Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year!

My wishes to you and yours for a safe, healthy and peaceful new year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Shopping on a Budget Can Still Be Fun!

Tralalala! It's the holidays! What does that mean? It means family, home-cooked meals, and lots of celebration with so many people you love…. Uh, oh… how many people? SO MANY? Wow, that can be daunting to think of buying gifts for so many loved ones, especially in a tight economy. It's a difficult choice, because it's such a great feeling to give someone a gift that makes them light up, but at the same time, we have budget constraints. How do you manage the conflict? Some families do a secret Santa, so that each person only has to buy one gift. That definitely helps with the budget, but that robs of us the joy of giving to everyone else.

This year, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to give presents, good ones, and I also needed to keep my budget in a reasonable place. The first thing I did was allot a specific amount for Christmas presents, a limit I could not exceed. And then, I looked up "resale shops" on the Google, and I got shopping.

I hit three Goodwills and three other resale shops in two afternoons, and it was amazing. I found so many great gifts for those I love, and I am so excited for them to open their gifts. Yes, not everything is brand new (though some of them are), but everything I bought is perfect. Here's a snapshot of some of my awesome finds:

  1. Six Barbie movies for my five year old daughter, who is in a huge Barbie phase right now. I will save some of the movies for her birthday or other events, so now I have a stash. Cost: $.99 each.
  2. A tall gorgeous ceramic vase for my mother, who has a special fondness for that kind of pottery. It looks brand-new, and it absolutely perfect for her. Cost: $6.99
  3. A fairy and princess shower curtain which looks new. I will use it to make a canopy for my daughter's four poster bed (the bed I slept in when I was growing up). Cost: $.99
  4. A book from 2002 from the company that my bibliophile step-dad used to work for. His name is listed in the front for working on it. Cost: $.99
  5. A cookbook on grilling veggies for my vegetarian sister-in-law who just moved into her first house last week. Cost: $1.99
  6. A package of seven brand-new scrapbooking scissors (the 8th pair was missing), for my crafty daughter. Cost: $.99
  7. A book on living life without worry, for me, because I need it (I already starting reading it, and it is priceless in the value it is giving me). Cost: $1.99
  8. Hand-painted, brand-new wooden trivets for the kitchen for my mom. Cost: $.99 each.
  9. A "world's best grandpa" mug for my stepdad (picked out by my daughter). Cost: $.99
  10. A NBA regulation basketball for my ex (picked out by my daughter for Daddy). Cost: $3.99
  11. A brand new (tag still on) stuffed animal for my two year old niece. Cost: $1.99

The list goes on and on! I found so many perfect gifts for those I love, and I can't wait to see their faces when they open their gifts. They will be thrilled, and I will feel the joy of giving to those I love, and I won't have to lie awake stressing about having spent money I don't have. Everyone wins, and the spirit of Christmas is exactly what it should be: alive and well.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In time for Christmas!

Finally…a long awaited project is finished! I’m pleased to announce the release of an e-book, SHADOW TALES—A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES. And just in time for Christmas, too! It took several people to pull this together—Penny Marsh to design the cover, Debi Murray to copyedit, and Abby Reilly at Dystel and Goderich Literary Management to do all that pesky formatting and uploading! I’m very pleased with the results and I hope you will be too. It’s available right now at Amazon, will be soon on Barnes and Noble and, then after (maybe before) the New Year, it will be available on Sony and Apple.

Here’s part of the book description:

“Get caught up in the world of a mother who’s desperate to make a new life for her children and who’s willing to do just about anything to achieve it. Join a young woman as she searches to uncover a secret that’s been buried for over a hundred years and is “dying” to be told. See Christmas through the eyes of a widower, alone for the first time until he receives a surprising visitor. Meet a journalist who gets more than she bargained for while she hunts down the story that will make her career. As an added bonus, included in this collection is the short story that began The Ophelia and Abby Mystery Series, The Gift.”

To celebrate, I’m giving away two SHADOW TALES gift certificates—one for Amazon if you have a Kindle; and one for Barnes and Noble if you have a Nook. (I’ll figure something out for everyone who uses Sony or Apple later.) Leave a comment about your plans for Christmas and I’ll announce the winners next week.

