Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Good Old Days


This week I’ve been working up a proposal for a new “Jess McConkey” book which includes writing the first three chapters. So far it’s going well, and without giving too much of the plot away, it’s going to deal with the story of two women—one living now, and the other living in 1890, and how the ripples from the events in the 1890’s are affecting the first character’s life. And yes, this is going to be a tricky proposition. I don’t expect to have too much of a problem with the character living now. After all I am a woman, I’ve lived in Iowa all my life, and I know how things work in a small town.

No, the hard part is going to be writing about life in the 1890’s. And it’s going to take a lot of research. In fact, I almost made a pretty glaring error in the first chapter. I had my character opening the doors of a Hoosier cabinet—one problem—they weren’t built until the late 1890’s. Thank goodness a little voice told me that I’d better check it out!

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to do research—in fact I really enjoy it—and based on my past experiences, I know that some of the things I discover won’t necessarily wind up in the book. But I’ve always felt that the more I know, the better able I am to make the words sound true. I think fiction starts out with a grain of truth, and from that, one builds their castle.

So what kind of grains do I need? First—how did the 1890’s, specifically a farm wife, dress? What was the average marriageable age? And at what age were women considered “old”? What was the floor plan of a typical farmhouse? What was a farm wife’s daily life like? (I’ve already found out some information to this question, and the answer is “pretty grim.”) What kind of property rights did a woman have? What were the institutions for the insane like? What kind of drugs were available in the 1890’s, that when administered, would put a person into a deep sleep? (Coming up are the kind of questions that have led my children to think Mom’s a bit odd. *g* ) And once said person was in that deep sleep, would they wake up if someone stabbed them with a butcher knife? What would such a crime scene look like? How did law enforcement in the 1890’s conduct an investigation without all the forensic knowledge we have today? Would they know if the guilty party was left handed or right handed??? The list goes on and on, but you get my point.

To me, all this stuff is really interesting, and it’s given me new respect for all those authors who write historical’s. If I need this amount of research for a book that’s only partially set 140 years ago, can you imagine how much research is required for one set entirely in the past? Truly, it boggles my mind, and will I ever attempt it?? After this book…probably not!

Have a great rest of the week!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pepper's Got a Ticket to Ride


I won’t be blogging again until next Wednesday, so today is my only chance to remind you that next Tuesday, April 5, my newest book will hit the shelves.

"A Hard Day’s Fright" is the seventh book in the Pepper Martin mystery series and this time, Pepper isn’t looking for a murderer–she’s looking for a body so the ghost who belongs to it can rest in peace after 40 years of haunting.

Lucy Pasternak attended a Beatles concert in Cleveland in 1966. She ran up on stage, kissed Paul, started for home with her friends–and was never seen again.

That is, of course, until Pepper runs into her and finds out that she’s got to find Lucy’s body, a body that’s somehow been hidden all these years.

Of course, Pepper’s life is never simple. In addition to finding Lucy’s missing remains, Pepper’s got a "situation" at the cemetery where she works. Money is tight, budgets have been cut, and Pepper’s getting roped into everything from recycling paper to picking up cemetery trash. Not the best use of time for a girl of Pepper’s talent, and its making a mess of her manicure!

Then there’s Quinn . . .

Pepper’s on again/off again boyfriend is about to learn the lesson of his life in this book. I can’t tell you how many readers are still contacting me about the way he dumped Pepper in book #5. They want revenge! And I . . . I’ve found the best one possible!

It all adds up to another oddball, fast-paced, Pepper-y adventure. The only question is how is Pepper going to handle it all?

With a little help from her friends, of course!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Auction for a great cause

I don't know about you, but I love Ebay. I've bought clothes, books, and things I just can't find anywhere else (like canceled nail polish colors). When we were dating, my husband and I got into a bidding war over this hideous blue and green plaid jacket that he wanted to buy. Him, because he thought it was amusingly awful. Me, because I didn't want to see him wear it.

Then Jim got the bright idea to step back from the auction and I ended up winning. Thus I had the pleasure of paying for and receiving said hideous jacket. I was dating a smartie, or so he thought. The final revenge was mine, however, in that I hung the plaid monstrosity up in my closet and refused to let him wear it.

So I suppose the lesson to be learned is that Ebay is great if you want to taunt your partner. Ebay is also the perfect place for a bunch of fantastic authors to get together to put up amazing prizes for a good cause.

A great friend to authors, Fatin, runs a book blog and she recently lost her husband in a senseless act of violence. More than one hundred authors have banded together to offer autographed books, prize baskets, lunches out, coaching for unpublished writers and a whole lot more. It's going on right now under the heading Operation Auction 2011.

There's also a book package up there for the Accidental Demon Slayer series - first edition, signed copies of all four books. So join in if you'd like. I've been bidding on a lot of fun things (although I'm skipping the plaid jackets this time).

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Heart's Desire: A New Title

Happy Monday, everyone! I have good news and even better news!

