Friday, July 31, 2009

What is it about kids?

Why do they avoid the simplest of everyday tasks? I'm not talking cleaning their rooms or even NOT throwing every tiny bit of trash they create on the floor, I'm talking say brushing their teeth.

I mean seriously, how hard is it? But it must be hard because mine go to great lengths to avoid it.

First it was the "I'm just not doing it/lie when asked" approach.

I started testing the brushes for moisture. I also listen for the sound of our dear friend Mr. Sonicare going.

Then it was "wet the toothbrush and hold it while going" tactic.

I started smelling their breath. Thought I had them then. This works well with hand washing by the way...if you can't smell the soap they need to be washed again...but with the tooth brushing it was a tad harder. Neither of my kids use mint toothpaste and the fruit ones are a little more subtle...But still, I thought this technique was working until I discovered my son was...

"squirting toothpaste air into his mouth." Direct quote.

We buy plastic squeeze bottles of toothpaste. The little (bleeped) was blowing watermelon scented air into his mouth then asking me to smell it.

Yes, yes he was...

Now, seriously wouldn't it be easier just to brush your teeth?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Life Imitates Art???

Well, I'm going to do something that Ophelia has done! No, it's not a spell and I'm not planning on tripping over a body any time soon...it's speed dating! In THE WITCH IS DEAD, Darci talks Ophelia into attending such an event, and although no one talked me into it, I thought I'd give it a shot. (Wait that's not quite true...my friend, Cheryl, strongly encouraged me to give it a go, and no, she's not going with me. I'm facing this ordeal on my own!) For those of you who haven't heard about this rather interesting social phenomenon...here's how it works. An equal number of men and women meet at an event sponsored by a dating site, then the men (I presume it's the men) move from table to table and engage those women that they think they might like to get to know better in brief conversation. (I think they have six minutes.) At the end of the event, each group turns in a list of potential dates and the organizers match them up.

Even though at the time I hadn't experienced this, I had a lot of fun writing that scene. I tried to imagine the worst that could happen to Ophelia in this situation. One guy is so into sports, it's all he talks about. Another thinks The Three Stooges are the height of hilarity and proceeds to do his "Curly" imitation complete with the "nyuck-nyuck-nyuck's". Yet another just wants to talk about his ex. Now I'm kind of wondering what's going to happen to me??? Will my experience mirror Ophelia's??? So I came up with a little list of the top five things that could go wrong (not that I'm being negative, but a girl's gotta be prepared! 9) ):

1.I will spill coffee all over myself driving to the event. (Don't laugh-I did it last weekend on my way to visit my daughter!)
2.There will be twenty women, but only three guys. (Great odds for the men, huh?? 8) )
3.Although I love to talk, I'll be so nervous, my mouth will dry up, my tongue will get all tangled up, and any coherent thought will vanish like a mist.
4.I'll develop a huge zit the week of the event that no amount of concealer will hide.
5.Last but not least...shades of junior high when you were divided up to play some game...no one will pick me and I'll sit there the entire time just twiddling my thumbs!

Given my trepidation, why am I doing this?? (I really don't mind sitting at home on a Saturday night with my dog watching "The Dog Whisperer"!) I guess it's kind of like being a writer. When we create a story, we never know if it's going to fly. Will our agent like it? Will a publisher? How about the readers? Will they love it, or will they be disappointed? You just never know until you put yourself out there. There's always a chance of failure...but there's always the chance of success, too!!! I may not meet Mr. Right this time, but I do intend to have fun! At the very least, this experience should make a good story!

Wish me luck!!!

See you next week,
Shirley

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What a month!

July has been packed full of work and travel. I really enjoyed my time in DC. We did some sightseeing; I had meetings with a couple of lovely editors. The panels were excellent -- Anne Stuart was lovely, as always. The workshops I participated in went well, apart from the fire alarm in the middle. That was awesome.

Since coming home, I've been working like crazy, and I've finished revisions on two projects: Nightfall (apocalyptic paranormal romance) and Bronze Gods (the steampunk I told you about). Those are now in the hands of my agent and/or editor, so I'll be on tenterhooks until the verdict comes back.

