Friday, April 29, 2011

Was it just luck?

Several years ago, I was exercising my dogs at the school behind my house. There are about eight fields and a chain link fence goes around all of the fields. At the bottom of these fields are all these thick woods and blackberry bushes (nature preserve).  

So, anyway, I'm strolling along with my pooches on a Monday afternoon around 3:30 and this man is on the other side of the fence at the top of the fields. He's in his seventies and calls me over. So I go over (not too close in case he wants to abduct and kill me), but once I get close, he asks me if I'd seen a white dog. I said I hadn't, and he proceeds to tell me that his dog Angel has been missing for five days.  

He'd taken her to the vet down the street and she'd bolted as soon as he opened the door (she's afraid of the vet) and had been gone ever since. The seventy-three year old guy had been looking for her for TEN hours a day for five days. They'd gotten three sightings (including one at the school) but she hadn't been around anymore when he'd arrived. So he's all worried and upset and telling me how he's sure she must be so hungry and how he has put up flyers at all the vets. So he gives me a flyer and there's a photo of "Angel" and she's on what is clearly his bed, so this dog is LOVED. So I take the flyer and shove it in my pocket and continue on my way, wishing and wishing that I could find this poor hungry dog for this seventy-year old man spending ten hours a day searching her. 

So, the week goes by and I'm thinking (hoping and hoping) they must have found this dog by now, but I kept looking whenever I was at the fields.  

So then, finally, on that Thursday night, I was lying in bed and I started thinking of the dog. I visualized it showing up on my doorstep. I concentrated all my energy into this visualization, doing my best to compel this dog to come to me. I felt like I HAD to find this dog.

So, on Friday, I had a business lunch, and then played tennis and then worked out, and by the time I got in the car to come home it was so late that I decide the dogs weren't getting their romp in the field this afternoon. I simply had to get work done.

But by the time I got near my house, I decided I'd exercise them. Just ten minutes. I had to do it.

So I drove straight to the school and hit tennis balls for them just at the top of the field. So after about twenty minutes, I decided it was time to go, so I turned and was heading back to my car. I took one last scan around the field and suddenly saw this white blur waaaaay far away at the bottom of the field (remember, this is like three fields away). So I stare at it, trying to see what it was. Finally, I decide that it's definitely got four legs. But lots of owners walk their dogs here, so I'm looking to see if I can see a person.

I can't.

So I sprint to my car for a leash and then turn and run all the way down the fields (I'm not a runner so I was near to passing out by the time I got down there). By the time I got down there, she was gone, and I was pretty sure she'd actually been on a hill behind the school fields that went into the woods.

But as I was running down the field, I saw a man heading up that field where I'd seen the dog (he was strolling along slowly, so I knew he wasn't the owner of the missing dog b/c he was too relaxed), so I wondered if maybe the guy owned this white dog and they were heading off for a stroll in the woods.

Either way, I wasn't going to go off in the woods where some strange guy was, so I decided to just walk along the bottom of the field, where a chain link fence separates the field from the woods. So I'm walking along and then all of a sudden, I SEE THE DOG! She's right on the other side of the fence and I know it's her!!!! So I call her name and she stops and stares at me.


So I call her again, and she looks at me.  

Then she turns around and RUNS AWAY!

ARGH!

I can't go after her because the fence is in the way, so I sprint along the fence to where it ends and run across this bridge and then down the boardwalk that goes through the wooded area. So I'm calling her and calling her and she's not coming. But I KNOW she's in there. 

So I turn around and run/walk all the way back to my car (I'm sweating buckets by this point and my chest about to explode because I am NOT a runner). So I throw the dogs in and drive back to my house, rush inside, throw my coat on the floor as I vault up the steps to my bedroom where I'd left the flyer with the phone numbers on it. I have to call them and get them to the field before the dog leaves.

So I get to my dresser, and THE FLYER'S NOT THERE!  
 

I search the trash can in case my dh tossed it, I look under the dresser, I look everywhere and it's GONE!  I can't believe I was so close to the dog and can't do ANYTHING!  

Then I remember that he said he'd posted it at the local vets, so I call my vet. I'm frantically telling them that I saw this lost dog and I couldn't get her and I think the flyer might be there. So the receptionist runs out to the reception area, finds the flyer and reads me the phone numbers. 

So, I call the first number and NO ONE IS THERE!  So I leave a detailed message and my phone number. 

Then I call the second number and NO ONE IS THERE! So I leave another detailed message and my phone number. 

Then I sit down at my computer, thinking of this poor dog that has been lost for NINE days and this poor seventy-three year old man out there searching for her ten hours a day and my heart is breaking because I had come SO close and I'd failed. I felt horrible! 

Then two hours later, the phone rings.

It's the owner.
 

He told me he'd gotten my message, raced over there and went down the boardwalk calling her name. Then suddenly he heard her barking!!!! But she was stuck in the thick woods and blackberry bushes and couldn’t get to him! So, she’s barking like crazy, desperate for him to come get her, but he couldn’t reach her, so he had to LEAVE her there and go back down the boardwalk and over the bridge and along the fence that I'd been walking beside when I saw her. 

And he called her and she came racing over to the fence, barking like crazy for him! She was right there, on the other side of the fence. But he couldn't get over the fence!  

