Saturday, February 28, 2009

Do You Believe?

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned an adventure I’d had exploring an abandoned convent. I’ve just heard that demolition is going to start on that convent on Monday (3/2) so it seems fitting to talk about the building today.

How did I end up in a convent? Well, there’s a question for the ages! Actually, I ended up touring the place because I’m incredibly nosey and because I have good friends who are understanding. Here’s what happened:

I was doing a book signing and Roger and Russell stopped in. As we got to talking, I learned that they had bought the rights to an old convent. The place was empty and abandoned. What they did was pay to take anything out of it that they were able. Of course I was intrigued! And of course, Roger and Russell being the nice guys they are, invited me to visit.

What they are doing in the old building is simply amazing. They have removed fireplaces, doors, crown molding, floorboards, shelves, cabinets. They are using much of it to restore their own home, they are selling some, storing some more. It’s a major project and I’ll tell you what, if someone told me I could have the building for free and take it apart, piece by piece, I would have say "no thanks, it’s impossible."

Not so Roger and Russell! They’ve got keen eyes for detail and they aren’t afraid of hard work. It’s also obvious that they love history and they’re doing their best to preserve as much of it as they are able. They told me that the convent was built in 1917 and at one time, it housed 48 nuns. It’s five stories of offices, bedrooms, and bathrooms. There was once a library, a dining room, a huge kitchen and eating area, and laundry facilities. The place is a maze of hallways, had its own elevator and even included a little chapel. Amazing. And I feel lucky to have had a look at it all.

Once the building is gone, the neighborhood will use the lot as green space. It seems fitting. But I’ve got to wonder about some of the photos I took inside the convent. Do you see what I see? And if what we see is really there, where do they go when the building is gone?


PS--it was cold in the building. Really cold. Those misty shapes could be my breath . . . maybe.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Staying motivated...

Writing is the ultimate work-for-yourself job. Even if you are under contract, there is no one stopping by your office, poking their head in and asking, "How's it coming?" In fact you could take months off (if under contract) YEARS (if not) and only a few people would really notice.

So, what keeps us going?

In general I am a pretty self-motivated person. Last year I was extremely motivated. I wrote in a year's time two short stories, a novella and (most of) four novels. (I say most of, because two of those I had started the previous year.) Looking back I realize this was a lot. At least it seems like a lot to me...and no one was sitting next to me forcing me to do it. I just DID.

But this year it's different. I'm still writing at a decent pace, but it's harder to get going. And I'm not hitting the daily word counts I did a year ago. I'm not sure why...

Any thoughts? What motivates you? What makes you want to open up that document (or continue on some other project if you aren't a writer) rather than say staring at the ceiling or checking Facebook/Twitter obsessively?

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, last year Facebook and Twitter weren't in my life. I may have just hit on my problem...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ahh, The Writing Life!!

This week we've been talking about the writing life...agents, critique groups, etc., so I thought I'd add my two cents. 8)

First of all, this is a crazy business!!! 8) You're sitting all alone in your office crafting something that may or may not sell. You're like a tight roper walker, trying to maintain a balance between what you want to write, trying to be original, and what the market demands. And if I seem to hit the "what will sell" thing a little hard, in my opinion, that's the bottom line. This is a business, agents and editors may love books, may love authors, but it's your sales that keep the wheels of the industry turning. And if an author doesn't sell, they simply can't afford to keep you around. There are twenty writers lined up behind you waiting to get in the door, and who knows, their manuscript could be the "next big thing!" So why keep a spot for an author whose books aren't making the cash registers ring when the next "new" author could be a megaseller?

Sounds like a lot of pressure, doesn't it? Well, at times it can be. I once made the comment to Ruth Jordan, (who along with her husband, Jon, is publisher and editor of CRIMESPREE Magazine) that I think an author is only as good as their last book. Ruth smiled and shook her head, "No," she said, "you're only as good as your next book." And that's the challenge...to make each book a little better than the last. I don't know how much "better" each one of the Ophelia and Abby have been, but I do know with each book, thanks to the people around me...my editor, my author friends, comments from the readers...that I've learned something about the craft of writing and even things about myself that I wasn't aware of. And for me, that's one of the most exhilarating things about being an author...learning.

What about you? Everyone has things about their job that keeps them going...what are yours?

That's it for now-have a good one!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Special Guest: An Interview with Larissa Ione

Our guest today needs no introduction, but I'm going to do it anyway because I'm redundant like that. Larissa Ione is an insanely talented author, who is also charming, vivacious and beautiful. (See the picture? She's totally got that sexy librarian thing going on.) If she wasn't such a cool person, I would probably be insane with jealousy because she has the total package.

She writes as half of Sydney Croft, and she also publishes paranormal romances. I cannot say enough good things about the Demonica series. I admit, I scoffed at this particular premise. A demon hospital? Really? But OMG, she makes it work. Her writing is gritty and evocative; she grabs you by the throat, hauls you into the story and doesn't let you go until it's over. So if you happen to have a Larissa Ione book in your hand, don't expect to get anything else done until you finish it.

All that said, she's got a new book out, the second in the series. This one is about sexy brother Shade. My copy hasn't arrived yet and I fried my PDA just last night (which is too bad because I totally intended to get the ebook while waiting for the mail). Now I have no choice but to wait and I have a serious case reader envy for those of you who can run right out and get a copy. Hot cover, right?



Anyhow, to the interview, dear readers.

1) If you had only bacon, bread and peanut butter in the house, what would you make for dinner?

I’d order pizza. What? Is that not an option? Okay, I’m a vegetarian, but I decided long ago that bacon is a vegetable. I even have a T-shirt that says that. *hangs head* As a vegetarian I kind of suck. Anyway, I’m sure there’s a recipe out there that can make some sort of frittata or stew or something out of the things you listed, but I’m thinking...gross. So I’m just going to go with the obvious: toast with peanut butter and a side of bacon. My son would jump for joy. My husband might divorce me.

