Monday, August 31, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Hi everyone,

I'm heading out to see a minor league ballgame tonight! I'm not even really partial to baseball, but I'm so excited.

It's a break from stress.

As far as sports go, I'm a football kinda girl. I always felt like baseball was a little tedious, and add to that the fact I was never any good at playing it, I haven't paid much attention to it. When I say I was no good at baseball, I mean it. I was awful.

First of all, I'm not the most coordinated chickie in the nest. I can't really run to save my life. I sorta half hobble as I run, and end up looking like a mix between one of those crazy running lizards and a newborn calf with two legs tied together.

Given that, running sports are not usually my cup of tea, and base-running is pretty much a lesson in humiliation. That's assuming I could hit the ball.

I've got this weird thing about hitting flying things with other things. Give me something to throw at something flying through the air, and I'll nail it. Ask me to swing a bat or a tennis racket, nope, no can do. I can't extend the object I'm swinging past my hands. This has resulted in several games of tennis where people laugh in hysterics while I look around baffled wondering where the ball went as it floated under my racket near my knuckles.

So let's assume I struck out, and our team is in the outfield, because let's face it, if I'm up to bat, that's what happens. That is the only part of baseball I used to enjoy. Remember how I said I was pretty good at throwing? I wasn't a complete gimp in the outfield, if I caught the ball. (Not so easy with that racket issue, but I did all right with a baseball glove.)

But my fondest memories of playing baseball were just standing out in the outfield. Okay, usually right field, but I'm not knocking it. I got to spend some time standing in the grass, with the sun on my back in the fresh air. That was awesome.

Now I enjoy going to baseball games, because I love that grass. It is always so green, and people are relaxed, having fun, eating hot dogs, smiling, throwing insults at the pitcher, whatever. It has to be one of the most low key sports to watch, and because of that, it's a great stress reliever.

So I'll see you out at the ballpark. We all could use a little break.

Jess

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Splash of Cash is a Mash of Stash!

I’ve always paid a lot of attention to the language in my books. Back when I wrote historical romance, I did tons of research into the slang of the era. Did I have a Welsh heroine? Then I made sure to throw in a few Welsh words here and there. A hero who designed fireworks back in 1898? Then I learned the special slang of the business. Even these days, writing mysteries, I do the same thing. Annie, the heroine in my cooking mysteries, knows a whole different set of words than Pepper, my detective who talks to the dead.

Language is one of the things that brings a book to life, and using it properly–or not–can make a difference.

Knowing that, it’s no wonder a friend recently sent me a link to an online article. It’s out of London and is all about using ATMs there. You know how we have an option on ATMs here for "Spanish" or "English" language? Well, in East London, you can do your transactions in Cockney!

Cockney rhyming slang is a sort of code of speaking where common words are replaced by a phrase that rhymes with the word.

So step up to the ATM and give it a try!

The first thing they’ll ask for is your "Huckleberry Finn." Know what it is?

Your PIN.

The machine will then tell you that it’s reading your "bladder and lard," and that’s your card.

You’ll also see words like:

bread and honey = money
sausage and mash = cash

Other common Cockney terms include "trouble and strife" for "wife," "apples and pears" for "stairs" and "loaf of bread" which means "head."

So grab your bladder and lard and head to the machine. With any luck, you’ll end up with a fistful of sausage and mash!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough

Two weeks ago, I posted about staying with a book, even if it's tough, and how it's important to do the work, everyday. Oh, man. I really need my own advice, now.

Before I took five days off to travel through Texas and California, Shady Lady was clipping right along. I'm a linear thinker; I write my books in order and to make matters more complicated, taking a break in the middle of the book is the one of the worst things that can happen during a draft. Once I came home, I had lost the golden thread that was guiding me and to make matters worse, I had come to a portion of the book I call the swampy middle of doom. You've got this awesome beginning snapping along, and you know what your end point is, but now you're in the middle. Yes, yes, I am.

When the writing is going well, I can bang out 3K in about 3 hours. When it's going well. It goes well if I am allowed to write everyday, 5 days a week, with no interruptions in schedule apart from planned days off (weekends). I suppose I'm a little inflexible in those terms because I've become rather married to that process. Therefore, for the last week or so as I've been writing, it hasn't been going well. It's taking me 8-12 hours to write 3K and every word is like pulling teeth. Mind, I don't go to sleep until it's done because I know from past experience if I just push through the ugly parts, it will eventually get me back to a good place where I'm banging out 3K in 3 hours again. The only question is: how long will that take?

I will admit, when the writing is rough, it is very tempting to say screw and read other people's books. Because they're here, they're lovely, and they're done. I can't afford to do that for several reasons: I'm not a quitter, I have a schedule to keep, and the longer you lay off work, the harder it becomes to get your groove back. I've learned that, like most things, the hard way.

So last night, once again, after spending a whole day wrestling up to 2500, I was writing until midnight to get those last 500 words. After that, I rewrote my back cover copy for SKIN TIGHT and sent it to my editor. Why couldn't it wait? Well, if I had it on my to-do list for today, it would bug me and distract me from writing. I don't need that.