So he went along the fence, searching for a way over, and then he found this tree that had fallen over the fence, so this 73 year old man crawled along this tree trunk to get over the fence. He did it, and got to his dog! Then they had to find their way out of the woods, but they did and now they are both home! He said he was so shaken up by finding her that he could barely think!

He said on that day he'd finally started thinking that it was time to give up. She'd been loose in a high-traffic area for NINE days. He said if it wasn't for my call, they wouldn't have gone back. They would have given up. But instead, she's home and he's happy and everything is perfect.

So, do you believe that there was some bigger power calling me and that dog to each other? Or was it a total coincidence?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There's Malice Afoot!

All right, I tried to be very clever and include a quote here from Macbeth about "malice domestic." For reasons known only to the gods of cyberspace, the blog won't let me post with that quote, something about opening and closing HTML. Whatever the heck that is. So pretend Macbeth is talking here about Duncan being dead and how "malice domestic" can harm him no more!


Ah yes, malice domestic! Thanks to Mr. Shakespeare and Macbeth for providing me the quote. You see, Malice Domestic is where I’m headed tomorrow.

What is it? Malice is a mystery writers and readers conference held every year. This year’s conference is in Bethesda, Maryland, and as always, I’m looking forward to it.

Friday features the (in)famous Malice Go Round, aka, Speed Dating for Writers. Readers gather at round tables in the hotel ballroom and writers go from table to table in pairs. Trick is, each writer has exactly two minutes to talk about his/her work, show off latest books, etc. A bell rings, the other writer talks. The bell rings, the writers switch tables and the fun starts all over again.

All told, the Go Round usually takes about an hour and a half and by that time, the writers are exhausted. It’s stressful, tiring, and I wouldn’t miss it! Always fun to get face-to-face time with readers.

Also on my schedule this coming weekend, a visit to the Crime & Punishment Museum in DC. Hoping to have lots of pics and plenty to blog about from there.

On Sunday, I’ll be on a panel to discuss using real people as characters in books. My real person is President James A. Garfield who was featured in my last year’s release, "Tomb with a View." Of course, he’s not exactly real in the book since he’s a ghost, but it should be fun, anyway.

Will send a full report next week. In the meantime, watch out for treason, steel, poison, foreign levy and oh yes, Malice Domestic!


And if you're in the Pittsburgh area, don't forget Monday's Festival of Mystery. Since the cyber Powers that Be aren't cooperating today, I won't include a link. Just check it out at the Mystery Lovers site!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Romance trading cards - do you have 'em?




Happy news - I just finished the manuscript for The Monster MASH last night. This is the newest series about a group of supernatural MASH surgeons who work on the monsters. The one I just completed is the first book in the series and I'll be sure to update you here once I have a release date and such.

But what I really wanted to talk about today is this new phenomenon of romance trading cards. Have you seen them? They're everywhere lately and I think they're so neat. They're a great way to visualize different books and I just love getting them autographed. In fact, there's an entire website dedicated to them at www.romancetradingcards.com Our own lovely Shawntelle Madison set it up and did a fabulous job (as usual).

The new trading cards for the Accidental Demon Slayer series just came in and I'm really pleased with how they turned out. In fact, if you'd like a set, just post below between now and midnight on Monday, May 2!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Storms and Other Reasons to Feel Grateful

The past few days has been unusual to say the least. This past weekend, the Saint Louis, Missouri area got some very bad storms. My Saint Louis neighborhood was affected. It all began on Friday night when around 8 pm the tornado hit. My home wasn't damaged, but the poor folks across the street as well as many homes less than a mile from me sustained damage. :( My family and I spent the night and the next day without power. Initially, we couldn't even leave our subdivision. The fire and police needed the main road for emergencies.

Not many folks could get around either way. Right after the storms, not more than fifty feet from my house there were two trees across the street. It's kind of shocking to think to myself: wow, a tornado hit less than five hundred feet from my house. I dodged a bullet. A humongous bullet.

This weekend was just another reason to stay strong and keep myself distracted. I was so tired this weekend from the lack of sleep. When there's no power it's so easy to fall into staring at the wall and imitating a rock. I tried to do some reading, but most of all, I tried to keep up with my copy edits. Since I'm into edit-mode right now I'm not really writing anything new. I'm more or less recharging the creative battery. I'm actually glad that I wasn't writing anything new with a heavy due date cause right now I'm too tired to write something eloquent in the computer.

For the past few weeks I've been vigilant about backing up my documents on Google Docs or in my DropBox. I think it's way too easy to lose everything these days. (I'm famous for losing my car keys, but never my glasses since blind people don't get a lot of work done...) Whether to a fire, tornado, or even an earthquake. After spending months working on my manuscript, I wouldn't want to lose not only my belongings but my words as well.

I feel so grateful that no one was seriously hurt in this storm and that I have a chance to write this post from my home. Hope everyone has a great week!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Taking the Time to Chill Out

Last year, on my daughter's spring break, I was in the middle of deadline craziness. I worked most of the time, and didn't get to spend as much quality mom time as I would have liked, and then suddenly vacation was over and my daughter was back in school, and I was left with a feeling of emptiness.

