Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good-bye 2009; Hello 2010!

As 2009 comes to a close, I had a realization...somewhere between then and now, I've kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. What do I mean by that? Well, 2009 was a year full of challenges; ups and downs with my family, with my two careers, and with health issues. I've been so bogged down with putting out fires that I forgot to be happy.

So instead of making New Year resolutions that I probably wouldn't keep anyway, I'm making a list of what makes me happy. Here are my top five in no particular order of importance:

1.My family and friends. My kids and grandchildren are all healthy, and although, they too have had their challenges this year, they're dealing with them. And my friends...whenever I have had issues, they've always listened. Not once have they said "Buck up little trooper and quit whining!" And they've given me good advice, not that I've always listened, but I really should've!! ;)

2.My dog. Talk about unconditional love!!! As active as she is, she really should've been adopted by a family full of kids, instead of winding up with a writer who spends a lot of time in front of a computer. But she doesn't seem to mind...she's adapted to my schedule and most of the time we live quite harmoniously!

3.My health. They say every cloud has a silver lining and my unexpected back surgery proved it. As a result of all the physical therapy I've had to do, and after years of good intentions, but never following through, I'm finally exercising. And best of all, the results are starting to show...lost weight; toning up...which inspires me to continue.

4.Hearing from readers who are enjoying Ophelia and Abby. As I've mentioned before, it's one of the most gratifying experiences in my life, and I will be forever grateful for their continued support.

5.My career as a writer. If someone would've told me eight years ago that I would write seven books and be working on an eighth, plus be lucky enough to have them published, I would've told them they were crazy!

Okay, that's my short list, there's more of course, and I plan to spend some time tomorrow thinking about it. How about you? What's made you happy in 2009???

Everyone have a great and safe New Year's Eve, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Riddance!


Sure things can get plenty weird in New York City. Ask anybody who’s ever visited, and any writer who’s ever had to deal with sometimes incomprehensible publishing decisions!

But once in a while, a flash of real genius comes out of the Big Apple.

Good Riddance Day is one of them.

The day, sponsored by the Times Square Alliance, is celebrated on December 28 and gives people a chance to say goodbye to all the bad things that happened throughout the year. The Alliance makes giant shredding machines, a Dumpster, and a sledgehammer available so folks can stop by for a little catharsis while they munch, crunch and tear up their bad memories.

What sort of things do people get rid of? Bills that have been haunting them, letters from ex’es, newspapers that report the dreadful losses of beloved sports teams. Good Riddance Day is a chance to kick the bad memories out in hopes of letting a brighter, better New Year in.

In many ways, the day reminds me of the Wiccan practice of burying bad memories. Same principle: write down what’s bugging you, take it to the woods, bury it in a hole.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Something tells me it wouldn’t hurt for each of us to establish our own Good Riddance Day. I’m thinking a nice, crackling fire would work just as well as a shredder.

So here’s a question . . . you’ve got that fire (or that shredder) in front of you. And a blank piece of paper.

What are you going to write down?

What do you want to be rid of?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I really thought I could do it

They say you learn something new every day. Well a few days ago, I learned I'm not a plumber. Now some of you may have already realized that if you've seen the Accidental Demon Slayer books in the store or read My Zombie Valentine. It takes some people longer, though, and sadly, it seems like I'm one of those people.

Case in point: I've been after my husband for several weeks to fix a running toilet. It's a waste of water, it's annoying and worst of all, when the house is quiet at the end of the day, it becomes that niggling thing that makes me feel like we haven't quite gotten enough done.

So the other night, when the house was quiet and all I could hear was the blasted toilet running, I decided to do something about it. It's just plumbing, right? Pipes and ball plungers are logical. They follow the rules of physics. I can reason my way through it (or so I tell myself). And just because it's 11:50 p.m. doesn't mean I can't start a new project.

I went and got tools from the basement, I put on a baseball hat (not sure how that was supposed to help, but I did it), I lifted the back lid and started fiddling. Now I am proud to say I figured out the problem. The little tube with the ball on the end needed to be out of the water and the water would stop running. But that's where my expertise ended. How to get the little ball to stay out of the water? Holding it up all night wasn't an option. See? Logical.

While figuring out what to do next, I bent the little tube back, just to see how far it could go. I was curious. Don't you want to know how far it can go? No, you don't. Snap! The tube broke. Then the one attached broke. Water shot up to the ceiling. It was like a geyser. Water shot out toward me, in case I wasn't soaked enough. My husband is out of town (or else he would have talked me out of this in the baseball cap stage). I call him to ask him how the heck I'm supposed to shut off the water. He tells me about the valve on the side of the commode (proving yet again that I'm not a plumber).

The bathroom is filling with water faster than the Titanic. I'm on my hands and knees, trying to turn the knob, only it will not budge (no doubt fastened by someone much stronger than me). I'm reduced to begging a toilet knob to turn while scrambling through my mental rolodex to decide which neighbor to wake at midnight in order to turn the knob in a bathroom that now has at least a half an inch of water on the floor.

Finally, it turns. The water ceases. I'm soaked to the bone and the toilet is way, way broken. I clean everything up, thank my frantic husband, take a shower and ponder just why I thought I was a plumber in the first place.

Want to know my theory? I think it has something to do with the fact that writers are curious people. The same thing that makes me want to ride with Harley bikers and their dogs is the same thing that made me want to explore the intricacies of toilet maintenance. If the tube hadn't snapped, I might have succeeded (Don't tell my husband I said that. He's still a bit horrified.)

And while things didn't work out the other night, I don't think I want to change. Well, until the next home crisis.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fun Contest!

Hi everyone!

First, I wanted to say Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope this season brought lots of joy and laughter, and some peace to those who have a hard time during this season.

For the new year, I thought I'd have some fun.

Here are the things I'm going to get done in 2010.

#1 Clean the basement
#2 Get a new contract
#3 Find my evil twin and defeat her once and for all
#4 Start scrapbooking again
#5 Find Atlantis
#6 Interview Oprah for my blog
#7 Be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars
#8 Tend my new butterfly garden
#9 Invent a time machine
#10 Be named supreme ruler of the Xarnet galaxy

Sounds like fun!

You know what else is fun? Winning books. I'm giving away winner's choice of a signed copy of Beyond the Rain, or an exclusive excerpt from my upcoming book, Beyond the Shadows today at the Bradford Bunch. All you have to do is ask me a question. It should be entertaining. Hope to see you there!

Happy New Year!

Jess

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Santa Baby!

Santa came a little early this year. I found out last Saturday that books # 4, 5, and 6 in the Pepper Martin mystery series (“Night of the Loving Dead,” “Dead Man Talking,” and the yet to be published “Tomb with a View”) have sold for publication in Germany.

They join “Don of the Dead,” “The Chick and the Dead” and “Tombs of Endearment” (the first three books in the series) on bookstore shelves there.

Thank you, Santa! I’ve been very good this year. What else do you have in store for me?

Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Zombie cookie winners!

Happy holidays! I come bearing early presents. And believe me, I need the exercise after reading everyone's cookie posts last week. Turns out talking about cookie cravings is not the best way to avoid them. Who knew?

Anyhow, in honor of all the awesome people who posted, I'm giving away *two* copies of My Zombie Valentine, hot off the presses. The winners are Jackie Uhrmacher and Diana Dang! Email me at angie @ angie fox.com and I'll send it on out to you.

This book wouldn't have been the same without some awesome readers. When I decided to set the story in a New Orleans voodoo shop, I needed to know all sorts of details that you can only get by being there. Enter Michelle and Julia, two readers who live in the Big Easy. They took street pictures for me, wandered St. Louis Cemetery Number One and they made sure the hot, reanimated zombie took the shortest route from his grave to his new love's voodoo shop on Royal Street. These things are important, you know. So virtual cookies to Michelle and Julia and have a great holiday everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why I Hate DRM

I don't like to be too controversial. I usually don't step into mires like this one, but I'm going to, because heck, I feel a confession coming on.

I hate DRM. I think it is pointless and it has made me miserable.

You see, I've got an old video tape I love. As a child, we used to watch the Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Klein, Linda Ronstadt, and Angela Landsbury all the time. It is awesome. I watch it again now, and I laugh at the hair, and chest hair, but it is all part of the charm.

It is a fun and whimsical rendition of the classic stage musical, and I love it. I love it because I've always loved it. And now that I'm grown, I've got a much better appreciation for Frederick's pirate booty, so to speak.

Here's the problem. This old video has not been released in a DVD form. It will probably never be released in a DVD form, because I guess the powers that be don't think there's a market. Now in order to watch my old video, I've got to drag out a crusty old VCR. And I don't want to do that, so I don't get to watch it, and I do want to watch it.

