Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's Your Story????

What's one of the reasons I love writing about the paranormal??? I hear things-no, not voices, but stories. It all began after WITCH WAY TO MURDER was released. Suddenly people that I've known for years, people that I never would've expected to have any belief in the unexplained, were sharing their experiences with me. It's been amazing to me how many people have had a brush with the paranormal! (One of the best stories I heard? A gas station here is haunted by a little girl. The station was built on the site of an old farmstead, so some people think the little girl is somehow tied to that location.)

So...question of the week...does anyone out there want to tell of their experiences with the magickal, the mystical, or the just plain weird??? I'd love to hear about them!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Birthday wishes

So today is my birthday.

No, I'm not telling you exactly how old I am, but I'm still in my thirties. What am I doing today? I'm glad you asked! The family and I are taking an expedition to the only English bookstore I'm aware of in the city, Libros Libros. It's halfway between Reforma and Palmas, if you know the area. If you don't, then more specific directions indicating it's in Lomas Barrilaco will mean nothing to you anyway. We'll do a little browsing and then have a nice dinner down there.

Since it's my birthday, I get to ask for stuff today. Yippee! Here's what I want from you, dear readers. Go to Amazon and bring up Wanderlust. If you've read the book, post your thoughts about it. If not, when you do read it (and you will, won't you?) then post something then. Then come back here and tell me you did it, so I can go read your thoughts. That's it, my grand birthday wish.

If you do this by next Wednesday, there might be in a little something in it for you. No, I'm not telling you. It might be a sweetly handwritten thank-you note from me or the really cool pen on my desk. I don't have to tell you what the prize is in order for you to do something nice for me on my birthday, do I? *puppy eyes*

Anyway, I'm off. I hope y'all have a great day, whatever you're doing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kitchen table talk

First thing's first - the winner of a copy of Cynthia Eden's latest, Everlasting Bad Boys (I still love that title) is saturnmoonie. Congratulations! Send us your email and we'll send you a book. Don't you love how that works?

And speaking of books, I read the neatest regency the other day. Whenever I'm heavy into writing paranormal, my brain starts to crave historicals and mysteries to read for pleasure - kind of like craving something sweet after having salty. Anyhow, I read this regency the other night that blew me away.

It's called When A Lady Misbehaves and it's about this scullery maid who works in a bordello. She's not interested in anything but cleaning pots, but she's basically given an ultimatum: either take part in a virgin auction or get thrown out on the streets to die. Now most regency books would then have this heroine in the auction. Not this book. In this one, the scullery maid steals the bordello madame's diary and basically goes around impersonating an illegitimate child, bilking overstuffed, immoral rich men out of their money. I loved it. It was so fresh and unique. And then of course the scullery maid gets into trouble because of her scheming. But the whole book is just so unpredictable.

To make a long story short (too late). I went onto Amazon to leave this book a great review. And I was shocked at a few of the negative reviews it had. One reviewer didn't like the duplicity of the main character. And, okay, I'll give you that. The author explains it well, but I could see someone not liking that. But other reviewers were upset because a horse was a wrong color for the breed, or the author somehow misused a legal term. In short, nothing to do with the actual plot of the book.

Now I'll be the first to admit, I don't know the regency rules and I could never write one because of that, but it was interesting to see just what pulled readers out of the story. And it got me thinking. My pet peeves have more to do with an unoriginal story line or if I buy a book and learn it's basically a "filler" until we get to the next book when something big happens. But what about you? What does it take to pull you out of a story? It is something as simple as a regency fact gone wrong? A highland werewolf who forgets his brogue? Or something else entirely?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Time to Refresh

I did no writing this weekend.

Normally, that's not something I brag about. Actually, usually when I realize something like this it sends me into a fit of panic. This weekend was something else I really, really need every once and awhile: total relaxation. Some friends of ours invited us up to their cabin on Crooked Lake in Siren, Wisconsin. There was much floating on inner tubes, laying in the sun, and, of all crazy things, reading books!! (I finished a great little non-fiction book called "Go to Hell: A Heated History of the Underworld," which is sort of research for the small press project I'm writing.)

I believe in time to recoup. It can be good for the soul -- even the writing soul, too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Afraid of the Dark?


Good morning! Today, we'd like to welcome Cynthia Eden to our little corner of the blog-o-sphere. We had a blast with her last time and now she's back with a super-hot anthology called Everlasting Bad Boys - what a great title. Take it away, Cynthia.

Hi, everyone! It's great to be back with the Something Wicked authors. A big thank you to Angie for inviting me today! (Thanks, Angie, you are awesome!)

