Saturday, May 30, 2009

Apologies!

My sincerest apologies...thanks to Internet problems, I can't post what I'd hoped to put up today. I'll try to get it posted tomorrow, if not, I promise a post on the recent ghost hunting class I took for next week.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Libraries...is the magic gone?

I grew up in a small town with no bookstores. In fact most of the time I lived there we didn't even have a WalMart. So, there were literally no places to buy books. Going to St. Louis or Springfield (MO) were a huge deal and boy did I look forward to book shopping. But because of where I grew up, I used the library a lot. I read every Zane Grey novel they had (bought a bunch directly from the publisher too through the little form inside the back cover), read and re-read A Little Princess, and just wandered the stacks looking for new fun books to discover.

It was all I had.

Now, however things have changed. You can buy books new and used in a wide variety of formats and everywhere from the grocer to online. Books are a lot easier to come by, but I still use the library, just not the same way.

As I said, when I was younger, the library was where I discovered things. It was magical. I would just walk around and see what jumped out at me. Now, instead of window shopping I tend to know exactly what I want. In fact, frequently I reserve whatever I am looking for online and just stop by to pick it up. I do a little window shopping while my kids are looking for videos, but I don't do a lot on my own.

Also, what I get from the library has changed. Used to it was anything they had because well, there weren't other choices, but now it tends to be things I don't want to buy new--either came out in hardback first (or only); is an author I am close to giving up on, but not quite yet to; or a new to me author who I saw somewhere and want to try. If it is an author I know I love (and she hasn't gone to hardback, because I just don't buy many hardbacks and I hate waiting to read something everyone else is already reading) I'll buy new. And so far as wandering and discovering, I go to a bookstore--new or used.

So, why have libraries lost the magic of discovery for me? I think they could still have that magic, but they don't buy as many paperback originals as other books or if they do they aren't as loved. In the library closest to my house the paperbacks are really spread out in kind of left over space, and at others the selection is poor. There is one library here that has spinning displays for their paperbacks, however, that I love. I used to "discover" great books there all the time, but now I don't live as close.

So, how about you? Do you still use the library? How is it different from how you used to? Do you use it to window shop? Or just pick up the things you know you want to read?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Author Angst

THE SEVENTH WITCH is in the pipeline and heading toward publication. This past weekend, I finished going over the copyeditor's changes and the manuscript is back at Avon. It will have one more pass through by the proof readers before it hits the book stores at the end of December. For me, that means it's basically done, no more tweaking...no more rewrites. Now it's onto the next project...a stand alone with a paranormal twist. My editor has already read what I've written so far (five chapters) and has given me her comments. My job is to rewrite those chapters and do a (yuck) outline. 9) When those are finished and she reads them, we'll see if we have a deal.

Okay, here's the thing...as I've said before, I've always been a pantser. Get the basic idea for the story in my head and just start writing. Well, I've decided to change my process...kind of a necessary decision since I need to have the above mentioned outline to go along with the chapters. As a result, my desk is littered with books by Donald Maass, Sol Stein, Karen S. Wiesner, etc.. Each one contains ideas on how to construct a novel. Character interviews and bio sheets, inner conflict, outer conflict, downtime, subplots, black moments...the list goes on and on. I even bought a notebook and now have copious notes about who the characters are and where this story is headed. Has it been helpful? Yes, their advice has made me rethink a lot of my original ideas, which is good, and it's made weak areas in the plot stand out.

However, right now, I feel like I've got a mish-mash of "stuff" and I don't quite know how it's going to all fit together in the end. Thank God for Joanna Campbell Slan, who has some of these same books, and our brainstorming sessions via the telephone. ("I don't get it, Joanna...what does he mean by "public stakes"? "Well, Shirley, I think he means..." That conversation lasted about an hour!! 8) ) Our talks have really helped clarify some of the points these authors make.

Another thing about this change...all this reading, note taking, and discussions have made me realize something. All these authors have different ideas, different approaches, on how to construct a novel, and they all have merit, but in the end, it's up to me to decide what works best for me as a writer. Am I going to do a scene by scene, 60 page outline, like one book recommends? Doubt it! Will I complete around 34 worksheets? Don't think so. What I am going to do is take a little of this and a little of that from each one of these books and try to write the best story I can. It's a challenge to change the way I do things, but really, isn't every new book a challenge? To take an idea, bend it, twist it, and try to make it into something that, hopefully, the readers will enjoy??? Does it matter how an author gets from point A to point B? Isn't it, as they say, the journey that counts?

So as I start this new journey, wish me luck!! I've a feeling that I'm going to need it!! 8)

That's it for now-got to get back to my note taking!! Hope you all have a good one and I'll catch you next week!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Off the grid

The power and internet has been down for the majority of the afternoon. It was actually pretty peaceful. I'd have thought I would chafe.

No surfing? No email? Our phones are cordless, so no telephone either. What should I do with such blissful quiet and plenty of natural light?

Why, I read, of course. I read two books today. That's what I did. The first was...

HOT SHOT by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

First off, this was one of her older books. I could totally tell that from the jump. In a more modern book, you wouldn't see the kind of jumping around in a romance novel that you did in this one. I think there were about ten points of view, but she writes well enough that it didn't bother me. There was a certain retro charm to the head-hopping. This book was very different from the ones SEP is known for, but if you're looking for something a little more epic -- and at this point, it would actually qualify as a historical, as it's set in the 70s and 80s -- you couldn't do better. I did recognize the plot as soon as I got a few pages into it, though. It's the classic setup where the woman meets the wrong man and marries him, only to meet the real hero halfway into the book. I'm afraid I'm not keen on that device, but this was a fun read nonetheless.

