Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! Bring on the Candy!

Happy Halloween everyone!

This is one of my favorite times of the year. I get to plan out costumes for my three kids. At the store I get to go on a candy buying spree without consequences. Matter of fact, no one looked at me funny when I bought a few more bags than necessary. Hey, the way I see it, I'm keep that store from letting that poor chocolate get old. (I did this knowing it takes a long, long time for chocolate to get old.) 

If it doesn't rain or anything else, I'll be taking Mario, from the Mario Brothers, Obi-Wan Kenobe, and a Disney Princess out for some treats. I do remember one Halloween when I was younger with snow, so it will be nice to venture out and then hand out candy!

So, I've got Dots, Snickers, and more to hand out. If you're celebrating this year what do you plan to do? The most important question should be what do you plan to hand out? :D

Friday, October 28, 2011

Me Brave. Really.

"Everyone is afraid of something...but we are all brave inside. We just have to find that brave part within us." Orange Princess Has a Ball by Alyssa Crown
A few weeks ago, after copious amounts of brainstorming and preplanning, I finally reached the "it's time to write" phase of my new book. And you know what? It was a hellacious two days. I wrote five different opening scenes and every one of them was awful. I wrote pages of notes brainstorming what that scene needed to be. I wrote and brainstormed and wrote and critiqued and dug in with every fiber of my soul until my head finally exploded.

And by the end, after all that work... did I finally have a good scene? Did I finally see light? No, actually I was utterly frustrated, unable to think clearly, and absolutely paralyzed in my ability to handle the story. I was convinced that I would never be able to write this book. That the idea must be inherently, fatally, flawed, and that the brilliance of the idea would never see the light of day because it Just Didn't Work.

I sucked (not just my writing--me, personally, because a writer always has to take failure personally, right). My brain was useless. My talent was vamoose.

So, instead leaping up with a roar of fury, hurling my computer and my brain out the window, I did the mature thing (amazing, isn't it?) and simply turned off my computer and walked away. I knew it was time to throw in the towel, to give myself permission simply to admit failure and turn off the effort.

All day it continued to stress me out, the fact I couldn't get this book started. I mean, I was really letting it get to me.

Then that evening, when I reading to my daughter, we came across the quote listed above. The moment I read that, I stopped, I reread it again, and then one more time. My five year old looked at me, put her hand over her heart and she said

"Mommy, that means that you are brave in your heart."

And as she said that, I finally understood what had derailed me so thoroughly all day. It was fear. Fear of writing a scene that wasn't good enough. Fear of not doing justice to the amazing idea that I had all worked out in my head and on hundreds of pages of notes. Fear of running out of time to get it written. And a fear of failure, failure of gargantuan levels, that I would NEVER figure out how to write that opening scene in a way that was as brilliant and worthy as I knew it needed to be.


It haunts us all the time. It might be a fear of financial shortages. It might be a fear of rejection. It might be a fear of making the wrong decision. It might be a fear of trusting the wrong person. It might be a fear of dying. It might be a fear of not being able to give your children or your loved ones everything they need. It might simply be a fear of making a mistake.

When I started to think about fear, and I took stock of my assorted triggers for feeling stressed or cranky, I realized that almost all of them stemmed from a fear of something. It actually made me feel better to read that little blurb in a kids book, because it made me realize that I'm not the only one walking hand in hand with fear.

I recognized it: I waltz with fear, and I let it win.

Great. So now what? How do you shake it? Well... I read on.

"'Everyone is afraid of something, Kristina," Grandma Soo said, 'but we are all brave inside. We just have to find that brave part within us.''How do you do that?' Kristina asked.
Grandma Soo thought for a moment. 'I think you find it when you need it most,' she said.*
At first blush, I found that an entirely unsatisfactory answer. Hello? I'm paralyzed by fear right now. I'm not seeing that bravery... but then I thought about it some more, and I realized that what the book was saying was that courage and bravery are in there, in your heart, and it's always accessible to you, no matter how much the world seems to be falling apart around you.

If you can just slow down to catch a breath, one breath, and use that strength within you start scraping away at the fear, maybe you can get enough space to think clearly, to take a step, to make one little move that makes you feel better. And then with each step you take, each positive thought you manage to think eases that vice grip fear has on you and makes it that much easier to breathe.

For me, the simple realization that my logjam with the book was based on fear helped ease it a little. I told myself, "There's no reason to be afraid. There really isn't." And that felt better. And then I picked up another piece of writing I needed to work on, one that was easy for me, and I worked on that.