I'd love to convert the old video into a DVD so I can continue to watch it, because the powers that be won't do it for me, but it has DRM.

And so I'm stuck in Pirates limbo.

Give me the option and I'd buy a DVD version in a heartbeat, but I don't have that option, so what do I do? I don't want to just give it up, and at some point my VCR will give up the ghost, then what? Buy a new one? Where exactly? They've gone the way of the dinosaur.

The irony is, in order to watch my Pirates, I'd have to become one.

This stinks.

There has to be another way.

Jess

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ditto, Lori!

I could definitely echo Lori's blog about guilt!! (Lori's not the only one to miss...I was absent last Thursday, for which I apologize!! And I did buy a first class ticket on that old "guilt trip" as a result.) See, like Lori, I don't feel good when I don't follow through with my commitments. I usually berate myself, feel unorganized, and just mentally wear a hair shirt for a couple of days over what I see as a lack in my behavior. Now, does anyone else jump on the band wagon and chastise me?? Nope. Would I chastise anyone else for the same thing? Nope. Most of the time, people are very understanding, just as I try to be when the shoe is on the other foot.

So here's my question...why do we beat ourselves up? Why are we willing to be kinder to others than we are to ourselves? Why can't we acknowledge that we're human and not "superwomen." I don't know...maybe it's that we hold our own behavior to too high a standard? (And that's not to say that it's okay to go the other way and blow everything off, but really, shouldn't we be able to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt once in awhile?)

I've pondered this question a lot, 'cause like Lori, I can always find something to feel guilty about. (And yes, loved my mother to death, but I'm pinning it on her...she's was an expert at making me feel guilty. ;) And sorry to say, I've probably done the same thing to my kids!!!) But you know, I've decided I'm going to try and change my frequent excursions down that well-worn road. As Christmas rolls around, a present that I'm giving to me is to be as kind to myself as I would be to someone else! I'll let you know how it works out!!! ;)

That's all for now-hope everyone is having a happy and healthy Holiday Season!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Elementary? I Don't Think So!


I will admit it . . . I was completely jazzed when I learned there’s a Sherlock Holmes movie coming out on Christmas day. Holmes! The world’s most famous detective! MY favorite detective of all times! Holmes is the reason I started reading mysteries, the reason I started writing them.


Oh yes, I was excited, all right, and grateful to whatever gods are at work in Hollywood that someone had the good sense to make a movie about an era that interests me and a private consulting detective who never fails to fascinate.


Until I turned on the TV one day and saw previews for "Sherlock Holmes."


OK, Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes . . . I can buy into that. Though for me, no actor anytime, anywhere will ever equal the brilliance of Jeremy Brett in the roll, I am willing to suspend disbelief and accept another person playing Holmes.


I am not familiar with the actor playing Watson, I don’t even remember his name, but again, I’m willing to take a chance.


But . . .


An action-packed Holmes?


Fighting?


Punching?


(Gulp!) Kissing women???


Swinging from bridges and doing karate moves and looking like a superhero?


I gotta tell you, though I’m not a hidebound traditionalist (well, not usually, anyway!) this looks all wrong to me.


Holmes is cerebral. He’s quiet. He’s contemplative, and quirky, and odd, and stand-offish. Holmes in a cape and tights? It’s wrong, all wrong.


Now, I could be way off base and this could be the most fun romp of a movie ever. If you see it and it is, let me know. In the meantime, you can be sure I won’t be spending Christmas day in the movie theater. Instead, I think I’ll just curl up by the fire, an old, old copy of a Conan Doyle book in hand.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Zombies and Cookies


No, this isn't a blog about zombies eating cookies, although I think they'd try if they saw what's been in our kitchen these past few weeks.

My husband has been on a baking frenzy - cooking up all of his old family recipes and mine too. We have ice box cookies, chocolate crinkles, mountains of fudge, sugar cookies, peanut brittle. I could go on but I'm making myself hungry.

That's the trick this time of year - trying to think of something besides the mounds of cookies. And "rewarding" myself every five minutes.

So to move on, let's talk zombies. My Zombie Valentine is due out in stores any day. And I have a copy right here for a lucky winner!

Lonely New Orleans voodoo shop owner Amie Baptiste decides she’s had enough romantic disappointments. Amie is going to find mister right come hell, high water or voodoo. But when she uses magic to call the perfect man for her, she should have been more specific. Who knew her ideal mate died 198 years ago? When a sexy, well-spoken zombie gentleman shows up at her door, Amie gets much, much more than she bargained for.

Tell me your favorite cookie and you're entered. I'll pick a winner this coming Tuesday.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Power of a Song and Story

I was driving this morning, and a song came on from the soundtrack to the movie City of Angels. As I was listening to the song, I could see the movie in my mind, because the lyrics expressed the feelings of the movie so well, I couldn't help but feel like I could hear the thoughts of the main character, his desire.

If you haven't seen the movie, it is good, but the ending offends every sensibility I have as a romance author, be prepared. That said, I still really liked it, and draw a lot of inspiration from that film. The love scene has to be one of the best I've seen in a movie, ever. There's a vulnerability that I really try to touch at in the love scenes I write.

This got me thinking about a documentary I watched about the origins of art and music. The documentary went through ancient civilization and tried to find the oldest form of living art. By that, they were trying to find an artform still practiced today that is identical to the older incarnations of that art. They came to the conclusion that the oldest living art is the art of the Aborigines in Australia. The pictures and forms currently created by modern aboriginal artists are nearly identical to works that are thousands of years old.

They discovered that the longevity of these iconic images can be attributed to stories sung by the Aborigines around fires as they look at the pictures on rocks and caves around them. The music ties so deeply to the imagery, that modern artists reproduce the images identically, and the images inspire the story in an endless cycle, sustaining both artforms.

The modern incarnation of this is movie soundtracks. You can't hear a John Williams score without being about to immediately identify it, from Superman. Ba ba ba ba baaaa ba ba ba. Baaa ba ba ba ba, BA DA DA! You just heard it in your head, didn't you.

Or Indiana Jones, Da da da Daaaa, duh da da. Buh da da DAAAAA, buh da DA DA DA!

Need I go on. Now who here can see Christopher Reeves, and Harrison Ford in their head?

I know some authors create a songlist to accompany their books, and frankly, that's brilliant, because of this mental connection we make between song, art, and story. I wish I could, but I have a hard time finding music that fits with my ideas. It would be awesome to have someone "score" a book.

But I guess none of us get that,

Until they make a movie.......

Hmmmmm

Jess

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blogging...something else to feel guilty about

I have a huge talent for guilt. I feel guilty that I'm not writing. I feel guilty that I ate an extra piece of chocolate. I feel guilty that I didn't jog...that my bathrooms are disgusting...that my kids aren't all shiny and sweet smelling. And now with the age of the Internet I get to feel guilty that I don't blog.

Lovely, isn't it?

See, I'm supposed to blog here every Friday. You will notice if you go back in time that I've missed a couple of day, and a few others slipped to Saturday or Sunday. You will also notice that other authors here have missed, but somehow that doesn't lessen my guilt. Because, you know, I'm supposed to do better. Hmmm....I'm thinking I can pin this guilt onto some elementary teacher in my past...or my mother. Mothers are always good for such things.

Now, if it was just this blog it would be that bad, but wander by my personal blog...there are dust bunnies the size of my car roaming around there. Or Shapeshifterromance. I actually told them I was going to leave because I was so bad and they said no, don't worry about it. I still feel guilty. Then there is the Nocturne blog at eHarlequin, my LiveJournal...and probably more I am forgetting. None hear from me more than sporadically. Let's face it, I just stink at blogging. But I'm swell at signing up for them.

So, this is a public warning for anyone thinking of asking me to participate in a group blog on a regular basis--Don't. It will save me some guilt and you having to clean up all those dust bunnies.

How about you? What do you do to set yourself up for guilt?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Words, Words, Words

A couple weeks ago, I published the winners of a newspaper contest on making up new words.

And that got me thinking about how language is constantly changing and how all of us–as readers and writers–need to keep up with the latest and the greatest.

In keeping with that thought, here are the newest words that have been accepted by the new Oxford American Dictionary.

Unfriend–defined as a verb which means to remove someone as a friend a social networking site. Unfriends has been named word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary because, according to one senior lexicographer, "It has both current and potential longevity."

Other finalist words:

Hashtag–the hash sign added to a word or phrase that lets Twitter users search for tweety similarly tagged. (Maybe someone who knows something about Twitter can explain this one...it makes no sense to me!)

