Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fun on the 4th

My husband was after me last night to make 4th of July holiday plans. Now as a lot of you know, I'm not a big planner. In fact, over-scheduling a three-day weekend makes me feel boxed in and, well, uncomfortable. You need room to be spontaneous.

While we're not fully scheduled yet, talking about it last night had me thinking of holidays as a kid, when my biggest concern was my brother blowing up my dolls with firecrackers. This was the 70's. We also had lawn darts.

It also reminded me of this old Schoolhouse Rock video that we used to watch at school. Lo and behold, it's on YouTube.



So what does everyone else have planned for the 4th of July?

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm back! And so are they...

Hi everyone!

I'm happy to say I'm on the mend after a little bout with some much needed surgery. Surgery itself is a surreal experience, but I don't want to talk about that.

I want to talk about Transformers.

When I was growing up, I pretty much failed in the girly-girl department. I completely blame my brothers and my super short, permed, David Hasslehoff-eat-your-heart-out haircut complete with mini mullet. (I sooooo wish I was kidding.)

Anyway, to make a long story short, yes, I had My Little Ponies (a lot of them), and yes I had a doll house, (with no dolls, strangely), and yes I had Cabbage Patch kids (one was a cross dresser but that's another story), but you know what else I had?

Transformers.

And I loved them. Granted, the ones I owned had nothing on my brothers' collections. I did manage to play with them as a kid, and I was the only one out of the three of us who retained the magic transformation knowledge for several of the half-in half-out robot/car/truck/dinosaurs/bugs. I still have a love for manipulation puzzles as an adult, but they're very hard to find.

I remember watching the cartoon every Saturday for what seemed like twenty years. But I haven't seen the movies.

Granted, I haven't seen very many movies after having the kiddos. I'm hoping to get back in the theater with them once they get a little older. But any time I see previews for the movies, I find myself searching for the robot's faces. With all the high-tech coolness of the robots now, I can't see their faces anymore, and for some reason that makes me connect with them less.

A face is so much of a character. Say what you will about the tendencies of romance, but I believe I spend much more time describing my character's faces over any of their other body parts.

It makes me wonder if that is a more general tendency of modern science fiction. When we focus on the coolness of technology, do we sacrifice character? Hmmm, that bears more reflection. In the mean time, I'll try to get out there and give these faceless robots a fair chance. After all, I still like explosions.

Jess

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hmmm......

Just returned home from a weekend out of town and I see that the blog that was supposed to post on Saturday never did. My apologies!

Friday, June 26, 2009

When I was little...

Over the past five or so years I've found myself saying this...anyone else? I feel all dirty and cliche when I do, but seriously, it is darn funny how we (humans) can find something to complain about no matter how NOT bad things are. So, when my kids whine "I'm hot." "I'm bored." "I'm...whatever." I can't help but roll my eyes and become my father.

"I'm hot." This is usually in context of getting into a car. Okay, we live in Wisconsin. Yes, it gets hot here. It has been VERY hot here this week, but people, I grew up in Southern Missouri. We had no air conditioning--not in our house or our car. And we had (in the car) vinyl seats. You remember those? You remember trying to slide across them in shorts? EEk! Lost some skin doing that. So, when my daughter moans. "It's SO hot." My sympathy level just isn't what it could be.

"I'm bored." Alright, I pulled this one on my parents as well. And I'd hear the stories of how my dad had no T.V. In fact, he remembered when electricity came to his part of the Ozarks--that's right electricity. They had a pump for water and tar paper walls too. But I digress.... My dad had the outdoors, a wagon (I know he had a wagon because I've seen the pictures.) and a few other toys, but something like T.V.? Cartoons on a weekly basis? Craziness. At the time I was pretty much like, "how sad for you." But now when my kids pull it, I stare around at their toy store worth of toys, the FIVE TVs in our house all with satellite, four DVD players, the computers and think REALLY? And yes, the stories of how I had ONE TV that was BTW black and white, showed at most TWO channels (usually grainy), which with the exception of Saturday mornings had no kids' programming and one toy box full of toys. I made mud pies and collected rocks. I also made "soup" out of daisies and watched my dad hunt moles. Now that was some fun, kids!

And I know this isn't going to stop. I'm waiting for the "I have nothing to wear." I already have my speech prepared. How my dad got out the spotlight and interrogated us for hours when we bought a pair of shoes. Did you need those shoes? $20, really? Or how I had to wear the dresses from my sister and cousin's weddings to both of my proms. Gunne Sax. Ugh. Do you remember that so sweet you could puke brand? It was so not me, but it WAS a perfectly good dress.

Oh, yeah, I'm ready...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Here's Joanna!!!!


Hey guys, we have a guest! My dear friend, Joanna Campbell Slan. I've quoted Joanna quite a bit on this blog, but today she's here to share her thoughts in her own words.

In addition to being a terrific writer and the creator of the Kiki Lowenstein mystery series (PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH was an Agatha nominee), Joanna is one smart cookie!! A graduate of Ball State University, she went on to become an internationally known expert in the world of scrapbooking and has written several books on the subject. She's bubbly, fun, a real dynamo in a small package with a huge thirst for knowledge. In fact one of her favorite phrases is "isn't that interesting?" (this statement is usually made after she fills me in on a subject about which I'm absolutely clueless! 8) )

So grab a cup of coffee and meet Joanna!! I'm sure you'll find her as much fun as I do!!

