Thursday, February 24, 2011

Battling the Bugs


Angie Fox here, posting this for Shirley Damsgaard who is, er, having a few technical difficulties. Take it away Shirley...

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I do love my technology. I believe I’ve also mentioned that I’m not exactly the sharpest pencil in the box when it comes to understanding said technology, especially when it comes to computers.

And I’m okay with that...when I turn the sucker on and it does what I tell it to do, I’m good. I’ve never felt the need to know about gigabytes, USB ports, flash drives, processors, etc.—I’ve always figured that my brain is crowded enough without clogging the circuits in an effort to understand the inner workings of my computer. Usually this attitude works fairly well for me, but not so much this past week.
I bought a new desktop.
Normally this would be a good thing, but first let me tell you a little about my old desktop. It has everything I’ve ever written contained in its memory banks, all eight books, (it’s probably silly keeping these files since the books are in print, but I just can’t make myself delete them!! Not after all the work that went into creating them!) every short story, every blog, the notes for every workshop, and even notes on ideas for future manuscripts.
It also has pictures AND financial records, including the information that I MUST have to do this year’s taxes. I guess one could say most of my life is on that computer, and needless to say, I was a little nervous about HOW these files were going to be transferred. If I would have been a better consumer and taken the time to learn a little more about computers, specifically how to store files, I would’ve backed the most important files on a flash drive, but I didn’t.
Instead, I bought a service where the files are transferred via the phone and their service center. And it did work pretty slick...you make the call, hook the two computers together via a USB cable, then the service tech remotely transfers the files. The other thing the tech is supposed to do is remove any of the little buggies that, unbeknownst to you, might have attached themselves to your files.
Two things happened—1. My financial records have disappeared, and 2. Now there’s this lovely, little box that pops up continuously on the new computer telling me its infected with close to a hundred viruses and that I need to purchase their software in order to be protected. (Did I mention the box also has a sound effect? It screams whenever it appears on the screen. Kind of disconcerting when I’m trying to write, to say nothing of the way the noise makes me jump!)
The only way get rid of it is to click on the box, go to the website, then close out of the website. This happens about every 5 to 10 minutes and I can’t continue working on whatever it is I’m working on until I do. I did call the service center back, but they told me it wasn’t their fault and I have to purchase yet another service in order to get rid of it.
To prevent making a long story even longer, right now the store is working with me to retrieve the financial documents, and when I stop by today, they are going to call a supervisor at the service center about removing the annoying little box. We’ll see if the situation gets resolved.
Do I wish I would’ve done things differently? You bet! But I have a friend who says “it’s never a mistake as long as you learn from it.” So what did I learn? It does not pay to rush ahead, willy-nilly, which I must admit, I’m prone to do, without doing a bit research first. As a consumer, I should’ve shopped around, made myself more knowledgeable about files and file storage. I should’ve asked more questions, and next time, I can assure you, I will.
That’s it for this week—oh and btw, this blog was written on my laptop, not the new desktop. I didn’t think I could stand that screaming box this early in the morning.
Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Process = Product

In light of what I blogged about last week–the process of thinking through an idea and outlining a plot for a new boook–I thought this quote I stumbled on during the week was interesting:

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.

Chuck Close

I’ve got to admit, I don’t know who Chuck Close is, and I haven’t had time this week (two family funerals, both elderly aunts) to find out. But I can report that I’ve taken Chuck’s advice to heart. I have shown up here at my desk as much as possible, and I’ve gotten to work, all right. For the second book in the Button Box mystery series, here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. A chart that lists the continuing characters, where they were at the end of the last book (ie., "Kaz is avoiding his creditors and as the book ends, is leaving town"), what they’ve been up to since (ie., "Nev and Josie haven’t seen each other much, he’s working nights and she’s working on the button convention she’s chairing"), and where they are as the second book opens (i.e., "Josie is juggling a million little details for the convention, everyone wants something from her, she’s busy and running in a hundred different directions at once").