First of all, Spring Break at my house is over! Hmmm, that might actually be the even better news from my viewpoint. But now on the fun stuff! I have a title! I got the news from my editor last week that my book is now:

COVETED

I'm so excited to have a title. It makes the process of having a book come out much more real. I even have a title for the second book in the series coming out in Fall 2012: KEPT. There are still more fun things to come like the cover so I'll just keep refreshing my email until I have some cover goodies to share with you.

The title of the book makes me think of certain things that I'd like. We are yearn, or desire for something, and my heroine Natalya is no different. Whether we want to reconnect with our families or hoard stuff in our house, there's something. For me, I covet many things:

  1. The perfect dress (that actually fits right)
  2. Might as well add on a perfect pair of jeans, too
  3. A book to fall into (because I want to stay up all night and read it)
  4. A clean house for 24 hours (not gonna happen, but hey a girl can dream)
  5. Obtain a size 6 figure by Christmas (no comment)

Okay, so a few items on my list aren't realistic, like a clean house, but it's good to want things and have goals.

What do you covet today?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sometimes, It's Okay Not to Wear a Life Jacket

I recently did something amazing. I mean, really amazing. The kind of thing that makes you sit back in stunned awe and say, "Was that really me who did that? And was it really that good?"

What did I do?

I wrote a book.

Not just any book, because I've written a lot of those. I wrote a book that was so special and so amazing that I blew myself away. See, I had been struggling with my book I was supposed to be writing. Just couldn't get a handle on it. I was doubting myself, feeling the pressure of delivering something my editor would like, that my readers would like. I was judging everything I wrote, trying so hard to get it right, until every day was a struggle and every night I would lie in bed, wondering how I was going to come up with something Good Enough the next day.

The harder I tried, the more difficult it was becoming. I realized that I becoming my own worst obstacle, and I had to find a way to free myself. So, I decided to take a couple weeks off and write something just for me. Something that I wasn't going to try to sell. Something that simply came from my heart and my soul.

I started to write that day.  I had no idea where the story was going (I always plot my books very carefully), and I didn't even know what type of book I was going to write, or even who the characters were. I just quieted my mind, listened to my heart, and began to type. And you know what? It was the most brilliant, most amazing, most soul-inspiring experience I'd ever had since the day I picked up a keyboard and wrote my first book. I wrote without judgment, I wrote without goals, I wrote without an agenda. I just wrote what felt good to write.

The book wrote itself, the entire thing, in 18 days, and I spent only about three hours a day writing. The words literally flew from my spirit onto the computer screen. I never had to stop and think, I never had to redirect, I simply allowed my soul to fly. The result? The most beautiful story that makes my heart sing when I think of it.

I haven't done anything with the story yet. I haven't sent it to my agent. It is just sitting there, on my computer, showing me the magic I can create when I stop trying so hard, and simply raise my face to the sunlight and let the winds take me. And now, when I sit down at the computer to write contracted books, I revisit that place that I wrote from, and I feel the energy and peace of that experience carry me forward again.

We spend our lives living in the shadow of obligation, of judgment, of performing roles and duties for others. It can weigh us down so tremendously that it stifles our ability to create and live and perform at the level that we're truly capable of. Pick a day, a week, a month, and do something for you. Just for you. Do it simply and only because your spirit is calling for it. See what happens. See how you feel.  Break the rules and jump in the river without a lifejacket, and trust that your inner self can show you the way. Have you ever tried it? Share your story. I'm sure it's beautiful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Family Matters

As I was trying to think of something to post today, I decided to steal an idea from my youngest daughter, Sara, concerning a topic she’s planning to post on her blog. (Stealing ideas is okay among family members, isn’t it??) She does a little blog off her Facebook page, and if I do say so myself and as a totally biased reader, she does a pretty good job! It’s mostly her take on the world and her opinions, but as her mother, that doesn’t come as a great surprise to me...she’s been stating those since she was a toddler!! *g* But I regress.

Here’s what she plans to write about—what it’s like for a child whose parent is an author. It started me thinking about the things my children have been subjected to over the last few years and how they might view those things from their perspective. And I came to this conclusion—although it’s not unusual for a kid to think their parent is a little on the odd side, especially if said kid is under the age of 35, I do think children of writers probably have a little more room to talk than most.

Case in point—earlier this week I had a phone conversation with one of my critique partners, Tammy Siler Jones, concerning the preliminary plotline for a new “Jess McConkey” book. Both Sara and her sister were present in another room and overheard part of the conversation. Specifically, as related to me later by Sara, when I said to Tammy...”Nah, I don’t think he’s going to get axed in the head. I think his throat will be slashed instead.”( Seriously—what kind of mother, other than one who’s a writer, talks like that??? Personally, I don’t even want to contemplate the answer to that question!)