Best,
Shirley


You, dear reader, have tremendous influence over the career of any author. Especially when an author's career is young. As you might have read or noticed, the publishing world is in a state of flux. Once upon a time, authors were expected to grow and mature over time. They were allowed to build a following. Editors worked with authors extensively to learn their craft. But today, publishing is more like every other industry. The goals are much more short term--and as a consequence, authors don't have the luxury of time to grow an audience.

One of the most important ways you can influence an author's career is simply by writing a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You see, your input really counts. And, when you think about it, if you enjoyed a person's book, don't you want to tell your friends? I know I do!

These online reviews have tremendous power! Here's what Brent Sampson says in his book Sell Your Book on Amazon : "...Amazon recommends products...The more reviews your book has, the more popular Amazon thinks your book is. Similarly, the more five-star reviews your book has, the more valuable Amazon thinks your book is."

So, in essence, you become the bookseller when you write a review on Amazon. I imagine it works the same on Barnes & Noble's site and so on.

How do you write a review?
First of all, I suggest you write it in something MS Word, or whatever word processing program you have first. This makes it easier for you to spell-check, for you to copy the review on more than one site, and for you to be certain your review isn't "eaten" by the computer gods.

For Amazon:
Then go to Amazon, select "Books" from all their products. Type in the name or author of the book you wish to review. Scroll down the page. Stop when you see "Customer Reviews" in orange on the left. On the right of those words, you'll see a small phrase inside an oval that reads "Create Your Own Review." Click on that. It will ask you for your customer information--your email address and your password. If you've never ordered from them, I don't think you can go any further. If you have, and you supply that, you'll be taken to another page. From there, it's pretty self-explanatory.

For Barnes & Noble:
Go to their website, click "Books" and put in the book title. At the bottom of the paragraph of information, there's a spot to click called "Customer Reviews" or something similar. When you click that, at the bottom it says "Write a review." Click on that "Write a review" and it will take you to a spot to log in. You have to create an account--and then it will walk you through everything you need to do.

Receive a FREE Gift from Me for Taking the Time...

Now...let me sweeten the deal. I know this takes time and you are busy. So here's what I'm offering. If you write a review for either Cut, Crop & Die or Paper, Scissors, Death, I'll send you a small thank you gift. I have some pretty little album kits, complete with stickers and paper. As long as the supply lasts, all you need to do is email me at joannaslan@aol.com, tell me where your review is, and share your postal address.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cool news

It's common knowledge that my editor, the fabulous Anne Sowards, has asked for steampunk. What you may not know is this: eight years ago, I wrote a steampunk novel with my husband called Bronze Gods. It's a dark, lush dangerous world set in what we'd call fairy. Only "under the hill" isn't the pastoral utopia it once was.

Because there are fairly regular crossings (once every hundred years or so), our technology has gradually infiltrated the other world. So when steam ships go missing, well, that's where they've gone. The original population, the Ferishers--what we'd call the Seelie and Unseelie--have long since interbred with the humans who crossed over. Now there are no pure bloods left, and there are noble houses formed on the basis of how much Ferisher blood is left in their lineage. Ferisher blood permits their human descendants to work small magics and cast glamours. The fey who refused to share their world with the interlopers fell into the Fade; their bodies withered and died, leaving them hungry, angry spirits that haunt the countryside. Some citizens can summon those spirits and use them to gain strength and power.

In this book, there's murder, mayhem, dark rituals, theatre, forbidden romance, a dark lord who has been called the King of Spiders, a drug-addicted gray knight who works as a cop, and a genealogist who is cursed with sensing lies.

Sound good?

Well, Anne wants to see it. How cool is that?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Zombies and Crafts - In That Order

So I have two things to talk about today. First, we have the cover for the new anthology. This one is coming out in January 2010.

Here's the official blurb:
FOUR WOMEN ARE ABOUT TO DIG UP THE TRUTH
Tired of boyfriends who drain you dry? Sick of guys who stay out all night howling at the moon? You can do better. Some men want you not only for your body, but your brains. Especially your brains.

It’s true! There are men out there who care—early-rising, down-to-earth, indefatigable men who’ll follow you for miles. They’ll take the time to surprise you, over and over. One sniff of that perfume, and you’ll have to use a shotgun to fight them off. And then, once you get together, all they want is to share a nice meal. And another. And another.

Oh my. Of course the zombie in my story is a hotter-than-sin re-animated hunk who is just looking for a second chance at love. Everybody deserves that, right?

The second thing I wanted to talk about is totally unrelated to zombies, voodoo or things that go bump in the night. That said, it does scare me. In fact, this is hard to even type, but I think I am a craft addict. There I said it. If you want proof, let me tell you about the eighty-three dollars I spent at Hobby Lobby today.

I try to stay away from that place because I go overboard, but this time, it was a necessity. Sort of. See, Lisa Cooke (who is another Dorchester author) was talking to me about belly dancing. She recommended some great belly dance exercise tapes and they are a lot of fun. I even have this little clinky-clinky scarf belt I found. (Yes, it's the small things in life). Well, enter my five-year-old, who wanted to exercise too. We've had a blast belly dancing, but now she also wants a clinky-clinky belt.