I love paranormal stories. Love writing them. Love reading them. Growing up, I was never the girl who was afraid of the dark. I was the girl who loved the dark-and the girl always willing to tell and hear some good horror stories. (Come on, surely I'm not the only one who remembers that old story with the line "Where's my golden arm? Where's my…")

When I got the chance to write paranormal suspense tales for Kensington Brava, I was absolutely thrilled. Okay, more than thrilled. Because getting to write stories about supernatural creatures is so much fun for me!

Next week, EVERLASTING BAD BOYS will hit store shelves. EVERLASTING BAD BOYS is a paranormal anthology from Kensington Brava, with the tagline I love: "Talk about staying power…" My contribution to the anthology is the novella, Spellbound.

When I first came up with the idea for Spellbound, I wanted to create a hero who most folks would fear. Someone in the darkness to make you worry. So, I decided to model my hero after the boogeyman. : Luis D'Amil is a soul-hunter. He's a being who tracks and kills paranormals when they cross that thin line between good and evil. To the paranormal beings out there, he is the boogeyman. To my heroine, well, he becomes something else entirely.

Would you like to win an autographed copy of EVERLASTING BAD BOYS? All you have to do is tell me your favorite scary movie or book-the one that makes you afraid when you're alone in the dark. One commenter will be selected to win. Good luck!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writing Quotes

This has been one heck of a week, in more ways than one!!! So instead of me trying to come up with something original, I thought I'd share some of my favorite quotes concerning the craft of writing. Hope you enjoy them!

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

I do not like to write - I like to have written. ~Gloria Steinem

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. ~Tom Clancy

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential. ~ Jessamyn West

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. ~Richard Bach

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

And my all time favorite:
There is no such thing as writer's block for the writer whose standards are low enough.. ~William Stafford

Have a good one!
Shirley

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A quick update

Here's what's going on with me lately...

I'm writing a lot. I have a deadline coming up on the 15th of September, so I need to finish Doubleblind. I'm near the end, so that much is good. I should have time to do some revisions beforehand as well.

I'm also gearing up for the release of Wanderlust. I have a cool contest running on my blog, so you might want to check that out.

Today is my mother in law's birthday, so we're heading to Polanco to celebrate with her this afternoon. That means I need to get my work done early today.

Next week it's my birthday, just a day after my Wanderlust release. That's a pretty cool present! My husband has been asking what I want to do, but I can't think of anything besides this book. Give me some ideas?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I've been tagged!

Tag, I’m it, courtesy of both Ann Aguirre and Natalie Hatch. Here’s how this works. Copy the list below. Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book. Italicize the ones you’ve watched.

1. Jurassic Park
2. War of the Worlds
3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
4. I, Robot
5. Contact
6. Congo
7. Cocoon
8. The Stepford Wives
9. The Time Machine
10. Starship Troopers
11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
12. K-PAX
13. 2010
14. The Running Man
15. Sphere
16. The Mothman Prophecies
17. Dreamcatcher
18. Blade Runner(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
19. Dune
20. The Island of Dr. Moreau
21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
22. The Iron Giant(The Iron Man)
23. Battlefield Earth
24. The Incredible Shrinking Woman
25. Fire in the Sky
26. Altered States
27. Timeline
28. The Postman
29. Freejack(Immortality, Inc.)
30. Solaris
31. Memoirs of an Invisible Man
32. The Thing(Who Goes There?)
33. The Thirteenth Floor
34. Lifeforce(Space Vampires)
35. Deadly Friend
36. The Puppet Masters
37. 1984
38. A Scanner Darkly
39. Creator
40. Monkey Shines
41. Solo(Weapon)
42. The Handmaid’s Tale
43. Communion
44. Carnosaur
45. From Beyond
46. Nightflyers
47. Watchers
48. Body Snatchers

Yes, I've read only three books on this list. And 1984 doesn't really count, because it was for a high school English class. But there are a few books on here I've been meaning to read for years, like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So let me ask, what books/movies on this list do you recommend? I'm looking for a good place to start.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mother Flubber!

During an email discussion with some fellow writers, I found out something rather startling. Both of the other authors had had their swear words toned down by their editor (at the same publishing house.) Also, the scientific words they'd used to describe certain intimate body parts had also been modified. The publishing house in question is famous for its romances in the industry (and is sometimes mocked for its purple prose during sex scenes).

Anyway, I was shocked. I mean, I've had my editors remove ENTIRE sex scenes (in a romance, no less,) but I've never had anyone change my stronger term to a "forget you!" like when a cable show gets "translated" for network TV.

I have a sort of strange relationship to the rougher words of the English language. I use them liberally in my own life (though less around the new set of little ears in the house), but I have been known to modify their use in my writing.

