Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Mexican Flavor

No, really, I mean it. You probably expected me to post about Doubleblind, didn't you? Which came out yesterday. It's available in all bookstores and online fiction retailers. But I'm not gonna post about that at all.
Order Now
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Books-a-Million
Borders
Mysterious Galaxy
Powell's Books

*grin*

I had some interest on Twitter from Juliana Stone and Elisabeth Naughton regarding my refritos recipe. (That's refried beans to y'all.) So I decided I'd post it here for other curious parties.

I start with dry black beans. You should be able to get those at any store. (This works with red beans too.)

Soak them for an hour in warm water. Overnight soaking is not necessary. Then rinse with cold water. Boil them for 2-3 hours (or until they're done. Cooking time may vary.) You'll need to keep an eye on these and possibly add water, if it all boils away. Don't let them burn! I just use plain water & a spoonful of my favorite cooking oil. (It's soy & olive oil combined with Omega 3).

When the beans are tender, we eat on them whole for a couple of days. When you're good and tired of plain beans, then it's time to make the refritos. *g* Drain most of the liquid off. If you have a hand blender (or regular blender), use it to process the cooked beans into a paste. Set this aside.

Dice up one tomato, one small onion and a spicy chile. Saute these in a frying pan, along with your favorite oil. Add cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and salt. When the onions are lightly golden, add your bean paste. If needed, add a little drizzle of oil. Add hot sauce to taste. Mix it all up really well, and fry until they look like refritos you see in restaurants. Your refritos should be totally yummy! Mine are. These will gain flavor every time you heat them because of the onion and chile.

I recommend keeping them in your fridge for a quick meal of molletes. This is a bolillo (or baguette) split in half. You spread the refritos on top and then sprinkle soft white cheese (I use Oaxaca and Manchego, but mozzarella, Monterrey Jack or Gouda are decent choices as well) on top. Bake on a flat pan until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted. These are SO good! And more important, very fast. Serve with fresh sliced tomatoes (or a green salad) and you have full nutritional value.

What's your favorite recipe?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Got My Wires Crossed

Hi everyone!

This weekend was frustrating for my hubby and me. We had a "project," fix the light fixtures in the bathroom we're trying to clean up.

Yeah, simple project turned out to be not so simple. We live in a pretty old house that was once occupied by this little old man that liked to get creative with wiring. In the process of trying to replace two simple lights, we've been up in the attic twice, tracing old wiring down to this three way switch that never worked right, and finally figured out where the short was in the attic fan.

My hubby spent three hours trying to figure out how power managed to bypass one of the lights until he finally realized I had screwed it up, by not screwing it up tight enough. One of the hot wires came out and shorted out the outlet he was trying to install.

Perfect.

At the same time, I'm plotting. Now I love plotting because by the end, I know exactly what I want to do with my story and why, I just need to write it. The problem is, plotting can be a lot like the wiring. Sometimes everything is simple, white to white, black to black.

And other times it is a jumbled mess of threads I can't seem to connect so it works right.

Wish me luck. I've got a bit of a mess, but I think I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Once I get my formal synopsis ironed out, my book three should be good to go.

Then it's just a matter of writing the thing. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

Happy writing (and home improvements) everyone,

Jess

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Falling for Fall


A lot has gone on since last I blogged. For one thing, I spent a terrific weekend at a knitting retreat with the guild I helped found ten years ago. Perfect weather, good company, two excellent classes and lots of knitting–life doesn’t get any better!


But in case you haven’t noticed, something else has changed. It is now officially autumn, my favorite season of the year. Not convinced that fall is fun? Consider these cool facts I found online:


• The leaves on trees don’t really change colors in the fall, they’re already those colors! The green color we see is because of the intense green pigment of chlorophyll which actually blocks the pigments of the other colors. Next time you look at a green tree, imagine its “real” colors hiding behind that camouflage!


• The change in day length that causes the chemical changes in the trees starts on June 21, the longest day of the year.• Fall festivals usually celebrate the harvest and bounty of the season. This of course, culminates in our celebration of Thanksgiving.


• Since 1977, Autumn has been one of the top 100 names for girls in the US


• Because of the wide cariety of trees, the eastern US is one of the best places in the world for viewing fall colors. This is especially true in northeast Ohio because of the variety of tree species that grow here.