AS YOU DESIRE by Connie Brockway

I was never sorrier than when I learned Ms. Brockway would be writing women's fiction. Well, except when I learned Penelope Williamson had gone away from romance. Oh, Kristin Hannah, too. And Pamela Morsi... okay, perhaps I've been sad a lot. At any rate, I could have sworn I'd read this book. Turns out I hadn't. I devoured it in a single sitting and remembered why I was downcast, years ago, when I heard the news. Jesus, this romance is a tour-de-force and it's damn near pitch perfect. Harry is an amazing hero. It's hard to pull off the fine balance of sweetness and single-minded savagery, but she totally did it. And Desdemona is a great heroine. I love them so much together that I have no words.

What good books have you guys read recently? Wait, the questions get harder. If you had to pick one romance as your all-time favorite, what would it be? And why?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kiss My Asphalt t-shirt winner and other ponderings


Hey, it's Tuesday! You knew that already? Then you're one step ahead of me. I just figured out it out. And lo and behold, Tuesday is my day to blog.

Luckily, no one had to tell me. I was just fiddling with the voodoo novella, letting my mind drift a bit and realized: Saturday, Sunday, Monday...oh frig.

But I'm here now. And I have stuff! The Kiss My Asphalt t-shirt winner is Marie! Go Marie! You're going to look uber cool in your biker witch wear.

Monday, May 25, 2009

To the Beach!

Hi everyone,

I'm heading off to the beach today to spend some time swimming and finding sea shells, hanging out with friends, and eating grilled things and apple pie. There's no better way to start off the summer.

I'm a little sad it will be my last summer here in Florida. It really is beautiful, and this is my last season to enjoy the butterfly garden I've worked so hard for. Right now it is glorious. I've got tiny spring Skippers zipping around chasing each other like those over animated CGI glut-fests from the newer Star Wars movies. If they had lasers, it would be awesome.

But I digress. As summer approaches, I feel more youthful, more carefree, and more playful. I want to ride roller-coasters, climb trees, go camping, you name it.

I also feel like reading all my Harry Potter books yet again, and a few other choice YAs from my collection, like Holes, and the Westing Game.

So here's to a renewed sense of innocence and wonder that only summer can bring. Enjoy your day, everyone. Maybe we all can feel a little light and hopeful once again.

I'd like to take a minute to thank all those serving in our military past and present, and their families as well. Last week, a loss came close to our family, and it was a stark reminder of the nature of service and honor. I'm still feeling the sting and fear of that loss, and want those in our military to know that we all want you safe, but we will not take your sacrifices for granted.

I recently found out about Operation Bombshell, and I thought what a fabulous thing to do for our military wives.



I wonder if the romance community couldn't somehow get involved. I think it would be awesome to encourage military wives to get their sexy back. I'm all for building troop morale the old fashioned way.

You go girls!

Jess

Saturday, May 23, 2009


While you’re celebrating your three-day weekend, don’t forget what Memorial Day is all about.


The holiday was originally called Decoration Day, and set aside to decorate the graves of the soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the end of the 19th Century, the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day, and it’s now used to honor the memory of all the soldiers who’ve died in battle.


So have a safe, happy and wonderful Memorial Day, and while you’re at it, take a moment to think about the heroic men and women who gave up their lives for their country–our country.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Decoration Day...

I grew up in southern Missouri and Decoration Day was one of my favorite holidays. Never heard of it? Maybe you call it Memorial Day. Technically today at least, Decoration Day might not be held ON Memorial Day, but it's right around there and the sentiment is the same.

So, what is Decoration Day? It's a day, where everyone connected with a particular church/graveyard get together at that church/graveyard to remember the people we knew or were related to. In my case it was a small one room church that was built on land one of my great-great-great (or more) grandfather's donated to the community. The church doesn't have regular services anymore, but the cemetery is still open and Decoration Day goes on. There is a big covered dish dinner and a lot of ladies with Ozarkian accents pushing chocolate cake. There's seven layer salad (made with lots of mayo), deviled eggs, Watergate salad and Koolaide.

There are people you don't remember who pinch your cheeks and say "You must be so and so's girl." There are graves of babies who died in the early 1800's that you pause over and think about who otherwise wouldn't have been thought of for decades. And there are new graves of people you perhaps knew or were related to that you linger over too. And you probably have a tear or two leak out looking at both of these graves.

And there's a creek with crawdaddies and sparkly rocks, and an outhouse to pee in--if you absolutely must.

And sitting here thinking about all of it, I wish more than anything in the world I was there right now.

Happy Memorial Day. Spend a few minutes thinking about the people who lived before us, then have a big slice of Coca Cola Cake and go catch some minnows--for me.

Lori

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Confessions of an Addict

First, before I start in on this Thursday's blog, let me announce the winner of last week's THE EXODUS GATE contest!! Bridget3420! Congratulations!! Send Stephen (stephen@stephenzimmer.com) your mailing address to claim your prize!!

When I read Jess's blog this week, I felt a deep wave of sympathy!! You see I'm addicted to all things caffeinated!!! Tea, coffee, soft drinks...doesn't make a difference. I MUST have my coffee first thing in the morning and I hate being deprived of my fix. In fact, if I need to have some kind of test (you know the kind where you can't eat or drink anything after midnight?) Well, before it's over, it can get real ugly!

Anyway, Jess's comments started me thinking about things I can't live without! (Okay, there are more important things in my life, like my family and friends, than these little items and maybe I could live without them, BUT I doubt people would want to be around me if I were forced to give them up!) Here's my top five:

1.As stated...coffee!
2.Books. If I don't have a book on my nightstand, I go through withdrawal!
3.The Internet. I use it to conduct 99% of the business end of this writing gig, to stay in contact with other authors, to do research...the list goes on and on!! And when it's down...I feel so alone!! 9)
4.My cell phone...and honestly, that's a HUGE switch for me!! I used to make fun of people who acted like their cell was some kind of technological umbilical cord! But now, (she says blushing) I'm one of them!!
5.Cheetos cheese popcorn. If I'm having a bad day, a bag of that stuff lying around to snack on seems to make it all better! And yes, you can tell how bad the day's been by how orange my fingers are!