At the time, I knew what I was missing out on, and I was bothered by it, but I was too absorbed in my deadline dementia to get my head above water long enough to breathe, let alone take the week off to chill out and just be a mom. I had a job. I had things to get done. I had to work. I had no choice.

Or did I?

Looking back, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I'd taken that week off, my book would still have been finished. It would have been the same book. I just would have made up that time in other ways, like maybe less time procrastinating… (who, me, procrastinate)?

So, this year, spring break rolled around, and I was eyeball deep in a new project. I had barely gotten traction, was still having to work hard to keep track of everything, and was still having to dig deep to figure out who these characters were. I was at the point in the book where I need to be deeply involved every day or I lose track of everything. But spring break hit last Friday, and I remembered last year, so I made a conscious decision to step back. To be a mom. To let the book sit. To take a vacation myself.

And it's been beautiful. Loads of stress have washed off me, because it's the first time in years that I've actually given myself permission not to work. My daughter and I are having the best time, and the days are bright and lovely, and my heart is at peace. And, you know what? This afternoon, my daughter was playing quietly in the den, and I was sitting on the couch hanging out with her, and I picked up my computer, and before I knew it, I'd written five pages. I didn't try. I didn't care if I did. And I was constantly talking with my daughter while I was doing it. But suddenly, I looked down and realized I written five pages. And they were good ones, too! It had been fun, it had been easy, and it had been done when I was fully engaged as a mom. How cool was that? In that moment, I had everything I wanted, and it was effortless.

It made me realize that sometimes, by finally giving ourselves permission to stop creating, accomplishing, delivering and doing, we allow ourselves to actually step into the full power of our being. Life doesn’t have to be tough. We don't need to sacrifice things that matter to us. Sometimes, if we just chill out and let things fall into place, things can come together in ways we could never have manufactured for ourselves.

When was the last time you stepped back and allowed yourself to simply accomplish nothing? How did it feel? Did it derail you, or somehow, strangely, keep you even more on track than ever?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter!


I love adventure and the dictionary defines it in the following way:

1.an exciting or very unusual experience.2. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

Since I lead a fairly mundane life…I don’t go mountain climbing or bungee jumping (not really fond of heights!); I don’t find myself in exotic locations (trips to conferences are about as “exotic” as I get); and at my age, I’m wise enough not to seek out hazardous situations! No, to me, “adventure” means anything that doesn’t quite turn out the way one expects. And I do have plenty of those! Particularly ones that involve my grandchildren…for example what I refer to as “The Easter Egg Tree Adventure.”

I think part of my role as a grandmother is to give my grandchildren experiences that their parents might not, and recently I came up with the brilliant idea of making an Easter egg tree. At first, I’d thought to use real eggs and just blow them out. That was until a friend reminded me that said grandchildren were boys and under the age of ten. She made the point that little boys and fragile eggs really don’t mix. Instead of nice pristine eggs, I’d wind up with a bunch of broken egg shells. She suggested using plastic eggs wrapped in paper mache. Here’s what I learned after this particular adventure:

Three little boys + three pans of runny flour and water + three dogs + numerous strips of paper=one HUGE mess.

My table was covered with stuck-on goo; I had “floury” hand prints on numerous surfaces, such as cloth covered chair seats; and the dogs considered the drying eggs to be a food source. (Who knew they’d steal them off the table and enjoy eating the flour-soaked paper! Thanks to their thieving ways, we lost about a dozen, and my floors were littered with itsy-bitsy pieces of paper and chewed plastic.)

Did the tree wind up looking like I had expected once we’d hung the remaining eggs? Nope. Martha Stewart would no doubt be horrified at the centerpiece that sits proudly on my kitchen table! The plaster holding the branches upright in the container didn’t harden and those branches now lean precariously against its sides. I didn’t mix the flour and water well enough, and the eggs, in addition to being lumpy, are covered with little flakes of brown “stuff”. Plus the dried paper didn’t absorb the Easter egg coloring as well as one might expect and most of them turned out a rather nasty pastel.

BUT…did the boys have fun?? Yes, they did! And in the end, isn’t that what an “adventure” is supposed to be?

How about you? What are some of your “adventures”?

That’s it for this week—have a Happy Easter!!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Finally!



Finally, the computer gods have cooperated and I'm able to post the cover of the up-and-coming "Button Holed."


The book is the first of the new Button Box mystery series. Its heroine is Josie Giancola, a thirty-something Chicago resident who, thanks to the fact that she once worked on a no-budget indie film that has since become a cult hit, is financially able to quit her job and live her dream--owning her own button shop.



Josie is one of the country's leading experts io antique and vintage buttons and she's put her heart and soul into the Button Box. It's located in a refurbished brownstone in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood and at the shop, she's carefully sorted and arranged and displayed the more than 100,000 buttons in her collection.



That is, until the book opens and Josie comes in early one day to find two burglars trashing the place. Too bad for Josie, things get even worse from there, especially when a Hollywood star who's come to Josie for buttons for her wedding gown is found murdered right there in the shop.
The police don't have much to go on, and the only clue at the scene is a button--one that doesn't belong in Josie's collection.



