Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Countdown to Publication


Not everyone is lucky enough to not only have more than one personality, but to be able to celebrate it. That’s what I’m doing today because in less than a week, a new alter ego of mine is going to be making her first official appearance.

She’s Kylie Logan, author of the Button Box mystery series. Book #1, "Button Holed," hits store and virtual shelves this coming Tuesday, September 6.

It’s been an interesting road to publication for Kylie and it all started, quite simply, because I like buttons. As Josie Giancola, the heroine of the new series comments, buttons are little bits of history, and tiny works of art. They say something about a person’s style, and that person’s social class. Many antique buttons display incredible workmanship, dazzling jewels and even say something about a wearer’s love life; back in the nineteenth century, it was fashionable for young ladies to have a photograph of their beau put on their coat buttons!

Still, I never thought about actually writing a mystery series about buttons until a couple years ago when I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’d just finished lunch at a charming coffee shop and I was alone on the front porch, sipping coffee and knitting, when a couple sat down at the table next to me. There are a couple operative words in that last sentence, namely, alone and next to. You see, they decided to pick that very moment to break up.

I listened to their angst for ten minutes or so and honestly, I expected them to apologize. After all, there was no doubt I could hear everything they were saying. They didn’t. Instead, they went on and on and I’d had enough. I gathered up my knitting and went next door to an antique shop.

What I didn’t know until I opened the door was that it was an antique shop that specialized in buttons.

Thousands and thousands of buttons.

I was in heaven, and the nice lady who owned the place was only too happy to tell me stories and answer my questions.

It was that encounter that gave me the idea for the Button Box mysteries. Josie owns an antique button shop, too, though hers is in a Chicago brownstone. It’s there that she meets a famous actress who’s come to Josie for the buttons she’ll put on her wedding gown when she marries a European prince. And it’s that actress who is murdered in the shop. When Josie’s cleaning up, she finds an unusual button–one she knows didn’t come from her collection. Like it or not, Josie is enlisted to help the cops. After all, she's the button expert!

As for those multiple personalities of mine . . . readers who enjoy the Pepper Martin mysteries by Casey Daniels can expect much the same light and airy reading experience and (hopefully!) the same sort of humor and intricate plotting. However, there are no paranormal elements in Kylie’s books as there are in Casey’s.

I’m counting down the days and looking forward to next Tuesday. I guess if I ever run into that breaking-up couple again, I owe them my thanks!

Because Kylie is a new person, she has her own email. You can contact her at:
kylielogan@rocketmail.com Or find her on Facebook. She is also working on setting up a blog. In that sentence, the operative words are working on. Casey Daniels, who is also not very good at technology, would approve.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who wants some demon slaying goodness?

Hey, guess what? Today is release day for So I Married a Demon Slayer. It's the story of the one half-succubus who got away after The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. This story was such a kick to write, and I'm so glad it's finally out there.

It's also getting some awesome reviews, which is really fun. But for those of you who didn't get an early copy, I've got one right here in my hot little hands.

In fact, let me give away two books today - a signed copy of So I Married a Demon Slayer, along with a signed, first edition copy of The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers.

Just post and tell me why you would - or wouldn't - want to marry a demon slayer!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Shiny Distractions

Other than finishing my galleys, (big yay!), I'm spending the week preparing for my trip this weekend to Atlanta where I plan to attend DragonCon. I'm so excited about this trip. I've attended large conferences before, but nothing like this. If I remember right, my last big conference was the Game Developers Conference in California. (Geek alert!) I have no plans to wear a costume or embarrass my family with antics that might make it onto Youtube. What I do plan to do is hopefully see the True Blood panel and go fan girl with some of my favorite authors like Charlaine Harris and Robert Sawyer. If I see any celebrities I will be tweeting and taking pictures like any squeeing and screaming fan--quietly screaming, I hope.

I'll be sure to do a blog post with a bunch of fun pictures and things from my trip!

