Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ghosties, Ghoulies, and the Unexplained

Starting tomorrow, I'm on the road for a few days. Monday, I'll be hooking up with Casey, (and many other wonderful mystery authors), at The Festival of Mystery, sponsored by Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA.

But first, I'll be attending DemiCon 20 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines in Des Moines Iowa. I'll be doing a workshop, a reading and book discussion, and a couple of panels. In fact, tomorrow night, I'll be doing a panel with Stephen Zimmer (THE EXODUS GATE) and Lettie Prell (DRAGON RING). Our topic is "Trends in Paranormal Fiction." I started thinking...just what is "paranormal" fiction? Is it mystery, urban fantasy, science fiction, horror...or all of the above? So I looked up paranormal in the dictionary:

Paranormal-that which is not scientifically explained.

To me, that's defining it with a pretty broad brush. (To this date-no ones ever been able to explain bad hair days to me, but I hardly think they'd qualify as a "paranormal" experience.) I guess my personal definition is "things that go bump in the night," and when you stop and think about it, stories dealing with the paranormal isn't that new. Legend and lore about witches, werewolves, shape-shifters, ghosts, and vampires have been around as long as we have. I suspect even our ancestors sat around in caves talking about it.

In modern times, there's a rich history of novels, short stories, poems dealing with the unexplained. Oscar Wilde and THE CANTERVILLE GHOST; Dion Fortune-THE GOAT-FOOT GOD, THE SEA PRIESTESS; Edgar Allan Poe; H.P. Lovecraft; the list goes on and on. (My particular favorites have always been Barbara Michaels' mysteries with a paranormal twist.)

So is the paranormal really a trend? Or has it always been a part of our lives? (I vote for the latter.) What's your vote? (And while you're at it, who are some of your favorite "paranormal" authors?)

That's it for this week-everyone have a good one!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing catch-up

I have been back from RT a full day now.

In that time, I've finished revisions on Skin Tight, waded through 500 emails (not kidding, not even remotely), and taken an abortive field trip to the post office. I have a mysterious registered letter floating around somewhere, but in the midst of the "pandemic" the post office has misplaced my letter / parcel / whatever it is. I really hope it wasn't important because the notice says they are returning it to sender tomorrow. C'est la vie - I am not expecting anything.

It's weird because a few people are walking around in surgical masks. I feel like I ought to be breathing through my nose and indulging all of the fancy plague superstitions, which include:

*bathing in human urine (That's gross. Someone call Bear Grylls)
*wearing of excrement (Ew, no)
*placing dead animals in homes (Better hide the dog)
*use of leeches (Yuck!)
*drinking molten gold and powdered emeralds (Expensive!)

Anyway, that's how some of our childhood chants got started. Check out the origins of "Ring Around the Rosey." Depressing shit.

But actually things are not as bad as the media is making them out to be. Most of these measures are preventive, which only makes sense. I'm nervous, but not terrified.

It was interesting that they tried to talk me out of coming home from Orlando. Like hell, my kids are here. Would you let a little flu stop you from coming home to your children?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Launch day and cover models















Hi all. Guess what? I have a new book out today. Yay!

You know what else? I just came back from the RT Conference and it was a blast. There was a wealth of books, authors, and ahem - cover models. I wasn't quite prepared for them.

My husband's first reaction to some of these shots was, "This is work?" It is. Sort of. The cover model contestants were a really great bunch. Why not be social? And Dorchester really outdid themselves on the awards show.

It was also fun to sign some of the very first copies of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. Even though today is official on sale date, my publisher had early copies for readers who attended the Saturday big book signing. How fun is that?

Oh and if you haven't gotten in on the Demon Slayer contest, it's still going on. Take the Are You Part Demon Slayer? quiz, post your score on my author blog and you're entered to win a walk-on role in the next book. So if you ever wanted to hang with the biker witches or cuddle up with Pirate the dog, this is your chance.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm Done! I'm also Late!

Man, guys! I'm so sorry.

I just lifted my head from a writing frenzy, and I completely forgot it was Monday. I finished my letter of corrections for my editor for the galleys of Beyond the Rain, and finished the draft of the sequel all in one fell swoop.

I thought I should write something about the things we do to treat ourselves. My plans for tonight involve ice cream, fresh brownies, and ripe strawberries all in one bowl. Then if I'm feeling ambitious, I'll top it off with a glass of red wine in the tub with some passion fruit scented bubble bath.

Wow does that sound lovely, or what?

I don't think I indulge myself nearly enough. I balk at spending money like an elephant facing the proverbial mouse. (Elephants really are scared of mice. I saw it on Mythbusters.) My guilt at using resources for myself over my kids or our family always makes me feel like I shouldn't ever do anything for myself.

