Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Definition of Busy

Hello, holiday rush,

I really can't say I've missed you. I usually put aside most writing tasks during the holidays, because I know me. I don't ever get anything done. I love this time of year, and usually my time is spent entertaining, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and doing a ton of other holiday tasks that just don't happen unless I do them.

It's funny how I just can't let them go. I'm not willing to not have a holiday because I threw in the towel. And so I trudge on with a cheery heart.

I do love this time of year and I take great pride in what I consider all the creative endeavors of the holidays, from inventing a new twist on cranberry sauce, to decorating cookies.

But all that expended creative energy leaves me completely drained, and I just can't seem to write.

So how do you do it? Who out there gets more productive this time of year?

Any tips on streamlining the endless holiday tasks?

Jess

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Life has been rather challenging lately, but recently I had the opportunity to attend "Murder and Mayhem in Muskego" thanks to an invitation from Ruth and Jon Jordan of CRIMESPREE Magazine and Penny at the Muskego Public Library. Not only did I have a great time meeting those who attended the conference, but I got to hang out with some really cool authors!! The whole experience brought home, once again, why I love being an author! Here's my top five reasons:

1. As stated above, I get to hang out with other authors and it's been my experience that they're a great bunch of people. Funny and generous with both their time and knowledge...each time I'm with them, I learn more about the craft of writing.
2. The readers...there's nothing more rewarding to me as an author to meet those who've enjoyed Ophelia and Abby. All of my life, reading has been important to me and it's given me an escape during tough times. I've always been grateful for the entertainment that my favorite authors have provided for me. Now as an author, when someone tells me that my work has done the same for them...well, it just doesn't get any better than that! It makes me feel that, at least in some way, I'm giving back what has so richly been given to me over the years.
3. I love the dress code! Except for when I'm doing events, I get to wear ratty, old t-shirts and sweats. I don't have to worry if it's a bad hair day, or if my makeup's okay. I can stumble out of bed, do a few ablutions, grab my coffee, and I'm good to go. No fuss; no muss, and the fact that the way I look could possibly frighten small children doesn't come into play. ;)
4. The hours...they're whenever I want. If an idea is simmering and I need to get it down, be it eight o'clock in the morning, or midnight, I can work on it at my pleasure. Not too many occupations allow that kind of freedom.
5. I can create my own world. And one in which the hero always wins, justice is always served, and I have all day to think up one clever line. In the real world...not so much. The good guys don't always win, justice sometimes seemed to be stymied by rules and regulations, and cleverness? After the fact...usually what I should've said hits me two hours later.

But without you and your support, the above list wouldn't exist. So on this Thanksgiving 2009, I'd like to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to call myself an author!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm too busy to write this.

You're too busy to read it.

So we'll just leave it at...Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Norman Rockwell eat your heart out

This past Sunday, we had an early Thanksgiving. My husband and had been talking about the rush we go through every year (and how he gets no leftovers after we make the rounds of our relatives). And wouldn't it be great to have a day just to relax? So we decided to have our own mini-feast.

No frills. Just turkey and dressing and a few sides. And pie. Had to have the pie. So just a basic dinner and pie. Of course you have to have the cranberry mush. So we added that. And no dress code. Every year we dress up. So Thanksgiving at our house would be super casual. My daughter took this literally and showed up for dinner in her nightgown.

Of course it wasn't exactly Norman Rockwell. Our bird wasn't quite as impressive. And it started dripping on the floor as soon as my husband tried to carve it. The dog thought that was great. She was in heaven, licking it up. We should have stopped her, but it was funny and if you're entertaining in our house, you get a pass. Of course as soon as she gets really going, we realize the turkey is still dripping a bit and now the dog has grease all over the top of her head.

But she had fun. We had a blast and we got just what we wanted - a relaxing holiday. Now on to the real one...!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Power of Your Name

How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! — John Proctor, The Crucible by A. Miller


Hi everyone,

I've been very bleary eyed this week because like many others in the publishing industry, I've been following the news unfolding about Harlequin's association with Author Solutions. If you haven't heard about this, and would like to know what is going on, I've followed this discussion over on Smart Bitches.

I think I've said enough about the venture in the discussion. Today I'd like to continue the previous post's thoughts and talk about the power of your name.

I remember reading and discussing The Crucible in high school. Out of all the quotes from that play, the only one that stuck with me is the one I quoted above.

