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...

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Cover: DEAD IF I DO



Here's the new cover for the next Garnet book: DEAD IF I DO, which I am copyediting right now, and it will be out in May of 2009.

Whoot!

Here's the back cover copy to tempt you:

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…

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Readers' Comments

I've had a bad day, and once I'm finally home, I check my email. There it is...a lovely email from a reader who's enjoying the series!! Suddenly, my day hasn't been so bad after all! Or I'm having a bad day, go online and there's a crappy review posted on Amazon...or someone wrote about the series on their blog and they weren't exactly complimentary. You know what? My day just got worse! (I know this makes it sound like I'm continually trolling cyberspace to learn what people are saying-I'm not. I've signed up for this nifty little thing called "Google Alert." It let's me know whenever my name or the series is mentioned online. A good tool to garner new online reviews that I might want to use in my marketing!)

Is my ego tied up in all of this?? To be honest-a little. Every author I know works really hard on their manuscript, and once it's published, it's like sending a child out of the nest, the book either succeeds or fails. It's hard not to take the knocks personally when it's something one's expended so much effort on to complete. I also know that one can't please everyone, not everyone likes the same thing. And that's a good thing...the world would be a boring place if we all had the same tastes.

Words have power, and I guess what gets to me the most is the negativity that I see contained in some of these comments. And I'm not just talking about the stuff I've read in my reviews, but in other authors, too. Stuff like, "I'll never read this series again." "Worst book I've ever read. Don't bother to buy it." "I threw it in the garbage." "This book is beyond bad." "There is little to admire, like, or even care about in this book." (The last comments were taken from reviews of New York Times best sellers. I hope those authors are laughing about it all the way to the bank!)

My question is...what are the above reviewers trying to accomplish? Did they hate the book so much that they don't want anyone else to read it? (obviously they failed in the above mentioned cases.) Or are they just venting? Are they trying to help or hurt? The Internet is a faceless place, and I know people will say things online that they would never say to someone in person. But should that make a difference?

I don't know...what do you think? Does anyone pay attention to this negativity?

Best,
Shirley

BTW-I'm on my way to St. Louis for an event at the McClay Library in St Charles, MO, then Archcon 32!!! My partner in crime at Archcon 32?? Our own Angie Fox!! Check back next week for our tales of daring-do!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Commercials that make you cry

When I was younger, I was more hard-hearted. Movies didn't make me cry. Neither did songs. I was all cynicism and detachment. Now, if a commercial catches me in the right mood, I tear right up and get all mushy. Here's one that made me teary in a movie theatre.



Isn't that just the sweetest thing ever? Do you guys ever cry at commercials? If so, which ones?