Everyone have a very Merry Christmas and I’ll see you next week. (I’m off to make and decorate 70 petit fours for Christmas Eve…don’t ask! *g* This has got to be one of my crazier ideas!!)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This year, Christmas crept up on our household, jumped out of the dark corner where it hides for most of the year, and caught us all off guard. We are never the picture of perfectly organized holiday bliss, but this year . . . well, the tree is up and as many of the decorations are out as I’m willing to handle, but the place is far from clean and organized. Shopping? Not done. Wrapping? Ditto. Baking? I never do, so that’s one chore I don’t need to worry about.

Still, with all the craziness, I know we’ll have a good holiday. We’ll see friends and family and really, that’s what it’s all about.

That, and the memories.

As I worked decorating the tree this past Sunday, that message really hit home. Box after box of ornaments came down from the attic. Some, I peeked in and put right away. Others required a little more digging through and a little more thought. But with some ornaments, there was no question. Of course, they had to go on the tree. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

The ones I like best are old pictures we’ve put in small frames and things we’ve brought back from vacations. But my all-time favorites are without a doubt the ornaments my kids made when they were young.

An aside here: my children are both adults now, and so these ornaments have been with us for years. There’s a picture of my daughter (then 6) and my son (just a couple months old) on Santa’s lap. The poorly cut out stocking with a picture of my daughter–maybe 11 or 12-- looking awkward and uncomfortable in front of the school camera. There’s a small white paper plate that my son cut the center out of and stuck green tissue paper on to make it look like a wreath. The popsicle sticks glued together in a triangle with two googly eyes added. Yes, it does look like a reindeer.

So in addition to saying Merry Christmas to all of you, I want to say something else this year to every teacher out there who works with his/her students on holiday ornaments. You’re making a mess of glue and tissue. You’re making a small something that parents and grandparents can unwrap and ooh and aah over. And you’re making memories. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angie's Christmas winners

Thanks for playing today! I loved reading everyone's responses.

The random number generator has been fired up and the winners of The Real Werewives of Vampire County are: halfbreedramos, kathy miller, missytigergrad, alainala and vanillaorchids. If that's you, just email me at angie@ angie with your snail mail address and I'll get those books out to you!

Angie Fox's Merry Christmas book giveaway!

'Tis the season for fun and, well, the Fox clan started early last night. The idea hatched during dinner. One person suggested it...another person chimed in and pretty soon we were all rushing for the tree to open early Christmas presents.

We did just one each. It was a neat surprise and I liked that every gift was appreciated and, in the case of the kids, danced around. Sometimes, when you get too much at once, a bit of the excitement for each goes away. That's my excuse, anyway.

And it has me thinking - why not dig into some holiday book giveaways? I can't guarantee these goodies will show up on your doorstep before Christmas (and certainly not before Hanukkah) but they can be a fun, post-holiday treat.

So give us a shout-out. Post your favorite/least-favorite thing about the holidays and you're entered to win one of five copies of The Real Werewives of Vampire County!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Naughty & Nice Book Signing Giveaway Winners

Happy Monday, all!

I hope your weekends were productive! I had a bit of a sinus cold so I tried to get some relaxing in!

Now on to our winners!

by Shayla Black
WINNER: Sheila

by Beth Kery
WINNER: ChrisBails

by Kim Killion

by Annmarie McKenna

Congrats to the winners. I'll email you shortly. If you didn't list your email just use my contact form to shoot me an email!

Thanks to everyone for entering!


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Iterations of a Cover

I recently published my first middle-grade fantasy, and I had the pleasure of working directly with the cover artist, who hand-painted the cover for the book. It was quite an interesting process watching the cover evolve from the rough art to the finished product, so I thought it would be fun to share the stages.

The story is about a twelve year old girl named Penelope Moonswoggle, who is the only person in her entire  town who can't ride a dragon. She's an outsider, an outcast, and if she doesn't figure out how to ride a dragon by Saturday, she'll be booted from the town. No one believes she can do it, no one except Penelope and an old, homeless gnome named Farkle. The story is Penelope's journey of finding a dragon she can ride, a personal quest that teaches her about believing in herself, about the power of true friends, and how to be strong when the world thinks you're going to fail.

To do justice to this story, we really needed a cover that showcased this amazing dragon that is her guidepost on her journey. Merripen is a magnificent, iridescent purple dragon with a personality that is so endearing and brave. My only instructions to the artist were to bring that dragon to life. 

Before we begin, please remember that all these images are copyrighted to the artist, Pete Davis, and cannot be copied, redistributed or anything like that.

First up, I'll show the initial draft of the dragon. When I saw it, I immediately loved the vibrant colors (the way he brought the color purple to life was astounding) and the the energy of the cover, but, I thought the dragon was a little scary and not endearing enough for twelve year old girls. What do you think? 