Right now I'm supposed to wrapping up my second book, but I have a huge TBR pile calling out my name and I just got an iPhone to replace my cell phone. Now I'm what you might call a frugal person. I really don't feel the need for bells and whistles. But after I got my phone (not the latest model either LOL) I just keep picking it up since it was a lovely shiny distraction. Since I have an iPad I already play a bunch of games. But now I'm in even more trouble since I can play on either device. Eeek! Instead of just making phone calls or doing text messaging, I can waste perfectly valuable time reading a book using Kindle or playing Bejeweled. And Pumpkins vs Monsters. And Tiny Wings. And Dungeon Raid. And Plants vs. Zombies. (Is this where I say I spent all day working on my book?)

I don't see a problem at all... ;)

I'm putting down the shiny distraction and getting back to work like a good girl--after I just finish this one level...

Before I forget, if you like reading urban fantasy, I'm giving away all three books in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series over on my blog on Thursday. Just stop on by and leave a comment to potentially win! Everyone have a great week!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Little Things




I’m ready for Fall!! The kids are back in school (no, I don’t have school age children, but the grandchildren hang out at my house a lot in the summer while their parents are at work); my yard is looking rather nasty; the weeds have seriously encroached into the flower beds that I planted with such hope this spring; and my potted tomato plants?? Well, let’s just say after trying to grow my own for two years now and the net result being FOUR tomatoes, I think it’s time to give that project up.


But all in all it’s been a good summer. Since LOVE LIES BLEEDING is on the book shelves now, most of my travel has been “release” related. I’ve been to Illinois (twice), Kentucky, and soon it’s going to be off to St. Louis for Bouchercon. All fun trips, but my favorite was spending a couple of days at my aunt and uncle’s on Crooked Lake in Minnesota with my two daughters and one of my nine year old grandsons. It was great—chilling by the lake, drinking wine (a very similar experience to Ophelia’s in A WITCH IS DEAD!), and spending time with my family.


And it’s not like we did anything too grand. We went to the Native American Museum at Lake Mille Lac, tubed in the lake, and watched my grandson fish. (Side note: fish do love green fluorescent night crawlers—don’t ask me how the bait store managed that one—but they don’t love them well enough to be coaxed onto the hook. A hook , I might mention, his mother baited, not his grandmother!). However, this trip reminded me a plaque given to me at Christmas. It says:

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” –Robert Brault


So even though there weren’t any fantastic trips to Disney World or a jaunt to an exotic location, I’m okay with that. I know that I'll look back on this summer and my most special memory will be those couple of days I spent on the lake with my family.

What little thing did you enjoy the most this summer?


Best,
Shirley


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Week Away

Food for the body, beauty for the soul.


I was MIA from Wicked last Wednesday and I apologize. When I should have been home writing my blog, I was instead at the world famous Chautauqua Institution where I was teaching a fiction writing class.


Never heard of Chautauqua? It’s an amazing place. Located in upstate New York, the Institution was founded in 1874, originally as a summer camp for Methodist Sunday school teachers. It has evolved into a cultural powerhouse. Each summer, residents and visitors are treated to countless symphonies, operas, theater productions and lectures about everything from sparking creativity in business to using science to de-bunk the paranormal (I went to that one!).


Part of summer programming includes classes for both children and adults and that’s where women’s fiction writer, Emilie Richards, and I joined forces to teach So You Want to Write a Novel.


Work? Yes, it was lots of work. For one thing, it’s not easy to decide what fiction writing techniques to teach and what not to teach when you have only five classes and the class is a mixture of folks of various ages and experiences. We decided on the basics: where to come up with ideas, how to write beginnings, characterization, dialogue, plot.


Each day we did an in-class assignment. My favorite: handing out random newspaper articles and having each student come up with a story idea based on the article they got. Who says dull articles can’t spark creative ideas? One student had a real estate ad...and she came up with a story about a house that’s being renovated and the ghost that possesses the woman who owns it. Another student’s article concerned an author who was visiting Chautauqua whose book is about the Rust Belt. Her idea? In the 10 or so minutes we gave them to come up with a story, she created a sci-fi universe where rust isn’t rust, it’s blood, and the population feeds on it.