• You may not like raking leaves, but remember this: An acre of trees can grow 4,000 pounds of wood in a year, using 5,880 pounds of carbon dioxide and giving off 4,280 pounds of oxygen.


• Still not convinced fall is fun? Take a look at some fall superstitions:• Thunder in the fall means a cold winter


• If animals have thick coats, it will be a cold winter
• If berries and nuts are plentiful, it will be a hard winter.


• If the first snow falls on unfrozen ground, expect a mild winter

Happy fall!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Last Best Thing

I'm not sure where or when I came up with this term, but it's one I use pretty much exclusively for books I've read that made me say Wow! You know the kind of book that puts you on a whole new track for a while? Examples for me have been books by Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong. Those books put me on the urban fantasy trail. Then there are last best things from all time favorite authors which for me always includes Connie Willis.

It has been a while though since I read a last best thing. I've read good books, books I really enjoyed, but none that made me want to go on a hunt for more of the same or just made me say Wow. And I think I'm in need of such a book.

So, I'm asking, what was the last best thing you read? And how did it affect you? Was it just a Wow, or did it send you on a search for more of the same?
Tell, tell!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Razorland -- and giving thanks

Last night at 2am, I finished my YA project.

I've been fast drafting, which is writing 5K a day for 14 days until you have a book. It was not easy. More than once, I wanted to quit. I told myself, you deserve a day off. You'll still finish it, just not at this brutal pace. But once I set myself a challenge, I just don't have it in me to quit. So I kept pushing forward, thanks to Shannon Reinbold-Gee and the support of my awesome Twitter-pals.

On Sunday, I was so close to throwing in the towel. I just didn't think I had anymore energy to give this book; I was so weary. And then my friend Bree said she'd Photoshop me wearing a tiara if I got my words done. Anna said she'd bake me cookies. I was so awed and humbled by the outpouring of support and warmth. It bolstered me when I literally had nothing left.

And Sunday's work went so well. Their kindness gave me the fuel I needed to keep going. Monday's work flew. I kicked Tuesday's ass. I wrote my words yesterday in 4 hours and then went on to write my Jax proposal. I took some time off and hung out with my family. At 11:30, I sent my proposal to Anne Sowards. I chatted on Twitter briefly, and then I tried to sleep. At 12:30, I gave up on sleep because Razorland wouldn't stop writing itself in my head. So I got my laptop from the bedside table, which is where it lives in case the book won't let me rest, and I said, "Ok, I'll write a little of the last chapter tonight."

As it turned out, I wrote all 3K in 1.5 hours. I've never done that before. It was all there, no downtime, no thinking, and I wrote it all, as if I had watched it in a movie. So now I'm done, and I really think Razorland is one of the best things I've ever written. I went back over it today to make sure it was suitable for beta readers to see it and it made me cry. My own book that I just finished! That's not normal. I'm usually sick of a book and hating it the day I finish it. It takes weeks for me to get 'round to think, hey, this isn't bad. Not Razorland.

This fast drafting thing was the hardest challenge I've ever undertaken. Sometimes people say to me, with the best intentions, I am sure, "You're a machine."

No. I'm not. My fingers hurt like hell today. I'm tired. I'm emotionally exhausted. I cried last night because I was sending off my last Jax proposal, and Jax is the heroine who took me to New York. Book six is where her story ends, but I'm sad to see her go. Just like you, I get disheartened. I grow weary. I wonder if I have what it takes. I work very hard, but I am human.

And I am so grateful to the friends who kept me going. So this post is dedicated to everyone on Twitter who spared me a kind word when the going got tough. I'm also very appreciative of my family, who didn't complain about all the takeout or about how little they saw me the past two weeks.

Who are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mammoth Book winner

Thanks to everyone who entered to win The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. I've been reading my copy all week and am having a ball. It's a lot of fun to see just where 25 different writers take their vampire stories.

I also enjoyed reading everyone's comments about your favorite things about fall. It has me hoping the weather cools and the leaves start changing soon.

Now for our book winner... I fired up the randomizer and Ellie gets a copy of The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. Email me at angie @angiefox .com and we'll get that book out to you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Dance!

Hi everyone,

I'm doing the happy dance big time today.

First of all, I got a sneak peek at my new cover. My jaw hit the floor it is so wicked. It's got a different feel than the first, but I really really like it. As soon as it is all official, I'll post it so you can all bask in the hotness.