2) Which of your sexy demon brothers would you most like to go shoe shopping with? Why?

Shade. Because he has a foot fetish. Oh, sure, that doesn’t come out in his book, but it’s one of those things I just know. He’d shove the shoe guy out of the way and help me try on shoes, and he’d give me foot massages, his talented fingers stroking and rubbing...yeah, Shade...

3) If you could wear pajamas ALL the time, what kind would they be? Please describe the color and fabric thoroughly.

If? If??? I DO wear pajamas all the time! In the summer, I wear longish cammy sweatshort things with an olive-green tank top. In the winter, flannel. Lots and lots of flannel! I have red Christmas pajamas and blue duckie pajamas and light blue pajamas with dark blue snowflakes and pink pajamas with bunnies, and even a pair of footie pajamas! My mailman has long since given up commenting. The other day he saw me dressed and thought there was an emergency.

4) What kind of mammal is the cutest? How come?

There is nothing cuter than a kitten. Nothing. And what’s cool about kittens is that when they grow up, they’re still cute! I love cats! Actually, I love all animals, and my husband is well aware than when he retires from the Coast Guard, we’re getting a house with lots of property, because I plan to adopt a bazillion animals. Like kittens.

5) Do you ever dream about zombies? Why or why not?

Zombies? Not so much. Living, breathing humans scare me much more, mainly because zombies are stupid and slow. I mean, seriously — I watch zombie movies and wonder how the hell people get eaten, because really, I could outrun one with both legs tied together.

6) How did you get to be so awesome? Was it a gradual development or did you come into your awesomeness all at once?

Er...I think you sent this interview to the wrong person. Hi...this is Larissa Ione. [interviewer interjection: it was sent to the correct person, but natural modesty prevents her from answering.]

7) What do you want readers to glean from your books, if anything?
The meaning of life. Failing that...I just want them to have a good time.

8) Fill in this one with anything you'd like to say. Feel free to make the question up yourself.

Is it bad that I have no questions? Probably because I haven’t had enough coffee this morning. Coffee, which the Demonica books are fueled by. Well, that and curse words. Because curse words are the lubricant of hard work...

Dear readers, this isn't nearly enough Larissa. Add your questions here, and if she gets time, she'll pop in to answer them. A random commenter will receive a copy of her sexalicious release, DESIRE UNCHAINED. (Please keep questions PG-13; Larissa reserves the right to refuse to answer on the grounds it may incriminate her or others. Winner announced next Wednesday, no limit on entries, but no spamming either.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Angie's theory on agents

I keep running into this discussion on blogs lately: to agent or not to agent. Many aspiring writers have questions, and while there is a lot of information out there, much of it conflicts. That's because there really is no right way. Every writer is different. But…

I'll bet you're reading this blog to get the down and dirty, to hear what someone else really thinks. Right? Well, okay. Pull up a chair and let's talk. I'll tell you exactly why I'm darned glad to have my agent and why I'd be shaking in my boots to go it alone. You might be like me, or you might not. I'm not saying my way is right for everyone, just one author's point of view.

#1 reason why Angie needs an agent: I drove a Saturn for 12 years

How is this relevant, you say? Well, dear reader, besides the fact that my little Saturn was gold, cute and got great gas mileage, I bought that car because I didn't want to negotiate. I can't stand going back and forth with a car salesman on a price, always second guessing myself, wondering if I'm making the best deal. After I bought that Saturn, I kept it for more than a decade - for the same reason.

As you can imagine, this makes me a very bad person to negotiate my own book contracts. Not only is there more emotion involved in a book I love vs buying a huge chunk of metal, I actually know less about book contracts that I know about cars.

Yet my agent lives for this. She loves it. I can hear it in her voice when we're in book negotiations. It goes something like this:
Me: Err…any news? (even talking about negotiations can make me queasy)
Jessica: (gives update with glee)
Me: When do you think we'll have a deal? (when will this be over?)
Jessica: I'll keep you updated. Just keep writing.

And I do, because that's what I like to do. Jessica worries about the contracts because that's her area of expertise. Thank goodness.

Plus, even though contracts are written in English, it doesn't always feel that way. As I work my way through the details, Jessica is right there to answer my questions and explain just how we can hammer out a contract that works for everyone. I always appreciate how smoothly things go, and I'll bet my publisher does too.

So can you be a successful author without an agent? Sure. Would I recommend it? Not if you drive a Saturn.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The End?

I'm having a bit of a conundrum in my writing life. Having followed my proposal, I've come to "the end" of my plot. But, my word count is oh... 20,000 words shy of a real novel (80,000 words, we'll say.)

Normally, this sort of problem would put me in full tailspin mode. I'm trying, this time, however, to relax a bit. After all, I almost always add lots of words when I revise, and, because I wrote this book so fast (I'm trying to get three books written this year) it hasn't gone through it's usual process of revision through my writers' group.

For those of you who don't know, I'm in a writers' group called Wyrdsmiths. We have a blog, but our actual purpose is to critique each others' work. We meet twice a month in real-time/ real life (tm), on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at a coffee and wine bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota called "The Black Dog." We hand out our work ahead of time either in paper format (preferred) or electronic (last minute), and everyone comes prepared with written comments that we read out loud and then discuss. We've been meeting for over twelve years. And I love it.

