Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How readers see the world

I dropped my kids off to school this morning and on the drive back, the trunk of the car in front of me popped open. Instead of braking or trying to avoid what kind of tools or other things that might come flying at my car, I sped up a little bit so that I could see if there were any bodies in the trunk. Which means either my safety instinct is way off, or I've read one too many mysteries. Call it creative curiosity.

But it got me thinking: do readers see the world differently? Is it normal to check for bodies? Or to look up at the full moon at night and wonder just what the werewolves might be doing? Am I the only one who gets a little nervous taking the dog out at night after watching The Walking Dead?

Oh, great. Now we have television to blame as well.

Still, I think this is one of the most creative periods for books and for television as well. There are so many choices, so many people writing and telling wonderful stories. I think it does change the way we see the world, for better or for worse.

And for the record, there was nothing in the back of that black Acura I saw this morning. But next time? You never know.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Let me preface the below by stating I’m not exactly what you’d call a “good cook”. I do okay—haven’t poisoned anyone yet. (In my opinion that is—I don’t think it’s fair that my family counts the person who had the gall bladder attack after eating my raw apple cake!!) And truthfully, when my sons say “just like Mom made” they are probably referring to something that came out of a can or a box. However, I do put a little effort into the holidays and since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share my aunt’s wild rice casserole recipe that I make every year. It is as follows:

1 cup wild rice
½ cup onion
½ cup chopped celery
8 oz. mushrooms
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (you can use cream of celery or cream of chicken instead. I use cream of celery.)
Water chestnuts
¼ cup butter

Soak wild rice 16 to 24 hours changing water frequently
Sauté onion, celery, and mushrooms in ¼ cup butter until tender
Add drained wild rice and continue to sauté for another 15 minutes
In a casserole dish, combine wild rice, onion, mushrooms, and celery with the 2 cans of soup and water chestnuts
Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes
Serves 6 to 8

This is a big family favorite so I usually make a double recipe. AND if there is any leftover, it’s great the next day warmed up in the microwave with a little bit of butter.

That’s it for now—again I hope you all have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!!!

Best,
Shirley

 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plotter or Pantster?

After four intense days with my brainstorming group, I returned home last week and got down to business.  It was time to plot the fourth book in the Button Box mystery series.

And talk of plotting, of course, brings up that ever-important question writers always ask each other: are you a plotter or a pantster?

My understanding is that pantsters literally write by the seat of their pants.  As they write, the story reveals itself, and they go along for the ride.  I know people who write this way and they produce fine books.

I, however, am not one of them.

I am a plotter, and I just spent the last week proving it.  I write from a pretty complete outline and coming up with that outline is often painful and tedius.  I should know, I just spent 7 days doing it.

I start with bullet points of what's going to happen: Josie attends the show at the art gallery, Josie meets the suspects, Josie meets the victim, Josie finds the body.

The next time I sit down, I add to that: Josie attends the show at the art gallery in the old church.  It's being held there because the fancy gallery that was supposed to host the show . . .

I go on and on, and my pages are pretty much a running dialogue with myself.

Why would she do that?  I write.  And then I try to come up with answers to my own questions.

Eventually, I go back and get rid of all the dead-end ideas that took me nowhere.  And I break it all into chapters.  When I finally felt satisfied with my outline, I had 20-some pages to go on.  It's not everything, but it's a start that gives me a cushion.  I know where the story is going.  I know how it's going to get there.

I'm always asked if outlining robs the writing process of creativity.  Absolutely not!  Though I know what's going to happen in the story, I don't always know how it's going to happen.  For instance, I know that somewhere along the line, Josie's going to find a voodoo doll that's obviously meant to represent her.  Will it arrive in a package?  Mysteriously appear on her desk?  Be outside her apartment door?  I don't know yet.  I guess that part of my process makes me a pantster!

Of course all this doesn't mean I can't change my mind about things.  As I write, I remind myself that my chapters--and my ideas--are fluid.  But for now, I've got a nice map to follow.  Ah, the joys of being a plotter!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shopping?