2. A list of suspects. I’ve got five. They are all good ones, too. In fact, they’re so good, I haven’t decided yet who the murderer is going to be.

3. Six pages (so far) of outlining notes. Right now, it’s just a bulleted list (this happens, then this happens, then this happens). I’ve got the beginning planned out, where my heroine is, how her ex (the above-mentioned Kaz) shows up and why, what’s happening in her life. In fact, I’ve planned all the way up to the murder and why Josie–who is not a police professional but a dealer in antique buttons–fits into the picture. Now the real work begins as I figure out how to step her through the investigation all the way to the exciting conclusion.

As soon as I figure out the exciting conclusion.

Stay tuned. With any luck (and no more funerals), I’ll have more to report next week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Beginnings


I have a new book to write.

For an author, this is good news. And bad news.

The good news is that I have a book to write. I have a contract, and readers who are anxious to get my books into their hands. For this, I am forever grateful.

The bad news, of course, is that a new book means a new work cycle means an end to the goofing around I’ve been doing in the week since I finished my last book. I’ve woven a rug, done some house cleaning (not nearly enough), gone down to Kent State University to speak at an arts and entertainment journalism class. It’s been great to get a taste of life away from the computer.

But now it’s time to get back to reality. At least my reality.

Every book involves a different process, at least for me. Sometimes, it’s an idea that sparks what turns into a book. Sometimes it’s a character or a thread from a previous book that I was to follow up on in one of the later books in the series. The book I’ll start working on today–the second book in the Button Box mystery series–hasn’t exactly come to me in a flash of inspired genius.

Oh, I have the germ of an idea. I know what I’d like my heroine to be involved in, a international button show. And I know who I want to kill (going to keep that one a secret). I think I might have even made some notes about who dun it. What I need now is the plot!

I think I’m going to start by listing all the recurring characters in the series and making notes about who they are, what role they played in the last book, and what they’re up to as the second book opens. Maybe that will help things start to fall into place. After that, it’s time to start outlining.
Stay tuned, as I work things out, I’ll blog about the process. In the meantime, though, I’m curious . . . writers, how do you start a book? Do you plunge in? Or are you slow and methodical? I’d love to start a discussion about how we all approach the process and what does–and doesn’t–work.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

40 winners today - oh my!

Happy Tuesday! Let's start off with the winner of our Friday giveaway. Sandy G wins a copy of The Mistress House by Leigh Michaels. Lucky duck. Email me at angie @ angie fox.com and I'll put you in touch with Leigh.

Also, if you entered the My Zombie Valentine contest on my blog yesterday, you won. No, you really did. In a moment of chocolate-induced euphoria, I awarded prizes to all 39 entrants. So if you were a Valentine's Day poster, head on over there to claim your prize.

Other than that, I've spent today tooling around with Chapter Eleven of The Monster MASH. I'm really pleased with the way this story is shaking out, and even happier about the snow melting outside.

