with an AR would explode almost anything.
Toward the end, I could one-shot a master.
Which was totally freaking awesome.
And I took high critical feats / perks as well.
(I did this to protect a fictional dog. There's something wrong with me.)

Gamer-friend:
yeah, popping around a corner with a shotgun worked pretty well for me... i think i found one sniper rifle the whole game
nah, that's props-worthy
i'm gonna have to ask you about that for the games piece

me: Which was why I was SOOOO pissed off when they just stole his ass from me.
I was like, TEH FUCK, mate.
Whiskey-tango-foxtrot!
I devoted countless hours to saving that damn dog.
You stole my dog!!!

Gamer-friend: that's gotta burn

me:
Oh, the anguish.
Of losing my crazy-eyed dog.
he was heterochromatic.
Did you notice?

Gamer-friend:
no, he didn't live long enough

me: So that's kinda why I lost interest. To be perfectly honest. (Coz I lost my dog.)
I also had mouse-hand.
And questionable hygiene.
But a true gamer wouldn't have quit without a serious reason that close to the end.
The dog was just the last straw.
I said, This, this cannot stand.
And I turned it off.

Gamer-friend:
i can respect that. that's pretty 'core.

me: And you know, maybe if I had some faith I would get my dog back, it would be worth fighting on.
But I don't think they're gonna give him back to me.

Gamer-friend: nah, it ain't gonna happen.

me: And I'm, like, retardedly sad about that.
Coz I really worked like a mf'er to keep that dog with me.
I speced around a dog!



And thus ends The Ballad of Dogmeat (or the secret reason I still haven't solved FALLOUT 3.)

The End.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bethany: Is your house on fire, Clark?
Clark: No, Aunt Bethany. Those are the Christmas lights.

I can't tell you how excited I am that the holiday season is here - I love the lights, the decorations and especially putting up the tree (taking it down is another matter). And so begins the annual Fox family debate - what kind of tree to get.

My husband grew up in an "artificial tree" family. He believes in economy - grab that puppy from the basement, have it up in under a half hour, maybe spray some pine-scent and start decorating.

If only it could be so simple.

For, you see, I tend to channel the spirit of Clark Griswold during the holiday season. And worse, I come from a real tree family. And not just a "tree lot" tree family - my dad had us out early the weekend after Thanksgiving, hoofing it across massive Christmas tree forests, looking for the perfect one. We'd spent all morning walking - and goofing around - but all in search of the not-too-tall, not-too-short, no-bald-spots, does-it-have-the-right-kind-of-needles, long-enough-trunk, my-brother-did-NOT-see-it-first masterpiece of a tree. We'd take turns chopping it down and then my dad would haul it back out of the woods.

The first year we were married, I tried to re-create this tradition with my husband, the spray-on pine scent guy. He was cautiously optimistic. I picked the wrong tree farm. It was literally a long field flanked by other people's backyards. He laughed. And finally, I did too. It was fun. The tree was pretty. And we vowed ... next year would be spectacular.

Then we had one kiddo, and two. My husband began to point out ads for artificial trees - on sale! (Yeah, I'm a sucker for a sale.) But, no. While I'm not going to channel Clark Griswold to the point of dashing out to the woods with two small children and a hack saw, I still need a real tree.

So we head to the lot up at church. My husband talks with the guys, we all pick out a tree and it's just as pretty as the ones we dragged home years ago. But someday...one day...I'm going to get these people back out into the woods.

Now what about you? Are you an "artificial tree" person or a "real tree" person? And do you know any good tree farms?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary (to Me!)

Today is the day my partner and I celebrate TWENTY-TWO years together.

Yeah, that's what I call a romance.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Today's the day to count our blessings, and boy, let me tell you I am!! Of course, the things that I'm most thankful for are my family and friends, that I've got a roof over my head, and that there's food on my table, but I gotta tell ya rating right up there in the top five-Book 7 is DONE!!!! (well sort of...I'll still need to make whatever changes my editor, Emily, feels are necessary once she reads it, but that's okay.) So hip, hip, hooray! (Note to Angie Fox...Ange, I am going to rethink my process!!!! 8))

So as promised last week, let's have a little contest. Now the obvious question would be "what are you thankful for?", but I'm sure everyone is already thinking about that. Let's do something different-here it is-"what's your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?" (And for those of you out of the US, any family tradition will do.)

Here's mine-my older three kids have extended families, so on holidays they about have to flip a coin to see which event that they'll attend. As a result, on Thanksgiving at least, it's usually just me and my youngest daughter, Sara. Our tradition is we eat (turkey and all the trimmings) then we watch movies. That might not sound too exciting, but to be honest, I love it! It gives me a chance to spend one-on-one time with her and it's totally stress free!

Now what's the prize??? Well, the three winners (names chosen at random) will win a signed copy of WITCH WAY TO MURDER, CHARMED TO DEATH, and THE TROUBLE WITH WITCHES. And all you have to do to enter is share your favorite Thanksgiving/family tradition with us!!!

That's it for now-I'll look forward to reading everyone's posts!! And again, happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I know what a scoundrel wants!



Enoy this shameless pimpage and then go over to my blog and enter the contest.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holidays and Writing

First of all, happy early eat-a-bird day!