Okay, that's my list...how about you? What's in your life that isn't, maybe in the grand scheme, essential to your survival, but that you'd be hard pressed to do without???

Everyone have a great rest of the week and enjoy the long weekend!! Catch you next Thursday!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

First, a winner...

Last week, I ran a contest for Jeri Smith-Ready's amazing second book BAD TO THE BONE. The winner is...

DANETTE B!
Send me an email at ann.aguirre@gmail.com and I will make sure Jeri sends your signed copy. Congrats!

So I'm in a bit of a hiatus right now. My editor said I am going to get revision notes soon for the second Corine Solomon book, but otherwise, I have all my work done. I've been catching up on my TV, watching movies, listening to music, taking the kids to the park, reading, and playing lots of video games. I love my job, but there's nothing quite like knowing you've met all your goals and are clear to relax for a bit.

I'm very eager to get started on HELL FIRE. I'm in the unique position of getting to revise a book I wrote last year. Since then I've written three or four books, so with any luck, I've learned something. That means when I get notes from my editor, I can take what I did last year and make it totally awesome.

A second book is always a concern for an author. People scrutinize it a bit more closely; there's a reason it's known as the sophomore slump. So the author is always asking herself, how good is this book? Will it hold up to its predecessor? And sometimes people judge the second book according to the first, wrongfully so, in my opinion. I strive never to write the same book twice. So that means if people wanted a repeat of Grimspace, they are not getting that in Wanderlust. It's a different book. The same is true for Blue Diablo and Hell Fire. Good characters are never static; they grow and change in ways that make sense according to what they've been through.

That said, I'm thrilled by the chance to make HELL FIRE a second book in the series that will simply rock your socks off. I've seen a common complaint from readers that series seem to lose momentum, taper off and get weird, boring or crappy as they progress. Can you think of any series that get better as they go?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Winner: Last Vampire Standing contest


We have a winner of Nancy Haddock's Last Vampire Standing contest - Bridget3420. Go Bridget! Drop me an email at angie @ angiefox.com and I'll get you connected with Nancy and your prize.

Book ponderings and a Kiss My Asphalt t-shirt giveaway
















I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been reading a lot of books lately. I think it's the call of the deck. Now that the sun is shining and it's just warm enough to sit outside and relax, a book seems like the perfect thing to take outside with me. That and a big 'ole glass of iced tea. Yum.

But I had a little conversation with my editor this morning that is making me look at my book stack a bit differently. The art department is finishing up on the cover for A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, which is the next Accidental Demon Slayer book. It's not due to my editor until the end of July and it's not out in stores until Feb 2010. So what do they need from me? Back cover copy.

Many authors don't write their own back cover summaries, but since I was an advertising writer for many moons, I volunteered to write the back covers for both The Accidental Demon Slayer and The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. It's fun to have that kind of input. And I know the book, right? But lo and behold, I'm going through my book stack (conveniently located by the door to the deck), checking out the backs of books, and pondering ways to summarize a whole 320 page adventure into two paragraphs. Hmm...

So let me ask you. What draws you in when you read that back cover? An interesting story premise? The writing itself? Or something else?

Oh and because the sun is shining and it is such a gorgeous day, one commenter is going to win a Kiss My Asphalt t-shirt.

Monday, May 18, 2009

For the Love of Caffeine

Oh how I wish I could partake.

I'm allergic, at least it affects me badly and so therefore I don't ever drink it. I've received my share of scorn for not ever drinking cola, or coffee, or you should have seen the face on the waiter at the Empress Hotel on Victoria island when I went to 5 o'clock tea, then didn't drink any.

Yeah, I think he was looking around for candid camera for a while there. I loved the little sandwiches, they were delicious.

I'm tired. I'm in this situation where I need to do more than one person should ever be expected to do, and I just have to do it.

But I have to do it without the help of caffeine. That's where most people have one up on me. If I only get three hours of sleep in a night, I've got to gut it out the next day.

Honestly, is it bad that I'm looking forward to Nationals so I can rest?

I know it is human nature to push ourselves to the brink. How do we dial back? For those of us who can't up our game with stimulants, how do we accept that we just can't do everything?

I think it is in our nature as women to try to do everything. It's so hard to say no. My fellow estrogen-enhanced members of the human race are amazing. We've taken on more and more, and instead of backing off, we insist we should be able to do yet more to the point where we're insulted if we aren't "allowed" to take on another role in society.

I don't know. I just want a cup of coffee. I'm ready to lay my burdens on those that can help at this point and get a massage.

From a man.

Don't we all deserve it?

Jess

Dang it, I think I just might deserve it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Move Over, Jessica Fletcher!

The author at home--not!



Was I ranting last year when I posted a blog over at http://www.thelittleblogofmurder.com/ dissing Jessica Fletcher?


You bet I was!


It’s not that I have anything against ol’ Jessica herself. She’s a smart lady, keeps a clean house (how many writers do you know who do that?), and is basically an asset to Cabot Cove, especially since she can solve any murder.


No, what I objected to is the way people treat Jessica. You see, I’d been watching some Murder She Wrote re-runs and I noticed that when Jessica goes to Hawaii, somebody throws a big luau in her honor. And when Jessica goes to Ireland, she stays in castles. And when Jessica sets foot in New York, her publisher, the hotel people, and every single person she meets on the street treats her like royalty.


