Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Every Ending...

In a little over twenty-four hours, I shall be joining the happy ranks of the retired!! After thirty years with the United States Postal Service, the day has finally arrived. And to be truthful, it's all a bit mind boggling. Among other things, I've handled millions of pieces of mail; sold God knows how many stamps; and done enough paperwork to fill a ton of books. Now I'm done. What's it going to be like to get up next Monday morning and not put on my spiffy uniform and go to work?

I honestly don't know. I do know that there will be a certain amount of sadness walking out that door tomorrow for the last time. I'm ending a major portion of my life and saying good-bye to those I've worked with for a number of years. And there are all those unknowns staring me in the face. Will I get bored staying at home? How is this reduction in income going to work out? Since I won't be operating on such a tight schedule all the time, will my natural tendency to procrastinate be a problem? (no more excuses for not having a clean house!) And God forbid, what if I become a hermit???? *g*

But in every ending, there's a beginning.

There are more books to write, workshops to prepare (first one--a freebie for junior high/high school students concerning story construction), conferences to attend, maybe a couple of adult education classes to take, and family and friends to spend time with. It's going to be nice planning the things that I want to do without worrying about taking time off from work. And it's going to be really nice to be in a position where I don't have to balance two careers.

It's funny-my horoscope for today said that it's time to let go of the past, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm ready to get on with it. Let go of the past and sail off into the future…it might be on a wing and a prayer…but I'm sailing off none the less!

Wish me luck!!

See you next week,
Shirley

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There and Back Again!

Back from New Mexico, safe and sound. Yes, I do complain about visiting there. After all, the friend I stay with lives off the grid. That means electricity provided only by solar and wind power, no running water (you heard me right) and a general lack of all the conveniences we take for granted.

But I’ve got to say, some good things came out of this trip.

#1 A plot for Pepper Martin mystery #8.

This is a very good, especially since the book is due in January and I haven’t started writing it yet. No big surprise, I’m going to take Pepper to New Mexico, a place she would thoroughly, completely and totally hate.

#2 Research

See above. There’s nothing like being on site and no way I could just read about the altitude or the dryness or the dust (gads, there’s a lot of dust!) and make it all come alive in the book. As part of my research, I met a lovely young woman who grew up on the Taos Pueblo, home of the Taos Indians. Her help was invaluable and she’s promised to answer all the questions that are sure to pop up as I work on the book.

#3 Lots of quiet time.

And I do mean quiet! My friend lives three miles from the nearest road. And the nearest road pretty much leads to nowhere. I’m not a big fan of noise, but this quiet is very quiet. Yes, it’s hard to get used to. It’s different. And difficult. But it’s also good once in a while to really stop the craziness that is our lives and have time to think. There’s no place like New Mexico for thinking.

#4 Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll just stop with this view from Leslie’s patio.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Slays in Vegas

Hi all. I have some fun news. I'm getting ready to start a novella today. In a few minutes, I'll be staring at that blank page, wondering just how anyone thought I could write a book. But hey, that's part of the process. This one is called What Slays in Vegas and it will be part of a Halloween anthology, due out next year from Kensington.
For me, the beginning of a story is kind of like heading out on a grand adventure, one where I know where I'm headed, but am not sure how to get there or what the road will be like. The excitement comes from knowing it will be fun, and that I'll end up where I'm supposed to be eventually.

This new novella takes place in Las Vegas, one of my favorite cities. And thanks to the publisher's need to have some snippets of information in order to write up the back cover copy, I have a pretty good idea of how it begins. At least this is what I turned in to Kensington:

Shiloh is a she-demon in a city that values sin – Las Vegas. In fact, she hasn’t seen this much action since Sodom and Gomorrah. Shiloh a half-succubus, so she’s had trouble fitting in and getting a job over the centuries. She knows how lucky she is to work for the big underworld boss in Las Vegas, Napthulo. Shiloh makes sure his high rollers are entertained, which usually means seduction. And she keeps her head down. Until she picks the wrong man to “entertain.”
Damien is a demon slayer sent to Vegas to kill Napthulo. But it’s hard to get close to the demon. He thinks he has a way in when he runs into Shiloh. Usually his powers repel the succubi, but Shiloh energies throw him off. This causes Damien’s powers to backfire on Shiloh and she loses control too. Shiloh seduces Damien in a wild night with unthinkable consequences. The next morning, the she-demon and the demon slayer wake up in bed together – married.
Worse than the deluxe package from The Hitching Post wedding chapel – scattered all over the room – is that their “I do’s” have meshed their powers. Both demon and demon slayer are horribly compromised.
She could be killed for it. He could be cast out. The solution is an immediate annulment – both legally and spiritually. They’re all set to reverse the curse when Damien comes up with a rather devilish idea. He’ll grant her freedom after Shiloh helps him take down her boss.
I think it will be a lot of fun. And I like the idea of a demon slayer named Damien. Poor guy. I'm thinking it's probably a family name or something. Blame his parents, you know? Or maybe there's another reason. Guess I'll have to write it and find out...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Something Wicked welcomes Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Hi everyone. Glad to be here at Wicked Authors today, since I'm feeling a little wicked, myself, being immersed in writing my latest vampire novel for Silhouette Nocturne. Sometimes, I swear, I can feel the fangs drop...
As for the title of this blog, I have to tell you that my life has been loaded with paranormal happenings and inspirations of an unusual sort. So, before I get into that, I'll tell you all a wee bit about me as an author so you know who's who.
I'm Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, and everything I write, or have ever written, falls in the "paranormal" category. Paranormal should be my middle name.
I write for Kensington, Dorchester, and Nocturne. My first vampire story was in the Immortal Bad Boys anthology, alongside Rebecca York. Dark historical vampire fare for me. That book has been re-released this month in a mass market sized paperback. Yay. Then I wrote a girly, fluffy, goofy werewolf book for the American Title 3 contest, that was published last year by Dorchester - called "Barbie and the Beast." Dedicated to the art of paranormal dating. Ha.
Since then, I've been writing dark contemporary werewolves and vampires for Silhouette's Nocturne imprint. I'm working on my ninth project for them - first with a "Wolf Moons" series, and now a "Vampire Moons" series, and I'm having the time of my life.
Writing paranormal tales is pure bliss. So, where does this love of the paranormal come from? Answer: Genes.
It's the only explanation.
I wrote and illustrated my first paranormal novel at the age of eight, and I still have that book. Back then, it was Leprechauns, Silkies, and Fairies. See what I mean?
My family had "Scary Tales Night" by the fireplace on weekends, where my folks told us strange things, and we had to make up our own tales to contribute. We watched old black and white horror movies with pillows in our hands, so that we could cover up our faces during really scary parts. We traveled by car great distances to visit relatives in the summertime, and sometimes drove all night to get there... across the deserts of the west. To make the drive not seem like a drive, my dad would tell us stories about old Route 66, phantom lights, and diners that burned down, but refused to die.
My first book came out of those old tales my dad told, and titled "Café Heaven - An Autobiography of the Afterlife" - about guess what? A diner that refuses to die. It's dedicated to my dad, who had passed away. But I will swear to you right now, (and maybe you have to have had some sort of experience like this yourself), that my dad whispered this story to me from the Great Beyond. Therefore, it's the book of my heart, and of my lifetime.
Getting weepy here, sorry.
Moving on...
After college, I became a teacher. But in the summer breaks, I was a private tour guide in Britain. I spent a lot of time there, taking people around to megalithic sites that make the crowds at Stonehenge seem like English Disneyland. I sought out British dowsers and non-fiction authors, and traveled with them to the unknown places. I studied stone circles at night with scientists who were monitoring them for "unusual activity." Trust me on this: there is no site over there that doesn't have some sort of activity going on, spooky or otherwise! Been there!
Did I mention that I see dead people?
You can see, then, that it was a short leap to writing gothics... vampires and werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. It's just a continuation of my love for that certain something, the special atmosphere that eludes capture, and is viewed only out of the corner of your eye.
I can create those sorts of worlds as I see them when I write. Fiction, specifically paranormal romance and urban fantasy, make me feel right at home.
I'm still a teacher in the day gig. I write under tight deadlines for Nocturne, so my imagination can take flight at the end of the day, and I feel... well... at the same time both free and connected. The paranormal world is my world. I didn't just jump onto a fad bandwagon. I live it, and always have. So, I do hope you've tried, or will try out my books for size, and come along on my ride. Share the love of the extra-normal.
I'll be waiting to hear from you now, checking for comments between my classes, and yearning for a connection with you.
Because I wonder what brings you to the paranormal ??? Keeps you reading / writing / watching those TV shows?
Cheers for now -
Linda
www.lindathomas-sundstrom.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The first draft of anything is (bleep)”-- Hemingway