That is just wrong. Why am I on the bottom of my own barrel?

Because I'm a woman and I'm too prone to sacrifice, that's why. We sacrifice our time, our energy. It seems like so much of everything gets poured out of us, and not enough comes back in.

So how do you find the things you need to fill your inner well?

Any advice?

Jess

P.S. Congratulations, Angie on the release of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Know It's Already Saturday, But . . .

. . . what with attending last weekend's wonderful Mad Anthony Writers' Conference in Hamilton, Ohio and working on Pepper Martin mystery #6, I haven't had time to post information about a fun event going on TODAY at the Clyde, Ohio public library.

If you're anywhere in the area, it's not too late to join me, Madelyn Alt, Rhonda Stapleton and Kathryn R. Blake for Bewitched by Books, a Celebration of Paranormal Fiction.

The fun starts at 10 with a book sale and signing. There's a lunch with the authors at 11:45, then an author panel at 1 and we'll do some mingling at 2:30. Stop in for some of it, or all of it.

The beautiful Clyde library is located at 222 W. Buckeye Street, Clyde, Ohio 43410. For more information, call 419-547-7174.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Do conferences have personalities?

Me and Laura Drwery at RWA National 2007Last week I talked about my indecision on whether to go to RWA National. For the record, looks like I will be skipping. I got an offer of another contract--a good thing, but it means I have two books and and a short story to write before fall. Taking a week off (not to mention prep and recovery time) for National just doesn't seem like a good idea.

However, I do have a few other smaller conferences lined up.

Today actually I'm going to OddCon. It's a scifi/fantasy conference. I've been to WisCon before. I'm going again this year too, but OddCon is new to me. While it and WisCon are both scifi/fantasy, I suspect they will have very different personalities. And I don't think either is the least like an RWA conference.

I have been to conferences for all of the big three genres: mystery, fantasy/scifi and romance, and man, are they all different. To be fair, most of the romance conferences have been writer conferences, so more career/craft oriented. While the others have been kind of a mix of career and fan. But still I think there are some differences.

At romance conferences people wear real clothes--as in not sweatshirts. And frequently they go past that, pulling out hose and heels! Romance conferences are almost all female. And people are a tad intense...or maybe focused is a better word. They know what they want and they are working a plan to get it. I can totally appreciate this because it certainly describes me. There is also a LOT of variety in what people read. Some read historicals, some paranormal. Some have been reading romance since the 70's some are brand new. Wherever you are coming from in that way, you can blend. People may be surprised if you haven't read Nora or Balogh, but it doesn't make you any less qualified to be there.

Me and Kathy Steffen Love is Murder 2008Mystery is more casual. Lots of sweatshirts. A lot more relaxed attitude and there seems to be more variety in who knows what author. Even though this is the genre I probably read the least of right now, I feel I can keep up. I don't feel like I need a certain base of information to blend. I've read cozies. I've read thrillers. I can talk about them enough I don't feel I stand out. And it stops at books. There aren't tons of panels on TV or movies.

Me, Chris Howard and Sylvia Kelso at WisCon 32Scifi/fantasy is also more casual, dress wise and attitude wise, but there IS a base knowledge you feel everyone has. And it is more a lifestyle. Scifi/fantasy con goers watch the same TV shows and movies. They read the same blogs--they share the same reality. It is easy to be pegged as a non scifi (skiffy).

Personally, I enjoy all three types for different reasons. And while I tone down my romance intensity for the others, I don't let it go completely--because honestly for learning and organization, a romance conference is darn hard to beat.

How about you? What conferences have you been to? Have you noticed any personality differences? Which do you prefer the most?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quirks and other Habits

Recently someone commented that I was quirky and it got me thinking. I guess I am kind of quirky and these quirks are most apparent when it comes to my habits as a writer. They are as follows:

1.Time of day-early morning, preferably when it's still dark outside. Why? I don't know...just something about being alone with my characters, in the dark, with only the glow of the computer screen lighting the room. To me, it's somehow more personal, more intimate.
2.Clothing-nothing confining, the looser, the better. Sweats, baggy t-shirt, and socks (no shoes). In the winter, a hoody is added to the above ensemble. And yes, I do have a "lucky" t-shirt that I'm prone to wear when I'm stuck or have written myself into a corner!
3.Hair-twisted up and held with a clippie.
4.Place-in my office surrounded by my "stuff." Crystals, candles, and books, with a cup of coffee on the right side of my computer screen and my amazonite egg (the Writer's Stone) within easy reach. I can do brainstorming in other locations, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, I seem to write better when I have my things around me.
5.Sound or no sound?? Sound...a radio turned low to a local "goldie-oldie" station.