This job isn't glamorous for the most part. Sure, there are the occasional conference or convention, where I get to sign and meet fans, but for the most part, it's me, ass in chair, writing. And that's work. I love my job more than anything else I could ever do, or I wouldn't give 110% to it, every single day. But make no mistake -- you have to want it. You must develop a thick skin and a certain amount of self-discipline because your editor isn't going to ride you like a proper boss. He or she will just give your release date away if you miss your deadline.

Now then, I must stop fiddling with this blog post and dive into my words. When I get them done (and I will!), I'll be past the halfway mark. *booty dance*

Monday, August 24, 2009

Voices, voices

Hi everyone,

I have been attending a fabulous workshop online with Linnea Sinclair, who is about 47 different flavors of awesomeness. While the workshop is about characterization, we kept getting off topic and talking about voice.

I discovered something in my years of doing this. You've got to write something that fits your voice. You can't make your voice fit something just because you want to write it.

I knew paranormal romance was for me, but for a long time, I kept trying to give my stories historical settings. What did I discover? I do not have a historical voice. I can't even go to the Renaissance Faire and call the porta-potties "privies." I just can't do it. If someone comes up to me and asks, "Prithee, lady, would you by chance know in what direction I might find a toad in a hole?" I'm going to answer, "Um, yeah. I think they're over by the turkey legs."

How's that for authentic?

As soon as I took my knack for lush and fantastic settings and applied it to otherworldly settings, everything clicked.

So here it is, a list of famous authors, and what they should, or should not write according to their voice.

#1 Herman Melville writes YA. Call me McKenzie. Upon September of the year nine and two thousand, I decided to embark, being of poor circumstance, upon a journey on the bus to the local high school... Four hundred thousand words, and at least three chapters of detailing the process by which the lunch lady fixes and serves the food in the cafeteria, we might get to the story.

#2 John Steinbeck writes a suspense thriller. I'd attempt to mock this, but I seriously can't even begin to go there. Can you imagine Cannery Row with a serial killer?

And,

#3 Mother Goose writes women's fiction. I don't think Old Mother Hubbard. counts.

Jess

Winners of Midnight Cravings are...

elaing8
MolliesMom
Kainani
Congrats all!
Lori :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

There and Back Again

Been all over hell’s half acre this week, including a whirlwind trip to the Washington DC/Baltimore area and a TV appearance (trying to find something to wear was not a fun experience!). But the most fun I’ve had in the last week was a visit to Columbus, Ohio for a meeting of Central Ohio Fiction Writers. We had a great crowd and a lot of fun learning how to beef up our brainstorming skills by playing with cards.

That’s right, I said cards.

Tarot cards.

Sound too woo-woo for you? Too kooky? Too spooky?

Actually, it’s none of the above.

Because they’re packed with images, symbols, colors and numbers, tarot cards are the perfect brainstorming tools. Each card packs a punch that can send your mind going in all sorts of directions. There’s nothing spooky or mysterious about it, and you don’t have to be psychic or in tune with the spirits or the Universe.

All you have to do is look at the cards and say what you see.

Each year in the winter, I attend a week-long brainstorming group meeting along with four other authors, and tarot readings have become the highlight of our evenings. We use tarot as a jumping off point, a trigger. We decide which character, plot point, conflict, etc. we want to address in our reading, lay out the cards in what tarot readers call a spread, assign a meaning to each position in the spread (i.e., the first card might stand for the character’s greatest strength, the next for her hopes and dreams, etc.), and take it from there.

We say what we see on the card and as each author puts in her two cent’s worth, the ideas grow and blossom like nobody’s business.

This, of course, is the best thing about reading tarot with writers. When I read for "regular" folks (that is, not writers!), I often have a hard time getting them to open up. I'll ask them what the images on the cards mean to them. I'll tell them what the traditional meanings of the cards are and ask if that has any significance in their lives.

And often, they sit and stare and say, "I dunno."

You know writers, rights? So you know this is never a problem for them! Communication is what we do, and writers love to jump in, offer opinions, throw out ideas and share their imaginations, no matter how wild they happen to be! As I saw at that COFW meeting, this makes the tarot experience interactive and fun.

Interested? Check out the multitude of tarot decks available on line and at bookstores and New Age shops. There are thousands, and you’ll want one that appeals to you, both artistically and intellectually. With cards in hand, you’re on your way to amazing brainstorming adventures!

(This just occurred to me . . . if there are enough people here at the Wicked blog who are interested, we might be able to do an online brainstorming with tarot workshop. Anyone game?)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Deadline Contest

Midnight Cravings

I am busy working away on edits for Amazon Queen, so can't post the blog I had planned today, but in compensation I have Books!! Mass market copies of Midnight Cravings the Nocturne Bites anthology I was in.

I'll give away three copies, U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Enter by midnight Sunday.

So, what do you have to do to enter? Just tell me what you would like to see more of in paranormal romance!

Good Luck!

Lori

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And The Winner Is...