Yes! The first draft of my new book is finished. Is Hemingway right? Put it this way-it needs some work. I don't mean to blow the image of an author typing happily away at their keyboard, smiling at every word, convinced that they're all golden, but sorry, it's just not like that for me. The truth of the matter is I can't use a comma correctly to save my life; I invert sentences; my plot has holes; and my timeline is a bit on the shaky side. Do I see this stuff as I'm writing? Nope, I'm usually clueless.

Enter my editor, Emily. See, I'm really lucky-at Avon, I've been fortunate to work with editors who actually edit. And each time I work on their comments, it's always a "slap myself on the forehead; why didn't I think of that" moment. It really is so obvious to me once they point it out, yet I didn't see it at the time. Why? I guess it's the old adage…"can't see the forest for the trees" kind of a thing. It takes that second pair of eyes to find the glitches.

And boy, do they! During my first experience working with Sarah Durand on WITCH WAY TO MURDER, I needed to make so many changes that I was actually dreaming about the edit. In those dreams, I'd see pages of blank paper, or I'd find myself watching my characters act out scenes from the book while I took notes. Talk about nightmares!!! *g* It can be frustrating-not because I mind doing the rewrites-but because I missed catching it myself on the first go-round and want to make sure that I "get it right" on the second.

What do I expect on this next edit? Well, Emily has done an initial read through, and she very kindly took the time to shoot me an email, giving me her first reaction. The book is strong and is on track with the original concept-yay-but there are a couple of things that need fixed! Umm-I kind of figured that! And I'm okay with making whatever changes she wants-I know that thanks to Emily, this book will be more satisfying to the readers because of the time and attention she has devoted to it.

So the next time you pick up a book and read the acknowledgements and see that the author has thanked their editor, know that the editor earned that thank-you! They took the kind of first draft that Hemingway referred to and turned it into something worth reading!!!

That's it for this week-have a good one and see you next Thursday!!

Best,
Shirley

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Very, Very Short

Sorry for silence last week, but I'm working against the clock to finish DIE STANDING! I would like to announce that it's done-unfortunately it's NOT! As a result, this post is brief-just a note to apologize and to say that next week's will be longer. Maybe something about first drafts!! I should have one by then!!

Everyone take care-I promise-more next week!!

Best,
Shirley

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My sagging bookshelf

I was going through my bookshelf the other day, looking for space. You see, I have this awful habit of acquiring books even though I have books already. It's an obsession, really. And sometimes they tend to pile up. Right now, the three bookshelves in my bedroom are double-stacked and two of the four drawers of my dresser now hold books. So this week, I decided to do something about it. For every new book I bring into the house, I have to read/give away three books.

This isn't easy because sometimes I don't want to give up a book after I read it. But that just means I get to read more books before I bring one in the house, so that's not too much of a problem. The new system seems to be working to slim my shelves (I've already given six books away), but it's had an unexpected side effect. I'm finding all kinds of treasures I didn't know I had.

Last week, I started this fantastic English mystery series about an ex-pat American who moves to a village outside of London. It's called Arson and Old Lace and I finished it in a day. Of course now I want the second book, but not until I give away three more books. I also started Mary Jane Maffini's mystery series about a professional organizer. It's a kick to read and I wonder why I let those books sit on my to-be-read shelf for so long.

I suppose the good thing about waiting so long to start a series is that I don't have to wait for sequels. And it's fun wondering what other surprises are waiting on those bookshelves. I'll be sure to let you know what other treasures I find.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Something Wicked Welcomes Ashlyn Chase

Something Wicked would like to welcome Ashlyn Chase, author of funny paranormals (and you know I'm partial to those, right?) Glad to have you here, Ashlyn.

Often in interviews, I'm asked where I come up with my ideas? I'm sure I'm not the only author who is asked that question, but since my romantic comedies betray some pretty wackadoodle ideas I've had, I may get more than some.