Okay, so those are my top five quirks...yes, I have more, but I'll share those some other time! 8) How about you...any quirks? And they don't have to pertain to writing. Just anything that you have to do the same way every time...come to think about it, is that the definition for obsessive compulsive disorder???? Whatever 9)...personally I like "quirks" better!!!

Everyone have a good rest of the week and I'll catch you next Thursday!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At RT

Today, I am at RT. I may post something more substantive. But then again, I may not. For now, enjoy these LOLs.
funny pictures of cats with captions


As these cats will attest, I am hard at work right now. No, really. It's work. I swear.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For the love of books

Today, as you read this, I'm going to be winging to the Romantic Times conference in Orlando, Florida. As exciting as it is to escape the Missouri cold and go somewhere warm, what I'm really looking forward to this week is spending time with 1,200 others who love books as much as I do.

I was always the kid who enjoyed books just a little too much. Back in third grade, our teacher had a "reading time" where we were allowed to read any book we liked, for the pure enjoyment of it. At the time, I thought it was an excuse to have fun. Now, I realize the brilliance of it. Mrs. B was showing every kid in the class - especially those who didn't read at home - just how much fun it can be to read for the pure pleasure of it.

Of course one day, things did get out of hand. I looked up from this particularly great Encyclopedia Brown book to see that we were in the middle of Math class. I'd read through half of the next period. Everyone laughed. Mrs. B did not. I'll never forget this - she said, "I wish the rest of you were like Angie and could get lost in a book so completely." The way she said it and the way the kids reacted made me feel great. So great that I remember it clearly almost thirty years later. Someday, I'm going to have to dedicate a book to her.

So as much as I'm going to love Florida, and seeing my author friends and - you're not going to believe this - my publisher hired a model to be Dimitri and follow me around. Can you say YUM? But anyhow, despite all of the fun and male yumminess, my favorite thing about RT will be the sheer pleasure that comes with being around so many people who can't live without their books, either.

See you soon. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stress, who needs it?

I've come to the realization that I'm a bit strange. I've got more than my fair load of stress, but to be honest, I just don't think about it too much, and so therefore, don't feel stressed.

I've realized that there are things I can control, and some things I can't. Before I go all twelve step on you, I think the real trick is actively asking yourself if the thing you are thinking about is something you can control, or something you can't.

There's a lot of pressure in this industry. Here are some of the things I know I can control. I can give everything I write my very best effort. I can work my hardest to meet each of my deadlines and keep up with emails.

I can't control what people think of the book. I can't make people read it or love it. And I can't control what happens in the future. I can try to influence these things, but I'm not magic, so I have to acknowledge I've given them my best effort and move on.

I can control how much time and effort I put into promotion for the book. I can't control how people respond to my efforts.

I can control my attitude toward my writing. I can remind myself that this is fun. I can remind myself that I love my books, and nothing is perfect, even in the galleys. I can accept that I'm not perfect and I can guarantee that I will stumble and fall at some point.

But here's the other thing I can control.

I can get back up.

So I'm going to hold these thoughts close to my heart as I work through all the stress. I'm going to remind myself that I wished for this for so long, and I wished for it for a reason. I'm going to accept that with writing or without writing, my life is good and loving. With that in mind I'll embrace my writing as something that makes me happier in my life...

Not stressed out.

Life's too short for that.

Now back to my deadlines. (Can we call them freedom days?)

Jess

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Cautionary Tail . . . er . . . Tale


I’ll tell you right now, my post today has nothing at all to do with writing. But it should be of interest to those of you who own dogs, or know someone who does.


This is the story of Louie, a seven-month-old Scotty who belongs to my daughter. Like most puppies (and terriers in particular), Louie is curious. He’s been known to get into trouble when he’s not watched carefully.


That’s exactly what happened last week when Louie highjacked Anne’s purse, rooted through it and ate a package of gum.


Funny, right? We thought so, too, until it occurred to us that maybe she should call the vet.

What Anne found out will make dog owners’ hair stand on end.


You see, there is an ingredient called XYLITOL that’s being used in a lot of gums, mints, candies, etc. It’s apparently just fine for people to eat, but xylitol can be fatal to dogs. First it makes their blood sugars plummet, then it shuts down their livers.


After his gum foray, Louie spent most of one evening in the doggy ER. He went to his regular vet the next day and ended up being hospitalized overnight.


The good news is that he’s fine now, and back to his old trouble-making ways. The bad news could have been very bad, indeed.


Louie’s gum of choice was Orbit spearmint, and we’ve contacted the Wrigley people and asked that they put a warning on their label. Gum (and mints, etc.) that contain xylitol need to be kept out of reach of dogs. If you’d like to drop them a line and tell them you agree, you can go to http://www.wrigley.com/contact_us/contact_form.do


PS–I’m gone this weekend attending a police academy at a writers’ conference. I’ll check in when I get home on Sunday!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Conference Dilemma

So, I'm trying to decide whether to go to RWA National Conference this year or not...I think I've decided NOT to go, then something happens that makes me waver.