After a fabulous week of thinking, plotting and laughing with my brainstorming group, I've just started outlining a new book, Button Box mystery #4.  So really, I could talk about process today, all the thinking and planning, the twisting and turning that goes in to creating a book.  We could talk plotters versus pantsters or the benefits of a story board.

Instead, I can't help myself...I feel the need to rant about shopping.

You see, I came out of my plotting cloud just enough last night to hear on the news that stores are now open on Thanksgiving.  You know, so all those early shoppers can get their fix.

And you know what?  I'm outraged!  Really?  Shopping on Thanksgiving?  Just the thought makes my skin crawl.  A day that should be devoted to family and friends and well, just staying home has been run over by greed.

I wonder how many of the retail executives will leave their homes and work the counters on Thanksgiving evening.  And I feel terribly sorry for the workers who are being forced to keep this schedule.

I guess the only thing we can do is make sure we stay home and stay away from the stores.  That would send a message and sadly, I think it's a message corporate America needs to hear loud and clear.

Done ranting now.  Back to plotting!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The great kindergarten forgery


The other day, my six-year-old son had a reading assignment. He's learning very simple books at school and brought one home for us to read together. Afterward, he had to get my signature to show that he'd done his work.

Only he figured it would be easier if he just played an extra game of Wii and forged my signature. He's busy, after all. Those monster truck racers will not reach the finish line on their own.

Normally, I oversee homework as soon as it comes out of his school bag, but I'd been distracted by the Immortally Embraced copyedits that had arrived right as we were getting home from school pick-up. Like a cobra, my son struck. Only there was a flaw in his plan...



I don't know if I'm proud or worried. Maybe a little of both.

Either way, I made him read the book before I signed it for real. My son has avoided a life of crime and (maybe) learned his lesson. I've learned mine. In the future, just call me eagle eye.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Girls Night Out!

First of all, I'd like to say a belated Happy Veteran's Day to those who have served in the United States military. Veteran's Day was observed yesterday in the US, but I think any day is appropriate to say thank you.

Just fourteen days until Kept comes out! Will you be in the St. Louis metro area this week? Angie Fox and I will be joining Patricia Rice at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library for the Girls Night Out event sponsored by the St. Charles County Library. Copies of Kept will be there. The details are below:

Romance and Wine with Angie Fox, Patricia Rice and Shawntelle Madison
Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library
2750 Highway K
O'Fallon, MO
November 15th, 2012 at 7pm



If you haven't entered Natalya's Holiday Hoarder Contest, be sure to check it out. I will be picking up goodies from this event for the hoarder pile. Signed books to be exact from Angie Fox and Patricia Rice. *rubs evil mustache*

Any fun plans for your week? It was so warm over the weekend here in St. Louis and now its cold again. I didn't expect the weather to last long. I was scrambling today to find coats and mittens for the kiddos. Is the weather cold in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jingle This! release party & book giveaway!

It's not Christmas yet...but it's just around the corner! And what better way to celebrate Christmas with a holiday novella and a bunch of free books?



I am super excited to announce the release of my slightly sassy Christmas story, Jingle This! which gives new perspective on the Christmas holiday. It's a long novella, or a short novel, whichever you want to call it, and it's sexy, funny, and got a little bit of attitude...

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Love. Diamonds. Mistletoe. And a one-on-one holiday assignment with a very sexy boss. Put it all together, and it's enough to ruin a girl's day.

Angie Miller has to write sizzling, evocative, heart-melting holiday stories about love, romance and diamonds for her company's newest client…an assignment that isn't so easy when she's just had her heart broken. When her first not-so-cheery story nearly gets her company fired, her boss Kyle Black makes it his personal mission to get Angie in the right mood to wax poetic about love and romance. The fact that there's three years' worth of unrequited sexual tension simmering between them? It just makes it all the more interesting when Kyle shows up in her office with his oh-so-broad shoulders, smoldering smile and…oh, yeah… his slightly autocratic ways… How is Angie supposed to find her muse again when Kyle keeps trying to have his way with her? Not "that" kind of way, but a girl can dream…

**Just as a heads up,  Jingle This! is a short novel that was originally published 2004 in mass market paperback by Dorchester Publishing as part of the holiday anthology Shop 'til Yule Drop. It has been substantially revised and expanded. It is approximately 180 pages in length.**