No matter how many books I sell, I never lose the quiet worry that dovetails with the excitement. Will anyone else like this? Will it go the distance? With nine books under contract, I haven't been on the waiting wheel for a good while. (I call it that because in my mind I'm a hamster spinning until somebody gets back to me. Oh, I might be moving but I'm not really going anywhere until I have the answer.) And it's hard not to obsess about it, even as you tell yourself intellectually, they're busy people. I shouldn't think about it. It will be months before I know anything. But how do you NOT think about it?

Give me some techniques and strategies for getting weighty issues off your mind, will you?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Something Wicked welcomes Delilah Marvelle

Delilah Marvelle is in the house today. She's the author of wickedly humorous historical romances. Her books are about a school that specializes in teaching men the art of seduction and as you can assume, much merriment ensues.

And with that, I'll give the floor to Delilah:

I've always had a genuine interest in not just writing, but history. In particular, NAUGHTY history. Being first generation Polish and having been raised by a traditional European father who would rather gouge his eyes out than talk about sex, I have to say all things naughty naturally seemed exciting and forbidden.

Which is why I was ultimately drawn to write about it.

What sort of naughty history am I talking about? The sort that led to my series about a school in 1830 London England that educates men on the topic of love and seduction. Many will say that such a thing could have never existed. To those I say, you'd better brush up on your history.

Enter Ninon de L'Enclos. A 17th century French courtesan who was reknown for hosting "meetings in a classroom type setting" in her bedchamber with aristocratic men to conduct discussions on the topic of love, seduction, philosphy, and sex. Ninon understood something that many courtesans did of her day. That men had no form of "open dicussion" with regard to sex with women. And that if given the chance, they'd flock to her. Which they did.

She was brilliant. And apparently, the men who flocked to her thought so too. That said, I turned Ninon's little bit of history into an actual classroom setting trying to imagine what such a school for men would really be like in the time period I write in and what sort of men would show up. The result was MISTRESS OF PLEASURE (released September 2008) and LORD OF PLEASURE (to be released August 4, 2009).

That said, I turn this over to you, dear reader. If you could get your man to enroll in a school that would educate him on the topic of love and seduction, would you do it? And if so, why?

I'll toss my garter in first. Yes, I would TOTALLY enroll my husband. Why? Because as amazing as he is during the day, I'm sorry but he needs to be reminded what is expected of him at night, especially after 15 years of marriage. The same old position simply won't do for this girl. (He'd kill me if he saw me post this, LOL) Oh. And by the by, if you're curious about naughty history (and I know you are!!) be sure to check out my blog, A BIT O'MUSLIN.

Borders gift certificate winner

Happy Tuesday! We have a winner in the Borders gift certificate giveaway from my post last week. It's Michelle. Yay Michelle! Email me at angie@angiefox.com and we'll get that right out to you. After all, there are many books waiting to be bought and taken home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pack it up! We Have a Winner!

Congratulations Diane M, you won a signed copy of Beyond the Rain, by leaving a comment on this post. Please send me an email through the contact page of my website, and I'll send you a book.

As for me, I've been thinking about packing. I'm not a big fan of packing, though I'm pretty good at it. You wouldn't believe the amount of stuff I can arrange in the back of the van if I decide to go camping, or say, to Disney World with the whole family and both sets of grandparents. To me, that's like a puzzle, and I'm good at making it all fit.

So why is it I'm so terrible at unpacking? My suitcase from D.C. is still in a state of disarray, and I really don't want to touch it. Yet it sits there, taunting me.

I'd blame it on the excitement of going somewhere vs. the let down of getting back, but the truth is, I don't like packing the suitcase either. I just like trying to fit it in the car. Before a trip, I'm always up until the wee hours of the night dealing with my suitcase.

And I always forget something. At the convention it was a slip for a skirt. Even though it looked fine and you couldn't see through it, I still felt naked and I could hear my grandma's voice in my head telling me ladies always wear a slip. Actually the voice in my head chastised my social blunder a little more bluntly, but I'm not in the mood to be crass at the moment.

As I come up on yet another move, I'll be spending days if not weeks in packing/unpacking limbo. And all I feel is stress. I just want the mess to get taken care of, but the only one who can take care of it is me.

I guess the only way to deal with it is to roll up the sleeves and pick up one thing at a time. Eventually things will settle down again, and then I can put my feet up and forget I even own a suitcase for a while.