My ability to handle that other bit of writing helped calm me down and restore my self-confidence a little bit. It gave me a little bit of momentum. And I took that momentum and.... did nothing. I didn't try to jump back into the book that was troubling me, because I was still too overwhelmed. But what I did was use that momentum to keep working on my mindset, so when I thought about going back to that other book and felt the panic closing in on me, I was able to say, "You know you can do it. You know it always works out okay." And then those words felt good, and right, and I relaxed a little bit more.

I took one more day off from that book, and I spent it working on other writing projects that were easy, and that I'm good at. More momentum, more rebuilding, hoping and telling myself that, by the next day, I my mind would clearer, and I'd be ready to tackle that troublesome book. I told myself that I might have to write seven more terrible opening scenes, but I would would smile while doing it, and give myself permission to be fearful. I promised that, when things started to implode again, I remind myself that inside me, I already have all I need to manage the situation, or at least my reaction to it, so that I can move forward and deal with it to the best of my ability, instead of bowing under the pressure.

I didn't start working on that scene until ten o'clock the next night. I was so stressed and I knew the only way to deal with that stress was to tackle it. So, I sat down, I wrote several paragraphs on how it didn't matter if it was good, that it didn't matter if anyone liked it, that I was writing just for fun... everything I could think of to take the fear away enough for me to think.

Then, I started to write, and within two minutes, I had the perfect opening scene all figured out. TWO MINUTES. After days and days of struggling, when I finally cleared my head and stopped panicking, the real wisdom was able to come out. I finally became brave enough to write without fear, and that's when it finally worked.

Turns out, Grandma Soo is right. I have that bravery inside me. That means I can do it, whether it's writing or coping with personal issues or whatever. I can do it. I really can.

*Orange Princess Has a Ball, by Alyssa Crowne

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Memories

I have a confession to make—at one point in my life, I was a vandal. From the age of eleven until about the age of fifteen, I engaged in various nefarious acts this time of year. You see once I was too old to dress up and go door to door, begging for candy, the “tricks” in “trick or treating” became much more fun. Armed with our rolls of toilet paper and soap (Ivory works the best, btw) my friends and I would prowl the town late at night hanging toilet paper in trees, winding it around bushes, and writing what we thought were clever messages on windows with the Ivory soap. And no, I never got caught by our local cops…I could run a lot faster back then.

Who were our victims? People we knew—usually hitting any home that housed a certain boy whose attention we were trying to attract and teachers we didn’t like. We never smashed pumpkins, threw eggs, or wrote on cars, the latter of which can ruin a paint job. Nope, we were strictly a toilet paper and soaping windows gang.

Then last but not least, we would then sneak over to our seventh grade math teacher’s house, a woman whom I now suspect really wasn’t all that fond of children, and ring the collection of antique school bells placed about her yard. We’d ring the bells then run like hell. Once I ruined a perfectly good pair of socks skittering over the barbed wire fence circling her backyard. And always adding to the excitement of this act of trespassing were the rumors that her husband lie in-wait with a shotgun full buckshot with which to pepper our behinds. Obviously it was just a rumor—I don’t recall anyone ever getting shot and he would’ve had plenty of opportunities. It was tradition to “ring Elsie’s bells” and this time of year, one could hear them clanging every night!

Ahh, the memories… I can still remember the thrill of ducking through alleys, hiding in bushes, and the way it all made my little adolescent heart beat faster. Back then the true measure of friendship was the friend who stopped to help you to your feet after you'd tripped on an exposed tree root while running willy-nilly through someone's yard instead of ditching you to face the music alone.

Do kids still engage in this behavior? Yup—recently, after Homecoming, the trees along the main drag through town were festooned with strips of toilet paper waving in the breeze. I expect we’ll see more after this weekend.

What will I do if my trees are chosen by phantom TP’ers this year? Grind my teeth and worry about the mess? No, I’ll smile and remember just how much fun it was as a kid watching those rolls uncurl around the branches and maybe be just a little bit envious that my days of lawlessness are past!

That’s it for this week—Happy Halloween!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Racing out to do a speaking gig at Kent State University, but before I go, wanted to make sure to stop by and wish everyone a happy Halloween!

No secret, it’s my favorite holiday, and my house decorations show it. The place is done up to the spooky nines with all my favorite orange, black and purple things. I’d show you pictures if it wasn’t for the fact that we just had a hideous computer problem that was made even worse by a tech who obviously was in over his head and wouldn’t admit it. Haven’t found my picture files yet, and can’t download any new ones. We’ll get there. Just need to figure out this part of the equation ourselves!

