Friday, December 30, 2011

What are you doing on the last day of the year?



Okay, technically this is the day before the last day, but my posts fall on Friday, so here I go.

First, my husband and I are celebrating being together for eight years. We don't know exactly when we "hooked up" so we just celebrate on New Year's, the day we met. The crazy story is here.

It's become a tradition for us to celebrate at Outback Steakhouse, but in the last few years finances prevented it...although we would scrape up some change and get a Bloomin' Onion to split. ::droooool::
Anyway, this year I set aside enough money that we can go. YAAAAAAYYYY!!!!

But we're going a night early because in the years we couldn't go to Outback, we've discovered that The Powder River Saloon throws an amazing New Year's party complete with potluck, games, and a dart tournament. Don't worry guys, the place is in walking distance so no drinking and driving for me. And I'm totally getting my kiss at midnight.

So that's how I'm bringing in the New Year. What are your plans? Do you have any special traditions?



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My 2011 Recap

Some things I did okay. Others....not so much. Either way, it's been a great year. 


1.) Get the first two books in my BRIDES OF PROPHECY series polished enough for my agent and then ready for her to submit to publishers: I got them polished, though I'm still tinkering. My betas are raving about em, but other things happened with another project and I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this series. I'm still working on them, though. They will have a home someday.

2.) Complete another manuscript. I completed a few short stories, a novella, and wrote the beginnings of 3 more novels. Hooray for progress!

3.)Blog at least twice a week. I nailed this goal, for the most part.

4.) Have at least one awesome guest author every month. Not so well here. Some months I had none, others I had four.

5.) Become more regular on Twitter and Facebook: Ironically I did better with FB than twitter.

6.) Get up to 3000 followers on Twitter: For reasons stated above, I only got to 1650.

7.) Keep the house clean and organized. HAHAHAHAHAHAH! No.

8.) Lose 20 pounds.. I think I lost about 8. Well.....I lost 10, gained back six, then lost four...or something.

9.) Learn how to use a sewing machine to make/ repair clothes. Didn't happen...although I did find someone willing to teach me how to sew by hand.

10.) Keep my marriage healthy, happy, and full of passion. I think I've done well with this and I still have a big crush on my husband.

11.) Become a better mother. I noticed I've been yelling a lot less. :)

12.) Get a tattoo...or 2.  I got one!


                                                      
So, I think I did okay. Especially since I achieved my long time dream of getting a book deal! 

OTHER EVENTS/ Accomplishments:

On May 30th, I celebrated my 1 year wedding anniversary (though we've been together for 8 years). I drew him a portrait of our hero, Ronnie James Dio:


This really helped me get back into art so I also did a painting of a '64 Volkswagen Beetle for my neighbor:


And a poster of the IRON MAIDEN album, "Killers." 

My husband grew an excellent garden this year, yielding around 200 lbs of tomatoes (making several jars of salsa,tomato sauce, and stewed tomatoes), 20 quarts of pickles, 24 cabbages (which made 3 gallons of saurkraut)  And lots of lettuce, broccoli, and peppers. Our herb garden thrived as well, along with our strawberries. 

He also got his deer, so we filled our freezer with meat.

I'm finally getting the hang of making friends, so not only did I get to know more awesome writers and formed a critique group, I've also branched out with other friendships. I'm pleased to be doing karaoke again. 

I think 2011 was a great year and I hope 2012 will be even better. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Constant Beta Readers Whip Ya In Shape!


I cannot emphasize the importance of beta readers. They keep you grounded, keep you inspired, and keep you from going out on submission with your fly unzipped. Hmmm...looking at that picture above puts the word "submission" into a whole new context. Anyway, moving on.

Last spring, I got together with Bonnie R. Paulson and Shelley Martin and we formed a critique group. However, though we kept in touch, the critiques stopped over the summer and fall due to a lot of other things things going on, the release of Bonnie's novel, BREATHE AGAIN and my book deal, to name a few.

We just reunited and we now have Michel King joining us. After our first meeting, I'm now remembering the benefits of the group. No only do I get excellent feedback and quick fixes on my mistakes, but I am motivated to write more. Our first session was 20 pages each...but Bonnie wants to step it up a notch and do 30 next week. I'm now remembering how I completed a novella in under two months last Spring. Besides the imposed deadlines to get stuff to them, my beta readers increase my productivity by keeping me inspired to please them.

As I write, I think, "Ooh, Shelley's gonna laugh at this part!" or "Bonnie's gonna call me on being cheesy here...how else can I word it?" and now, "Michel's going to want me to describe this part more." So it's like they're with me all the time and because of them, I'm not only getting more work done, but it is better quality than it was when flying solo.

Also, it is beyond wonderful to talk to someone about my stories and characters and have them completely understand my struggles with them. Writing a novel can be a lonely quest.

AND, I have the bonus of reading their awesome stories before anyone else!

Keep those whips crackin' ladies. I'm honored to return the favor. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Favorite Christmas Movies

It's that time of year again. Though the holidays are chaotic, one still has to make time to curl up with a cup of cocoa and watch Christmas movies. Here are some of my favorites.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS


It's Christmas and Halloween at the same time! Double WIN! 'Cuz Tim Burton's the Man!

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer:


The ultimate outcast/ underdog movie.

Santa Claus is Coming To Town:


The villain's name is the best. Say it with me: "Burgermeister Meisterburger." It never gets old!

THE CHRISTMAS TREE


A very strange, very low budget TV Christmas Special. But for some reason I love it. For some reason all I could find was the entire movie.

A CHRISTMAS STORY:

This one has to be my ultimate favorite. Every second of the movie is a delight.

What are your favorites?