Intexticated–people who are distracted by texting while driving. Love this one! And I think each and every one of those intexticated people should be stopped, pulled out of their cars, their vehicles should be impounded and they should be charged a HUGE fee to get them back.

Sexting--sending sexually explicit pictures by cellphone. I actually knew this one, but that’s because I watch Law & Order.

Freemium--a business model in which some basic services are provided for free.

Funemployed--people who take advantage of newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests.

Birthers–the conspiracy theorists challenging President Barack Obama's U.S. birth certificate.

Choice mom--a woman who chooses to be a single mother.

Deleb--a dead celebrity. Love this one, too. Says so much! And isn't it true...we hear more about them after they're gone than we ever did while they were alive, as if being dead suddenly makes them so special.

Tramp stamp--referrs to a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman. Oh, how true!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Huge Science Fiction Romance Giveaway!

Hi everyone!

It's that time of year again, time for massive book giveaways online!

Yay holidays!

Head on over to the Galaxy Express for the SFR Holiday Blitz.

Twelve different blogs have joined forces for a massive 30 book giveaway. Stroll through all the connected links, leave a message and be part of the frenzy. It's a lot of fun.

I've donated two signed copies of Beyond the Rain, but there is a treasure trove of books being given away.

Have fun everyone!

Jess

Friday, December 4, 2009

Black Friday....where I was LAST week.

It has been a week since the Black Friday insanity. How many of you were out by 4 a.m.? 5? 6? My mother and I got to Walmart around 6:20 a.m.--not that crazy for me since I am up by 6 pretty much every morning anyway. What was insane was 1.) the line to get in...Yes, they were keeping people from entering because the store was over capacity and 2.) the complete lack of deals.

The second is what annoyed me. In the past there have been bins of things like DVDs and bargain video games sitting in the aisles. Not this year, and the one thing I really came for was already sold out. Oh, and the line!! That may actually have been the problem. It was so long it wrapped around the store touching about every aisle. You couldn't get through it or around it. This completely blocked any real shopping.

We left empty handed and headed to Target.
Target was better. The line was easy to stomach and there were a FEW sales. I won't say deals because I really don't think you could use that term fairly, BUT on checkout we did get a rebate gift card (mine was $10). That was nice.

From there we headed to Toys 'r us (them of the accidental double charging--anyone get hit with that?), Barnes and Noble (We actually got there and realized it was before 9 a.m. We had to come back.) and JoAnn's Fabrics. All said and done, I got a lot of presents, but I did not feel like I got any real deals and I really felt like merchants left money on the table by not having good sales and not having enough stock.

What about you? Did you hit Black Friday deals? How about Cyber Monday? How do you feel about the Christmas spending season so far?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Joy of Reading

Okay, I'll admit it...I get bored easily. Once I read that someone who finds themselves in that situation frequently has a "small" mind. If that's truly the case, then mine must be about the size of a walnut! With my lack of mobility over the past few weeks, I've had to face my boredom repeatedly. (It's amazing how much of what we do requires bending, lifting, and stooping!!) I've also had to face that Vicodin and creativity don't go hand in hand. (It's hard to be creative when said creativity is a little on the foggy side, so spending a lot of time writing hasn't been too much of an option either.)

So how have I been amusing myself?? Well, I've watched movies; sewed (at last count I'm up to ten throw pillows); done as much house cleaning as I can; and read. A LOT! Sci Fi/Fantasy; Romance; Mystery; Anthologies...C.J. Box; Nora Roberts; Elizabeth Peters; Bill Bryson; Jim Butcher. I've borrowed anything that I could get my hands on, plus made a trip to the bookstore to add to my supply. As a result, instead of being hemmed in by four walls, I've spent time via these books in Colorado, 19th Century England, Alera, and right now, I'm following the intrepid Vicki Bliss and her art thief (reformed) boyfriend, Sir John Tregarth, around Europe and Egypt as they try and discover just who stole Tutankhamon's mummy.

I've also, from a writer's perspective, spent time thinking about what makes these books special and so entertaining to me. They're all very different. For example, in a love scene, Nora Roberts gets right to it, if you know what I mean, where as Elizabeth Peters only "alludes" to what happens between the hero and heroine, yet I love both of these authors. So is it the characters? The settings? The snappy dialogue? The turn of a phrase? I don't know...I wish I did...all I know is that each one has helped turn what could've been a long, boring day into something interesting.

How about you? Have you ever considered why your favorite books are "favorites"? What is it about a particular read that makes you sad when you reach the words, "The End"?

That's it for this week...time to go catch up with Vicki and John!!! Happy reading and have a good one!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Being (Any One of) Me

There’s a lot to be said for having multiple personalities.


That is, if you’re a writer!


As an author, I’ve had a chance to write both historical and contemporary romance (as Constance Laux and Connie Lane), YA horror (I was Connie Laux and Zoe Daniels for those gigs), and even a book for kids (written under the name of an oh-so-famous children’s author).


I’ve also had the chance to write two very different mystery series. Of course, under two different names.


You’ve read about my Pepper Martin mysteries here on the blog. They’re the ones I write as Casey Daniels. They’re set in Cleveland, and they feature a heroine who works in a cemetery and solves mysteries for the ghosts there. They are (if I say so myself) smart, sassy and have just enough woo-woo in them to keep readers coming back for more.


But what I don’t talk about as often is the other mystery series I write. They’re called the Cooking Class mysteries and the latest, Murder Has a Sweet Tooth, is brand-spanking-new out this week.


These mysteries are more traditional cozies. They feature a heroine named Annie who is far less feisty and trendy than ol’ Pepper. In fact, in one of the books, Annie confesses that she loves lots and lots of color in her life–as long as it’s all some shade of beige.


Sweet Tooth is the fifth book in the series, following Cooking Up Murder, Murder on the Menu, Dead Men Don’t Get the Munchies and Dying for Dinner. In this installment of Annie’s adventures, she’s planning her wedding to Jim, the Scottish hunk who owns the pub/restaurant where she works. But even though Annie is head over heels in love with Jim, she can’t help feeling jealous of her new women friends who have the lives of perfect suburban wives. Perfect homes. Perfect children. Perfect husbands.


It’s enough to make any bride-to-be feel as if she’s getting short changed.


Until somebody is murdered–and Annie has to solve what could just be the perfect crime!


Like a lot of cooking-themed mysteries, the Cooking Class mysteries include recipes. Here’s one from Murder Has a Sweet Tooth for you to enjoy for the holidays!


Happily-Ever-After Fried Mars Bars


1 Mars (or Milky Way) bar per person
1 cup white flour
½ cup corn flower
1 pinch baking soda
milk or beer
oil for deep frying


Chill the candy bar in the refrigerator. Mix the flours and baking soda together. Add milk or beer until the batter is the consistency of thin cream. Heat the oil until a small piece of bread dropped in browns in a few seconds. Don’t allow the oil to burn. Remove wrapper from the candy bar. Coat the bar with batter. Carefully lower candy bar into hot oil and fry until golden brown. Can be served topped with whipped cream.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Biker dogs in trouble

As a lot of you know, I write about a gang of geriatric biker witches. And there's also a dog in the books - he rides Harleys too.

I learned everything I know about Harley riding dogs from the real-life bikers who have been so generous with their stories and their time. These biker dog owners are some of the most friendly, generous people I've met. You can read more about them here.

This morning, I heard from Jesse, who is head of the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club. One of their members is being unfairly targeted for riding with his dog. It's sad and it's wrong. I told him I'd pass the word and maybe somebody knows somebody who can help. Here's what's going on:

Hello,
This is an appeal to anyone who might be able to help avert a sad and totally unnecessary
injustice about to befall a nice person and his special dog. This is not the typical story or appeal. It is longer than we wished, but a number of facts must be known to appreciate this situation. Although this involves low-level bureaucratic harassment, a good man’s unusual mission in an unusual life could be crushed on December 10th, just as we enter what should be a happy holiday season.

For decades, Jeremiah Gerbracht and a dynasty of amazing canine companions have safely
ridden hundreds of thousands of miles on his dog-friendly Harley-Davidson. The area in front of him where the dog rides is modified for the dog’s comfort and safety, and any area which gets hot is shielded. The canine half of this partnership, Sir Davidson, is impressively at home on the motorcycle. Without suggesting that a dog on a motorcycle is a good fit for riders in general, Jeremiah has unquestionably proven his expert ability to safely transport his best friend. Riding down the street in black clothes and a black leather top-hat, resembling a biker Santa giving a street-level sleigh ride to a big white German Shepherd, he has become a beloved urban figure. He has even been featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. When not in motion, he and Sir Davidson are invariably surrounded by curious and delighted onlookers.