INTERESTED? WANT TO READ MORE? It's your lucky day! Here's a brief excerpt to get you all fired up for love, romance and mistletoe... Check it out right here:

Kyle tossed some bills into the Salvation Army bucket as they walked by, then he stopped. "I forgot. I need to get my mom a nightgown." He turned to go back to Macy's. "Come on."
Angie stopped "No way. I'm not risking my life for those crowds again."
He grinned, walked over to her, slung his arm around her neck to anchor her to his side, then started back into the store. "I'll protect you, my fair maiden."
Fair maiden? Okay, so being smashed up against Kyle might be sufficient justification to brave the crowds again. She sighed as she let him clear a path for them. What was she doing?
She was falling for him again, that's what she was doing.
She'd been so removed from him this week, trying hard to see him as an autocratic workaholic hated by the world. Yet it had taken only a few minutes of being out of the office and seeing his dimples to make her feet start tap dancing to songs of love.
No, not love.
Lust.
No way would she love him.
"Okay, here we go." He stopped next to a rack of flannel nightgowns. "Navy blue. Size extra large. Perfect."
Angie grabbed his hand as he went for the item. "Not so fast."
He lifted his brow. "You don't like it? It's conservative, practical. Perfect for my mom."
"Is she married?"
He frowned. "Yeah, to her second husband. Why? I'm not getting him the nightgown." He grinned at his own joke.
"Well, maybe you should."
"He's not a cross-dresser. I don't think he'd want it."
"No, he wouldn't want the flannel one, I agree." Angie strolled over toward the other side of the lingerie section, where lace, silk and spaghetti straps were in abundance. "He might, however, enjoy something from here." She picked up a pale blue nightie with a lace bodice and held it up. "This is what you should get your mom." She turned to show it to him, only to find him still standing at the flannel nightgowns, a look of horror on his face.
She waved it at him, and he shook his head and turned back to the rack of flannel nightgowns and started pawing desperately through the red plaid.
Angie started to laugh. And to think this was the man who claimed to know all about romance, at least to the point of being a love muse. She waved the sexy nightie cheerfully so that the silk fluttered. "Hey. Just because she's your mom doesn't mean she doesn't like being sexy. And I'm sure your stepdad would appreciate a little heat in the bedroom just as much as you would."
"Stop it!" He backed up, stumbling over a bin of bikini underwear. "My mother is not wearing that."
Angie grinned as she walked across the store to where Kyle was hiding. "If I was in your bed, would you rather I was wearing this flannel nightgown—" She held up the item he'd thrust at her so mercilessly. "—or this sexy little number?" It really wasn't even that sexy. Demure, with a little bit of naughtiness mixed in.
Kyle's eyes went black. "You? I'd take you naked."
Electricity jolted through her and desire pooled in her belly. Not just desire. Raw, pulsating need and want. Uh, oh… Angie swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. She had to stay focused. Nothing good could come of discussing her nakedness with Kyle. "Before you got me naked," she clarified. "As a male, would you prefer your woman to be in flannel or silk?"
His gaze was so intense she felt like he could see right through her clothes to the matching black lace panties and bra she'd put on this morning to try to get in the romance mood. "Silk." His voice was husky, deep, and sent chills down her spine.
She took a deep breath. "Well, then, that's what we should get for your mom. She's a woman like I am, and your stepdad is a man like you."
"I'm not thinking about my mom." But it wasn't a protest. It was an arrogant statement that said very clearly who he was thinking about.
She lifted her chin and took a step toward him. She knew she was playing with fire, but she couldn't stop herself. She didn't want to stop herself. "You couldn't even begin to imagine what I'd be like in your bed," she said, letting her voice go a little soft and throaty. "So don't bother guessing."
His hands snaked out and grabbed her waist, hauling her up against him before she could step away. "Tell me." His lips were hovering over hers, his breath mingling with hers. "Tell me what you'd be like in my bed, Angie."
She braced her hands on his arms, desire leaping through her at the feel of his muscles beneath her hands. Hard. Like steel. Raw, manly, steel. Oh, Lordy. She was in way over her head. Not that she could let him know it. She couldn't let him know that he could still get to her. "Words can't do it justice," she managed to say. "I'd have to show you."
His grip tightened on her hips, and his gaze went to her lips. "Then show me." His voice was husky and hoarse, as if he were being tormented by the vision of her naked in his bed.
Oh, God. Show him? Suddenly, the image of his bed flashed through her mind. Those tousled sheets. The mattress sinking beneath her weight as he set her on the bed… Heat flushed her skin and she let him pull her closer, so her belly was pressed against his. "Show you? I'd love to."
He sucked in his breath and he locked a hand behind the back of her neck, pulling her closer. Holy crap. He was going to kiss her! Right in the store in front of everyone!
No, no, no. She couldn't do this. She'd never recover. She set one hand on his chest, blocking him. "Sorry, but that's not going to happen." At the frustrated look in his eyes, she couldn’t help but add a little tease by trailing her finger over his lips. "I've already resolved that I wouldn't allow you to inspire me anymore."
"I'm not talking about inspiring anyone. I just want you. This has nothing to do with work." His fingers were stroking the back of her neck now, a sensual caress that was sending chills down her spine.
Oh, wow. Was this moment simply about them? About the heat burning up the air between them? Not about work or her stories? Did he want her the way she wanted him, pure and simple? Not that there was anything simple about the feelings racing through her.
No, no, no, she couldn't do this! She couldn’t get involved with him.
"I can't kiss you," she whispered. The finger she'd been trailing over his lips was suddenly in his mouth, caught in a suckling whirlwind of moist heat. "Um..."
"You're the one who brought it up." His voice was hoarse, tight, his tongue winding around her fingertip.
"Brought what up?" How could he speak with her fingers in his mouth? He must do that a lot—suck on women's fingers. An expert. Fierce jealousy roared through her at the idea of Kyle with other women. She had a sudden, burning need to claim him, to make him hers, to imprint herself onto him so no other woman would ever be able to compete with her in his mind.
Oh, damn. That wasn't good. She didn't want to be having possessive thoughts about Kyle!
"You. Me. My bed. Nakedness," he said, lowering his head until his mouth was a fraction of an inch from hers. "You brought it all up."
She could feel the warmth of his breath on her lips, the heat of his mouth, the intensity of his persona. Anticipation rushed through her, followed by an almost insatiable need, and she knew he was doing it on purpose. Seducing her without even kissing her. The man knew what he was doing.
She'd never been ravished by an expert lover before. With the stories Heidi told about Quinn's talents in the bedroom, Angie was well aware that she'd been missing out. Maybe that was why she couldn't write the romance stories for Swift. Because she hadn't truly experienced mind-numbing lovemaking.
Perhaps in the name of research...
Oh, no. What was she thinking? 