We also gave homework each night and on the night we discussed genre, each student was given a random genre to write in and the same story to work with: The Three Little Pigs. We asked them to write the beginning of the story, a paragraph or two, but the next day when they returned, most students had written the entire story.


And they were wonderful!


We had the three little squealers’ tale told as mystery, sci-fi, fantasy and even romance. Each student added clever details, names that had us laughing out loud (Sir Sausage Link) and endings that were surprising takes on the traditional tale.


It was an exhilarating, exhausting week, but not to worry, I got to get a little R&R, too, including a two-hour ride on an authentic paddlewheel steamer and a visit to the Jewish Life Center where along with the rabbi and others, I made the most delicious challah bread.


Food for the body, beauty for the soul and a week of creativity. No writer could ask for more!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't mess with books

Oh my. Big news today. It seems like the state of Texas has decided to protect its citizens from romance novels.

That has got to be the biggest issue facing taxpayers, right? Except for budget shortfalls, a failing infrastructure, severe cuts in education... but, as soon as we take care of those sassy books, all of our other pressing problems will go away. Right?

They're suing author Christy Craig, her publisher (Hachette Book Group) and Barnes & Noble over the use of their trademark motto, Don't Mess with Texas.
"The book," TxDOT's suit says, "contains numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of sexual arousal, etc." Selling it at Barnes & Noble, which sells many TxDOT materials with the slogan, would cause irreparable harm, the agency says.
Really?

Maybe the city of Las Vegas needs to get busy suing the makers of the movie What Happens in Vegas. I hear there might be s-e-x in that one, too.

Then the citizens of both Nevada and Texas can rest easier at night, knowing their tax dollars are being put to good use. In the mean time, I think I'm going to buy a copy of Christie Craig's new book.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Meaning of Life, Straight from the Mouths of Experts

Last Saturday, I had lunch with a friend, who had just had an experience he wanted to share. I found it so significant, that I'm making it the topic of my blog today.

My friend had just been at the gym, chatting with one of the random guys there. This guy, a hard core weight lifter, starting talking to my friend about how he was a salesman for oncology meds. For those of you lucky enough not to know, oncology meds are cancer drugs.

Anyway, this guy started talking about how he spends a lot of time in cancer wards in the course of his job, and he has spent a lot of time talking to the people in them, people who are not going to get better, people who are staring right at the end of their time on this earth, in these bodies.

And he said that when he asks them about how they feel about dying, without exception, every single one of them says their biggest regret is that they wasted so much time in life stressing, worrying and being miserable, instead of appreciating every moment that they had.

See, here's the thing, the insight that these folks have come to realize. Your kids are going to get potty trained. Dinner is going to get made. The people that love you are going to love you no matter whether you lose those fifteen pounds. Money will eventually show up, or it won't. You might get fired from your job, or you might not. The bill collector might call you, he might not. You might sell a book, you might not. That cute guy might call, he might not. Things happen, all the time.

But if you spend all your time worrying about it, then that's what you're going to notice, and when that day finally comes when it's your turn to die, whether you're 30 or 60 or 102, you're going to realize that all that little stuff really didn't matter. It all worked out, one way or another, and you spent so much time stressing about it, that you never took the time to simply breathe in the moment. Not a moment here or there. EVERY MOMENT. You missed out on life and now your time is up.

Time's going to pass. You're going to die. We're all going to die. But while we're here, we've got a choice about how to deal with all the things that aren't so hunky dory. We can choose to accept that life will throw us twists and decide to just stop worrying about them and roll with it when they do show up. We can decide to relax and enjoy the moment that we're in without depleting the moment by worrying about what might be coming down the road. Or we can consume ourselves with worry and stress, always looking ahead for the elusive time when we solve all our problems and we can relax.