How hard can it be to make one, right? So we headed to Hobby Lobby for a ninety-nine cent scarf and some jingle bells. Until we saw the mosaic crafts. I broke down and bought supplies for those because, er, our house is woefully without homemade mosaics. And then there's the shrinky-dink aisle. Who am I to deny my kids? The cake decorating aisle (I make cakes for fun and when you see something cool for 4th of July...). I'm just proud I stayed away from the homemade glycerin soap kit. If I wasn't on a deadline for A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, I think I'd be brewing up sweet-smelling suds this afternoon.

So that's how a ninety-nine cent scarf and some jingle bells turned into four bags that I should probably hide from my husband. What about you? Am I the only craft addict? If so, what stores or activities do you have trouble resisting?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Summer!

If you happen to be driving through the suburbs of Cleveland tonight and see what looks like a small (but enthusiastic) bonfire, don’t worry! It’s Midsummer Eve, and as usual, we’ll be lighting a whole bunch of candles in honor of the day.

What’s not to celebrate? Tomorrow is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Of course, if you listen to my husband, he’ll see this as a half-glass-empty event. First day of summer? That means we’re starting our slide toward winter. I prefer to look at things a little more positively. Around here, summer means eating most of our meals out on the back porch, sitting outside on long evenings knitting, tending to the veggie garden and visiting our bees to see what the "girls" are up to. Summer means beautiful sunsets along the shores of Lake Erie, bike ride in the nearby national park, visiting with neighbors and seeing what’s growing in their gardens.

I’m not sure when we started our Midsummer tradition of burning lots of candles, but I know the custom goes back a long, long way. People have been celebrating midsummer since forever. In fact, the earliest humans kept track of the sun’s path across the sky and because their existence depended so much upon nature, they had to keep track of the length of daylight and the location of sunrise and sunset throughout the year. As they became more sophisticated, they built monuments like Stonehenge to help them follow the sun’s path. Around the same time (roughly 5000 years ago), two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built in Egypt. On June 21, if you stand at the Sphinx and look up toward the two pyramids nearest it, you’ll see the sun set exactly between the two. Cool, huh?

Around the world, people are still celebrating. In France, they build bonfires. In Estonia, they not only light bonfires, but jump through them to guarantee good luck (this doesn’t sound like a way to good luck to me). In Ireland where my husband’s ancestors come from, there are fairs and concerts and fireworks and in Poland (land of my ancestors), people dress like pirates (go figure!) and throw wreathes of flowers into the Baltic Sea or in lakes and rivers.

Tradition says that Midsummer is one of the times of the year when magic is strongest. Wiccans call the holiday Litha. If you’re into that sort of thing, you can pick a bouquet of 7 or 9 flowers, put it under your pillow and dream about your future spouse. Herbs picked on Midsummer are said to be more potent, and water collected from springs brings good health.

So tonight, light a candle (or two or three) and join in the celebration. Happy Summer!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Salute to Fathers

With Father's Day on the horizon, it seemed like a good time to talk about well, father...in fiction. Or at least it did until I realized I really can't think of that many truly great fathers from the books I read. The most obvious can-not-miss example of a father is, of course, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch was a man everyone (man, woman and child) at their best wants to be. But after Atticus, I came up dry. Why is that?

I found a few lists on the Internet. Here's one. Here's another. This last list reminded me of another book that deals with father/son relations--Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. It is definitely a book centered on how the main character the son lets not wanting to be like his father color everything about his own world. So, while the father isn't "bad" he also isn't "good" or noble like Atticus Finch. He's more true to life in that he is who he is and it's more about the son dealing with that than the father being changed. I have to say I liked that about the book.

But back to the initial question. What books can you think of that deal with father's or feature fathers? I'm sure we could name hundreds where mothers play a major role. Why not fathers?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Friend Indeed!

Sorry I'm late with this post!! It's been quite a week! Yes, I'm still writing reams and reams of notes on the new manuscript, and I shudder to think the number of trees that have been sacrificed as I try to wrestle this pesky plot to the ground! Author Lisa Gardner has some great tips on her website about plotting and I've been reading those. My favorite is the one where she talks about the corresponding emotional state of the writer as one moves through the process...from "this idea is brilliant" to "this plot sucks." And I got to tell you, I've hit both those points and all stages in between during the past few weeks.

So what's gotten me through these stages without me crawling under my desk and praying that it all just goes away??? Friendship! Specifically, my friend and writing buddy, Joanna Campbell Slan (PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH and CUT, CROP & DIE)!! J has her own manuscripts to write, to say nothing of planning a move to Washington, D.C., but she's still been most generous with her time. We've been burning up the cell phone minutes like crazy as we pick apart my plot or I moan about the lack thereof! (Thank goodness she's on my "free" call list; otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford my next cell phone bill! 8))

We've talked a lot about friendships on the blog, but once again, this new process has shown me just how important it is to have friends-friends that will give it to you straight no matter what. ("Umm, Shirley, I really don't know if the reader's going to believe that one.") And for me, no matter what process I pick...to outline or not to outline...having people in my life like Joanna is essential. I couldn't do it without them.

Anyone else out there have a "go to girl" like Joanna in their life? Someone who not only gets you through the rough patches, but makes the whole trip a lot more fun??