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Journey in Friendship

This is me and my best friend since 3rd grade...and my husband, pretending he doesn't know us :)

Due to a variety of reasons (my eccentricities, reclusive nature and social anxiety, to name a few) making friends has been difficult for me.

For most of my childhood I only had one or two real human friends. The rest were cats...or imaginary. Still, my friendships, though few, were good. One has been my best friend since 3rd grade and the other recently got back in touch.

In high school things were a little better. Instead of being ashamed of my strangeness, I flaunted it. I got a few friends from that as well as some acquaintances. In small towns all the outcasts are thrown together, so our group was comprised of 3 goths, 4 stoners, 2 gays, and a handful of brave nerds. Oh, there were some adventures. But high school is also the usual scene for sex, drugs, violence, and suicide to come on the scene. I lost some friends to meth. Some friends lost me to boyfriends. I lost a boyfriend to meth. Of that ragtag group, only 4 remain. I see them rarely, but think of them often.

Then, adulthood, jobs, marriage and a kid came along... no time for friends there. Only books and my imagination sustained me. Then, just as I began to venture out socially to the real world, the marriage ended. No time for friends yet again in the struggle to put my life back together. I always did things alone. I didn't want others getting in the way, worrying...or worse, getting caught in the crossfire.

But then I fell in love again....and I went to college for not only full time, but double time (22 credits per semester)...AND my love has 2 kids, so my parental obligations tripled. Yet due to a happy discovery, I somehow found the time to make some friends. That happy discovery was the Powder River Saloon. Yeah, I know that makes me sound like a barfly, but really since I only went there once a week and always went home to my man I think the term doesn't qualify. My friends there helped me get through college, cheering me on all the way through. They helped me get through the loss of my career. They comforted me after the death of my mother. They are still applauding the success in my writing career. None read romance novels, but many will read mine because I'm a friend. All of my books will include a shout out to the Powder River.

The journey continued. After the death of my mother, I finally got a laptop and discovered the internet. An Lo and Behold....I made friends online. The community of fellow writers...and fellows of other interests...still astounds me. The help and support I've received and that I've been able to give in return is amazing.

If you haven't noticed the pattern yet, I'll point it out. Both my bar friendships and online friendships can be distant in their own ways. At the bar...it's always at the bar. Online, the same applies. It is all on MY terms. If I don't go to the bar on Friday, or get online, I don't see my friends.

But...in the past year, something crazy has happened. I've begun to make friends in real life. Friends not relegated only to the clicking of my keyboard or my dim smoky haven in my end of town. I've made friends IN PERSON with a few romance authors in my area. We all write and have husbands, kids, etc. I'm rediscovering "girl talk" for the 1st time in over a decade!

And now I'm starting to make more new friends. Friends who sing, friends who do crafts, friends who cook, friends who share secrets, friends who drink, friends who don't, friends who accept me for who I am.

I may be a little late to learn this, but I still feel I have the right to say: Friends are priceless.

I value all of my friends, old and new. Thank you for making my life better.
            

Friday, December 16, 2011

On Crushes.


Crushes...we all have em. Some are the funny feeling you get in your belly at the sight of someone. Some are the fascination with a character, real or fictional. Some are just drooling in lust at the sight of irresistible looks. My husband was all three...and still is.

But then there's the flip side. Crushes do not always mean you want to sleep with someone. Crushes don't mean you want a relationship with that person. But they can serve as great inspiration, especially for artists and writers.

Like many of us, I pant over Johnny Depp....but even if I was single, I'd never date a mega-star. All those cameras and people? ::Shudder:: But that doesn't stop me for using him as an imaginary cover model for my Romanian vampire twins in my BRIDES OF PROPHECY series. The same goes for my crush on Dave Mustaine from Megadeth. I'm sure one of my rock star novellas will feature a brilliant guitarist with gorgeous strawberry blond locks.

But what really got me thinking about these non-lustful, non-romantic crushes are two guys: Actor Danny Trejo and and acquaintance of mine.

He's usually scowling in all of his movies, but the guy actually has a very nice smile

I don't have a picture of the acquaintance...and even if I did, I'd be nice and not post it. I will say that his hair is the most interesting of silver-ish blond (but he's not old) and his eyes are a really sparkly sky blue.
Neither can be considered "stud-muffins" in any form. (Sorry, I wanted an excuse to say "stud-muffin) But both are very striking in appearance and have fascinating personalities.

Heroines with unconventional looks have become welcome in the romance genre for awhile, and I'm glad to see that the same is beginning to apply to heroes as well.

For my next two regency paranormal novels, I aim to keep with that theme. The first one featured an impossibly hot hero (imaginary cover model is the guy on my main blog banner) but the following will showcase damaged heroes whose looks fall more into "striking" than handsome.

How 'bout you guys? What sorts of crushes have you had?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

10 Myths About Cats

These past few weeks have been utterly insane so it's gonna have to be a rerun post. I had a lot of fun with this one!

His eyes are red 'cuz he's possessed by SATAN! LOL, sorry, just light reflection with pigmentation. He's really a nice guy.


Cats have been demonized in the media more than any other domesticated animal. Remember “Cinderella?” The cat’s name was Lucifer for heaven’s sake. And don’t forget the multitudes of other movies in which cats are portrayed as the villain. Why is all this animosity directed at such tiny furry creatures? As with most cases of prejudice and misguided hatred, I believe that a lot of it comes from misunderstanding cats. On the flip side, there are people who love cats, but unfortunately do damage to their pets due to other misconceptions. Today I will explore many common myths, (one of them an allegedly scientifically proved fact,) and see if I can clear the air in regards to these enigmatical felines.

