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 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.


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!


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.


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'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. 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:

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:

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.

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:


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, 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?