Catch you next week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My trip to Dallas

I'm so sorry I didn't post yesterday. Well, technically once this goes up, it'll be dated for yesterday, because I don't want to bump Shirley down. See, I took the world's fastest trip to Dallas yesterday. I went for a reader event, where I met some lovely ladies, who really enjoyed Blue Diablo.

My flight left early, and I arrived on time just after noon at DFW. Sara Reyes of Fresh Fiction was there waiting for me. We went for a yummy lunch at Love and War in Texas, where I had the brisket, then we went on a stock signing spree, which if you know me, means I am buying ten times the number of books I sign. By the time we'd hit the third store, Sara mentioned she thought I might need a bag to put my stuff in (because I'm an impressively light packer, and I had all my stuff in one handbag). I lamented forgetting to bring an empty carry-on bag, but she ameliorated the lack by taking me to Sam Moon, which is the coolest store ever, if you like purses. And I do. Oh, mercy, I do. So I got a cute carry-on there, and then we went on to more bookstore. You should see my book porn. I spread all my books out at Sara's house on the table, and the ladies admired them. Sweet, sweet books...

Then we had a fabulous Mediterranean themed dinner with kebabs, couscous, fresh salads, hummus, and pita bread. The talk was lively, and I enjoyed myself to the Nth degree. It was much more fun than a formal interview because people just asked me their questions about the books and my plans, and who I am, over the course of the meal. The party didn't break up until well after ten, when a wonderful woman named Mindy drove me back to my hotel. I called my husband to let him know I was alive, told him I loved him, and then crashed out by 11. I was up at 4 am and getting in the shower to make the trip home.

It's now 11am here, and I'm back in Mexico City, which means I was gone less than 24 hours. Fastest trip ever! But sooooo much fun. I had thought I would post about this yesterday, and I tried all day long, but the Dell Pocket PC I had with me would let me write the post, but it wouldn't actually take the command to post the thing. Talk about frustrating!

So please forgive me for being a day late, but I'm posting retroactively, so that counts for something, right? What did you guys do with your Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Calling all book addicts


They say the first step to curing an addiction is admitting you have a problem. So okay - I'll say it. My bookshelves are out of control.

I was even going to take a picture of them for this blog post until I realized that you probably don't want to look at stacks of books next to shelved books next to half-opened books that are all together not very pretty but - believe it or not - organized to where I know exactly where everything is.

It's not like anything has changed recently. I've always had too many books. It used to be that whenever I'd need more room, I bought more shelves. But then we ran out of wall space in our bedroom. So I moved some books into boxes in my son's room. That worked out (mostly) unless I absolutely needed to read Pride and Prejudice at eleven o'clock at night, at which point I'd be shuffling through my sleeping son's closet with the teeny tiny key light that I got for free five years ago at a festival and it *still* works (go AT&T for your choice in flimsy plastic key lights). Thank goodness my son is a deep sleeper.

Anyhow, I have no more room in the boy child's closet (even a two-year-old needs room for a wardrobe) so I moved onto my daughter's closet. She has these high shelves that she can't reach anyway. We don't want them to go to waste, right?

Really, I was just being economical by stacking about a hundred or so books on her shelf. Forget that I didn't go through them for content. My bad, since last week I caught five-year-old Maddie "reading" an Ellora's Cave title called Manaconda. And yes, it had the naked guy backside with a big snake curled around it. Maddie claimed it was her "favorite" book about snakes. I was just glad the only words she knows how to spell are "cow" and "dog."

So what is a book addict to do? Short of letting go? What do you do when your bookshelves get out of control?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brief Hiatus

Hi everyone,

I'm going to be taking a little break from the blogs while I deal with a health concern. I'll be back up and posting in a couple of weeks. Thanks for your understanding, and I know the other ladies here will keep you all entertained in the mean time with their pleasant wit.

Until then!

Jess

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wilkommen!


Pepper Martin has gone international!


The first book of the series, Don of the Dead, was recently published in Germany.

How about this cover?
Or the title: Tote Paten Kussen Besser, which as far as I can tell from a Babel Fish translation means Dead Godfather’s Kiss Better.

Oh yeah, that would get me to buy the book!

I don’t have an actual copy of the book yet, but I managed to find it on the German publisher’s website. Here’s the blurb (again, courtesy of Babel Fish):

Welcome in the world Pepper Martin, but are warned you: Here is nothing more, as it was. Peppers enrich father, a beauty surgeon, sits because of account fraud with the health insurance company in the prison. Its fiancé, a good-looking broker, lets Pepper fall like a hot potato, when the call of her Mr. Papa the brook down-goes. As much to their plans to become a married lady of the better society and worry only about their back hand and an even Braune.

Armed with a conclusion in history of art, which is wanted to actually never use seriously, Pepper must earn your living costs and gets themselves the most senseless of senseless job: She works as a Fremdenfuhrerin on a historical cemetery.

When Gus Scarpetti Pepper addresses there for the first time, she does not listen at all correctly. Finally the chap is already for thirty years dead. What can have to say to that already largely?
A with a wink Mysterythriller with a due shot romance for all, those already Sookie Stackhouse (temporarily dead) liked . . . in other words: Sex and the town center meets The Sixth scythe!