1.) Cats suck the breath out of babies or smother them. I am starting with this one because it is the most damaging and most asinine myth out there, besides the one saying cats are in league with the devil. Not only is it physically impossible for a cat to “suck” anything, it is also impossible for the cat to fit its mouth over an infant’s mouth and nose to obstruct breathing. There have been no documented cases of a cat smothering an infant, though there have been a few where parents have accidently smothered their babies in their sleep.
However, the sight of a cat curled up around a baby, and even having its face near the baby’s is not uncommon. What is the cat really doing?
A.) Cats love warmth. Babies are warm, so they make great sleeping companions.
B.) Many cats love milk, so one can assume that the smell of milk on a baby’s breath is quite pleasing to the pet.
C.) Cats consider themselves equal members of the family. They think of their humans as part of the colony. Cat colonies raise their babies together. So, your young is their young. Though some get jealous of a newborn in rare occasions, most cats are protective towards the new member of the family.

2.) Cats don’t do anything good or beneficial for humans. A cat’s purr releases endorphins in the cat as well as any other living thing it is in contact with. An extra release of endorphins will lower blood pressure in humans. A cat’s presence has also been proven to benefit Alzheimer’s patients. It is also proven that people who own dogs or cats tend to live longer and healthier.

3.) Cats are “low maintenance” or anti-social. Though it is true that cats don’t require being walked, or cleaned up after, or bathed like dogs, that doesn’t mean that you can just leave them alone or ignore them all the time. Cats need exercise and attention. Long haired cats need to be groomed. Cats are very social creatures, but most of their communication is nonverbal, and a lot of it is by scent. When your cat is sitting by you, it is communicating. When a cat deposits a corpse of a critter on your porch it is gesture of respect and goodwill. When a cat rubs on you, it is scent-marking you.

4.) Pregnant women can’t be around cats: Sometimes cats can pick up a toxin from raw meat or certain soils that can be harmful for a pregnant woman. As long as she stays away from the litter box, she will be fine.

5.) Cats can be vegetarians/ vegans. People who adopt a vegetarian/ vegan lifestyle often wish to impose such a lifestyle on every member of their family. Cats are specific carnivores, which means that they will DIE if they don’t eat meat. Though dogs are omnivores, they need meat too. Here is a cool link that shows how a cat’s nutritional requirements differ from dogs:http://www.thepetcenter.com/article.aspx?id=3405


6.) Declawing is like nail trimming and the cat will suffer no ill effects. It is illegal to declaw a cat in many countries. The US is behind. Declawing is amputating the first bone on a cat’s paws, which has all sorts of negative effects on the poor kitty. Here’s a link for more info on this inhumane practice: http://www.declawing.com/htmls/declawing.htm

7.) Cats always land on their feet. They don’t and can suffer severe injuries from jackasses trying to prove this. Interesting fact: Cats falling from higher places are often less injured than cats falling from lower places. Why? Because if they fall from a higher place, they have time to relax their muscles and almost turn their bodies into parachutes. I saw it on National Geographic, it was bitchin’.

8.) Cats cannot be trained. That’s a bunch of B.S. Cats are very intelligent and can be trained to do much cooler stuff than a dog. They just have to give a damn. Behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner once taught a cat to play the piano. Can a dog do that? YouTube is full of videos of cats using the toilet, talking, and even scuba diving.

9.) Putting butter on a cat’s feet will prevent them from getting lost if you move. I just heard this one last night and put it in since it’s so weird. Um…no. Who the hell came up with that?

10.) Cats can’t recognize human faces. This link describes the experiment that allegedly “proves” this. http://www.journalofvision.org/5/8/49/

Okay, now it is tangent time. I disagree with this conclusion because

A.) The test was based on recognition of “handlers” that worked with the animals for 2 hours a day. Cats aren’t stupid. They know when people are just handlers and are not part of their family. That’s why shelter cats don’t suffer any separation issues from the shelter workers and is also why most are so eager for the attention of prospective owners that visit.

B.) Cats have a very intricate social hierarchy system. A handler that only works with them for 2 hours a day, and in a group scenario, no less, will not have a significant standing in their hierarchy. In layman’s terms: They don’t give a damn about pictures of a handler.

C.) It was proven in the experiment that the cats recognized the pictures of the handlers over 50% of the time. Again, I think the rest of the times they just didn’t give a damn. Unlike dogs, it takes more than bribes to earn loyalty.

D.) The cats recognized the other familiar pictures in the experiment, so why should human faces be any different? Again, they just didn’t give a damn.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Holiday Craziness


The holidays are an explosion of insanity for anyone, but for writers, it's even worse. Between the rush and pressure to finish the Christmas shopping and subsequent wrapping of gifts, there's always holiday events and parties to attend, the regular day job...and cold and flu season to contend with.


But the writer still has work to do. Projects still have deadlines, whether real or self-imposed. The self-imposed ones are the hardest. I believe that for the aspiring writer, the holidays are a dangerous time. With all the chaos, it is tempting to put a project away with a tentative promise to oneself to dig it back out in January. Or even worse, it can be tempting to just give up. Contracted authors have it a little easier, in that they have no choice but to push on.

And push on I will, daunting as it is. Despite the holiday craziness, I will keep writing. I have 3 projects, but will expend the most effort on the one which has a home. I will also do my best to keep up with my critique of a friend's novel. ...and I'm making a quilt for my oldest stepdaughter. It won't be done by Christmas, but I hope make progress on it. And if my house has to look like it threw up for the next few weeks, so be it.

How are you managing the holiday craziness? What do you do to keep your sanity?  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Finding the Silver Lining in Being Poor.

