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Monday, November 28, 2011

REALITY CHECK

My poor overworked computer contains a motherboard which is currently circling the drain. *sniff* So I've spent a great deal of time double checking my backup system. In the process I came across a document I may or may not have written but I really liked what it said so I'm going to post it here as an inspiration holiday survival piece.


A time comes in your life when you finally get it.....When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out - ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world through new eyes. This is your awakening.

You realize that it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change… or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that he is not Prince Charming and you are not Cinderella and that in the real world there aren't always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you - and in the process a sense of serenity is born of this acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are.. and that's OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions. You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say, and that not everyone will always be there for you, and that it's not always about you.

And you begin to sift through all the crap you've been fed about how you should behave; how you should look and how much you should weigh; what you should wear and where you should shop; and what you should drive; how and where you should live; and what you should do for a living; who you should sleep with, who you should marry, and what you should expect of a marriage; the importance of having and raising children; or what you owe your parents.

You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive. And that there is power and glory in creating and contributing - and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" looking for your next fix. You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don't know everything, it's not your job to save the world and that you can't teach a pig to sing.

You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. Romantic love and familial love. How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving and when to walk away. You learn not to project your needs or your feelings onto a relationship. You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or important because of the man on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn that just as people grow and change so it is with love...and you learn that you don't have the right to demand love on your terms...just to make you happy.

And, you learn that alone does not mean lonely.

And you look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a perfect 10 and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head and agonizing over how you "stack up." You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won't settle for less. And, you allow only the hands of a lover who cherishes you to glorify you with his touch...and in the process you internalize the meaning of self-respect.

And you learn that your body really is your temple.

And you begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and taking more time to exercise. You learn that fatigue diminishes the spirit and can create doubt and fear. So you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that for the most part, in life you get what you believe you deserve...and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different from working toward making it happen. More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone and that it's OK to risk asking for help. You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom. You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people. On these occasions you learn not to personalize things. You learn that God isn't punishing you or failing to answer you prayers. It's just life happening.

And you learn to deal with evil in its most primal state-the ego.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to try building bridges instead of walls.

You learn to be thankful and take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about; a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and to make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than you heart's desire. And you hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind. And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tips and Tricks...


This month's blog is on hyperlinks. Hyperwhat? Hyperlinks...those little blue underlined words you see in the middle of articles that when clicked, link you to other places on the web.

So? What about them?

I'll tell you...

If they end up attached to your manuscript, even in a hidden, innocuous way, they will wreak havoc in your digital formatting.

Like a parasite, they attach themselves to words or phrases in your manuscript, and you most likely won't realize it until it's too late. Trust me...I just went through the nightmare of cleaning up the mess they can cause.

If you're like most writers today, you use the internet to do research. You look up facts, double and triple check the sources, order books on historical topics or locations...all with the aim of giving your readers the most factually correct information you can within the fiction you create. This is where a hyperlink can attach itself without your even knowing it. All it takes is one cut and paste. It can be something as simple as cutting and pasting the proper name of a place or historical person, (even if it's just for the correct spelling), and BAM! Hyperlink. The source text doesn't even have to be blue...or underlined, to contain a hyperlink. That's what makes them so hard to catch.

So, what can they do to your manuscript?

How about missing words or even missing blocks of text, for one. In my manuscript, the entire second half of my book ended up underlined. The hyperlink was attached to the name of a town in Spain that I had gotten from a source article. One word caused a tremendous amount of trouble, and the problem wasn't detected until a reader emailed me. Even the master digital copy my publisher had didn't show the problems. It wasn't until the digital file was converted for Kindle and Nook that the problems became visible.

Needless to say, the hyperlink had embedded itself in the last half of the document, three layers deep. It took days of line by line reformatting to fix.

I have since emailed Microsoft, and found that removing a hyperlink when the manuscript is still in word format is the easiest way to handle things. Select all and hit CTRL+SHIFT+F9 and that should remove all hidden hyperlinks from your document.

I'm not sure how well that works, but I do know one thing. I will NEVER cut and paste a proper name from the Web...or anything else for that matter...again.

Readers are hard enough to come by and keep, without adding to things.

I hope this post helps some other unsuspecting author from making the same mistake I made.