I was thinking about the holiday the other day and wondering why I like it so much. Near as I can figure, it all goes back to those old days when I was a kid and would trick or treat throughout the neighborhood. Back then (no dates given), parents didn’t have to come along with kids. We were free to roam on our own, and being out after dark with a group of friends . . . I think there was something about the freedom of doing that that makes the holiday stick in my mind.

I remember that days before, we’d get together and map out our route. And that night, I clearly remember just itching for it to get dark so we could start on our way. I’d always trick or treat with my best friend who lived across the street. Sometimes, my cousins would come along, too. My grandmother lived just a few houses down from me, and they’d show up to show off their costumes, then we’d head out, a herd of children sometimes with our costumes hidden under winter coats!

We didn’t care. Halloween was a great night to explore and to imagine. It was far less intense then. There were no Freddy characters waiting to jump out at you from the dark. No blood. No gore. It was a time of witches and ghosts and goblins and it was all innocent fun.
These days, we live on a street with no sidewalks and no one comes around trick or treating on Halloween. But I still remember the days. And the freedom of walking around in the dark, dragging the candy bag.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Real Werewives of Vampire County giveaway!

Hey, this is fun. The Real Werewives of Vampire County releases today and I have author copies. Woot!

Werewives is an anthology with Alexandra Ivy, Jess Haines, Tami Dane and yours truly. It's been getting some great buzz and it was so much fun to write a story that is connected to the demon slayer world, but definitely off on its own.

In my short story, Murder on Mysteria Lane, a werewolf trophy wife is found dead in Vampire County. Pack-mate Heather McPhee goes undercover to investigate. Heather's never been a mascara-and-manicures sort of girl, but she's willing to learn. Especially with sexy vampire detective Lucien Mead posing as her husband.

I have to tell you, it was a hoot to research this story. I had to watch many, many hours of Desperate Housewives. That show is strangely addicting. My agent tried to also get me into The Real Housewives of Orange County, but those girls were too mean. Give me the fictional housewives anytime.

What about you? Tell us if you're a housewives watcher or not and you're entered to win a copy of The Real Werewives of Vampire County!

*Oh and as a special Werewives promotion, Kindle and Nook copies of The Accidental Demon Slayer are on sale for 99 cents!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Expectations as a Reader

Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you had a great weekend! I suppose I could say I had the most epic weekend ever, full of adventures and intrigue. But, alas, I got my editorial notes for KEPT so I spent the weekend in front of my laptop working. I had a nice chunk of notes and the weekends are my peak time to get things done as far as work. So no fun.

On Magic & Mayhem last Wednesday I talked about some of the things I think that are important as a reader that I expect from authors. 

Here is a recap of WHAT MATTERS TO ME:

1. Write the best book you can write.

2. If you write a series, then keep me a happy customer by keeping those releases coming out at a decent interval.

3. Keep up with your fan mail and please reply.

4. Answer emails even if they aren’t fan mail. 

5.  Help me find you and read your awesome books.

Now most of these are pretty much no-brainers. Like any other reader, I've had my fan-girl moments where I've read a fabulous book and I can't wait to tell the author how much their book moved me. Hell, I even emailed an author once after I was bailing my eyes out from reading her work. If you can get me to cry like Niagara Falls, you can expect an email--just sayin'. But when I write that email and it heads out into the void to never return--well, that's kind of disappointing. I do understand that emails can head into spam or get lost, but it would be nice to emails back from authors if you tell them how awesomesauce their work is. 

The last one on the list is a bit of a pet peeve of mine since I work as a web developer. Have you ever found a fabulous book at the store and it's book #5 in a series? That person is ALWAYS me! I have some kind of magical mojo to where I always find like the second to last book in a series. Then when I search for that author I discover their website doesn't even list the order or the release dates. A printable list of their releases is no where to be found. I think there should be a rule that if you have more than one book in your series you should make it painfully obvious what the order is on your website. To make things easy, just assume that someone picked up the 5th book in your series and they want to find the first one. :D

In terms of customer service for authors, I really haven't needed to email any of them to ask for a particular book in a particular format. Since I'm a bit tech savvy that hasn't been necessary, but it has made me think critically about the presentation of book formats for my potential readers. Have I offered a link for both the Kindle and Nook? Did I think about potential readers in foreign countries? Authors already have a nice chunk on their plates in terms of promotion, but I think with a few additional details on their websites they can answer a lot of questions with just a few more tidbits of information. 