Nature is free...and that rocks.

Last week I ran across this heart-wrenching blog post on being poor. So many things...especially in the comments section had me in tears because a lot of it hit close to home.

After a few hours of being depressed by the post, I decided to write an answer to it. Believe it or not, there are some positive things about being poor...and some things of priceless value.

Now, a lot of the perspective I have is being poor in a small city in Northern Idaho. That other post made me thankful for the most part that I never lived in a big city. It seems the only advantages to being "big city poor" would have been more shelters and public transportation. Until recently, we had no public transit system and the only homeless shelters available were one for single men and another for battered women. The men had to jump through nearly impossible hoops, and the women...well, if they weren't battered, then I guess it was assumed they should find a man to live with, or take up stripping, I don't know. What I do know is that many citizens of my town have spent at least a few months either living in their cars or in the mountains.

Okay, now to the positive stuff:

Being poor is learning your strengths and full potential. Through enduring and surviving hardship, one gains unique confidence.

Being poor is learning a variety of skills. My husband can darn socks and rebuild lawnmowers, chainsaws & weed eaters. I can fix my own cars, play darts for money, and we both have quite a lot of experience in construction, home repairs, & some plumbing repair.

Being poor is learning to pinch a penny until it bleeds. I'll use my car as an example. One can save thousands of dollars by 1.) Buying by private sale only, 2.) Learning to fix it yourself, 3.) learning the best places to acquire parts...i.e. you can get decent tires on rims at a junk yard...and it's always best to have your snow tires already on rims because having them changed at a shop costs big bucks, whereas busting out your jack and doing it yourself is free and easy.

Being poor is learning the resources of the land to feed your family. My husband grows a garden which not only keeps us stocked year round with home canned goods, but also has enough surplus so we may help out others. We also gather mushrooms and berries from the mountains, hunt and fish. Our freezer is now stocked with enough meat to last until late summer. And we'll be making a year's worth of jam next.

Being poor is learning to feed a large family with little expense. On the post I read, someone commented that "hot water + free ketchup packets from fast food joints = tomato soup." I'd never gone that far, though I've stretched cans of tomato soup with ketchup. I also know about 100 different ways to make Top Ramen. Also, did you know that it's cheaper to buy a beef roast and have the meat department guy grind it than it is to buy hamburger?

Being poor is finding treasure at thrift stores and yard sales. I often get the greatest compliments on my cute outfits that cost me under 5 bucks. Hell, even if I ever get rich, I'll still go to yard sales. It's such an adventure!

Being poor is discovering that there's still goodness and hope in humanity. There have been many instances in which my family's been saved by the kindness of strangers. I am eternally grateful to them all.

Being poor is experiencing a wonderful feeling when you're able to help someone else. Whether it's giving away food from our garden or a pack of venison steaks, donating clothes to another needy mom, dropping a few dimes in the animal shelter donation jars, or passing on info about a job opening, it feels like I've done something to repay the times I've been helped.

Being poor is having an invaluable community. These last few years, its seems like my whole neighborhood's been going through tough times, but we help each other out. Each summer we'd pool our resources. One would bring burger meat, another had fresh ears of corn, I'd make a pasta salad. Together we'd have an excellent barbecue and eat and laugh like kings.

Being poor is knowing the true joy of family. No matter what, we always have each other.

Being poor is knowing all the free entertainment at your fingertips. Besides fishing, swimming, and camping, there's art galleries to visit, free concerts at the city park, and the company of family and friends. To me, good conversation is priceless, and I'd pass on expensive movie tickets for that experience. And there's the library, which supplies not only books, but music and movie rentals, and activities for children.

Being poor is getting a good laugh...and sometimes a twinge of pity for rich people. Another comment in the sad post said something about bumping into someone's Prada bag and realizing the bag is worth more than their life. I, on the other hand, would probably be all, "HAHAHA! You paid (exorbitant sum) for that ugly thing that you won't be able to carry next year because your "friends" will make fun of you for being out of fashion?" To me it seems the rich are judged by what they have more than who they are as people.

So, despite being momentarily dejected by the that other post, I've come to a realization: I may be poor, but I am blessed in so many ways. If things get worse, I know I have the courage, skills, and strength to survive. If things get better, that would be great! But, I'll still eat Top Ramen for lunch...though I may have king crab legs for dinner. :)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Letter to Santa.


Dear Santa,

I think I've been pretty good this year and I am splitting my list into two categories: Things I want and things I need:

THINGS I WANT:

The stuff I mentioned on last year's post.

And speaking of shirts, I also found some that reference one of my favorite novellas ever.
I also wouldn't mind the ones for Stebbins or McVries:)
Music enlivens my muse, so the 2 newest MEGADETH albums wouldn't be amiss.

Since I'm working on Regency romances, I'd also adore the miniseries, LOST IN AUSTEN....um, for research...not that it was fun or anything...hell, who am I kidding, IT WAS AWESOME!

An MP3 Player: I used to borrow my son's...until I accidentally washed it with the laundry. I got him a replacement for Christmas (SHHHHHHH!!!) and I'm totally jealous!

M'kay, now for things I need:

One of those air spray can thingies for blowing the dust out of electronics. I'm sick of doing it with my mouth.

A laptop cooling pad...because frozen corn never makes a level working surface.

A new set of clunky, cushion-y headphones. They are imperative for late night research and muse-summoning.

Ear Plugs. Because my husband snores.

Book gift card...because writers don't just "want" books, we NEED them!

And finally.....

The continuation of the love and support of my friends and family. ::looks around:: It looks like Christmas has come early in that aspect! Thanks so much to everyone and Merry Christmas! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

NaNo Recap: Triumph or Fail?