Let’s hope all that reads better in German than it does in English!

Friday, June 12, 2009

10 things I couldn't care less about...

I love watching the news and hearing "why are we all so obsessed with this?" while I am thinking...PLEASE NOT AGAIN. I get the same feeling with the Internet when some new firestorm leaves me just wondering "why?". My DVR by the way is my best friend in the TV case--I frequently fast forward through more news than I watch. With the Internet, well, you just have to click away. But still, the stories make their way into your reality. So, today, being totally exhausted I thought I'd do a top ten of things I really couldn't care less about...in no particular order. (Apologies upfront for this early morning snark...)


  1. Jon & Kate plus 8--Although seeing Kate in a bikini on the cover of a national magazine did outrage me a bit for her. Seriously, can you imagine a bigger nightmare than seeing yourself and your cellulite displayed right by the M&Ms? I break out in a sweat just thinking about it.

  2. Miss (ex-Miss) California.

  3. Anything to do with RWA or the Ritas and who they do or do not recognize.--Seriously, does anyone think being recognized by RWA is a career maker? Being able to enter the Rita? Really? REALLY?

  4. Adam Lambert is gay. Oh, and he didn't jump up and down and announce it.--Well, he is a singer. Of course, he should have grabbed the mic and screamed "I'm gay." I mean that IS of major importance in a singing competition, isn't it?

  5. It is the whatever anniversary of whatever bad event--This is a local I don't care. My favorite part of the story "people here have moved on and don't really want to talk about it anymore." Really? So, you put that on the news? Okay...

  6. Letterman insulted Palin--I say grease them up and let 'em battle it out, but PLEASE don't make me sit through ten minutes of discussing it. Please!

  7. Gordon Ramsey insulted someone and Australia hates him--Okay the fact Australia hates him adds a tad bit of interest, but three days worth of mentions...?

  8. Madonna has adopted another baby...or been denied another baby.--Do they even need new footage for this one? Can't they just dip into the archives? Hmm...maybe that is the appeal...

  9. About any tell-all book featured on the news.--Let's see (insert name) did drugs. (Insert name) slept with scary people. (Insert name) has been clean (insert years). Allow me to plunk down $24.95 to get it in hardcover.

  10. Everyone should pay off their credit cards.--Wow. Who knew?


So, how about you? What current or recurring news story could you just not care less about?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Fun

I love to read! Really, it is an addiction. I must have a book at hand at all times! On my little mini vacation last week, I read a book by Mary Balogh, AT LAST COMES LOVE. It's a charming series about a family who, in the first book, suddenly finds out their brother has inherited a title, and as a result, they're whisked away from their country village and life of genteel poverty and dropped right in the middle of London's ton. Of course along the way, they find true love! The next book in my "to be read" pile? J.D Robb's SALVATION IN DEATH.

All this brings me around to my point...yes, there is a point! 8) Summer is a wonderful time to read! It's great lying around on a chaise, with the summer sun baking down on you, and being transported to a different time and place. Or taking your morning coffee outside, and as you sip away, forget about all the housework you should be doing, all the weeds you should be pulling, and that laundry that's piled up in the basket. (Curled up in a chair with a book during a thunderstorm is pretty okay too!! 8) ) Just to be able relax and read about my favorite character's latest adventures is a big de-stressor for me this time of year.

How about you? What are some of your favorite places/times to read during the summer? And what do you like to read? Romance? A rollicking adventure? Mystery? Fantasy? E-books, paperbacks, or hardcovers? (Personally, I like paperbacks...they're so easy to stick in my bag or purse.)

That's it for this week! Happy reading everyone, and I'll catch you next Thursday!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I have this fantasy...

Don't worry; you don't have to cover your eyes and run away. It's not that sort of fantasy.

When I was growing up, I knew a family who had moved from Alaska to Indiana, where I lived. My first thought was, for the love of God, why? No offense to Indiana. It just wasn't the home of my heart. So then, in addition, my brother in law has a brother who became a pilot and moved to Alaska. I believe he has his own charter air service. OMG, swoon. Sadly I was still in high school when he left, or I am pretty sure I would've attached myself to his leg and begged, please, sir, take me with you. I can cook!

Why? Because I always wanted to live in Alaska. Always, always, always.

Snow, the rugged lodges, fireplaces, the sparse population, close community, the strapping men, the Northern Lights... oh. I get warm inside just thinking about it, even now. Obviously I loved the show Northern Exposure. I realize that was a fantasy, and there's no magical little town with a crotchety store owner, a gruff innkeeper with a young wife, a hippie radical DJ, and a feisty, romantically-cursed girl pilot, and a cranky Yankee doctor, but y'know... I kind of always wanted to see for myself.

But I've never been. Not once.

I know it can't happen; I have ties here now. But my fantasy is this:

I live in a rustic log home with a stone fireplace. There's a snowmobile to get to town in winter. But mostly, I'm there inside in the quiet, no people outside my window. Just snow and trees and mountains, and my word, it's lovely. I'd want a town close enough for safety, but you wouldn't believe how I crave privacy. It's a little ironic that I wound up in one of the biggest cities in the world. I'd have my own generator in case the power went out, and I might even live far enough from major civilization to need satellite internet. I want to be away from crowds and developments and traffic. I want to live off the grid. I've often thought I could've functioned well, if I had married some survivalist and he'd dragged me off to the woods. Sadly, even if Andres didn't have professional and familial ties, he would respond to this idea with a resounding, "Like hell." He's not a Grizzly Adams type.