And second of all, Dancing with the Stars starts tonight!

I don't ever remember watching a show that made me so blissfully happy for no reason. I can't even figure out what I love about it so much. Is it that the competition is so genuinely good-natured, because nothing is at stake for the celebrities but a little pride? Is it that I've always had a thing for dancing? I used to watch old Fred Astaire movies with my Grandma.

Part of me thinks it's the dresses.

Another part of me very much enjoys the voyeuristic nature of watching dance as a form of seduction. (That might be a little too much information about what gets me going, but there you go.)

I also like watching people grow, change, and achieve something when they have given an honest effort.

And Bruno makes me laugh.

So tonight, I'll curl up on the couch with some frozen custard and my show.

It will be my little slice of heaven.

Jess

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Finally recovered enough from my trip to New Mexico to sit down at my computer. It was exhausting, exhilarating, interesting, and certainly very different from the Midwest where I’ve always lived.
Cleveland, Ohio may not be known for its weather (although this week’s been fabulous), but we are blessed with an abundance of rain. Yes, rain means soggy picnics, sweaty car windshields and that any every person in northeast Ohio has a stylish collection of plastic rain slickers. But it also means green grass, leafy trees and enough humidity to keep skin from cracking and lips from parching.
New Mexico? Not so much! Talk about culture shockI I stayed with a friend. Here's the view from her front door.

That’s Wind Mountain in the distance and if it doesn’t look very high, that’s because we were already at 8300 ft. elevation. Those short, scrubby plants are sage. Lots of sage in New Mexico. I cut some and brought it home to make smudge sticks and it’s so fragrant, it’s no wonder the TSA searched my suitcase!

New Mexico’s nickname is Land of Enchantment, and after eight days there, I could see why. We had a brief and welcome rain on Sunday afternoon, then the clouds and the light started playing tricks.
Is it any wonder that the state is border-to-border with UFO sightings and stories?
That same brief rain shower brought us another surprise. Yes, it’s faint, but take a close look at this next pic. Looks like there’s enchantment in New Mexcio after all!



Of course, that’s not all the state has to offer. When you live off the grid the way my friend does, there’s also . . .

And then, of course, those reminders of home sweet home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Would you live in a city without a library?

Did you see this? That all libraries in Philadelphia were scheduled to close October 2?

Now since then the legislature has worked things out and the libraries won't be closing.

But this was on my mind today as I drove my kids to one of the branches of our public library. We checked out a ton of things--books, DVDs, videos and computer games. I have also in the past checked out audio books. I've gone to free programs there, taken my kids to free programs there and used the free community space for writing club meetings.

Looking at losing all of this I thought--I would not want to live in a city with no library. And I mean this seriously. Not just because of the free (well paid by my taxes free) stuff my family gets, but because of what it says about that city--that it doesn't value these things enough to provide them for their citizens.

Sure you can buy your own books/DVDs/Computer games, but what does that say? That only people with enough extra money deserve those things? That is, of course, ludicrous. Perhaps that it isn't in the public good to provide them--really? We don't want educated kids with free access to expanding their minds? We don't want our older citizens to gather, read and discuss? We don't think any of these things are important or at least we think they are not as important as other things we feel we MUST have?

Where do libraries sit on the list of must have things for you in a city you would move to? Because I can tell you if my husband and I were considering moving to a new city and I heard they didn't believe in libraries I would mark that place right off my list.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A bit of a rant

As I sit here at my trusty keyboard, trying to come up with something to write, the question is "what's been on my mind this week?" Unfortunately, the answer is not much! I've been hanging around Facebook, trying to figure out how to play "Mafia Wars," (a bit afraid to get too involved with that one...I fear I might like it a little too much! And being the master diddler that I am, do I really need something else to distract me from what I should be doing???)

In addition to the above, I've also been reading the comments listed after various news articles. And though I might agree with some of the opinions expressed and do believe with my whole heart in the freedom of speech, I still can't help thinking "what's wrong with some of these people??" There are those who go beyond just stating what they think about the situation to spewing absolute venom. And if that isn't bad enough, if someone disagrees with them, they attack that person, too. It's like watching a train wreck...part of you wants to turn away, but another part of you stays rooted to the spot in disbelief.

My question is "why"? Why do they write such nasty things? Whatever happened to "state your position clearly and calmly"? Is it the anonymity of the Internet that allows people to be as rude as they want? Are they this way outside of cyberspace? (I sure hope not! Otherwise, there's a lot of scary people out there just looking for a fight.)