For several years leading up to 1999, as Jeremiah routinely attracted the attention of ticket-minded police officers, he repeatedly received and prevailed over traffic citations. He demonstrated time after time that, counter to the impressions of the officers, he was not in fact breaking the law. As a result, he gained some officers’ respect, even riding at their invitation in police-sponsored events. He also incurred some resentment for his repeated victories. In 1999, in apparent retaliation for his consistent knockouts of the city in the ticket bouts, he was charged with a misdemeanor violation of City Municipal code 53.35, which states:

SEC. 53.35. ANIMALS – TRANSPORTATION OF.
No person shall transport or carry on the running board of any motor vehicle or
outside of the portion of any motor vehicle designed for passengers or of the tonneau or body
thereof any animal unless such animal is protected by a framework or other device which will
prevent such animal from falling off or being thrown from such motor vehicle during the
operation thereof.

In confirmation of his previous proofs of innocence, he won this court case as well. In short, he
demonstrated that the design of his Harley, in conjunction with the position of the dog and his own body satisfied the law, and the judge agreed that he was not in violation, as usual.

Jeremiah was back on the road.. His own dog being a registered service dog, Mr. Gerbracht had combined his interests and become a picturesque advocate for people with service dogs. Jeremiah, who knows the statutes, helps people with problems resulting from many citizens’ and law-enforcement officers’ lack of specific knowledge of the legal rights of people relying on service animals.


Jeremiah and Sir Davidson’s current predicament began only a few months ago when a
seemingly friendly police officer, met in the course of Jeremiah’s service animal advocacy, either did not believe or disliked the advocate’s established right to ride with his dog. He reported Jeremiah to the DMV, citing inaccurate and negative claims regarding Mr. Gerbracht’s health. Subsequently, Jeremiah received and complied with demands by the DMV to submit proof of good health and to re-take their vision test and the written portion of the driving test. He did, and passed all of the tests with flying colors. With the successful completion of these requests, he thought his problems were over.

However, the worst was yet to come—

Not able to subvert the decision of the courts in any other way, the DMV now sent a demand to re-take the driving test itself---incredibly, with his dog on board. Although the DMV’s entire claim against the advocate is that this is not a proper activity, despite many past victories and a judge’s decision to the contrary, they are now demanding that he take the test in violation of what they themselves erroneously claim is the law. In an irony which should not be overlooked, the very notice to appear for the test appointment states that no pets or passengers are allowed in the vehicle during the test.

It can be reasonably assumed that demanding the test with the dog is a desperate last ploy(they apparently, like the city, don’t like losing) to take away Jeremiah’s license to operate his Harley, his only means of transport and more importantly, the core and fiber of his whole life. He is the man with the dog on the Harley. He is already suffering greatly with this frivolous but sharp axe hanging over the simple life he has built. Petty bureaucrats are dutifully pushing a false premise to its sad conclusion, unless this test can be stopped.

Not only would imposing the test with the dog onboard be in violation of their own test rules, the test course itself is an environment filled with distractions not found in real life and will no doubt especially be a circus due to the novelty of the dog on the bike. Additionally, the course is not designed for motorcycles as large as Jeremiah’s. Riders often substitute a smaller bike when facing this challenging track, but Jeremiah can’t use a substitute, as no other bike has been designed for Sir Davidson’s safety. Even if the test were perfectly executed, the scoring is not objective, and could be used unfairly against the man who dared oppose the agency. Forcing him to take the test is a set-up for failure.

The test is a trap into which Jeremiah and Davidson must not step.

Here is the appeal: Jeremiah and Sir Davidson need someone who can short-circuit this dirty trick attempt to overrule the courts and beat him down. Is there anyone with the power to persuade the original complaining officer, the DMV or even the Governor that this has gone on long enough, and that Mr. Gerbracht has done more than enough to demonstrate that he is legally in the right and is the best at what he does?

It would be ideal to nip this in the bud before it is necessary to involve the courts, for which
there is no budget, but it may be that an attorney who sees the injustice would come forward to help. This would, of necessity, require a pro bono effort, not easy to find. Jeremiah and Sir Davidson need help, right away. The test is Dec. 10th. Anyone with ideas or the connections or the ability to help prevent the onrushing and life-crushing sabotage of this good and caring man can contact us at [I'm pulling the phone number, but if you know someone who can help, email me at angie @ angiefox. com].

Thanks for reading this lengthy appeal.

And I know this is small potatoes compared to what is happening here, but anyone who can help will get the entire Accidental Demon Slayer series, including the books that haven't come out yet.

Thanks for reading.
Angie

Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Definition of Busy

Hello, holiday rush,

I really can't say I've missed you. I usually put aside most writing tasks during the holidays, because I know me. I don't ever get anything done. I love this time of year, and usually my time is spent entertaining, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and doing a ton of other holiday tasks that just don't happen unless I do them.

It's funny how I just can't let them go. I'm not willing to not have a holiday because I threw in the towel. And so I trudge on with a cheery heart.

I do love this time of year and I take great pride in what I consider all the creative endeavors of the holidays, from inventing a new twist on cranberry sauce, to decorating cookies.

But all that expended creative energy leaves me completely drained, and I just can't seem to write.

So how do you do it? Who out there gets more productive this time of year?

Any tips on streamlining the endless holiday tasks?

Jess

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Life has been rather challenging lately, but recently I had the opportunity to attend "Murder and Mayhem in Muskego" thanks to an invitation from Ruth and Jon Jordan of CRIMESPREE Magazine and Penny at the Muskego Public Library. Not only did I have a great time meeting those who attended the conference, but I got to hang out with some really cool authors!! The whole experience brought home, once again, why I love being an author! Here's my top five reasons:

1. As stated above, I get to hang out with other authors and it's been my experience that they're a great bunch of people. Funny and generous with both their time and knowledge...each time I'm with them, I learn more about the craft of writing.
2. The readers...there's nothing more rewarding to me as an author to meet those who've enjoyed Ophelia and Abby. All of my life, reading has been important to me and it's given me an escape during tough times. I've always been grateful for the entertainment that my favorite authors have provided for me. Now as an author, when someone tells me that my work has done the same for them...well, it just doesn't get any better than that! It makes me feel that, at least in some way, I'm giving back what has so richly been given to me over the years.
3. I love the dress code! Except for when I'm doing events, I get to wear ratty, old t-shirts and sweats. I don't have to worry if it's a bad hair day, or if my makeup's okay. I can stumble out of bed, do a few ablutions, grab my coffee, and I'm good to go. No fuss; no muss, and the fact that the way I look could possibly frighten small children doesn't come into play. ;)
4. The hours...they're whenever I want. If an idea is simmering and I need to get it down, be it eight o'clock in the morning, or midnight, I can work on it at my pleasure. Not too many occupations allow that kind of freedom.
5. I can create my own world. And one in which the hero always wins, justice is always served, and I have all day to think up one clever line. In the real world...not so much. The good guys don't always win, justice sometimes seemed to be stymied by rules and regulations, and cleverness? After the fact...usually what I should've said hits me two hours later.

But without you and your support, the above list wouldn't exist. So on this Thanksgiving 2009, I'd like to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to call myself an author!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm too busy to write this.

You're too busy to read it.

So we'll just leave it at...Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Norman Rockwell eat your heart out

This past Sunday, we had an early Thanksgiving. My husband and had been talking about the rush we go through every year (and how he gets no leftovers after we make the rounds of our relatives). And wouldn't it be great to have a day just to relax? So we decided to have our own mini-feast.

No frills. Just turkey and dressing and a few sides. And pie. Had to have the pie. So just a basic dinner and pie. Of course you have to have the cranberry mush. So we added that. And no dress code. Every year we dress up. So Thanksgiving at our house would be super casual. My daughter took this literally and showed up for dinner in her nightgown.

Of course it wasn't exactly Norman Rockwell. Our bird wasn't quite as impressive. And it started dripping on the floor as soon as my husband tried to carve it. The dog thought that was great. She was in heaven, licking it up. We should have stopped her, but it was funny and if you're entertaining in our house, you get a pass. Of course as soon as she gets really going, we realize the turkey is still dripping a bit and now the dog has grease all over the top of her head.

But she had fun. We had a blast and we got just what we wanted - a relaxing holiday. Now on to the real one...!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Power of Your Name

How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! — John Proctor, The Crucible by A. Miller


Hi everyone,

I've been very bleary eyed this week because like many others in the publishing industry, I've been following the news unfolding about Harlequin's association with Author Solutions. If you haven't heard about this, and would like to know what is going on, I've followed this discussion over on Smart Bitches.