The book hits store shelves on September 6, and yes, I will be Kylie Logan for this series. Since there are no paranormal elements, it seemed best to separate it from the Casey Daniels name.
"Button Holed" was a lot of fun to write and I've had a great time doing research. Last week, I helped judge a button contest. But that story is a blog of another day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tasted any good books lately?

By Jackie Gamber

BookTasting is my favorite way to merge my two highest passions: books and tea. After all, what is better than reading, except reading along with an ideal cuppa? That’s what BookTasting is all about: finding the perfect tea companion to enhance or complement a book for the best overall reading experience.

A fascinating element of tea drinking is the varieties that have evolved to create such a palette of choices from a single plant (Camellia Sinensis)--depending on the region, harvest season, and the fermentation process. Add to that the blends of herbs, flowers, or other flavors, and tea choices become almost endless! It can be serious fun to explore them.

And talk about fun! Angie Fox’s Accidental Demon Slayer starts off rollicking and never quits. Her main character, Lizzie Brown, meets her biological grandma for the first time on her thirtieth birthday. Not just any grandma--this one is a Harley-riding witch who seems to know more about Lizzie’s special powers than Lizzie herself. Lizzie has to learn quick, though! Because Hell itself knows about Lizzie’s powers, too, and is bent on taking her out.

I’ve chosen an oolong tea as companion, because oolong has a particularly loamy sort of scent, and, depending on fermentation, can even lean a little toward brackish – just the kind of thing you might get a whiff of from Grandma’s witch brew (kept conveniently in a Smuckers jar for easy hurtling). But don’t let the scent of oolong put you off tea drinking! The color tends toward pale, and the taste is mild and earthy-soothing. And Teavana manages to put some fun into their Yumberry Wulong blend, with big chunks of fruit and palate-pleasing berry. It even brews a fun pink color! I add a little bit of sweetener to soften the tea’s tannins.

The result? Teavana’s Yumberry Wulong brews a cup that hints toward dark depths of danger, but meets its match with charming berry attitude. Just what I enjoyed with Angie’s The Accidental Demon Slayer.

And the bonus is—the tea blend looks great in a Smuckers jar.

I’d love to hear your comments! You could win a jelly jar full of Teavana’s Yumberry Wulong, perfect aside Angie’s book. To enter, post your comment about your favorite book companion drink (hot or cold), and be sure to include a valid email. I’ll choose a name at random, and be in touch.

And swing by my website, www.jackiegamber.com for more BookTastings and giveaways (and to find out the perfect tea with my own fantasy novel Redheart). Say hello there too, for a chance to win a copy of my novel.

Jackie Gamber is an award-winning freelance editor, as well as award-winning author of the fantasy novel Redheart, available now through Seventh Star Press(www.seventhstarpress.com). A veteran of the USAF, she is now, among other things, a rosarian, a professional BookTaster, and an avid believer in imagination. Visit Jackie and her BookTastings on the world wide web at www.jackiegamber.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Showers Bring Copy Edits!

Well, last week at my house was an adventure. And not in a good way! All three of my kids last week had the flu. They were out for an entire week. Which, of course, made working...interesting. My time pretty much amounted to dosing kiddos with meds and taking temperatures every couple of hours. Then I had to prepare meals and convince my kids that keeping up their fluids was a good thing. Not fun at all.

In some other much more pleasant news, my publication date got pushed from February 2012 to May 2012. Like any other author, it will be harder for me to wait for the launch of my first book, but there's a reason for the move. I'm moving from Del Rey, the sci-fi/fantasy imprint, to Ballantine Books, their mainstream line! Ballantine has thrillers, historical, paranormal romance, and much more! I'm thrilled about the move and can't wait to give you more details as I learn them!

My copy edits have also arrived as well! Basically, it's my printed manuscript that the copy editor has gone over and added corrections. It was quite fun to have the Fed-Ex man drop off a thick envelope and to find my manuscript inside. The copy editor had used a green pencil to mark her changes in the manuscript, so basically I have a chance now to read through the whole thing and accept her suggestions or mark STET to leave things as they written. Quite fun! (Well, for now anyway. I'm sure as I get in deeper I might not have so much fun!)

Has anything this month knocked you off kilter? Hope everyone is having a productive April so far!

Friday, April 15, 2011

It All Comes Down to One Word

Kara Goucher.

What does that name mean to you?

It may not mean much to you *yet* but I can’t think of her without tears coming to my eyes, my throat tightening, and I can barely manage to keep myself from jumping up, doing a major fist pump and yelling, “Yeah!”

Why?

Let me tell you a little story about Kara Goucher.

Kara runs for a living.

Running for a living really isn’t that different than writing for a living. It’s a solitary endeavor, with alot of hard work and alot of torturous moments. It’s a profession where you may bust your butt and still not make it where you want to be due to factors outside your control. It’s a profession where very few people make enough to live on, and most have day jobs. It’s a profession full of heartbreak and pain and not nearly enough glory to make up for all the pain. But runners do it anyway because it’s in their blood and they have no choice but to follow their soul. Are they crazy? Yeah, probably, much like writers are crazy.

Kara Goucher was a star when she was in college. NCAA champion, the Next Big Thing.

Then she got hurt.

Started training again.

Got hurt.

Had surgery.