This is going to be a very short post today-lots of stuff going on right now!! (I did get the proposal for the new book sent off btw!! Hooray! Keep your fingers crossed for me, okay?? 9) ) Anyway, the most important thing about today's blog is posting the winner from last weeks giveaway!! And it's Elaing8! Congratulations! Send me your contact info at shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com, and I'll get the Barnes and Noble gift certificate off to you!!

Thanks again to everyone who left comments!!

Take care and have a good one,
Shirley

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stories from the Road

When I travel, particularly across international land borders, I always have it in my mind to use what I'm seeing in a Corine book. Why? Because that lends authenticity to the books.

So this trip, I set out to ascertain whether a fugitive would have a hard time making it to Mexico without a passport. They are now required at all airports if you come into the country by plane. The standards are a bit more relaxed in other cases.

Here is my story. I arrived in San Diego from Houston (via Denver) and got a taxi to my hotel. I showered and let my fabulous agent, Laura Bradford, know I was in town. Around noon she picked me up and we went to take care of some business. After that, we went to Borders, ate lunch at Gordon Biersch and saw a movie (a horribly traumatic experience, as the violence was beyond even what I can stomach -- and that's saying something.) Though it was a good movie, I can't recommend District 9 for anyone who dislikes gore. So then we went to Toys R Us, as I had promised the boy, who has a birthday coming up, and then we ate dinner at Cheesecake Factory. It was an awesome, productive day.

She picked me up in the morning on her way to work and dropped me off at the Greyhound station, where I bought a ticket for the 12:20 bus. I didn't want to be waiting in TJ airport all day. Contrary to what Krusty the Clown says, it is not the happiest place on earth. Once I'd bought my ticket, I ate breakfast downtown and moseyed over to the mall. I bought some lovely French perfume, signed stock at the B.Dalton and browsed there for quite a while. I came out with a fairly large bag of books, despite my best intentions only to buy the few at Borders. Then I meandered down to Body Works, where I did manage to resist buying any lotion. A miracle! From there I made my way to Starbucks, and started Marjorie M. Liu's DARKNESS CALLS. Her writing just blows me away.

Around 11:15, I headed back to the bus station. I know some people find bus travel very skeevy, but I love the slice of humanity it offers. There are young buff dudes, some skaters, some surfers, and there are old people with stories in the lines of their faces. There's always a chatter of languages; Tuesday, I heard French, Japanese, and what I think might have been Albanian, along with the ubiquitous Spanish. It's fun to imagine where people are going and why -- if you like people watching, the bus station is great for that. San Diego has an upscale bus station compared to Houston, which was a little scary. Anyhow, I read the Liu book in conjunction with the intermittent people-watching. At 12:20 my bus boarded and I was on the way to Tijuana.

This is where things get interesting. On the bus, we stopped at San Ysidro (still in CA) to let people off, but nobody checked our luggage or passports. We continued on to the Mexican border, where the bus stopped again. One person pressed the button for the whole bus. (If you're not familiar with how Mexican customs works, when entering the country, you press a button. If you get a greenlight, they wave you through. If you get a red light, they search everything you own.) As far as I can tell, it's totally random. Therefore, if the bus gets a red light, you have the same thing happen, but it's not just you; it's everyone on the freaking bus. Naturally, we all had our fingers crossed because that can mean serious delays. But we got a green light, and so we just rolled right into Mexico. They took me straight to the airport.

That means nobody looked in my bag or asked for a passport. My writer's mind immediately got busy with this. Say you're a fugitive with a bag full of money. If you take the bus across the border (and you get a green light, as does happen), then you absolutely could live in Mexico. I started thinking how that would work and that it would be smart only to change a few thousand at a time to avoid attention. Living in Mexico, I know it's very possible to go cash only and there are property owners who would be happy to rent a house to an American who paid six months rent up front.

So moving on. My story gets even stranger. I had printed my boarding pass at the hotel, so I avoided the check-in counter completely. When I left Mexico, they took my turista immigration card, so I no longer had a visa, technically. (You just fill out a form and get it stamped at immigration. It's not like a US visa.) I showed the man at the first security point my print-out and he waved me through. Again, he did not request ID. I stopped at the immigration desk, intending to fill out a form, so I would be all nice and legal again. The man attending the desk was asleep. Not a little asleep, like dozing, oh no -- he was snoring. I could not rouse him. I stood there for about a minute, clearing my throat, and he didn't respond. I shrugged and went on my way. They did scan my bags twice before I got on the plane, so flying in Mexico would be right out if I were a smuggler with a bunch of money. However, if I hadn't gotten off at the airport -- if I had continued to the TJ bus station, I could've continued traveling in Mexico with nobody paying any attention to what I had or what I was doing. Good to know for future books, I think.

I went through the customs a second time at TJ airport (after the very cursory button-pressing at the actual border). I pressed the button and got another green. The lady behind me was sad about her red light, but she only had a tiny purse. I went to the security checkpoint, where he again checked my boarding pass but did not request ID. My bags were scanned a second time and then I was at my gate, ready to fly to Mexico City, with no immigration papers and no one to verify I had a valid passport. Interesting, right?