Did their jaws drop in shock? Nope, she said they both laughed and then began a discussion of “Mom's weird conversations.” And thinking about the last few years, they must have had plenty to discuss. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve brought up murder and mayhem in one way or another. (According to Sara, her sister’s favorite is the one she overheard as I questioned, via the phone (again), a medical examiner concerning how many days it would take for a body to float to the surface of a lake given a 54 degree water temperature.) And then there were the occasions where woo-woo became the topic as we passed around the mashed potatoes—seeing it through their eyes, I’m lucky they haven’t called the men in the funny white coats to come and cart me away!!!

All joking aside...I truly am lucky. My children have accepted my career choice, and me, with grace and humor. Yeah, they may think Mom is a little crimped around the edges, but they love me anyway!

Can’t wait to read what Sara has to say about it...I think!

That’s all for this week—have a good one and see you next Thursday!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hats

Writers wear a whole lot of hats, and this week, I’m getting a chance to try on every one of them.
Over the weekend, it was the editing hat. I got the copy edits for "Button Holed," the first of the new Button Box mystery series. My own editor at Berkley Prime Crime had already been over the manuscript and made what’s called "line edits." Short and sweet, and he didn’t question much or ask for many changes. Once he was done, a copy editor (usually a freelancer) got the manuscript.

Theoretically, a copy editor doesn’t make changes, and luckily, it was true this time. It’s not always so. I’ve run into a whole bunch of copy editors who want to be writers and who take the opportunity of going over my manuscript to make it sound the way they would if it was their manuscript.

But I digress.

Good or bad, thorough or too-thorough, edits are still edits, and for reading the copy edits, a writer needs one special hat.
On Tuesday, I changed hats and got back to outlining button book #2. Yes, yes, I know . . . I talked about outlining more than a couple weeks ago. And I was hard at work on that outline, too, when I realized I knew enough about the opening chapters of the book to plunge right in. So that’s what I did. I’ve got four chapters finished, but now the victim has met his terrible fate, the heroine realizes there’s sleuthing to be done . . . and I’ve got to finish figuring what’s going to happen, how and when.

This is where my brain can run free. I can explore all options, no matter how outlandish, try different things, create characters and situations and solutions. Oh yeah, it’s all about imagination and for this, I need my thinking cap.

This Saturday, another hat change . . . I’ll be speaking at the 20th Annual Western Reserve Spring Writers Conference at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio. If you’re a writer and want to hear some great presentations, check out
www.lakelandcc.edu/ce

Presenters will discuss everything from self-publishing to women’s fiction to nonfiction and sci-fi. I’ll be talking about adding drama and tension to both fiction and nonfiction by focusing on three basic elements of writing: titles, beginnings and endings. For this, I need my teaching hat, something more formal without being boring.


By the time it’s over and next week rolls around, I’m sure I’ll be eager to change hats again. Next week, it’s back to the writing hat!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring break vampires

Happy Tuesday! I had to laugh at Shawntelle's post yesterday because we're doing the same thing over at our house - spring break! Although with all of the pandemonium, I'm still trying to figure out what part of it is a break. Ohhh! Maybe they mean breaking things around the house. In which case, I understand. We're already down a flower pot (my bad), a glass (still not sure who did that) and part of the banister (serenity now).

In the midst of it, my agent came up with this pretty neat idea. I have this novella that I wrote a few years ago for The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. It's not part of any series, but a stand-alone story about a vampire princess who decides to rebel and runs into a hot Scottish supernatural bodyguard. Happens all the time, right? Well, since so many people have e-readers now, we're going to be posting Love Bites up on Amazon as a short story.

I just saw the cover this morning and it's really neat - my first vampire bite-y cover. When it's all approved and ready, I'll be sure to post it here. And while that is in the works, I'm polishing the story as well. There are a few things I want to change after looking at it again (Isn't that always the way?). Plus, a really good friend of mine who writes Scottish historicals (Kimberly Killion - look her up - she's awesome) sat down with me the other night to give our Scottish bodyguard a modern-yet-medieval brogue. He is about eight hundred years old, after all. I really should have done that the first time, because I like it so much better.

It's been a lot of fun - a great way to relax and do something different. So I suppose I'm taking a break this spring after all.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Broken

Happy Monday everyone! So far so good. Still waiting on my official title and cover, but there's still plenty of time until the 2012 apocalypse is upon us. ;)

My household is on Spring Break. What does that mean? Well, with such a nice day outside I plan to open the windows and enjoy the pleasant breeze and the sunshine. I have my laptop ready and my work in progress is finally coming along nicely. But, and there's always a but, spring break at my house also means that my children are home. That means that I'm not only trying to write my next book, but I'm also cleaning up after spills, helping the princess diva preschooler with her potty routine, scrambling for batteries for Wii remotes, cooking chicken nuggets for the millionth time, raking up the mountain of leaves in the front yard, and between all of these activities I'm writing. (Thank goodness this book doesn't have any sex in it... LOL)

Like all things in life, we have to work around real life and I'm no different. I do miss the days though when I was in college and worse thing I had to worry about was finishing my homework on time. Oh yeah, there was the important sorority stuff, but compared to now, I had it so easy back then. Spring Break was at home with family. (I didn't do the traveling thing during spring break. No money for that.)