Got hurt again… more surgery… started running… got hurt… and again… and again…

It was as if some great power had it out for Kara, as if she was destined to never make it as a runner. She could never get the break she needed, and time was passing her by.

Three years ago, Kara had to make a choice. It was time to change coaches, and she had to decide whether to keep fighting or accept the harsh hand fate had dealt her.

She could have quit. Many probably thought she should. Many others weren’t even thinking about her one way or another, because she was basically off the map by this point.

But Kara didn’t quit. Why? Because Kara believed she could still do it. She still had dreams, and she wasn’t ready to give up. So Kara switched coaches and dug in yet again.

Then something amazing happened. Kara got healthy. Kara was able to train. Kara finally had her chance.

At the Track & Field World Championships in Japan (as big as the Olympics if you’re a runner) Kara Goucher got a chance to compete for her country, making the US team for only the second time in her career.

I was watching her race, and the commentators ignored Kara for the first 28 minutes of the 32 minute race even though she was running up front. And then finally, one of them noticed her and said, “Wow, that would be shocking if Kara Goucher won a medal” and then proceeded to call her by the name of the Big Name American in the race before correcting himself.

Then, as the race rushed to its conclusion, they announcers used the word “shocking” four more times to describe the possibility of Kara medaling.

You could totally hear what they weren’t saying, that Kara might be up front now, but she’d NEVER be on the stand at the end. It just wouldn’t happen.

Then they were two hundred meters from the finish, and Kara was in third.

Then they were fifty meters from the finish and Kara was in third.

And then she was crossing the finish line, and she’d placed third.

The bronze medal at the World Championships. Kara Goucher.

SHOCKING.
 


But Kara didn’t just win the bronze medal, Kara made history. Kara won the bronze medal in the 10,000 meter race… THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMAN TO EVER MEDAL IN THAT EVENT.

EVER.

Do you realize what the odds of that are? Even the best American women ever hadn’t managed to win a medal in the history of the event, so how could this woman who had barely been noticed for the last few years possibly even entertain the idea of medaling? How could she have run that race, believing she could win and then pulling it off, after an entire career of falling short?

I’ll tell you why she won.

Because she believed in herself.

All along, through all those injury plagued years and those surgeries and those races where she kept getting slower instead of faster, when she watched others have the successes she wanted so badly, when people dismissed her talent and her future, Kara never stopped believing in herself.

In her post race interview, she said that there were only three people in the world who believed she had a chance to medal: herself, her husband and her coach.


But that was all it took.

She believed. Despite all the obstacles in her path, she never stopped believing and she accomplished the impossible.

Some of you may have noticed that I dedicated my May book to Kara Goucher, because even then, before she made history, she inspired me daily with her belief in herself, her perseverance against all odds.

Kara, you were always my inspiration, but now… you give me strength, you give me courage and you give me hope. You are what I think of when times get tough, when I feel like I can’t get through whatever I’m going through.

Kara Goucher, you make me believe.

***
Although, I originally wrote that blog two years ago,there's a very important reason why I re-posted that today.

On Monday, Kara is going for a new record. Kara is going to try to become the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985 (and trying for her own first marathon victory, after coming in a heart-breaking third at Boston in 2009, after leading until the last 1/2 mile).

But as is Kara's way, she has given herself another challenge. No, not another injury to overcome. Kara gave birth six months ago. That's right. Right in the middle of a her career finally taking off, Kara took a break to have a baby, because starting a family meant more to her than finally getting that big win. Not every runner can successfully come back to world class level after taking time off to have a baby. Kara knew that, but Kara knew what she wanted, and she wasn't going to let anyone tell her she couldn't do it.

Her little boy just turned six months old a couple weeks ago, and his mom has been running her heart out for the last six months, trying to get in shape for the race of her life., even when she had to spend days in the hospital when her baby had surgery, even while breast feeding, even through the sleepless nights every new mom has. A marathoner (and any runner), never knows how many races she has left. Monday, Kara is going for it, and she's going for it as a mom.

Kara, you, go girl. I'll be rooting for you every step of the way.

*If you want to follow Kara, she blogs at http://karagoucher.competitor.com/*


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ripples

Last weekend, I had something very distressing happen—someone pirated the entire Ophelia and Abby series. I was successful in getting the site to take them down, and I really don’t want to start a discussion about pirating—some, even authors, are for; and some, like me, are against. And with the proliferation of e-books, I think it’s an argument that’s going to continue for some time.

However, it did start me thinking about ways readers, myself included, can support their favorite authors. The bottom line—publishing is an industry. If an author is lucky enough to sell enough units (books), I really believe that they’ll survive in this business. If not, their publisher is on to the next writer waiting to get their foot in the door, and one who might be a potential bestseller for them.

So how, given the eight hundred thousand books that are available, can one reader help ensure that their favorite authors stay on the lists? Personally, I think word of mouth is the best promotion any author can receive, and the more buzz that’s generated, the better.

If you want to help your favorites, here are just a few suggestions:

1. The most obvious one—share with your friends how much you enjoyed a certain book. I’ve discovered several new authors based on the recommendation of others.

2. If you belong to a book club, suggest that book as a topic for discussion.

3. Encourage your library to order a copy so others will hopefully enjoy the book as much as you did, join that author’s readership, and buy their next release.