I think I've said enough about the venture in the discussion. Today I'd like to continue the previous post's thoughts and talk about the power of your name.

I remember reading and discussing The Crucible in high school. Out of all the quotes from that play, the only one that stuck with me is the one I quoted above.

I remember sitting in class as a teenager, and a discussion broke out because many of my teen peers just didn't get it. They didn't understand why a man would die to protect the integrity of his name. I'm not sure if I really understood it then. Teens are remarkably short-sighted, and don't seem to realize the value of their public identity. I've seen things on teen's social networking sites that make my head spin and now as an adult the one though that comes to mind is, "What are you doing to yourself?!"

But that's the trick. I'm not lamenting what they've done, because had they done it in private, they could heal in the long run. I'm lamenting what they've done to their personal identity by making stupid mistakes public.

Our identity is powerful. I understand that now. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I recognize the importance of protecting and defending my name.

I had a friend who went in for a job interview, and had the interviewer throw down pictures of a porn dominatrix and accuse my friend of being a porn star because they shared the same name and unfortunately, hair color. She was immediately dismissed, and shell shocked, because no matter how many times she told the idiot interviewer, "This isn't me." The woman wouldn't listen. According to her, there it was in black and white, her name.

Our name is our lasting stamp on the mark we leave on this world. Take very special care that your name is used for good, and your name will become more powerful.

Look at the name, Oprah.

It didn't exist until Oprah's family misspelled the biblical figure, Orpah. Just contemplate the power of that single name for a moment.

Even in Shakespeare, Juliet laments, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." — Romeo and Juliet (II,ii, 1-2)


While in this line alone, she seems to say the name Montague isn't important, she loves him for him, the two young lovers seem to know they cannot escape their names. In order to find love, he'd have to deny his father and refuse his name, or else she will deny hers.

In the end, our name is more than our name. It is our identity. It needs to be protected. It takes one ugly mistake to damage it, possibly irrevocably. And while our lives our fleeting, or names have the power to be immortal.

Please protect them.

Jess

Friday, November 20, 2009

The big decision...names

As you probably know names are a big deal for authors. Some spend days searching for just the right one...the meaning has to be right, the sound has to be right (I had to change a name of a character from one book to another because my editor thought it was too feminine for a hero.), everything has to be right.

And here at the Devoti household things are no different. We take picking names very seriously. Except we aren't naming characters or babies (Man, that was hard!) no we are naming dogs.

Over the years my husband and I have named four dogs together. The first was an 120 pound Alaskan malamute that we got as a 10 week old puppy. We went the map route. We looked at Alaska and picked Kiska Denali. We called him Kiska. Our next dog was a stray. He was a piebald (white with black spots) Siberian husky who weighed in at 75 pounds. He came with a collar with a rubber key chain from a bank attached that must have served as his tag. They had scribbled Niki on the back, but what I saw was the bank's name...or what I thought the bank's name was. I saw Roosevelt. The real name was Ravali (a county in Montana), but Roosevelt he was. Next came an Australian shepherd/German shepherd mix that we got at the local humane society. He was six months old and he was kind of a mistake. I saw his picture in the paper and thought he had some malamute in him. When we got there I realized my mistake, but...well...I couldn't leave him there! So, we had three dogs. This guy was hard. My husband and I argued and argued. We went through every historical name we could think of and finally, he won. Our pound puppy became Sherman.

Then finally, there was Meriwether. Meriwether was also a piebald Siberian husky. We got him as a puppy from Canada and he was the sweetest dog to ever cross a national line. As you can tell, we stuck with our historical figure theme and went a bit back to our roots. We are both from Missouri and traveled to Montana...not exactly on Lewis and Clark's trail, but close enough. :)

Now we have new puppy. New puppy has a lot of hopes penned on him. As I think I mentioned we had a rough year with dogs. Both Sherman (who we'd had for 14 years) and Meriwether died this summer. Then we got a rescue dog who bit my son, sending him to the emergency room. We've been sad and beaten. And this poor little 15 pounds of white fur has to pull that load. What kind of name does he deserve?

My husband pulled out his list. Yes, the man keeps a list. We narrowed it down to five with Truman being a top runner. But then my son (who due to circumstances got extra votes) vetoed it. We were stumped. Then I remembered a name that didn't fit our usual criteria, but that my daughter loved. I ran it by my son. He approved. I ran it by the DH...he balked. I pointed to his children...he capitulated.

And Despereaux was named!

Here's one of his early pictures, actually from before we got him...

What do you think? Does his name fit? And how about you? How important are names to you for your kids, your pets and characters?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Back!!!

I'm back! The surgery went well and I'm home. A little on the sore side...I certainly won't be running any foot races anytime soon...but then again, I wasn't all that hot at foot races before the surgery!! Anyway, so far so good, and I expect to be back to normal (whatever that is! *g*) in a few weeks.

However sitting for an extended period of time is a challenge, so this blog will be another short one. Just long enough to announce last week's winner of a signed copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE! Linda Henderson. (Your granddaughter truly does sound like a miracle baby, Linda, and best wishes to her and your family!!!) Send me (shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com) your address and I'll get THE WITCH'S GRAVE off to you as soon as possible.

Last thing...thanks to everyone who posted last week and thanks for all the good vibes! They worked!

Take care and I'll see you next week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

These are just too much fun not to share. Here are the winners of the Washington Post neologism contest in which readers were asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question in an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): it's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The colour you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The truth about writers' spaces

Last night, I was tooling around online and came across this article about "writers spaces." It talked about where writers write - and all of them wrote in these lovely, inspired, Pottery-Barn-would-be-jealous spaces that no mortal could design. Seriously. We're talking interior decorator spaces. I know I should have been impressed, but instead, I had to snarf out loud. Several times. Are these people writing or dickering around with their writers spaces?

The article talked about this being the way to find your muse and "pour out your genius." And I'm not saying it doesn't work for some people. Obviously, I'm not a genius. But I will tell you this. Brainiac or not, you're not writing if you're busy picking out drapes. And worse, it occurred to me that unpubbed writers might think that a fancy office is necessary in order to lock in that first sale.

But here's the truth: It's not about the color of your computer or what's on the walls. It doesn't matter if you have the most gorgeous office ever if you're not inspired by your work. I have an office, but I've written every single one of my novels while sitting on the green couch in the family room. I like it. It's comfortable. And it's close to the refrigerator.

In short (too late), I think the danger in making things "perfect" before you get to work is that you'll never get there. In the end, writers write. Even when it's not pretty. Especially when it's not pretty. Because if your story is gripping you so hard that you have to get back to the keyboard every day, chances are, it'll move you readers as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Harvest

As I was out raking leaves yesterday, and spreading them out as mulch over the new flowerbed, I got to thinking about the harvest.

I think we've gotten away from the experience of the harvest a little with year round produce neatly packaged in nice little baggies in the grocery store. At one point, the stores you set to help you survive the winter were placed there by the hard work of your own hands.

In the spring, new shoots held the promise of plenty and survival for the hard times, through summer, each plant became an embodiment of the care and sweat it took to grow them. And in the fall, that hard work was reaped fulfilling the promise that winter would not be desolate.

But the reaping, while a celebration was also a lot of hard physical work.

It doesn't surprise me that we have a feast in the fall to celebrate the harvest. It is a way of giving thanks for the ability to survive through the work of our hands, our minds, and our backs. It is a celebration of the people who share in our bounty and make it possible.

It's time to return to that way of thinking.

So today, I'm thinking of my writing. I just turned in the revisions for Beyond the Shadows. I feel like a farmer waiting for that fruit to ripen before I can pick it. I see it's potential and I'm proud, but I won't begin to reap the reward of my effort until it is out there for all to see. So I have to be patient and wait.

In the mean time, I've got a new sprout to tend. We'll see how well it bears fruit.

And while I work through the lonely winter of a writer's life, my first copy of my first book sits on my desk reminding me that my efforts to this point have given me something tangible.

Here are the things I have harvested,

A sense that my effort for nine years trying to write was not wasted.
Validation that I can contribute something to the greater world.
Fan mail. :)
Resources I earned that help me do more for my writing like build my website and go to conventions.
Great joy in writing and sharing my stories with an audience who seems to enjoy them.
A feeling that I've created something special.
A new sense of community with a growing subgenre.

What about you? Even if you're a reader, or aren't yet published, what have you harvested through your love of the romance genre?

Jess

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Planning life...

I am a big planner. Usually I do it twice a year--once when everyone else does it, January 1 and once at the beginning of the school year, around the beginning of September.