Jess

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Forget About It!

Forgetting things lately?

According to a recent online report, we all are. I have my own theory about that. I think it’s because there’s too much to fill our heads these days. Too much information. Too much news. Too many details we never would know if the media wasn’t on a constant feeding frenzy for every little bit of chum about every story.

But that’s a blog for another day. For now, here’s a list compiled by researchers in the UK and my reactions to them. See how you stack up!

They say these are the top 25 things we forget most often:

1. Letting a cup of coffee go cold.
(Not a problem for me, I drink tea!)

2. Where you put your keys.
(Hmm...they must know my husband.)

3. What you went to the shop for.
(Not a biggee for me, I hate to shop so I don’t go unless I need something specific, then I’m in and out of there as fast as possible.)

4. Wash in the washing machine.
(Yes, guilty!)

5. Taking food out of the freezer.
(Don’t know if this means you forget to take it out or you forget you’ve taken it out.)

6. Charging your mobile phone or I-Pod.
(I hardly ever use my cell, it seldomly needs charging.)

7. Now swearing in front of the kids.
(Don’t. Never have. Besides, my kids are old enough to know plenty more bad words than I do; I often have to ask them for translations.)

8. Replacing toilet roll.
(I assume this is British for toilet paper. Who could forget??)

9. Where you parked your car.
(Nope!)

10. Friend’s kid’s birthday.
(I guess I do forget this but that’s because it’s completely unimportant to me. My own kids’ birthdays? Yeah, those are worth remembering!)

11. Watering the plants.
(All alive and kicking.)

12. Your age.
(I remember. Believe me, I remember.)

13. Friend’s birthday.
(Good about this, but not about sending cards.)

14. Record your favorite TV show.
(Why bother? Most of the shows on TV are awful, anyway.)

15. Burning toast
(Is that possible with the way it pops up when it’s done?)

16. Write a thank you letter.
(I’m old-fashioned, and pretty good about things like this.)

17. Names of friend’s children.
(These days, it’s the names of friend’s children’s spouses I have trouble with.)

18. Buying milk.
(Nope! Need it for my tea. Never run out.)

19. Locking the car.
(My dad was a cop. Locking cars is second nature.)

20. Where you put your wallet.
(Why? There’s nothing in it anyway!)

21. Food in the oven.
(Hello! Timer!!!)

22. Buy a lottery ticket.
(Never do.)

23. Put the toilet seat down.
(Obviously, we know the researchers and their subjects were men.)

24. Take the wash in.
(From . . ?)

25. Turn off the tap.
(They’re kidding, right?)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Perception vs. reality...

You spend a lot of time on the Internet, right? You read the blogs. You maybe even check Amazon rankings and chat with bloggers and some authors. You have a good idea what books are hot right now and what authors are on the way up, right? You know the editors and agents who are hot too, right? Who is making the big sales? Who is a dream to work with?

Or do you? I'm betting unless you are REALLY close to those authors (like you are their mother or their accountant), you don't. Because perception and reality in the book business are very different things. And, sit down for this one, sometimes people lie! I KNOW it is shocking, but I can honestly say at almost every conference I have been at I have heard some editor or agent telling the audience "how it is" and I can turn to any number of authors present who know that isn't the way it was for them with that very same editor or agent. I've also sat at innumerable conferences and heard people supposedly in the "know" talk about how such and such book was a huge success and how such and such promotion got it and the author to the top of the pile, while I know that book tanked and the author is about to go into the author protection program...better known as taking on a pen name.

I had a really hard time with this whole concept for a long time. I would stupidly wander up to authors and say something like "Wow, you are doing great." and then wonder why they stared at me as if I had just fallen off the turnip truck. Yes, they had a book on the table in front of them to sign, yes they had received a lot of chatter online and great reviews, but they knew the reality--and it wasn't the glamorous fame and fortune lined path I envisioned. And then I've known authors who got no chatter--OR got slashed by online reviewers and seen them sign contract after contract, selling book after book...BUT, BUT no one liked their book...HOW could that be?

Uh, yeah...

I've also listened to over eager newbies bubbling about how wonderful such and such editor or agent is and how they would DIE to work with them because said agent or editor could tell a good joke...uh, okay, but when she won't return your calls, or forgets to submit that proposal you probably won't be laughing...