Heaving Bosoms. Sounds like words from a bodice ripper romance from the seventies, right? Well, with my irreverent tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I thought, wouldn't that make a wonderful title for a romantic comedy? Oh yes. I must remember that one. So I tucked it away in my idea file.

Now I should let you know that my idea file is only for me. Therefore, I can put my most bizarre ideas in there without editing myself. Sometimes I go back and shake my head at something I had thought was brilliant at the time and hit the “poof” button (what I call delete,) before I make anyone else groan. Usually, I let the title or idea sit in my folder. God forbid I drop dead someday and my relatives find that folder!

But the reason I keep it is because, inevitably the day will come when I need an idea prompt and will check my folder. Of course sometimes I don’t even need to open it. Simply because I performed the act of writing up an idea, some opportunity will present itself and I’ll remember, “Ah-HA! I have something in my folder that would be perfect for that!

For instance, my dear friend and fellow writer Dalton went to her town Founder's Day Fair one fine summer day. She and her friend were simply walking along and chatting when Liana suddenly disappeared from view! She had stepped into a hole and twisted her ankle. Much to her chagrin, the EMT's kicked the local kids off the ambulance on display, and carted her off to the hospital. Thank goodness it was only a sprain.

In the retelling of this story, another writer commented something like this, “If you weren’t so top-heavy, you would have stayed upright instead of falling over and then the hunky EMTs wouldn’t have had to show up.” My funny title sprang to mind and the rest is history—or at least a contemporary romantic comedy that opened the door to my wonderful erotic romance publisher Ellora’s Cave. The book Strange Neighbors started with a title too and introduced me to my mainstream, mass market publisher Sourcebooks. That deal helped me land a NY agent.

I whole-heartedly recommend keeping an ideas folder. It’s worth the risk of posthumous embarrassment. Of course, I may not have to worry since anyone who reads my books knows I think “differently.” Consider the fact that I wrote a sequel to Heaving Bosoms called Quivering Thighs. Also, Being Randy, Wonder Witch, Demolishing Mr. Perfect, Love Cuffs, Vampire Vintage, Djinn and Tonic, Death by Delilah, Giggles by Gabby and Dear Sexy Lexie. My most recent release was Strokes.

See my website for summaries of these wildly titled stories.

Oh, and how do I answer that question when I’m asked in interviews, “Where do your funny original ideas come from?” I blame it on Thalia, the muse of comedy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bon Voyage?

Remember last year, right around this time . . . I'd just returned from a trip to New Mexico which I swore up and down was a Third World country. I vowed--right here on Something Wicked for all the world to read--that I would never go back again.

Well, guess where I'm going on Friday.

I tell you this not because I want the world to know I don't keep my word when I say I'll never, ever, never do something again, but because I'm staying with a friend who has no Internet connection (and no electricity, no cell phone reception and no running water, hence my promise to never return).

Just want you all to know I won't be checking in for a couple weeks. I bet I'll have plenty of stories when I get back.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dogs and cake

I swore I wasn't going to be one of "those" people, the kind that forget that their pets are pets and start doing things like, er, throwing a birthday party for the dog.

Except that last night we threw a party for the dog.

But it didn't start out that way. Let me explain.

Labor Day weekend is crazy around our house. We always have way too many things going on. Add to that the big Mizzou/Illinois football game on Saturday. My husband and I are big Mizzou fans, so we spend an entire day tailgating and seeing friends at the game. Then last year, we bought a dog and it turns out that dog's birthday is the Saturday of Labor Day. The kids wanted to celebrate. We wanted to go to the game. So seeing as the kids are too young to read a calendar, we moved the dog's birthday to Sunday.

It's just one year. Nobody will remember, right?

Well except that we looked at the calendar again and realized we'd be out all day with the kids on Sunday. We'd be home on Monday, though. In fact, we'd invited the Fox family over for a BBQ, so we moved the dog's birthday to Monday. The dog doesn't care. The kids don't know. It's just one year.

Nobody will remember, right?

But then Monday arrived and the dog's birthday took on a life of its own. In true Fox style, my daughter went completely overboard and turned it into a creative project. She wrapped every dog treat she could find. She made decorations. She baked a dog biscuit cake in her Easy Bake Oven (that was actually my fault since I told her I used to do that as a kid). Soon enough, we had a full-fledged dog birthday on our hands, with the entire Fox clan in attendance.