Now it's time for true confessions. Sometimes I wonder how it is I can call myself a writer at all, give how little I write some weeks. Last week I gave myself a break from writing to celebrate my birthday. (Listen, honey, when you get to be my age, I think it's perfectly acceptable to celebrate for a whole week. It takes me that long just to get revved up!) Now, I'm giving myself another little vacation because... uh, I need to eat.


Okay, even to my own ears my excuses are sounding kind of thin.


I guess it's time to get crackin'. Sigh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't Open the Champagne Yet!!!

I'm sooo close to finishing Book 7!! I'm like a race horse heading down the home stretch! Yay!! Join me back here next week-I'm going to have a little contest to celebrate!

See you then,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Proposals


I have this proposal I'm working on. That's not accurate in the strictest sense, as I'm not proposing this book with the hope someone will buy it. It's already sold. So maybe it's more accurate to say it's a synopsis, so my editor will give me the green light to go ahead and write it. The good news? I don't need pie charts or graphs.

The bad news? Well...

Trying to write a synopsis before the book is written is hard for me. I've gotten better at it. I can generally put together 2-3 pages that make it sound like I know what's going to happen, but I never do. It gives me a headache to think too long about unwritten books. That's where I am, though, career-wise, and I'm certainly not unhappy with that.

The funny part is, I can take almost as long to write a synopsis as it would take me to bang out the first 15K of the novel. To me it seems like time ill-spent, but that's the process, and I understand the reason they want some idea of what I'll be handing in. It would totally suck if I wrote the thing and they were like, "Hm, our demand for psychic ninjas just is not very high right now..." (I'm not writing a book about psychic ninjas by the way.)

In order to make this work, I have to do a lot of thinking about the characters and their emotional journey. That way, I can give them life in the synopsis without focusing too much on the actual plot. Sometimes I do that via backstory, which gives my editor a sense of what kind of people they are. Then just a general arc of where the story headed will usually suffice.

All told, I can't decide whether this or waiting after a pitch is my least favorite part of the job. What's your peeve? (If you're not a writer or an aspirant, you can list a general one.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pumpkins on the porch and Christmas in the bag

Okay, so I know Halloween is over. I've taken the witch off my porch, the light-up bats out of the trees, I even took down my favorite decoration - the skull door knocker that sings songs until his eyeballs pop out. Literally. I love that guy.

But one thing I haven't been able to do is take the pumpkins off the front porch. Maybe it's because I can justify them - well, they're a symbol of the harvest, and we haven't had Thanksgiving yet, right? Never mind that they're probably frozen to the front stoop by now.

Still, I think the real reason the pumpkins have survived is, well, because they made it through a season in my garden. That means they ARE survivors. For those of you who haven't heard me rant about my garden, let's just say it's usually the place where plants go to die. I've killed tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, three kinds of peppers, onions, strawberries watermelons and a particularly hardy lavender (Someone told me it would ward off rabbits and deer. Ha! They just saved it for dessert).

This year, I planted pumpkin and watermelon in the main garden. Almost immediately, the pumpkin vines ran all over the watermelon. I didn't care because it meant something, anything was growing in the garden. Yeah, just call me Martha Stewart. In the end, we had five - count 'em - five pumpkins this fall. It was the first successful gardening year ever (As long as you don't listen to my husband when he questions exactly what happened to the tomatoes, peppers, watermelon and strawberries.)

We carved two of the pumpkins. The kids glued sequins all over another one. But the last two are still looking plump and gorgeous on the porch. So, as far as I'm concerned, they can stay. Sure I passed them yesterday going into the house with a bag full of holiday-themed books.

Which gives me an idea...Christmas pumpkins, anyone?

Monday, November 17, 2008

In My Copious "Spare Time"

Like I don't already have enough to keep me busy, I decided to sign up for WitchSchool. It's a lot of fun so far (and I'm hoping to blog about my experiences over at my personal blog: http://tatehallaway.blogspot.com. But I could totally see this eating up a LOT of my time.

At a writing event I was at yesterday, one of the audience members asked if the panelists thought that he was taking on too much trying to learn a foreign language while also trying to write a novel. Though no one said so exactly, the implication in people's responses was: YES. To which, I have to say... uh, oh. Especially given that I'm not just trying to write one novel, but two... and now take several on-line classes.

Wish me luck.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Magic of Friendship


“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
-Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

My friends have been the most magical portion of my life. I met Shirley Damsgaard and Angie Fox before I had a contract for the book that became Paper, Scissors, Death. Even though I had been published ten times in non-fiction, I still felt like a pretender. But neither woman thought of me as a “wannabe.” They both treated me with respect, as an equal. And that’s part of the magic of friendship—our friends see us as who we can become, not just who we are. They believe in us when we forget to believe in ourselves.

Early on, Shirley and I fell into the habit of brainstorming plot ideas. It was fascinating to me to hear how she would start with a germ of an idea or a scene and spin that into a manuscript. Shirley is a smart cookie and one of the best storytellers I know.

Angie and I found common interests in the promotional side of writing. She’s another wickedly smart woman, but she and I tend to talk more about how to reach our readers. Angie is an astute observer of the marketplace.