I've had other authors ask me how I can stand to have people tell me what's wrong with my book, but I honestly can't imagine writing without knowing possible pitfalls BEFORE my editor sees my book. Right now, for instance, I'm really missing their help. I know that there is probably some muddiness in my heroine's emotional arc, but I'm too close to it to see it. Plus, there are probably moments I thought I "set up," but probably didn't. Hopefully, my fellow Wyrdsmiths will find some of these problems for me.

I'm curious. Do other people have writers' groups? If not, how do you cope when you run into problems like this?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some Words I Don't Like

Hey everyone,

For the most part, I really like words. I have a lot of fun with language, and I really had some fun learning German. People say not-so-nice things about German all the time, but there is a certain amount of whimsy combined with flawless logic about many German words. I find it fascinating. Take this one, for example. Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen. That's quite a word. It means speed limits. If you break it all down and translate it as a sum of its parts, it goes something like, the borders for the rate your velocity is changing. Why create a simple word, when you can string a bunch of thoughts together into one? That's German in a nutshell. One of my German teachers pulled out a word that was impossibly long, it was so funny. I think it meant a captain of a barge sailing a regular route on a specific kind of river, but don't quote me on that. Besides the long compound words, there are also words that have such a strange look and sound to them. I'm fond of Eichhörenschen, which is a squirrel. It's just fun to say. Staubsauger, or vaccum cleaner, makes me laugh too. And finally, I always thought it was interesting that the German word for poison is gift. If I think about that one too long it boggles my mind.

But for as much fun as I have with words, there are certain words that really make me cringe. I'm not talking about what the words mean, or negative associations with those words. I'm talking about the words themselves. I just don't like the way they look or sound. So here's a list of my least favorite words.

Womb. Honestly, what man made that up? You have quite possibly the most amazing part of a woman's body, and you call it a womb. Uterus isn't much better. Womb is one letter away from Bomb. And I don't have a problem with bomb, it rounds out nicely with a short O. Add the Woo sound in the beginning, and it's just silly. I say we start a petition to rename it something powerful and pretty.

Tongue. This word is just plain strange. That G sound at the end is very odd. If I think about a tongue, it is a strange and funny little muscle, so at least the word is fitting.

Ilk. I'm glad this one has fallen out of usage for the most part. Ilk always feels like it's missing an M. Come to think of it, I'm not that fond of the word milk either.

Squat. At least this word sound as awkward as the position it represents. Say it really slowly and try not to laugh.

Sheath. I don't know why this word bothers me so much, it just does. I really don't like it in love scenes, but I'm not entirely sure I haven't used it in a love scene. Funny how that works.

And finally, my least favorite word in the English language.

Moisture. Ugh, it makes me cringe every time I hear it. Seriously, I shudder. I have nothing against being damp, but that oi sound right before the st gets me every time.

I'll leave it to you to put all those together and come up with the very worst possible paragraph I could come across in a romance novel.

So how about you. What are some words that make you squirm? Any that you think are lovely?

Jess

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Man Walks into Hell and . . .

This one’s been making its way around the Internet, and since we’ve been talking this week about inspiration and "making it," it seems especially appropriate.

A writer died, and thanks to a heavenly bureaucratic snafu, he was allowed to choose his own fate: heaven or hell for all eternity. Being very shrewd (especially for a dead person!) he asked St. Peter for a tour of both. Their first stop was hell, where the writer saw rows and rows of other writers chained to their desks in a room as hot as a thousand suns. Fire licked the writers' fingers as they tried to work; demons whipped their backs with chains. "Wow, this is awful," said the writer. "Let's see some heaven."

In a moment, they were whisked to heaven and the writer saw rows and rows of writers chained to desks, in a room as hot as a thousand suns. Fire licked the writers' fingers as they tried to work; demons whipped their backs with chains. It looked and smelled even worse than hell.

"What gives, Pete?" the writer asked. "This is worse than hell!"

"Yes," St. Peter replied, "but here your work gets published."

Friday, February 20, 2009

My daughter's secret life with books...

I have this daughter and she reads. All good. And I thought I knew what she reads--Big fan of Geronimo Stilton and Goosebumps Horrorland. Not a big fan (at all) of what I term girl books. You know the ones clearly targeted at girls with girls on the cover and back cover copy centered on baby sitting or friends doing you wrong?

Her genre is clearly fantasy--with an occasional animal book tossed in the mix. Although all of her favorites (Anything by Kate Dicamillo) are most definitely fantasy.

See, I know my daughter and I know what she reads. I do!! But then I discovered she had been stepping out on me. Reading books I didn't know about by authors I read. First it was Flush by Carl Hiaasen. I read Hiaasen--not rabidly, but I do and I like him. And it had occurred to me I might want to read his kids' books. This discovery (that she had already read Flush) was unsettling, but I went on.

Then Coraline, the movie, came out. Let's just get this clear. I am a BIG Neil Gaiman fan--BIG. One of the few things he has written that I haven't read is Coraline. (I am coveting The Graveyard Book as we speak.) Casual discussion came up about the movie. The husband said he would take the girl, because I was freaked out by the whole buttons for eyes thing. I thought, great, we will introduce her to Neil Gaiman. It's a good thing. Then the husband dropped the bomb. She had already read Coraline BEHIND MY BACK! How could she do this? Flush OK, I mean I like Hiaasen, but I don't stalk him. But GAIMAN? How could she possibly have read Neil Gaiman and not told me, her mother?

It shook my world. I'm an author. Isn't it my job...no my right to introduce her to the great ones? How could she go about behind my back finding them on her own, setting up her own little reading life without even telling me?

I'm still shaken--but now, I'm watching. Connie Willis comes out with a kids' book and I am there! In fact maybe ten isn't too young for the Doomsday Book...it is obvious I need to get a jump on things here.

So, how about you? What books have you introduced the younger set to? And how did you find your favorite books when you were a kid? Did you stumble upon them or did some fabulous wonderful person (mother) help you?