Here's the deal, I really do not enjoy the RWA National Conference. It makes me break out in hives quite honestly. I'm going to sound old and cynical, but there are just too many pent up hopes and dreams in one space for me. I get itchy.

I was born a cynic--and now that I'm older....well, it hasn't lessened any.

And I hate the big giant book signing, as a participant anyway. If I do go, I think I will skip that this year. I feel trapped behind that table...TRAPPED. I would rather roam and annoy others. I'm good at roaming and annoying.

But my friends go and my agent and possibly my editor. And other authors I'd really like to chat with in person. Sigh...then again there is the cost. The cost is a big negative for me. The fee is $425 and quite honestly, the last time I went I attended very few actual sessions. I do like listening to them on my MP3 player later, but I can do that without attending (and it cost extra either way). And the Ritas...also not really my bag, but I do have a friend who finaled. Of course, I doubt my lack of attendence will affect her too negatively. ;-)

And there's the money. Did I mention the money?

So, to go or not to go. I can not decide. How many of you go to conferences? And why? What do you hope to get out of it? What makes you leave feeling like your fees were well spent?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In English, Please!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reading the headlines a lot lately and except for the new "first dog" in the White House, none of them are all that cheery!! I did a little research and came across other real life headlines, and I definitely found them more amusing than the ones that I’ve been reading lately. They are as follows:

“If strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while”
“War dims hope for peace”
“Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers”
“Cold wave linked to temperatures”
“Drunks get nine months in violin case”
“Eye drops off shelf”
“Man is fatally slain” (I’m going to think about that one every time I’m tempted to write the words “dead body!”)

And my favorite!!
“Organ festival ends in smashing climax” (Must've been some party!)

Which one is your favorite??? 8)

That's it for now...I'll catch you all next week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Special Guest: Sarah Wendell

Today we have Smart Bitch Sarah in the house.


I interrupt this interview to announce the winner!
TAROT BY ARWEN!
Email me at ann.aguirre at gmail.com to get your copy of this book. Congrats.

And back to the interview...



Along with her co-author, Candy Tan, she has written a kick-ass nonfiction guide to romance novels called BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS. She's been touring all over the place and making the world smile, but amid her busy schedule, she agreed to answer a few questions here at Something Wicked.

1. If you could have a yoga position named after you, what would it be? Why?


Moarsleepclonebitchasmallassana. Wherein I can sleep, blog, eat, and do my day job all at the same time, by the virtues of tantric cloning. Om, motherfucker.


2. What’s the kitten-shits story that led to you meeting Candy and founding Smart Bitches? If it’s hella long, you can provide the Reader’s Digest Condensed version.


Back in the days when I didn't have small children and therefore had acres of extra time, I used to make my own cat food using raw meat and vegetables. I was like an amateur pet food nutritionist, only not good at math and formulas. I used to blog about the cat food recipes (because what is the internet for if not for inviting people to make epic fun of your sorry ass?) and one day, Candy discovered my blog after adopting two kittens who had epic runny poos. Nothing she did would calm the epic kitten shits. She started making her own pet food recipes and was looking for more (I think) and found my site. Then she started leaving THE LONGEST COMMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE GODDAM WORLD OMGWTF and regularly haunting my site. After the tsunami I mistakenly remembered that she was from Indonesia (she's Malaysian) and asked after her family's safety. She corrected me nicely, we started emailing back and forth, someone brought up romance novels, and Smart Bitches was born.So that's the real root of Smart Bitches: infant feline diarrhea. Fitting, oui?


3. What’s your favorite romance of all time? (Yes, you have to pick one and justify that decision.)


You know I skipped this question and STILL can't pick just one. DAMMIT.


OK: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. 1. it schooled me that paranormal romance had a LOT to say about human nature 2. Armstrong PWND the whole free ebook idea early on by offering PDF downloads of the backstory of Bitten characters. 3. Smoldering hero = hott. 4. I've read it a shitload of times and could still read it again.


4. You’ve been accosted by a smelly dude on the subway and he’s insisting you do an improbable romance heroine cover art pose, lest the frottage commence. What pose do you choose? Why that one? Really? Okay, then.


If he's smelly, no question: the one where I'm facing away from him. For one thing, I can elbow him in the man junk if he tries anything, and for another, I'm out of the direct line of stank.