I'm so planning to use this stuff in a Corine book. How does the real world inform your work?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The art of goofing off

So I've had a lot going on lately. As soon as I finished the manuscript for A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, my editor sent the copy editor's notes on My Zombie Valentine. Then a few hours after I finished those, edits to A Tale arrived in my inbox. I had to laugh and ask Leah (my editor) if there isn't a 24-hour mercy period. She laughed back and said, "er, no."

Not that I'm complaining. It is fun to have back-to-back releases. But I have found myself doing odd things to charge my batteries. And without further ado, I give you Angie's Top Ten Ways to Goof Off

1) Random online quizzes. One of my favorites: How Many Five Year Olds Can You Take in a Fight? This is useful information, no?

2) Awful Library Books Two hilarious librarians go throgh the stacks and bring us beauties like Your Cat's Sex Life. I kid you not.

3) Facebook Oh how you tempt me.

4) Someone Keeps Stealing my Letters And they do.

5) Humane Society of Missouri Adoptable Pet Photos I really want another dog. Check out Lady, the German Shepherd mix. I think she wants to come home with me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Waiting Game

Hi everyone!

I'm sorry I missed last week, but I'm back. We recently moved into our new house, and let's just say I've been having some internet trouble.

What is it with the cable company anyway?

I was thinking about the way they run their business, and it absolutely drives me bonkers. Wait around your house, we'll be there sometime between eight in the morning and five at night. No no, don't plan anything else, because if you're changing a diaper and we ring the doorbell, sorry, we'll leave and you'll have to wait another two weeks for internet. Honestly?

Then we have a power outage this morning, and of course the cable internet went down too. The power was back up in an hour. Cable? Yeah, not so much.

I've realized it takes a certain audacity to make others wait for you. But then again, it takes almost as much audacity to demand no wait at all. Which got me thinking about author/reader interactions and an article I read about how often the mail used to be delivered. In major metro areas, the mail used to come as often as seven times, A DAY. Waiting for letters used to be like watching the little refresh bar blink after you click "check email". As humans, we've always been impatient for correspondence.

I think we like to know we're all connected. Sometimes I worry about the enormous pressure for immediate correspondence the digital age has created. I feel like we're marching toward having implants in our brain that let us speak directly into one another's thoughts. How creepy is that? "Get out of my head, Mom. I don't want to hear it."

Which brings me back to author/reader relationships. I feel like there's a lot of pressure to remain open and accessible. Where writing used to be about if you liked a book, in some cases now it seems like having a relationship with the author is also important. That said, I've been so grateful for the thrill of having little emails of encouragement showing up in my inbox. It's a strange new world we live in. It's thrilling, but it puts one in a scary and vulnerable place as well.

I guess all I can do is try to respond to people as quickly as I can, because I know they're probably as excited as I am to get a message. It's just in our nature.

Jess

Saturday, August 15, 2009

We Have A Winner!

Thanks for all your comments on last week's contest. The prize is an advance reader's copy of "Dead Man Talking," the newest Pepper Martin mystery which hits the shelves on October 6.


And the winner is . . . (drumroll here)


TheGhostBlogger

Mary D



GhostBlogger, email me at: casey@caseydaniels.com with your address and I'll send out the book.

Thank you all for playing and just for the record, this is the "first" cover the book had. It now has a new cover but I've got it in a PDF file and can't figure out how to copy it and get it on the blog! Any techies out there?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Doing Good While You Read and Write

Remember those walk-a-thons you did as a kid? Or maybe you still do them. You get a pledge for a certain amount per mile then you walk your tootsies off?

Well, if you would like to make a difference, helping out a cause very near and dear to me without wearing blisters on your heels, do I have a fund-raiser for you--Unleash Your Story.

Unleash Your Story is a fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I don't talk about it a lot, but both of my kids have this disease. My daughter was diagnosed at 7 months of age due to failure to thrive. The four months before that were truly the worst months of my life. She ate, she threw up and she pooped (a lot of all three of these, unnatural a lot). She didn't lose weight but she didn't gain and she looked horrible--pale and frail. Then a doctor suggested we try formula (a horrible story all on its own), and after many struggles when I got her to take some, she LOST weight.

I was literally watching my baby die in my arms and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I had seen six different doctors in three different states before we got her diagnosed. Then I thought the diagnosis would kill me.

There is very little like being told your child...baby...has a fatal disease, a disease with no cure. I didn't know what to do, whether to plan for her future or not. It was a very dark time.

Now I have two kids and as the odds would have it, both of them have CF (1 in 4 chance with each pregnancy if both parents are carriers). It's hard, we have daily treatments to do, lots of medications to keep straight and way more doctor visits (maintenance mainly, thankfully) to deal with, but thanks in a HUGE part to the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation my kids are doing well, and I have high hopes that there will soon be even more options for them to increase their life expectancy. Huge.

But then there is still that. I still have to think about "life expectancy" and my kids in the same sentence. It hurts, but it's real which is why if any of you have the time and desire to take part in Unleash Your Story I for one would greatly appreciate it.

Plus, you can win great prizes! :)

Take a minute and check it out! UnleashYourStory.com

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Free Stuff!