What's your favorite "it's never gonna happen" fantasy?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Zombie Valentine

Okay, so I have a fun announcement to make. Katie MacAlister, Marianne Mancusi, Lisa Cach and I are going to be doing a valentines anthology together. My Zombie Valentine will be released in January 2010. These will be love stories where zombies play prominent roles. Everyone deserves love, right?

Chris Keesler at Dorchester came up with the title, which by the way, completely cracked me up when I first heard it. I haven't spent a lot of time with Chris, but I've talked to him enough to know he has a warped sense of humor. This proves it.

In my story, Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo, a lonely New Orleans voodoo shop owner decides she's had enough romantic disappointments. She wants a relationship, but only with mister right. So she uses her voodoo magic to call the perfect man for her. Only she should have been more specific because her ideal mate died 198 years ago. When a sexy, well-spoken zombie gentleman shows up at her door, things get interesting.

It was a blast to write this story because I could play with a completely different world - new characters, new creatures, new problems. The cover is still in the works, but I'll post it when it arrives.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Time to Play

I need to play more.

I like to think I'm a pretty fun person, but every once in a while I go outside and do something that reminds me of my youth, and it simultaneously reminds me that I'm not as young as I used to be. If they could bottle "kid energy" I'd buy it.

I'd love to go outside and play football without feeling like I've been trampled by a herd of rampaging elephants later. Maybe I should stick to board games.

I'm a big fan of board games. Overall, I have a good time. I really like several games from the company Days of Wonder. Pirate's Cove is awesome. So maybe I've got a thing for pirates, but there is something infinitely entertaining about that game. Everyone reveals their secret intentions all at once, and you know what breaks loose on the high seas. That's quality entertainment right there.

But I can't stand Monopoly. Maybe money just makes me nervous, but I'm pretty sure whoever thought up that game was a sadistic you-know-what.

Here' s the thing about Monopoly. You only need to go around the board twice. By then, you know who is going to win, and who is going to lose. The rest is a nine hour lesson in misery as everything you own slowly gets stripped from you by someone who owns everything.

This is a game? It's twisted, I tell you.

There are pointless games, like tic-tac-toe, and silly games, like Simon says. Then there are very serious games like peek-a-boo.

We need more time to play. I don't care what, but it's my mission to unwind with a good game at least twice next week.

How about you? What are your favorite games?

Jess

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Christie Craig Winner!

We have a winner in Christie Craig's contest for her latest, Gotcha! Venus Vaughn! Email me offline at angie @angiefox.com and I'll put you in touch with Christie Craig.

Macy Tucker was five years old when her beloved grandfather dropped dead in his spaghetti. At twelve, her father left his family in the dust. At twenty-five, her husband gave his secretary a pre-Christmas bonus in bed, and Macy gave him the boot. To put things lightly, men have been undependable.

That's why dating's off the menu. Macy is focused on law school, and putting herself through—which means being the delivery girl for Papa's Pizza. But cheesier than her job is her pie-eyed brother, who just recently escaped from prison to protect his new girlfriend. And hotter than Texas toast is the investigating detective. Proud, sexy…inflexible—he's a man who would kiss her just to shut her up. But Jake Baldwin's a protector as much as a dish. And when he gets his man—or his woman—Macy knows it's for life.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Got Ghosts?

Ah, my Internet if finally back up and working again. Don’t know what went wrong. Don’t know how it got fixed. Just know it’s no longer wonky, and I am grateful.

Now that I’m back in business, I can tell you about the class I went to last weekend at Heavenly Hardware Enchantments (http://www.blogger.com/(http://www.heavenlyhardware.com/) here in Cleveland. It’s a great new shop full of crystals, candles, incense, etc. But I wasn’t there for any of that.

I was there to look for ghosts.

The ghost hunting seminar was sponsored by the Western Reserve Paranormal Society (http://www.blogger.com/(http://westernreserveparanormal.com/). Got ghosts? These guys will help you find them!

If you’re looking to locate ghosts on your own, there are some basic tools you can use.


#1 A pad and paper.

That’s right. It’s pretty low tech, but something these ghostbusters highly recommend. As you’re investigating, you should also be keeping notes about what you see, what happens when, where it happens. That way, you can compare your notes with those of others who are investigating with you. (An aside, they advise that you never investigate alone and that, of course, you always have permission to investigate any site that isn’t public property.)

#2 A camera

Digital or film, it doesn’t matter. Snap away! The more pictures you take, the more likely you are to find evidence. And since it’s a question I’ve heard asked in every ghost hunting class I’ve taken . . . yes, use your flash. If you’re feeling more sophisticated, you can use a video camera, too.






#3 Tape recorder


Again, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your equipment is. You can use a digital recorder (recommended by some of the experts I’ve heard speak) or you can use an old-fashioned recorder that uses tapes. The folks from Western Reserve recommend the old-fashioned ones because they believe the tapes, being magnetic, tend to attract more spirit energy.