So I've made a decision...I'm not reading them ever again! It's too distressing to think there's that much negativity in the world. I prefer to keep my rose-colored glasses firmly in place and see a better side of human nature than what's shown on some of these websites!

Well, I'm done for this week...I've vented my opinion now! 8) Hope you have a terrific...and POSITIVE...rest of the week!

All the best,
Shirley

P.S
Next week will be a short post...I'm leaving for Huntington, WV and Lora Leigh's RAW. Angie's going to be there too, so we might have some stories for you, won't we, Ange????

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Your favorite tropes

What's a trope, you might ask? In simplest terms, it's a plot device in a book.

Some of my favorite tropes include friends to lovers, long-time crush, love from afar, heroine in man-drag, older woman, younger man. I'm a bit torn on best friend's younger sister. I think that one really has to be handled well. I also find extreme age differences a little hard to sell. I don't mind 5-10 years, but anything more leaves me thinking they both have issues to work out.

I love when a long-time crush is handled well, and if it's combined with friends-to-lovers, even better. Dee Tenorio has written a perfectly awesome book... let me find it. Betting Hearts. Oh my goodness, I just loved this one so much. She did a great job of combining those two tropes, and she even threw in a makeover, which is always fun. However, I'm totally opposed to makeovers being the reason the guy (or girl) is suddenly attracted to this person. I like makeovers because they give the hero or heroine confidence, but I don't want the other protagonist to be so shallow. I prefer it if that person is already attracted; they just haven't acted on the longing for whatever reason. Secret longing is just so freakin' hot. But I don't want it combined with "I'm not worthy" angst. I'd really rather not read forty pages about how the hero (or heroine) is too filthy and defiled to deserve to touch the hem of the other one's trousers.

What are your favorite tropes? Can you give me some good suggestions of books that include my favorite ones? (Because clearly, it's all about me, and finding me new & awesome stuff to read.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mammoth book giveaway!

My husband and I were driving home from the Mizzou football game the other day, past Halloween costume shops and corn mazes and it really hit me that fall is here. Sometimes, it's hard to remember than when it's eighty degrees in St. Louis.

But here's another reminder - The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2 is going to be coming out. It's set to release on September 22, but a few stores already have it and now you can too.

I'm giving away a copy of the book which includes a lovely story called Love Bites by Angie Fox. It's about Princess Katarina Volholme D' Transylvania, an eight-hundred-and-seventy three-year-old vampire who decides to rebel and ends up in the arms of her father's bodyguard, who happens to be an empath and can hear everything this wild-child-wanna-be vampire wants to do to him.

Also look for a fantastic story by our very own Ann Aguirre, Circle Unbroken. I'll let Ann give you the summary, but let me just say I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek and this story is completely addicting.

So enter here to win your copy of The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. Just tell us your favorite thing about fall and you're entered. Good luck!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Practice Writing Query Letters

Hi everyone,

I'm wallowing around in bliss because football season has started up again. Yay! But I didn't want to talk about football, because honestly, football doesn't do anything for us except showcase new advertising campaigns.

So I thought I'd share something helpful with you all.

Someone asked me how to write a query letter, so I came up with a quick example. I'll break it down for you here.


SHE HAD ONE MISSION, TO MAKE IT TO GRANDMA'S WITH A BASKET OF GOODIES. SHE DIDN'T COUNT ON RUNNING INTO A HUNGRY WOLF WITH DEVIOUS PLANS OF HIS OWN...

In query writing, you often hear about the hook. A hook should look something like this. When you write one, try to channel that movie voice-over guy that does all the blockbuster movie previews. The point of the hook is to showcase the driving force of the novel, which is usually the conflict in a romance.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD IS A GRIPPING 500 WORD FAIRY TALE ADVENTURE ABOUT ONE GIRL'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE DEEP DARK WOODS AND THE EVIL SHE FINDS THERE.

The second paragraph of all of my query letters was what I called the stats paragraph. I always included the word count, genre, title, and the half sentence description of what the book is about.