Since everyone's been giving away free goodies, I thought I'd join in!! (Plus, there's really not much going on this week! Still working on DIE STANDING (or "The Never Ending Book Proposal" as I like to call it)!! Yes, I'm going to tweak it ONE more time!! But then, I swear...I'm done!! I'm going to close my eyes and hit the "send" button!

Okay, here's the deal...THE SEVENTH WITCH isn't coming out until January 26th, so I don't have a new Ophelia and Abby to give away. Instead the prize will be a $15 Barnes and Noble gift certificate. Just answer the following question and your name will be entered in the drawing. I'll announce the winner next week.

"As faithful readers of this blog (and I know you are!!), what topics have you most enjoyed over the past year? Tips on writing (like the excellent post Ann did yesterday); our guest bloggers; our giveaways?" Let us know and I'll enter your name!

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

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First drafts and doing the job

I quote Jeri Smith-Ready a lot because I admire her tremendously. I first saw her name on Smart Bitches, where a commenter was talking about her enormous love for REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL. Intrigued, I checked that book out and found it was available as an ebook. I bought it. Read it. Adored it. Thus, began my love affair with Jeri's writing. So when I sold, I timorously asked if she would blurb me. To my delight, she agreed to read GRIMSPACE.

That email has started a wonderful friendship. I was lucky enough to room with her at RT and it was so much fun! We don't email as much as we used to because she's very busy and I always think people have better things to do than read ramblings from me. But anytime I see her name in my inbox I perk up with the happy; likewise with Sharon Shinn. Sometimes the people you admire turn out to be every bit as cool as you wanted to believe from reading their beautiful words.

So here's a quote by Jeri Smith-Ready that encapsulates my process: "First drafts are a nightmare for me--my brain just doesn't engage. It's like trying to sculpt air."

Yes, and yes, and did I mention, oh my God, yes. It's hard. Overall, I prefer revisions because that involves taking what's already there, even if it's a bit lumpy and ugly, and molding it into something refined and lovely. I can't plot or I ruin any desire to write the book. Why, when I already have all the answers? I love the journey, but at the same time, it's hard. It's not magical; it's work. Some days it goes better than others, and I've developed strategies to make doing a first draft go more smoothly.

1) Block the scene the night before
Though I don't plot in the usual sense, while I'm laying in bed at night, I think about where the book is going and what needs to happen next. In my mind's eye, I visualize the next chapter as if it's a movie. I see everything my character does and I hold that in my head. Sometimes I make a few notes on a pad beside my bed. That way, I'm ready to slip right into the scene when I get up in the morning.

2)Set a goal
Everyone has a different comfort level for what they can accomplish in a day, but it's important to set a specific goal, either in words or pages, and hold yourself accountable. Sure, life sometimes gets in the way, but if you make a habit of letting yourself off the hook, you get off schedule, which leads to missed deadlines. In this climate, meeting deadlines is important.

This next one may be a bit controversial, but I'm prepared for that.

3)Train up
I believe that writing is like exercise. The more you do, the more you can do. If you tell yourself there's no way you could ever write more than a thousand words a day, then you never will. Because you're not trying to. 1500 words used to be my comfort level. That's what I could accomplish, and anything else seemed like too much. But I decided to push myself and make 3K a day my new goal. That was several years ago now. For a while, my brain was constantly tired and it took me long hours to write those words, every single day. But eventually, I reset my comfort level. Now, I can write 3K in about 3 hours, providing conditions are favorable. I could probably train myself up to 5K (I know authors who do that daily), but I've hit on 3K as a good maintainable writing speed for me. I can meet that goal consistently without risking burnout.


4) Allow imperfection
For me, this was key to unlocking my ability to finish projects. I am by nature a tinkerer. Given my natural proclivities I will mess with a chapter for a week until it's perfect before moving on. That was killing my completion ratio because by the time I got to the middle, I was sick to death of the project and I would allow myself to be distracted by the next shiny idea. Once I accepted that it didn't have to be flawless in one take, I acquired the ability to write to the end, knowing I could go back and fix everything I'd done wrong. I make notes along the way, too, to guide my revisions. "Make this scene suck less." "Add sexual tension." "Make fight scene more action-y." A first draft is exactly that -- and you don't even have to let anyone read your ugly betty before you take a run at it. (I know I don't.)

5) Forgive failure
Nobody's perfect. Some days, the world seems stacked against you and even the crappy words won't come. This might seem like a dumb strategy, but I don't shower first thing in the morning anymore. Say I've gone to work on a book but the writing totally sucks and it seems like the well of words has gone dry. So I do something else for a little while. Play with the dog, ride the bike. Whatever. Once I've switched gears, I take a shower. That acts as a mental reset button; I'm washing off all the morning's failure. In the shower I think about why the chapter's not working. (I often have this problem if I've fallen asleep too fast to block the scene the night before.) Generally, I come out of the bathroom feeling ready to rock the book.