What are you going to record? You’ll be looking for EVPs. That’s electronic voice phenomenon and what it means is a voice or a sound that you can’t hear with your ears but that does get caught on tape. When you’re investigating, you’ll ask questions (i.e., "Is anybody here?" "What’s your name?" "Why are you still in this house?"). Pause after to give the spirit time to answer. Many times when you play back your tape, you won’t hear a thing. But sometimes . . .

The people from Western Reserve played an EVP they’d recorded on a railroad bridge. The investigator is humming "I’ve Been Working on a Railroad" when all of a sudden, a very breathy voice starts singing the words. Scary? You bet!



Those are the basics. If you’re looking to add to your equipment, you might want to take along dowsing rods. I’d never used rods before this class and I’ve got to tell you, I was impressed with the results. The theory behind the rods is that they can be used to detect energy, spirit energy included. As I walked through Heavenly Hardware holding the rods parallel to each other, they sometimes crossed. They sometimes swung around so that each was pointing in different directions. There were even a couple times they twirled completely around. Interesting.

So what do you say? Up for a ghost hunt? As part of my ghostly research, I’m going to be joining the folks from Western Reserve at an upcoming investigation. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 5, 2009

To Sign or not to Sign

Book signings. They are one of the things people think of when they think of authors, but I've never been big on them--for myself that is. In fact, I've never done one solo. I've done the big group ones at RT and RWA national, smaller groups at smaller conferences (I have one of those this weekend.), and ones with a couple of friends, but never alone.

Some authors go out of there way to do signings. Spend days calling around or visiting to set them up because they believe it will get their books into the stores, make friends with the booksellers and sell books.

But I don't--or I don't think signings are the best way to accomplish those things. First, I don't want forty copies of my books which very likely won't sell ordered into a store. That may sound crazy, but if a book store orders forty copies and sells three, what happen to the rest? Sure they may keep some around, but 37? No, those babies are getting stripped and sent back. So far as making friends with booksellers? There are other ways, one of which I'll go into in a bit. But you do actually sell books, right? Maybe, if you are really comfortable with doing that--with approaching each customer with exactly the right mix of not bothering and here's my book. Even after a very successful career in sales, I'm not.

So, I don't do signings. I do, however, sign stock. Signing stock is quick, easy and doesn't require me standing by myself in heels for two hours. For stock signings, you just drop in whenever, ask if they have your books and if you can sign them. I've never had a store turn me down and usually they are really happy to have me. (This would be the making friends part.) And you leave behind autographed books for anyone who might actually want one. It is grand.

So, today I will be doing FIVE signings. None of them organized, but I will see my books in the wild, meet some lovely people who love books and leave behind copies of Amazon Ink with my signature for anyone who really wants one. And I will have a good time doing it. You can't beat that.

How about you? Do you like signed books? How many actual author signings do you go to? What does it take to get you to go to a signing? And if you see some author you've never heard of standing next to a table of books at the mall, do you walk up or run the other way? (I have literally seen a woman break into a run when she realized my friend was an author selling books.)

Let me know, and if you are in Green Bay stop by Borders or Barnes & Noble this weekend to see if I've been through!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vacation Time!


I'm going on vacation! Okay, so it's a mini-vacation and only for a few days, but still...it's strictly for pleasure and doesn't have anything to do with writing. Wait a second, that's not true!! I'm going to Minnesota, to visit my aunt and uncle at their home on Crooked Lake and the setting for my current manuscript is inspired by that lake!! (Does that mean I can consider this trip "research" and claim it as a deduction??? 8) )

All joking aside, this has brought home one thing...at least for me, no matter what I'm doing, the stories are never far away and the inspiration for them is everywhere. On TV, in magazines, in the news, an off-handed remark someone might make...this stuff soaks into my brain, and my imagination is off and running, usually fired by the question "what if?" Or maybe "isn't that interesting...I wonder if...?" I guess the word "if" plays a bigger role in my life than one would expect! 8) And you know, I like it that way. It allows me to see the world as an exciting, mysterious place, never knowing what's around the next corner. It also allows me to create worlds where the hero can always win and happy endings are always possible. I wouldn't change it even if I could.

So, we'll see what happens over the next few days as I'm sitting by the lake, sipping the wine with which my aunt always plies her guests, and listening to the call of the loons. Who knows what stories will pop into my head? What if...? 8)

Catch you next week,
Shirley

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Your idols

One of the weirdest things about this business is once you're published, you suddenly occupy the role of "colleague" in conjunction with some of your own greatest idols. Being on a panel with Sharon Shinn? Did it. Attended a con as a guest where Lois McMaster Bujold was the Guest of Honor? Did it.

And today, I got an email advising me that Charles de Lint is featuring my book in his SF and fantasy column. My first response was, nuh uh, you've got to be kidding me. How could he possibly know who I am? Let alone like my books. It was a total Wayne and Garth "I'm not worthy" moment. Like Sharon Shinn, I've been reading Mr. de Lint for many years. His prose is lovely, ethereal, and delicately shaded, like a watercolor.

So today I'm riding quite a high. Most of the people I read in college have been astonishingly kind to me, if I've encountered them. That said, I am certainly never one to go up to someone I admire and introduce myself. I always assume they have something better to do than to meet me, even if I have been buying their books faithfully for twenty years. I guess I just don't see myself as that interesting; I put all my fascinating and/or disturbing ideas in my books. Which leaves me gazing wide-eyed at the authors to whose level of greatness I could only aspire. I still feel starry-eyed like that when I'm at a con.