FIERY AND INDEPENDENT, LITTLE RED SETS OFF ON THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME DETERMINED TO MAKE IT TO HER AILING GRANDMOTHER'S BEFORE NIGHTFALL. UNFORTUNATELY, EVIL DOES NOT JUST LURK IN THE DARKNESS. ALONG THE PATH, SHE MEETS THE DEVIOUS AND CHARMING BIG BAD WOLF WHO CONVINCES HER TO STRAY.

WHY SETTLE FOR ONE JUICY MORSEL WHEN YOU CAN HAVE TWO? THE BIG BAD WOLF HAS HIS OWN PLANS AS HE SENDS LITTLE RED OFF TO PICK SOME FLOWERS. SO WHAT IF IT INVOLVES HOPPING IN BED WITH AN OLD LADY AND CROSS-DRESSING? THE PAY OFF IS WORTH IT. BUT WILL GREED LEAD TO THE BAD OLD WOLF'S FINAL UNDOING?

The next two paragraphs I called the character paragraphs. Sometimes I'd have three, but usually I had one paragraph about the heroine describing her situation and what her big problem is, then a second describing the hero and what his problem is, and if I needed it, I'd do a third about the conflict they have once they come together, if the conflict isn't obvious from the first two, or if a major part of the plot is external to the hero and heroine's problems. In the queries I've read, I've seen a lot of trouble with these two paragraphs. Remember, you can't write your book in the span of a single page. You're not supposed to. Forget the plot, all the brilliant little twists and turns, because they belong in the synopsis, not the query. The query should stick to who are the people this story is about? Why should I care about them? And what sort of trouble are they going to find themselves in?

AS PART OF A WRITING TEAM, MY BROTHER AND I HAVE SEVERAL FAIRY TALE CREDITS TO OUR NAME, INCLUDING BESTSELLING CINDERELLA, AND AWARD WINNING RAPUNZEL. WE ARE ACTIVE MEMBERS IN FAIRY TALE WRITERS ASSOCIATION, AND PRESIDENT AND SECRETARY OF OUR LOCAL CHAPTER. THE FULL MANUSCRIPT FOR LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST. WE HAVE INCLUDED A SELF ADDRESSED LAMBSKIN FOR YOUR RESPONSE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND CONSIDERATION,

SINCERELY,

THE BROTHERS GRIMM


And finally you have your bio paragraph at the end. In my queries at one point, my only writing credit was I was a member of RWA, but I listed that and didn't look back. Don't worry about padding this section. Include only important information that connects to the story, and sign without looking back.

Any questions? I'd be glad to help take a look at trouble spots for people's queries this week.

Happy reading everyone.

Jess

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kerrytown BookFest

Another day of travel. These days, seems like I'm spending an awful lot of time on the road. If you're in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, stop in at the Kerrytown BookFest on Sunday. Should be a whole lot of fun!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9-11

I feel a little funny posting about 9-11 today because I know everyone will be posting about it in some way and how many reminders do any of us need? None, I'm thinking. I seriously doubt that anyone who lived through that day in any capacity needs a single reminder, but then again, maybe I'm wrong. And maybe it is just therapeutic to do a little remembering--not to mention that the people who died that day or lost someone they loved deserve that moment.

So, remember. Where were you? When did you hear? Is it cemented into your brain? It is in mine. Four days earlier I had given birth to my son via an emergency c-section. That same day (the day that he was born) I had come home from the hospital (in the middle of labor) and found our dog who we loved more than anything at the time had died on our living room floor. I had been in the hospital recovering from the surgery and the sheer shock of both our dog's death and the emergency nature of my son's birth (and the knowledge that he like my daughter had cystic fibrosis). September 11, 2001 was my first full day back in real life.

I went in and turned on the TV and there it was--the first plane had already hit. Firemen were rushing inside. I remember standing there wanting to scream at the TV--"What are you doing? Don't go in there!" But they did, and then the second plane hit and the building collapsed. It was surreal. It was a nightmare and it just wasn't supposed to happen damn it.

The country went into shock. I think sometimes people in NY don't realize how much people in the rest of the country shared their pain. I don't say this to minimize what NY was going through--not one little bit. Just to let those in NY know that we really truly did. Life wasn't normal here; it was muted. You would go into the grocery store and peoples' faces were haunted. A cloud hung everywhere. We watched the TV, we tried to understand, and we couldn't. Because there was no good explanation. There was no rational reason for what happened. And trying to make sense of it felt as futile as screaming at that TV for those firefighters not to enter the building.