Now, what DOESN’T MATTER to me, but it don’t hurt. ;-)

1. Giveaways are nice, but I’m perfectly happy with the book.

2. Blogs and social media are nice, but they’re not necessary.

I love a good giveaway. It's like an early morning oh-I'm-there-first-gimme-that garage sale. You might find a gem, and hey the cost was low to non-existent in the first place, so why not give it a try? But are they necessary for me to buy a book? Not really. I'm a blurb lover. If you give me a good blurb you're halfway there to snagging me as a reader. Once I get past the blurb, then I read the first couple of pages. If I'm sucked in there, then happiness ensues. 

When it comes to social media and blogs, I find them as a great way for me to learn more about the author. I may find out we have common interests and it opens up great conversation to add some fun to my day. But are they necessary to make me want to buy a book? Not really. Although, on most days I really do need a laugh, so group blogs are nice addition to my day. LOL

So my question to you for this week: what are your expectations as a reader from the authors you like? What do you expect or not expect from them?

And now, the winner of my COVETED cover reveal giveway! Thanks to, the winner is Sharon! Congrats Sharon! I hope you like the books that are coming your way.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cover Fun!

I just received the final cover for my January book. I'm so excited! What do you guys think?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Good Day

Today is a good day! As soon as I finish this blog, I’m signing the contract for a new “Jess McConkey” book and shipping it back to my agent! And right now I feel like a very, very lucky girl. It’s going to be a pleasure to once again be working with my editor, Emily, and the terrific staff at William Morrow.

This event also brings with it a couple of other thoughts: 1. If someone would’ve told me seven years ago that I’d become the author of nine books, I’d have called them crazy! Which leads to Thought Number 2. All well and good with this book…I actually have it fairly well plotted out…but after this one, what about #10? Will I be able to come up with another idea?

This last thought is nothing new; I’ve experienced it nine times now. You see at the beginning of each new book, I’m convinced this will be my final one…that there’s no frigging way I’ll ever come up with a plot for the next one. When this first happened a few years ago, it was kind of scary. Being an author is an important part of my life, and I really would like it to continue. But over these same years, I’ve learned something else—at some point during the writing of this current book, an idea will come to me for the next one. It might be something I see on the news, something I read in the paper, something I see online, or maybe just an anecdote someone shares with me. Whatever the source, it’ll make me start playing “what if” in my head and it’s from that point that a story will be born. I may still experience a moment of panic as I type the words “Chapter One”, but I’ve learned to trust in this process, not stress over what might happen next in my career as an author, and just concentrate on the task at hand by trying to do my best on this book and hitting my deadline!

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could apply that same philosophy to everything??? Do your best and don't worry about what's next?

One last thing before I go—and of more interest than the above ramblings *g*--the winner of last week’s contest…Denise Z! Send me ( your mailing address and I get it in the mail to you.

Have a good one and I’ll catch you next Thursday!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life Imitates Art

I don’t remember when I first realized how much I love cemeteries. It may have been back when I was a kid and walked to my piano lessons every week. There was no piano teacher in my immediate neighborhood and I walked about thirty minutes to get to my lessons. At the time (and no, I won’t say when it was!), no one worried about a kid out on city streets alone.

My route took me by a city cemetery, and I remember looking through the iron fencing around it and thinking how peaceful the place seemed. I never ventured inside, not because I was frightened, but because I didn’t know anyone who was buried there.

I did visit other cemeteries, of course. One of my grandmothers dragged (and I use that word appropriately) us with her once in a while to clean up the graves of long-gone ancestors. I remember walking to that cemetery, too, and packing a lunch to take along. Food was probably the one way she knew she could keep us quiet and bribe us to help her work!

What I do remember very clearly is when this vague interest in burial grounds blossomed into a full-blown obsession. It will be 11 years this coming Halloween. It was a Sunday, and somehow, I found out that a local trolley company was doing a day-long tour called "Stones and Bones."
Yup, a cemetery tour.

I was fascinated by the history of the cemeteries we visited, and grateful to finally have a chance to stop in at some city cemeteries that are not safe to travel in alone. I loved hearing about the art and the architecture, about the symbolism found in headstone carvings and the hints of family history that can be found in the names and dates etched for all eternity into the stone.

In the last 11 years, I’ve made good use of my cemetery interest. My Pepper Martin mysteries involve a cemetery tour guide and over the years, I’ve gotten to know a couple of the local foundations that work to preserve local cemeteries. Recently, it all came full circle. You see a couple weeks ago, I hosted a tour in a historic cemetery.