I remember sitting in class as a teenager, and a discussion broke out because many of my teen peers just didn't get it. They didn't understand why a man would die to protect the integrity of his name. I'm not sure if I really understood it then. Teens are remarkably short-sighted, and don't seem to realize the value of their public identity. I've seen things on teen's social networking sites that make my head spin and now as an adult the one though that comes to mind is, "What are you doing to yourself?!"

But that's the trick. I'm not lamenting what they've done, because had they done it in private, they could heal in the long run. I'm lamenting what they've done to their personal identity by making stupid mistakes public.

Our identity is powerful. I understand that now. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I recognize the importance of protecting and defending my name.

I had a friend who went in for a job interview, and had the interviewer throw down pictures of a porn dominatrix and accuse my friend of being a porn star because they shared the same name and unfortunately, hair color. She was immediately dismissed, and shell shocked, because no matter how many times she told the idiot interviewer, "This isn't me." The woman wouldn't listen. According to her, there it was in black and white, her name.

Our name is our lasting stamp on the mark we leave on this world. Take very special care that your name is used for good, and your name will become more powerful.

Look at the name, Oprah.

It didn't exist until Oprah's family misspelled the biblical figure, Orpah. Just contemplate the power of that single name for a moment.

Even in Shakespeare, Juliet laments, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." — Romeo and Juliet (II,ii, 1-2)


While in this line alone, she seems to say the name Montague isn't important, she loves him for him, the two young lovers seem to know they cannot escape their names. In order to find love, he'd have to deny his father and refuse his name, or else she will deny hers.

In the end, our name is more than our name. It is our identity. It needs to be protected. It takes one ugly mistake to damage it, possibly irrevocably. And while our lives our fleeting, or names have the power to be immortal.

Please protect them.

Jess

Friday, November 20, 2009

The big decision...names

As you probably know names are a big deal for authors. Some spend days searching for just the right one...the meaning has to be right, the sound has to be right (I had to change a name of a character from one book to another because my editor thought it was too feminine for a hero.), everything has to be right.

And here at the Devoti household things are no different. We take picking names very seriously. Except we aren't naming characters or babies (Man, that was hard!) no we are naming dogs.

Over the years my husband and I have named four dogs together. The first was an 120 pound Alaskan malamute that we got as a 10 week old puppy. We went the map route. We looked at Alaska and picked Kiska Denali. We called him Kiska. Our next dog was a stray. He was a piebald (white with black spots) Siberian husky who weighed in at 75 pounds. He came with a collar with a rubber key chain from a bank attached that must have served as his tag. They had scribbled Niki on the back, but what I saw was the bank's name...or what I thought the bank's name was. I saw Roosevelt. The real name was Ravali (a county in Montana), but Roosevelt he was. Next came an Australian shepherd/German shepherd mix that we got at the local humane society. He was six months old and he was kind of a mistake. I saw his picture in the paper and thought he had some malamute in him. When we got there I realized my mistake, but...well...I couldn't leave him there! So, we had three dogs. This guy was hard. My husband and I argued and argued. We went through every historical name we could think of and finally, he won. Our pound puppy became Sherman.

Then finally, there was Meriwether. Meriwether was also a piebald Siberian husky. We got him as a puppy from Canada and he was the sweetest dog to ever cross a national line. As you can tell, we stuck with our historical figure theme and went a bit back to our roots. We are both from Missouri and traveled to Montana...not exactly on Lewis and Clark's trail, but close enough. :)

Now we have new puppy. New puppy has a lot of hopes penned on him. As I think I mentioned we had a rough year with dogs. Both Sherman (who we'd had for 14 years) and Meriwether died this summer. Then we got a rescue dog who bit my son, sending him to the emergency room. We've been sad and beaten. And this poor little 15 pounds of white fur has to pull that load. What kind of name does he deserve?

My husband pulled out his list. Yes, the man keeps a list. We narrowed it down to five with Truman being a top runner. But then my son (who due to circumstances got extra votes) vetoed it. We were stumped. Then I remembered a name that didn't fit our usual criteria, but that my daughter loved. I ran it by my son. He approved. I ran it by the DH...he balked. I pointed to his children...he capitulated.

And Despereaux was named!

Here's one of his early pictures, actually from before we got him...