AND follow-up to last week: The winner of the slightly damaged copy of Love is All You Need is...The non-blob-intimidted MarthaE! Congrats, Martha! Email me your snail mail address at lori(at)loridevoti.com

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Inspired?

I know I'm terribly late with my post for today, but hey, better late than never, right??

Anyway, in the past couple of weeks, I've been blogging more than usual, first on Bitten by Books, then yesterday on Romance Junkies and I was beginning to fear I'd run out of things to say, running out of inspiration. Hey, inspiration? Didn't Angie have something to say about cemeteries giving her ideas??? Isn't Pepper Martin a cemetery guide?? Inspiration...cemeteries? Hmm, those two have been connected in my head before, of course in a convoluted way, and before you all quit reading, I'd better get to my point.

Like Angie, I've found inspiration in cemeteries, the one here in Stuart and one headstone in particular. It dates back to the 1880's and is for a little girl who passed at the age of four. Not strange for those times, but here's the weird part...next to her headstone is another monument. It's carved to look like a tree with a branch sticking out. And on that branch is carved a rope, as if a rope swing was attached. The rope twists around the tree and the seat of the swing is carved against the side of the trunk. Etched on the seat is the little girl's name...Donna.

Okay...here's the really freaky part...according to town legend, the little girl died as a result of an accidental hanging while, you got it, playing on a rope swing! Whether or not it's true...I have no idea, but I can tell you that even during summer, in the heat of the day, standing next to that stone will give you goose bumps!!! And I have it on the best authority that if you go out there in the middle of the night, you can hear a child laughing and the creaking of a rope. (Side note: the authority is my oldest son who confessed that, as a teenager, he would take whatever girl he happened to be dating out there so he could do the "don't worry, baby, I'll protect you," bit. And knowing him, it was hopefully while her arms were wrapped tightly around his neck as she screamed in fright! ;) )

A few years ago, this monument was the inspiration for one of my first short stories. And it's something that normally I would never have dreamed of using...but it's just so odd, I couldn't help myself! Here's my question to you-what was the strangest thing that ever inspired you to do something? And I'm not just asking the writers (although I want to hear from you, too!), but everyone. Everyone has had occurrences; situations that inspired (drove?) them to do something that they never expected to do. Let's hear yours!!

Everyone take care and I'll catch you next week!! Hopefully, earlier than today!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I have arrived (or have I?)

Yesterday Angie talked about men reading romance. Today I'm going to talk about milestones.

I got an awesome email yesterday, advising me that I had been the subject of a LOL. A group of readers were having fun, talking about books, and they started thinking, "Wouldn't it be cool to come up with some LOLs about our favorite fictional characters?" So they did.

Check it out.

I just love the LOLJax they came up with. Isn't it great?

That got me thinking about various goals. Last year, my big goal was to one day find my books at an airport bookstore. I thought that would mean I'd made it.

Well, when I took a trip on December 26th, I found copies of my books in an airport bookstore in the SF section. It wasn't a large bookstore, so I was shelved with authors like William Gibson and Isaac Asimov. I was beyond excited. I signed stock, the people milling around seemed excited to see me. It was a great moment.

But did I feel like I had "made it", like I thought I would? Not really. I was tickled to be sure, but it only shifted my focus. Now my next goal is to have some fan be inspired to make a Wiki about me and my books. Mind you, I can't tell anyone to make that happen because if they do it at my request, it's not the same at all.

And once that happens, however long it takes, what will be my next goal? I suspect I won't know until I've ticked the other one off the list. I think it's human nature never to be content with what we've achieved because if we were, then we'd simply stop striving and allow ourselves to stagnate.

So what are your goals? What's the biggest feat you can see yourself achieving? Next, don't be reasonable at all in your vision of the future. What are your pipe dreams?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The lure of the forbidden book

Being a severe book lover, I belong to several reader loops. They're great for recommendations and to make friends who don't think you're crazy for staying up all night to finish the latest Laurell K Hamilton. I mean who really needs more than three hours of sleep anyway, right?

We've always taken comfort in our book-obsessed oddness, so you can imagine my surprise when a member outed her husband this week. It seems she'd been missing a copy of her favorite paranormal romance. She assumed she'd accidentally packed it in with her wad-o-books for the used bookstore. She resigned herself to the fact that it was gone forever…until she went into her husband's dresser drawer a few weeks later.

She'd been looking for stamps and found her romance. Hmm…When confronted with the evidence, he admitted he wanted to see what the fuss was about and, well, now he likes paranormal romance. She laughed. Very hard. In fact, everyone on the loop got a kick out of it. Why? Because there's nothing wrong with a man liking romance. In fact, it's pretty darned nice that he wants to read a great story about a couple who fall in love.

I've had several men at my signings, sci fi fans mostly, who enjoy the paranormal elements in The Accidental Demon Slayer. Of course, most of them were quick to point out that they saw the book at the front of Barnes & Noble and didn't realize it was a romance at the time.

But still, I have to question a stigma where an entire group of people are somehow forbidden to enjoy a good story. It's like men somehow being forbidden to enjoy chocolate because it's a "girl thing." So what do you think? Do you know any men who read romance? And if not, I wonder what we can do to show them that it really is okay.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Devilish Details

In the earlier post, Jess suggests that one word that's a writer's friend is "why?" and I totally agree with her, especially when it has to do with plotting and world-building. But I'd like to add on to another suggestion that I think I first heard articulated by Neil Gaiman when I interviewed him many, many moons ago for a magazine called Science Fiction Chronicle.