I used to be able to work through anything. With my first book, I started around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Like Charlton Heston said during the Planet of the Apes, "It's a mad house! A mad house!" Yep, that was my house. Back then I had the focus of a mongoose dodging a cobra. My kids could climb on me, do various funny dances, but I ignored them. So fast forward two years. Well, that sharp little mongoose would be cobra food today. LOL.

So now that I've exposed how productive I'll be this week, any tips on how to keep the kids busy during spring break without making them stay outside all day? Just kidding. Well, unless that really works... Although I potentially see a Lord of Flies thing happening--with the diva winning of course.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What We Don't Realize We Know


           How much information have you stuffed into your head over your lifetime? How to do this, how to do that, how you should handle this, what skills you need for that, etc etc. There's a lot of information packed into that magnificent brain of yours, isn't there? It's practically limitless what you can accomplish with all the knowledge you've got in there…right?
           Well…yes. But maybe not in the way you think.
           See, sometimes, we have so much information buzzing in our brains that we forget to listen to the real expert. Who is that font of perfect knowledge? It's you. Not the conscious mind racing with a thousand learned responses. It's your soul, your spirit, your physical body. It's telling us things all the day, all night, all the time, but so often, we are so busy trying to manage our lives that we don't even notice the plethora of true information being offered to us.
           An example: recently, I had plans with some people who I didn't feel comfortable with. I felt I should go, and that it would be best for me to go, so I agreed. But the day before I was supposed to go, I started to feel sick. My stomach started bothering me, and I felt awful. My sweetie came home and I told him that I thought I was getting sick, and I couldn't go out the next day. He looked at me, and said, "Sweetheart, you don't have to go."
           The moment he said that, this huge wave of relief rushed over me. And in that moment, I realized that I hadn't actually been getting sick. It had been my body's way of telling me that going wasn't the right choice. It took almost getting sick before I heard that message, but I finally did. I didn't go, and I was so happy that I made that choice. And you know what? As soon as I made the choice not to go, I felt better.
           Sometimes, when we're in a bad mood or feel under the weather, we make ourselves soldier on, doing whatever it is we are supposed to be doing, and we never slow down enough to ask ourselves what that bad mood or feeling is trying to tell us. When things are off kilter, so often it's our soul's way of trying to guide in the direction that we really want to go, and if we just slow down long enough to listen, then that's when special things finally get a chance to happen.
           What about you? Have you ever had an experience where your subconscious was trying to tell you something, and when you finally listened, something good happened?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Branding or "Who am I???"

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in another blog, but I have recently received word that the release date of LOVE LIES BLEEDING is July 26th. And although I’m really excited about the new book, it also brings with it a dilemma—a new identity—Jess McConkey and the job of branding that name.

What’s branding you may ask? I look it as fixing in the reader’s mind a certain image, a certain vibe that’s associated with that author’s work. The best examples I can think of is Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb and Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels. In both cases, which ever book you purchase, you have a pretty good idea what to expect because of the name associated with that particular work. It even extends to the author photo. On the back of the J.D. Robb books, Ms. Robb is wearing a long, leather duster and is striding down a city street. On the Elizabeth Peters books, Ms. Peters is standing amid what appears to be ruins. (Both are very appropriate considering the plots of these books.) But on the Nora Roberts books and the Barbara Michaels books, their photos are different. (In a few of Ms. Michaels’ photos, she’s holding a cat and wearing a floppy hat. Ms. Roberts is propped on a high stool and smiling at the camera.)

Okay, as an avid reader myself, I know if I like a book, it’s really not going to make a difference how the author looks in their photo, and I would expect others to feel the same about LOVE LIES BLEEDING. Either a reader is going to enjoy it or not. (I, of course, am praying for the former, not the latter!) But still I have put some thought into what “Jess” looks likes so we, as in my youngest daughter and myself, have designed a new look for dear, old Mom. Jess has longer hair (thanks to extensions) and wears more color, not so much black. She’ll also have her own website with a different look than the one I have now, which, I might add, has not been updated in a long, long time!!

Now all this image and branding stuff has presented a problem that I hadn’t originally anticipated. I’ve two conferences coming up this summer and are right before my publication date, so the question is who will be attending these conferences??? Jess or Shirley? Or both? Do I introduce myself as Jess part of the time and Shirley at other times? (I can see it now—someone is going to call me “Jess” and I’m going to have this confused, “Who? Me?” look on my face. ) Will I need to run into the nearest phone booth and change identities??? *g* It really is very confusing for me and I honestly don’t know what approach to take.

I guess in the end, whether I’m called “Jess” or “Shirley,” all I can do is be myself and that will just have to do!!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day—have a safe one!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy NBW!





Yes, my friends…you may not have realized it, but this is National Button Week. “Why does it matter?” you ask.

Just think about it . . . a world without buttons.

How do you keep that winter coat of yours closed? And your favoite blouse? What happens to your nice, warm cardigan when the breeze catches it and you can’t keep it closed?