What do you think? Does his name fit? And how about you? How important are names to you for your kids, your pets and characters?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Back!!!

I'm back! The surgery went well and I'm home. A little on the sore side...I certainly won't be running any foot races anytime soon...but then again, I wasn't all that hot at foot races before the surgery!! Anyway, so far so good, and I expect to be back to normal (whatever that is! *g*) in a few weeks.

However sitting for an extended period of time is a challenge, so this blog will be another short one. Just long enough to announce last week's winner of a signed copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE! Linda Henderson. (Your granddaughter truly does sound like a miracle baby, Linda, and best wishes to her and your family!!!) Send me (shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com) your address and I'll get THE WITCH'S GRAVE off to you as soon as possible.

Last thing...thanks to everyone who posted last week and thanks for all the good vibes! They worked!

Take care and I'll see you next week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

These are just too much fun not to share. Here are the winners of the Washington Post neologism contest in which readers were asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question in an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): it's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The colour you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The truth about writers' spaces

Last night, I was tooling around online and came across this article about "writers spaces." It talked about where writers write - and all of them wrote in these lovely, inspired, Pottery-Barn-would-be-jealous spaces that no mortal could design. Seriously. We're talking interior decorator spaces. I know I should have been impressed, but instead, I had to snarf out loud. Several times. Are these people writing or dickering around with their writers spaces?

The article talked about this being the way to find your muse and "pour out your genius." And I'm not saying it doesn't work for some people. Obviously, I'm not a genius. But I will tell you this. Brainiac or not, you're not writing if you're busy picking out drapes. And worse, it occurred to me that unpubbed writers might think that a fancy office is necessary in order to lock in that first sale.

But here's the truth: It's not about the color of your computer or what's on the walls. It doesn't matter if you have the most gorgeous office ever if you're not inspired by your work. I have an office, but I've written every single one of my novels while sitting on the green couch in the family room. I like it. It's comfortable. And it's close to the refrigerator.

In short (too late), I think the danger in making things "perfect" before you get to work is that you'll never get there. In the end, writers write. Even when it's not pretty. Especially when it's not pretty. Because if your story is gripping you so hard that you have to get back to the keyboard every day, chances are, it'll move you readers as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Harvest

As I was out raking leaves yesterday, and spreading them out as mulch over the new flowerbed, I got to thinking about the harvest.

I think we've gotten away from the experience of the harvest a little with year round produce neatly packaged in nice little baggies in the grocery store. At one point, the stores you set to help you survive the winter were placed there by the hard work of your own hands.

In the spring, new shoots held the promise of plenty and survival for the hard times, through summer, each plant became an embodiment of the care and sweat it took to grow them. And in the fall, that hard work was reaped fulfilling the promise that winter would not be desolate.

But the reaping, while a celebration was also a lot of hard physical work.

It doesn't surprise me that we have a feast in the fall to celebrate the harvest. It is a way of giving thanks for the ability to survive through the work of our hands, our minds, and our backs. It is a celebration of the people who share in our bounty and make it possible.

It's time to return to that way of thinking.

So today, I'm thinking of my writing. I just turned in the revisions for Beyond the Shadows. I feel like a farmer waiting for that fruit to ripen before I can pick it. I see it's potential and I'm proud, but I won't begin to reap the reward of my effort until it is out there for all to see. So I have to be patient and wait.

In the mean time, I've got a new sprout to tend. We'll see how well it bears fruit.

And while I work through the lonely winter of a writer's life, my first copy of my first book sits on my desk reminding me that my efforts to this point have given me something tangible.

Here are the things I have harvested,

A sense that my effort for nine years trying to write was not wasted.
Validation that I can contribute something to the greater world.
Fan mail. :)
Resources I earned that help me do more for my writing like build my website and go to conventions.
Great joy in writing and sharing my stories with an audience who seems to enjoy them.
A feeling that I've created something special.
A new sense of community with a growing subgenre.

What about you? Even if you're a reader, or aren't yet published, what have you harvested through your love of the romance genre?

Jess

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Planning life...

I am a big planner. Usually I do it twice a year--once when everyone else does it, January 1 and once at the beginning of the school year, around the beginning of September.

This year, however, I got sidetracked. I was overwhelmed with writing projects--deadlines, copy edits, art fact sheets, etc.--and really didn't have the time or energy to think about where I wanted to go next. Honestly, I just wanted to wade through what I already had on my plate.