That is the idea that writers are perhaps first and foremost observers. His example in my interview had to do with feeling a little awkward at times because he knows he's always taking mental notes, as it were, even at funerals or other places. He's watching for quirky "characters" (even if that character is YOU) and kind of stepping outside of himself to imagine how odd human nature really is at times... even when doing something sort of "routine" like burying our dead.

I was thinking about this because I've been ridiculously sick. I got hit last week with a cold that my doctor described as "macho," but which I think mutated into "killer," especially given that I'm one of those people who doesn't usually GET sick that often. When I do, I'm usually over it in a matter of days. This viral-smackdown had me on my back for almost a solid week.

It was so bad I couldn't really ENJOY the cold, if you know what I mean. Don't you sometimes let yourself relax into a cold? A little tea, a cat warming your toes, a lot blankets, some trashy daytime TV, and a lot time to read and snooze, right? Well, this one was so horrible that all I could do was focus on where my next Kleenex was and how soon until the next dose of cold medicine. So I had a lot of time to observe. I'm not sure if any of what I discovered is actually worthy of even a paragraph in a novel because they had a lot to do with how after taking an antihistamine the noise in my sinuses sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies after you pour the milk...

But on a serious note, I do think that these are the kinds of observations that add voice and character to a novel, although maybe I'll save my mucus thoughts for a horror short story....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why?

Why? I've got a running theory that this is the single most important word a writer has in their vocabulary.

I've been told that I'm a pretty tight plotter. I think it's because I'm like a five-year-old pestering Daddy with questions. Why does an octopus have eight arms? Why do sparrows have two three toes in front while a parrot only has two? Why, why, why? I've always had an insatiable curiosity about things so I've never been afraid of the word why.

I also had parents who weren't afraid to attempt an answer, no matter what. They never threw a "Just because, so stop asking," at me. I'm very grateful for that.

Now when I look at my stories, I've got an endless stream of why running through my head, punctuated by the occasional what.

And I have to have answers to these questions. I can't leave it alone until I do. Maybe that's why I'm so attracted to stories with intricate world building. Good world building shows off the power of why. But why can be a very useful tool when plotting.

Take Hitchcock's The Birds. This movie drove me nuts. It didn't give me nearly enough answers to the whys. Why did the birds attack? Why that town? Why all the birds? Why in the heck did she open the door at the top of the stairs when she heard a noise in there and she was safe with the door shut? Please, someone help me with that one.

Now the horror genre likes to leave out the whys. It gives us a sense of unease when we don't have answers, so I can defer to Hitchcock on that one. However, in Romance, I've got to have those whys. Why is she trying to escape her former life? Why is the hero so attractive to her? Why does he drive her nuts? Why did she open the door at the top of the stairs when she heard a noise and she was safe with the door shut?

This is where why becomes such a powerful tool. If you use why correctly, you avoid the notorious TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) Heroine. You avoid the dastardly for dastardliness's sake villain, and you can avoid a lot of plot holes.

And so I embrace the power of why, and don't ever let myself get away with "Because. That's why." It makes world building and plotting more fun.

Jess

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!




Since I began my career writing romance (both historical and contemporary), I can’t let Valentine’s Day go by without at least a passing nod. Yes, there are plenty of people who think of it as a greeting card holiday, and yes, when I see those commercials urging us to buy our sweeties diamonds and cars and such, I’ve got to admit, there’s an element of materialism to the whole thing. But there’s also a sweet side to the holiday, and I’m not talking about the chocolate!

Remember when You had a Valentine’s Day party at school? It was always at the end of the day, and I bet we drove our teachers nuts being antsy with anticipation. We were allowed to handout Valentine’s in class, and my parents made me write one to every single kid in the class, like them or not. I suppose that was a good lesson, though I can still remembering sitting at the kitchen table writing those cards and wracking my brain as I tried to remember who sat where in class so I didn’t leave anyone out.
OK, sure, I’m dating myself. But back then, the Valentine’s we handed out looked like this






Cute and corny.

The Valentine candy we gave each other sure wasn't from Godiva! It was Bazooka bubblegum and those still-around-today conversation hearts. We took their messages seriously, too.
Sure, it was a simpler time, but I don’t think that’s a half bad. Maybe if we concentrated more on silly cards and less on diamonds and cars, we’d all be better off.

And PS, don’t tell my husband, but he’s getting a bag of M&Ms.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th and Valentine's Day...and last minute give away

Which to celebrate...

Since I am a romance author, I figure I should at least give a nod to hearts and roses. So, I wandered around the web and found a couple of games. This one is a test of dating through the ages. I took it twice--first time my best decade was the fifties, the second it was the twenties. Completely missing any decade I was actually alive. This one is a matching game...matching up famous lovers. My first time was one minute 21 seconds. My second was 41 seconds...


Now to tie Friday the 13th to Valentine's day. What about some "love" superstitions? As I told you all last week, I'm from southern Missouri--the Ozarks, actually. There are some fun old superstitions about love and marriage from the Ozarks. I actually wrote a short story a while back centered around one. It's called a dumb supper. It's kind of a bit of witchcraft if you ask me--although no one would have admitted that. Witches were not looked on kindly in the Ozarks during the time this would have been in practice. In the version I've heard (there is more than one) girls walked around a table backwards, (setting or unsetting it one piece at a time as they went) without saying a word. When there was nothing left but their plate, they looked down and their "true love's" image would be reflected back at them.

I'm thinking there was a lot of room for interpretation during this...

I never participated in a dumb supper, but I did do some of the standard find-your-true-love games--twisting the stem off an apple while saying the alphabet, plucking the petals from a daisy, and allowing a wiser friend (of ten or so) to use her self-constructed paper cootie catcher to predict if I would die alone with twenty cats or married with twelve kids. (Neither, praise the gods, has happened.)

What about you? What love superstitions have you practiced or heard of being practiced?