You can come up with your own rituals for failure-begone if mine sounds dumb. The most important thing is not to let this failure spread into days, and then days to weeks, and so on. Writing everyday is the best training to be a professional writer; after all, this is your job, right? Certainly it has an artistic component, but if you want to keep your release dates, you must adhere to a schedule. To continue with the exercise analogy, your brain gets wobbly and out of practice, the longer you go without writing. So the longer you wait to get back on the horse, the harder it will be to get going again.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to come up with a schedule that works for you in terms of finishing your first draft. I hope this has been a little bit helpful for somebody. Note: I don't claim what works for me will work for everyone, but I'm very interested in hearing about your writing rituals.

What little things do you do to keep the words coming?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday Musings

Happy Tuesday! This is a very fine day around here considering I #1 get to give away a book and #2 have happy news.

So book first, right? The winner of Beyond the Rain is Sarabelle! Yay Sarabelle! Email me at angie @angiefox. com and I'll get that prize right out to you.

On another fun note, I'm glad to announce that A Tale of Two Demon Slayers is complete and off to my editor. That is the third book in the Accidental Demon Slayer series, where Lizzie gets to go to Greece and discover all kinds of juicy secrets about Dimitri's past.

But I have to say as great as it is to finish a book that I'm really excited about, it's also kind of strange. It almost feels like graduating high school. It was tough. It was fun. You're proud of the work, yet you're not 100% ready to move on. At least that's how it is around here.

I also get on these organizational kicks after finishing a book. Maybe someone who has studied psychology can tell me why. So far this week, I've revamped the living room, organized the downstairs closets and have now started in on the kitchen cabinets. In all fairness, the kitchen is overdue. Or do spices always fall out of the baking cabinet when you open the door?

Target also had these great folders on sale for fifteen cents each. I have a dozen and am itching to color code something...anything.

So what about you? Do you end a big project, whether it be school or a work assignment, in a relaxed state of mind or do you have to jump right into the next thing?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Did Somebody Say Free Book?

Book #5 in my Pepper Martin mystery series will hit bookstore shelves on October 6. It's called Dead Man Talking and this installment of Pepper's adventures finds her working on a cemetery restoration along with a team of . . . well, let's just call them interesting characters.

Moldly cemeteries, uncooperative team members, and of course, a ghost that needs Pepper's help to put the past right--as if all that's not bad enough, there's a TV reality show filming it all, and the team that's up against Pepper's will do anything to keep her from winning.

Sound like fun? Find out first! I've got my hands on a few ARCs (that's advanced reading copies) and I'll give one away this weekend. Just respond to this post and tell me what you like about Pepper. I'll choose one winner from the posters and send out the ARC.

Good luck. Oh, and good reading!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Free Books!

Sorry, all, for checking in so late! I turned in Amazon Queen yesterday and my mother arrived for a visit, so I have been a bit distracted. As repayment I thought I'd just share some links for free books I found this week.

First, three new free books from Random House and one by my friend Jennifer Stevenson. Check it out!

The Brass Bed
Written by Jennifer Stevenson
THE CURSE: Satisfy one hundred women or be trapped in a brass bed forever Lord Randall was a lousy lover in 1811, so his magician-mistress turned him into a sex demon. Lucky for him, his bed fell into Clay's hands.

THE CON: Sex therapy for women on an antique brass "treatment bed" Clay has the perfect scam going, until that pesky, foxy fraud investigator Jewel comes sniffing around. Lucky for him, she has a soft spot for hunky con men.

THE CHOICE: Sex demon or sex fraudster? Jewel is Randy's hundredth woman. Now he says he's her personal sex slave, and her case against the con artist is dissolving in a hail of hormones. Lucky for her, she's a tough cop with a lusty libido.

Next is a young adult fantasy. Uglies, fantasy YAAnd it's a good one! Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. It's about a place where children are separated at a certain age..I think maybe 14. At that age they become "pretty" and are sent to a separate place to live. At the beginning of the book, the protagonist has just said goodbye to her best friend who has become pretty. And she is eagerly waiting for her own transformation, but as tends to happen in books (good ones anyway) things change and she learns a lot more about being "pretty" than she ever wanted to know.
Definitely a great read! Now go download it for free!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Is It Done Yet???

Boy, where has the summer gone??? Here it is August and school will be starting soon. So how have I spent it??? Well, 90% of my free time has been spent working on the first five chapters of a new paranormal mystery, AND I'm happy to report, they're finally finished...I think!

Why do I say "I think"? Right now, I'm fighting the desire to do more tweaking. Not necessarily a bad thing...there's always a way to improve a story...but there comes a time when you just have to let it go. Five chapters do not a book make, and if I ever want to finish this sucker, I've got to quit diddling and move on.

And moving on means writing a synopsis to submit along with these chapters. Yuck! I HATE writing them! Honestly, I'd almost rather have a root canal! But unfortunately, like a root canal, if you need one...you need one. And I need a synopsis. For some strange reason, after reading the first few chapters, my agent and editor will want to know exactly where this particular story line is headed.

There's a slight problem with this however...even though I've tried to overcome my pantser tendencies and do have somewhat of an outline, I'm not sure how this story is going to end! I've thought of several scenarios, but with each one, I've been second guessing myself. Is it trite? Will it catch the reader by surprise? Or will it fall flat? You wouldn't think it would be that hard to get from Point A to Point B, but it is! You want to make sure that the journey between the two points is one that the reader will enjoy. Yes, all in all, I've engaged is some serious dithering here!