Then we (the Devoti family) had a few setbacks. Both of our dogs died this summer. We got a new dog that we adopted from a rescue organization. This dog had a lot of potential, but quite honestly needed to be in a home without kids while that potential was realized. He bit my son--badly. As in ambulance, five hours in the emergency room badly. We all survived, but it was a tad of an emotional setback as you can probably imagine.

Meanwhile, we were also dealing with not getting H1N1. My kids both have cystic fibrosis which makes them high high risk for the virus. A child in my son's class got the flu and we decided to pull both kids from school while waiting for the vaccine--which we thought would be soon. UH, no, it wasn't.

I've been homeschooling for about two months....

BUT....finally we got the vaccine, we got a new dog (a puppy), AND my book that I've been working on is being sent to Harlequin tomorrow! Let us all yell hallelujah. :)

And now I can think about planning again...maybe...because if this past few months taught me anything it's that you really can't plan life. Can you? ;-)

How about you? Are you a planner? Do you get comfort from your plan or when things get off track does it just upset you more?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Think Positive

The last six weeks of my life have contained some real highs (acceptance of the new book proposal) and some lows (that sciatica I mentioned a few weeks ago??? Seems it's being caused by a herniated disc pinching a nerve, and the only treatment at this point is surgery. Next Monday at 10:45...not a big deal...overnight at the hospital followed by a four week recovery.) Anyway, as I sail into this, I've been trying to focus on what I appreciate most in my life, and since Thanksgiving is right around the corner asking the same question of you seemed appropriate.

So that's the question...what are you most thankful for? Post a comment and be entered to win a signed copy of THE WITCH'S GRAVE. I'll announce the winner next week. (Yes, by then I will be up and about!)

Take care and have a good one!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do You Believe? (The Sequel)




Our instructions were really pretty simple:



#1 Stay together with your investigation group. After all, we were in a city cemetery in the middle of the night. It would be easy to get turned around, and easier still to slip or trip on a headstone hidden under the fallen leaves.



#2 Don’t provoke. Although a lot of paranormal investigators use this technique–trying to rile the spirits to get some response–the Shadowseekers group we were with doesn’t believe in annoying the dead.



#3 If we saw a dark shadow...walk away from it, not toward it.

And so our paranormal investigation continued!



Last week, I promised an update on my husband's EVP work. He walked the cemetery with a digital recorder, hoping to get evidence of sounds or voices that we couldn’t hear with our ears. Well, the investigation lasted 2 ½ hours, and I listened to all 2 ½ hours of that recording. Didn’t hear a thing, except David crunching through the leaves and saying to himself, "What’s wrong with me? Here I am in the middle of the night, in a cemetery, talking to myself."



Three cheers for investigators who have the patience to listen to these sorts of recordings routinely. I found it tedious to the extreme!



I, on the other hand, was walking along with Tammie, the head of Shadowseekers, and taking photos. I did take some that were interesting. Are they spirits? I really can’t say. I can say that I’m logical and rational (most of the time) enough to know that what I’ve captured on some of these photos might be dust of moisture that I’m looking at as orbs. And the mists? Well, I guess they could be someone’s breath, though with holding a digital camera far enough away to see the screen, that seems unlikely to me. I’ll let you decide.



I can say that paranormal investigations are fun and fascinating. Can’t wait to do it again!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What do you think?

I was doing a signing a few weeks ago when someone came to my table with a Kindle case. It seems some readers no longer have books to sign - at least not the kind with paper covers. And I thought this was clever - she's having authors sign her Kindle case with a black Sharpie. It made me smile, and I signed.

Another reader who was waiting saw what had happened and reached into her purse. It turns out she carries her Kindle everywhere she goes. She also reads paper books and I signed one for her, along with her Kindle. I was the first author to sign that one. No doubt, there will be more.

Now I've been hearing about e-readers for years, but that day at the signing, it finally clicked just how mainstream they've become. I know - you're saying, "Fox, get with the program." And I will. I have. Still, I'm one of those people who needs a paper book. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I like turning the top corner of the right-hand page when I want to mark my place (book abuse) and I'll even (gasp) write in my favorite books sometimes. Now someone is probably saying you can do all that (save the folding) with an e-reader, but I'm just not ready.