As I mentioned in this post, I decided to try my hand at NaNo at the last minute. It was completely unofficial. I didn't sign in to the NaNoWrimo site. Hell, I didn't even put up a progress bar. I did it unofficially because I anticipated being pulled away to work on something else at any moment....but I still wanted to write. I needed to write.

I got about 5K into another rock star romance novella before, sure enough, I remembered a friend's birthday was coming up, so I had to work on a portrait of his favorite IRON MAIDEN album cover.

I'd lost my 6B pencil, but I found it so I gotta shade it in more.
And of course since it's November, I ended up with a terrible cold that lasted nearly 2 weeks...while I was working on the portrait. 

After I finished it, I lost grasp on the former project. But I still wanted to write. So I decided to be evil and write the opening of the 4th book in my urban fantasy series that one of my betas had been begging for. I sent her the first few paragraphs. Yeah, she wants more. And I would have given it to her.

But then my editor asked for the concepts of my next 2 books. I've never written a synopsis for a book I hadn't written, and now I had to do 2. EEEEK! 

After much stressing, I pulled it off, and it was fun! I like these stories and can't wait to write them! Hell, I already got started before I heard back.

Thankfully, she LOVED them! 

So, I wrote approximately 11K for NaNoWriMo...not only did I fail to get the requisite 50K, but it was on 4 different projects.

But I think I still WON because I was WRITING. And I have the beginnings of many pleasant journeys before me.

What do you think. Did you do NaNo? How did it turn out for you this year?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transporting the Reader.


So I just finished reading HEARTS IN ATLANTIS by my hero, Stephen King. This guy has got to be the most misunderstood author ever. Both my mother in law and Grandmother shudder when they hear his name, though I'd bet a fortune neither have read so much as a paragraph of one of his novels. And the looks on the faces of some people when they're informed it was Stephen King who wrote THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION & STAND BY ME? Priceless.

They think he's just a horror author, good for gore and cheap thrills. They don't realize that not only does he write other things than horror, he is a master story-teller. He captures people's hopes, dreams, and fears and places them on the page for the reader. He builds worlds with such clarity that one can smell the air, spot the landmarks...and even draw a map. (Hey fellow SK fans...I'll meetcha in the Barrens in a few...we have a monster to kill.)  Okay, though I'm tempted to use IT as an example, I'm going to stick with HEARTS IN ATLANTIS.

The blurb on the back says it "...will take some readers to a place have never been...and others to a place they have never been able to leave completely."

Wow. I've never seen a blurb deliver exactly what it promises.

HEARTS IN ATLANTIS (the book, not the movie) was four stories and an epilogue in which the characters all intertwine in some way. And all were about the 60's and the effect it had on those people.

I wasn't born until '82 so it was definitely a whole new world to me. I love my historical novels for the same reason...but this was different. This was deeper, because though I'd never been in the 60's, I have friends who have, a lot of them Vietnam Veterans. They rarely ever speak of the war, especially to me...unless they are very drunk. To them, I'm still just a kid...and a girl at that. How could I ever understand? I was never there, of course I can't understand. I was never offended.

There are things people experience that many will never understand. I think of a crazy New Year's Eve when I was 13...the madness of that night is still too much to talk about except for a vivid memory of my mom shoving me into my room and screaming at me to barricade the door with my dresser. It was a huge dresser, I have no idea how I managed, but I did what she said...then I remember collapsing in tears and praying she'd be alive in the morning....and then nothing.

Anyway, after reading HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, I still don't really know what my drinking buddies have been through, but I think I may have a glimmer of understanding.

King didn't elaborate too much about the actual war, but more on the effects it had on people....still, since he was there in that era, I bet his drinking buddies were less reluctant to talk about it.  He didn't fight in 'Nam, but he'd wanted to. "Don't be an idiot, Stephen," his mother told him. "With your eyes, you'd be the first one to get shot. You can't write if you're dead." That was in ON WRITING and thank God for the wisdom of moms. But I now learned there was more to it than that.

Apparently back then, men in college had to keep a certain grade point average or else they'd get drafted. It was literally: STUDY OR DIE. My mind is still blown by that concept. I asked a few people if it was true and they just shrugged calmly. "Yup."

I think of the scene where the mother tells her son to work hard at his studies because boys who don't have been dying....and tears come to my eyes. Then King goes on to describe how the "peace sign" became the symbol of the war protests and so much more. To people of my generation it was just a cutesy retro design. But for a generation it actually MEANT something.

I'm not going to say anything good or bad about Vietnam or the protests or the government or anything like that....and for the record, I don't think Sai King really did either. He gave the reader an unbiased panorama of all sides. I wasn't there, I have no room to talk. But....while reading HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, I felt like I was for a minute.

And THAT'S the point of this post. I want to transport the reader to different worlds and perspectives. I want them to feel like they've REALLY been to the places I put on on a page. As writers we ALL should feel that way.

P.S. To the lazy-nicks out there: the movie only featured the 1st story...and they totally ruined it. But, Anthony Hopkins kicks ass and it's still worth watching. But to get what I'm talking about in this post, READ THE BOOK!



Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Binges


I've been mostly absent from the online universe lately primarily for two reasons: A.) I'm working on proposals for the next two novels in my series. and B.) I've been binge-reading like a sonovabitch.

To get my paranormal kicks I devoured CLAIMED by Rebecca Zanetti. Loved it. Then for historical inspiration...and the snuggle-y security of an old favorite: ALMOST HEAVEN by Judith McNaught. For the classics I'm reading LITTLE WOMEN...but the goody-goody-ness coupled with the knowledge that it doesn't end well has me taking a break from it to also read HEARTS IN ATLANTIS by my hero, Stephen King. And on the kindle I have two classics that may directly tie in to my current WIP.