And your purse? You know, that gorgeous handmade one you bought at the craft fair last summer, the one with the giant button closure?

Buttons are more than just a way to keep clothing secured. They are tiny pieces of art and they have a unique and interesting history. According to historians, the earliest buttons weren’t used as much for fastening as they were for ornamentation. The first funtional buttons with buttonholes to put them in appeared in Germany in the 13th century.

The modern hobby of button collecting began in 1938 when a woman named Gertrude Patterson talked about her button collection on a radio program. It created such a sensation that women who had more time than money began saving buttons. Today, button collecting has become one of the top three hobbies in the world, right behind stamp and coin collecting.Not convinced that buttons are worth noticing? Take a look at some of the vintage button sites online. You'll be astounded!
Over the years buttons have been made of everything from gold to ivory to plastic and rubber. Back in the late 1800s, it was fashionable for young women to wear buttons with their boyfriend’s picture on them.

So next time you come across a button, give it a second glance. You could be looking at a little piece of history.

This September, I’ll be premiering a new series called The Button Box Mysteries that I’ll be writing under the name of Kylie Logan. The books will give me the opportunity to murder more people. Oh, and to indulge my passion for buttons, too.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A fun new project

I have some fun news this morning. I've just signed on to do another novella. This one is for an anthology that will also include stories by Katie MacAlister, Jennifer Ashley, Patricia Rice and more. There are going to be at least nine other NY Times bestselling authors contributing stories.

This will be a unique book in that it's not going to be all paranormal or all one theme. They're designing it so each of us can write whatever strikes or fancy. Which begs the question - what to write about? Biker witches, paranormal MASH surgeons, something entirely different?

There's plenty of time to decide. I have to tell you it will be interesting to have that kind of an open slate. No title yet. Release date will be in 2012. As for what I'll do? Hmm... Any ideas?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Spring Forward Monday!

Not only do I have some winners to announce today, but I have a bone to pick with the people who came up with Daylight Savings Time. It was so hard to get up this morning. And I'm a morning person too. I don't need an alarm clock to wake up around 5:30. But technically this morning, I actually woke up late... Waking up kids an hour earlier is not fun at all. I have kids in elementary school and this morning resembled a mission impossible skit. I had to sneak in, take their covers, crack really bad jokes about why it's still dark outside, and then happily tell them they'll love getting up an hour early. (My jokes didn't work out so well.)

Okay, thanks to the website random.org, I picked out some winners from last week's giveaway!

The winner of GREEN-EYED DEMON by Jaye Wells is Sharon S! Congrats!

The winner of SHADOW FALLS by Erin Kellison is CrystalGB! Congrats Crystal!

The winner of DEMON KEEPERS by Jessica Anderson is Rosie! Congrats! Woo hoo!

Shoot me a message so I know where you want me to send your book!

That was fun. I think I'll keep looking at the winners and not outside where I have snow! (Yeah, don't let that spring time picture fool you. It's not spring time yet. For me anyway! LOL) Something told me yesterday that I should have grilled while I had the chance.

Friday, March 11, 2011

We have a new blogger in the house - Stephanie Rowe!

Something Wicked is fall-down happy to announce the newest author to join our blog party - Stephanie Rowe. She'll be blogging with us on Fridays.

You may recognize Stephanie from a previous guest blogger stint earlier this year. She writes paranormals, suspense and contemporary books. Her latest release, Kiss At Your Own Risk, received a 4.5 Stars Top Pick from RT Book Reviews.

On a personal note, I'd like to say that I've been a reader of Stephanie's books for years - long before I was ever a published writer. In fact, I help head up a book club in St. Louis and one of our big thrills was having Stephanie as a guest author at one of our meetings.

And now, that's actually one of my favorite things about being an author - getting to know the people who write the books I enjoy so much. So I invite you to get to know Stephanie too.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Hooray, my computer issues are fixed!!! (After many phone calls, a few forty mile trips, and much frustration! However right now, I’m choosing to see it as “all’s well that ends well!!)

Okay, so now that issue is finished (I hope!), what’s been on my mind this week? Well, I’ve been pondering my time wasting practices, which I must admit I have quite a few. (Remember Mafia Wars???) Now I have a new one—thanks to my youngest daughter, I’ve been introduced to “Angry Birds.” She convinced me that I really needed the free download on my cellphone and I agreed. Probably not the smartest move on my part—I tend to be somewhat competitive, not necessarily with others, but definitely myself. I have a tendency to think if I only do something one more time, I can do it better. And “Angry Birds” wonderfully feeds off this mindset!!

