Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!


What are you doing on New Year's Eve? Partying? Making New Year resolutions? Spending a quiet evening at home? In the past, I've either went out or spent the evening at home, reading and watching TV, but this year I'm doing something different-my three oldest grandsons are going to ring in the New Year with me by spending the night. (Since it's two nine year olds and a seven year old, we might not make it until midnight!) I'm sure the evening will include Lego's, Bakugan, and some Dr. Seuss stories. (HORTON HEARS A WHO is a particular favorite! *g*) With three active little boys, I also expect there to be a certain amount of chaos involved, and I know my house will be in another mess come morning.

Will this be the most exciting New Year's Eve I've ever spent? Probably not, unless we decide to set off the volcano kit that I bought for them, but it should be fun. It's also something that my mother always did. When my oldest three children were little, my mother had them over night every New Year's. They would have their own little party with hats and noise makers, the latter of which she always very kindly sent home with them. (Btw-the day the tooters finally wore out was always a good one as far as I was concerned!) Then they'd sit around the TV and watch the ball in New York City's Time Square drop. To this day, my oldest kids still recall those New Year's Eve celebrations spent with my mom.

And isn't that one of the things this season is about...making memories that last through the years?

So bring on the chaos, the mess, and whatever else might happen tomorrow night. Hopefully, when these three little guys have children of their own, they'll look back as fondly as their parents do on a New Year's Eve spent with Grandma!!! (And yes, I'll be sending their noise makers home with them!!! I hope their parents enjoy them as much as I did!! *evil grin*)

Everyone have a Happy New Year and a bright, successful 2011!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Year!


Hope the holidays are going well for everyone. It’s a busy time of year, and as much as we all say we’re going to do it, it’s often hard to slow down and just enjoy the season.

Sending along my best wishes along with this little bit of advice I recently found. It's a quote from a man named Carl Bard. Good words to contemplate at the beginning of a new year.


Though no-one can go back
and make a brand-new start,
anyone can start from now
and make a brand-new end.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!! I hope the next few days are joyous ones!! Like everyone else, I've a ton of things to do, so this is going to be short...the winners of last week's drawing are:

Mariska
Sharon S.
Rosie

Congratulations! Please send your mailing address to shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com and I'll get your signed copy in the mail to you next week!

Again, Merry Christmas, and everyone have a safe holiday!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Did You See It?


Here’s the thing about Cleveland in December–it’s cold! Especially out here in the suburbs, far from the lake that (since it still isn’t frozen) keeps the lakeshore area a tad warmer. Here, directly to the south of the city and on higher ground, we’ve already gotten more than two feet of snow this season. Between the snow cover and the plunging temperatures, things can get chilly.

There’s no time that proves that quite like 2 o’clock in the morning, and nothing that proves that even a little cold isn’t going to stop us Clevelanders like a total lunar eclipse.

Did you see it?

In the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, my daughter and I ventured out into the driveway to watch. We were dressed less than fashionably: boots, coats, hats, gloves, hoods. And we made hot chocolate to help keep us warm.

Our biggest problem (another thing typical of Cleveland) was the clouds. In fact, we thought we might not see the eclipse at all. But at 1:30 am, when I heard it was supposed to start, I walked out and saw a break in the clouds. There must have been a lot of wind aloft because the clouds up there were floating and flying. On the ground, fortunately, things were calm.

The breaks in the clouds allowed us to see most of the eclipse, and we watched until the earth’s shadow completely hid the moon. For a while, our world was plunged into rusty shadows. Since Monday night/Tuesday morning was also the Winter Solstice, I had a candle burning out on the bridge that spans our tiny creek. The combination of fire and snow and the spectacular show in the sky made for a memorable evening. Er...morning.

Since I won’t be checking in until next week–Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the nice list

I have to tell you how impressed I am this holiday season. I don't know what's different - I'm sure everyone still has long shopping lists and lately, less money, but it seems like everyone is in a much better mood than in years past.

This morning, I headed to the mall, almost afraid to go. But I needed an outfit for Christmas eve (we're hosting 23 family members) and I want to look nice. So into the fray I went. There was the same frenzy of last-minute shoppers, the same lack of parking spaces, but everyone was nice.