But I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only one. Barnes & Noble just released the Nook. Amazon is upgrading the Kindle and Sony also has an e-reader out there. I'm sure there are more. So what about you? Do you have one of the e-readers? If so, how do you like it? And is there anyone else out there like me, who just has to have a paper book in their hands?

Winner in the Marcia James giveaway

We have a winner in the Marcia James giveaway. She's one of ten authors who donated short stories to the Berkley anthology, Tails of Love, which has raised $10,000 since June for an Ohio no-kill animal shelter. Brenda Lee Watson wins an e-book of Marcia's comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, starring Smokey, the undercover DEA drug-sniffing "crestie."

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Burden of Perfection

Hi everyone,

How many perfectionists are out there? Raise your hands.

I have to admit, I'm not one of them. For me, I'm usually satisfied if I've done the very best job I know I can do, and I'm good with that.

I'm thinking about all the revisions I've had to do lately, and the extensive amount of work it takes to focus on every sentence, every comma, every single letter in every word to make sure it is "perfect," and at the same time knowing that it can't be perfect.

I don't think I really know what perfect is.

Is perfect a book without a single typo or formatting error? I think that's what we all strive for. I know I personally read through my manuscripts at least ten times, and pass them by five different beta readers trying to scour out those nasty little things.

I have another writer friend of mine who swears gremlins live in our computers and add new ones in to mess with us after we finish our edits. I'm starting to believe it.

Is perfect a book that never once yanks me out of the story? Again, that certainly is a goal worth striving for. I read a book that's pretty popular, but the overuse of two words was so egregious I couldn't overlook it as a reader. Then there are character actions that I don't get, or a trope I don't care for rearing its ugly head.

And that's the problem with this type of perfection, there's too much variation person to person to please everyone.

So what are we left with?

If perfection is unattainable, personal effort is not. The only thing I can reasonably achieve is control over my effort toward a book. The day I feel guilty because something isn't perfect is the day I admit to myself I didn't put forth my very best effort.

So long as I know I've done all I can, that feeling is perfection.

Jess

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do You Believe?

Do you believe in ghosts?

Last Sunday night, I met up with a group called The Shadow Seekers who are not only believers, but they’re working to prove the existence of spirits. They were kind enough to invite my husband and I along on a paranormal investigation at a historic cemetery.

For the record (and as if you don’t know it), I’m not exactly the great outdoors type. It was cold Sunday night, and I was dressed in so many layers of clothing, I looked like that poor kid in the snowsuit in "A Christmas Story" who couldn’t walk outside to play. But never let it be said that Casey Daniels is not a good sport! I had boot warmers. I had hand warmers. I was even smart enough to bring an entire bag of Halloween-size Snickers bars. Oh yeah, I was prepared, all right.

And in for quite an adventure!

We met at the cemetery at 9:30 and split up into groups. Zorro and I went along with Tammie, the head of The Shadow Seekers, and her husband, Rich. It was great to get their expert points of view on paranormal investigations and what we should or shouldn’t do. Zorro was our EVP man. He carried a digital tape recorder and did his best to get the spirits talking in response to the questions he asked. Tammie and I headed out with our cameras.

And what did we find?

Well, I learned a few important things, and if they will ever make their way into one of my Pepper Martin mysteries, I can’t say. But I do know that taking photos in a dark cemetery isn’t easy. I was never sure exactly what I was going to get. I also learned that a cemetery surrounded by city streets and city traffic isn’t the quietest place to rest in peace! I wonder if the folks buried there could ever have imagined that the quiet, country cemetery where they chose their plots would someday be surrounded by activity.

One of our first stops was a beautiful monument to a girl who died at age seventeen about one hundred years ago. The angel statue atop her monument is surrounded by glass (depending on which story you believe, that’s either because it was once stolen or because it sometimes disappears and reappears!). Tammie had her own tape recorder going and we stopped there to "chat" with the grave’s resident.

"Is anyone with us here tonight?" Tammie asked.

We were rewarded by nothing more than the sounds of city traffic and the crunch of the leaves at our feet.

Tammie didn’t let that stop her. "Can you give us a sign that you’re here? Can you tap on the glass?"

And yes, I am a writer. And of course that means I do have an active imagination. But I know what I heard in response.

And what I heard was a tapping on the glass!