Next up, the artist worked to give Merripen some of that charm and warmth that he has in the story. In this image, his mouth has been changed to give him that subtle smile, his eyes were colored green and given pupils, and his snout was rounded and he was given a goatee and some horns. This was also our first attempt with lettering. At this point, we thought it looked pretty good, and I thought Merripen was delightful.

We were literally about to pull the trigger and go live with this cover, when we starting thinking that the font didn't look very blended with the cover, and there was a sense that the cover wasn't quite finished. We decided to try a banner, and change the aspect ratio of the cover so it was the shape of a novel and not a picture book (because it's not a picture book!). We tried many different banner iterations with different fonts styles and sizes, different banner placement, but we couldn't get one that felt quite right.

Then the artist had a stroke of brilliance. The story is a fantasy, a trip to a magical land of wishes, uniforms, dragons and so much more. What if we used a banner that gave that feel? That moment is the moment that changed that cover forever, and took it from good to amazing. He decided to handpaint a banner and make it old-school and worn in appearance. The result was magic. 

At this point, our last task was to decide what color banner to use, what color font, and how much to warp the text so it looked like it was waving with the banner. The final result is below. 

Is it brilliant? The process of creating this cover was a fantastic experience of going back and worth and working as a team, feeding off each other's suggestions and using those to prompt new ideas. It was a fantastic experience, and I used the same artist to create the cover for my next book, which is a non-fiction book of essays about getting through the tough times. As you can see, it's a totally different book, and a totally different feel, but it's still brilliant. I think that's the sign of true artistic genius: when you can create such different feels and products, and still make them work. The artist is already at work on my next book, and I'm so excited to see what we come up with! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What would you do?

Something kind of interesting happened to my oldest daughter last weekend. While Christmas shopping at Target, she decided to peruse the books and look for LOVE LIES BLEEDING. Sure enough, she found it in “The Emerging Author” display and decided to take a picture, but here’s where it gets a little surreal. She had to wait until a couple of women finished looking the book over and then watched as they placed it in their carts. And it did feel a little weird to her—to see two complete strangers buy her mother’s book, and with no prompting from her!

Personally I’ve never experienced that situation. In the many times I’ve been shopping for myself in bookstores, I’ve never witnessed a stranger purchasing one of the books or ran into anyone with a copy in their hand. To be honest, I’ve always wondered what I’d do if I did. Would I say anything to them? What if I started with the innocuous question…”So…how do you like that book?” then didn’t like their answer? Would introducing myself as the author come across as being conceited? Would the person with the book feel like they’re being put on the spot and required to say something nice whether they wanted to or not?

How about you? How would you feel if you were standing in the check-out line and the person next to you suddenly said, “I wrote that book.” Or if you were in an elevator or an airport with a book in your hand and a stranger asked you how you liked their book? Would you be pleased to meet the author, or would it make you squirm a little?

And no, my daughter didn’t say, “Hey, my mom wrote that!” to the two women making the purchases! She just stood there quietly watching then took her picture.

That’s all for this week—btw Christmas is only ten days away (not that anyone needs reminding!). I hope everyone is having a great holiday season and I’ll see you next week.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OK, readers and writers alike, I need your help.
I have finally started writing Button Box mystery #3 (tentatively titled Panic Button) and as usual when I begin a book, I’m walking a crazy tightrope. What to tell. What not to tell. How much background to give away. How much to tell about the books that have come before.
Back when I was writing romance, this was never a problem. Each book was a stand-alone and while some characters might recur from book to book (I did a series of books like this for Harlequin American), each story and each romance was independent.
Not so with mysteries.
So far, I’ve written five books in the Cooking Class series, nine in the Pepper Martin series and like I said, this is the third for the button series.
And each time, I find myself asking the same question. How do I get into the book, provide the background I need and at the same time, hook new readers but not make the ones who’ve already read the other books roll their eyes?
That’s why I’m asking for your help.
When you read series books, what do you like to see? Do you like fairly detailed recaps of the stories that have gone before, or just hints? Do you need a refresher about who’s who and what’s what in characters lives, or would you rather learn all that stuff new in each book?
There’s a fine line between background and boring. I need your help to figure out where it is.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Naughty & Nice Signed Books Giveaway

Did you miss the Naughty & Nice Book Signing event that was held earlier this month in Saint Louis, Missouri? Well, Wendy Drew, the owner of Rose's Bookhouse and I want to give four readers a chance to win one of the books the authors signed at the event. (Image to the right: author Beth Kery and several readers.)