Guess what? All our problems will never get solved. There will always be something, right up until the moment you die. So, are you going to spend the time you have letting things get to you, or are you going to take a deep breath, say, "You know? Life is too short. That really, and truly, just doesn't matter," and then just let it go?

I'll admit it. I'm a worrier. As a single mom, I stress about paying bills. I stress about making the world right and safe for my daughter. I worry about my health. I want people to like me. I stress when people are unhappy with me. I let things bother me.

But after this story, I've had a really, really different week. I have made a conscious effort, when I feel my mind start to gravitate toward the negative, to shift my thoughts. I take a deep breath, I think of the enormity of my life, and I realize, "It doesn't matter. Life is too short."

Here are some examples of some moments I had this week:

**A friend sent me an email that suggested she was a little annoyed with me. I started to get upset, then a little voice in my head said, "It doesn't actually matter. If one person in the world decides they hate me, does it matter? No, it doesn't." And I let it go. And, it turns out, she wasn't even mad anyway.

**It was late, and I was too tired to give my daughter a bath. Her curly hair was crazy, and I thought, if she goes to camp like this with such crazy hair, will people think that I'm a bad mom? Then a little voice in my head said, "What does it really matter if someone thinks I didn't keep up with her hair? Really? Does it matter?" And I realized it didn't, and I let it go, skipped the bath, and got her to bed right on time. She went to camp with crazy hair, and she was happy as can be.

**I had to write an article for a magazine, and the topic was generating no inspiration for me. I started to stress about writing it: what if I couldn't come up with something interesting? What if they didn't like my article? And then I realized, "Will it really change my life if I write something no one likes? Does it really matter?" And I realized it didn't, and I let it go, and just decided to write whatever I felt like writing and to have fun doing it. And it ended up being very fun to write!

**I was driving my daughter to camp, and worrying about the traffic that was going to make us late, and then I paused and realized: why am I making the camp drop-off the goal of this moment? Why can't the goal of this moment simple to appreciate the fact I have fifteen minutes in the car with the coolest five year old on the planet? So, I stopped worrying about "getting to camp on time" and just enjoyed lively banter with my daughter. And it was perfect. Did it really matter when we got to camp? Yeah, not so much.

I've had a hundred moments like that this week. Sometimes it's easier to let it go than others, but each time I do, I can feel my body physically relaxing as the stress floats away. After a week of doing this, I can feel a difference. I see beauty in moments that I never saw before, and that is an incredible gift. It's not easy to shift my thinking, but I'm doing it, and I already feel better. My life feels brighter, even though it's the exact same life I had a week ago. I'm just seeing it differently, through new light, through new eyes, through new joy.

I'm going to die someday. That can't be helped, so it's time to stop worrying about. But I'm here right now, and I don't want to be facing death before I realize that life is too short to get bogged down in the small stuff. Those people in the cancer wards are the experts, and I'm going to believe them about what it feels to look back on the life you've had. As of now, I'm going to let it go and remember that life truly is short. I'm going to remind myself that all that crap, ALL OF IT, really doesn't matter. What matters, all that matters, is appreciating the ride, every minute of it, because I don't want to miss a minute of it.

Life truly is short. And all that stuff? It really doesn't matter.   

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Due to Technical Difficulties


I learned something last week—it’s hard to find a wi-fi spot in Northern Minnesota! Yup, that was my location last week. Along with my two daughters and one of my grandsons, I’d headed north to visit my aunt and uncle at their lake home before driving back to the Twin Cities for a couple of LOVE LIES BLEEDING events and my first ever TV interview. (More on that one at a later date). Anyway as a result, I didn’t get the winners of the LOVE LIES BLEEDING contest posted last week, and I do apologize!!! So without further ado here they are:

Melissa
Na
Jane
Spav
Bev
Sharon
SandyG265
Tammy Jones

Please shoot me an email (shirley@shirleydamsgaard.com) with your mailing address and I’ll get your signed copy in the mail!

Congratulations to the winners and I’ll see you all next week!