I go on these binges periodically through my life. How much is motivated by the need to escape and how much is pure literary addiction, I have no idea.

I just wanted to let you all know I'm still alive and I love my online community...but as Sai King says: "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write." ....that and my addiction calls.

What are you reading right now? What are some of your favorites?  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Paranormal Thanksgiving: Top 10 things to be thankful for…Guest post by Jean Murray


Before things kick off, I just wanted to put and idea out there. 
Imagine setting a thanksgiving table for some of our paranormal brothers and sisters.  The menu would have to be quite varied to include: blood wine, raw turkey, stuffed brains, pickled souls and magick maze. Not to mention the dinner conversation and a closet big enough to put all the various weapons they carry.  And don’t get me started on seating arrangements.  A host nightmare for sure.

So in the spirit of our Paranormal Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

Here are a few of mine:  

10.  Werewolves are the good guys in Twilight Series.  And not bad to look at either…

9.  Session 1-9 of X-files is available on Netflix

8. Our Blood Sucking friends taking TV by storm: True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Being Human (click here to see the Top 10 Vampire TV series). 

7.  There is such a thing called HORROR Romance!!  Monsters need love too.

6.  Zombies aren’t just for horror movies any more.  They have eaten our hearts in books, TV and films. Walking Dead Series – Which character are you?  Come meet my REVENS.

5. Zombie Survival Guide available on Amazon.  Prepare for the worst J

4.  Hunter from the Midnight Breed Series has his own book.    

3. Our superheroes of yesteryears are making a comeback!  Whether genetic mutants or otherworldly visitors.

2.  No matter how much the industry says vampires are out, the living dead are not dead. 

1.  Long live the P word:  Paranormal romance novels are more popular than ever, consuming more bookshelf space at the bookstores.

What are you thankful for?

Jean Murray is the author of the Key to the Cursed Series: Three sisters and their fated mates on a journey of love, redemption and war. Soul Reborn starts the series based on Ancient Egyptian Mythos.  A fabulous mix of action, suspense and indelible love story appeals to both paranormal romance and urban fantasy readers.
Learn more about Soul Reborn:


THE HUMAN REALM, HIS BATTLEFIELD.

Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.

DEADLY SECRETS BETTER LEFT UNEARTHED.
Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess' undead army unleashing hell on earth.  But Lilly has a secret—one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.

Soul Reborn Reviews:
Romantic Times (RT) Book Reviews (Sept2011) -  4/4.5 stars/Scorcher, http://www.rtbookreviews.com/book-review/soul-reborn
Find Jean at these locations:

Web Address: www.jean-murray.com ; www.keytothecursed.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

WINNER! ...and Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe!

The winner of a copy of LORD AND LADY SPY by Shana Galen is: JAYMZANGEL! I'll be getting hold of you to pass on your address to Shana!


Now here's the recipe:


Required Materials: 
Roasting Pan
Aluminum Foil
Turkey Baster
Meat Thermometer

Ingredients:
1: 15-20lb turkey (If larger may need to increase other ingredients)
1-2 stalks celery
1 large orange
1 onion (I prefer sweet)
1/2 to 1 clove of garlic
1 big carrot or 8-10 baby carrots
1 1/2 to 3/4 bottle of ginger ale (2 liter)
1 can chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbs. thyme
2 tbs. parsley
2 tbs. sage
1 tbs. lemon pepper
1 tbs. Seasoned Salt (Johnny's or Lawry's is best!)

(I know it's a long list, but it's totally worth it!)
Okay, here we go.

Preheat oven to 350
Mix thyme, sage, parsley, lemon pepper, and seasoning salt in a small bowl
Chop the onion, carrot, and celery
Peel the garlic and split into segments
Peel the orange and split into segments

Line the roasting pan with enough foil to cover the turkey.
Remove the neck and giblets from turkey
Rub the herb mixture inside both neck and rear cavities of the turkey and a little on the outside.
Stuff turkey with chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, orange segments, and bay leaf.
Place turkey in roasting pan.
Pour all chicken broth and half required ginger ale into the cavity.
Truss the turkey and pour more ginger ale over bird and around it.

Make a foil tent over the bird, but try not to have the foil touch it.
Baste periodically and remove foil to allow turkey to brown 45 min to 1 hr before done.
Turkey is done when thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees.

Here is estimated cooking time by weight:
10-15 lbs = 3 3/4 -4 1/2 hrs. 15-22lbs = 4 1/2- 5 hrs
22-24lbs = 5- 5 1/2 hrs. 24-29lbs = 5 1/2- 6 1/4 hrs

When turkey is done, remove from oven, cover, and let stand 10- 15 min before carving. This allows the juices to resettle.

Bonus Gravy Recipe:
Ingredients: (To taste and as needed)
Turkey drippings/ marinade
Milk
Cornstarch
Parsley
Thyme
Sage
Salt (if needed)
Black Pepper

Using the turkey baster, remove as much liquid from turkey as you need and heat it to boiling in a medium saucepan
Mix cornstarch with milk and add to boiling turkey drippings,
Slowly lower the heat and blend with a whisk.
thicken to desired texture and in the meantime season to taste with herbs and pepper. Try not to burn your tongue!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blending History and Pop Culture By Shana Galen


Do you guys remember that book I was raving about a few weeks back? LORD AND LADY SPY by Shana Galen? Dude! Check it out! She's here today and has a copy to give away to one lucky reader! Squee!