4. Attend a book signing, if one is in your area and you have the time. A bookstore is more likely to invite an author back and promote that author’s work, if they (the author) were successful at drawing a crowd.

5. Go to Amazon and take the time to write a review.

6. Tweet about it.

7. Talk about it on other social networks such as Goodreads and Facebook.

8. If you have a blog, write about how much you enjoyed reading that particular book.

To me, all of the above is kind of like dropping a rock into a lake—the ripples go on and on. If you really like a certain book, a certain series—help that author create some ripples!!!

That’s all for this week—see you next Thursday!!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And the Winner is . . .

Thanks to every who played along and joined the 1966 contest last week. It was fun. For those of you who might have wondered about the answers . . . 1. The president was Lyndon Johnson, 2. The best movie Oscar went to . . . well, this turned into something of a trick question, and I apologize for that. Because there are really two "right" answers, I've counted them both. In 1966, the Oscar was presented to Sound of Music. But the best movie of 1966 (presented in 1967) was Man for All Seasons. 3. The legendary Beatles album released that year was Revolver. 4. The sci-fi TV show, Star Trek. 5. And the song so appropriate here at Wicked was Paperback Writer. I used the scientific eeny-meeny-miny-mo method to pick a winner and that person is--drum roll here--Cynthia with the email address of cyn209@juno.com Cynthia, email me at casey@caseydaniels.com with your adress and I'll get a book out to you. Hope you enjoyed partyin' like it was 1966!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where's George?

Yesterday morning, I was going through my wallet to get lunch money for my daughter when I came across a Where's George? dollar bill. I don't know if any of you have ever heard of it, but I hadn't. Still, I was curious, so I went on their website and learned that Where's George? is basically a project where you can track where your little dollar has been.

You enter the serial number and it tells you how far the bill has traveled, how long it spent in certain places. It sounded really neat. In fact, it began to occur to me that my dollar might be having more fun that me. I imagined exotic locales, or even warm places like Florida or California. What if my dollar was used to buy a bit of crab etouffe down in New Orleans or a lobster sandwich in some quaint village in New Hampshire? (Can you tell many of my fantasies revolve around food?)

I entered my dollar's serial numbers into the system and to my wonderment and surprise, my bill was four years old (but it doesn't act like it) and it came from...11 miles away from my house. My dollar spent all of its time in a drawer in Shrewsbury, Missouri. It seemed so anti-climactic. I had dreams for this bill.

So then, in an odd way, I started feeling responsible for showing it a good time. What could I do with this dollar to send it somewhere interesting - or at least farther than the next town?

I have to admit, though, as I thought about it, my foggy morning brain started wandering to other fascinating topics, like my fuzzy socks and where I'd stashed those tea bags I bought last week. And in the end, the Where's George? dollar went into my daughter's back pack to be used as lunch money.

At least it made it 0.5 miles from the house in a day. That has to be a bit more interesting than time spent in a drawer. And I can't help but wonder where it will go next.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Joy of Waiting No More - Fangirl Monday

So far this morning has been dreary and wet outside. (Lovely.) I'm thinking hot cocoa and a warm blanket should make things warm and cozy. I'm still waiting for my copye dits--which should be tossed in my lap quite soon--but in the mean time, I had some fun last Monday at the St. Louis Public Library.

I posted on Monday that I planned to attend the book signing for Jean M. Auel, the author of the Earth's Children series. Her new book THE LAND OF THE PAINTED CAVES came out and I'm so excited to read it. (As a reward after I finish editing my current work in progress.)

Here is a picture of Jean M. Auel and I. She was so nice. Soft-spoken and she was a well of knowledge about history. During her hour long talk, she went into detail about her research, her writing life, and whether or not she plans to write more. Jean said that as a grandmother she's become quite busy. And at 75, she's still sharp and might write if the opportunity opens up in her schedule.




The room was packed! I arrived to the talk at least 15 minutes early and the seats were gone already. But I did get a nice spot at the back of the room. Right in the line of sight of Jean so that I could sit down on the floor and watch her speak.

I hope she continues to write. I love to fall into her books and can't wait to hear about her plans to write more.

Note: I didn't need to get tasered. I got a little excited. That's all. I told Jean about my fangirl tendencies and she just shook my hand with a little laugh and smile. ;)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Into the Darkness

Last night I had a very strange dream. It was late at night, and I was driving my car in a nearby town that I know very well. I was approaching a huge, busy intersection with a lot stores and stoplights and streetlights, and then suddenly, without warning, everything went black.

Not just the stoplights. Not just the streetlights. Not just the fluorescent signs.

The. Entire. Night.

Pitch black. Not even a star or the moon. And there were no sounds either. Complete silence.

It was as if an earth-sized, black-out blanket had been dropped over the world. Utter, impenetrable blackness to all my senses.

 Even though I knew exactly where I was, I had to stop the car. I sat there in this utter void of the senses, waiting for guidance before I could continue. I was calm as I waited, but I didn't drive because I didn't trust that my intuition knew where to go without all the guide posts.