So you can see why I blame Jessica for the fact that I wanted to become a mystery writer. I thought this is actually how things worked!

Of course I learned soon enough how wrong I could be. I have never been to Hawaii, but if I had, I don’t think there would be feasts in my honor. I’ve never been to Ireland, either, but I bet if I went, I’d wouldn’t be staying in a manor house. I’ve been to New York. Once, I got abandoned at the Times Square subway station. At two in the morning. By an editor.


Enough said.


Truth is, I’ve been jealous of Jessica all these years, jealous of the way she’s treated so well, just because she’s an author.

Not anymore.


I’ve finally gotten my revenge, and it came thanks to the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus, Ohio last weekend. See, after the festival, all the authors got to go to the governor’s residence for a little soiree. Was it swell? You bet! There was a tent set up in the garden where we enjoyed munchies and a nice selection of Ohio wines. There was a program that we listened to, surrounded by native Ohio wildflowers. There was the governor’s wife’s gracious invitation to come on in and take a look at the house, and the house...it was grand!


Finally, I’ve been treated like Jessica Fletcher!


And you know what? I think I could get used to this!







Even Jessica Fletcher never had a tea service like this one! One lump, or two?





Friday, May 15, 2009

When books arrive...

Amazon Ink, urban fantasy
Something people ask me a lot in interviews is how it feels to see your book on the shelf or to get the first copy. Do I celebrate? Things like that. My answer is usually that I don't. I toasted when I made my first sale, and I'm darn happy every time I make a new one, but I don't do anything special when I new book comes out. I have to admit I have even been in Walmarts and not checked to see if my current release is on the shelf...that is probably bad to admit, but it's true. Usually I do visit them because I like to sign them, but sometimes you are just you know dealing with life and you don't have time.

But yesterday my doorbell rang, and for whatever reason my ears perked up. I wasn't expecting anything. I'd already heard my author copies from Pocket wouldn't arrive until the books were shipped to bookstores, but still I walked a little faster to the door...and there it was one chubby envelope tucked behind the storm door and the return address said Simon & Schuster...It was my book--Amazon Ink. An editor had got a copy and knowing I wouldn't get my author copies for a while, she sent me one.

And I have to admit, it was a thrill. It looked just like the cover they'd sent me a pdf of, minus the typo on the back (meaning it was on the pdf, but isn't on the book), but it was still a thrill. My picture is in the back (a little dark, but there) and I even like my bio. (Yes, I wrote it but that doesn't mean I'd like it.) And they deleted something I'd had in the acknowledgements that I REALLY wanted deleted. All was good in my world.

And, I realized I'm a bit of a liar, because getting a book you wrote all printed and packaged and bright, shiny new IS still a thrill. And I'm betting it always will be. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Say "Hi" to Stephen Zimmer!!!


Join me today in welcoming Stephen Zimmer, author of THE EXODUS GATE, the first adventure of THE RISING DAWN SAGA from Seventh Star Press. In addition to being an author, Stephen is also an independent film maker. His second release, THE SIREN, is one of the two films contained in the feature-length Festival of Horrors Volume One in the new Indie Movie Masters series of DVD's.

And for everyone today, ask Stephen a question and your name will be put in a drawing to win a signed copy of the book; a poster of the cover art; a set of 7 glossy, full color art cards with illustrations from the book; a bookmark; and an 8X10 of the cover art. We'll announce the winner on next Thursday's blog.

Hi,Stephen. Welcome to Something Wicked!

Thank you very much Shirley! I really appreciate the chance to do this interview with you, and rest assured there is definitely "something wicked" going on in my storyline! I also know that there are not many authors who have had a chance to be interviewed by Shirley Damsgaard, so I already can say I've pulled off a very rare accomplishment!

THE EXODUS GATE was recently released. Could you tell our bloggers a little bit about it?

The Exodus Gate is epic-scale fantasy within a contemporary setting. It does have blends of the paranormal, touches of science fiction, and urban fantasy as well. It is the first of a projected 5 part series called The Rising Dawn Saga. It was released through Seventh Star Press, a new small press publisher, in March and is available in print, eBook, and Kindle (and all versions have the 15 full-page illustrations and cover art by Matthew Perry).

As far as the root of the storyline goes:


"What if you were a nationally syndicated radio host, whose show dealt with topics like the paranormal, shadow governments and conspiracies, mythological creatures, and the supernatural?

What if you came into possession of a virtual reality simulator that brought you face to face with the clear revelation that many of the topics covered on your show were rooted in hard reality?

You would then find yourself at the threshold of The Exodus Gate, immersed into the midst of war as old as time itself, between the heavenly realms of Adonai and the infernal dominions of Diabolos, The Shining One. The struggle unfolds in more than one realm of existence, as a shadow is falling across the entire world."

The story draws off of a lot of lore and mythology, from Sumerian/Babylonian myths, Christan/Jewish Mysticism, Asian, Greek, and Persian mythology, Flood Lore, and more. Quite a blend of influences for sure, but the elements have been woven into the plot and setting in a very cohesive manner.

I write in a multi-threaded style, in some ways like George R.R. Martin in structure, in terms of following core characters on both sides of the conflict.


You're also an independent film maker. What inspired you to write your first novel and does coming from the medium of film affect your style as a novelist?

Listening to my mother read me Lord of the Rings as a child was what definitely planted the seeds of initial inspiration, though I did not get into making an effort to write a full-length novel until I was in high school.

While I have had a couple of film projects released before my first novel, I was writing material for novels long before I ever wrote my first screenplay. My basis for everything, even as a filmmaker, is the writing and the story. It is the foundation.

The two mediums are very, very different in nature, and I do not think about anything film-related when working on the books. I am able to keep them separate in my head, thankfully, as the structure of a film/screenplay does not resonate with some things that work very well in a book. This is why adaptations sometimes fall very short of expectations and frustrate fans of a book series.