As for our other adventures . . . tune in next week to see if David captured any EVPs. And what did show up on all those pictures I took in the dark???

Friday, November 6, 2009

Competing in the new world.

So, things are changing. Ebooks are getting bigger and bookstores are dying. Authors are more and more thinking about selling directly to consumers and with this new ease of publishing, there are more and more books on the virtual shelves.

As an author this can be scary because how will you stand out? As a reader it can be scary because how will you know if a book is decent? I mean we can bitch about NY and gatekeepers, yada yada but those gatekeepers do give us some baseline of quality. But in a new digital age, that just may not exist....What will we do then? (Which isn't to say a self-published book today can't be good, just that without a third party vetting system it is harder predict if a book will be good, or at least hit some level of quality.)

There will still be recommendations from other people, but as an author hoping to build a career on face to face word of mouth is well, crazy. You have to be able to reach bigger numbers at one time. How will we do that? As a reader what would you respond to?

One possibility is social networking. The idea being that if you can get a book talked up on Goodreads or Facebook it will be word of mouth on steroids. What do you think? Would you buy a book based on the rec of a "friend" you don't personally know?

Another is reviewers actually growing in selling power. How many of you think you would start to trust reviews more than you do now when looking for a new read if faced with thousands of books and authors you had never heard of?

A third, and one that has worked in music, is sampling. With music they can let you listen to an entire song for free because you will still buy it and listen to it over and over. With books we can't do that. You read the book, chances are you aren't going to be paying to read it again. But you might pay to read a book if you only read say a third of it, or if you read something else by that author like a short story or an older book.

What else? What methods do you think you will or would use to sift the good from the not so good in the new world of digital publishing? (when the days of wandering down an aisle and holding that book in your hands is in your past) Or are you going to simply trust the "if you liked this you might like this" recs of the booksellers?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Heart Pro-Animal Heroes!

Something Wicked would like to welcome Marcia James! She's one of ten authors who donated short stories to the Berkley anthology, Tails of Love, which has raised $10,000 since June for an Ohio no-kill animal shelter. In "Rescue Me", Marcia's contribution to this fundraising book, ex-quarterback Adam "Nuke" Baumgardner saves a starving stray, and the Chinese crested hairless dog returns the favor by reuniting him with his lost love, veterinarian Claire Mendelsohn.

Here's Marcia in her own words:

I love reading love stories featuring four-legged characters. Yes, shape-shifters are sizzling hot, but I'm talking about your basic dogs and cats. Nothing makes a hero more lovable than watching him bonding with a kitten or rescuing a puppy.

In Hollywood, screenwriters have long used the animal-themed short-cut to humanizing a character. When someone onscreen pets a dog, you know s/he is a good person. Remember As Good As It Gets, when Jack Nicholson's curmudgeon falls for the toy-sized dog?

I'm a sucker for Alpha heroes who like animals, and you'll always find pets in my "hot, humorous romances". My author logo is Smokey, the Chinese crested hairless dog from my first novel, At Her Command. Tiny "cresties" are the perfect comic sidekicks for my big, macho heroes. And writing about animals ties in with my avocation-supporting animal causes on a local and national level.

This first week in November is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, the perfect time to read about matchmaking animals in a romantic novel-like Tails of Love! This benefit anthology is the pet project (pun intended) of New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster, who contributes a story along with mine and those of award-winning authors Kate Angell, Stella Cameron, Dianne Castell, Anne Christopher, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder. Each of the ten stories features an animal-from cats and dogs to a monkey and a pygmy goat. And all of the authors' and agents' proceeds go to the Animal Adoption Foundation in Hamilton County, OH.

Tails of Love is available in trade paperback from online stores such as Amazon and from brick-and-mortar stores, like Barnes & Noble.

What is your favorite fictional four-legged character? Leave a comment (including your email address) to win an e-book of my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, starring Smokey, the undercover DEA drug-sniffing "crestie".

Who is my favorite fictional four-legged character-besides Smokey, of course? I have a soft spot in my heart for the crime-solving Siamese cats, Koko and Yum-Yum, from "The Cat Who…" mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun.

Happy National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week!
-- Marcia James

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Winners & Sayonara


Hey, everyone. By the time you're reading this, I will be on vacation in Acapulco. First, I have a winner to announce.