5. What’s your single best dish (assuming you cook)? If not, what’s your favorite thing to order?


I love to bake. Dessert = WIN. My best dish: chocolate ginger cookies with fresh ginger, dark chocolate, cocoa and spices. OMG YUM. The recipe is hella-intense, so I only make them at Hanukkah. Adam (the hubby) begs for them all year. One year I made some for his birthday (in July) and I thought he was going to weep with joy.


6. How did you meet Mr. Smart Bitch? What makes him Mr. Romance and how does he compare to romance novel heroes?


Oh, lord. This is nauseating. I met Adam in high school. I had been an exchange student to Spain my Jr. year, and was reasonably fluent in Spanish. So Senior year I took Latin. And I HATED the class, particularly the teacher. So I transferred to Spanish 5, thinking that if I were already fluent, I'd get an A. I did get an A, but an "unsatisfactory" in citizenship, which was my school's equivalent of "how badly you fuck around in class." Adam was in my Spanish class, and I had a massive, MASSIVE crush on him. We ended up dating other people that year, but the summer after our Freshman year of college, we ended up working at the same sleepaway camp. After that summer, we were a couple, and have been since. That was in 1994. Holy shit. I just did the math. Wow.

Adam is Mr. Romance for a million little reasons. He's an exceptional father. He's hilarious. He's incredibly smart (he hates when I tell people this but he was the valedictorian of our high school class - one of two. I was NOT the other one. I failed all my classes in Spain except English and as a result had an abysmal transcript). He likes to cook dinner. He LOVES to do laundry. And he's my biggest fan.

The only real difference between him and an actual romance novel hero: Adam does not have epic man titty. This is a good thing.


7. What’s the one thing we need to know about your book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms?


Our goal: to make you lose bladder control at least once while reading it. Take the Bosoms challenge! See if you can read it without wetting yourself!


8. Bonus question: (fill in with whatever you’d like to answer that I didn’t cover)


Best thing about starting SBTB: discovering a shitload of authors (like you, wench!) of whom I might not have heard but by whom I am so very very entertained. Talented, smart people frequent our website. I am extrordinarily fortunate to have met so many amazing people.



Now, lucky commenters, a random person will win a copy of this hilarious magnum opus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are YOU part demon slayer?

It's something you've always wondered, right? Well now you can have your answer with the highly-unscientific, potentially reliable Are You Part Demon Slayer? quiz.

Post your score below and I'll enter you to win a copy of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. It's not even in stores until April 28, so you could get a copy before anyone else. The neener-neener-neener possibilities are endless.

And for added contest fun, post your score on my Angie Fox blog and enter to win a walk-on role in the third book in the Accidental Demon Slayer series, A Tale of Two Demon Slayers (coming in 2010).

Monday, April 13, 2009

All Hail the Brou-ha-ha!

Has anyone seen my pitchfork? I seem to have misplaced it.

In case you've been busy this weekend, there's a new storm brewing, and it's got me all fired up.

Here's a list of links to get you caught up on what's going on.

LA Times

Dear Author

Mark Probst

The Smart Bitches are also on board. I tried to round up their link, but they're having some capacity problems at the moment. I guess their Google bomb is working.

So here's the deal. It looks like Amazon in an effort to protect it's customers from "adult content," decided to de-rank any books tagged with search parameters that included anything having to do with homosexuality, or erotic content.

Needless to say, I'm disturbed. As an author of science fiction romance, I'm always interested in group dynamics, and I've noticed one trend that seems universal. If you want to control people, control what information they have access to.

Once you open that can of worms, all sorts of things come crawling out. What's next? Violence? Political dissension? How about religious information? Our history? Control information and you control the minds of the population.

Maybe we should all read Orwell's 1984 again, that is, if it still appears on Amazon. We're already dangerously close to Newspeak with the advent of texting. How far will we limit our ideas? How much will it limit our minds?

Who gets to decide what we can think and what we can't?

I believe in the power of the people. I believe together we have strength, and I also believe we're not as dumb as some people think we are. I think we can all agree that something that perpetuates a crime against another, or exploits children is wrong.

But a book addressing any aspect of homosexuality or sex is verboten, while books about violence, drugs, murder, animal abuse, and genocide are just peachy. I don't need Amazon to be my Mommy. I need it to provide me with accurate information so I can decide what I want to buy.

I'll express my moral judgments with my wallet, thanks. You don't need to decide what I can or cannot handle.

I'm all for businesses having the right to run their businesses in any way they see fit, but if Amazon sees this as a good business model, they're going to lose a lot of customers.

We don't need someone else to smack Amazon for us. We can do it ourselves. All we have to do is work as one.

Jess

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Holidays!

It’s a busy holiday weekend so all I’ll say is Happy Easter, Happy Passover and . . .


"Dead Man Talking" is book #5 in the Pepper Martin mystery series. It will be on store shelves on October 6. Here’s a first look at the terrific cover. Nice, huh? Besides a spot-on depiction of the main character, there's nothing an author likes more than seeing her name big and bold over the title!