When Brooklyn Ann invited me to blog here and suggested this topic, I was really excited. I can’t believe I haven’t ever blogged on the blend of history and pop culture before. In fact, I was so excited to blog on it, I couldn’t concentrate on the proposal I’m writing and had to work on this blog instead.

First, some background. I think the reason Brooklyn asked me to blog on this topic is because my most recent novel, Lord and Lady Spy, is a Regency-set wink at the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I say wink because the book and the movie don’t have much in common except the basic premise. Here’s a little about the book.


No man can outsmart him...

Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England's most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn't the only one with secrets...


But one woman almost certainly can...

Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he's not who she thinks he is after all...
The idea of taking a well-known premise, like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, and tweaking it into something different but familiar isn’t new at all. I’m sure you’ve read at least one book touted as a re-telling of a fairy tale. And we are always taking history and making it pop culture. Think of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, or Clueless, a re-telling of Austen’s Emma. And, although I wish I was the first to take pop culture and blend it with history, I’m not. I don’t know who the first was, but I do know Jenna Petersen did this years ago with her Lady Spies series which was an historical Charlie’s Angels.

But here is what I think makes blending pop culture and history so much fun, and why I think we’ll see more of it.

  1. Pop culture is accessible. Adrian and Sophia in Lord and Lady Spy don’t have access to grenades, automatic weapons, fast cars, or helicopters. I had to make a carriage chase and good old hand to hand combat fun and exciting. No special effects, which, let’s face it, don’t really work in books anyway. But I think the lack of special effects makes the story all that more accessible to readers. They know they could never be Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie firing those machine guns. But they could be Adrian or Sophia and run after a bad guy.

  1. Pop culture is familiar. One of the things we love about re-tellings of fairy tales is the blend of the familiar and the novel. What will be the same? What will be different? This is why we see the movie version of books we’ve read. We already know the story, but we wonder how the director and actors will change it, and if they’ll keep our favorite parts the same. I was really conscious of this when writing Lord and Lady Spy. I didn’t want to re-write Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Honestly, I didn’t even love the movie that much. But I did love the premise, and I thought there were certain scenes I could make work in a book. For example, somewhere in the movie—maybe when Brad and Angelina have finished destroying their house—they sit down and compare “war” stories and wounds. I knew I wanted a similar scene. It wouldn’t be the same by any means, but it would be familiar to readers and fun because of the new way I’d envisioned it.

  1. Pop culture is enduring. This isn’t to say that two hundred years from now, writers will be waxing poetic on Jersey Shore or Grey’s Anatomy, but the pop in pop culture stands for popular. If a movie or TV show is popular it must have some element that resonates with viewers. I believe the idea of a husband or wife having a sexy secret is what made Mr. and Mrs. Smith a success at the box office. Who, after a few years of marriage, wouldn’t be kind of excited to find out your other half is really a secret agent? And who wouldn’t also be royally annoyed that he or she kept such a secret? This is the element of Mr. and Mrs. Smith I focused on in Lord and Lady Spy. I wanted to know, how does a married couple keep such a secret and at what price? Further, can a marriage recover from such duplicity? Those are questions any romance author could write a book around. Adding the pop culture element makes it much more fun.

I want to thank Brooklyn Ann for asking me to blog today. And I’d love to give away a signed copy of Lord and Lady Spy to one person (open internationally) who comments today. Do you have a favorite story re-telling?

Bio

Shana Galen is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold worldwide, including Japan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She’s a wife, a mother, and an expert multi-tasker. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and twitter.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Sexual Objectification of Men in Romanceland: Part 2


Sorry for the delay, all. I've been busy working on another project (non-writing) that will be unveiled on Wednesday.

Okay, so in the last post we covered: YES, we romance readers definitely objectify men sexually...but that it isn't really a bad thing as I believe it supports gender equality....oh, and I threw in some hot eye candy as well. How did I forget that?

Now where was I... I need caffeine.

Oh yeah, today's post is how we do it better.

Point One: We lust after men with a variety of  appearances whereas the media seems to objectify on one type of woman.

I think they have serial numbers instead of souls.



Here's a pic of some lucky lady with a group of cover models.
Something for everyone here. I call dibs on the one with the long hair.

Point Two: We also care about the guy's personality and accomplishments. When all the guys are lusting after  (insert starlet name here), do they really care about what she does or how she feels about, well, anything? Now when romance fans are discussing books, you'll here things like: "Oooh that cover's yummy. Is it any good?" "Not really, the hero was an asshole/ moron. Try (insert title). The hero was hot...and sweet/ brave/smart/funny."

Point Three:  We welcome baggage. The media always bitches about women having "too much baggage." I dislike a drama queen as much as the next person, but it seems "baggage" has become a blanket term covering everything from life experience, to emotion, to even the slightest hint of a personality. It's like they want women to be cyborgs. 
Resistance is futile.
In romanceland we embrace heroes who'd been abused as children, heroes who've been emotionally traumatized by some other bitch (who hopefully gets what she deserves later in the story), heroes who've been physically tortured, etc.

Final point and summary: Although we lust after a hot romance hero, we also see him as a human being, with unique virtues and flaws. Romance heroes, as well as men in general, are all individual human beings. It makes the concept of falling in love (and lust) always fresh and exciting, no matter how many books we read.
 




Friday, November 11, 2011

Recipe: Cucumber Sandwiches

Being that it's Veteran's day, I didn't feel right sexually objectifying men today. So we'll get back to that on Monday. For now here's what I'm making for my 1st RWA meeting!