In Paper, Scissors, Death, I wanted to re-create the magic of friendship. I chose to give my heroine Kiki Lowenstein two very different role models. There’s Mert, the hardscrabble cleaning lady with her homey wisdom and nurturing ability. And there’s Dodie, the “tough” businesswoman who teaches Kiki to be self-reliant and not to hide from unpleasant information. Both women help my heroine grow into a more confident, capable woman.

Of course, there’s also hunky Detective Chad Detweiler, but he’s a special sort of friend. I named Detweiler after a guy I knew in college who was a friend. Not a boyfriend, but a real friend. And I named Kiki Lowenstein after the therapist in The Prince of Tides. Remember the scene where Nick Nolte is driving his convertible over the Cooper River and repeating, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein”? To my mind, a good therapist is a paid, professional friend—and in the movie and book, her belief in him sets him free.

After all, that’s what Shirley and Angie have done for me. When I lack confidence, they fill my empty cup with praise and reminders of what I’ve achieved. When I feel like I’m not capable, they put the cherry on top that gives me an extra bit of moxie.

How about you? What have your girlfriends done to make your life better? Who makes the magic in your world?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some sweet, sweet perambulation

I'm getting mentioned in the UK, it seems. That's so cool. Here's a review for Wanderlust that delighted me, for instance. I especially like this bit:


As befits a heroine who can beat light speed, the first-person narrative, studded with tech speak and earthly slang, sprints off the blocks in a streak of pure adrenalin. The reader guns for Sirantha from the get-go, and it's a mark of Aguirre's skill that she is more than just a tough action gal. She is a real person, strong, romantic and rueful. She never loses the sense of wonder she first experienced when her parents took her on a space cruise as a teenager.

It's also the world around Sirantha that makes Wanderlust so impressive. The details of communication, travel, politics and power in a greedy, lively universe have been devised to the last degree, but are presented effortlessly. Aguirre has the mastery and vision which come from critical expertise: she is unmistakably a true science fiction fan, writing in the genre she loves. As with all great works in this genre, the laser blasts and gizmos, as cool as they are, are only the surface embellishments of a wide-ranging recon mission through the huge questions of war and peace, commerce and greed, colonisation and defence.


Isn't that brilliant?

See, if a thousand people tell me they loved my book, it doesn't diminish my delight in hearing it from 1,001. Most writers don't tire of hearing they moved or entertained someone. I don't expect everyone to love (or even like) my books. I write the best stories I can, but reading is a subjective experience. Each reader brings his own frame of reference, and sometimes what I produce is too far from what they can appreciate. It happens. I still bask in the moments when I realize this reader connected with what I did.

But here's something that might surprise you -- the one single thing that bugs me most about this gig. It's not deadlines. It's not reader criticisms. It's not even the delayed gratification. I mean, I want to talk about a book with readers right after I finish it! Unfortunately, you guys won't get your hands on that book for at least a year and sometimes it's longer than that. By that time, I've written four or five more books, and I'm not even thinking about that book anymore. It frustrates me because I get questions like, "What inspired you when you wrote (X-Y-Z scene)?" I'm going, "Hell if I know, that was two years ago, and I can't even remember what I had for breakfast last Tuesday." Even so, that's not my least favorite thing about this business.

At least, not directly. It's more of a peripheral issue. I loooooooove getting fan mail, puffy heart it with sugar-on-top-and-chocolate-candy-sprinkles love it. It makes me sing inside to read those lines from someone who was overwhelmed with happy by something I wrote and had to dash off a few lines to tell me so. I glow for days over those emails. I do, srsly. Ask my husband. He keeps asking if I'm knocked up.

No, baby. It's just the fan mail.

So what's the problem, you might ask. Those notes almost always end with a plea for me to write faster. And that's what bugs me most. There are precious few authors in the biz who write faster than me. I do my drafts in six weeks or less. Within two months, I will have my book polished and turned in. I'm not bragging; that's a fact.

However, I have no say over my release dates. The publishers choose them according to some arcane algebraic equations to which I am not privy. Dear readers, if you want my books more often, then instigate a letter writing campaign to Penguin, letting them know you have the wherewithal to purchase as fast as they can print them up. Cos I have nothing to do with it, and it makes me feel like a slacker when people beg me to produce faster when I'm already the Speedy Gonzalez of the book world. To give you an idea, I sold nine books in a little over a year. I've now written six of those. I have only three more left to do, and I anticipate I'll be finished with all my contracted work in six months or so.

Thus, the delays from my desk to your house? It's not me, I swear.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Celebrity Sighting


I was at the mall the other night with the kids, walking between stores, when my four-year-old daughter stopped suddenly and squealed. I thought I might have run over her foot with my son's stroller, but no. Something big had happened.

"Mom, HE'S HERE!"

He who? My husband was at a football game, and the stadium would have to burn down before he'd leave early. I didn't see any kids from her preschool around. But she was already bending down, peering through the glass railing that overlooks the lower level of the mall. Below, they had Santa's Village all set up, complete with the big man himself.

"He's here! He's here!" It was Beatle-mania, toddler style.

"Well do you want to go see him?" I asked her.

"Oh no. I just want to watch."

So we went down to the Santa's Village area and watched kids meet Santa. It was a lot of fun. We talked about what she wanted for Christmas. She informed me that I need an EZ-Purse, complete with a cell phone holder (thanks infomercial). At the end, we went home without ever talking to Santa. But, really, just seeing him made her day.