Again, yeah...

So, how gullible are you? How much chatter do you take as fact just because, well people are chattering? Do you believe everything everyone says because they are sitting behind a table at some conference or do you leave with that big grain of salt completely intact? If you are an author do you let any of this affect you--for the good or bad? Or do you tie on the blinders and steam ahead?

How far apart do you think perception is from reality? Or am I the one lying now? Hmmm?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New book cover and a somewhat unrelated question

Yesterday, I received a fun surprise in my inbox. The cover for A Tale of Two Demon Slayers is here. Now this is the book that's due out in Feb 2010. In it, Lizzie and the gang head to Greece where they discover all kinds of juicy secrets about Dimitri's past, as well as an enemy that is gunning for Lizzie and anyone she's ever met. At least that's how it's going so far. I'm still writing the last four chapters. Wish me luck!

And onto the somewhat unrelated question: how much do you judge a book by its title? I've always liked titles, I think, because I was an advertising writer for so long. To me, they're like mini-headlines. I've bought books based on the title alone: Undead and Unwed; Dead Girls Are Easy; Red-Headed Stepchild.

Still, I thought that was a unique quirk until yesterday when I posted on Facebook that I'd just sent Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo to my editor. (That's the novella for My Zombie Valentine). I thought I might get a few yay's for being done, and I did. (My friends are so cool.) But there were also a lot of people who talked about the title.

That surprised me because, well, is it possible others share my obsession? So what about you? Do you pick up books based on the titles? What are some of the favorites? Oh and to sweeten the pot, I'll throw in a $10 Borders gift certificate for one lucky commenter.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What a Blast!


Seeing as how today is the anniversary of the moon landing, I feel I have to pay a little homage to the very very brave men who first explored space, and their wives.

Those women had guts and heart, and you hardly ever hear about the excitement and fear they must have felt for their husbands as they watched, helpless but proud. They must have been terrified. I would have been. So here's my shout out to the women behind the men of NASA.

The moon landing inspired a generation to look to the stars. That same generation imagined worlds beyond ours, and the adventurous possibilities of what might be out there, somewhere. With Star Wars, and Star Trek, we thought about space, ourselves, and the universe beyond us in a whole new way.

And those otherworldly adventures have inspired me. It's just two weeks before the debut of Beyond the Rain.

To celebrate, I'll be giving a way a free copy of the book to someone who posts a comment. The contest will close at midnight on Sunday July 26th, and I'll announce the winner during my next blog post next week! Good luck, and tell your friends.

Jess

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Where Were You?


Where were you on July 20, 1969?


It was, of course, the day American astronauts landed on the moon for the first time and this coming Monday is the 40th anniversary of the event.


And that got me to thinking about where I was that day . . .


I was spending the summer in England, studying English literature at Queen’s College, Oxford University. I was there with a group of American kids and of course, we were jazzed about the moon landing. So much so that we all agreed to meet to watch it on the "telly."


Astronauts landed on the moon at 4:17 Eastern Daylight Time, but Neil Armstrong didn’t make that historic "one small step" until six hours after that. OK, my math is fuzzy, but that means 10:17 pm, EDT. And England was (at least the way I remember it) six hours ahead of time. Which made it 4:17 am in Oxford.


Yet there we were, huddled around a small TV set, a group of kids from all over the USA, brought together by this one astounding event.


I hate to get up early. But I was really glad I did that morning. The next day (blurry-eyed, no doubt!) I bought British and French newspapers with headlines proclaiming the success of the mission. I still have them around here somewhere. Will have to search for them in honor of the anniversary.


Where were you when we landed on the moon?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Life out of control...

Anyone else feel like they are chasing life down the street? That it's moving ahead of you a bit more every day?

I didn't used to feel this way. I think it's the kids...who knew they came with such increased chaos?

Anyway, this week I could maybe should be at the RWA National Conference in D.C., but I chose to stay home...second year in a row staying home. And, I have to say, I don't regret it, because this darn life of mine is hard enough to keep under control without me trying to chomp out five days (plus shopping) for a conference.

What am I doing/done? (warning it doesn't sound like that much...)