JenB, come on down! I need you to email your full name, address, and book choice to ann.aguirre at gmail.com. Since I'll be gone (and I'm not taking my laptop or my cell phone), your book will be sent out on the 9th. But never fear, I'll attend to it as soon as I'm on the clock again.

Second, I'm saying farewell here at Something Wicked. I'm having to pare down my commitments because I want to make sure I have the time I need to write my books. I'm rather obsessive about deadlines, you see. It gives me hives to consider being even a day late. So I'm doing some structural reorganization to make sure I can continue doing my job to the best of my ability.

It's been a pleasure blogging here. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Welcome Jennifer Lyon!

Hi, we'd like to welcome Jennifer Lyon to the blog today. She's the award winning author of Soul Magic, the latest in a fantastic series from Ballantine Books. While she's here, Jennifer has graciously offered to answer any questions we may have (we'll try to be gentle).

Can you tell us a little bit about Soul Magic?
It's the second book in the Magic series after BLOOD MAGIC.

Sutton West knows he's close to giving into the curse and going rogue. If that happens, he'll start killing innocent witches to harvest the power in their blood and lose his soul. Worse, Sutton has touched the blood of a witch, Dr. Carla Fisk, and the memory haunts him. He's torn between duel hungers; the deep desire for the woman and the dark craving for her witch blood.

Carla is haunted too-by her murdered twin sister. When she discovers that her sister's soul is trapped in a knife, she goes to Sutton for help in finding the knife so she can free Keri's soul to go onto Summerland.

Together as they battle a dangerous psychic, Sutton and Carla discover that Keri's twin bond with Carla is keeping her soul alive. And they soon realize that one of them is Sutton's soul mirror-but which one? Carla, the witch who is alive and that he already loves? Or Keri, the dead witch whose soul they are trying to free?

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
With this series, I know which witch hunter's story I want to tell next, so character comes first. But when I started the series, I had a premise in mind of witches and witch hunters who once worked together to fight evil and then they were torn apart by a curse, giving demons a foothold on earth. So it just depends…sometimes character sometimes plot!

What made you decide to write paranormal romance?
I have always loved witches! I was hooked from the time I saw my first BEWITCHED rerun when I was a little girl. Back in my unpublished days, I wrote a witch story that never sold, but I always wanted to try it again. Then one day, I just decided to go for it and write a story about witches the way that I always envisioned them..

What is the best writing advice you ever received?
When I was unpublished, it was to finish the book and keep going forward. Don't get stuck on revising the same three chapters, or don't get stuck on revising the same book over and over. Revising a book a couple times can be a great learning experience. But then start something new, keep writing forward. I can't credit anyone person for this advice, it's just what I heard over and over.

As a published author, it'd have to be from Maureen Child: "You know how to write a book. Now go do it." In other words, quit belly aching and get to work! (I need that advice, like, every day!)

How does your family feel about your career as a romance author?
My husband and kids are 110 percept supportive! My sister is my biggest fan and never tires of talking plots.

I dedicated my first published book to my mom who always told me, "You never know what you can do until you try. So get out there and try." She believed in my dream through eight years of rejections. She was very sick by the time I got my first contract offer, but she was thrilled, telling all the doctors and nurses and anyone she could get to listen. She didn't get to see my first book on the shelves, but when I held that first book in my hands, I knew it was her belief that helped create it.
As for others who might not be as supportive, I don't worry about it.

What are some of your influences/favorite books and authors?
So many! In high school, I read Stephen King and Rosemary Rogers, well actually, I read voraciously but those are the two I can think of off the top of my head. Out of high school, the names that come to mind are Dean Koontz, Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux as the ones that really inspired me to write. I've always read a mix of genres, with romance being the dominate one.

What are you reading right now?
Right now I'm reading RED HOT LIES by Laura Caldwell. And I have Roxanne St. Claire's MAKE HER PAY and John Saul's FACES OF FEAR next in line. That's an unusual line up for me, I usually read more paranormal which I just can't get enough of.

What is next in the series? For you as a writer?
Next will be Phoenix's story. I'm super excited about this book, tentatively titled, BLIND MAGIC. I'm still working on it, but I'll tell you this much: The heroine, Ailish is a blind witch handfasted to a demon and must find a way to break the handfast or she will die. Phoenix gets drawn into this unwillingly at first, but he's soon fighting to save the woman he loves from a fate he doesn't know how to stop.