So, there you have it, that's my memory of 9-11. Maybe some day I will be able to write an essay like this without crying--but I doubt it.

Hugs to all,

Lori

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Changes

I'll admit it...I have a few control issues. Not that I want to control another person's life, but I do seem to have a need to feel in charge of mine.

Well, that's not happening, folks!! Right now there are so many things up in the air, both with my career as an author (I'm waiting patiently to hear about the new book proposal...okay, maybe "patient" isn't exactly the right word! *g*), and with my day job. I see the potential for major changes, but I don't know what direction these changes might take me, or if and when they might happen. The uncertainty is driving me nuts, and since I'm not psychic like Ophelia, I tried the next best thing. I got out the Runes!!

Before I go on, let me explain. I'm strictly a novice and I only do readings for myself. Plus I stick to the simple spreads like the Three Sisters...past, present, and future.

So here's what my reading said today:

The first rune, representing the past or the problem at hand, was Kenaz. It is the symbol of controlled fire...energy and power. It can indicate good things are coming into ones life. It also stands for creativity and the importance of a positive attitude. Unfortunately, mine was reversed, so it meant the opposite of what I just mentioned. It indicated my vision has been clouded and a poor attitude has been plaguing me. In my opinion, pretty much on target.

The next rune, the present, or what course to take, was Jera...the harvest...the reaping of rewards. Sounds good doesn't it?? Except the harvest is reaped in its own time, not mine. In other words, whatever changes are lurking on the horizon will happen when the time is right and not before, no matter how much I wish it otherwise. (There we go with that "patience" thing again!!)

The last rune, the future, or the result if I follow the advice of the Runes, was Daeg. It's a symbol of growth and prosperity. To me, it's always meant a "new day" and it can mark a major change in life. But that change is slow in coming and one might not realize that it's even happening at the time. It's only when one looks back and sees how far they've come that they realize how much their life has changed.

I don't know...what do you think? My take on it is that the Runes are telling me to relax, look on the positive, and everything will work out in its own time!! Pretty good advice for anyone, isn't it???

That's all for now-have a terrific rest of the week!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Twitter

Do you guys Twitter?

I do. I'm at @ann_aguirre & I love it. Most social networking sites are not for me. MySpace is a wasteland of sparkly things and people who don't read anything, ever. Facebook has become a swamp of unappealing apps and people who keep recommending I become friends with somebody I don't know or become a fan of somebody I never heard of.

But Twitter makes me happy. I've actually found it forces me to be concise because you can't ramble in 140 characters. I don't feel guilty about Twitter because I can join whatever conversation is going on if I want. I can wander away when I want. It's like dipping your toe in quicksilver, watching the pretty patterns, and then going on your way. I feel no shame about dropping a throwaway comment about what the dog did and then going back to work. Then I can read what other people had to say about said event a few hours later. It's all the pleasure of a chat room with a thousand cool people and none of the commitment.

The one thing I don't understand is people looking to pad their followers. They follow you. They don't talk to you. Then they unfollow because you didn't follow them back. For me, this does not compute at all. I follow people I find interesting, people who amuse me, or who interact with me. There are no exceptions. I'm absolutely puzzled why anyone would follow someone in the hopes they follow back. I mean, obviously, if I follow Neil Gaiman, he's not gonna follow me back. I just want to be entertained by his witty remarks. (In fact, I don't follow Neil Gaiman or any other celebrity because I'm always afraid they won't be as cool as I think they are.) For the people who followed me and were disappointed, I'm sorry about that. I'm a tremendous dork, fair warning. But if you like to randomly converse about dorky things, then I'm your huckleberry.

How do you guys feel about Twitter?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An ode to Heather Graham

You know what it's like when you've admired someone for a long time, but never met them in person? And then when you finally get a chance to see them face-to-face (all the while hoping there's nothing in your teeth or down the front of your shirt since you checked five minutes ago) they're just as great as you imagined?

I had one of those moments this weekend when I was able to meet Heather Graham. I've loved her books for years and it was a real thrill to see her. So much so that I rambled a bit, but hey, I'm sure she's used to that. Hopefully.

I remember the first book I ever read by Heather Graham - And One Wore Gray, this sweeping Civil War love story that is still on my keeper shelf today. In fact, when I learned I was going to get to meet her, I read it yet again. My husband kept telling me to take it along for an autograph, but, er, the pages are literally starting to fall out. Have I mentioned it's a well-loved book?