  1. Edits on February 2010 Nocturne x 7 because it's an every day thing this week

  2. Housework...not much because I'm trying to be honest here...

  3. Took kid #1 to Doctor (three hour visit)

  4. Took kids to county fair

  5. Blogging...here

  6. Emailed and twittered (following RWA National...hmm, maybe this has something to do with out-of-control life...)

  7. Updated web site...And it is still seriously not up-to-date

  8. Entered receipts/paid bills...another seriously waited-too-long task

  9. Fish shopping...TWICE because first one died same day!

  10. Interview with and conversing with Husky Rescue people about adopting a new dog...

  11. Preparing kids for next week's camp AND house in general for potential new dog

  12. Driving five hours to see potential new dog...and back...

  13. Jogging, but not enough...it could be worse, I could be at National sucking down daiquiris...

  14. 5,000 other little things I have now forgotten


So, there's my list...do I deserve to feel out of control? Probably not...sigh.
p.s. Here's a picture of the dog we are thinking of adopting... How freaking cute is he? (and yeah, one of his eyes is half brown and half blue!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Dreaming

While Jess, Angie, and Ann are tripping the light fantastic at RWA, and Casey is curled up with a bowl of popcorn, lusting after Stewart Granger, (I don't know what Lori's up to this week), what am I doing?? Not much! Pretty much write and work, work and write. (Okay, I did go out with my girlfriends last weekend, and yes, tequila was involved. Had a great time, btw! 9) ) But other than the occasional night out, it's been pretty much same-o, same-o this summer.

Not that I'm grousing, but hearing how much fun everyone else is having got me thinking...where would I be right now if I could pick anywhere in the world??? Not a place hot and humid...we've been having plenty of that here in Iowa. No, some place warm, but not steamy. Maybe Colorado or Minnesota? Paris, London, Vienna, Rome? What would be the perfect summer vacation?

For me it would be a tour of Scandinavia. My father's family came from Denmark, and I've always wanted visit the parish where my grandparents were born. Just think...Tivoli, runes, Vikings...and all the aebleskiver I can eat!! (I'll pass on the herring, though!) Then after I'm done eating my way across Denmark, I might as well visit Sweden and Norway, too.

Unfortunately, I don't see the above vacation happening anytime soon, so I'll just have to be content dreaming about it. How about you? If you had the time, the money, and the energy, where would you spend your summer???

Got to fly for now-it's back to the keyboard! See you next week!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

At RWA

So yesterday I did the sightseeing. Lots of walking. I cried quite a lot because most of it was touching and/or crushing. We went to the Holocaust museum. I'm not going to write about that because my feelings are too much in turmoil.

Instead I'm going to focus on the awesome time I had hanging out last night. I didn't get back to my room until 1am. The sisterhood is really my favorite part of RWA. There's a particular kind of energy that is hard to articulate, but when you have so many women gathered together who share a common love and a common goal, it can be a wonderful thing. I had a mad good time last night, and I'm sure whatever rumors you hear will be exaggerated. No, I did not make out with Lauren Dane. Not exactly, anyway...

Today is super full. I really only have the morning free. After noon things heat up to constant activity.

What are you guys up to if you're not at RWA?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The plot thickens

Writers, for the most part, are keen observers of the world around them. It's something that's so natural that I think we forget that we're doing it. I've been out at lunch before with friends from Sisters in Crime or RWA and we'll stop talking to listen to the couple on the blind date behind us or the guys across the aisle debating the need for side dishes when all you need is meat to be full.

And I've observed something interesting this past week as I watch my fellow writers get ready for the big RWA conference in Washington D.C. - you can tell the pantsers from the plotters.

Now in writing terms, pantsers are those that start a book and then just see where it takes them. They let the action and the characters unfold on the page. Plotters, on the other hand, tend to go into a book with a road map of what they'd like to see happen. It can (and often does) change, but they have a plot going in.

So I'm seeing the plotters in my writing groups do the same thing with trip packing. These are the people who were trying on outfits last week and deciding what to wear on each day of the conference. I know at least four of them who are already packed for a flight that doesn't leave until tomorrow. And I know one who emailed me this weekend to remind me to run off my boarding pass 24-hours before the flight. Megan has also emailed again today to make sure I did it. That's organization.