And then, eventually, all the lights and sounds came back on. High levels of action. Construction trucks and yellow flashing lights in the middle of the intersection. Blue police car lights spinning furiously. Cops directing people around the construction. Total chaos and disarray. But somehow, without really having to try to figure out how to do it, I was able to maneuver my car around the obstacles (I did have to drive up onto the train tracks, but the cops didn't seem to mind), and then I was on my way.

Throughout the entire dream, there was no sense of panic for me. I was just calmly allowing things to play out, without judgment, without worry, without the need to forge forward in a frenzied rush to get somewhere.  

People say that dreams are a reflection of what you are experiencing in your life, so I've spent the morning thinking about that dream and what it meant. I realized that I'm at a place in my life where I've made some major shifts both personally and professionally. I haven't the slightest idea how I'm going to get where I want to go, and I don't even know exactly where it is I'm headed. I just know that I've made some really challenging (and scary & daunting) choices lately because my soul has been calling me in a new direction, but I don't know exactly where my next steps are going to be, or how to get there.

So right now, in real life, I'm sitting in the blackout that was my dream. My next steps are fuzzy, and I feel a little uncertain about how this is all going to unfold. But I do know that I'm going in the right direction (even if I don't know exactly what direction that is). And then, as the lights start to blink on, it's chaos. When those moments of clarity do come, it feels like I've taken on more than I can sort through.

To me, that dream was a statement of where I am (alternating between chaos and darkness), and it was the universe's way of telling me that I'm going to figure it out and get to the other side. There might be a little off-roading involved, but even that will be okay (the cops didn't give me a ticket, did they?). So, as I sit down at the computer this morning, I can take a big breath of relief. There's no need to panic. No need to try to rush to solutions. They will present themselves, as long as I stay calm and allow myself to see them.  Everything will be okay.

Phew! That is very good to know! I'm going to revisit that dream whenever things seem too much for me. I'm going to recall that sense of calmness, the lack of urgency to find answers right away, and allow things to unfold as they will.

My experience with my dream last night got me thinking about the power of dreams, and I'm curious about others who have had similar experiences. Have you ever had any dreams that were meaningful for you?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It Takes a Villiage

There’s a saying that I’m sure everyone’s heard and which I’ve always believed to be true…”It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, after this week I think I can say “it takes a village to write a book.”

Let me regress a bit—I’ve been working on two book proposals. One is for a new “Shirley Damsgaard” paranormal series and the other is a new “Jess McConkey” stand alone. My agent wanted three chapters and a synopsis for each of the ideas. I completed them and then requested my critique group which includes Tammy Siler Jones, whom I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and Debi Murray, a terrific friend and reader par excellence, to be beta readers. Here are some of the things they found:

1.I love the word “crossed” and will use it repeatedly to describe someone walking across the room.

2.I like to put my adverbs too far away from my verbs.

3.“Screamed” is much more descriptive than “began to scream.”

4.Tough men don’t say “sorry” or call their aunts “darling.” (They were right, but in defense of the “darling”, a young Cary Grant was flipping through my head as I pictured the character! *g*)

5.I like to leave words out—such as “of”, “to,” “and”, etc.

6.I can’t use a comma correctly to save my life. I put them in where they don’t belong and leave them out where they do.

7.Why was the character walking down the street in the first scene and imagining that someone was following her? It made no sense.

8.Don’t use semi colons if it can be avoided.

9.Breaking up the run on sentences with periods makes the tension higher.

And this one is my favorite and here’s how I originally wrote it:

10.“Dressed in Capri’s and wearing a single strand of pearls, she managed to look cool and unflustered in spite of the heat.” To which Tammy wrote in the margin along with a smiley face—“For godsakes, put a shirt on the woman!” Yes, I had her standing there wearing pants and pearls, but nothing else! So yeah—I guess she would be feeling cool since I had her naked from the waist up! Unflustered? Not so much probably! (Btw—she’s now wearing a coral top along with the pearls and Capri’s.)

How did I not catch this “stuff” myself? I can’t speak for other writers, but in my case, especially when it comes to leaving things out, I know what I meant. I don’t stop and think that someone who isn’t privy to where the story’s headed, or doesn’t know the details concerning each character, might not come away with the impression I had intended. And also, because I know what I meant, when I’m reading it back to myself, my brain comprehends those intentions, not necessarily what’s actually written on the page. It literally skips over the missing bits and pieces.

Because of these ladies and the time they spent going over the early chapters of these two books, my chapters read smoother and flow better, the characters are more well-rounded, and the plot makes more sense.

So here’s to my beta readers—thanks for being part of my village!!!!