Take care and stay warm!
Angie

Friday, February 11, 2011

Something Wicked welcomes Leigh Michaels



Hi all! Today, we'd like to welcome Leigh Michaels. She's written nearly 100 books, including 80 contemporary novels and more than a dozen non-fiction books. More than 35 million copies of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin. She's here today to tell us about her latest - and to give you a chance to win a copy!
Thank you to this glorious group of wicked ladies for the invitation to guest-blog on Something Wicked – it’s lovely to be here.
Though my new book, The Mistress’ House, isn’t paranormal, it does involve a house which has an odd effect on the people who live there. They start off expecting – wanting – to have love affairs, but they end up falling in love.
“It’s this house,” says one of the heroes when for the third time a perfectly-reasonable sexual fling turns more serious and the lovers end up married. “It makes people do strange things. They begin acting different – irrational, even – the very moment they take up residence.”
The idea of house-as-character occurred to me after I’d already started writing the book, when I came flat up against the logistics of getting my Regency lords and ladies together in a private enough spot to actually do the deed. It wasn’t so difficult for the gentlemen, of course, but how did a lady of quality escape her family and friends? She couldn’t invite her lover home with her unless she lived entirely on her own – rare, at that time. She couldn’t just dash out to an inn without doing some fancy explaining. I suppose she could borrow a friend’s house, but leaving herself open to gossip and blackmail wouldn’t have been wise.
So what’s the point of being a wealthy earl if you can’t buy privacy for a love affair? If there was a convenient little house just reserved for that purpose…
The Mistress’ House is located at Number 5 Upper Seymour Street, in London, and the time is 1815, smack in the middle of the Regency period. There really was a house on the site at that time; it appears on old maps, complete with the outline of the house and the garden. Though there aren’t any photos or drawings in existence, the house would have been largely as I describe it – the end unit of a row of connected houses, right next to Berkeley Mews. (It’s now the site of the Hyatt Regency Hotel – an amusing coincidence, no?)
Would you like to win a copy of The Mistress' House? "Yes, yes!" you say? Then leave a comment for Leigh and we'll do a drawing on Monday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Favorite Characters



Angie's not the only one who can't wait for books-no, I didn't stay up until 12:01 to download it on my Kindle. I pre-ordered it and presto-chango...there it was on the release date! (Satisfied my need for instant gratification!) So what book was I eagerly awaiting? A RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD by Alan Bradley. So far there are two other books in the series-THE WEED THAT STRINGS THE HANGMAN'S BAG and THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, which I've also read. This series is a departure from my normal reading-instead of featuring an adult heroine, this sleuth is a motherless, eleven year old girl (Flavia de Luce) growing up in a backwater hamlet in post WWII Great Brittan. She also happens to be a genius and is fascinated with chemistry, mainly poisons.

So what is it about this series that made me feel that I must have this latest book on its release date? After all, the character is only eleven and A LOT of water has passed under that particular bridge since I was the same age. Plus I can't recall anyone ever claiming I was a genius! Sure, the series is well written, the dialogue is snappy, and the characters are interesting, but in the end, how can an average, middle-aged woman identify with a really smart, pre-pubescent girl?

For me, I think the answer to that question is Flavia's vulnerability. She's an outsider, even within her own family. She wants to be accepted so badly, and when she's not, she retreats behind her intelligence and a fa├žade of sarcasm. And regardless of one's age, who hasn't felt like they were on the outside looking in at one point or the other?

All of this leads me around to a question for you-what is it about your favorite characters that makes them your favorite? Is it the way they overcome the challenges facing them? Do they say and do things that you've always wished you could do? Is it, like my feelings toward Flavia, their vulnerability? Or something else entirely?

That's it for this week. To all my fellow Midwesterners-stay warm and I'll see you next Thursday!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Casting Call: Visions of Magic by Regan Hastings



Although VISIONS OF MAGIC is the first book by Regan Hastings, it’s far from the author’s first book. As Maureen Child, she has been nominated six times for the prestigious RITA award from the Romance Writers of America. Her romance novels have appeared many times on the USA TODAY bestsellers list. VISIONS OF MAGIC is Book One of The Awakening, a series of dark paranormal romances featuring a coven of reincarnated witches who must work together to vanquish the evil they called upon the world lifetimes ago. Read the first chapter of VISIONS OF MAGIC at www.reganhastings.com.

VISIONS OF MAGIC, the first book of my new Awakening series, has been in the stores for about a week now, so I fully expect Hollywood to come calling at any moment. To be prepared, I think it’s important to have a dream list of actors to play the major roles in the book.

I swear, this is not just an excuse to look at pictures of sexy men.

I’d like your help. The two roles we’ll be casting today will be Torin and Shea, the hero and heroine of VISIONS OF MAGIC. Let’s start with Torin. He’s an Eternal, an immortal warrior forged from the sun. His purpose in life is to guard and protect his witch-mate, Shea, through all of her incarnations until their mating ritual is complete and she becomes immortal, too. Here’s how Torin sees himself:

He knew what people saw when they looked at him.