LIKE IT? Check it out at Amazon, B&N, Apple, or ARe
 ***
What was she thinking indeed? Seems to me that she was thinking that some men are just too hot to leave alone...  What's the craziest holiday moment you've ever had? Or your favorite thing about the holidays? Leave a comment and be entered to win a free copy of any of my books! I'll start off with three prizes, and for every fifteen entries I get, I'll add another prize. Contest runs thru next Friday, so spread the word and lets get some serious freebies going!





Thursday, November 8, 2012

We've Come A Long Way, Baby!


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an information junkie and one of the things I like best about writing is conducting research. The research for THE WIDOWS OF BRAXTON COUNTY was particularly interesting to me due to the chapters set in the 1890’s. In order to write those, I needed to get into the head of my character, Hannah, and learn what it was like to be a woman of those times. All I can say is I’m really, really glad I, one…live in America, and two…live in this century!

The popular image of womanhood back then was based on “The Cult of Domesticity” or “The Cult of True Womanhood”. Its tenets were piety, purity, submission (men are superior to women, therefore they must submit), and domesticity (it was the role of a woman to provide a peaceful and calm refuge for her husband.) Though some single women worked, it was not considered “proper” for a married woman to have a “job”…her only job should be caring for her home and her family. As a result, women were financially dependent on their husbands.  And if a woman did have any leisure time and enjoyed reading, those books should be of a religious nature.