It was a lot of fun. We have pics of the kids and the dog with the cake. The entire family sang Happy Birthday to the dog. We all had our own cake bites (the non-dog-biscuit variety). And my husband and I have somehow become the people who give a dog a party. In front of witnesses. We'll never live it down.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tongue in cheek

I don't know about you, but occasionally I'll begin to say something, but can't recall the exact term or word I want to use. I know the word-I know I know the word-it's flickering just beyond my consciousness. I can even remember the times I've used the word and in what context. I'll have the word on the tip of my tongue as they say, only to have it evaporate like spit on a hot sidewalk when I try and say it. Needless to say, this drives me nuts!!! I hate not remembering things! And if the word doesn't suddenly bob to the surface of my mind in a short time, I'll go searching for it.

Well, it happened to me this week. I was having a conversation about the emotional side effects of spending too much time alone and wanted to use the word that describes being afraid to leave your home. I knew it was a "phobia" (agoraphobia), but I couldn't remember the entire word. So I went looking for it at the first available opportunity and wound up on some very interesting websites listing phobias.

Jeez-I didn't know there were so many of them!

And let me preface my next remarks by stating that I do understand that a phobia is no laughing matter to someone who suffers from it. It can be debilitating and seriously impacts their lives. But come on…how does one develop the following fears????

Levophobia- Fear of objects to the left side of the body

Dextrophobia- Fear of objects at the right side of the body (think about this-if one person who suffered from levophobia were standing next to someone who had dextrophobia, they'd both be scared of each other!)

Genuphobia- Fear of knees

Geniophobia- Fear of chins (I wonder if these two phobias include your own knees and chin or only those of others? Personally, the only fear I have about my chin and knees is that eventually they're going to sag!! Which brings me around to the next one.)

Barophobia - Fear of gravity

Another fear of nature… Auroraphobia- Fear of Northern Lights

Octophobia- Fear of the number 8 (Okay, I can understand why people might be phobic about the number 13 due to all its superstitious connotations, but 8??? Why 8? No one seems to be worried about 9, 6, or 7.)

Here's a few more:
Cathisophobia- Fear of sitting

Linonophobia- Fear of string

Metrophobia- Fear of poetry

Ophthalmophobia- Fear of opening one's eyes

Mageirocophobia - Fear of cooking (Dang, I wish I would've known about this one!! There have been times when it would've made a great excuse!! "Sorry, but we have to eat out tonight, my mageirocophobia is flaring up again." )

Papyrophobia- Fear of paper

Gamophobia - Fear of marriage (I've met a few single men who suffer from this!)

Phobophobia - Fear of phobias (This one sounds a little redundant, doesn't it???)

And here's my favorite:

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia- Fear of long words (One of the longest words ever to describe the fear of long words-is that irony, or what? If someone truly suffered from this, they wouldn't be able to tell anyone about it-they'd be too scared to say the word!)

Oh, and by the way, I learned something else by visiting these websites…I suffer from lethophobia-the fear of forgetfulness! *g*

That's it for this week!! See you next Thursday!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who's Got the Button?


That drip, drip, drip sound you’re hearing is my sinuses. I’ve got a summer cold, and this one is a humdinger. In between the sniffing and wiping and the coughing, I’m trying to finish a book. Keep your fingers crossed, looks like today might be the day for that!

As I’m racing toward "The End," it occurred to me that I haven’t even mentioned this mystery series here on the blog. It’s a brand new mystery series and the first book will be out in September 2011. My hook?

Vintage buttons.

Oh yeah, I said buttons. You see, I love old buttons. As Josie Giancola, the heroine of the new series, explains at one point, buttons are tiny pieces of art, and chunks of history. Through the years, buttons have been used to denote status (the more buttons on your clothes, the more well off you were), to show who had your heart (women once had photos of their sweeties put on their buttons) or just to make a fashion statement.

They can be utilitarian or flashy. Practical or flamboyant. They can be put out by the thousands by factories or handmade, one by one, by artists.

The book I’m finished now (tentatively titled "Button Holed") is the first of a three-book contract. I’m having fun with it. My only challenge now: to get the rest of the book buttoned up.

Wish me luck!