For those of you who haven’t played this game, it goes like this—on each level you’re given a certain number of birds…some explode; some drop bombs in the shape of eggs; some boomerang; etc….and your goal is to launch them toward a group of pigs (why pigs, I have no idea, but there it is!). Once the birds hit the pigs, they’re destroyed. When they’re all destroyed, you win and can move on to the next level, with more pigs and more birds. Okay, here’s the kicker, the pigs are surrounded by “stuff”—concrete blocks, glass, wooden planks, rocks—and if the bird doesn’t hit at exactly the right angle, the pig doesn’t die. I know—this sounds like the stupidest game ever invented, but they’ve added another little quirk—sound effects—and if you lose, the pigs laugh at you! Imagine how annoying it is to have a video image of a pig mocking you! It’s at that point my competitive spirit kicks in!! I will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to kill those suckers! And if I can’t? This is the really sad part—I hand my cellphone over to one of my nine year old grandsons and they do it for me!

Least you think I’m the only strange one out there—“Angry Birds” is quite popular. Either a cartoon show, or a movie, I can’t recall which, is in the works. You can even go online to a website that will show you how to win on each level.
I haven’t heard of an “Angry Birds” intervention website, but if one is created, I think I’d better join!!!

How about you? What are your favorite time wasting practices? Any other “Angry Birds” addicts out there?

See you next week—I’ve got one more pig to go before heading to the next level!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Big Day at our House


Today is my husband's birthday, and it's a BIG one. That might help explain why I'm so late getting this blog posted today. I'm still recovering from the birthday party I hosted for him over the weekend.


Since he's the birthday boy, he gets to decide how he wants to spend his day. There's some talk of finding the oldest bars in Cleveland. Hmmm...my Pepper Martin mysteries are set in Cleveland, and this sounds like research to me. Think I'll be able to convince the IRS?


I'd promise pictures, but my camera just died. You'll have to use your imaginations.


Unless there are mugshots, of course.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stuff happens, and that's fine by me

Beware - I'm going to get all philosophical on you this morning, but I promise it has a point. You see, I was going to blog about how things happen for a reason and use my latest book as an example.

I'm on a fairly tight deadline for this new book, The Monster MASH, about a group of otherworldy surgeons in the middle of a supernatural war. It's a fun book to write and I'm enjoying every minute of it. But I also know that I have to stick to my writing schedule in order to have this puppy finished in time. So I'm typing away a few days ago, really excited that Chapter 12 is working out. It's a pivotal chapter and one that I need to get right. I'm almost to the end when - zap! My computer shuts off. When I re-start and go back to my file, it's gone. At least most of it is gone.

Yes, something like that can knock a writer like me off schedule, but it also has the tendency to convince me that whatever I wrote that I don't have anymore must have been great. It turns into Shakespeare in my mind. It becomes The Words that Never Were. Never again will I write words like that. Readers will know. They'll read the new Chapter 12 and think. "Wow - if Angie had only written it better. Somehow, I knew she could have."

Illogical? Maybe. But there you have it.

Anyhow, to get back into writing, I had to basically let go of what I'd created and start something new. Because of my particular writing style, there's no way to re-capture how the chapter came together. Sure the events are the same, but the interactions will not be. They can't be. I don't know what I did last time. Fortunately for this chapter, the new one turned out better. It seems that knowing more about the chapter going in helped me to write more fun, more focused conversations and interactions. I'd even venture to say it was good my first draft pulled a kamikaze.

And life can work that way too. I found that out (again) a few mornings ago.

I was driving back home from dropping my son off at preschool when the truck in front of me on the highway dropped a hay bale. There was no way to avoid it. In fact, I don't even remember thinking anything except "There's a big hay bale coming" before I hit it going 65 mph. Now I'm fine. My Jeep is less fine (RIP to the front wheel well), but it was generally okay. The truck stopped. The police came. They cleaned the parts of my car out off the highway.

But things wouldn't have been fine if I hadn't rolled a red light two weeks ago (boy, I'm making myself sound bad here). But yes, I rolled it. A police officer pulled me over and asked to see my insurance. I had this great file in my car with all my insurance cards. Every stinking one of them. From 2006 on. The poor police man stood there in the cold and chatted with me while I went through years of insurance cards. I simply couldn't find my most current card. The police officer thought it was kind of funny and let me off with a warning to stop rolling reds and to clean out my file. I think one of his comments was even. "You looked so organized." Ha. Well, after that, I got organized. I found my card and put it where it was easy to find. And the other day, on the side of Highway 44, I really needed it.

So yes, bad stuff happens. It happens more often than we'd like. But sometimes that's good. Because it helps you out when you really need it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Caution! Upside Down Deer Ahead!

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to the Something Wicked authors for allowing me to join their fabulous blog! They are wonderful ladies!

Just like the sign to the left implies, in a deep and meaningful way LOL, I want to talk about how being different is a good thing. Take a look at our lovely sign here. I've actually seen a sign like this off the side of the road. Really. My husband and I were driving past it, and I blurted out, "Upside-down deer!" It was quite a sight and my imagination went wild about seeing upside-down leaping across the road. (And how much money I'd be willing to pay to witness this event.) This made me think later about books in general. I've always been an avid reader. My mother loved to read and she passed that on to me. My first books were the Zebra Historical Romances with the little shiny icons on the upper right hand side. They offered adventures in the Wild West to hot trysts with an Indian warrior. For me, those books were something new that I hadn't read before. (Something other than Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters Club.)