But I've come to a realization...the reason that I've been messing around so long with these five chapters (other than I want to do my best) and going back and forth about how the story is going to end? I'm practicing avoidance. If I don't have the chapters done or if I don't know the climax, I can't very well write the synopsis, now can I? Well, it's time to shut my eyes and just do it! (not really...I can't type with my eyes closed, but you catch my drift! 9) )

So how do you practice avoidance? What little games do you play do dodge doing something you don't enjoy???

That's it for now-catch you all later!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guest blogger: Elisabeth Naughton

A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic suspense and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, was a 2007 Golden Heart Finalist and has been heralded by Publisher's Weekly as "A rock-solid debut." When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Visit the author’s website at www.elisabethnaughton.com

Her latest release is STOLEN HEAT:

Book Two in the Stolen Trilogy
On Sale: July 28, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-505-52794-3

His past tore them apart. Her lies thrust them back together. Now a killer's out for revenge, but the biggest threat for both may just be the heat they thought they'd already lost...

Antiquities dealer Peter Kauffman walked a fine line between clean and corrupt for years. And then he met the woman who changed his life—Egyptologist Katherine Meyer. Their love affair burned white-hot in Egypt, until the day Pete’s lies and half-truths caught up with him. After that, their relationship imploded, Kat walked out, and before Pete could find her to make things right, he heard she’d died in a car bomb.

Six years later, the woman Pete thought he’d lost for good is suddenly back. The lies this time aren’t just his, though. The only way he and Kat will find the truth and evade a killer out for revenge is to work together—as long as they don’t find themselves burned by the heat each thought was stolen long ago…


"Exciting, action-packed and fast moving, this story seamlessly alternates from the present to the past. A first-rate mystery, it has well-developed characters and a suspenseful and satisfying climax. A fine romantic thread winds through it all."
--RT BOOKReviews

"STOLEN HEAT is an awesome combination of deadly suspense, edgy action and a wonderful romance with characters that you’ll laugh, cry and yell with. I had a great time reading it and I’m definitely looking forward to more of Ms. Naughton’s books."
--Wendy, Night Owl Romance

To be entered into Elisabeth’s BIG STOLEN HEAT Release Contest click on the widget below or go to www.elisabethnaughton.com/stolen_heat_contest.html. You could win a $100 VISA gift card and a whole host of other daily prizes!

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---
Thanks so much to the girls at Something Wicked for having me here today! I’m thrilled to be chatting books with you all today.

Writers are really odd people, don’t you think? I can say that because I am a writer. Remember that old song from The Lost Boys (one of the BEST movies evah, by the way). “People are Strange”? I think the lyrics should be changed to “Writers are Strange”, because let’s face it…we are.

For the longest time I didn’t think I was strange, I thought I was normal. But I’ve finally faced facts…I’m about as weird as they come. I could spend hours people-watching. No, I’m not checking out that hot guy and undressing him in my mind (not always, anyway), I’m watching his body language, the way he talks to his friends, how he looks at the girl behind the snack shack counter. If a cute girl walks by me, I’m not thinking, “bitch!” I’m studying her “look” and trying to decide how I’d describe her in a book. It’s not uncommon for me to zone out in the middle of a conversation – be it with my hubby or my friends or even my dental hygienist. Because if someone says something I think I might be able to use in a book, forget the conversation, I’m suddenly trying to figure out how to work that into my next scene.

(Here’s something you probably already know but I’ll fill you in regardless: If you’re ever talking to a writer, watch out. We’re not only listening to what you have to say, we’re recording it for future use.)

Strrrrrrrrrrrange, right?

You betcha. And not only that, we talk about our characters like they’re real people.

Writer: “OMG…the way that milk spewed out of your nose when you laughed was exactly like what happened to Rick.”

Friend: “Who’s Rick?”

Writer: “In my book. Rick? You know, the hero?”

Friend: (OMG, she needs to get out more)

Unfortunately, we seem to be the only people who think our characters are real. If I were to ask my hubby who Peter Kauffman is, he’d have no clue. But my writer friends? Oh, they’d know in a heartbeat.

Case in point. Last week my CP texted me with the following:

CP: What government branch does Marty work for?

Now, any normal person would look at that text and say, “Who the hell is Marty?” But not me. No, I instinctively knew Marty was the rogue CIA operative from my upcoming release, STOLEN HEAT (which released just last week!). And I texted my CP back immediately with the answer. Later that night, when we were instant messaging, she said, “You know, we’re sick. You didn’t even bat an eyelash over the fact I was asking about a CHARACTER from your book, like he’s a real living person.”

Well, duh. To me he IS a real living person.

See? Totally not normal.

But you know what? Normal is waaaaaaaaaaaay too overrated. I love living in both reality and my own twisted alternate world. I love that my characters are real to me (and my CP!) because hopefully it means they’ll be real to readers too. (And because the hubby is reading STOLEN HEAT right now, the next time I ask him who Peter Kauffman is, he’ll automatically answer, “The hero from STOLEN HEAT. Yeah, I totally know him. He’s a pretty cool guy.)