This year, however, I got sidetracked. I was overwhelmed with writing projects--deadlines, copy edits, art fact sheets, etc.--and really didn't have the time or energy to think about where I wanted to go next. Honestly, I just wanted to wade through what I already had on my plate.

Then we (the Devoti family) had a few setbacks. Both of our dogs died this summer. We got a new dog that we adopted from a rescue organization. This dog had a lot of potential, but quite honestly needed to be in a home without kids while that potential was realized. He bit my son--badly. As in ambulance, five hours in the emergency room badly. We all survived, but it was a tad of an emotional setback as you can probably imagine.

Meanwhile, we were also dealing with not getting H1N1. My kids both have cystic fibrosis which makes them high high risk for the virus. A child in my son's class got the flu and we decided to pull both kids from school while waiting for the vaccine--which we thought would be soon. UH, no, it wasn't.

I've been homeschooling for about two months....

BUT....finally we got the vaccine, we got a new dog (a puppy), AND my book that I've been working on is being sent to Harlequin tomorrow! Let us all yell hallelujah. :)

And now I can think about planning again...maybe...because if this past few months taught me anything it's that you really can't plan life. Can you? ;-)

How about you? Are you a planner? Do you get comfort from your plan or when things get off track does it just upset you more?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Think Positive

The last six weeks of my life have contained some real highs (acceptance of the new book proposal) and some lows (that sciatica I mentioned a few weeks ago??? Seems it's being caused by a herniated disc pinching a nerve, and the only treatment at this point is surgery. Next Monday at 10:45...not a big deal...overnight at the hospital followed by a four week recovery.) Anyway, as I sail into this, I've been trying to focus on what I appreciate most in my life, and since Thanksgiving is right around the corner asking the same question of you seemed appropriate.

So that's the question...what are you most thankful for? Post a comment and be entered to win a signed copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE. I'll announce the winner next week. (Yes, by then I will be up and about!)

Take care and have a good one!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do You Believe? (The Sequel)




Our instructions were really pretty simple:



#1 Stay together with your investigation group. After all, we were in a city cemetery in the middle of the night. It would be easy to get turned around, and easier still to slip or trip on a headstone hidden under the fallen leaves.



#2 Don’t provoke. Although a lot of paranormal investigators use this technique–trying to rile the spirits to get some response–the Shadowseekers group we were with doesn’t believe in annoying the dead.



#3 If we saw a dark shadow...walk away from it, not toward it.

And so our paranormal investigation continued!



Last week, I promised an update on my husband's EVP work. He walked the cemetery with a digital recorder, hoping to get evidence of sounds or voices that we couldn’t hear with our ears. Well, the investigation lasted 2 ½ hours, and I listened to all 2 ½ hours of that recording. Didn’t hear a thing, except David crunching through the leaves and saying to himself, "What’s wrong with me? Here I am in the middle of the night, in a cemetery, talking to myself."



Three cheers for investigators who have the patience to listen to these sorts of recordings routinely. I found it tedious to the extreme!



I, on the other hand, was walking along with Tammie, the head of Shadowseekers, and taking photos. I did take some that were interesting. Are they spirits? I really can’t say. I can say that I’m logical and rational (most of the time) enough to know that what I’ve captured on some of these photos might be dust of moisture that I’m looking at as orbs. And the mists? Well, I guess they could be someone’s breath, though with holding a digital camera far enough away to see the screen, that seems unlikely to me. I’ll let you decide.



I can say that paranormal investigations are fun and fascinating. Can’t wait to do it again!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What do you think?

I was doing a signing a few weeks ago when someone came to my table with a Kindle case. It seems some readers no longer have books to sign - at least not the kind with paper covers. And I thought this was clever - she's having authors sign her Kindle case with a black Sharpie. It made me smile, and I signed.

Another reader who was waiting saw what had happened and reached into her purse. It turns out she carries her Kindle everywhere she goes. She also reads paper books and I signed one for her, along with her Kindle. I was the first author to sign that one. No doubt, there will be more.

Now I've been hearing about e-readers for years, but that day at the signing, it finally clicked just how mainstream they've become. I know - you're saying, "Fox, get with the program." And I will. I have. Still, I'm one of those people who needs a paper book. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I like turning the top corner of the right-hand page when I want to mark my place (book abuse) and I'll even (gasp) write in my favorite books sometimes. Now someone is probably saying you can do all that (save the folding) with an e-reader, but I'm just not ready.

But I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only one. Barnes & Noble just released the Nook. Amazon is upgrading the Kindle and Sony also has an e-reader out there. I'm sure there are more. So what about you? Do you have one of the e-readers? If so, how do you like it? And is there anyone else out there like me, who just has to have a paper book in their hands?

Winner in the Marcia James giveaway

We have a winner in the Marcia James giveaway. She's one of ten authors who donated short stories to the Berkley anthology, Tails of Love, which has raised $10,000 since June for an Ohio no-kill animal shelter. Brenda Lee Watson wins an e-book of Marcia's comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, starring Smokey, the undercover DEA drug-sniffing "crestie."

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Burden of Perfection

Hi everyone,

How many perfectionists are out there? Raise your hands.

I have to admit, I'm not one of them. For me, I'm usually satisfied if I've done the very best job I know I can do, and I'm good with that.

I'm thinking about all the revisions I've had to do lately, and the extensive amount of work it takes to focus on every sentence, every comma, every single letter in every word to make sure it is "perfect," and at the same time knowing that it can't be perfect.

I don't think I really know what perfect is.

Is perfect a book without a single typo or formatting error? I think that's what we all strive for. I know I personally read through my manuscripts at least ten times, and pass them by five different beta readers trying to scour out those nasty little things.

I have another writer friend of mine who swears gremlins live in our computers and add new ones in to mess with us after we finish our edits. I'm starting to believe it.

Is perfect a book that never once yanks me out of the story? Again, that certainly is a goal worth striving for. I read a book that's pretty popular, but the overuse of two words was so egregious I couldn't overlook it as a reader. Then there are character actions that I don't get, or a trope I don't care for rearing its ugly head.

And that's the problem with this type of perfection, there's too much variation person to person to please everyone.

So what are we left with?

If perfection is unattainable, personal effort is not. The only thing I can reasonably achieve is control over my effort toward a book. The day I feel guilty because something isn't perfect is the day I admit to myself I didn't put forth my very best effort.

So long as I know I've done all I can, that feeling is perfection.

Jess

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do You Believe?

Do you believe in ghosts?

Last Sunday night, I met up with a group called The Shadow Seekers who are not only believers, but they’re working to prove the existence of spirits. They were kind enough to invite my husband and I along on a paranormal investigation at a historic cemetery.

For the record (and as if you don’t know it), I’m not exactly the great outdoors type. It was cold Sunday night, and I was dressed in so many layers of clothing, I looked like that poor kid in the snowsuit in "A Christmas Story" who couldn’t walk outside to play. But never let it be said that Casey Daniels is not a good sport! I had boot warmers. I had hand warmers. I was even smart enough to bring an entire bag of Halloween-size Snickers bars. Oh yeah, I was prepared, all right.

And in for quite an adventure!

We met at the cemetery at 9:30 and split up into groups. Zorro and I went along with Tammie, the head of The Shadow Seekers, and her husband, Rich. It was great to get their expert points of view on paranormal investigations and what we should or shouldn’t do. Zorro was our EVP man. He carried a digital tape recorder and did his best to get the spirits talking in response to the questions he asked. Tammie and I headed out with our cameras.

And what did we find?

Well, I learned a few important things, and if they will ever make their way into one of my Pepper Martin mysteries, I can’t say. But I do know that taking photos in a dark cemetery isn’t easy. I was never sure exactly what I was going to get. I also learned that a cemetery surrounded by city streets and city traffic isn’t the quietest place to rest in peace! I wonder if the folks buried there could ever have imagined that the quiet, country cemetery where they chose their plots would someday be surrounded by activity.

One of our first stops was a beautiful monument to a girl who died at age seventeen about one hundred years ago. The angel statue atop her monument is surrounded by glass (depending on which story you believe, that’s either because it was once stolen or because it sometimes disappears and reappears!). Tammie had her own tape recorder going and we stopped there to "chat" with the grave’s resident.

"Is anyone with us here tonight?" Tammie asked.

We were rewarded by nothing more than the sounds of city traffic and the crunch of the leaves at our feet.

Tammie didn’t let that stop her. "Can you give us a sign that you’re here? Can you tap on the glass?"

And yes, I am a writer. And of course that means I do have an active imagination. But I know what I heard in response.

And what I heard was a tapping on the glass!



As for our other adventures . . . tune in next week to see if David captured any EVPs. And what did show up on all those pictures I took in the dark???