All the best,
Marianne Morea

Author,
Hunter's Blood
Blood Legacy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Holiday Treat

When I think of the holidays, I think of family. I also think of food--special, holiday treats that are only made once a year. Treats like Strufoli--an Italian dessert that makes it easy for you to lick your fingers!


My 2005 EPPIE Award Finalist for Best Historical Romance, THE CONTRARY CONTESSA, also focuses on family and food. And strufoli! One of the characters, Zia Concetta, often makes young Emma’s favorite dessert as a bribe for good behavior. Try this family favorite recipe and you’ll be on your best behavior, too!

Zia Concetta’s Delicious Strufoli Recipe

Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 ounces cooking oil, 4 tablespoons brandy or whiskey, 4 teaspoons lemon extract, 6 eggs, honey, tiny multicolored balls-“sprinkles”. Also, oil for frying.

* Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well.
* Pour in oil, whiskey, and extract.
* Break eggs in well.
* Stir together and knead until mixed.
* Roll into a long rope and cut into small pieces.
* Dip in deep hot oil and fry until golden brown.
* Cool. Pour heated honey over balls until coated.
* Dip in deep hot oil and fry until golden brown.
* Cool. Pour heated honey over balls until coated.
* Stir and sprinkle with “sprinkles.”



BLURB:
Pride And Prejudice: Because of the Sicilian tradition of “Fortuna”, Lexia Cappello believes she is destined to marry her stepbrother, the Marquess of Rutherford. Robert Weston, however, has a ready dislike of anything or anyone non-English. Can she convince this obstinate lord that his ignoble prejudice stands in the way of his future happiness?

All In The Family: At first Robert Weston is annoyed, then intrigued by his new-found Sicilian stepsister. The more he resists her, the more he finds he yearns to possess her. Can he overcome his pride to admit the error of his ways and win the Contrary Contessa’s heart?

Available electronically at:


Available in print at:

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from my house to yours!

Susanne Marie Knight
http://www.susanneknight.com <http://www.susanneknight.com/>
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Coming December: The Minx Tobin Mystery Series: The Yuletide Yorkshire--Case Five (Desert Breeze Publishing)

Minx finds something unexpected under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, it wasn’t left by Santa.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Fun of my first Book Signing!

I had my very first book signing EVER this past Saturday for my paranormal/thriller ALEX. And let me tell you, it was an amazing experience! Not so much in the sales area, though I sold a few copies and ran out of flyers. But it was the interaction with other authors and readers that made it such a wonderful experience.

The two authors seated nearest me were both self-published, so it was very interesting to compare our publication experiences. There are pros and cons to both ways, but when it comes right down to it, I’m very thankful to have been accepted and published through Solstice Publishing. My book came out beautifully and I don’t have the frustration and anxiety my companions do.

I had attended the Oregon Book and Author Fair http://www.oregonbookfair.org/ in Central Point with over fifty other authors. The turn out for the event was nice, but what made my day was meeting fans of the paranormal genre. Especially one fan in particular. She’d won a copy of my short ghost story ‘Trials of a Lonely Specter’ and seemed to really enjoy it. When I found out she lived in Oregon I invited her to the festival.

And she came! Now, I know most of you have oodles of books out there and tons of fans, but ALEX is my first, and this is my first true-to-life fan, who not only promotes online for me, but took the time out of her busy life to come and meet me, buy my book, and have me sign it. Such a satisfying feeling for me, as an author. And she took flyers of my book to pass out to her friends! What more could a brand-spanking new author want?

Also, I got to meet the very talented Solstice author, Verna Clay. Such a darling! I’ve been enjoying her stories through ‘Six Sentence Sunday’ and excerpts on her blog. It was a privilege to meet her in person and I now have a signed copy from her Shapeling Trilogy, ‘Roth, Book One: Protector’.

All in all, it was a wholly satisfying weekend and I’m looking forward to my next signing, December 2nd, at the Borders Bookstore during Newberg’s First Friday Artwalk.







ALEX
Amazon

Alex is the paranormal/suspense novel of a young psychic living in a small town in Colorado. Tortured by visions of death and murder, Alex is trying to hold on to his sanity in a world that doesn’t understand him.

Dianne Hartsock
Blog
FB
Twitter
Goodreads

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fearing Rejection

I recently read an article on "fear of rejection". The writer focused on how to overcome rejection in a social situation. I read every word and found myself quaking in my shoes, just contemplating doing a few of the things she suggested.