That’s it for this week—have a good one!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love Bites: the story behind the story

Happy vampire news! I have new short story out. It's called Love Bites and it's the only vampire novella I've ever written. There's a bit of a story behind this one as well. You see, a few years ago, I was asked to write a fun story for The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. And in typical Angie fashion, I jumped to it.
I always know where my plots are going, but I let the characters develop along the way. And in this book, the characters decided to get it on. For about a chapter. It's a lot hotter than my usual style, but worked perfectly for the story.
Well, the editor saw it and had me tone things down for the book that came out in 2009. So I did. But it made me kind of sad because I loved the steamy parts. I thought that was it until the advent of all of this e-publishing technology. So now, I've put my version of Love Bites out as a two-dollar download. This is my "director's cut" and I like it so much better. The characters are sure having more fun. And, hey, they're getting more exercise too. Exercise is good, right?
Anyhow, it's up on Amazon, Nook and other formats right now, so I invite you to take a look. In the meantime, here's the blurb:
Vampire Princess Katarina Volholme D'Transylvania didn't kill her stony, passionless husband, but she's not shedding too many tears, either. That is until her father arranges another marriage for her three days after the funeral. She's tired of being used, ignored and married off. And so she runs...
Royal Bodyguard Fionnlagh MacLaomainn doesn't know much about the maverick princess on the lamb. He just needs to bring her back in time for the wedding. But when he manages to capture her on the back of his Harley, their wild ride takes them to places neither one of them could have ever imagined.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We're Gonna Party Like It's 1966

First things first . . . my thanks to Angie who volunteered to switch blogging days with me so I could be here today, the release day for Pepper Martin mystery #7, "A Hard Day’s Fright." As I mentioned last week, in "Fright," Pepper meets the ghost of a teenager who attended a Beatles concert in 1966–and was never seen again. It only seems natural that if we’re going to do a little contest, it be based on that year. So slip on your mini-skirt, tease your hair (unless you’re one of those cool girls who’s wearing hers long and straight) and get to work on these five questions about 1966. I’ll randomly choose a winner from the people who send me the right answers, and I’ll send out a copy of "A Hard Day’s Fright." Since you don’t want to post your answers where everyone can see them and copy them and not have to work to find them, send them to me privately at: casey@caseydaniels.com And post a note here on the blog telling me you entered. Good luck! Here goes: 1. In 1966, the president of the United Sates was ________________________________. 2. In 1966, the Best Movie Oscar went to ______________________________________. 3. Since "Fright" has a Beatles connection, we need a Beatles question. In August of ‘66, the Beatles released a legendary album called __________________________________. 4. In September of ‘66, a sci-fi TV show premiered to mixed reviews. It is now considered a classic. Its title ________________________________________________________. 5. In May of 1966, the Beatles released a single that shot to the top of the charts. Its title is especially appropriate here at Wicked Authors. That is __________________________.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Joy of a Long Wait

So far things are going well with COVETED. Pretty soon there will be a cover shoot for my book which sounds exciting and fun! (Could I be hired on to help prepared my hero Thorn? Rub lotion, pick the wardrobe? Pretty please?)

In other news, I'm pretty excited about today. Tonight's the night I've waited for many years. I will see Jean M. Auel here in St. Louis when she signs her book, THE LAND OF THE PAINTED CAVES! I'm so excited! I've read all the books in her series since I was in high school. And well, it's been a while since Shawntelle was in high school. To have the next book come out is so wonderful. From the first time I got my hands on THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR I have loved reading about Ayla's world that Jean created. It's so rich, so vivid. As a story teller she brings the past to life and I love that about her books. I can't wait to get my signed copy today and get some of the other books in the series sighed. I promise not to go fan girl and get tasered. But if I do I'll get pictures. I promise. ;)

Has there been any books you've waited a long time to read? (As in years maybe?) I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do You Believe?

When I first decided I was going to be a published author, I got a real earful from friends, family and everyone who loved me and wanted the best for me. Was it love and support, a fist-pump and a "you go girl! You'll kick butt! Make those dreams come true!" Nope, not so much. It was more in the nature of, "I love you so much that I don't want you to be disappointed. It will never happen. It's only because I love you that I'm now going to show you copious amounts of evidence to prove it."

You know what? All those naysayers for some reason didn't make me tremble. They didn't make me retreat. Maybe it was because I was so fed up with my life that I was so desperate to have dreams. Maybe it was my soul knew that it was destined for this direction. Maybe it was simply that I was feeling stubborn. But for whatever reason, when people told me that, it didn't cow me. It made me mad. What right did anyone have to tell me I couldn't attain my dreams? But at the same time, I have to admit, it did plant insidious, whispering seeds of doubt deep, deep in my heart. Were they right? Was I wasting my time? Were my dreams nothing but fluff?

But I refused to listen to their criticisms and their doubts. I shouted for my dreams more loudly than the seeds of doubt could yell. I focused on what I wanted and what I knew I was capable of doing, even after I'd written 18 manuscripts and had 150 rejections. No one believed I was could do it. Except me.

I stopped telling people how many books I'd written. I stopped telling people how many rejections I'd gotten. Because I knew that they would use that as evidence that I didn't have what it takes. And if they did that to me, I might start to doubt myself. I might start to think they were right. So I hunkered down, stayed focussed and refused to give anyone the tools to amplify the doubt devils stirring deep in my soul.

And then it happened. I finally sold a book! And I've sold more than twenty since then, in an assortmetn of genres and to several different publishers. Why did I sell? Because I believed in myself and refused to let anyone take my dreams away. Oh, I had doubt (18 unsold manuscripts will do that to you!). I had fear. But I kept my dreams and my faith burning so that they were always just a little bit stronger than the fear and the doubt. And it worked. Oh, it worked!

What about you? Have you had anyone tell you that your dreams are stupid, or that you'll never succeed? How do you stop yourself from listening to them? How do you make yourself believe in yourself when things look grim?