Even so, it would be a shock to find your editor neutering your expletives. What do you think? Has it happened to you (or someone you love??)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Only in Iowa

Every part of the country has its own unique festival, celebration, etc. One of the biggest draws in Iowa is the Iowa State Fair. For ten days in August the streets and freeways are clogged as hundreds of thousands of people attend. Once there, you can munch on corn dogs, smoked turkey legs, corn on the cob, funnel cakes, cotton candy. You can wash them down with fresh lemonade or copious amounts of beer as you wander around admiring the latest farm machinery, prize winning livestock (sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, chickens...if it clucks, moos, or baas...you'll see it there!). Or you can take a trip through the Varied Industries Building and see all the latest gadgets to make your life easier, and maybe get a real deal from the eager sales staff on a pool, sauna, or new vacuum cleaner. If none of these trip your trigger, you can always stop and watch many of the free performances given at various stages located around the fairgrounds.

But even with all of the above to see, hear, and do, one of the biggest draws at the fair is a trip through the Agricultural Building to see the butter cow. Yes, I said "butter cow!" It's a wood and wire frame slathered with 600 pounds of Iowa butter, then carved into a Guernsey, Jersey, Holstein, or one of the other dairy breeds. They've been displaying this cow (a new one every year, however they do recycle some of the butter from one year to the next) since 1911. Now is it hokey??? A little, but it's a tradition! Kind of like fireworks on the 4th of July, picnics on Labor Day, and in this constantly changing world, I appreciate that!

So, yes, I did take a trip to the fair, AND stand in line to view the butter cow! Now if I could just figure out a way to work this into a mystery!!! ;)

Take care, see you next week,
Shirley

P.S.
I thought you all might like to see what the cow looks like, so here's a pic. I also took a picture of one of my friends admiring the cow, but she said if I posted it, she'd have to hurt me! ;)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Deadline of Doom

Looms.

Thankfully, I have expert assistance.

cat
more cat pictures

What are you guys up to this week?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Accidental Demon Slayer is a NY Times Bestseller!


So I'm in the middle of a great writing session on Friday when the phone rings. I almost, almost ignore it. After all, who in their right mind would call smack dab in the middle of a demon invasion?
Luckily, I answered because it was my agent with great news - The Accidental Demon Slayer is #34 on the NY Times Bestseller list! Blew my mind. Heck, I'd just wanted readers to like the series enough to keep me up to my eyeballs in demon slayers, biker witches and talking dogs.
A year ago this week, I was still polishing up the last chapter of the book. I'd entered the first 50 pages in an RWA unpublished contest, just to see if the manuscript was too out there. I love Demon Slayer, but it is, erm...different. Anyhow, it ended up winning and an editor at Dorchester was interested in the full manuscript. Problem was, I didn't have a full manuscript. I still had eight chapters to go.
The only time I have that's truly my own is the two to three hours in the afternoon when my small kids are napping. So I added a 4:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m. session in order to take advantage of the time before they woke up. I finished the book in about six weeks, sent it off on a Thursday, my editor read it over the weekend and made an offer. Now it's a NY Times Bestseller.
I'm still not sure how that happened, but I do know it never hurts to work hard, believe in your story and - oh yeah - answer the phone.


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Habit of Writing

My partner spent part of the weekend complaining to me about writing.

She had a thousand word article to write for a professional magazine, and was having a bear of a time getting words onto the page. I was tempted to mock her, given how many words I write any given evening, but I had a lot of sympathy for her problem. She used to write articles like these all the time. Now, when she writes, it's for reports where she needs to be concise. She'd gotten out of the habit of writing. I hear that, sister.

I find that despite how many books I've written, I'm still better off if I always write a little something every day to stay in the habit. I give myself breaks, of course. But I always find that when I come back to writing, it's hard to get started and to keep up the momentum.

Last night was a good example. I wasn't really in the mood for writing, but I opened up my laptop anyway. I let myself be mostly distracted by the movie Shawn and I were watching ("Grizzly Man"), but I did manage to punch out a few sentences. Though it wasn't my usual output, it's still forward progress. As my friend and mentor Eleanor Arnason always says, "Even if you only write a couple hundred words a day, you can write a novel a year. As long as you write every day."

When I first started writing I set myself a ridiculously low bar: 425 words a day. (I should say, too, that for most of my writing life, I've always considered "a day" to mean "a work day." I consistently take the weekend off to be with my family and get other housework done. I now work more often on the weekends, but that's because deadlines demand it sometimes.) I don't know why I picked 425 as my magical number, but I found that it was close to a page in manuscript format, and that seemed like a reasonable amount for someone with a full-time job (which I also had for most of my writing life.) Some days I barely made my quota. Some days I blew past it easily. But with always 425 words of forward motion, I managed to finish that book in a reasonable amount of time (about a year and a half.)