Since I have a fear of meeting new people and making a total fool of myself, I wanted to panic, bury my head in a drawer of old mismatched socks and ignore any of the suggestions she made. But something held me back. Something spoke to me. Something beyond the need to break out of my self-imposed shell.

This writer could have been talking about my writing as easily as she was talking about getting a social life. What about you? Do you have the same fears?


How often do you avoid writing? Maybe you tell yourself you just don't have time to write. Do you feel writing the story that lingers in your mind, whispering to you late at night, is useless? Nobody would want to read your work. Or maybe you don't see yourself as having the talent, the gift of writing. You know, like all those successful writers. Do you feel hopeless, as if writing is a waste time? Do you waver back and forth about pursuing your dream of being published?


You are not alone.


Seriously, you are suffering these fears with the masses. Every writer out there (okay, there may be ONE writer out there, who has never experienced this fear, not likely though) spends hours, days, weeks, even years in fear of what others will think of their work. The difference between many of them and many of us is that they willing face that fear head on. They write through the fear. On top of that, they are willing to send their work out for other writers to critique and submit to editors for possible publication. You need to adjust to this way of thinking.


Do you want to face your fears? Do you want that story out of your head and down on paper? Do you want to be published?


Only you can make the decision to go forward. You don't have to do it alone, though.


1. Step out of your comfort zone--take a chance.

2. If you are not part of a critique group, join one.

3. Look for a mentor--someone willing to listen to your fears. Let them push you past your fears.

4. Write a goal list, for your writing. As part of this list, add a section for failures achieved. Why? So that you can mark off everything you've learned along the way.

5. Look at writing as growing process. By changing your perspective of failure, you'll note that each lesson learned makes you stronger and more skilled as a writer, moving you one-step closer to achieving your dream.

6. ALWAYS, remember the difference between defeat and success is PERSERVERENCE.

Failing is not failure.

As Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."


DeAnn Sicard
http://AWritersGuidetowords.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So What If a Bodice Rips?

[This is a rewrite of a piece from my blog at the address that appears at the end of this post. I thought I'd share the thoughts here in the hope of getting a conversation started. Please read with the idea of commenting - whether you agree or disagree with me. Lots of folks disagree with me, but I think that's just proof that there are too many sane people out there.]

There are folks who pride themselves on being open-minded and accepting. I like to consider myself one of those folks. However, within the live and let live tribe, there are a bunch of members who only accept something if it meets their rules and regulations. They think they're open-minded but in reality, they're the opposite. These are people who only want to accept what they find acceptable. Yes, Virginia, I'm talking about card-carrying members of the PC Police. I'm gonna call 'em the PCP because I think the name fits. Lord knows they often act like they're high on something.

Too many of them are reader-come-latelys. Yeah, they might've been well-intentioned enough back when they started reading romance. But they hung around with the wrong crowd. They listened to the wrong sermons and soon enough, they started believing them. And the young PCP converts were tapped as missionaries - sent out to convert others and convince them that the only good romance, the only acceptable romance was new romance. Older romance was written in the wrong style with the wrong plot elements.

Yes, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers (guided by talented Avon Books editor Nancy Coffey) created a genre. It wasn't a genre where you might pick up a book on occasion and read it. It was a genre that compelled readers to buy another book so they could start it the second they finished the last. It was a genre that incited and inspired a generation of women.

Perhaps that was all very well - then. And those women who devoured romance novels like Christmas candy? Well, they didn't know any better. Besides, Woodiwiss and Rogers and the writers who learned from them were all the readers had. But this is a new day. There are a horde of writers who've learned the rules and write the proper stuff. If a writer is tempted to wander off the true path -- she'd better not. The PC Police will get her.

Do they have an APB out for me yet?

If they don't they'd better issue one because I'm about to lay some truth on the readers of this blog. It's the kind of truth that clears the system of the Kool-Aid that writers and editors and publishers of the PCP have been force-feeding readers for far too long. It's an earth-shattering, life-altering truth. Are you ready?

Despite the PC Police, there are still writers who cut their teeth as readers of the groundbreaking work by Woodiwiss and Rogers. Some of us discovered those books at local libraries, long after they'd been published. And some of us love them still.