What about you? Have you seen any celebrities lately? Fictional or otherwise?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Problem of Naming Things

People sometimes ask me how I come up with the titles for my novels, and the truth is: by committee. I almost always have to solicit advice, particularly since I've made the mistake of having the word DEAD repeated in my titles. Do you know how many vampire/urban fantasy authors used DEAD as part of theirs? A LOT. And pretty soon I'm going to be reduced to just saying DEAD DEAD DEAD as my title, I swear.

Yet, I can't because titles are important. Despite that old adage, people do judge books by the covers. And as cover art is almost completely out of my control, the one thing I might be able to contribute is a title (although, thankfully many of my original titles have been nixed by my publisher. When I wrote SF, I'd originally called my first book DANCING ON THE HEAD OF A PIN. That was determined to be "too long to fit on the spine" and got changed to ARCHANGEL PROTOCOL, which fits the book much better in the end, I think.)

Thus, I hate titles. I'm currently trying to decide on a title for Garnet's fifth book. Right now I've been calling it HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, which is pretty descriptive of what happens in the book, but... who knows if the publisher will think it's kicky enough. I'm ready with an alternative: BETTER WED THAN DEAD, but I may want to save that for book 6 (if there is one: knock on wood.)

How important are titles to you (as a reader or an author)?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Something Wicked welcomes Candace Havens

I’m still on a Halloween candy high, but I’m in the mood to shop for the holidays. The problem with my preparing for the holidays early is that I always end up shopping for me, instead of my family and friends.

Greedy. I know. I begin with good intentions. I’m not picky when it comes to where I shop. I do it online, in malls, boutiques. But it always ends up the same way. Two (or three) for me, one for someone else. (smile)

Case in point: I shopped for gifts to giveaway at my upcoming book signings for The Demon King and I. (If you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area come see me.) We have this great little local place, The Funky Monkey, where I find amazing jewelry and purses to give away. Of course, this trip was no exception. There’s just that problem of me not wanting to part with the prizes for my readers. I love everything I bought from the sapphire ring, to the funky charm bracelet. Sigh.

People always ask me why I have these kick-butt chicks in my books who wear fantastic shoes and clothes. It’s an easy answer. I have an addiction and I live vicariously through my characters. I can’t always run out and buy the latest Marc Jacobs swing dress and Christian Louboutins, so I make my characters wear them. It’s a way for me to play dress up without ever having to leave my desk. And I love it. I mean, fashion is small part of the books, but it’s fun for me to have a little here and there.

In The Demon King and I, my lead is Gillian. She’s a corporate executive, art gallery owner and demon slayer. I don’t know about you, but I have don’t have a problem with a woman who is chic, but can also slay some demon butt. I mean really, she’s saving the world and she deserves to look good while doing it.

So I need you guys to tell me if you have the same problem. Do you shop for others but find more for yourself? What’s something really cool you bought for you? Do you have other deep dark secrets regarding the holidays like eating a box of chocolate covered cherries in the five minutes it takes to get home from the drug store. (Did I says that out loud? It’s become a Christmas tradition for me.) Tell me I’m not alone. Share with me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Don't Worry...Be Happy!

These past few weeks have been a wild and crazy time, and not just for me, but for the United States as well. Last Tuesday night, like a lot of people, I was glued to the TV set, watching the map of the various states turn either blue or red. I did my part-I cast my vote. Now it's up to those elected officials to straighten it all out.

And while they're all busy deciding how to fix that which is broken, I thought about what can I do in my own life to make it better. I can't fix global warming, all I can do is be a responsible consumer. I don't understand the whole world economy thing, it's enough for me to just balance my checkbook. So what can I do??? Well, I came up with my own "get happy" list. It is as follows:

1. Laugh more. There are days when I get so wrapped up in what I have to do instead of what I'd like to do that my humor slips a bit.
2. Talk to/see my kids more often. They lead busy lives, too, and it seems that a lot of our conversations are more about disseminating information than "Hey, how's it going? Are you doing okay?" AND when I talk to them, remind them more often that I love them and that I'm proud of them.
3. Read the Desiderata once a day. (This would not be hard to do-it's hanging in my office!!) For those of you who aren't a child of the 60's and 70's like I am, check it out...you can find it online. Reading it always makes me feel better and it reminds me not to sweat the small stuff.
4. Quit obsessing about the future, the economy, and everything else that I can't fix and count my blessings. (this one is kind of along the same lines as #3) I have a job, a new book coming out, a roof over my head, and food on the table. Plus my health, and the health of my family, is good. What more could I want, right??? ;)
5. Spend more time with friends. I have great girlfriends and hanging out with them is always fun. (see #1)
6. Show kindness to someone everyday...it lifts my spirits when I know I've helped someone.
7. Minimize the effect of toxic people in my life. You know the type-they bitch, bitch, bitch about everything until your eyes want to glaze over. And don't get me wrong...I'm a great believer in the restorative powers of a good whine now and again, but some can't see the good in anything. Their bad mood brings everyone around them down to their level.
8. Stop once a day and just breath!! (Maybe when I'm reading the Desiderata?? 8) )
9. Play with my dog more.
10. And last but not least, remember that nothing, good or bad, lasts forever. Savor the good and rush through the bad!!! 8)

So how about you?? Anyone else have some "get happy" tips?