Friday, November 6, 2009

Competing in the new world.

So, things are changing. Ebooks are getting bigger and bookstores are dying. Authors are more and more thinking about selling directly to consumers and with this new ease of publishing, there are more and more books on the virtual shelves.

As an author this can be scary because how will you stand out? As a reader it can be scary because how will you know if a book is decent? I mean we can bitch about NY and gatekeepers, yada yada but those gatekeepers do give us some baseline of quality. But in a new digital age, that just may not exist....What will we do then? (Which isn't to say a self-published book today can't be good, just that without a third party vetting system it is harder predict if a book will be good, or at least hit some level of quality.)

There will still be recommendations from other people, but as an author hoping to build a career on face to face word of mouth is well, crazy. You have to be able to reach bigger numbers at one time. How will we do that? As a reader what would you respond to?

One possibility is social networking. The idea being that if you can get a book talked up on Goodreads or Facebook it will be word of mouth on steroids. What do you think? Would you buy a book based on the rec of a "friend" you don't personally know?

Another is reviewers actually growing in selling power. How many of you think you would start to trust reviews more than you do now when looking for a new read if faced with thousands of books and authors you had never heard of?

A third, and one that has worked in music, is sampling. With music they can let you listen to an entire song for free because you will still buy it and listen to it over and over. With books we can't do that. You read the book, chances are you aren't going to be paying to read it again. But you might pay to read a book if you only read say a third of it, or if you read something else by that author like a short story or an older book.

What else? What methods do you think you will or would use to sift the good from the not so good in the new world of digital publishing? (when the days of wandering down an aisle and holding that book in your hands is in your past) Or are you going to simply trust the "if you liked this you might like this" recs of the booksellers?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Heart Pro-Animal Heroes!

Something Wicked would like to welcome Marcia James! She's one of ten authors who donated short stories to the Berkley anthology, Tails of Love, which has raised $10,000 since June for an Ohio no-kill animal shelter. In "Rescue Me", Marcia's contribution to this fundraising book, ex-quarterback Adam "Nuke" Baumgardner saves a starving stray, and the Chinese crested hairless dog returns the favor by reuniting him with his lost love, veterinarian Claire Mendelsohn.

Here's Marcia in her own words:

I love reading love stories featuring four-legged characters. Yes, shape-shifters are sizzling hot, but I'm talking about your basic dogs and cats. Nothing makes a hero more lovable than watching him bonding with a kitten or rescuing a puppy.

In Hollywood, screenwriters have long used the animal-themed short-cut to humanizing a character. When someone onscreen pets a dog, you know s/he is a good person. Remember As Good As It Gets, when Jack Nicholson's curmudgeon falls for the toy-sized dog?

I'm a sucker for Alpha heroes who like animals, and you'll always find pets in my "hot, humorous romances". My author logo is Smokey, the Chinese crested hairless dog from my first novel, At Her Command. Tiny "cresties" are the perfect comic sidekicks for my big, macho heroes. And writing about animals ties in with my avocation-supporting animal causes on a local and national level.

This first week in November is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, the perfect time to read about matchmaking animals in a romantic novel-like Tails of Love! This benefit anthology is the pet project (pun intended) of New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster, who contributes a story along with mine and those of award-winning authors Kate Angell, Stella Cameron, Dianne Castell, Anne Christopher, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder. Each of the ten stories features an animal-from cats and dogs to a monkey and a pygmy goat. And all of the authors' and agents' proceeds go to the Animal Adoption Foundation in Hamilton County, OH.

Tails of Love is available in trade paperback from online stores such as Amazon and from brick-and-mortar stores, like Barnes & Noble.

What is your favorite fictional four-legged character? Leave a comment (including your email address) to win an e-book of my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, starring Smokey, the undercover DEA drug-sniffing "crestie".

Who is my favorite fictional four-legged character-besides Smokey, of course? I have a soft spot in my heart for the crime-solving Siamese cats, Koko and Yum-Yum, from "The Cat Who…" mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun.

Happy National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week!
-- Marcia James

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Winners & Sayonara


Hey, everyone. By the time you're reading this, I will be on vacation in Acapulco. First, I have a winner to announce.

JenB, come on down! I need you to email your full name, address, and book choice to ann.aguirre at gmail.com. Since I'll be gone (and I'm not taking my laptop or my cell phone), your book will be sent out on the 9th. But never fear, I'll attend to it as soon as I'm on the clock again.

Second, I'm saying farewell here at Something Wicked. I'm having to pare down my commitments because I want to make sure I have the time I need to write my books. I'm rather obsessive about deadlines, you see. It gives me hives to consider being even a day late. So I'm doing some structural reorganization to make sure I can continue doing my job to the best of my ability.

It's been a pleasure blogging here. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Welcome Jennifer Lyon!

Hi, we'd like to welcome Jennifer Lyon to the blog today. She's the award winning author of Soul Magic, the latest in a fantastic series from Ballantine Books. While she's here, Jennifer has graciously offered to answer any questions we may have (we'll try to be gentle).

Can you tell us a little bit about Soul Magic?
It's the second book in the Magic series after BLOOD MAGIC.

Sutton West knows he's close to giving into the curse and going rogue. If that happens, he'll start killing innocent witches to harvest the power in their blood and lose his soul. Worse, Sutton has touched the blood of a witch, Dr. Carla Fisk, and the memory haunts him. He's torn between duel hungers; the deep desire for the woman and the dark craving for her witch blood.

Carla is haunted too-by her murdered twin sister. When she discovers that her sister's soul is trapped in a knife, she goes to Sutton for help in finding the knife so she can free Keri's soul to go onto Summerland.

Together as they battle a dangerous psychic, Sutton and Carla discover that Keri's twin bond with Carla is keeping her soul alive. And they soon realize that one of them is Sutton's soul mirror-but which one? Carla, the witch who is alive and that he already loves? Or Keri, the dead witch whose soul they are trying to free?

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
With this series, I know which witch hunter's story I want to tell next, so character comes first. But when I started the series, I had a premise in mind of witches and witch hunters who once worked together to fight evil and then they were torn apart by a curse, giving demons a foothold on earth. So it just depends…sometimes character sometimes plot!

What made you decide to write paranormal romance?
I have always loved witches! I was hooked from the time I saw my first BEWITCHED rerun when I was a little girl. Back in my unpublished days, I wrote a witch story that never sold, but I always wanted to try it again. Then one day, I just decided to go for it and write a story about witches the way that I always envisioned them..

What is the best writing advice you ever received?
When I was unpublished, it was to finish the book and keep going forward. Don't get stuck on revising the same three chapters, or don't get stuck on revising the same book over and over. Revising a book a couple times can be a great learning experience. But then start something new, keep writing forward. I can't credit anyone person for this advice, it's just what I heard over and over.

As a published author, it'd have to be from Maureen Child: "You know how to write a book. Now go do it." In other words, quit belly aching and get to work! (I need that advice, like, every day!)

How does your family feel about your career as a romance author?
My husband and kids are 110 percept supportive! My sister is my biggest fan and never tires of talking plots.

I dedicated my first published book to my mom who always told me, "You never know what you can do until you try. So get out there and try." She believed in my dream through eight years of rejections. She was very sick by the time I got my first contract offer, but she was thrilled, telling all the doctors and nurses and anyone she could get to listen. She didn't get to see my first book on the shelves, but when I held that first book in my hands, I knew it was her belief that helped create it.
As for others who might not be as supportive, I don't worry about it.

What are some of your influences/favorite books and authors?
So many! In high school, I read Stephen King and Rosemary Rogers, well actually, I read voraciously but those are the two I can think of off the top of my head. Out of high school, the names that come to mind are Dean Koontz, Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux as the ones that really inspired me to write. I've always read a mix of genres, with romance being the dominate one.

What are you reading right now?
Right now I'm reading RED HOT LIES by Laura Caldwell. And I have Roxanne St. Claire's MAKE HER PAY and John Saul's FACES OF FEAR next in line. That's an unusual line up for me, I usually read more paranormal which I just can't get enough of.

What is next in the series? For you as a writer?
Next will be Phoenix's story. I'm super excited about this book, tentatively titled, BLIND MAGIC. I'm still working on it, but I'll tell you this much: The heroine, Ailish is a blind witch handfasted to a demon and must find a way to break the handfast or she will die. Phoenix gets drawn into this unwillingly at first, but he's soon fighting to save the woman he loves from a fate he doesn't know how to stop.

I'm also working on a fun Brava Novella about a wizard with fried powers and a heroine who blackmails him into helping her find her missing grandmother. It's a fun book! It will be out fall of 2010 and sadly, I haven't even asked about the title yet!