And while Megan Kelly is fricking awesome because, no, I have not run off my boarding pass yet. She's also a hard core plotter. She writes with an eye for detail and she likes to know exactly where a book is going. My pantser friends, on the other hand, are going to think I'm smart if I remember to email them later tonight about those boarding passes. And forget about packing - they've got tomorrow morning before that afternoon flight.

Now I'm in between. I kind of know what I'm going to pack and I'll do it tonight. Was going to do it this afternoon, but it felt right to write a blog post and so that's what I'm doing. I'm more of a plantser when I write. I have a loose plot, and then I let a lot evolve on the page too.

A lot of new writers will say that they're not sure how to approach their writing - if they should outline and plot heavily first or just jump in. My advice? Look at how you pack for your next trip. It'll tell you a lot.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Nerve of Nerves

Hi everyone,

I've been excited to leave for the RWA National writing conference for about three years. This is my first big conference, and I know I'm going to have a great time.

So why am I so nervous?

I can't tell you what I'm even really nervous about. I'm an outgoing person. I like meeting new people. I certainly like talking, and I don't mind doing it in front of a crowd. I'm a seasoned traveler, with several major world cities under my belt. I like hotels, and I certainly love books, which is what this convention is all about.

But I think part of what has always bolstered my social bravery has been an idea in my head that if I manage to do anything silly or awkward, no one is going to remember me.

And this time around I want people to remember me.

That puts me in a little bit of a catch 22.

Because here's the problem. When I get around big groups of people, I always do or say something that is a little goofy. I can't help it. I'm goofy. I'll sing bad karaoke at the drop of a hat. I'll dance, even though I've never been gifted with good coordination or rhythm. I tell some awful jokes, I mean really awful. I smile too much, and when I do I scrunch up my nose. I just was never created to be elegant or graceful.

So now I've got a challenge, be myself while at the same time be conscious of myself. That's a difficult thing to do. I feel confident, but my heart is stuttering just a little every time I think about packing.

I've decided my best defense is a good offense. I'm going to pay close attention to others. I'm going to ask them about them. I'll smile, listen, and try to hold back my impulse to jump in with some corny story I've told a million times.

I think that will help. Now I just have to pray I don't trip over my heels and tumble down a staircase, or into a fountain.

If I want people to remember me from this conference, I want them to remember warmth, humor, creativity and graciousness. If I can pull that off, I'm golden.

Jess

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blame it on Stewart Granger


I always thought I was a born anglophile. I love British history, British accents, books set in Britain. Offer me the world, but give me the British isles any day! I even had a theory for a while that it was all tied up with reincarnation, that we're naturally attracted to places and time periods in which we once lived.


Crazy? Think about it. I know one woman who's interested in Napoleonic France. To me, that time period is a big ho-hum. I know others who can't get enough of American Civil War history. Interesting, yes. But it doesn't fascinate me the way all things British do. My time periods? Well, I'm a sucker for the Victorians. And historical (not legendary) King Arthur, which means somewhere around the 5th Century AD.


All this reincarnation mumbo-jumbo actually makes perfect sense to me. After all, it explains everything.


Or I should say explained everything.


Because just this week I realized that my love of British accents and British history has nothing at all to do with past lives--and everything to do with Stewart Granger.


I can't remember a time I haven't been in love with the British actor. He was handsome. He was dashing. He was adventurous. And if you've never heard of him, don't feel bad. He was a big star back in the 50s and 60s.


That being said, I'm not nearly as old as you think! I remember watching his movies in endless re-runs on Saturday afternoon TV back when I was a kid. Movies like "King Solomon's Mine" where he played an intrepid explorer in Africa. And "Scaramouche" in which he's a swashbuckling French revoluionary. And then there's "Prisoner of Zenda," my very favorite (which also happens to feature a young, handsome and very evil James Mason).


I was reminded of all this just this week as the TMC channel began a month-long salute to Stewart Granger. I haven't caught all his movies, but I'm hoping to see a few more before July is over.


And as I sat there and watched him make his way across an African desert with Deborah Kerr, it finally all made sense.


I'm an anglophile, all right.


And it's all Stewart Granger's fault!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Animals and books...

I did a panel a few months back about animals in fiction...or something like that. It was a surprisingly full room with surprisingly lively interaction between panel and attendees.