Friday, April 10, 2009

When the character doesn't fit.

Have you ever read a book and had to keep reminding yourself who or what the character is? I've had this happen a few times. Usually it is gender that leaves me confused, and (for me) usually a female character that reads male.

One book I really enjoyed, but the "female" lead was jolting. She was supposed to be tough, swore a lot, etc. I don't have a problem with a female character swearing, but there was something about this particular character that just didn't feel right.

This book was a fantasy novel, but I had the same experience later with a mystery. In this case the female wasn't a major character, but I knew she was one I supposed to really like. I didn't. I didn't hate her, but she just didn't feel real. I couldn't connect to her--again she was "tough" but I don't think it was that... Just like in the fantasy, there was some basic feminine nuance that was missing. And yes, before you ask both books were written by a man. I don't, however, think that means men can't write believable female characters--just that these two didn't for me.

I've also had this happen with race and age. The race one, I think the problem may have been the location. The book was set in England. Therefor there were a lot of cultural things, slang, etc. that was well, English and that kept me side-tracked. Honestly, I didn't realize until I was half-way through the book that pretty much all of the characters were black. Then I had to keep reminding myself. And then it became distracting. And yes, before you ask, the author is white and to my knowledge had never written a black character before.

So, for these two examples I have to wonder if it is how the author wrote the characters or how I read them. When I think of English things, I unfairly think white. Obviously there is a big population of English people who are not white. And while I know there are women who cuss a lot and act tough and I've known some of them, none of the women I've known who fit into this tough category were the same kind of tough as these two female characters. Does that mean females like that don't exist? Should I have accepted what the author told me more readily? And how about the English black character? Was that completely me and the English thing, or did the author leave out something that would have anchored that idea in my brain? Whose fault was my surprise?

The age thing was different though. I know in this case it wasn't me, because the book was marketed as an adult book. There was no mention anywhere that these characters should be anything but adults, but over and over I kept imagining them as teenagers. They just read young. The author is an adult, but she also writes young adult novels--something I didn't realize while reading this book. So, I have to think in this case, at least, it was the author and not the expectation I had going into the book.

How often does this happen to you, and who do you think is at fault?

I'm going to be on the road, when this publishes. I'll check in, but it might be just a little late. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Switcheroo


We have a guest!! Join me in welcoming Jennifer Estep!

By day, Jennifer is an award-winning features page designer for a daily newspaper with a wide range of media and journalism experience. By night she's an author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Her books have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, and other publications.

I always have a great time hanging out with Jennifer! And so will everyone on Something Wicked! So without further ado...here's Jennifer!!!


Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to say thanks to Shirley for inviting me to guest blog today. Thanks so much!

Second, let me tell you a little bit about me, since I'm sure you've never heard of me. :

I write the Bigtime paranormal romance series for Berkley. The books - Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and Jinx - all take place in the fictional city of Bigtime, N.Y. It's a town that's full of sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and lots of smart, sassy gals looking for love. The series is very campy, zany, and just plain fun.

But starting next year, I'm switching gears a bit. In 2010, I'll have three books out in a new urban fantasy series from Pocket. My Elemental Assassin series focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin called the Spider who runs a barbecue restaurant when she's not busy killing people. The first book, Spider's Bite, will be out in February.

And I have to admit I'm a little nervous about it. I think all us writers are nervous about the economy these days and the impact it's having on our sales.

But I'm even more worried about switching genres - and how readers will react. Because while my Bigtime books are campy fun, my Elemental Assassin series is much darker and grittier, with tougher language and more violence. What can I say? It's really hard to write a book about an assassin without violence.

But will readers like the grittier voice and focus on one character? Will they see the good that I do in my main character, Gin? Will they enjoy the dark, gothic Southern setting with its giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals? These are the things that keep me up at night.

As an author, you hear horror stories about readers who vow never to read an author again because she switched genres on them. But I like reading authors who write more than one thing. I like seeing how their voice translates from historical romance to paranormal, or from a sci-fi space opera to a contemporary women's fiction book.

And I really like writing in different genres - I think it helps keep my work fresh and fun. For example, I've written another urban fantasy that's a takeoff on the spy genre (think James Bond and Alias with magic), and I'm working on a young-adult, epic fantasy book that's a twist on the Robin Hood legend.

So I just hope that my readers will follow me into the dark, gritty world of Gin Blanco - and wherever else my muse might take me. :

What about you guys? Do you read authors who write in more than one genre? Who are some of your favorites? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Karma Girl, the first Bigtime book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Happy funtime post

First, I have a winner to post. Lisa, you won all three of Larissa's marvelous books. Email me at ann.aguirre at gmail.com with your mailing info, and I will get you hooked up.