Stephen King in "On Writing" talks about the importance of routine. He said that some people like to wait until their muse strikes. For him, he found that his muse knew when to show up and that they needed to get started right away, when he wrote at the same time every night. That makes a lot of sense to me, but for my life it isn't always practical. So if I have a goal of a number of words, I can write those words whenever I have time. On a napkin at lunch. In a notebook while waiting at the doctor's office. On my laptop at the end of the day. As long as I write a little every day, I'm making progress.

So I sympathized with my partner as she struggled to eke out her few words. I know it's true. The more you write, the easier it becomes. The converse is also true: if you don't write for long periods, it gets harder and harder to pick up "the pen."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

About a week ago, I was struck by a nasty culprit. It snuck up on me and before I knew it, the thing had me literally by the throat. I have a summer cold! And for those of you who live in the Midwest with all our heat and humidity, you know how miserable that is. Right now, I feel like I'm talking from the bottom of an old wooden barrel, and thanks to all of the cold medicine that I've been taking,(boy I wish I owned stock in Tylenol!), I'm having trouble stringing two coherent sentences together!!!

But I now have a blog to write-what am I going to do??? Even though my neurons are firing at about the same pace as a snail travels, I need to come up with something! A brilliant idea has struck my fevered brain! (Okay, so maybe it's not all that brilliant-remember I am on medication!) For the past few weeks, we've all been posing questions-now it's your turn. If given the opportunity, what question would you ask your favorite author?

That's it for now-I'm slinking back to bed, carrying my hot tea and blankie with me, but I will be looking forward to reading everyone's questions!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bad blogger, no cookie

I almost missed this again.

I suck.

It's not because I have nothing to say. It's because I have too much. I've been too many places, met too many people and seen too many things. I need time to process the information.

Have you ever felt like that? I've been to Chicago, Newark, NYC, Newark, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Solvang, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Morgan Hill, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Chicago again, Fremont, Denver... then it will be LA and finally,at long last, home.

What a long, wild ride this has been.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Home is where the t-shirts are


I'm back from the RWA conference in San Francisco and - I admit it - suffering from a bit of culture shock. There are no more chocolates on my pillow, no more tables full of free books and no more walking downstairs in the morning and spotting Nora Roberts. Instead, I have family, some (mostly) dead plants and the ability to lounge around in shorts and a t-shirt once again. Ahh...home at last.

Don't get me wrong - San Francisco was wonderful. I think the highlight had to be the Literacy Booksigning on Wednesday night when it seemed like every other person I met had a biker witch name. Or when my agent treated all of her clients to an afternoon at Lovejoy's tea room. I had a ball with the other BookEnds authors, including Something Wicked's Karen MacInerney - and I even learned what a crumpet is.

I spent quality time with my editor and managed to wrangle a drink out of Ann Aguirre. Pics are coming, as soon as I find the download cord for the camera (bad Angie). In the mean time, here's a shot of me (on the far left) with Kimberly Killion and Megan Kelly as we got together before the RITA awards.

It was a fantastic trip, but I have to say it is good to be back in St. Louis, land of humidity. Back in a pair of comfy shorts, with a computer on my lap and story notes scattered all over the couch. Because as much fun as it is to get away, there really is no place like home.

Monday, August 4, 2008

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the... Outline

When I first started writing I really rebelled at the idea of anything so restrictive as an outline. I used to roll my eyes when writing instructors would talk about the "4 X 6" index card method. I'm not that type of person, I'd scoff (mentally, of course, I mean I AM a Minnesotan.)

Now I can't write without one.

What's changed, you ask. It's not the way I write. Though the outline actually does help reign in my tendency to wander away from plot and go on long, tangential meanders. What having an outline does for me is gives me a sense of where I'm going. If I don't have that, I find sometimes I get lost on the way to the ending and have to do a lot more revision (I still revise a lot, don't get me wrong, it would just be WORSE if I didn't outline.)

I should say that part of the biggest hurtle for me in adopting the outlining method is to shake off that middle school version of the outline, where every detail is structured with a capital "I," followed by a capital "A," etc. Once I realized that I could write an "outline" that was really more like a movie treatment or a project synopsis, I started to be less scared of it.

Because I really was afraid. I was afraid that if I wrote down what was supposed to happen I'd be chained to that vision of the book (or short story.) Instead, now, I think of it as a _possible_ story structure, maybe even the MOST LIKELY, but that the details were still free to be meander and wander and... more importantly, if my characters "told" me to head off in a different direction, I could still let that magic happen.

"But... but... if the outline is that loose, why bother?" you ask. Good question. The answer, for me, is that if I take the time during the pre-writing time to think my plot through to the end, the more likely I am to finish the project generally. Because, for me at least, often the thing that made me sputter to a stop when I wrote short stories or started novels, was not knowing where the h-e-double hockey sticks I was going, you know?

That's my two cents worth. I've learned to stop worrying and love the outline. It's made a world of difference for me.