It was called Killer Cleveland and on the tour, I took groups of visitors around to "meet" the victims and perpetrators of some local (and very old) homicides. It was a gray and gloomy afternoon (how appropriate) but our intrepid tourists showed up anyway and hiked along with me through the battered headstones. At some of the graves, I told the stories of the macabre murders. At others, re-enactors took over and played the roles of victims–and murderers.

It was a great day, and I know we helped spark an interest in local history. I also know that somehow, the Universe has been pushing me all these years, nudging me to this place where I am more involved in something I find fascinating.

As for that cemetery I used to pass as a child, it’s still there and I’ve visited a time or two. These days, I actually go inside!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's in a Name?

Good news. We have a title for the first book in my new series. As many of you recall, in addition to the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I'm going to be writing separate books about a paranormal M*A*S*H unit.

When I sold the new series to St. Martin's, I'd titled it The Monster MASH. I thought that was pretty fun - and yes, I have a weakness for campy 1960's monster songs. My editor loved the book, but thought the title could use more of a sexy tone. She asked me what else we could do.

I had to think about that. Usually, the title just comes as I write. I'd done only one other title brainstorm and that was for The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. The original title for that book was A Girl's Guide to Demon Slaying. And it was an easy switch. We did it in a phone call. Dangerous Book was my second idea, really.

So how hard could it be to re-title the MASH series?

I came back with some more funny titles, like The Truth About Cats and Demi-Gods, and In Stitches. Not sexy enough, my editor said. Hmm...I opened it up to readers, who came up with a lot of the same things I did. "Almost," my editor said to a few of them. That's when I truly realized there's an art to this title business. It's not just about what happens to be amusing or funny at the time.

I was also starting to get a bit desperate. I considered adding a slew of vampires so I could name it Undead...anything. (Just kidding - sort of.) We needed to name this puppy.

Luckily, St. Martin's came back with a title with the word Immortal in it. I thought it was good, and my agent had an idea that everyone liked even better. So now we have a title: Immortally Yours.

Whew. Before I was in this business, I never knew what went into a book title. I still didn't until we had one that didn't quite fit. And that's the great thing about having an editor and a publishing house behind you - we keep pushing until we have something that works well and that everyone likes.

Never again will I take an easy title for granted, or an editor that is willing to work through all kinds of crazy ideas until we find something that fits. Thanks again to everyone who offered ideas during the great title hunt.

The second book won't be this hard, will it? Wait. Let's not think about that just yet...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Werewolves are a Girl's Best Friend

This weekend was a non-stop whirlwind of activity. Wow! First of all, on Friday I got permission to reveal this beauty:

After waiting so long after announcing COVETED, it's so awesome to have a cover to add icing to the cake. And oh my what a lovely cake. If you'd like to learn more about how werewolves are a girl's best friend, feel free to add me to your Goodreads list.

Not long after my cover reveal I had to get to work. This weekend my RWA chapter hosted the awesome Debra Dixon for her Goal Motivation Conflict workshops. And let me tell you they were such a huge help. I'm plotting out my next two projects and thanks to Debra I moved full steam ahead. If you haven't heard of Debra Dixon, she's one of the publishers behind Belle Ridge Books as well as several fantastic titles including re-releases from Random House's Loveswept line.

I left the workshops a bit early to attend a super fun birthday party and then right after the birthday party the whole family went to a bonfire. Talk about getting up at 7 am and not even catching my breath until midnight. I played--and quickly lost at doubles in ping-pong and  The fire-roasted hot dogs and s'mores did make the night end on a high note though. ;)

Since I'm in such a good mood with the release of my cover, I'd love to give away some more goodies! (Cause we know Shawntelle always needs an excuse to get out of the house and go book shopping.

L.A. CINDERELLA by Amanda Berry
And of course since I love RTC I'll toss a few of those little guys in there too! I might surprise you with some COVETED swag as well. Who knows?

Since my weekend was non-stop did anyone else actually have a quiet weekend? Can I borrow it for my next weekend?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fall Frenzy

What’s that old saying…I’ve met myself coming and going? That pretty well describes my life over the past three months! I’ve traveled around 5,000 miles; redone a bedroom; painted my house; been sporadic in my blogging; and fallen behind on mailing out prizes! BUT I am determined to get caught up!

Not only am I determined to get caught up, but to also organize my life. To precipitate this, I recently purchased a paper shredder and tomorrow the garbage man is going to find 4 bags (maybe 5…I keep finding more “stuff” shoved in the crannies!) of confetti sitting on the curb side. I don’t know whether to be proud of the fact that I’ve gotten rid of that much junk, or ashamed that I let everything pile up. However to be honest, I have found the whole process rather cathartic. In getting rid of all this detritus, I kind of feel like I’m dumping that which is no longer important in my life and wiping my slate clean. It really does give me a new found sense of freedom.