See you next week,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Vacation

Humorous Pictures
While you're reading this, I'm on vacation in Catemaco. Next week, I'll be back with a slideshow of what I did. By that time, I'm sure I'll feel just like this adorable kitteh from lack of internet.

Until then, talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

You might be a writer ...

This list compiled by Gina Ardio has been making the rounds with writers and it cracked me up because a lot of it is true. See if you recognize any of these:


If your partner is jealous of your computer ...you might be a writer.


If you've spent ten hours in your pajamas, drinking coffee, and consider it a productive work day ...you might be a writer.


If, in the throes of passion, you pretend to be your heroine ...you might be a writer.

If your first thought when you suffer an illness or injury is, "I have to remember what this feels like!" ...you might be a writer.


If you plot an annoying acquaintance's grisly murder ...you might be a writer.

If you're the only person in the emergency room jotting down details of the staff's activities...you might be a writer.


If you've crawled into a car's trunk to see how a dead body would fit ...you might be a writer.


If you spend over $50 at the bookstore and call it research ...you might be a writer.

This last one reminds me of the time my husband and I received one of our very first credit cards statements as a married couple. He saw the bookstore charges - $30 here, another $40 there, and solemnly informed me I'd spent almost $100 at bookstores that month. True, I told him. But if we were looking at entertainment costs, we should also look closely at the cable bill with his movie channels and the ESPN network that broadcasts 20-year-old football games. His entertainment/my entertainment. We haven't worried about it since.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Morning WIP

Or maybe that's a Monday morning "whip"!

Anyway, over at Wyrdsmiths, another group blog I belong to, it's traditional on Monday morning to ask everyone what projects they have going on for the week. I thought I might try that here.

So, what are your plans for the week? What do you need to get done? It doesn't have to be writing related, just let us know what you're up to!

I've got a bunch of things on. I've got a couple of books I need to read for "blurbing": one romance and the other science fiction. Then, I need to read my student's submission for my writing class at the Loft on Wednesday night, and also find some time to think about what I'm going to lecture about as well. On Thursday I have my writers' critique group and I need to get my own submission ready for that as well as read and comment on my colleagues' work.

And, I'm off to a slow start because my son is home sick from school today.

So, how about you? What are you working on?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The quest for cuisine

I'm going to preface this post with a little squee about one of my favorite TV shows. Andres and I stumbled onto it when the Powers That Be added BBC to our satellite programming selection (it was genius by the way!) We've found several awesome new shows as a result. But the one I'm talking about is The Hairy Bikers Cookbook, which is every bit as a quirky as you might expect.

The premise? Take two extra large lads, who like to ride motorcycles, travel and cook. Combine all three interests. The result? A fascinating show. It's a mix of a travel and cooking program -- and it works marvelously well. The lads are a major reason for that. You know how some presenters seem very jaded or cynical, tired of it all, or sort of smugly clever, and you'd like to crack them one in the face just for staring out the TV at you?

Well, Dave and Simon have none of that. They're ever-scruffy, disheveled, whimsical, playful, just overflowing with creativity, passion, interest, sincerity and appreciation. I think I half-watch it just to see their joy in discovering something new, whether it's natural beauty, a taste, a group of people, a monument. It's television at its best, a show to elevate and enlighten the spirit.

They've cooked on the beach, in the desert, on a boat, under the most astonishing conditions. They're always positive and charming and just... well, wonderful. And they just have the most delicious accents (northern England), rich as whole cream. They make friends as they go, and people come to eat what they've cooked. They made a meal for a remote tribe in Namibia. They've made scallops on rocky beach, where other bikers came to break bread.

Well, they're just a treat to watch. I feel like I've traveled with them as we've watched their show. They're the kind of fellows you'd want to eat a meal with, drink a pint and listen to their lovely stories. If it sounds like I have a wee crush, well... I suppose I do. Anyway, here are the lads. Cute, aren't they? And so ...normal. On their site, you can find the best pictures, ones that showcase their tremendous spirit for adventure. It's not about perfection; it's about enjoying yourself, whoever you are.


But I digress. We've been watching the show for a bit now, and their food always looks intriguing, but some of the ingredients are hard to find. I tried to get thyme and paprika today, for instance, but I couldn't locate either one. Regardless, I was determined to turn my hand to sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), which we saw them make in Romania, outside of Vlad Dracul's castle. When they were done, the dish looked so scrumptious that I wanted some, even though I have never really liked cabbage all that much. And for the first time, I decided, why not?

I'm not shy about trying new recipes, but I've never before tried to make something I saw on TV. I'm not sure why. But it took the lads to get me going. I bought what I could according to their recipe and improvised the rest. At 5pm, I was getting home from the grocery store with odds and ends, along with the stuff I needed to have a go at sarmale.

It was a pretty intricate recipe with chopping, mixing, and blanching. Lots of steps, lots of pots and bowls messed up by the time I was done. If you want the actual recipe, you can find that here. My kids lent their hands to the effort too, and within an hour, we had a pot full of sarmale. I was none too sure if what I'd done was close enough to their version to be any good because I couldn't find some things (and the dog ate half our bacon in a kamikaze kitchen run) but I was hopeful.