Not my picture, I still have no camera. Besides, mine have the skin peeled off

1 thin baguette 
1-2 cucumbers, depending on size
4 oz cream cheese
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2 Tbs butter
2 tbs mayonnaise 
a few drops Worcestershire sauce
pepper 
garlic salt
seasoned salt
dill weed

Lightly toast the baguette and then slice it evenly. Lightly butter each slice.
Peel cucumber and slice it in half lengthwise to scoop out the seeds.
Slice cucumber halves
Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. 
Spread mixture on buttered slices and add pieces of cucumber. 

YUM! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sexual Objectification of Men in Romanceland: Part 1

Face it, we totally do it.

A few prime examples:

Mmmm....


Rawr!


Oh my!
And it's not just the covers. Hop on twitter and follow a few romance readers and/ or writers and you'll hear all sorts of talk that probably trumps what one would hear in a men's locker room... I think. Really, I have no clue, but trust me, we get all kinds of dirty. :)

As for categories of preferred novels, we in romance-land totally navigate by the type of guy. Cowboys, Navy Seals, Vampires, Dukes, even firemen. There's categories of um...certain videos for men that are organized in a similar manner.

See, sexual objectification all the way.

And I don't think it's a necessarily a bad thing. First off, I think it speaks highly for gender equality. For years, many women have protested against the rampant sexual objectification of women in the media. The feminists point the blame at our patriarchal society. I think that's not completely accurate. I think much of sexual objectification comes from the fact that humans are sexual beings. Now...with the majority of the objectification being of women by men...yeah, there's a point there.

But....I believe that many in society have been doing their part to level the playing field, with the romance genre leading the fray...and scoring points. I have a theory that the infamous volleyball scene in Top Gun was truly intended to be targeted for women, despite the homo-erotic accusations it receives. I think someone in the film crew walked by a display of NYT bestselling romance novels adorned with topless Fabio and thought, "Hey, the ladies like their eye candy, too! Let's throw em a bone and maybe we'll do better in the box office?"  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trope Talk: Guardian/ Ward

I've been wanting to do a series of posts on tropes for awhile. They are so prominent in the romance genre that one cannot escape them in one way or another. But I say this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't know about you, but I'll often buy books because I'm craving a certain trope. Sometimes that backfires miserably. And sometimes I'll read a book that features a trope I usually loathe, but this time I enjoy it.

It all depends on how the trope is handled.

So here's my first trope:

Most often found in historical romances is the GUARDIAN and WARD romance:

What is appealing about this trope?

1.) The aspect of the forbidden: The hero is responsible for the heroine's well-being and often it's his job to ensure she has a successful marriage...to anyone but him. Delicious!

2.) The characters often get more "screen time" alone together and have the opportunity for more intimacy...and hilarious hijinks.

3.) Some readers like older men. (I think that's part of why I like vampires.)

When this trope goes wrong:

1.) When the hero was the heroine's guardian for a long time, or knew her since she was a child. This kinda brings some pedophilia contexts to it. Ewwww.

2.) When the situation in which the hero becomes her guardian is ridiculously unbelievable. Any time the reader is pulled out of the story shaking her head is bad.

3.) Any instance when it's treated like a parent/ child situation. For any edgy role-play, we can pick up some erotica instead.

Some good examples of the Guardian/ Ward trope done well.

THE TAMING OF THE DUKE by Eloisa James. Book 3 in the awesome Essex Sisters quartet, I think it was my favorite and the most unique use of the trope.



In book one, when the hero discovers he's to become guardian to his old friend's four daughters, he turns a room into a nursery, fills it with toys and hires nursemaids...only to discover that all four are grown women. LOL! The one he ends up with is Imogen, though they hated each other on sight and the hostility continues for over two books straight. Like with most Eloisa James novels, one should read the books in order to better enjoy the fun.

SEDUCED by Virginia Henley



This one is awesome because it also involved another of my favorite tropes: Girl disguised as boy. When twin siblings, Anthony and Antonia Lamb go out sailing, there's an accident and the brother is lost at sea. Antonia then disguises herself as her brother to prevent an evil cousin from inheriting. Things get crazy when the twins' guardian arrives and makes it his mission in life to make a man out of her. The best part? SHE ends up seducing him! (But in disguise as a random Italian partying woman) ...and he nearly craps a brick when he finds out who she is.

What are some other guardian/ ward tropes you've enjoyed? What ones make you cringe? Which tropes do you think I should cover next?


Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I'm doing NaNo this year....sorta.

In the last few weeks I've discovered a small (thankfully temporary) downside to getting a book deal: the "not writing" part. While waiting to begin edits on my novel, I occupied myself with research and notes for subsequent books in the series...but I don't want to go too far and fall in love with an idea only to have my editor not like it. I've also been working at keeping up with my social networking, which thanks to all you awesome people, doesn't really feel like work. But...I MISS writing! I miss bringing characters and adventures to life on the page.

So...mere hours before it started, I've decided to unofficially do NaNoWrimo. I'm doing another novella in my rock star series. Like my last one, it's a pure guilty pleasure project. I've had the premise and some fun scenes floating in my head for months and NaNo gave me the perfect excuse to indulge myself.

In summary, this project is pure playtime in which I give myself full permission to write junk and have fun with obvious and not so obvious references to both fiction and the heavy metal subculture. I.E. In the real world, there's a "Big Six" in publishing and the "Big Four" in Thrash metal. In my fictional world, I have a "Big Six" in thrash metal, LOL. I also named the band in this project, VishÓ§us. ;)

Taking great hair and great music to the next level? How can I resist?


But as I have no idea where and if this series would fit in the market, I am not that emotionally invested in it. When the time comes to get back to work on BITE ME, YOUR GRACE, I can close this document without regret.

Because I now realize what NaNoWrimo is all about. Getting writers doing what they do best: WRITING.