On the way in, at a cross-roads where two lines of cars met, everyone took turns. People chatted in line. The clerks were available...and helpful. It was so strange. Yet neat. Yet, well, strange. I had that same experience on Black Friday, the last time I tried to get out for a good chunk of time and get things done. Everything else I did online because I figured it would be too crazy otherwise.

So what about everybody else? Are you noticing better crowds this year, or did I just get lucky?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Better to Give...

Christmas is almost upon us!! Like I need to remind everyone, right??? I hope all your preparations are moving along and you're having as stress-free holiday season as possible! Right now, I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing-did most of my Christmas shopping yesterday and only went a little bit over budget! Not bad for me...usually it's a lot over! Anyway, since I'm finally getting into the spirit of this season (better late than never!), I thought I'd do a little giveaway. Post a comment telling us what's been your favorite topic this year on Something Wicked and I'll enter your name in a drawing for one of three signed copies of THE SEVENTH WITCH. I'll post the winners next week!

Got to fly for now-I'll look forward to hearing what you have to say!! Take care!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tweet, Tweet!


I have never been shy about confessing that I’m not very technological. Oh, I can get by on the computer. I’ve even done Power Point demonstrations for writing workshops. But when it comes to all this new social networking stuff, I must admit, I’m at sea.

Yes, I have a FaceBook page. And yes, it’s nice to see what friends and family are up to once in a while. In fact, it’s often the only way I know what my adult children are doing. But other than that . . . well, honestly as many times as I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, I can’t for the life of me figure out why any of it matters.

And then there’s Twitter. Really? Checking in constantly to update the world on where you are and what you’re doing? Could there be any bigger hubris? And frankly, folks, do you think anyone cares?

Well, maybe they do. Maybe this is a brave new world and this is how friends stay in touch and keep close and communicate. And maybe it works for them so I say, have at it! But as I was thinking of all this yesterday, I kept a list. If I was a Twitterer (or is it a Tweeter?), here’s what I would have posted yesterday:

9 o’clock
Tea and email. Lots of business correspondence to catch up on.

10 o’clock
Tea, Cheerios and the USA Today online crossword. It’s a ritual.

11 o’clock
Butt in chair, working

12 o’clock
Butt in chair, working

1 o’clock
Salad and four Saltines while butt in chair, working

2 o’clock
Butt in chair, working

3 o’clock
Butt in chair, working

4 o’clock
Butt in chair, working

5 o’clock
Butt in chair, working

I dunno, would anyone really want to be in my social network and read this stuff?

I know I wouldn’t!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Demon slayers and chocolate

Lots of people have been asking about the print edition of The Last of the Demon Slayers. I can tell you that it is coming soon. Yay! I'd hoped to have it out before my publisher's original release date, which was at the end of December. That's still the goal.

The files are with the printing company and we're waiting to see the first book, hot off the presses. That could happen in as little as a few days. Once I can get my hands on it and make sure it is everything it should be and more, then we'll start making them available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon and your favorite independent booksellers.

I'll be sure to blog about it and also send out an email blast to my newsletter readers. And you aren't getting the newsletter yet, just click here and sign up. It's quarterly, it's free and I do a lot of exclusive giveaways just for newsletter readers.

On to more chocolate-y things. I made the grand mistake of buying the turtles for last week's giveaway and then storing them right on my kitchen counter where they've been taunting me for the last four days. Ak. So Donnas, you're the winner! Please send along your snail mail address and I will gladly send the tempting confections your way. Drop me a line at angie @ angie fox.com

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Write or Wrote?

Now that I'm finished with my edits and while I wait for the verdict from my editor, I've turned my attention to other projects-namely my short story collection-SHADOW TALES.(But at this point, it seems a more appropriate title might be NEVER ENDING SHADOW TALES.) It's taking me forever to finish this collection, and if truth be told, I'd really planned on it being done last July! To be fair, I suppose I should take into consideration that for most of that time I was writing LOVE LIES BLEEDING and working full time, but still...