How can readers find out more about you and your work?
Go to my blog at www.jenniferlyonbooks.com I keep that updated as much as possible.

Thank you Angie! It's been fun!

No problem, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by.
Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn't materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. SOUL MAGIC is the second book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. Jen's also has a super secret alter ego known as Jennifer Apodaca, the author of the award winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Cover Awesomeness!


How could I not show this off?

I'm so thrilled to announce that the sequel to Beyond the Rain, will be released May 4th, 2010.

Beyond the Shadows is an intense, heart-stopping read. I really loved writing it, and I can't wait for it to hit the shelves.

Honestly? I can't wait to hold that hot cover in my hands.

Here's the blurb.

A man of deception. A woman of justice. Can their fragile trust be strong enough to prevent a war?

Commander Yara knows perfect leadership requires perfect control and discipline. She has spent years living without the distraction of caring for anything—or anyone. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make. Yara has honed herself into the perfect heir to the Azralen throne, but a bloody coup could destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. She must return home to prevent war. Unfortunately the only ship available belongs to an Earthlen trader with no regard for authority—especially hers.

Cyn is a rebel, driven to protect those suffering at the hands of the Elite leaders of Azra. Using his alias to manipulate the lovely but icy commander onto his ship, he has to keep her from Azra long enough to ignite the revolution. But when he awakens a vibrant and feeling woman beneath that icy exterior, he gets more than he bargained for—love. He must find a way to convince Yara to join him, before they get caught in a web of deception that could tear their world apart.

To celebrate the new cover for Beyond the Shadows, and also to celebrate Beyond the Rain's bestsellerdom, I'm giving away a signed copy of Beyond the Rain on my blog. The contest is open until this Saturday, so there's plenty of time to jump in for your chance to win a copy.

Happy November everyone! And happy reading,

Jess Granger

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The first rule of fight club...

Hi, I'd like to welcome Lisa Kessler to the blog. She's an aspiring writer taking part in Paranormal Fight Club, a contest where aspiring writers battle it out to er...have me read their manuscript and coach them on it. Yeah, that part is kind of embarrassing. Fighting over the Fox. But it's a great contest and I'm honored as heck to be the prize.
And now that we're down to the final two, I thought I'd invite them to Something Wicked. Only they must obey the Second Rule of Paranormal Fight Club - no grand battles in the middle of the blog. Do you know how hard it is to get vampire blood out of the drapes?
Hi Angie!
Thanks so much for the spot on your Something Wicked blog!
I’m here to beg for votes… ahem… I mean encourage readers to join in the fun of the Final Round of the Paranormal Fight Club!
What is the Paranormal Fight Club? I'm so glad you asked!
Cue the Rocky fanfare
The Paranormal Fight Club is the newest writing contest sponsored by the Romance in the Backseat book review site. We started back at the first week of October with eight not-yet-published paranormal romance writers.
We all began our tales with the same writing prompt, but every story developed completely differently. Each week we posted a new chapter of our ongoing stories and readers voted for their favorites, with everyone battling for a fabulous grand prize… A chance to have NYT Best-selling author Angie Fox critique our manuscript!
So each week the two writers with the fewest votes were cut. And now we’re down to the Final Two. (It is a Fight Club so think vicious!)
I’m kidding. The camaraderie between all the writers in the Paranormal Fight Club has been inspirational. I’ve made new friends and really enjoyed the exercise of pacing a story to have four distinct acts.
When I started this journey, two characters popped to mind, but they weren't the ones I expected. I thought I was going to write about vampires, but instead I wrote about Talia, a Princess from Summerland who crossed the Veil into our world to escape an arranged marriage, and Keth the man who broke her heart to save her life.
Across the Veil grew into a love story that I never saw coming, but that made it incredibly fun to write.
I hope it’s equally enjoyable to read too! Stop by when you can, and don’t forget to vote
Thanks again to Angie Fox for her time and the space on her blog! And thanks to Romance in the Backseat for organizing such a fun contest.
Lisa Kessler – Across the Veil

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Since ghosts inhabit my Pepper Martin mystery series and Halloween is my favorite day of the year, it only seems fitting to run a quiz all about the holiday! Try your luck and see how much you know about October 31.

1. Is a pumpkin a fruit or a vegetable?

a) fruit
b) vegetable
c) Can I saw "all of the above?"
d) Got me!


2. Halloween originated from a pagan Celtic holiday. What was the name of it?

a) Uh...Halloween?
b) Samhain
c) Summer's Over
d) I know nothing about pagan Celts, just hand over the Peeps!


3. When the Romans took over Britain, they transformed Samhain into a holiday honoring Pomona, the goddess of fruits and gardens. They considered one fruit sacred, and these days, the tradition of honoring her has been transformed into one bobbing for this item. What is it?

a) Pumpkins might be fruits, right? How about pumpkins?
b) Apples
c) In the Charlie Brown Halloween special, it was Snoopy!
d) Peeps


4. With the rise of Christianity, the holiday was changed again to honor the Eve of the next day, a Holy Day. That day is called

a) All Saints Day
b) All Souls Day
c) I Ate Too Many Peeps and My Stomach Hurts Day
d) Let’s Dig out the Snickers We Held Back from the Kids Day


5. What percentage of Americans say they decorate for Halloween?

a) 86%
b) 99%
c) 15%
d) What? You mean not everyone has a Halloween shower curtain?


6. What percentage of pumpkins grown in the US are used for jack-o-lanterns?

a) 86%
b) 99%
c) 15%
d) All the ones that don’t get smashed


7. The first official Halloween observance in the US was in 1921 in

a) Hey, Cleveland rocks! It must have been Cleveland
b) New Orleans
c) Anoka, Minnesota
d) New York City


8. Jack-o-lanterns were originally used because people thought their light would frighten away ghosts. The first jack-o-lanterns were carved from

a) Duh! Pumpkins
b) Turnips
c) Marble
d) Peeps. Big Peeps


9. Which company runs a "Flavor Graveyard" on its website?

a) Peeps
b) M&Ms
c) Ben & Jerry’s
d) Jello

10. What is Casey Daniels’ favorite holiday?

a) Her birthday
b) Christmas
c) St. Patrick’s Day
d) Halloween

Answers

1. A. Pumpkins are fruits. They are members of the gourd family which includes cucumbers, squash and melons

2. B. Samhain. To the Celts, the word means, "End of Summer." They believed that on Samhain, the veils was thinnest between the world of the living and that of the dead.

3. B. Apples. Even though Lucy did lock lips with Snoopy when she bobbed!

4. A. All Saints Day. That’s how the name "Halloween" came about. The next day is "all hallows," = all that is holy = all saints. So the night before is Hallows Eve.

5. A. 86%

6. B. 99%

7. Anoka, Minnesota. That had to be the right answer, I couldn’t have made that one up!

8. B. Turnips. Leave it to the Irish!

9. C. Ben & Jerry’s. If you haven’t been there, check it out. Very cute.

10. That’s an easy one. Pass the Peeps!

Today at 1 o'clock, I'll be signing copies of my Pepper Martin mysteries at the Waldenbooks at Great Northern Mall, North Olmsted, Ohio. Stop by!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

Can you believe it--tomorrow is Halloween!

Even though I have never been a fan of being scared (I HATED those cheesy haunted houses you were trotted through as a child, especially ones where some misguided adult thought it would be funny to grab the unwitting blond kid) I've always loved Halloween.

The first Halloween I remember I was a ghost. I wore a pillow case. Yep, a pillow case and it reached my ankles. My best friend was also a ghost, but she was a female ghost with an apron. Other years we dug out costumes from around the house. Things like my mother's old Cinco de Mayo dress from high school, or a pieced together frontiersman outfit from my regular wardrobe. (I had an extensive collection of fringed purses, moccasins and such.)

Then in college I got a little more "real", but I still made my own outfits. One year I was a witch. I sewed gauzy scarves onto a black scoop necked shirt for sleeves and paired it with a skirt, hat, etc. I also remember a repeat of a childhood costume--go go dancer. (Except as a child I had the white vinyl boots, wow.)

Now I have kids to dress and I have to admit I have gotten lazy. I still can't bring myself to pay retail, even at Target, but I do regularly hit eBay.

So, how about you? What were your favorite costumes of years gone by...and if you were (or are) to dress up today, what would you be?

Here's a list of this year's hot costumes...Michael Jackson, anything Twilight/vampire, anything zombie, and for the kids set...transformers and princesses. Look for them! Oh, and I'm betting there will be more than one H1N1 virus slamming down some spiked punch somewhere...