However, things were beginning to change by the 1890’s. The Industrial Revolution created new jobs that could be held by women. Upper class women were winning the right to attend college and obtain professional degrees. An image of “The New Woman” was beginning to emerge, and an important part of that image was women obtaining the right to vote nation wide. Home and family was still important, but women wanted a voice.

And that voice was not won easily. In 1917 women of the National Women’s Party began picketing the White House. At first they were ignored, but after the start of World War One, they began to be arrested for obstructing the sidewalk, unlawful assembly, etc. (I don’t think the President appreciated the placard calling him “Kaiser Wilson.”) They refused to pay what they considered an unlawful fine and were imprisoned.  While in prison, if they refused to work, they were put in solitary confinement and given bread and water. If they launched a hunger strike to protest their treatment, they were forced fed via a tube down their throats with a substance of raw eggs mixed with milk. They were given worm infested food and lived in unsanitary conditions. Finally it culminated on November 15, 1917 when forty guards attacked thirty-three suffragettes and brutalized them. Word of their treatment leaked out via newspaper accounts and by the end of November, they all received pardons, and by March, their arrests were ruled unconstitutional. In January of 1918, President Wilson announced his support of women’s suffrage, and it was finally ratified on August 18th, 1920.

This Tuesday, as I stood in line to cast my vote, I thought about these women and how their struggles changed the political climate of this country. Today women make up 51% of the population, and according to some of the talking heads, we’re the deciding demographic when it comes to elections. This statement is supported by the exit polls last Tuesday….54% of the electorate was comprised of women.

Isn’t it amazing when you look at where we were in the 1890’s and compare it to the above listed statistics? Personally, I don’t want to go back to “The Cult of Domesticity.” I like having a voice in the affairs of my country. I like having freedom. I like having the ability to earn my own income. I appreciate the fact that I and my daughters were able to pursue our education and our dreams. And I look forward to the fact that my granddaughter will have the same opportunity.

I, for one, regardless of what party or what candidate I choose to support, will never take my right to vote lightly. And I will always be grateful to those who fought to give me that right.

Have a great rest of the week and see you next Thursday!

All the best,

Shirley

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Holiday Hoarder Contest

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the winners for my contest for the UK release of Kept:

Rebecca - Copy of Kept
Donna - Copy of Yasmine Galenorn's Shadow Rising

Congrats, ladies!

Did you miss out on a chance in the last couple of contests? Well, I got a big one coming up, Natalya's Holiday Hoarder Contest, running from November 5th until November 30th. So, what makes this one special? There are two sets of Coveted and Kept available. That means a copy for you and a friend. Or you could just keep them both. ;) What else? Goodies and swag. Also, every time I attend an author event or booksigning, I will be adding more signed books and goodies to the hoarder pile. It's a winner take all scenario where I get to snag cool stuff and you get to hoard it, I mean collect it.

Toss your entry into the pot today! Why, yes, it is international. :D

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy


Most everyone is texting these days. Well, I don’t if I can avoid it…personally I can talk a lot faster than I can type, so I’d rather call than text!! However I did send a text most willingly yesterday. I’d been following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy online and came across an article about what people can do to help.

One suggestion was a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief via your cell. The instructions said to enter 90999 on the “to” line, then REDCROSS for the “message.” If you do, a ten-dollar donation to the Red Cross would be charged to your cell phone bill. I tried it, and it worked! I then received a message back that required a response of “yes.” Easy breezy…the whole thing took about one minute.

Ten dollars won’t buy a lot for people in need, but I thought about it. I live in a town with a population of around 1,800 and if everyone here did the same thing…it adds up….$18,000 dollars to be precise. Now that would buy a lot…drywall to repair homes, diapers, clothing, food, bottled water, etc. And for me, the ten dollars simply represents one less trip to the convenience store with my grandchildren, one less movie ticket, maybe one less book…not a big sacrifice when I’m sitting in my nice warm home with electricity and plenty of food in the cupboard.

So if anyone out there is looking for ways to help our fellow citizens, you might want to consider the Red Cross!

Have a great day!

Best,

Shirley