Most authors always picture their novels as movies. If you could cast your "dream team" to star in THE EXODUS GATE, who would they be?

This is a very tough one! But let's have some fun!

Some of the cast that I might enjoy seeing if the movie were to be made right now: Stellan Skarsgaard as Benedict Darwin, Rhona Mitra as Arianna, Eric Bana as Calliel, Gerard Butler as Xavier Gerard, Liev Schrieber as Jovan Avery, Ian McKellen as the voice for Sargor, Liam Neeson as the voice for Godral. What do you think of those suggestions? Wow, what a big budget I would have to get to gather that group together!


What authors, living or dead, have influenced you the most? And if you could ask them one question what would it be?

In the fantasy genre, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis first, and later authors such as Clive Barker, David Gemmell, George R.R. Martin, Glen Cook, and Roger Zelazny.

I would like to ask J.R.R. Tolkien if he has been working on anything new in the heavenly realms, C.S. Lewis if he could take me on a tour of the real Narnia, and David Gemmell if he found "Jerusalem" (A reference to Mr. Gemmell's Stones of Power series, and The Jerusalem Man)! If I had answers in the affirmative on all three, then I would know that everything is going to be just fine!


Every writer has a "process," and we've talked quite a bit about it here. What's yours? Are you an outliner or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Both. How's that for an answer? I do have general framework ideas that I jot down, so I do know where the general arc is going. However, I leave myself free to react when I write, when the story tends to tell itself. New characters and threads inevitably crop up during the process, some adding quite a lot to the depth and intensity of the overall arc. I keep the outlining to a very bare minimum, ultimately, and I let the rest emerge during the process.




THE EXODUS GATE is Book 1 of a five part series. When you first conceived of the idea, did the whole story arc come to you, or has it grown as you're completing each manuscript?

The very basic story arc from origin to finale was in my head at the start, so I did know where the series was eventually heading from the get-go. At the very least, that assured me that I was not going to find myself writing the series into a corner.

That being said, the cast of characters has grown, and some threads have emerged that flow along with the arc which were not in place when I started. Again, I leave my mind open so that when new characters and threads introduce themselves, I allow myself to follow them.


When can we expect the rest of the books to be released?

I am shooting for 1 book a year in this series, and 1 book a year in my medieval fantasy series, the first of which is launching later this fall. Book two of The Rising Dawn Saga should be out around February of 2009.

Two books a year will keep me busy, but I do have the sequel to the Exodus Gate already completed, and the first three of the medieval one written (my editor, Amanda DeBord, is just about finished with the first one).

I assure any readers joining me on these adventures that I will not tarry long between releases, and also that all the threads have a purpose, heading towards cohesive finales that will not leave loose ends!


THE EXODUS GATE has terrific cover art and illustrations by Matthew Perry. Did you, as the creator, have input into Matthew's work, or did he simply take the ball and run with it?

Matthew and I are great friends and work very well together. He is also a special FX artist who worked with me on my film projects.

As far as how I work with others, I like to allow people to do what they do. I had input insomuch as I helped Matt find some sections that I thought would evoke good visuals, and then I generally turned him loose. I did not want to interfere much with him as an artist, except on minor points here and there to make sure that the artwork was generally consistent with the book (I.E. The Watchers needed to have six wings, the Avatars are comprised of fire, etc). Matt did discuss book elements with me, to get some more background before he started.

What Matt arrived at is not far off from what I saw in my head, and very, very few minor elements were suggested by me in the way of adjustments. If you look at the artwork, you can see that Matt is very good at framing perspectives, bringing in a more dynamic aspect to the illustrations.


What was your reaction the first time you saw your book as a finished product?

Relief, and a little of the surreal.

It was such a long road to get to that point that it felt like a weight was off my shoulders. Holding it as a book after seeing it as a double-spaced manuscript for so many years was definitely surreal!


Last question, with all you have going on...the films, the series, traveling around the country promoting...what do you do for fun?

I write! Seriously, I have a blast when I'm in my "zone" writing. It's like describing something I'm watching and transcribing what I'm hearing. I really enjoy it.

But I do have many other interests, lest you might think I'm one-dimensional! Believe it or not, I like gardening, a very Zen activity for me (and yes, I have good experience with growing banana peppers which underlies Ian's garden in The Exodus Gate!) I also enjoy endeavors pertaining to the 2nd Amendment (And as an American I take this issue very seriously, as a unique right and responsibility), pestering our wonderful cat Harry, traveling (which I am getting to do more because of the book), movies, my lifelong love of heavy rock music (listening to music and seeing live bands), and medieval history. I do enjoy sports as well, though my schedule hasn't let me be a participant as much as I would like (As a spectator, I like football and boxing most of all).


That about sums it up in general. Shirley, I wanted to give you a big thanks for interviewing me, as it is not the easiest path to take being a new small press author trying to introduce themselves to fantasy readers.

I hope that everyone reading this considers giving the series a shot, and in turn I am committed to delivering all the installments without much delay! (and I won't leave any loose ends in the story either!). Feel free to reach out to me anytime, as I love to hear from readers.

www.stephenzimmer.com
www.seventhstarpress.com




Thank you so much joining us today, Stephen!! And much success with THE EXODUS GATE!! To all our bloggers...now it's your turn...ask Stephen a question and get your name in that drawing!!

Have a good rest of the week and stop back next Thursday to learn who won!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bad to the Bone contest

Dear World: I'm happy to announce that the second book in Jeri Smith-Ready's wicked fun vampire series is out.