Heather Graham was in New Orleans this weekend, hosing her annual Writers for New Orleans Workshop. It was packed full of great workshops, amazing events and food, as well as free time to wander the Big Easy. I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking for a writing getaway. In the mean time? Well, I think there's a Mint Julep with my name on it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

I hope everyone is enjoying the Monday off today.

I know I am. I went shopping, bought plants, worked in the garden and fantasized about all the other things I could be doing on a long weekend.

Here's my list.

Go to the zoo

Go to the Aquarium

Go on a picnic

Bake a cake for no reason

Play video games really late on a Sunday (okay, I did that last night, but since it was past midnight it counts)

Work on some crafts

Make Sangria

Brew beer

(I'm starting to see a theme, uh-oh)

Play catch

Order takeout bar-be-que

Or bar-be-que

Paint a picture

Read a book

And finally, Aviod work.

I hope everyone has a relaxing day.

Jess

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Life at 8300 Feet


I'm not at my computer this Saturday. In fact, I'm not near any computer at all. I'm visiting a friend in New Mexico who lives way, way off the grid.
I know I'll have stories to tell. Happy to share them when I get back!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Finding peace and joy in the Internet age

I'm sure I'm not the only person here that can lose HOURS on the Internet. Sit down for a second and get up literally hours later...and the word "lose"...it's appropriate, right? Because you have no idea where those hours went and while you were totally engrossed in whatever you were doing/reading you actually got nothing done.

And that would be OK, if you got up refreshed and ready to take on a new challenge, but I'm betting you don't. I'm betting you get up feeling more tired or even angry than when you sat down.

Why is that and what can we do to combat it?

Personally, I think we all need to take back life's little joys. Those little things that have no "get something done" value, but that bring us that hard to describe sense of peace, where just for a few seconds or minutes everything feels all right. Where we know we are OK and we are just happy to be.

When is the last time you felt that? I'm betting it wasn't while trolling blogs.

Now, obviously, we are all individuals, but I'm going to give a few suggestions of how I think you can bring a little joy back into your life and it would be great if you could add to the list too. Because, honestly, can we have too much joy and peace?



  • Buy fish--the live kind in a tank. Okay, I know cleaning the tank can be a pain, but there is something about watching fish that is just restful. This summer we bought a tank for my daughter--her fish, her tank. Two guesses who cleans it. Uh, yeah, me, but guess what? I don't mind because I truly enjoy taking care of the little critters. And bonus last week one of them have babies. Now we have fish available to share the joy with others.


  • Grow a plant. Plants can be a pain, but they can also be quite rewarding, and some just bring you joy by looking at them. Have you heard of moss terrariums? My cousin has started selling them and while at first they seem a bit silly, I can really see the appeal. They just make people happy.

  • Hug a tree. It's become a joke, but honestly there is nothing that makes me feel more a peace than standing in a grove of trees, especially old trees. I'm a big believer in energy and it is almost as if trees soak up all the negative things we carry around with us. If you don't believe me go sit outside under a big oak one afternoon. See if you don't just feel better.

  • Go for a walk, but somewhere in nature. I take my dog for a walk every day and one of our special joys is seeing a heron that has taken to fishing in a local pond. It's a bird...see birds all the time, but seeing that heron makes me smile.

  • Wander...discover. When I was little my grandparents had a farm. It was around 360 acres of fields and woods. I wandered that land a lot and I discovered a lot. My family were not the first people on that land. I found signs of Native Americans, and old farm houses, cemeteries with slaves and deserted hidey holes (root cellars built to hide from tornadoes), persimmon trees and walnut trees. I found all kinds of things I wasn't looking for and every discovery brought me some kind of peace. When is the last time you wandered where you didn't know what you were going to find?

  • Snuggle with your children if you have them. My kids have both gone through their afraid of the dark/can I sleep with you stages. And I have given in at times to both of them, but here is the real secret...I never feel safer and more at peace than when my kids are snuggled up next to me. Everything just feels okay.

  • Watch a puppy (or for some maybe a baby). They get such joy out of everything. How can't a little of that rub off on you?


Okay, now your turn. What can you do today to bring yourself a tiny bit of joy. (Not fun, not pleasure...joy.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

About Mysteries

When I'm out and about with my girlfriends, every so often some guy, looking for their "love of the night", will decide that one of us might be a good candidate and sidle up to our table. And to be honest, it can be a little annoying. So I've come up with a way to handle it. The conversation goes something like this:

"So what do you do?" he asks, with a speculative look in his eye.