Will it last, or will I fill up the corners again? I hope not. To stay organized would be wonderful and certainly make my life easier. We’ll see how it goes!

I do have one last thing—not really related to my cleaning frenzy—but something I hope you’ll like. As I posted last week, I attended a signing for DEADLY TREATS—the short story anthology edited by Anne Frasier. Well, since Halloween is just around the corner and these are tales about that holiday, I’m giving away a copy signed by all the authors present last week. To have your name entered in the drawing, post a comment about something you do to stay organized. I’ll announce to winner next week.

Got to fly for now—on my way into the big city to purchase file folders and banker’s boxes! (Step 2 in the “let’s get our crap together” project!) Have a good rest of the week and I’ll see you next Thursday.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Short Stories and An Upcoming Long Bus Ride

Happy Monday, all! It's beautiful outside here in St. Louis. :D

I've survived the weekend--after a sinus infection that left me wondering if the pain would ever end. Thanks to the germ factories that are my children, I had a lovely head cold that knocked me out of commission for a bit. Thank goodness I didn't have anything major to work on. It wouldn't have been a pretty sight to see me at the computer looking as ghastly as I did. (It was pretty bad.) I felt like I spent the majority of the weekend counting cracks on the wall.

So right now I'm writing a short story which is a prequel to COVETED. I'm also waiting impatiently to reveal my cover to the universe. It's so awesome and I can't wait to show it off! As far as the short story, it will likely be released after December as a free preview into Natalya's world. I can't wait for you to meet her and experience her adventures--or should I say misadventures. Writing short is definitely a change compared to writing longer books. I love to read shorter stories. Since I'm a slow reader, I get through the book a lot faster. (Which is probably why I have many short stories on my iPad. LOL)

What I am excited about that's coming up next weekend is there will be an Independent Bookstore Cruise here in St. Louis next weekend. I missed the last one in the spring and I definitely don't want to miss this next one. Since Borders has closed, I feel its important to support the local bookstores with our business. By taking the cruise, I get a free introduction to their locations and staff. A win-win for me to snag some good books. Some of the local romance authors will be signing a Rose's Bookhouse: Jeannie Lin, Jennifer Jakes, J.C. Hay, Elizabeth Means, Richard O. Snelson & Angela Sage Larsen.

So, on to the fun part. Who won my Birthday Bash giveaway prize? According to my winner was LadyDamonaydeCongrats! Shoot me an email through here and I'll send you your stuff once I get your information.

Has anyone read any short stories that they loved recently? (Be sure to pick up Angie's short stories in her anthologies!) I have an e-reader with PLENTY of space. ;) I know Carina Press has a nice little sale going on so bring any suggestions my way.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Courage, Hope & Tears

J. R. Martinez.

What does that name mean to you? Anything?

To me, it means courage. It means fighting off fear. It means finding a way to believe and be optimistic, even when there is NO DAMN WAY things are going to get better.

See, J.R. Martinez was a regular kid from the South. Like you. Like me. Nineteen years old. Full of life and dreams. Then he joined the military. Seven months later, he drove his Humvee over a land mine and blew up.

A week later, he was a nineteen year old kid who was burned from head to toe, in severe pain. The first time he looked at his mangled face, he decided that he would have been better off if he hadn't survived that fire. He cried. He raged. He lost hope. Just like I would. Just like you would. Because J.R. was a regular kid. Like you. Like me. There was nothing special about J.R.. When his body was destroyed, he broke. Like I would. Like you would. We are like J.R.

What chance of a life did he have at that point? More than thirty painful surgeries lay ahead of him, and that was just to get him to the point of being able to function, not to ever make him look like he did before. Almost three full years in the hospital. Pain. Isolation. More pain. Stares from strangers. What kind of job could he get? Who would love him, let alone marry him, with the way his face was disfigured?  This kid, this nineteen year old kid, deprived of life before he had a chance to live it.

Or was he?

As J.R. lay there, in emotional and physical agony, his mom sat down with him. And she told him that the people who will be in his life will be those who love him for who he is, not for what he looks like.

Those simple words, that simple statement, woke something up in J.R. And on that day, for whatever reason, he made a choice. He decided to be optimistic and positive every day. He decided to fight, fight, fight, fight. He decided to overrule fear.