But then again, maybe it wasn't surprising. We humans as a rule are quite geeky about our animals. And animals are a very popular theme in books. It starts when we are kids...classics like Black Beauty, The Call of the Wild and Misty to more modern tales like Hoot, The Tale of Despereaux and the Geronimo Stilton series. But animals aren't just in kids' fiction. We adults love them too. Look at the success of Marley and Me. How about Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who series? Or even the George R.R. Martin books with his dire wolves?

Let's face it we love animals, especially animals the characters in the book love, and frequently are willing to risk a lot to save.

Why is it? On the panel I argued it was the love we feel and have felt for our own animals that attracts us to these books. We understand the emotions the characters feel, the desperation they go through when the animal is threatened. It's primal and universal. We get it.

We also frequently see animals we have loved and lost in these fictional creatures. I for one ADORE Susan Conant's malamute mystery series, because I owned and adored my own malamute. Reading her stories reminds me of him, takes me back to the time I had him. What more can I ask for?

What about you? Do you love books with animals? What are some of your favorites? Why do you think they speak to you?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just the Facts

Jess posted about her computer problems this week, and I feel her pain!! I hate it when my computer gets all hinky on me, especially when it comes to the Internet.

Lest you think I spend an inordinate amount of time online, let me explain. I do tons of research online. In fact only this morning as I was working on a chapter in the new book, I needed information that would pertain to my protagonist. She's suffered head trauma as part of the backstory and I needed to know: 1. Would someone who got cracked in the head with a tire iron undergo brain surgery? And if so what kind? (there's three used to relieve pressure on the brain and none of them sound like much fun!) 2. How fast does hair grow? (1 centimeter a month), and last, but not least, (and I don't have the answer to this one yet) 3. Would the surgeons shave her entire head, or just where they were going to make the incision?

Why do these things matter? It's getting the details wrong that'll screw you up every time! I can't very well describe my main character as having shoulder length hair if half her head's been shaved due to surgery! It's important to get it right.

I don't mind the research...it's kind of fun...and I've learned many interesting things with each book. Some of them are as follows:

1. A medium and a psychic are not the same thing. (WITCH WAY TO MURDER)
2. Antifreeze is very poisonous. So are daffodil bulbs and lily of the valley. (CHARMED TO DEATH)
3. The water temperature of a lake affects the rate of a body's decomposition. (THE TROUBLE WITH WITCHES)
4. A knife wound to the femoral artery is one of the fastest ways to bleed to death. (WITCH HUNT)
5. The sum of a dead person's body parts is worth more than their whole body on the black market. (THE WITCH IS DEAD)
6. Drivers in Occupied Paris during World War II used blue cellophane on their headlights to dim them during the blackouts. (THE WITCH'S GRAVE)
7. Andrew Jackson is credited for giving "red-eye" gravy its name. (THE SEVENTH WITCH-on sale next January.)

Now the above mentioned facts don't exactly lead to scintillating dinner conversation! And the truth is...a few of my friends think it quite strange that I know these things! But hey, you never know, someday, someone might want to hear about body snatchers, or psychic talents, or poisons, and if they do, I'll be ready!! 9)

Have a great week and I'll catch you next Thursday!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Attending Mass

I'm not a religious person. I haven't been to church in years, but tonight I attended mass because my husband's grandmother passed away. We do certain gestures, knowing they comfort others, even if we don't necessarily believe all of what accompanies such ceremony.

Tonight I sat in a beautiful chapel with marble floors, a rustic plank ceiling, sturdy stone walls, and a big stone altar. There were silver vases filled with lilies on either side. Behind the altar, the whole back part of the church was made of glass, so you could look down the mountainside. I must say, it made me feel as if I were gazing over all of creation. It created such a sense of awe and majesty.

The service was lovely. Even though the funeral was last week in Monterrey, we held this one so the people who could not travel could also pay their respects. So much sorrow, so much reverence. It was hard for me to see my mother in law crying, and I kept sending my son to hug her, knowing it's easier to accept comfort from a child. There is a balm in their innocence.

My favorite part of tonight was when the priest had us stand up and clap. This didn't seem standard to me, having attended American services, but maybe it's customary here. At any rate, we stood and applauded for our lost grandmother, celebrating her life in that way, saying she is worthy of our pride and our love and we are better for having known her. It was better and more empowering than anything I've seen before in my life. I'm going to close this now because I'm getting all teary.

