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?