I'm also working on a fun Brava Novella about a wizard with fried powers and a heroine who blackmails him into helping her find her missing grandmother. It's a fun book! It will be out fall of 2010 and sadly, I haven't even asked about the title yet!

How can readers find out more about you and your work?
Go to my blog at www.jenniferlyonbooks.com I keep that updated as much as possible.

Thank you Angie! It's been fun!

No problem, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by.
Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn't materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. SOUL MAGIC is the second book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. Jen's also has a super secret alter ego known as Jennifer Apodaca, the author of the award winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Cover Awesomeness!


How could I not show this off?

I'm so thrilled to announce that the sequel to Beyond the Rain, will be released May 4th, 2010.

Beyond the Shadows is an intense, heart-stopping read. I really loved writing it, and I can't wait for it to hit the shelves.

Honestly? I can't wait to hold that hot cover in my hands.

Here's the blurb.

A man of deception. A woman of justice. Can their fragile trust be strong enough to prevent a war?

Commander Yara knows perfect leadership requires perfect control and discipline. She has spent years living without the distraction of caring for anything—or anyone. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make. Yara has honed herself into the perfect heir to the Azralen throne, but a bloody coup could destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. She must return home to prevent war. Unfortunately the only ship available belongs to an Earthlen trader with no regard for authority—especially hers.

Cyn is a rebel, driven to protect those suffering at the hands of the Elite leaders of Azra. Using his alias to manipulate the lovely but icy commander onto his ship, he has to keep her from Azra long enough to ignite the revolution. But when he awakens a vibrant and feeling woman beneath that icy exterior, he gets more than he bargained for—love. He must find a way to convince Yara to join him, before they get caught in a web of deception that could tear their world apart.

To celebrate the new cover for Beyond the Shadows, and also to celebrate Beyond the Rain's bestsellerdom, I'm giving away a signed copy of Beyond the Rain on my blog. The contest is open until this Saturday, so there's plenty of time to jump in for your chance to win a copy.

Happy November everyone! And happy reading,

Jess Granger

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The first rule of fight club...

Hi, I'd like to welcome Lisa Kessler to the blog. She's an aspiring writer taking part in Paranormal Fight Club, a contest where aspiring writers battle it out to er...have me read their manuscript and coach them on it. Yeah, that part is kind of embarrassing. Fighting over the Fox. But it's a great contest and I'm honored as heck to be the prize.
And now that we're down to the final two, I thought I'd invite them to Something Wicked. Only they must obey the Second Rule of Paranormal Fight Club - no grand battles in the middle of the blog. Do you know how hard it is to get vampire blood out of the drapes?
Hi Angie!
Thanks so much for the spot on your Something Wicked blog!
I’m here to beg for votes… ahem… I mean encourage readers to join in the fun of the Final Round of the Paranormal Fight Club!
What is the Paranormal Fight Club? I'm so glad you asked!
Cue the Rocky fanfare
The Paranormal Fight Club is the newest writing contest sponsored by the Romance in the Backseat book review site. We started back at the first week of October with eight not-yet-published paranormal romance writers.
We all began our tales with the same writing prompt, but every story developed completely differently. Each week we posted a new chapter of our ongoing stories and readers voted for their favorites, with everyone battling for a fabulous grand prize… A chance to have NYT Best-selling author Angie Fox critique our manuscript!
So each week the two writers with the fewest votes were cut. And now we’re down to the Final Two. (It is a Fight Club so think vicious!)
I’m kidding. The camaraderie between all the writers in the Paranormal Fight Club has been inspirational. I’ve made new friends and really enjoyed the exercise of pacing a story to have four distinct acts.
When I started this journey, two characters popped to mind, but they weren't the ones I expected. I thought I was going to write about vampires, but instead I wrote about Talia, a Princess from Summerland who crossed the Veil into our world to escape an arranged marriage, and Keth the man who broke her heart to save her life.
Across the Veil grew into a love story that I never saw coming, but that made it incredibly fun to write.
I hope it’s equally enjoyable to read too! Stop by when you can, and don’t forget to vote
Thanks again to Angie Fox for her time and the space on her blog! And thanks to Romance in the Backseat for organizing such a fun contest.
Lisa Kessler – Across the Veil