Jeri is an incredibly talented author. She blew me away with Requiem, years ago. That awe carried into her Crow series, and now she's reinventing the vampire. To be honest, I cannot stand vampires. I went through a vamp-goth phase in college and I played White Wolf's Vampire until I suspect I may have given myself brain damage. But no LARPing. I never went there. At any rate, when my friend Jeri told me she had sold a vampire series, I was really glad we were in emails, not in person, because I was sure she would see my lack of delight. Wonderful, the world needs more vampires with brooding glances and insatiable libidos. I could only hope she wouldn't name him Lucien duNoir or anything. (Apologies to any author who has actually named a vampire hero Lucien duNoir. I didn't know you had, I swear. Do not mail me deceased rodents.) At any rate, I was genuinely thrilled with her success, even if vamps are not my cuppa.

However, of course I read book one, my vamp loathing notwithstanding, because I looooooooooove Jeri's writing. If anyone could make vamps palatable to me again, it would be her. But she did so much more than that. She turned all the tropes inside out, calling on some of the oldest legends and making them new again. She rendered me breathless with the astonishing freshness of her work. So hello, my name is Ann Aguirre and I still hate vampires, but... Jeri Smith-Ready transcends everything that has come before. Her books are freakin' amazing.

If you want a copy of BAD TO THE BONE, all you have to do is tell me what you'd do with eternal life. (Note: Jeri's vampires work differently, so I'm not talking about her vampire mythos when I pose this particular question). Now get commenting!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Well of YOU


Today, we welcome the immensely talented Nancy Haddock, national bestselling author of the Oldest City vampire books, which take place in St. Augustine, Florida. I just love these books and am very excited about the newest addition to the series, Last Vampire Standing.

Here's Nancy:

I took a walk on the beach today, an activity that might not sound like a big deal since it's only a two-minute walk from my house. Sadly, I go long stretches without getting to the beach - something I never saw happening when I first moved to St. Augustine, Florida.

I didn't jog or power-walk the beach as I sometimes do. Instead, I held a steady but easy pace and fed my senses and my soul.

Southeast winds perfumed the air with eau d'ocean - fresh and salty without being fishy - and whipped the surf rough, with whitecaps past the breakers, and waves that scooped sand into their vortexes before folding with a smash.

Two surfers caught waves, then paddled back out past the line up, sliding over crests just before they broke.

A sailboat far off shore leaned to harness the wind, and I imagined the jarring bounce over swells.

Pelicans dove for fish, and three kinds of gulls circled overhead while sandpipers played chase with the foamy wash of dying waves.

The ebbing tide left shells in its wake, and one dinner plate sized jellyfish nearly blended into the gray-white sand. Bubbles of ocean foam glistened with rainbows in the late morning sun, worlds within worlds.

I danced on the beach in celebration of all the good news my friends have shared, then turned toward the boardwalk lighter in spirit than I've felt in weeks.

So why, I must ask myself, do I not take a beach walk every weather-decent day? If I had an ocean view from the house, would I hear and heed the call to visit more often? Do I forget the healing of a simple walk on the beach? Take the gift of the beach for granted? Become so immersed in writing and e-mailing that I shove my pleasure into an already packed closet?

Maybe it's a bit of all that, but I hereby vow to change my habits. Be it morning, afternoon or evening, I'll make my pilgrimage to the beach and not feel one tiny bit guilty that I'm away from the keyboard. In fact, I'll remind myself that I'm a happier, healthier writer when I replenish the Well of Me.

Of course, I'll also continue to indulge in my other method of filling my well - reading in general, and especially reading all the fabulous authors of Something Wicked.

What about you? Do you regularly treat yourself in a way that refreshes and replenishes you? Do you exercise, mediate, read, or simply "hold space" in some way that feeds your energy? Are you out of the feeding-your-spirit habit - why? If you want to get back into the habit, what steps will you take?

Please leave a comment to be eligible for a copy of Last Vampire Standing. If you're a published author and leave a comment, please also leave your web URL or title of your last or upcoming book! I like sharing the stage!

For more opportunities to win a book, see the Beach Party page on Nancy's web site - www.nancyhaddock.com.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We have a winner!

Congratulations Jessica Kennedy! You won an autographed copy of the galleys for Beyond the Rain!

Please send me an email through my website, and I'll mail it out this week. If I don't hear from you by 8:00 pm EST on May 17th, I'll have to pick another winner, so be sure to contact me soon.

I'd like to thank everyone for all the great questions. It was a lot of fun. Keep an eye out at the Butterfly Blog for more fun contests and prizes. I'll be giving away two copies of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers by Angie Fox in the next couple of weeks. And maybe I'll have a couple of ARCs for Beyond the Rain to throw into the mix soon.

I hope everyone had a great weekend celebrating all the Moms out there. I'd like to give my gratitude to all the adoptive Moms. It is a beautiful and miraculous thing to give the gift of love and family to a baby that needs you. I'd also like to wish those Moms in waiting who are trying to have a baby the best of luck in their quest. And for the Moms of any preschoolers out there, I'm so with you. Keep up the good fight. The same goes for teens.

I had the blessing of a great Mom, Grandma, and Great-Grandma in my life. I loved them all, and I can only hope I do them proud.

Love you Mom!

Jess

Saturday, May 9, 2009

This 'n That

Lots of book events coming up this week.

Don’t forget, today is the big Ohioana Book Festival. It starts at 10 this morning and goes until 4:30. It’s free (and so is parking) and open to the public. It’s all happening at the State Library of Ohio, 274 E. First Avenue, Columbus.

More book fun coming up this coming Thursday, May 14, at the Lakewood Public Library. (Lakewood is a surburb of Cleveland.) I’ll be in the main auditorium at 7 p.m. talking about books and the writing life and signing copies of my Pepper Martin Mystery series. The Lakewood Library is located at 15425 Detroit Avenue.

And the fun continues . . .