An hour later, it smelled heavenly. With half an hour to go, I sliced the tomatoes and let it simmer. Total cooking time = 1.5 hours. Total meal preparation from first item chopped to eating it = 2.5 hours. Was it a much more labor intensive meal than I usually cook? Hells yeah. Was it worth it? OMG, yes. It was freakin' delicious, even with the slight alterations I made to accommodate the ingredients I could find. This isn't an actual picture of our food, mind you, but it's pretty close to how ours looked. We were too damn hungry to mess with plating, but you get the idea.


Thanks to the lads we tried something new and enjoyed a little bit of Romania here in Mexico. I'm proud of myself because I like trying things that I've never tackled before. I'll definitely make these again, and I think I'll be looking for other recipes that push me outside my cooking comfort zone. There's nothing like success as an incentive. Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Costume mania

Okay, so I would have posted sooner, but I was in the middle of making a fairy wand. With Halloween only three days away, our house is a costumer's dream (or nightmare, depending on how organized you like things). Right now, the gold glittery wand is drying on newspaper by the kitchen sink. We have a pair of glitter shoes on ice above the fridge (otherwise, they wouldn't make it until the big day). Oh and three shrunken heads over by the apple bowl.

I blame my father. He was an artist and loved Halloween. Store bought costumes had no place in his house. Instead, we'd decide what we wanted to be, and then we'd make it. My brother and his friends went as a rock band one year - complete with custom-made instruments created from basement odds-and-ends. I was a robot, a wizard and then a "mom" about three times in a row when I realized that dressing my dog as my "baby" and taking him around was worth double the candy.

The best costume had to be the year my mom joked and said she wanted to go out for Halloween in a canoe. My dad built a canoe for two, with built-in beer holders. How's that for romance?

So now we're carrying on the tradition in our house. My daughter is going as Tinker Bell and the rest of us are going as various characters from the Young Frankenstein movie. I can't wait. Now where's that can of glitter paint?...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Star Wars: Gateway Drug to Reading

My son is now reading Return of the Jedi, the novelization. He's a little scared of the movie, so he started reading the book. He particularly wanted to read the scene with the Ewoks, because he's seen pictures of them. He got so caught up in the story, he read past that and then suddenly burst into tears. When we asked him what was wrong, he informed us, very seriously, "Vader LIED to Luke."

This may not seem like much to us grown-ups who have been reading for decades, but for my son, who is only five, the betrayal was PERSONAL, real, and immediate.

I felt terrible for my son who is now swearing he'll never, ever, ever watch the movie, but, at the same time, I was thinking: "Wow, words have power." As we were talking this over on the drive to work, it occurred to me that books do that, don't they? They grab you by tender hooks and drag you in -- particularly if you're emotionally invested in a character (like Mason is with Luke Skywalker.) I remembered those moments -- that feeling of being depressed by something that happened in fiction... or excited... or you find yourself bursting into tears, just like my son did.

It's kind of awesome, isn't it? And, I guess, scary too. For my son, it was surprising that words could make him feel so strongly. But I reminded him of something I learned from Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury): unlike with TV or movies, you can put a book down. If you're scared or upset by something that happens in a book, you can stop reading. You can quit, or just take a break. The book will wait for you to get a hold of how you're feeling, you can talk to someone about it, figure it out, and, when you're ready, go back. Mason, my son, seemed comforted by that.

Still, ain't it cool? A book made my son cry.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Tis the Season!!!

Halloween is right around the corner! (so's my deadline, but we won't talk about that!! 8) ) And in honor of the holiday, I thought I'd post some of my favorite mystical, magickal websites. These are the ones that I've used a lot when doing research and I thought you all might enjoy giving them a look-see. One word of caution…don't read the tales on The Shadow Lands.net late at night!!

Best,
Shirley

General:
http://realmagick.com/main/home.html

http://www.arcane-archive.org/occultism/magic/

Ghosts:
http://www.americanfolklore.net/spooky-stories.html
http://www.theshadowlands.net/ghost/
http://www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com/

Runes:
http://wolfmoongrove.com/Rune%20Info%20Pages/rune_meanings.htm

http://www.arild-hauge.com/eindex.htm

http://www.ealdriht.org/runes.html
Herbs:
http://www.illustratedherbal.com/
http://www.herbs2000.com/index.htm

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

EPIC WANT

I've mentioned that I love tech toys before. But is this not the coolest thing you've ever seen?

You'll never oversleep again if you have to chase your alarm clock around. I want one.

I'll also take a ROFLcopter T-shirt, a book safe, the OHSO pocket toothbrush, and a solar charger. That's not all either. Man, I love ThinkGeek. Technology is awesome, isn't it? If you could invent any one gizmo, what would it be?

Now I'm gonna go watch that alarm clock once more and hope I wake up on time in the morning. 'Cause, you know... I don't have one.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sorry I'm Late...

Normally, I like to have the blog updated by now, but I was called away to combat duty (read: chaperoning yet-another field trip). I'm home now and in one piece, which is pretty amazing given that there were twenty-seven kindergartners tromping through the woods.

Today I'm thinking about blurbs. You know those little tag lines you read by authors which say, "The best book I've ever read! I love [fill in name here] better than chocolate."

Do you buy books based on those?