Best,
Shirley

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oh no. Angie's drawing conclusions again

Hey, you know what? It's one week since the whole house cleaning paradigm shift and the house is still clean. I'm kind of amazed at that. And I'm not. Because I've had this theory for awhile and it's interesting to see it played out on my (mostly) clean floors. It's the goofy-dumb-things-in-life-inertia theory (And yes, I had to re-spell inertia about ten times before spell check approved it. Take that all you scientific types.)

Basically the theory is this - whatever path you set yourself on, once you're really on it - people and events will line up to keep it going that way. This in no way applies to the start of any project, when the world throws giant flaming marshmallows at you and evil dragons pop up in the form of friends, foes and (potentially) nosy in-laws. I'm talking about once you've established your new normal.

Like with the house. The floor is pristine. So people are picking up the shoes and socks and random pieces of paper that they'd normally let collect. It's easy to see one piece of junk, so you pick it up without thinking. And I know they're not thinking because I'm always saying to my family, "hey, go get that thing you just dropped," and they agree and then they forget.

Or here's a good example. When my mom was fifty-something, she announced she was going to college for the first time. I wish I could say everyone jumped right on the band wagon, but in truth, our initial reactions were more like, "Hmm...are you sure?" She said yes and that she was going to be a nurse and that she'd just work with geriatric patients so she'd feel young. We thought that was pretty funny, but darned if she didn't start getting her high school transcripts together and applying to schools. And then these scholarships popped up and lo and behold, she's a nurse now. Once she got over the initial doubt and those initial humps, it happened.

And I have to tell you, it's comforting in a way. Because sometimes when you start that new project, there's no end in sight. And there are the dragons, and the marshmallows. Heck, I'm starting a new short story today and there are enough flaming marshmallows around here to make s'mores. But I guess that just means it's time to remember to push forward, and hope that the universe lines up the way it should.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Coveted is out in the big world now

First of all, it's the first day of school for my kids! Yippee! I'll cheer for a while even though they already have Friday off from school (Yep, a day off from school on the first week already...) I have plans today to enjoy the silence while I finish working on my second book. While my kids have been getting summer out of their system, I've prepared myself to use my time alone productively. One would think I'd use it to write, but I'm thinking about doing research with some sci-fi romance novels from the 90s. (Shhh, don't tell my editor.)

Before I kicked them out of the nest, I mean before I sent my happy children off to school, I made them a nice breakfast. I even let them play the Wii for a while before getting on the bus. After hanging out together for so long, it was great to know they'd see their friends again and get back into the swing of school days. And I get to enjoy the silence. ;)

Not long after I posted on Monday, I saw a fun surprise! I checked the Random House website and there was COVETED in the catalog. Even cooler, I found COVETED on Amazon! My first book is available for pre-order and will come out April 24th next year! Woo hoo! I'm so excited. What I did know already was that when a book pops up on Amazon, it eventually appears on book review websites like Goodreads, Shelfari, and weRead. Whoa! It's so surreal. I will admit, it took a bit for me to process the fact that my book is out there and soon it will be on shelves... (If someone finds the Easy button, please pass it my way. I'll just have to settle for the one above.) This is just one more step forward in the process of publishing! I'm almost there.

Now that I'm enjoying my silence, what shall I dig into first: FIRESTAR by Kathleen Morgan, ASCENT TO THE STARS by Christine Michels, or another book by Kathleen Morgan CRYSTAL FIRE? Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Does anyone else like sci-fi romance?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Disco Detective



Last weekend while attending a dog show in Canfield, Ohio, we went to a disco party. Yes, there are photos. No, you’re not going to see them. Me in purple leopard print (complete with purple feather boa) is an image you do not need burned into your mind!


I mention the party only because it explains what my husband and I were doing at a Salvation Army store in Youngstown. In search of appropriate disco attire, I’d already visited an SA store near home and bought him a silk shirt, but he was looking for something to add to his ensemble. He found it there in Youngstown, a beige polyester jacket. Truth be told, he went to the party looking like a used car salesman, but that’s not why I bring this up.