So what's the deal? I can write an 84,000 word manuscript, but can't finish a measly 15,000 word story in a relatively short period of time? I discovered something-I'm a quarter of the way into the story and I'm using the wrong point of view. I had been using limited third person, past simple, and it just wasn't working for me. I felt way too removed from the protagonist and I really didn't care that she had all these problems! There wasn't a sense of immediacy for me. Now I've switched, rewritten the first scene (for the third time, I might add) and changed it to first person, present simple. Am I happier with it now? Sort of. I do feel more invested in the problems I'm creating for the protagonist, and the fact that it's in the present does up the tension.

But using this style is definitely out of the box for me. I've written in first person and third person, but never used present simple. (I think that's the proper terminology. I gotta admit, I'm not the brightest bulb in the box when it comes to The Chicago Manual of Style!) This is a whole new challenge for me as a writer. And I am going to keep slogging away at it, even if this story is never read by anyone but me. I figure at the minimum, it will be a good learning experience.

Now I have a question-since so much of my brain power this week has been spent on pondering POV and which tense to use (who says a writer's life isn't exciting?? *g*) I'd like to ask you what you think. As a reader, or as a writer, what style do you prefer? Or does it make a difference to you? (Personally, as a reader, I fall into the latter group. As long as it's a good story, I don't care what POV or tense is used.)

Let me know how you feel-depending on how everyone answers-I might have to go back and change it again!!!

That's all for this week-see you next Thursday.

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do Do That Voodoo That You Do So Well

I’m taking an online workshop on how to give an online workshop.

I know, sounds strange, right? But it actually makes a lot of sense. I’ve been asked to teach an online workshop on paranormal mysteries in early 2012, and to help me prepare, I’m "auditing" this class. That means I’m trying to keep a low profile.

One of the exercises we’ve been asked to do is really interesting, and I thought I’d throw it out here. Our instructor has asked us to make a list of things we’ve done, things we’re good at, things we have a talent for. In terms of this workshop, we’re supposed to be studying our lists and using them to create online workshops of our own. In terms of just having a little fun, I think it would be interesting to hear what blog readers have to say.

Make a list of your own. What jobs have you had? What are your hobbies? What are your talents?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

I can write a mystery
I weave, knit, crochet, spin (really badly)
I once edited employee newsletters
I’ve been a copy editor
I’ve had retail experience in a clock shop and a yarn store and long, long ago, in a health food store
I raise honeybees and I’ve harvested honey
I live with a chronically ill son
I have worked as a volunteer for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (see above) mapping and setting up the yearly walk at which the organization raises approx. $1 million.
In addition to mystery, I’ve published historical and contemporary romances, young adult horror and a children’s book.
I like to hang out in cemeteries and I’ve learned a lot about gravestone symbolism and history
I can read Tarot cards.
I’ve done a workshop on how to use Tarot cards to plot fiction and create characters
I like to drive golf carts
I once attended Queen’s College at Oxford University in England
I enjoy taking photographs and love my digital camera
I own an Airedale
I own a canary. His name is Perry, and he’s named after Perry Mason, though the way he sings, it could also be Perry Como.
I make really good caramel corn

I’m not sure any of this will ever translate into an online workshop, but it’s a fun exercise. Try it yourself, and share your results!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A holiday tale...and giveaway

I was about to revive an old holiday tradition last night when I realized that a lot of other people must be doing the same thing.

You see, growing up, we had those big holiday bulbs on the tree. Do you remember them? They were the old fashioned lights. And I loved them. Probably because I remember sitting in the living room as a kid and just watching the tree.

When I moved out, I actually took my parent's big holiday lights with me. Yes, it was an unnatural attachment. Anyhow, I used those lights for years, until I got married and my husband gently pointed out that my beloved light strings were starting to short out, running too hot and to top it off - they'd burned large brown spots into the tree.

So with great reluctance, I gave up the big, bold lights for the newer, smaller, flashy ones. The replacements were pretty. Life moved on. But I still missed my old standbys.