How do you remember those you've lost?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Noooooooooo!!!!!

Darn it, darn it all to heck.

I am so stinking frustrated and I hate computers.

I just spent the entire day writing a great newsletter. I wanted my newsletter to be a single announcement before each release, just reminding people that the book is coming out soon. But then I also wanted it to be a fun thing for fans of my new series and special for them.

So I typed up my little news blurb announcing the release, then I typed up the story of how I came to write the book, and the things that inspired it. After that, I did a lovely little interview with my hero, Soren. Then I included a super exclusive excerpt you can't find anywhere else, and the brand shiny new cover copy for my second book, Beyond the Shadows.

It was great. Everything looked beautiful and awesome. So I go to save it, and poof! All gone.

Arrrrgggghhhh, I could pull my hair out.

At least it isn't a book that just went up in smoke. But shame on me. I didn't have any backup for my brilliance. That would be too smart, darn it. Sheesh.

So tomorrow, I get to do the newsletter round two. And this time I'm copying everything into my files so the internet gremlins that thought this was all a funny joke can no longer thwart my attempt to give you guys cool stuff to read in your inbox.

If you guys would like to help me out, you can pose questions for my hero Soren, and I'll ask them in the interview with him. If you'd like to see if your questions made it into the newsletter, you can sign up at www.jessgranger.com

Happy writing everyone,

And double check your backups. :)

Jess

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!


I hope everyone will enjoy celebrating today. My family and I will be spending the day with in-laws and their extended family as well as friends. Always fun, and something I look forward to each year.


Have a wonderful–and safe–holiday!


PS, in case you missed the comment added to my blog from last week. We here at Wicked have been nominated for a blog award. Check it out at:


http://ladyvampire2u.blogspot.com/2009/07/ive-been-awarded.html

Friday, July 3, 2009

Almost the 4th!

I was a big fan of the 4th of July growing up. It meant family barbecues and fireworks. We did our own and for the most part managed to make it through without any crazy damage. I do remember my cousin fainting when she got a spark from a sparkler in her eye. Then another year my other cousin (boy) brought a smoke bomb into the house and set it on our TV. He burned both the TV and a painted bust of I think Geronimo, but both survived...as did the house.

The 4th was also one of my friend's birthdays...Happy Birthday, Jeanine! So we had cake and such. Yeah, the 4th was a big deal at our house...or at least to me.

Now we have new traditions. Most fireworks are illegal in Madison. So, no shooting them off ourselves. But we do trot to a nearby park every year and watch the big display. It isn't the 4th I remember with lots of family and fun, but it's become important to my kids...and will be the tradition they remember. Funny how that happens.

This year we are trying for something a little more special too. We're getting out the lawn games...boccie ball, badminton and croquet. You can't miss with that! I think I'm going to pull out some of the old favorite barbecue recipes too--baked beans, corn, coleslaw...and even dessert.

How about you? What do you have planned?

p.s. On memorial day I mentioned Watergate Salad and had requests for the recipe...here it is. It's a perfect 4th of July dish.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th!!!


The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. So many fun things to do...parades, picnics, spending time with friends and family, and of course, fireworks! There's just something about sitting outside on a hot summer night and watching the sky explode with a thousand sparkling lights.

It's not that I necessarily like explosions, or have a desire to blow things up. In fact, ever since that unfortunate incident a few years ago, I've been banned by my family and my friends of ever lighting fireworks myself. (Was it my fault that the stupid canister holding the charge tipped just as I was lighting it thus pointing it toward us instead of out over the lake???? Honestly, it was amazing to see how fast everyone ran!! Of course at the time, I didn't think about it...I was too busy running myself! 9)) Now, I'm regulated to sit with the little kids and far, far away from anything that goes BOOM! But that's okay. As long as I get to watch, I'm fine with not handling the torch! And I still get to play with sparklers!!

So how about you? What do you like best about the 4th of July?? A day free from work? The food? The fireworks? Have any favorite 4th of July memory that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear it!

That's all for this week-everyone have a happy and SAFE 4th of July!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pet the kitty

I have stuff going on here so it makes it hard to think of anything to say just now. So instead enjoy this kitty.

funny pictures of cats with captions