ETA: Due to my horrible handwriting, I totally messed up signing my book Love is All Around for Estella who chose it as her prize for last week. So, I'm giving that copy away today. Yes, it is damaged goods. It is signed, but there is also this big green ink blob on the title page where I wrote her name in a way-too-big pen. I nicely marked through that leaving said big green blob. So, line up--I know you all want this baby. :D I'll announce the winner in next week's post. And thank you for taking it off my hands. I never know what to do with the books I screw up like this!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time to Howl?


It's been one heck of a week...you know the kind...one thing after another? It seems like I've spent most of the week putting one fire out after another and that everything I've touched has turned to...umm...mud! I was perplexed as to why I've felt like a black cloud has been hanging over my head. Then I looked at the calendar-it was a full moon last Monday-and all became clear! You see, I've twenty-nine years of working with the public and I'm a firm believer that things get weird around the time of a full moon. Things will be sailing along quite nicely, then BAM-full moon-and we're off on a little ride(as my mother used to say) to hell in a hand basket. (Oh, and to top it all off...a black cat crossed my path yesterday as I was on my way to work. But, since I write about witches, I tend to see that as a good omen! Lol)

Do we have any other believers out there? If so, what's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to you during a full moon? I need to know that I'm not the only one who experiences trying times every twenty-eight days!! 8)

Now for the winners of last weeks contest...they are...Marlyn, Jane, Bloeduedd, macbeaner, Saturn Moonie, and Renee! Please shoot me an email, shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com, with your address and the title of which "Ophelia and Abby" that you would like to receive and I'll get them in the mail to you! That's it for now-everyone have a great upcoming weekend!

Best,
Shirley

P.S.
Don't forget to check out Bitten by Books tomorrow for my interview-we're giving away ten copies of THE WITCH'S GRAVE!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Winners and some rambling on revisions

First, I have some winners to announce:

PJ, signed copies of Grimspace & Wanderlust
Kimberly B, her choice of any single book from the sidebar


Email me with your mailing info, ladies. It's ann.aguirre at gmail.com.

Now that's taken care of, I'm going to talk a little bit about where I am in my work. I've finished my final revisions on Doubleblind and it's back in my editor's hands again. That means I'm back to Killbox, working on getting it polished before my March 15 deadline. I have plenty of time, right? But here's the thing. It's harder to revise your own work than it might sound.

It took me a while to make the notes on what needed addressing. Sometimes I don't see the plotholes because I have the whole big picture in my head, so what looks like a totally dangling thread is something I'm actually going to pick up in book six. Sometimes I don't give enough details for this to be made clear, and my editor tells me what I need to rectify that. Doing that myself, before anyone else has seen it, is a bit hard, but I don't let anyone read my first drafts. I always do at least one round of revision before anyone gets to read my work. That includes my beta reader.

After a great deal of fretting and pondering, I've managed to make a list of things that need addressing in Killbox. There are six things on it. Unfortunately, once I know what needs fixing, I don't magically receive insight on how to best go about that. Do I need a whole new scene? A new chapter? Will a few lines be adequate to flesh it out better? Right now, I'm not sure. And sometimes I can't remember what I meant to do instead of what I did do, and I'll find a plot point that doesn't wholly make sense, but I know there's a reason for it. If I could just remember the motivation / setup, I would include that, and make sense of the whole thing as part of the larger story arc.

I do make notes as I write about aspects I think need work, but it can't be comprehensive. As you're writing a book, doing bits of it every day, you sometimes lose sight of the big picture. You're just focusing on today's puzzle pieces, and it's not until later, after it's done, that you begin to see the whole again. Turning a rough draft into a polished final can be a harrowing experience. What's your process for revisions? If you're a reader, not a writer, do you have any hobbies that require you to go back and fix what you've already done?

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers - manuscript winner!

Thanks, Ann, for letting me duck in on your day (for those of you who haven't figured it out already, Ann is wicked cool). I finally managed to corner my husband/contest coordinator and he has selected a winner for the manuscript of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. The winner is Natalie Hatch. Woo hoo Natalie! Shoot me an email with your address and I'll get that out to you. Also let me know if you want the clean or the marked up book. And thanks to all who entered. This turned out to be a really fun contest.

Chat Tonight

Tonight, Wednesday, February 11, 2009, I will be taking part in the Valentine Soiree at the Writerspace chatroom from 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm ET. Sign up for the contest and win copies of my newest release!

There will be a ton of other writers participating as well. To see a fill list check out: http://www.writerspace.com/valentine

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Angie's Dangerous Book Manuscript Contest

Thanks to everyone who entered to win an original manuscript of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, which will hit stores on April 28, 2009.

Here's the back cover copy:
Demon-slaying powers should come with an instruction book…

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

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

We have more than 150 entries (yay!) on here and my personal blog and that means the contest is now closed. The winner will receive their choice of a clean copy, or my marked up manuscript that I used to plan books 3, 4 and 5.

The marked up copy has notes from my biker dog sources. Not the dogs, of course, but the Harley bikers I turn to when I have questions about how to get a Labrador Retriever on a Harley or just how the doggie motorcycle goggles (called doggles) stay on at high speeds. Inquiring minds want to know, right?

And since the climax of the book takes place in the tunnels under the Hoover Dam, there's a lot of chicken scratch about my time down in those old inspection tunnels from the 1930's and 40's (which I have to blog about - that was incredible to be down there). Finally, as I'm going through that manuscript, I'm seeing an inordinate amount of debate about Pirate's food choices. He's been sneaking out quite a bit to places like Jodi Maroni's Sausage Kingdom. Hey, it's Vegas, baby (and Pirate loves to eat).