Taller than most men, he had long dark hair that fell loose to his shoulders. He wore a black T shirt that clung to the hard muscles of his chest and abs. His black jeans and scuffed, shit-kicker boots finished off the dangerous image. His face was lean and hard, sculpted with sharp planes and angles and his pale gray eyes gave away none of his thoughts.

He looked exactly what he was.

A warrior.

And here’s how Shea sees him when they first meet:
Shea jolted and spun around at the sound of the voice. A man stood in the middle of the room. Well over six feet tall, he looked tough, dangerous and too damn good. But it wasn’t just the raw sexual energy that shimmered off of him in thick waves that drew her attention. It was the sense of...familiarity she felt. As if she knew him. Had known him. His black hair hung to his shoulders, his broad chest was covered by a blood red shirt and his faded black jeans clung to muscular thighs. His arms were folded across his chest and his pale gray eyes were fixed on her.

For Torin, we need an actor who is more than a man, someone godlike and intimidating. Dark, dangerous… a man who would look good with a flame tattoo wrapped around his muscled chest.

Let’s pause for a moment to think about muscled chests.







































The heroine, Shea Jameson, is an everywoman who finds her fierceness in the course of the book. We need an actress who can evoke vulnerability, and turn it into a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners personality. Here’s how Shea looks in Torin’s eyes:

He leaped to his feet, scanned the ground below him and spotted his witch on the far side of the prison yard. Her long red hair lifted like a flag in the wind and she waved both hands high over her head. He smiled to himself, noting that Shea Jameson wasn’t cowering. She was standing tall and proud and his unbeating heart filled with admiration.







Who would you cast in the roles of Torin and Shea?








Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Please tell me I'm not the only one

I was in the mood for vampires last night, and nothing on my (overloaded) shelves was calling out to me, so I downloaded Vampire Vendetta off of Amazon (great book, by the way). I don't own an e-reader. I haven't yet been able to pull that trigger because I like print books too much. But I do have the Amazon for PC application on the computer and it's nice. I like it for when I want a book immediately (impatient much?) or if a book is coming out at 12:01 and I'm a dork enough (guilty as charged) to stay up and get it right away.

But there's one thing I discovered last night that makes me think e-readers may not be for me after all. When things get exciting in a book, and I'm all jacked up on the suspense and I need to know what is going to happen next...I flip ahead. I cheat. It's an awful, awful habit and it probably interferes with my enjoyment of the book, but there you go.

I knew the romantic ending of Shadowfever on page 23 - because that was the point where I snuck ahead and skimmed the ending. Want to know the end of Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls (the latest ghost hunter mystery), I knew before I ever left the book store. I admit that one was bad - worse than usual.

And it leaves me with a Kindle dilemma. Do you know how hard it is to flip ahead on an electronic book? I must have hit that little arrow key a hundred times last night. Didn't stop me, mind you. Or even slow me down. But it did make it 100% crystal clear that I am indeed a page flipper, an ending-peeker.

I like it that way. I've done it since I was a pre-teen reading Agatha Christie. It's just that nobody has ever made me think about it while hitting an arrow key over and over like a trained monkey. Curses to Kindle. Well, until next time at least.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Technology

Personally, I do love my technology. I've got Netflix on my Wii; a Kindle; high speed Internet; a Smart Phone; satellite TV; Skype (though I haven't quite figured out how to use this yet). This all seems to take a bite out of my budget, but honestly, I don't know what I'd choose to give up if push came to shove. I like having information at my fingertips via the Web. I can shop online and pay my bills without ever leaving my house. The idea of being able to talk to someone anywhere in the world face to face so to speak via Skype is pretty cool. And email-my agent and editor are in New York, but they're only a click away if I have any questions or concerns while working on a new book. Thanks to my Kindle, I have access to any book I want within seconds even though I live 40 miles from the nearest bookstore.