Flash forward to late November of this year. I was wandering through Hobby Lobby and saw my old fashioned lights. Multicolor! They were gorgeous. I so wanted them! But in a temporary bout of insanity (or possibly shock) I didn't get them. I waited. They'd still be there in a week or two, right?

Well, last night we were putting up the tree. We were ready for the lights and I was telling my husband about the lights-that-got-away. Whether it was the wistfulness in my voice or the fact that I'd been thinking of Christmas lights for two weeks, I'll never know. But Jim encouraged me to put on my coat and go out and get them. He'd put them up that night.

Excited, I rushed right up to Hobby Lobby and to the lights aisle and to where they were - and they were gone. According to the guy working there, almost all of their holiday decorations are getting scarce. It seems like December 6 is too late for lights. Who knew?

It seems the tradition will have to wait until next year. Be warned - I'll be scouting the Christmas displays as they go up in July (or earlier - it seems earlier every year). And because chocolate makes everything better, I'd like to give away a box of chocolate turtles to one lucky commenter, drawn at random. Just tell me your favorite holiday tradition.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Something Wicked welcomes JL Wilson



As I look back on 2010, I realize that this was a watershed year for me in all ways. What ways? Let me count them:
· Life: this was the year my mother died (just a month ago). She was 91 and led a relatively active life up until a week before she died. I’m grieving for myself, not her. Her health had failed and she was ready to ‘move on to the next thing,’ as she put it. I was a primary caregiver for her in the last years of her life, and it made me realize how much I enjoyed that role. I miss it more than I thought I would, just as I miss her.
· “Real” career: This year marks my 25th year in my chosen career (professional technical writer). I stumbled into this career by accident. I have four college degrees, two in computer science and two in English. It seemed like a natural progression to merge them all into one career and it’s sustained me all these years. I really enjoy my job, my co-workers, and my boss. I am so fortunate to have this job and when Mom was sick, I realized that even more as I was able to travel to be with her and still telecommute, with the blessing of my company and my boss. I make good money, I’m challenged, and I’m valued. What more can a person ask?
· My writing career: This year marks the end of my fourth year of my publication journeys. My first book released in June of 2007 and since then 18 of my books have released. I have contracts for 5 more books next year and I have 4 books written, waiting to submit. I’ve enjoyed my publishing experiences, but I’m restless to move on to a new challenge. I’m sure I’ll still write for publication, but I may try a new publisher, or I may try self-publishing, or I may try … who knows what?
· Health: I had some challenging health issues this year that have stumped all the doctors I visited. It made me realize that medicine is really an art, not a science, as we would like to think. These are the sort of health problems that aren’t life-threatening, but are life changing in that I have to adjust how I do my daily life in order to accommodate pain and discomfort. So I haven’t been aggressive about pursuing ‘a cure,’ because I’m not convinced there is one (and I don’t want to spend more hours in an MRI machine, thank-you-very-much).
So what does this all add up to?
It has reinforced my firm belief that life is a teeter-totter and for every high, there’s a low, and vice versa. My mother died, but…I suddenly have much more free time, time to pursue new interests and challenges. My day job is great…and I need to remember that when I’m on deadline and working bunches of overtime. My writing career is just that—a career. I’m in charge of it, and I need to determine what I want to do with it. And my health, while shaky at times, is still okay. I need to re-intensify my physical therapy and take charge of my aches and pains and not let them slow me down…much.
The more I consider it, the more I think that publishing is like a microcosm of life. Trends come and go, publishing houses rise and fall, sales ebb and flow. And through it all, we continue to write stories people want to read about characters we love. It may seem like our success if out of our control and at the whim of editors and agents, but it all depends on how you define success. Today’s triumph will be balanced by tomorrow’s rejection letter. That odd story you’re writing may be tomorrow’s trend. That agent who rejected you may contact you a year from now and ask for more submissions.
Life is a big roller coaster. It’s up to you to hang on and try to enjoy the ride. It won’t always be happy and there will be some stomach-churning dips. But just wait…a peak is coming and a spectacular view is waiting to be seen. It’s all just a matter of time.
J L Wilson writers mysteries (with a touch of romance), and a paranormal/political thriller series set on a distant planet where telepathy is the norm, marriage is an anomaly, and the government is hiding a huge secret… Read more about it at http://www.jayellwilson.com.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Family Sayings

After reading Casey's post yesterday, all I can say is that there must be something going around. Either that or all the stars are aligned just right to cause a harried existence. And her post brings up one of my family's favorite sayings..."No rest for the wicked."