If you didn't hear about event in the Publisher's Weekly, Beyond Her Book blog post, fifty readers from all over the Midwest came out to Rose’s Book House sold out event in O’Fallon, Missouri to meet erotic romance authors Shayla Black, Beth Kery/Bethany Kane, Kimberly Killion, and Annmarie McKenna. The adults-only Naughty & Nice Book signing offered an opportunity for readers to not only chat and party with authors, but there were adult-themed door prizes, drawings for gift baskets, and other fun surprises.

In a week I'll pick the four winners so just leave a comment for a chance to win one of these signed books, some author swag from the event, and some Romance Trading Cards from Kim Killion:

by Shayla Black

by Beth Kery

by Kim Killion

by Annmarie McKenna

Author Shayla Black signing books for readers.

Authors signing books.

Naturally this topic brings a fun question to mine: Who's your favorite author of sizzling romance? Any great books you read this year that you'd recommend to other readers?

Are you interested in attending next year? Be on the lookout on the Rose's Bookhouse website!

Good luck with the giveaway!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top Seventeen Reason to be Happy During the Holidays

Everyone says you're supposed to be happy during the holiday season. And in that same breath, everyone says, "Damn, it's hard to be happy during the holiday season." Too much to do. Too much pressure to feel good. Too much pressure to make everything perfect and sparkly and cheerful.

I've spent some holiday seasons in a big funk. I've some holiday seasons when I was in a good mood. Guess what? The holidays are way more fun when I'm loving every minute of it. So, I've decided to make a list of the top 17 reasons to be in a good mood this holiday season..

1) The vacuum cleaned managed to pick up almost half of the pine needles that came off the tree. I can almost walk barefoot without being stabbed!

2) My daughter is actually willing to go clothes shopping for new party shoes. Nothing like dressing up for Santa to motivate a five year old!

3) Frosty. Was there ever a sexier hunk of snow than that guy? I be thinking not.

4) Christmas cookies. Or, more importantly, the FROSTING for the cookies that can either be (a) put on the Christmas cookeis or (b) eaten right out of the bowl. I vote for (b).

5) Sparkly stuff. I mean, let's get real here. Does anyone ever get tired of things that glitter, sparkle, twinkle and glow?

6) The book The LittlestChristmas Tree by R.A. Herman. Get it. Read it. You'll cry. You'll hug your kid. You'll remember what Christmas is all about. Seriously. 

7) Santa hats. Put one of those puppies on your head, and you can be a jolly elf ready to spread good cheer to all the little kiddies. Or you can be a very naughty little girl… It's so nice to have options…

8) The ability to manipulate your kids by telling them that Santa knows if they've been bad or good, so they better be good for goodness sake.

9) Hanukah. Food, family, friends and gold coins. Did I mention the gold coins? Oh, wait, they're not real? Damn.

10) The song, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. I love you, Grandma, but that song is just too damn funny. 

11) The Christmas Cancan by Straight No Chaser. You've never heard these guys? They are awesome. Seriously. Brilliant. Gifted. And, to top it off, they are a story of perseverance, believing in your dreams, of why you should always keep the good energy going out into the world because you never know when it's finally going to pay off.

12) The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser. I know, that's two spots for the guys, but if you want this video, too, you're realize why they really had to get the double accolades. 

 13) Book covers like this one that can really put you in the...ahem... "holiday" mood. Yeah, that's it. A holiday mood. 

14) The smell of freshly cut pine trees. Yes, you get sap stuck to your fingers. Yes, there is pine needle carnage galore. But honestly, when you shove your face into that holiday wreath on the front door of your neighbor's house after too many glasses of eggnog, doesn't it smell awesome?

15) Having an excuse to get your hair done. Seriously. What if you actually got invited to a Christmas party? You couldn't go with bad hair, right? Gotta go get those highlights. It's your holiday duty.

16) Bells. Bells. Bells. How can you be in a bad mood when you get to hear bells all day? The best thing to do for bell lovers? Get those $5 holiday bell earrings at Target, put them on, and then twitch your head back and forth all day so they are constantly ringing. Everyone will love the music you bring into their day, and no one will think you're strange or have a weird head tick. Really. I swear.

17) Freedom to eat whatever you want and indulge in all the bad habits you want, because you'll start all the good behavior on January first when your New Year's Resolutions kick in. These next few weeks are your last hurrah! Indulge! Splurge! Enjoy!