Next Saturday, May 16, I’ll be hitting another Cleveland suburb and the Rocky River Book Festival from 10 to 3. That’s happening at the Don Umerley Civic Center Auditorium, 21016 Hilliard Blvd.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Author photos...can they be too cute?

First...EEEK! Today is Friday, which means I was supposed to be here...posting.

But I wasn't...So, uh, what can we talk about? How about author photos?

I have a photo shoot coming up on Monday. It's for an article in a local paper about my (soon to be released :) ) urban fantasy novel, Amazon Ink. Note the "ink." That word's important because the Amazons (also important) in my book own a tattoo shop.

Knowing this I shouldn't have been surprised when the editor said they wanted to take the picture at a local tattoo shop, but for some reason I was. In my mind I was going to be trotting into a nice personality-free room at the newspaper. I know exactly what said room would look like with it's big pull down paper background and I was comfortable with that. But when he said tattoo shop, I thought "Crap." I'm being honest here; that is what I thought. "I have to think about what to wear!"

Here's why. Studio shots are like the room they are taken in, sterile. You can wear anything you like. But on site? Well, it needs to "go" with the site, but it also has to "go" with you. Or at least I think it should. I really do not want to look like a poser. So, whatever I wear has to look appropriate for both a tattoo shop and me. And quite honestly while I love tattoos and loved that aspect of my book, I don't hang out at a lot of tattoo shops. So, my outfit now required thought.

For what it is worth, I've given it thought and have come up with what I think fits the bill. When the picture runs, I'll try and post a link and you can all tell me if I made a hit or a miss.

In the meantime, how do you feel about "themed" author photos--the Scottish historical author who poses with a sword (I could have done that, there's a sword on my cover), the dog mystery author who poses with her dog, or the kick ass urban fantasy author who poses in leather on a Harley? Love 'em or hate 'em? What causes you to go one way or the other?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

If It's Monday, It Must Be Pittsburgh!

Whew, I'm home and back to reality!! I had a great time!! First DemiCon where I met authors Stephen Zimmer (THE EXODUS GATE) and Lettie Prell (DRAGON RING). It was a pleasure meeting them both and the three of us had a blast (at least I did!) chatting, doing panels, and just generally hanging out. I'm really looking forward to seeing them again at future Sci/Fi cons! (BTW, reading both of their books and they're terrific!!)



Then it was on to Oakmont, PA and The Festival of Mystery, and as they say in our local paper in the "town news" column, "a good time was had by all!" Richard and Mary Alice at Mystery Lovers Bookshop once again put on a fantastic event. Each year, it amazes me the amount of work it takes to basically set up a bookstore for one evening, but they always pull it together seamlessly. And it was great to see not only all the authors listed below, but many of the familiar faces of the readers who attend every year. (No, Casey and I did not get into trouble even though we were sitting right next to the bar!! 8) Oh, and a special shout out to the gang from The Andrew Bayne Memorial Library!! You guys are the best!)



And speaking of the authors listed below, if you see any of your favorites, Mystery Lovers Bookshop had all of us sign additional copies of our books. If you're looking for a signed copy from any of these authors, give Mystery Lovers a call!


That's it for this week. Have a good rest of the week and I'll catch you next Thursday!!

Best,
Shirley


Donna Andrews
C. William Davis III
Judy McCoy

Sarah Atwell
Vicki Delany
Louise Penny

Katherine Ayres
Kimberly Frost
Jason Pinter

Lorna Barrett
Kathleen George
Stefanie Pintoff

Miranda Bliss
Keith Gilman
Lila Shaara

Rhys Bowen
Kathryn Miller Haines
George D. Shuman

Ellen Byerrum
Rosemary Harris
Joanna Campbell Slan

Jane K. Cleland
Mary Ellen Hughes
Wendy Corsi Staub

Jeff Cohen
Toni Kelner
Leann Sweeney

Meredith Cole
John Lamb
Marcia Talley

Sheila Connolly
Con Lehane
Heather Terrell

Ellen Crosby
Mary Jane Maffini
Terri Thayer

Casey Daniels
G.M. Malliet
Elaine Viets

Shirley Damsgaard
Nancy Martin
Heather Webber

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Today's challenges

You know, it has already been one of those days.

The life coach type people would tell me lots of positive stuff, I have no doubt, such as I ought to look on this as a challenge, not an obstacle. Well, they have been stuck at home for several weeks with a couple of tweens who miss their friends!

The swine flu has me suddenly homeschooling my kids, which is awesome for all of us. Not. Actually, it's not my kids who are driving me nuts. It's the world.

See, there are lessons online for me to download. So I did. But my Imac won't open the pdfs. So I went upstairs to use my husband's new computer. Which has now power because the battery backup is acting up, due to the frequent power outages (which is why we have the battery backup). To get his computer working, I would have to unplug it from the battery, which is plugged into the outlet (and we have power right now! So I don't know why it's beeping). Then I'd have to find a surge protector and plug everything in. I don't know what all his plugs do. (I already found a surge protector and moved all my plugs from the battery backup. I was brave enough to do this in my office, but I don't like touching his stuff. That way if something breaks, he cannot blame me, and that computer is new. It might as well have a halo above it.) I came back downstairs to start downloading an Adobe for Mac update, hoping that will let me access the work I am supposed to be helping my kids with, as if I'm a teacher.

This morning, the only thing I have managed to accomplish was booking a reservation for a weekend getaway, and the way today is shaping up, I think we will need it!

Your turn. How's your day going? Any gripes to report? Feel free to vent.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The school of voodoo

Writing can be an educational experience. I've learned all kinds of things in the name of book research. But this new project has me scratching my head a bit. See, I'm researching voodoo. I thought I knew about it, you know, from visiting the occult shops in New Orleans. I even took the Marie Laveau tour. That has to be worth something, right?