So, it's winner's choice. Right now, I've got all of the entries in a Lush bag, so they're smelling fantastic (like lavender and vanilla bath fizzies). To be 100% fair and impartial, my husband is going to draw the winner. Naturally, this means he picked today to have about 800 business meetings in places where I can't bug him (the nerve). As soon as he gets home, I'm going to pounce on him and make him draw the winner. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 9, 2009

On the Radio!

This is subject to change, but a few days ago I agreed to be on Radio Cafe with Cathy Hauser on Saturday, February 14, 2009 (yes, Valentine's Day) from 3:00 - 4:00 pm CST on KTNF / AM 950 (that's "Voice of Minnesota," Air America.) If you're out of town and still want to listen in, please go to www.am950ktnf.com. Also, if you wish to harass... er, support me, feel free to call into the studio line at (952) 946-6205.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Good Roller-Coaster Ride


Hi everyone!

I think my favorite thing to do, quite possibly my very favorite thing to do, is riding roller-coasters.

Oh man. I get chills just thinking about it. It has been a long time since I've been on a good roller-coaster. And I've been on some good roller-coasters. I've had the pleasure of riding some of the biggest, baddest monsters on the planet. Yeah, baby!

I love the sound of the chain clanging beneath you as you climb that hill. I love watching the people in the front dangle over the edge before you crest that hill and plummet screaming down the track. I love the wind in my ears that literally sounds like "whoosh."

My heart pounds, and it feels so good.

Man, I love roller-coasters.

But here's the kick. I love books that are roller-coasters. I love the hard hitting plots that grab you by the throat and don't let you go as your eyes careen over the page because you just can't read fast enough. There's something about an exciting and dangerous plot that makes my heart pound, just like a roller-coaster.

Angie laughs at me. I think she said once that I wasn't happy as a writer unless someone was about to die a bloody death. She has a point. It's not that I'm morbid, or even that I want to drop my characters into peril all the time.

I'm just looking for that rush, that roller-coaster rush. And the very best roller-coasters convince you you're going to die before safely delivering you back to the station. In that way, they're just like a romance. We know we're coming back safe. We know the end is happy. But don't you want the freedom to doubt it? Just for a second?

On a roller-coaster, we're free to fall. That's what I love about Romance.

So let's increase my TBR pile. What are some of the best thrill-ride romances out there?

Jess

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another New Wicked Woman!


Casey Daniels here, thrilled to be part of the Something Wicked crowd! Like Lori did yesterday, I thought this first post would be a good place to introduce myself. I’m the author of the Pepper Martin mystery series, I live in a suburb of Cleveland and I’ve been writing since just about forever.

Out of college and armed with an English degree, I worked doing corporate writing. You know, newsletters, brochures, speeches for executives. Gave up the full-time gig when my daughter was born, but still kept my fingers in, doing corporate stuff freelance and also doing some newspaper work. All the while, I wondered . . . what if . . .

What if I was writing fiction? Could I do it? What would I write?

Six years later after my son was born, it was time to give the dream a try. I knew what I wanted to write, but it wasn’t until I did some market research that I learned what publishing called it: historical romance.

I wrote that first historical romance, "Twilight Secrets," and it was published back in 1992. Since then, I’ve published 40 other books. A lot of those have been romances (historical and contemporary), but I’ve also written one childrens’ book and some YA. All the while, though, what I was reading was mysteries.

I come to the genre with a little real-life experience. My dad was a Cleveland police detective, and besides listening to his stories of life on the job, and I often went with him on his days off when he headed out onto the mean city streets to look for stolen cars. (Yeah, Dad had that kind of Type A personality.) I have long been a fan of the classic mysteries (Agatha Christie is my favorite) as well as books by Elizabeth Peters.

So I loved mysteries, but I wasn’t writing them. What was that all about? Well, my biggest stumbling block was finding a protagonist interesting enough to carry a series. Fortunately, I visited a cemetery one day, and got the idea for Pepper Martin, a cemetery tour guide who solves mysteries for the ghosts in her cemetery.

So far, there have been four books in the series: Don of the Dead, The Chick and the Dead, Tombs of Endearment, and the newest, Night of the Loving Dead. Book #5, Dead Man Talking, will be published in October and I’m contracted for four more after that.

The series is quirky, funny, and I’m having a ball writing it. And though I hadn’t anticipated it when I thought of Pepper, I’m also finding that more and more, I’m getting involved in all things that go bump in the night. As research, I’ve been on ghost hunts and ghost tours. I have always been a devotee of cemeteries, and now I have a perfect excuse to visit any one I happen on. I’ve even taken some interesting and mysterious pictures in an abandoned convent. But that’s a subject for another blog!

PS, this blog will be posted on February 7 and I will be out-of-town all weekend for book signings. I’ll try to get to a computer and check in, but if I don’t have a chance, please know I’m not being rude! I’ll try to comment as soon as I’m able.

Friday, February 6, 2009

New wicked one...

I want to say I'm the new "girl," but unless you are in the South where the term girl is used as commonly as "you" in some places, I think I'm past qualifying...

But I am NEW to Something Wicked!

I'm Lori Devoti. I write dark paranormal romance for Silhouette Nocturne and urban fantasy for Juno/Pocket books. In my past I've also written romantic comedy, but the timing wasn't good--romantic comedy was taking a hit. Luckily for me, I have a passion for fantasy and decided to try my hand at it. So far, it is working out.

And now I'm a Wicked Author. :) I'm really happy to be here. I "know" Ann from RWA Online and from reading her great debut! Angie and I have a mutual real-life-in-person friend, we are both from Missouri (went to the same college a few...ahem...years apart) AND I judged her first book in the Golden Heart. Gave it my top score, of course. Me with my mom!Tate has been a guest at my personal blog and I see her in person each year at WisCon. Shirley, Casey and Jess are new friends--and isn't it always great to make new friends? But I love the sound of their books, and plan on buying them for my mother who will then pass them on to me. (It's a great little game I play that gets me the books I want while pretending to be the oh so generous daughter. Plus it makes me responsible in these trying financial times, right?)