But most of all, I love knowing someone else is thinking of my characters and wondering what happens in their lives because that means I’ll get to keep writing the books I love to write. So if that means I’m not normal…well, I can live with it. If it means I’m strange…perfect. Because I’ll be the first to admit, I am. My hubby will just have to get used to that fact (lucky for him, he already has. *grin*).

So now I’d like you to bare your soul…what’s strange about you? C’mon, you can think of something. Join me in being “not normal”.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fun, happy book giveaway

I am so happy. And it's not because I had pizza for breakfast, although that was pretty fun too. No, this is even better. A friend of mine has a first book coming out today and for those aspiring and already-published writers among us, you know there's nothing better.

And I actually got to have a small part in this book (not fighting bad guys or anything, although that would have been awesome). I was a critique partner for Beyond the Rain. I got to see the first drafts, see the characters develop and say things like, "more sex in that sex scene please!"

So to celebrate the release of Beyond the Rain, I'm giving one away. Just leave a message below and tell me how much you want it. You know you do.

Oh and also, if you're so inclined, I'm up for funniest author on Bitten by Books. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. You know what I mean? Okay, that was a bad Monty Python impression, but check it out. There are a lot of great authors up there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Getting some Perspective


Hi everyone!

I can't believe Beyond the Rain has finally hit the store shelves. I'm getting reports from friends that they're seeing it at their local bookstores. The official release is just two days away, and I'm like a little kid at Christmas.

Every time it pops up somewhere online, I feel like I just got a present. And because I'm feeling like I'm getting gifts, I'm in the mood to share the wealth. All this week on The Butterfly Blog I'm doing giveaways for free autographed copies of the book. I've also got some fun posts lined up, including interviews with some of the characters.

While that is all very exciting, the release of the book has me looking both forward and back. I have realized how much some of the very earliest things I ever wrote influenced the book. Dreadful (I mean scorch your eyeballs, dreadful) stories I wrote as a hyper-emotional and over dramatic teenager worked their way into the story. Mostly it was through themes.

But I noticed those themes have changed as my life has changed. In high school, all my "romances" ended badly. I didn't have the best luck with the fellas. (Okay, that's an understatement.) A lot of that teenage angst, fear of rejection, and sadness worked into my writing. I was compelled to write about love, but I had NO idea what love really was.

Now as an adult, a wife, and a mother, I've got a little more perspective. I'm very blessed in my life, and challenged by it at the same time. I love how some of the themes from my childhood still resonate, but the color of those themes has become warmer and richer.

I feel the honest hope of love in my life. I know it can be pure and lasting, but not what you expect it to be. I know it can take great sacrifice and lead to uncertainty. But I now take it in stride.

I wonder how my views and perspectives will change with the passage of time. I hope I can look back at myself now when I'm a feisty old granny and laugh at what I didn't know about life.

At least I know, I'll no longer cringe at my writing.

Happy Release Week, everyone!

It's an official holiday at my house.

Jess

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Name Game

I promise, this is not another blog about Stewart Granger. But . . . remember a couple weeks ago when I talked about him? I was happy to report that TCM, the cable channel, was celebrating Stewart Granger month and showing all his movies.

Well, the ultimate Stewart Granger movie (at least in my mind) topped off the celebration for me–Prisoner of Zenda, my all-time favorite.

I mention this because the movie aired earlier this week and this week, I’ve been working like a dog on the proposal for a new mystery series.

Yes, these two things are actually is all related.

Why?

Here’s the thing . . . I wrote the original proposal a couple months ago, but after visiting DC a few weeks ago and plotting a murder at Mt. Vernon (that was fun!), I decided to make a few changes. So I figured I’d just go back, change this, adjust that.

Until I realized I now have a dark and dangerous hero type who needed a name. No big deal, right? Wrong! For reasons I can’t explain, that hero insisted that his name be Levi. But my protagonist was already Lexy. Levi and Lexy. Way too confusing. I had to change her name
and . . . well, I won’t go into the many incarnations or how I finally came up with her name (Mel, short for Mary Ellen), but I will say that this name game is tricky.

You don’t want names like I had, two that begin with the same letter of the alphabet, especially for main characters.

You don’t want names that have the same ending sound, either, like Dori, Carrie, Stacie.

You don’t want names that are so old-fashioned that they sound funny (unless there’s a need in your story for such a name) or ones that are so new, they couldn’t possibly belong to your 30-year-old character.

It goes on and on, and I found myself spending the better part of the week, baby name book at hand, changing the names of major characters, minor characters and everyone in between.
And then I watched Prisoner of Zenda. And I realized that Anthony Hope (the author of the book on which the movie is based) had two Rudolphs and a Rupert in his story, major characters all.

Hmmm....

Did I waste my time this week? I don’t think so. My characters are happy with their monikers and I think I’ve made it so readers won't be confused. Apparently, though, not all writers think the same way (Anthony Hope for instance).

What kind of name games have you played with your characters? And have you seen instances of naming in books that’s left you confused?