My editor just asked me to review a book from our house by a new author and write something up (if I *like* it, of course.) I love doing these because I get to read a book before it comes out, but I also dread them a little....

I know I've done one for one of the authors on this list. Full disclosure: I knew nothing about Angie before I read her book. (Seriously!) We became friends after I got the opportunity to read her amazing book in manuscript form. That's not always true when I blurb books. I have been known to blurb books for writing colleagues I'm already friends with. That can be tricky because... well, what if the book isn't their best? Obviously, I have to say no then because you don't want to be that author that when you see their gushing remarks you think, "She says that about everyone!" But, on the flip side, saying no is bound to get back to a friends, you know? Like I said... tricky.

I sometimes wonder if that happens to Stephen King. I read one of the blurbs he wrote and I began to suspect it was like those trick phrases people use to say nice things about bad employees, like, "you'll be lucky to get this person to work for you." (read: they never did much WORKING here.) What he wrote was, "No one writes quite like [author's name.]" And I remember thinking: does that mean no one is as GOOD or... no one is as BAD???

Anyway, I've always been curious how much those kinds of endorsements affect your buying habits. If one of us on the list says a book is good, are you more likely to buy it?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whoops, I Almost Forgot or Time Management and Other Woes!

When I was a kid, it always bugged me when my mother said, "Gee, I don't know where the time went! Seems like the older I get, the faster it flies!" It sounded silly to my childish ears, especially on a hot summer's day when I was stuck out on the farm with nothing to do except play with my dogs. Those days seemed to drag by, so how could she feel time, as she put it, "was a-wasting"? I didn't get it.

Now I get it...suddenly it's the middle of October!!! Where did the first two weeks go??? Heck, forget that...where did the last few months go?? It seems like just yesterday I was posting about the Buttered Cow. That was August!

Why is this??? Was Mom right? Is it a sign of old age? (That explanation doesn't appeal to me! ;) ) Or is it that we're all so busy and the days just run together in one endless loop? I wish I could figure it out! Then maybe I wouldn't feel as if time is rushing by me.

What do you think? Is it age, or life in general, that makes us feel this way? And does anyone have any suggestions on how to slow time down? I'd love to hear them!

That's it for now-hope everyone has a good one and I'll see you next week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Better late than never


This post is terribly late.

In my defense, I've done the following today:

1)Wrote over 5,000 words
2)Lunch with my family
3) Grocery shopping
4) Couple time with my husband this evening

I completely lost track of the fact that it was Wednesday, and my day to post. It just occurred to me when I checked the blog and went, oh crap. It's Wednesday! So here I am.

Amazon brought me some books today. I got an Annie Solomon (DEAD RINGER) and two books by Sandra Schwab. Now I just need to find her rare / OOP THE LILY BRAND.

In other news, I'm two chapters away from wrapping up SKIN GAME, and I've lost track of whether this book is awesome or awful. It's longer than what I usually write, and it has more points of view. I guess I'll find out when I do revisions next week. And then my beta reader will get to weigh in.

I've considered taking on one more beta reader, actually. To get two opinions before I turn a manuscript in to my editor, but it would have to be:

(a) A devoted reader of eclectic and flexible tastes
(b) Someone who is a meticulous proofreader
(c) An individual willing to commit to bumping my work to the top of their TBR
(d) Someone who would swear never to reveal any snippet of my work before the release date
(e) A person who will be okay with receiving Word or RTF files
(f) Someone who doesn't mind dark / gritty books

I realize that's a tall order, but what you guys think? Any of you meet the criteria? Tell me why you'd make a good beta reader in comments, and I might pick one of you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers

For anybody who has seen The Jerk, I've been doing a poor impression of Steve Martin these past few days - the new cover's here! The new cover's here!

I'm really digging Lizzie's new weapon of choice, and wishing I'd thought of it myself. According to my publishing house, the switch stars Lizzie uses in the book don't translate well to cover art, so we're just inventing wild looking weapons for the front of the book. That amuses the heck out of me - especially with this medieval look we have going here. In the third book, I'm going to have to make some kind of inside joke/reference to the range of armaments we're seeing here.

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers is due out in May '09 and I can't wait to see what you all think of Lizzie's newest adventure.

In fact, here's the summary I wrote up for the back cover:

Demon-slaying powers should come with an instruction book…

Seriously. Why does a new hair dryer have a twelve-page how-to manual, but when it comes to ancient demon-fighting hocus-pocus, my biker witch granny gives me just half a dozen switch stars and a rah-rah speech? Oh, and a talking terrier, but that’s another story. It’s not like my job as a preschool teacher prepared me for this kind of thing.

So I’ve decided to write my own manual, The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, because no one tells me anything. Dimitri, my “protector,” may be one stud of a shape-shifting griffin, but he always thinks he can handle everything by himself. Only he’s no match for the soul-stealing succubi taking over Las Vegas. If I can’t figure out how to save him—and Sin City—there’ll be hell to pay.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday, the 13th!

Do I need to say more...?

I don't know about you, but my favorite holiday is just around the corner. You guessed Arbor Day? Latvian Independence Day? No, I'm talking about Halloween, of course. I love Halloween because it's the one time of year when it's really very EASY to imagine the worlds of urban fantasy writers could be... true. In fact, I always kind of feel a bit like the alien in E.T., who goes out disguised as a ghost and looks in horror and in appreciation (remember him trying to follow the "Yoda" home) at all the various costumes.