So I survived release day. It's a tremendously exciting time, but it's also stressful. You want your book to do well, but beyond a certain point, you have to just step back and let go. That can be hard to do. Nevertheless, I think I've managed it.

As part of my cunning ad campaign, I designed the following: Ad

Doesn't that make you want to run out to the bookstore RIGHT NOW? You should mix up a pitcher of margaritas when you get back because all the Corine Solomon books will be named after tequila cocktails. I think that's why Angie was talking about drinks in her contest yesterday. (Thanks, Angie! And thanks to Jess too for the interview.) People have really been showing me the love this week, and it has left me with a sweet case of the warm fuzzies.

It makes me want to pay it forward. So tell me what kind thing you've done this week, and you could win a $10 Amazon gift certificate. You don't have to use it to buy my book (but I hope you will!) One day only. I'll wrap it up at night, as Angie did.

ETA: Winner = JAXON! Email me at ann.aguirre at gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blue Diablo winner!

Now that we've had plenty of drinks to celebrate the release of Blue Diablo, it's time to announce our winner: Jessica Kennedy! Yay, Jessica!

It's a par-tay!

Today may seem like any other Tuesday, but it's not. Oh no. Because today, Ann is releasing her first paranormal romance and let me tell you, I couldn't be more happy for her.

Warning: shameless gushing to follow. What's in it for you? A chance to win a free book so pipe down.

I met Ann about the same time she was finishing up Blue Diablo, and she asked me to give it a read, offer an opinion. I thought it was such a neat concept (and who doesn't like Ann?) that I agreed. Boy was that the easiest favor I ever did. Blue Diablo is about a woman named Corine who can touch something and have visions about the person who owned it. Needless to say, lots of people want to find her. When her ex-boyfriend Chance (who has the gift of luck) succeeds, he pulls her into a dangerous world of black magic, witchcraft and demons.

The supernatural world in this book is really amazing and I practically wanted to move in with two of the secondary characters - they were that much fun. So congratulations, Ann. I think you're going to earn a lot of new fans with this one.

Now who wants to win a free copy of Blue Diablo? Since this book is named after a drink, just tell us your favorite alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink and you're entered. Good luck!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April Fools Recap

Hey everyone,

I had a lot of fun this last week. I love April Fools Day. I have to admit, I've never been much of a prankster. It always seemed like I couldn't really pull it off. I do remember once, my younger brother and I pulled one over on my older brother.

We didn't have any landscaping in our backyard growing up, which was fun for us as kids. There wasn't anything to mess up. So my younger brother and I decided to build a "trap" for my older brother. We dug a great big pit.

In retrospect, I'm not sure how big the pit actually was, but to us, it felt like it was about four feet by six feet and at least three feet deep. It was HUGE. We were digging in clay too! That's no easy feat. Out here in Florida, digging is a piece of cake compared to that.

Anyway, we dug our pit, filled it with water, then tossed dry dirt over the top of it until it completely blended with the ground around it. Then all we had to do was annoy big brother enough to chase us. Muuuuaaah ha ha ha ha. Okay, it was a little mean, but he usually deserved it. Usually.

I did find out later that my Mom almost gave up our dog because she thought the dog was the one digging massive holes in the backyard. Oops, good thing we didn't go there. Poor dog.

Anyway, I really enjoyed April Fools Day. With the advent of the internet, I got to see all sorts of fun pranks. One of my favorites was from a friend on Facebook who announced she was going to sit in on a panel discussing the housing situation at the white house. That was cute. She actually fooled a couple of people with that one.

But by far, the most impressive April Fools Day stunt I saw was at Dear Author. They must have been planning this thing for months! I was impressed. That's some dedication to innocent trickery.

So, just because I hate missing out on things, what fun pranks were out in romance land? What trickery did you run across this year?

Jess

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Do You Crossword?

Back in the day when I worked full-time (it seems a lifetime ago, mostly because it was!), I worked for a health insurance company writing and editing employee newsletters, brochures and speeches. I also worked on crossword puzzles.

That’s right. Every morning, one of the three employees in the office was assigned to grab the puzzle from that day’s paper, copy it and distribute. Then we’d all retire to our little cubbies and see who could finish first.

Were we wasting time? Well, maybe a little. But I think we were doing more than that. We were exercising our brains, stretching our memories and making ourselves concentrate.