When we got back to our hotel after our little walk on the wild side of thrift store shopping, we found two things in the pocket of that sportcoat: a little notepad given out during a political campaign ("Elect Orlando T. Dilullo for Mahoning County Sheriff," it says on the front) and a receipt from a video store dated April 2 (no year). Thinking like a mystery writer, I wondered how much we might be able to discover about the person who’d once owned the jacket and had later donated it to a worthy cause.


The first couple things were no-brainers–the jacket’s owner must have been approximately the same height and weight as David. After all, the jacket fit reasonable well. The second thing was pretty simple, too–the man had a pet. Inside the little notebook was a list for Medicleen ("medicated pet shampoo," it says underneath), Humilac for dry skin and flea soap. I have never owned a cat, but my guess is that they’re not likely to tolerate baths. I figure the jacket belonged to a man who owned a dog.


Before the party, it was all I was able to deduce. But once we got home, I got to thinking about my little mystery, and I got on the Internet. I started with that video receipt and what I could read of the scrawled name on it. The first initial was definitely a W, and I could sort of read the last name. Within minutes, I had found my man. His name was Walter, and it was no wonder he was carrying that little notebook from the candidate for sheriff; Walter had once been a deputy.


In fact, I discovered a newspaper article that said in 2006, he’d engaged in a gun battle with a robber outside a convenience store. At the time, Walter was 62 and retired.


What else did I learn?


That little notebook must have been given to Walter in 1984 because that’s when Orlando Dilullo ran for county sheriff.


Walter was divorced in 2002 and declared bankruptcy in 2005. He has three daughters, Ann, Beverly and Cheri.


He may have remarried to a woman named Cathi. They own a Yorkie named Zoe. I wonder if that’s the dog with the dry skin.


As far as I can tell, he still lives in the Youngstown area.


Moral of the story? Well for one thing, it reminds that the amateur detectives featured in my books can find out information, even when they don’t have an official connection to the police.


The other two things I’ve taken away from this exercise?


#1 Be careful what you leave in the pockets of the clothes you donate.


#2 Never buy a used car from David.


Now I’m left with only one mystery . . . I’d love to know which two movies Walter rented that day in April!






Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I don't even know what to call this one

Hey, sorry I'm late. I just had the strangest morning. I blame Groupon.

About 500 years ago, there was this daily offer in my inbox for house cleaning. It was a great deal. And my fantasy - to have someone else clean up after my crazy family for once. But could I really invite strangers in to see the kind of dust we kick up? I'd click on the Groupon. Then I'd close it. Then I'd click on it. This went on all day.

Finally, I got up my nerve and I bought that fricking thing at about 11:00 p.m., right before the offer expired. So then I had this Groupon, but it seemed so indulgent. And it was kind of outside my comfort zone. And shouldn't I be doing my own cleaning anyway? So I buried it in my organizer to use, "when I really need it."

God, I'm such a dork.

Anyway, when we were on vacation last week, I started thinking of that Erma Bombeck essay that she wrote late in life about how she wished she would have relaxed more, and not put off so much and how she wishes she would have burned the candles that were too good to light but instead got put away in the closet to gather dust. That was my coupon. Oh I'd put it away, but I hadn't forgotten about it.

So I pulled out my little Groupon and scheduled the cleaners.

I wish I'd have been suave from that moment on, but baby steps, right? I cleaned the house last night, just to be ready for the maid service. We don't want them to see a crummy stove, right? Or dust on the window sills? Or...?

Gah. They arrived, bright and cheery this morning and I tried to write and I tried to think of other things, but all I could think about was how wild it was to have them here. And that I wanted to see them scrub that front entry way, even though I didn't want them to see me seeing them scrub the front entryway. Finally, I spared all of us and left to run errands.

In the end, the house looks great. Better than I could have made it. And I hope I've grown a little bit. Maybe. Stepped outside the old comfort zone? At least I finally used the Groupon.