"I write mysteries," she replies, trying to ignore him and focus her attention on the dance floor.

Not getting the hint, he persists, "What kind of mysteries?"

"Ones involving murder," she answers, with emphasis on the word "murder."

"Really?"

"Yeah," she responds after a slight pause. "I know a hundred ways to kill someone."

It's usually at that point he suddenly remembers the friend that he left standing over at another table and excuses himself.

Now does the guy walk away with the opinion that I'm some kind of psycho? Probably...but even though I'm the most non-violent person that you'd ever want to meet, I do spend a lot of time thinking of ways to do in hapless characters. And I've discovered most mystery authors are no different.

A couple of years ago, I was at a "Sisters in Crime" conference in LA. Part of the conference was getting the opportunity to pitch our books to movie and television producers. While we were waiting our turn to do our pitch, nerves were running high, and the conversation turned to this very subject. "How do your characters meet their end?"

Everyone had different scenarios. Jo Dereske, (the Miss Zukas series) said she had a character stabbed in the heart with one of those long rods from the bottom of the card catalog drawer. (Miss Zukas is a librarian, so this method is very effective given Jo's setting.) But it was Carolyn Hart who had the best response. She said she didn't go in for all that fancy stuff. Nope, she just shoves her characters off a cliff! (btw-Carolyn and Jo are two of the kindest people I know and terrific writers!)

So what would Freud say about all of this? What is it that drives nice, normal people to write mysteries, involving crime and violence, and readers to read them? Again, back to Carolyn...I heard her once say during an interview that mysteries are modern morality plays. That people have a need to see justice done. The more dastardly the crime, the more satisfying it is in the end to see the villain get his. Personally, I like that explanation and I'm sticking to it! Suits me much better than thinking I have a loose screw!!! 8)

That's it for this week-have a fun, safe holiday weekend!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Can't blog, writing

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

But enjoy this adorable cat. I'll see you next week!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Have book, will travel

First off let me say what a shame it is that when a book goes international, the author doesn't necessarily get to follow. I mean, what if my characters get lonely? Wouldn't they appreciate a visit? And shouldn't I get to bring my readers along?

But even if we can't go to Germany, The Accidental Demon Slayer is a new German release from Bertelsmann/Random House. Now they only have rights to the words inside the book (what I could give them) so they can't have the cover that my American publisher developed. This is the new cover and the German title: The Demon Comes Alone. According to a German reporter, it is a play on a German turn-of-phrase. Anybody speak German around here?

Oh and here is a loose translation of the cover copy (oh how things translate, or don't):
Cheeky women's story with a shot of the fantastic.

A demon in the bathroom, a crazy Grandmother at the door. Lizzie had pictured something different entirely for her thirtieth birthday. Then, when her hyperactive terrier starts to talk to her, she doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. But she doesn't have time for either because Granny immediately tosses her on her pink Harley. It turns out Lizzie has a hidden talent, one I don't know how to translate without a dictionary. The hottie Dimitri is also aware of it, and soon he'll need Lizzie to bring a Demon to justice.

A Demonslayeress, a talking terrier, and a Mann, as dangerous and sexy as a vampire...


And for those of you smarty-pants Deutsch speakers out there:
Freche Frauenunterhaltung mit einem Schuss Phantastik

Ein Dämon im Bad und eine ausgeflippte Großmutter vor der Tür. Lizzie hatte sich ihren dreißigsten Geburtstag anders vorgestellt. Als dann auch noch ihr hyperaktiver Jack-Russel-Terrier zu ihr spricht, weiß sie nicht, ob sie lachen oder weinen soll. Aber zu beidem bleibt sowieso keine Zeit, denn ihre Oma entführt sie kurzerhand auf ihrer pinkfarbenen Harley. Schließlich hat Lizzie ein ihr bislang verborgenes Talent, mit dem sie zur Feindin eines jeden Dämonen wird. Auch der attraktive Dimitri hat das erkannt. Doch schon bald braucht er Lizzie nicht nur dazu, Dämonen zu vertreiben ...

Eine Dämonenjägerin, ein sprechender Terrier und ein Mann, so gefährlich und sexy wie ein Vampir ...