I still do the crossword puzzle every morning. My favorite is the USA Today puzzle that you can find online. Without sounding too full of myself (!), I’ll tell you right now that I always finish it, and I always get every single word right. It doesn’t take a genius. After a few days of doing any crossword puzzle, you get the hang of the clues. For instance, three of yesterday’s clues were:

In custody
Incur the SEC’s wrath
Fun standard

For some reason, that "in custody" one came to me right away: underlockandkey

After that, the others were easy. At least if you think like a crossword puzzle creator or a crossword puzzle completer. Lock made me think of stock, so that went with the SEC clue. And that just naturally led to lock, stock and barrel. The three answers:

underlockandkey
manipulatestock
barrelofmonkeys

Am I wasting time when I do the morning crossword? Well, maybe a little. And maybe I’m stalling getting down to the business of writing, too. But in the meantime, I’m forcing my brain to kick into gear, booting up my memory banks (I knew the Edda was an Icelandic saga, honest!), and reinforcing the fact that there are always new ways words can be connected. I’m constantly reminded that sometimes, I naturally think of a word as a verb--when it can also be a noun, and that playing games with words is really what writing is all about.

Wasting time? Nah! I’m thinking outside the box, even though those little boxes are what it’s all about.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Are you a winner?

bingoSome people just seem to be winners. I am not. I can count on one hand the things I have won---Bingo at the Holiday Inn at the Lake of the Ozarks when I was nine, a book from a Brava authors chat, MAYBE one scratch off lottery ticket, and that is about it. And I do enter things. The literacy raffle at my local chapter's annual conference has become almost a joke to me. I'm hopeful. I buy $10 or $20 worth of tickets. I even try to size up the competition and go for bags with fewer tickets in them.

But do I win? Have I ever? NO. And to add insult to injury there are always a number of people who win like five basket--seriously...It is insane.

So, I am not a winner.

Are you?

Have you noticed this phenomena too? What makes some people completely lucky and others black holes of loss? Is there a trick? Should I be bending one corner over another before I drop the ticket into the bag? Should only wear red socks or green underwear on days I want to win? Or should I pull out my old rabbit's foot--which we all know wasn't lucky for the rabbit at all.

What are your tricks? Are you a folder or do you put your entry sheet in flat? Do you send in a colored post card, or stick with white? Do you have a method for picking your lottery numbers or do you let the machine?

What? What am I doing wrong? I really want to know.

Side note (okay sneaky promotion) for those of you feeling lucky. I'm hosting a 30 day promotion called a Full Moon of Werewolves on my personal blog. I'm giving a way $100 in werewolf books, five copies of Guardian's Keep and a copy of Midnight Cravings. Plus many of my guests are giving away books too. To enter you just go to my blog and make comments on as many Full Moon posts as you like. Here's the schedule with more details. And here is the link to pull up all the Full Moon posts. Be a winner! Stop by!

(Do you like how I started this out as a totally legitimate blog post and twisted it into total pimpage?) But hey, you can win free stuff!

Time Management


I am behind!! Not just a little bit, but a lot!! I have a file on my computer marked "to go through" and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger!! To some of you who read this blog, your name's in there. It's a file for all of you who've won books and it's listed under "Need to get these in the mail...NOW!!" I apologize for my tardiness, but I'll get to them this weekend, I swear!! And speaking of winners...I've four more to add to my list-zabet17, Blodeudd, Jane, Marilyn, and a bonus winner, Diane P.. (It's only fair, Diane, since we needed to consider the time deferential!! 8) ) Send me (shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com) your address and I'll get them in the mail next week...promise!

Okay, so how am I going to get caught up? Many years ago I took a class through work on time management and one statement has always stuck with me... "Everyone has the same number of hours in a day, and how you choose to use those hours determines how effective you are." Well, that statement kind of blows the old "I don't have time" excuse! I have as much time as anyone else, so why do I feel that some of my days are spent rushing about, willy-nilly, putting out fires?? Is it over scheduling...biting off more than I can chew? (there are a couple of plots bouncing around in my head right now that I'm trying to get down on paper before they slip away.) Are my priorities out of whack and I'm focusing too much on the details, losing sight of the big picture? Does that account for the days when I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels and not accomplishing much?

I think the answer to my problem is going to be lists!! Lot's of lists...short term lists...long term lists. And I'm going to follow the advice of one of my girlfriends-her MO is to take each day, decide what can be accomplished, and focus on that. She swears that by handling "stuff" that way, she eventually gets everything done.

So what about you? What are your tricks in making effective use of those same 24 hours we all have?? Believe me...I'm open to any suggestions!!!

Got to fly-I have some lists to make!! 8) Take care and have a good one!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Larissa Ione Extravaganza

If you aren't reading Larissa Ione, you're missing out on some seriously tasty paranormal goodness. Her books are powerful, sexy, and action-packed. Here is your chance to scoop up the first three books in the series.



Want to take home Eidolon, Shade and Wraith, all at the same time? (How deliciously decadent!) Just ask for them in comments. Winner picked next week.