J.R. made this choice when there was no reason on this earth for him to believe things were going to be okay. He made that choice when every move caused him pain, when every time he looked in the mirror, he saw a face that he didn't recognize.  Any human alive would know there was nothing to be positive about, nothing to believe in, nothing to look forward to. There was no future, there was no out, there was no light at the end of this tunnel.

But J.R. didn't bother with all that crap. He simply started living, through his pain, through his scars, through his loneliness.

The first that happened for him? A nurse came in and told him about another soldier with burns who had just seen his face for the first time, and had turned out the lights. J.R. went in and spoke with him, friend to friend, person to person, soul to soul.  And after he left, the solider opened his curtains back up.

That's when J.R. knew he could make a difference. And therein began the life J.R. came here to live. He has become an internationally sought motivational speaker, he has become an actor, and, having never danced a step in his life, he has become a favorite on Dancing with the Stars, a show where grace and elegance and the beauty of the human body is honored and cherished. He has scars, but all you see when J.R. is on stage is his passion, his courage, and his refusal to let a little thing like burns on half his body stop him from laughing, from loving, from changing the world. J.R. has become an inspiration to all those who are facing a dark period in their lives, a long, endless tunnel of hopelessness. If J.R. can find a way out, if he can figure out how to fight, how to turn his life into something beautiful that gives him joy, then by hellfire and damnation, so can the rest of us.

Thank you, J.R. for giving me the courage to fight, to open myself to whatever and wherever this journey of life is supposed to take me. You are my inspiration. You are a regular person, and yet you have become more. You have taken your life and made it fly. I'm a regular person, too, so that means if you can do it, so can I. So can I.

And to you, the person reading this post: if you have never taken the time to watch a single YouTube video, watch the one below. All of it. You will cry. You will cheer. And you will look at your life and you will have hope and find courage that you never had before.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Deadly Treats

One of my all-time favorite authors happens to be Anne Frasier/Theresa Weir, so when she asked me to contribute a short story for an anthology that she was putting together, I jumped at the chance! It was great fun writing “Bewitched”(my contribution) and I’m honored to be included in this collection. If you’re looking for the “right” book to put you in the mood for Halloween, please try these tales of vampires, witches, and zombies! Or as the Occult Detective called it:

“…an anthology that delivers and is a perfect companion for those long and lonely nights when the air turns chill and you bury yourself in a blanket on the couch, book in hand."

Also if you’re in the Roseville MN area, several of us (Anne, David Housewright, Leandra Logan, Marilyn Victor, Michael Allan Mallory, Lance Zarimba, Mark Hull, and Paula Fleming) will be signing copies at the Barnes and Noble located in the HarMar Mall. We’ll be there at 7:00 p.m. tonight.

That’s all for this week—it’s time to pack and hit the road! Have a good one and I’ll catch you next week.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pet Rescue Rides Again!

by Lauren Vancouver, pet rescuer, whose adventures are memorialized in the Pet Rescue Mysteries by Linda O. Johnston

Hello. I’m Lauren Vancouver. I was here on Killer Characters in January, before the first of my adventures, BEAGLEMANIA, was released. The second, THE MORE THE TERRIER, will be available starting this week.

I have to say that I’m not thrilled to be back. Rather, I’m quite pleased to be blogging here on Killer Characters, but I don’t like the idea of having to solve another murder. But an old friend put me on the spot, so here I am.

Here’s a reminder of my background. I save pets. That’s the most important thing to me--except for my two college-age kids, who thankfully understand how their mother is driven to take care of homeless or abused animals and find them new forever homes. And now there’s also my dear dog Zoey, a Border collie-Australian shepherd mix who helps me at HotRescues.

HotRescues is the wonderful no-kill private pet shelter in the San Fernando Valley that I was chosen to run. It’s fortunate enough to have been founded by Dante DeFrancisco, the wealthy magnate who runs the large pet store chain HotPets, so unlike most shelters we don’t lack for funds.

Now, here’s the problem. My dilemma. In BEAGLEMANIA, I had to solve a murder because I was the main suspect. And no wonder. The guy was an animal abuser. But of course I didn’t do it.

At the beginning of the story in THE MORE THE TERRIER, I make a horrific discovery. My old mentor, Mamie Spelling, who also ran a no-kill shelter, has turned into an animal hoarder! I had pretty much lost track of Mamie after Dante chose me to run HotRescues, since she had been miffed that I was selected instead of her. I suppose her heart was in the right place in wanting to save as many animals as possible, but she had way too many to care for adequately.

Of course I made sure that all those animals were taken into custody by Los Angeles Animal Services, as required by law. But my friend Matt Kingston, a captain with Animal Services, promised to let me know if any were in danger of being “euthanized”--a dumb word for the killing of animals just to make more room--so I could make sure that either HotRescues or another private shelter took them in to save them.