Well, I've decided I must be pretty bad!! I've spent the last month working on the edits and revisions for the new "Jess McConkey" book, LOVE LIES BLEEDING. I'm happy to say they're finished. (A day early too, I might add! A record for me when it comes to deadlines!) And the second draft is now in the hands of my editor. Time for me to celebrate and rest on my laurels, right? Ah...no! I did celebrate for about five minutes, but now it's onto the next project-a short story collection that I've been diddling around with off and on for the last few months. There's an e-book publisher who might be interested, and I've promised my agent to have the collection ready for them to take a look-see by the middle of December.

Will I make it?? Maybe. Like most women, whether you're a writer or not, I'm juggling twenty different things. And with Christmas and four of my six grandchildren's birthdays coming up this month, finishing this collection in two weeks is going to be a little dicey.

But here's another favorite family saying, one my late husband was very fond of using-"How do you eat an elephant? Answer...one bite at a time." So when my "elephant" seems to have reached mammoth proportions, I try and remember that. Focus on one thing, get it done then move onto the next. Is it easy? Not always for someone like me. I have a tendency to run off willy-nilly in ten different directions at once.

Here's another thing that I remember...like Casey, this is the life I've chosen, and I'm very, very fortunate to have deadlines! I appreciate more than I can say the things that writing has brought into my life-the challenges, the people I've met, and the lovely e-mails that I've received from readers. Without them, my world would've been a lot smaller!

So what are my thoughts as I face the month of December, with all its hustle and bustle? Bring on the elephant...I've got my knife and fork ready! *g*

That's it for this week-everyone have a great upcoming, and as stress free as possible, weekend!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Time Waits for No Man...

... It was one of my dad's favorite sayings and I have to admit, back in the day, I had no idea what he was talking about. But with age comes wisdom, right? Well, then I must be getting old, because these days, dad's words are making a whole bunch of sense.

They were really brought home to me yesterday when I realized how the clock is always ticking for writers.

Deadlines (official and personal), library appearances, bookstore signings . . . there’s always something that keeps us busy. Add to all that, of course, the day-to-day minutia of being a writer. Back in the day when things were handled via mail, there was always lag time. Get a note from your editor? You had a week or so to repond. These days with information moving as fast as lightning, editors and agents who send emails expect answers back quickly. There’s publicity to think about, too, as well as things like websites and blogging.

Yesterday I sat here as I do most every day, working on Pepper Martin mystery #8. It’s due to my publisher in January, and for now, we won’t talk about how far along it is (or isn’t). Let’s just say that so far, writing this book has been a whole lot like trying to do the backstroke in a swimming pool filled with chocolate pudding. Oh, I’m making progress. But it’s slow, so slow!

Then lo and behold, things finally clicked. Don’t ask my how. Don’t ask me why. All I know is that when it happens, I’m grateful. I wrote 13 pages, a huge daily total for me. And I knew I’d sit back down today and just take off where I stopped.

Until the page proofs for Pepper Martin mystery #7 landed on my doorstep. They need to be read and returned.

And I heard that the revision letter on the first button mystery is due to arrive today. That, too, will need to be dealt with, though until I see what my editor would like changed, I don’t know how big or small a project we’re talking.

So much to do, and not enough hours in the day to do it all!

Not that I’m complaining or anything. Sure, it can be stressful. And yes, I sometimes toss and turn at night thinking about all I need to accomplish and how little time there is to do it. But at the same time, I remember when I used to dream about having these problems. I’m grateful. Believe me, I’m grateful for every deadline and every revision letter (well, most of them) and every email from every reader who tells me how much he/she is enjoying my books.

Now if only I could just pack a few more hours into every day.