How do you guys react when you meet someone whose work you've really loved?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don't Shoot the Messenger: A Little Armchair Psychology From A Romance Writer

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the sooner we accept this, Ladies, the better off all we'll all be. Are ya'll ready? Brace yourself, because here it comes and it ain't pretty.

There are no perfect men. I can hear the wailing now. But give me a minute and I may be able to make you feel a tad better.

First, I don't mean perfect in the physical sense, because let's face it, I know of a few men who I don't think I could find a flaw with if I went over them with a magnifying glass. (But darn it, if I wouldn't like to be given the chance to go over David Boreanaz, AKA Booth on Bones, very carefully, and maybe twice.) But no, I don't mean physically.

I mean perfect in character. The kind of man who doesn't make mistakes, one who never says something he doesn't mean in a moment of anger, a man who never leaves the toilet lid up or his underwear down, or one who doesn't snore or hates taking out the trash, and oh, how about one who never, ever passes gas.

Whenever I tell someone this, they always sigh and say, "Yeah, that's why we love romance novels." And this is where I have to deliver the bad news again. Because if there is one characteristic I work the hardest to give my heroes, it's the trait of being human. And darn it, humans just aren't perfect.

Take my husband for example. And the point is that very few of you would keep him. You know those flaws I mentioned above, well, stamp him guilty and put him away to do ten to life, for all the offenses. On top of that, if you've read my blogs at Killer Fiction, you'd know that this man actually drove through the Burger King drive-though and special ordered a hamburger when I was in full labor. Oh, he also spot-cleaned my carpet using an Exacto knife. He is so NOT perfect. But you know what, he's perfect for me. His flaws would drive some women straight to divorce court or even worse, straight to murder. And not that I haven't considered the latter a time or two, but for the most part, his flaws are to me . . . tolerable. And I still love that man.

And this is what I strive for when writing my heroes. Not to write a man who is perfect, but to write one who is perfect for my heroine.

In Gotcha! my hero Jake is so darn lovable, but he's so crass that he causes some serious eye rolls for my heroine Macy. Nevertheless, Macy is a bit smart-mouthed herself, and finds my hero's borderline-inappropriateness to be funny-most of the time. But then he makes one big mistake. I wanted to kick his butt when he did it, too. So did my heroine. He had some serious groveling to do, but he did it so right. In my books, and in real life, a man who knows how to grovel can be a hero.

I once heard a psychologist/relationship counselor talk about finding a lifetime mate. Something he said really resonated with me. "When shopping for a spouse, never, ever shop for good qualities. Shop for a mate, by looking at their flaws. After you find flaws you can live with, then see if his good traits are something you could love."

He said, that no amount of good qualities will keep a marriage together, but a flaw is always what will break a marriage apart. Hence, when I shop for heroes, I shop by looking at flaws that will create conflict as well as a great resolution. So there you have it, a little armchair psychology to use in life and in your books.

And here's what I'd like to know from you. What flaws do you find tolerable or intolerable in your man and in your romance novels? Can he leave his underwear on the floor as long he looks good in them and even better without them? If he passes gas, do you pass on him? What guy would you like to take a magnifying glass to inspect? Today I'll give away a signed copy of GOTCHA! to one lucky poster. So, good luck and start commenting!

By the way, today I'll also be giving away copies of Gotcha and other prizes at my blog, Killer Fiction, and over at the Writing Playground. Plus pop over to Dorchester where I have a contest posted on the Special Features section that a winner will walk away with a basket of books and goodies. So make sure you pop over.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends...

Hey everyone,

I just had one of these weeks where it hit home how crucial a support system is. After a little bit of an emergency, where two of my friends literally dropped everything to rush to my side to help me, it became pointedly clear how important friends are.

That's true in the writing sphere as well. It makes me sad that we as writers can't be more open with one another. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to wrestle a Tasmanian devil tied to a porcupine into a cat carrier than it is to get writers to open up about their careers.

I'm guilty too. I feel like I have to keep my cards close to my chest. I live in constant fear of coming off as unprofessional, uncool, or unctuous. Okay, I'm mostly kidding about that last one.

While I can solve the last problem with some nice shampoo, uncool I've struggled with my entire life. How am I suddenly supposed to be graceful and gracious now when I tend to snort when I laugh, say too much, and scrunch up my whole face when I smile?

I long to be polished and unfazed by anything, and yet, if people could hear what goes on in my head as I navigate the halls of a writer's conference. And we all go through this in one way or another.

But that insecurity is dangerous. Insecurity leads to back-biting, the worst kind, where you are the perpetrator, not the victim.

The only defense we have is the support of friends. In a crisis, through thick and thin, the pressure is off if you know you have at least one person you trust that you can be completely open and honest with. You can unburden yourself of pressure without worrying that you sound ungrateful for the opportunities you've been given. You can be honest about your disappointments or cheer your victories without worrying about jealousy.

A writing friend like that is the most precious commodity in this business. If you have one, treat her like a queen, because trust like that is precious. If you don't have one yet, be a true friend to others, always. That's the best way to open the door.

Jess