And then Bethany Urber was murdered. She was a very nasty and officious pet rescuer herself who started Pet Shelters Together, an organization comprised of a number of private shelters, and she hounded Mamie to stop hoarding and join. Mamie became the prime suspect in her killing.

The thing was, I was upset with Mamie for becoming an animal abuser. But could I let her get railroaded for a murder she didn’t commit? She was aging and confused, but I didn’t think she was a killer. So, as much as I hated getting involved with solving another murder, I stepped in to try to help.

Solving murders is definitely not my favorite pastime. And I most definitely don’t want to get into the position of being a “murder magnet” like Kendra Ballantyne, the lady friend of the HotRescues’ benefactor Dante. I like Kendra, who’s the protagonist in the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries, but I don’t want to be like her.

Even so, I--well, I think I’ve said enough. I’d suggest that you read THE MORE THE TERRIER if you want to know more.

And, by the way, I wasn’t pleased to learn from the writer who chronicles my stories that another one, HOUNDS ABOUND, is scheduled to be published in April 2012. I suppose that means I’ll have to solve another murder.

Linda O. Johnston writes the Pet Rescue Mysteries, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries. Visit her at, and friend her on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lexi George winners and corsets

Hey all, I have a confession to make: I am not smooth. For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that by now. But I try. I do. Even still, it has come to my attention that I neglected to announce the winners from Lexi George's So I Married a Demon Slayer giveaway. That's the anthology that also includes Kathy Love and yours truly.

To complicate matters, it seems that neither one of our winners is telepathic. So I shall announce it once and for all - our winners are poisonivyred and host! Congrats! Just email me at angie @angie, pass along your snail mail and I'll get that info to Lexi.

And if by chance our winners are telepathic and flying under the radar, I apologize for those thoughts I had about the UPS guy this morning. In my defense, he was extremely hot.

Speaking of fun things, Shawntelle and I had a blast this weekend at Archon. It's a St. Louis Sci Fi and Fantasy con. This year, they had corsets in the dealer room and, well, we were hooked. I suppose we could try and claim book research, but mostly, we just thought they were pretty. Shawntelle already posted the shot of us together, but here's one of the corset I bought. This may be the start of an addiction.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Archon Adventures!

Happy Monday all!

Since it's my birthday and the day I get to post on Wicked Authors, I get to tell you about the fun time I had with Angie Fox over at ARCHON in Collinsville, IL.

I didn't get there until around 3 on Friday afternoon, but the conference was already in full swing. My timing was flawless since I arrived just as Angie was signing books. I got her to sign a copy of MY ZOMBIE VALENTINE. As you can see by the picture below, Angie's very serious when she signs a book.

After that we hung out and browsed the dealer area where Angie signed more books for her readers and I snagged a Pikachu back pack for my daughter and a Star Wars toy for one of my sons.

On Saturday, I had both of my panels with young adult author Cole Gibsen and had a blast! It was great to talk about some of the young adult books I've read and look forward to reading. I even got a few new ones for my never-ending TBR pile. I ate lunch with Angie, Cole, and urban fantasy author Kasey Mackenzie. She's an absolute delight and it was great chatting with her.

Darth Vader and moi

Looks like somebody paid to have this man arrested by Darth Vader and crew! (For 20 minutes anyway!)

Wicked authors trying on corsets. You'll have to wait to learn what we got and what conference we plan to wear them at. ;)

Want to see all the photos I took? Check here.

The end of Saturday went off with a bang with the masquerade ball. I didn't take any pictures, but let me tell you a lot of love went into those costumes. Everyone did a great job of going into character and showing off their work!

I didn't get a chance to go to the conference on Sunday due to a family football trip, but I had so much fun for the two days I got to hang out with everyone!

Of course I couldn't end have a post without a giveaway since I'm about to have an awesome day!

Shawntelle's B-Day Giveaway:

Cheryl Brooks - VIRGIN
Gift Card for a free Loveswept Book
Angie Fox Romance Trading Cards (I wrestled them from her!)
A Little Mayhem Never Hurts - Debut Urban Fantasy Authors Sampler with Me, Amanda Bonilla, and Sandy Williams
(And I'll even add a few more RTC and goodies on top of that!)

I have another giveaway over at Magic & Mayhem for Sandy Williams' upcoming urban fantasy THE SHADOW READER. Just leave a comment to be entered.

Just leave any comment about your weekend went to be entered. Hope you have a great week!