After high school, I went into college. I will admit, reading while in college was very difficult. I still read, but not as much as I wanted. But it was then that I realized that I still wanted something new, something different.

It wasn't until around 5 years ago that I was browsing at a book store, Books-A-Million in particular, and I discovered a book by Kelley Armstrong, called BITTEN. It was on the top shelf next to the new releases. The book was so different compared to what I had read lately. It had that upside down deer thing going for it. :) The cover was different as well. At the time, I was checking out the sci-fi/fantasy aisle and hoped I would find a gem. This particular book was it. I inhaled the first one and rushed back to the store to buy as many as I could. I remember thinking at the time, I sure hope she writes as fast as I'm reading them! Another title I fell in love with was S.L. Viehl's STAR DOC series. It wasn't the title that grabbed me, but the writing.

Now that I'm an author, keeping up with good books is a bit more difficult. And this has nothing to do with time. As an author, I'm part of a community of awesome folks. I see their books, which I might not have seen before, and then I turn into a kid in a candy store. Oh look, shiny! I still browse the book store aisles, but with the Internet and Google at my disposal I've turned into a book/e-book hoarder. Right now my to be read list is very long and continues to grow as new releases come out. With all those books begging for my attention it's that book that's different that will grab my attention first. I want something to fall in love with, and a good book that doesn't follow the norm does that for me.

So, with all those titles out there to read, what makes you stop and pick up a book? Is it the title, the cover, and way the author weaves their words together. I'd love to know.

As thanks for stopping by, I'm holding some giveaways! I have a copy of Jaye Wells' new release GREEN-EYED DEMON. I also have Erin Kellison's book SHADOW BOUND and Jessica Anderson's book DEMON KEEPERS. All of them waiting for a reader to give them a happy home. :) Next week I'll announce the winners. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New blogger in the house! Let's welcome Shawntelle Madison!

Something Wicked Welcomes Shawntelle Madison! Yes, we have a new blogger. Shawntelle is going to be taking over on Mondays.

She's a newly published writer. Shawntelle sold her first book this past October in a two book contract to Random House Del Rey.

The title is still pending. It was originally called Hoarding Your Howels, in which the heroine, a werewolf from New Jersey, is afflicted with a hoarding obsession and tormented by the sexy alpha male ex she still loves.

Or as Shawntelle says:
My heroine, a werewolf named Natalya Stravinsky, was an idea I plucked out of one of my husband’s medical journals. An article on obsessive compulsive disorders turned into a fun story about what would happen if the love you thought you’d always have disappeared for a period of time and then returns a few year later. Of course, when he comes back all hell breaks loose in your quiet world and you not only have to see if things can work out with him again, but you have to fix your own broken life as well. I can’t wait to share Nat’s journey!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The news as I see it

Quick note from Angie: The computer gremlins are still eating wires and dancing around on Shirley's hard drive, so I'm posting her blog for her again today. I tell you, I've got to give her credit for hanging in there. Those of you who know computers and are good at these things are no doubt saying, "You just connect port A to port B and install this other thing and oh by the way, here's a flux capaciter. I built a spare one in my garage last night. As for the rest of us? Well, we're hanging in there.

PLAYER INFORMATION
Now here's Shirley:
This is going to be a short post—I’m still working on trying to get my computer issues cleared up. (Right now I’d like to send every single person who’s ever come up with a Trojan, spyware, maleware, and all the other bugs designed to annoy, to a desert island and leave them there.)
However, something did come up this week that’s rather amusing, and once again, pointed out the dangers of shooting ones mouth off too soon (mine).
This week I received the design copy for Love Lies Bleeding. Not only does the publisher put a lot of work into the front cover, but also thought is put into how the chapter headings look—how big...what kind of font; how the back cover is designed; how the title and author’s name appears on the back; etc. And that’s what I received from my editor this week—the mock-up of how the chapters will appear, what the back cover will be, and what the first page will look like.
Well...do you remember a few weeks ago when I kind of teased about how the trend seems to be to tack on the words “a novel” to works of fiction right after the title and how I thought that was silly??? I guess I’ve joined the ranks of silly. Yes, the first page reads Love Lies Bleeding —A Novel by Jess McConkey!
Get the knife and fork—it’s time to eat crow.
That’s it for this week—everyone have a good one and see you next Thursday!
Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Magic of Mysteries . . . and More!


Casey here, please join me in welcoming today's guest, Linda O. Johnston.
I love writing paranormal stories. I also love writing stories that aren’t paranormal. What’s similar about them? They’re all fiction! And there’s magic in everything we write.

I want to thank Casey Daniels for inviting me to be a guest blogger here at Wicked Authors. I read Casey’s post on January 26 about the magic of writing. I pretty much agree with her--and especially enjoy her statement that she can kill people for a living and get away with it. Me, too! She also pointed out the magic of being a reader, and being transported to places we’ve never been, experiencing things beyond our own lives. Beautiful! She also described, eloquently, the magic--or lack thereof--in the writing process, and I love what she said about it.