But the more I dig into this new story, the more I see the difference between pop culture voodoo and the real thing.

For example, did you know that voodoo dolls are mostly used for good? They're supposed to be a help, not a hinderance. Also, most voodoo practitioners consider themselves good Catholics. I'm Catholic myself and I don't think the nuns in grade school would have appreciated me bringing Florida water (voodoo holy water) to school for the St. Peter Holy Water fount.

Oh well. I have learned some valuable things too, that I feel obligated to pass on to you:
# If you lay a broom across the doorway at night, a witch can't come in and hurt you.
# Having a woman visit you the first thing on Monday mornings is bad luck for the rest of the week.
# Don't borrow or lend salt because that is bad luck.
# If you sweep trash out of the house after dark you will sweep away your luck.
# Don't shake a tablecloth outside after dark or someone in your family will die.
# To stop a Voodoo spell being placed upon you, acquire some bristles from a pig cooked at a Voodoo ritual, tie the bristles into a bundle and carry them on you at all times.
# If a woman sprinkles some salt from her house to yours, it will give you bad luck until you clean the salt away and put pepper over your door sill.
# If a woman wants her husband to stay away from other woman, she can do so by putting a little of her blood in his coffee, and he will never quit her.
# If a woman's husband dies and you don't want her to marry again, cut all of her husband's shoes all in little pieces, just as soon as he is dead, and she will never marry again.
# You can give someone a headache by taking and turning their picture upside down.
# You can harm a person in whatever way you want to by getting a lock of his hair and burning some and throwing the rest away.
# You can make a farmer's well go dry by putting some soda in the well for one week, each day; then drawing a bucket of water out and throwing it in the river to make the well go dry

Now don't say you never learned anything on this blog.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Win a Galley of Beyond the Rain!


Hey everyone! I'm super excited to announce my very first contest, right here, right now!

You could win a signed and bound galley copy for Beyond the Rain a whole whopping three months before it hits the shelves. There are only two of them in the entire world, and one could be yours.

That is super special right there. Sure, the copy is missing the typesetting for a lot of italics, but who cares? That just makes it even more awesome. So here's the game.

All you have to do to win this extremely exclusive copy of Beyond the Rain is ask me a question in the comments section right here on Something Wicked. You can ask anything, the only rule is that you don't ask a question that has been asked before in the comment thread. If you aren't the question asking type, then hop over to my website and in the comments section write something you saw or read from the site. It could be anything, but again, it can't be something someone else has mentioned.

The contest will remain open until 8:00 pm EST on Sunday May 10th. I'll shuffle through all the valid entries and grab a winner, then announce that winner next Monday. Good luck everyone, have fun! I'll do my best to answer all the questions, so ask away!

Jess

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Come on Down!

Two big events coming up in the next week.

The first is Monday’s Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. If you love mysteries, this is the place to be! The Festival features dozens of mystery authors signings their books and greeting readers. It’s always a lot of fun.

The Festival takes place at the Greek Orthodox Church at 12 Washington Avenue, Oakmont, and is sponsored by the wonderful Mystery Lovers Bookshop. For more information, check out their website at www.mysterylovers.com or call 412-828-4877. I’ll be there along with my alter-ego, Miranda Bliss.

The following Saturday (May 9), it’s back to my home state for the Ohioana Book Festival. The Festival is free (including parking) and features both nonfiction and fiction writers of all genres. It all starts at 10 in the morning at 274 E. First Ave., Columbus, OH. Check it out at http://ohioanabookfestival.org/

See you there!

Friday, May 1, 2009

You can't force the process - relax and enjoy it.

This has been my in-between week. I finished a project last week, including revisions. I have three deadlines between now and November, but I've carefully charted each project on my handy calendar and am as confident as I can be that I can make all three deadlines. Which is good, because you really do need time between projects AND you (OK I) really need plotting time.

I've written a number of books, and plotted even more. For the first four or so, my process changed with each book. I thought I was incapable of having a process. Then I hit on one that seemed to work for me...for a FEW books. This is where I made a mistake. I tried to force myself to stick with that process because, "HEY, it worked before." Unfortunately, a book can not be forced. If you try to force a book or any element of a book (characters, romantic connection) it reads like that and I can feel it as I'm writing it. This makes me twitchy. It is way far from fun.

I have three projects to plot and I'm taking bits from the processes that worked before and mixing them into something new. So far its working for me.

I started with the characters, not just their goals, motivations and conflict, but their physical appearances. I did not, however, do the fill in the blank thing--this has never worked for me. Instead I trolled the Internet and found pictures. Then beside each I write the book title, the character's name and what they are (werewolf, vampire, Amazon queen). From there I open Word and just start typing.

I love this part--this is the story telling part. First I write a short blurb describing each of the main characters--like you might find on the back cover of a book. Then I move on to the actual book--a synopsis. I keep this like back cover copy in tone too, but longer and with an ending and plot twists.

I just tell the story, writing it down as I do. It is FUN. And by doing this I keep from slipping into the analytical part of my brain. I think that is why writers freeze while trying to write synopses. They move out of story-teller mode into business-writing mode. A synopsis is your story--just a boiled down version, don't get so caught up in the facts, let it flow. Then later when it is on the page you can do exactly what you do with your book...revise.

(FYI, the main difference between this process and my last version is that I was charting turning points before I started the writing. That's what began to feel forced. I have that form on my web site, if you are interested. It might work for you and even if you do the more story-teller oriented version of this, plugging those pieces in afterwards is a a great way to check and make sure you have them all there. Also the pictures. I used to do that, but then I let my A personality take over and I tried to rush things. To write a book you have to be relaxed. That's my new mantra. :) )