Plus, I get to show my more creative side when my son says to me, like he did this time: "I want to be a werewolf/Medusa." O-KAY. (We're working on that. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm thinking wig + dollar store rubber snakes + a shaggy tail.)

Here's a picture of the costume I made for him last year (that's me adjusting his claws. No, I'm NOT eating a banana. That's a yellow glove.):



Sometimes I think that I was meant to write urban fantasy because, even as a kid, this was my favorite of all holidays. I spent days --sometimes months -- trying to decide if I wanted to be a ghost, a skeleton, or... a VAMPIRE. (Okay, really, it was no contest. I was almost ALWAYS the vampire, except the one time I went as Captain Kirk.)

So, I have to ask: what are YOU going to be this year?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Archcon Part Two




I ditto everything Angie said in her post about Archcon! It was a blast! (And (blush) thanks for the compliment, Angie!! I had a great time hanging with you, too!! And thanks for letting me work through some of my "issues" with Book 7 over the Corona's!! Your insight was a big help!!)

My fierce footwear?? You mean the boots with the stacked soles, the 4 inch stillettos, and the really, really pointy toes??? Hon, my feet still hurt!! 8) Ah, well, the things we'll do to sell books, heh?? 8)

All joking aside, as Angie said, it's great meeting fans and hanging with other authors, but there's another really cool thing about these conferences...(and I know Angie agrees with me on this one, too)...it's also great having the chance to meet new writers. Angie and I both did workshops based on our experiences thus far in the magickal world of publishing. It's very rewarding to think that some of what we've learned along the way might help someone else realize their dream. At least I hope that's what happens!!

So all in all, it was a great trip! Oh, and one last thing...I saw a Klingon!!!

Take care and have a good one,
Shirley

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Goodies for you

I'm happy to report I have a title for my Ava Gray book. It will be called SKIN GAME, and it has a tentative release date of December 2009. How exciting, right? To celebrate, I posted the first chapter on the website. You can read that here.

I'm really excited about these romances. I've wanted to be a published romance author for as long as I've been reading them(and that's a long time). It's a bit ironic that I finally got there via the back door, published in SF&F first, before I sold my first romance. But it's the outcome, not the road I took getting there, right?

How do you guys feel about authors who write across the genres? To date, I write romance, urban fantasy, and romantic science fiction. Will you guys read all those, even if you don't usually, just to see if you like what I do in that genre? If I love an author, I'll usually check out whatever they write. In the foreseeable future, I'll be adding to that resume.

In fact, I think I'll give you a little preview. How does apocalyptic romance sound? You know how people always talking about "post-apocalyptic fiction"? My editor, Anne Sowards, loves that. Well, I'm working on a romance that takes place during an end-of-the-world scenario -- and it totally kicks ass. I can't think of anyone else doing this. I'm not giving any other info on this project, but I fully expect to sell it in 2009, and I expect it to be huge. (You can find updates on this on my blog under "sekrit project". At this point, the first book is half-written.) It's a gorgeous marriage of mythos, world-building, danger, ass-kicking, and hot sex.

I also have a romantic fantasy in the works. It's not urban in the least. I didn't even try to sell it before I was published because fantasy isn't a hot genre. I'm hoping once I'm more established that I'll be able to sell this because it's a wicked tasty riff on Beauty and the Beast. I call it THE OUTCAST KING.

Meanwhile, I have BLUE DIABLO (first Corine Solomon, urban fantasy) releasing in April, DOUBLEBLIND (Jax 3) in October, and SKIN GAME by Ava Gray coming out in December 2009. So that's the year, looking ahead.

So what do you think? Looks good, right? What are your thoughts on the projects I'll be pitching? Would you be interested?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Angels and devils and stormtroopers...oh my!












First off, I have to say that Archon St. Louis was a blast. In case you didn't catch Shirley Damsgaard's post last week, she and I headed into the wild blue yonder to attend one of the biggest (and best) Paranormal/Sci Fi fan conferences that I've ever seen. That's us there on the left. Perky, aren't we?
That's because fan conferences are like a shot in the arm to authors, who tend to spend way too much time in our own imaginary worlds.
Laurell K. Hamilton was the featured guest for three days of panels, signings and mayhem. Oh the mayhem.
See, I haven't even been to the RT conference yet. So this was the first conference I've ever seen with masquerade parties, vampires roaming the hallways and even a werewolf. Check him out above. He tells me that he owns a Shoney's, but wouldn't tell me where. Those werewolves can be a shifty lot.
Highlights included:
  • Giving workshops for some extremely talented writers
  • Telling an Imperial Stormtrooper that I did not, in fact, need extra security at my book signing. Kind of him to offer, yet I wonder if Darth Vader knows he's freelancing.
  • Discussing J.R. Ward with a, ahem, vampire. He had fangs and everything.
But take away all the costumes and the fun and the Mystery Science 3000 folks (yes, I'm a fan), the best part of the weekend was hanging with Shirley. She's one of the neatest authors I know - at a panel, at a signing or just hanging out. Plus, she has some fierce footwear. Check it out if you ever run into her.
And today, while it's great to be home, I do miss the fans, the festivities and the idea of a vampire around every corner. Until next year...