So far as me and the fascinating things you can hope to hear about from me...uh...uh...let's see. I love reality TV. Don't know if I will blog about it, but it is a fact I can not deny. I am obsessive about what I eat and how I exercise. I do not have skinny genes and I have the pictures of twelve-year-old me to prove it. (A few taken a little later too, but the 12-year-old ones are less embarrassing to share.) I have two kids, two dogs and this man who has followed me around three states...although he might claim it was me doing the following. Do not believe him.

I am from southern Missouri originally and proud of it. I also lived in Montana which I adored and miss terribly and now live in what many call the Berkeley of the Midwest, Madison, Wisconsin.

I am short, energetic and undeniably extroverted.

And that folks, is me. I look forward to getting to know all of you! To start maybe you can do what I did--tell me three adjectives that describe you..."I am..."


And to help introduce you to me, I will pick one reply to win a choice of my books. U.S and Canada shipping only--the post office and their forms scare me. And I'll pick a winner by Sunday. :)I'll post the name here in the comments of this post.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Contests and More Contests!

Ann and Angie are running such cool contests celebrating our new look that I've decided to jump on the band wagon, too. Here's the deal...six, count 'em, six, posters will win a book from the Ophelia and Abby series, and you get to pick which one you want! Just post a comment on the following question and your name will be entered in the drawing!

Okay, now for the question...Valentine's Day is upon us so let's do a little fantasy romance. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island and could pick any fictional hero as your companion, who would it be? (Mine would be a toss up between Roarke and Jamie Frasier! Both men are resourceful, sexy, and have a great sense of humor! And if you were stuck out in the middle of nowhere with someone, to me, humor would be one of the most important attributes!)

And last thing speaking of contests-on February 13th (yeah...Friday the 13th!!) I'm going to be over on Bitten by Books doing an interview and answering questions. My wonderful editor at Avon, Emily, has agreed to donate 10 copies of THE WITCH'S GRAVE for a contest! Check back next week for the details!

That's it for now-can't wait to hear everyone's choices!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The contest continues

I wasn't ready to end this contest just yet. I want to run it all week and give more people a chance to enter.

To kick things off, I'm giving away a signed set of GRIMSPACE and WANDERLUST to one winner, and another winner can choose any book we have featured in our left sidebar. I'll ship it from Amazon. Sound like fun? To enter, I invite you to praise our new template to the skies.

I'm really stoked about the coming months on Something Wicked. Now get commenting on the template, which book you want from the sidebar, or whatever else springs to mind.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Announcing a Wicked Demon Slayer prize

I was going to offer a nice gift basket as a prize, but you know what? I'm more excited than that. Sooo...for the uber fun, sublimely cool commenters on my post, one of you is going to win the very first copy released of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. You literally can't get this anywhere else.

I don't even have ARCs yet, the only thing released so far is the excerpt, but I'll bind one of my original manuscripts for you, autograph it, and let you have at it. Contest runs all week. Good luck!

Things that go bump in the cemetery

Tate's post yesterday got me thinking about cemeteries. Because sure as anything, if we're on a family trip and I spot an interesting looking old cemetery, we have to stop. For me, it's about the stories I find there. Like the Confederate graves in the old cemeteries here in Missouri (supposedly sharpened at the end to keep the Yankees from sitting on them.) Or the grave of voo doo queen Marie Laveau, with its markings and the gifts of candles, beads and rum bottles that people still leave.

Yesterday, I was fixing lunch, thinking about this post, and I realized I have cemeteries in two out of three of my latest works. In The Accidental Demon Slayer, they end up in a werewolf cemetery. I remember having a lot of fun imagining what that would look like. The mausoleum of the Alphas were round (with the motto never backed into a corner) and the graves were topped with crescent moons, in addition to the usual angels and crosses.

Then part of my story for the new Mammoth Book is set in a vampire cemetery - more of a memorial ground since most of the vamps that had been killed merely had their ashes scattered. But it has all of these looming bronze statues of vamps. It was a lot of fun to write.

Some day, I'd like to set a book down in the catacombs in Paris. Has anyone ever been there? It's creepy to say the least - and really cool. In the 1700's, the city planners in Paris decided to tackle the overcrowding problem in their cemeteries by disinterring millions of Parisians and relocating them to the catacombs. But they didn't just move them, they made artwork. It even used to be a popular gathering spot. In the 18th century, people would picnic down there. Can you imagine? Pass the cole slaw and is that Aunt Esther?

Down in Mexico, one of my wildest experiences was Day of the Dead. It's a celebration of All Saints Day that starts on November 1. People gather in cemeteries on the evening of October 31 and camp out with their deceased loved ones all night. They talk, laugh, pour drinks on the grave. The belief is that the souls of the dead can come and visit on that night. Families display pictures, make these elaborate decorations with marigolds and spend an evening with their ancestors. I've never seen anything like it.

So what about you? Have you ever visited an interesting old cemetery, or do you avoid them?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tell Me There's Not a Story Here!


A friend of mine pointed me to this site: Paved Paradise: Cemeteries in Parking Lots. Tell me there isn't an urban fantasy story writer out there waiting to use something like this!? What's funny is that having looked through these pictures I realize that Minneapolis (where I'm from) has something a bit like this in the Lake Street Cemetery, which is this strange, ancient cemetery smack in the middle of a completely urban area. Lake Street Cemetery, however, is much, much larger than these appear to be, but it still has that eerie, out of time feel to it.