There's been a lot of chatter online recently about how this is all changing our world, and I've been paying attention to what they're saying specifically about the publishing industry. Buying trends are shifting and e-books are now outselling mass market paperbacks. Also, thanks to various digital text platforms, anyone can now by pass traditional publishing and put their work out as an e-book. (I checked my Kindle, and as of today at 7:00 a.m., there are currently 831,366 titles available.)

There are pluses to this-readers have more choices now and authors who previously went un-noticed now have an opportunity to garner readers. But here's my concern, how are those readers ever going to find a new author amidst all those titles? Will reader reviews take on more importance? How about the "star" ratings? Are people going to be paying more attention to the number stars a book earns? Will online review sites play a larger role in promoting new books? Or will a well-written book automatically rise to the top based on its quality? I honestly don't know.

What's your opinion?

That's it for this week-take care and I'll see you next Thursday.
Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ah, Guilt-Free Goofing Off!


Let’s face it, we all do it once in a while–goof off when we should be working.

I have no scientific data to support this theory, but I suspect writers goof off more frequently than other workers. For one thing, we (usually) work alone. With no boss looking over our shoulders, no co-workers urging us for our piece of work so they can complete theirs, we have little incentive to keep nose to the grindstone. Then there’s the part about how writers are supposed to be creative, artistic types. We need plenty of goof off time, right? You know, to recharge our creative batteries.

What I’ve discovered this week is that there are two different kinds of goofing off. There’s the kind we do every day that consists of things like:

Oh, I’ll just take a minute and check email
Oh, I’ll just take a minute and play a game of Spider Solitaire
Oh, I’ll just take a minute and call So-and-So, we’ve been playing phone tag

Then there’s the scheduled goofing off. This week, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
You see last weekend, I didn’t goof off. In fact, I finished the book I was working on, Pepper Martin mystery #8. Now, "finished" is a slippery word. Though the writing is done, I still need to read the book, makes notes and changes, etc. But the lion’s share of the work is behind me. Before I sit down and read the book, I need a few days off. You know, to clear my head so that when I do read, I can come to the work more objectively.

What that means–at least in my world–is wonderful, glorious, GUILT-FREE goof off time.
You see, that’s what I discovered this week. When you goof off when you should be working . . . sure, it’s fun, but there’s that whole feeling guilty thing that goes along with it.

When you have scheduled goof off time, there’s no guilty involved. Cool!

I’ve been spending my goof off time working on my loom, getting ready to weave a rag rug (I promise pics when it’s done, whether you want to see them or not). Weaving is so completely different from writing. There’s math involved (yikes!) and the mechanics of the loom. It’s quiet and contemplative. At least until I make some silly mistake and start grumbling.

Tomorrow, I have to get to the reading, so good off time will be over. At least until I send the book off to New York. Then another couple days of guilt-free goofing!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Last of the Demon Slayers paperback edition is out!

Hey, guess what I learned today? The Last of the Demon Slayers print edition has released! Nothing like a little warning, right? But that's okay because I'm fall-down excited to have it out there. I'm just so proud of this book - it was such a fun story to write. And it's been a crazy journey, from my publisher having issues, to me deciding to take the reins and make sure all of my readers could get their hands on The Last of the Demon Slayers.
Now I will tell you that while you can easily order the print book from the Barnes & Noble and Amazon websites, not all brick-and-mortar stores have it yet. It's still making its way to warehouses and into computer systems.
In fact, right now would be a good time to teach the biker witches some computer skills. Maybe help the process along... Alas, Grandma thinks keyboards are those things you use to prop up a wobbly table leg and Ant Eater just likes to bang the top of the monitor. Oh well. We love them anyway, right?
To celebrate the print release, I'm giving away an autographed copy on my author blog. The drawing is this weekend. Good luck!