Oh and the winner of the drawing for the advanced reading copy of The Real Were Wives of Vampire County is Barbara E. Congrats, Barbara!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Two Readers for the Win!

Happy Monday, all!

The sun isn't horribly hot today, so I've managed to open the windows to air out the house for a few hours at least. I have less than a week until school starts and today I'm in recovery from an incredible weekend. On Saturday, I got my geek on while presenting at the St. Louis WordCamp. Essentially, it's a mini-conference where bloggers, designers, and developer--or an enthusiasts of WordPress, get together to talk about Wordpress and learn from sessions given by great speakers. I gave a presentation about how I use WordPress as an author and developer. The room where I presented was kinda hot and I remember talking and hoping I wasn't melting. LOL But all in all, I met a lot of wonderful people and had a great time talking about the publishing industry.

Now to the fun part. Here are the winners:

Stephanie Rowe's Book - Jackie Uhrmacher
Tamara Hogan's Book - Sharon

If you are a winner just shoot me a message. :) To everyone else, thanks for your comments. I'm always looking for ideas. The aquarium one was one I'm interested in pursuing.

If you didn't win a book today, I'm also giving away a $15 Amazon.com gift card over at Romance at Random. I'm picking the winner on Friday. Check it out and learn more about my writing journey!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hey, was that a caution flag I just raced past?

I will admit it. I'm a goal oriented person. Although that translates into an ability to be super-productive and really make things happen, it can also be a big fat liability.

Today's problem with being too goal oriented: Failure to notice the caution signs.

I've been working on my new story for the last few weeks, and it's really been rocking. I really needed to finish the first draft before August 19, when my daughter gets out of camp, because once she is sprung, it's hard for me to get work done. So, I was watching my word count and working until the wee hours of the night, pressing onward. But as I was going along and making great progress, I was feeling increasing uncomfortable with the book. It just wasn't feeling good when I sat down at the computer, even though I loved it.

I decided that my problem was that I was comparing it to my last book, a magic book that wrote itself in 17 days. I told myself that it was okay that this book was different than the 17 day one, and that it actually had to be different, since it's a new book. Did that make me feel better about my new book? Nope, I still wasn't feeling it.

But I kept on writing, because I those daily page quotas needed to be met. As I continued to speed along, I decided that the problem must be that I was feeling too much pressure to write something amazing, since my prior book (the 17 day book) had been so amazing. I told myself not to be so judgmental, and to just write from the heart, and all would be well. I kept on writing, and was up to 30k at this point. Did that make me feel better about my new book? Nope, I still wasn't feeling it.

Then, this weekend, life interfered and I had to take five days off from the book. When I sat down to work on it this morning, I decided to read it from the start to get a sense of the story again and to show myself that it really was good so I would stop stressing about it. First chapter: awesome. Second chapter: awesome. Third chapter: hmm… confusing. By the time I reached the eighth chapter, I realized that my heroine's reaction to her plight was completely wrong. Wrong for her and wrong for the situation. Wrong from page one.

And that's when I realized that all my discomfort with the story had nothing to do with all these external bags. The truth was that the story wasn't working, and my gut knew it, but I was too focused on my daily word count to stop and assess. I made excuses for my discomfort instead of actually stopping and dealing with it. So now, I have 30k words that I basically have to throw away because my heroine was wrong from page one. If I'd stopped in chapter three when I first started feeling discomfort with the story, I could have fixed it and saved myself a lot of time and deleted pages. But I was so focused on getting that word count done that I kept telling myself that I would fix the problems in my edits—but of course, this wasn't that kind of problem.

I am supremely grateful that I realized the problem now, and not after I finished the book, but I also feel like I learned a lesson. Sometimes, no matter what your goal is or how important it is, the very best thing you can do is to blow it off completely and listen to your gut.

Next time, I'm listening to my gut. Tomorrow, I'm starting on page one again. And I promise you, I am never doing this to myself again…I hope. :-)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Sale Now!!!