What I especially like to consider, though, is how, from the writer’s perspective, our plots and characters are themselves magical.

To me, the magic in writing is the creation of people and situations, anywhere, at any time in the past, present or future--and in this world or some other--and make them turn out the way we want them to. Within reason, of course, and also within the parameters of the genre or subgenre in which we’re writing.

There’s definitely magic, in some ways, in the paranormal romances I write for Harlequin Nocturne. I’ve created Alpha Force, a highly covert military unit of shapeshifters.

But I believe my mysteries, too, evoke magic.

Take my new Pet Rescue Mystery series. It’s a spinoff of my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mystery series, both from Berkley Prime Crime.

My new protagonist is Lauren Vancouver, the director of HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter. She was introduced in HOWL DEADLY, the eighth Kendra mystery, and also appeared in FELINE FATALE, the ninth.

Now she stars in stories of her own, starting with BEAGLEMANIA. Saving animals is her passion, and she’ll be involved with some rather difficult situations such as being there when the puppies and their parents are saved from the puppy mill. The second Pet Rescue Mystery, THE MORE THE TERRIER, starts off with Lauren learning that her mentor in pet rescue has turned into an animal hoarder, and Lauren has to help deal with that, too.

What’s magical about these mysteries?

Well, they’re cozy mysteries, so they of course contain murders that must be solved--by my protagonist Lauren. It’s somewhat magical that a woman trained as a veterinary technician could come up with a business plan that impressed a wealthy pet supplies mogul enough that he hired her to run the animal shelter he was starting. Plus, it’s magical that she can solve murders better than the police can.

It’s even more magical that, in the Pet Rescue Mysteries, “no-kill” means pets, not people!

In other words, no matter what else happens in these stories, the animals will come out of it all just fine. Yes, that’s fiction. Magic. Why? Because it’s not, unfortunately, reality.

Since I started researching Lauren’s stories I’ve met with pet rescuers of many kinds who would love to make it so. I visited shelters, both public and private. I talked to people. Met animals.

I’ve been personally drawn into pet rescue, too. I’ve begun volunteering at a private shelter, Pet Orphans of Southern California. I’m a dog adoption counselor there, which means I screen potential adopters and introduce them to dogs they might fall in love with. It’s a thrill for me when I see that the people and pets I’ve introduced are now a family. That’s reality--and, yes, it’s also a touch magical! I’m also the Los Angeles Pet Rescue Examiner, for the Examiner.com website.

The greater reality is that private, no-kill shelters are good venues for rescue animals to wind up, since they’ll most often be kept there, or fostered, until a good forever family is found for them. That’s because those shelters can usually pick and choose which animals to take in, and therefore select those they consider most adoptable. Public shelters, on the other hand, must generally take in all stray or unwanted animals within their jurisdiction, and when they need more room to accept the next batch, they have to put down some of their residents to provide that extra space.

That’s the magic of my Pet Rescue Mysteries. Yes, there will be endangered animals, primarily dogs and cats. But as I said, in my stories, “no-kill” means pets, not people. Despite the stories being cozy murder mysteries in which Lauren will need to figure out whodunit and why, the mysteries she’s solving will be the murders of people. The pets will all survive, and thrive.

Yes, that’s fiction. And, perhaps, magic--the magic of an author being able to select the parameters of what occurs in her stories.

Please come visit me at www.LindaOJohnston.com and at www.KillerHobbies.blogspot.com on Wednesdays. Friend me on Facebook. I’d love to hear what you think of the magic of fictional pet rescue--and BEAGLEMANIA!




Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To edit or not to edit

There has been an interesting discussion on one of my writer blogs about whether or not authors should fiddle around with their own books.

This wasn't even an issue a few years ago. When you turned in that final version to the publisher, they printed it and that was that. But now, many authors are re-releasing older books in e-book form. The writers have rights back, so they can technically change anything they want.

But should they?

Is this akin to George Lucas adding characters to the original Star Wars movies? Should creative people leave work alone already. Or would more subtle changes work better?

It's hard to say. It seems to be a very personal decision on the part of the creator of the work. Then again, when movie watchers or readers are involved, when does it stop becoming the artist's work and start becoming "property" of the fans who enjoy it?

I faced a similar issue back in November when I decided to re-release the first book in the Accidental Demon Slayer series. There are things I know now (after writing four books in the series) that I didn't know while creating The Accidental Demon Slayer. There are also a few things I would have done differently. So I did them.

Some readers have noticed and written (all positive so far), others reading for the first time would have no idea. I simply added world building details, bits of history, little slices of life that weren't present in the first version. Then there were a few words here and there that had been changed by editors that I changed back. Ha. My version. My rules.

It was a lot of fun, and 99% of the book stayed the same. The story is the same. All the characters are there, only better - or at least that's what I think.

So what does everyone else think about re-edits and re-releases of movies? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Or does it just depend?