I’m pleased to announce that LOVE LIES BLEEDING is now on sale and has been selected by the Midwest Booksellers Association as a “Midwest Connections Pick”! In celebration, I’m going to give away eight signed copies! To be entered, all you have to do is to leave a comment letting us know what’s been your favorite book so far this summer. (Everyone’s always looking for a good book, right? By posting a comment, you’ll not only have a chance to win a free book, but you’ll be helping the rest of us to discover some new authors!)

I’ll announce the winners next week!

Good luck and I’ll look forward to reading your posts!

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Outsmarting the Cyber Gods

Don't you just hate it when you have to go through gyrations to make technology do what you want it to do?


For the last few weeks, I've been struggling to find a way to share the newest Pepper Martin mystery cover with you. I finally hit upon a solution. I printed the pdf file of the cover I received from my publisher, scanned it, saved it, and . . .


Well, we're about to see if it worked!


My apologies, the colors aren't as vibrant as they are in the "real" cover. But at least this gives you a taste.


As you might be able to guess, Pepper's not in Cleveland anymore! In fact, in "Wild, Wild Death," she's visiting New Mexico because a friend of hers has been kidnapped and the only way she can ransom him is to dig up the bones of a long-dead Native American and deliver them to the Great Southwest.


Those of you who have been reading this blog long enough know of my own adventures in New Mexico the last couple years. Does Pepper feel the same way about the high desert as I do? You'll have to read the book to know for sure. I can tell you that she's in love with those cowboy boots of hers, and with a handsome local police chief, too!


Now for the cover . . . drum roll, please!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ARC Contest for The Real Were Wives of Vampire County

We were down in the Ozark mountains for vacation last week. And before we left, we made sure to hold the mail and arrange for the neighbor to grab the newspaper off the front driveway. We locked the garage opening system. We thought we were so smart. Until we came home to a big box on the front porch had been there, oh, for about four days. So much for making it look like someone was home! My husband pointed out that the grass also needed to be mowed, and I didn't have the heart to remind him that it looks like that a lot of the time.

Anyhow, the box on the porch contained advanced reading copies of The Real Were Wives of Vampire County. This is the anthology that also includes Alexandra Ivy, Tami Dane and Jess Hines. It will be officially released just in time for Halloween. Imagine that.

But you shouldn't have to wait that long. You read this blog. You know me! So I'm giving away a copy right here. Just leave a comment below and tell me your dream vacation spot and you're entered to win! Contest runs all week and I'll announce the winner next Tuesday. Good luck!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Reads for a Hot August

It's August and to be honest, I can't wait for the weather here in Saint Louis to cool off. My favorite season is the fall--and the spring too. LOL There's nothing like a great breeze and 70 degree weather. A perfect time to be out on the patio to read or write. With near 100 degree weather I've found doing that rather difficult...

Things are going well with the second book in my series, KEPT. There's nothing like a road trip up New England to make a girl want to spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast. In the fall, that is. ;)

On to the fun stuff! Is it cold where you are? (Lucky!) Well, let me help you heat things up. I've got some great reads to give away. Next week, I'll pick two winners. One for each book. First of all, I have our own Stephanie Rowe's book TOUCH IF YOU DARE. I only stared at the cover long enough (very long) to make this important assessment: the dude on the cover is yummy! ;) Read an excerpt of this fabulous book here!

I also have Tamara Hogan's TASTE ME. It's about a rock star, who is a Siren, and her sex demon lover. That has wickedness written all over it! :D Learn more about TASTE ME here. You'll definitely enjoy either of these Sourcebooks titles. For each winner I have more Romance Trading Cards as well as a card to get a free Loveswept book! Learn more about the Loveswept line at Romance at Random. They launch on August 8th with titles from great authors such as Deb Dixon and Deborah Smith.

So, my question of the day is easy. What do you do to beat the heat of an endless summer? Any activities that you do outside with the kids without melting? :) I'm thinking I might need to take my kiddos to the water park this week to chill out. I'll let them swim while I sit under an umbrella with a good book. :D