The work that incited a new genre and inspired a generation can do the same again. The style and plot elements of a Woodiwiss or Rogers romance have been declared incorrect and offensive by the PCP. But I understand the power of a good mind trip and I believe that many readers, like me, read romance in order to get inside the heads and the hearts of the hero and heroine.

Those who decide such things have decided that writers must show, not tell. Well, I am an indie writer who is proud to claim the traditions of writers who created our genre. One benefit - and it's a big one - of being an indie is that the one who decides such things with my books is me. And I've decided that if writers want to stop this generation from putting down a book to watch a TV Show or movie, they'd better show AND tell. Because if we're just showing - well TV does that better, so do movies, YouTube, video games and any other visual medium. A writer's medium is words and when they're done well they shouldn't just conjure images, they should conjure emotions.

To paraphrase The Duke of Eden - writers had better show and tell or (continue) to say fare thee well to our readers. Romance grew into the blockbuster genre because our readers preferred to be reading a love story than doing most anything else. And that was back in the day when the only real distractions from reading were TV and movies. Today the internet, which has opened the doors to careers for indie writers like me, has also opened the floodgates to a world of distraction.

If we want to do more than cater to readers who pick up our books sometimes - when they have time, then we better forget the Kool Aid and offer the wine. Readers can pick and choose their entertainment with YouTube and become part of it with Twitter. If we want to inspire a new generation so much that they turn away from other entertainment, then we'd better learn an old lesson. What created our genre was writing that carried readers into the minds of the characters and made the readers part of the story. After all, telling lets readers come backstage. When a writer shows AND tells we know what characters are saying and we see what they're doing but we also know what they're thinking and feeling and why they're thinking and feeling those things.

Even if we bring back show and tell writing, given the excitement level of the other distractions, we won't engage the readers enough unless we throw out all the misrule of the PC Police. And that means that even the Holy Grail of the PC Police must be breached. SO WHAT IF A BODICE RIPS? Let's rip some trouser inseams too.

No, I'm not advocating rape. What I am advocating is that we stop throwing the baby out with the bath water. There's a world of difference between some use of coercion or even force and rape. There is both dark fascination and universal appeal to situations where desire is inspired against our will, against common sense, even against our morals. They may be presented straight up involving the hero using his superior strength to prove to the heroine that the desire is mutual. Usually, in a Woodiwiss book, that got answered by the heroine using her superior wits to show the hero that the love was mutual as well. The dark side of desire may be presented as a joke, like I did in A Faerie Fated Forever. It may show up in a shoe is on the other foot fashion (involving the hero) as in A Golden Forever.

The dark side of desire may also show up in a dozen different ways. And, yes, bodices may be ripped. But it worked in early romance because those writers carried the reader inside the heads and hearts of the character. It would never, ever, work where writers are only showing.

To all the writers, I'd suggest that we lock up the PC Police and learn to be as smart as our readers. It's harder to mind hop, heart hop and soul hop but doing it well opens the keys to all the cages. Doing it well means that nothing is off limits.

So, there you have it. I've advocated the end of "Show, Don't Tell" and a return to the era of ripped clothing and no holds barred enticement - even if force or coercion is involved. I'm sure the PC Police have an APB out for me now.

On second thought, they've probably skipped the nicety of getting legal process. I bet they've given a shoot on sight order. I'll have to pull out the heavy ammunition. Yes, when the PC Police show up and draw their guns I'll have to........... have to............ rip my bodice. They'll faint dead away and I'll skip right off into the sunset -- but I'll take my readers with me, right inside my devious little brain.

TO THE BLOG READERS - Are you ready for a return to show and tell writing? Would you pass out from shock if a bodice ripped? Comment at will - even if it's to assess the insanity of the Crazy Duck Lady. (Lord knows, many have tried.)


Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
Friend Quacking Alone on Facebook!
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Image credits, in order of appearance:
Hippie ducks http://thebesttexasmimi.blogspot.com/
Flame & Flower cover http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Sweet Savage Love cover http://www.amazon.com/
No Kool Aid http://discombobulatedrunning.blogspot.com/
PC Police http://www.examiner.com/

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If I Could Start My Writing Career Over, I Would...

What would I change? Would you change anything?

I've often thought about all the time I wasted in the beginning of my writing career. I kinda jumped in without knowing exactly what I needed to do. I was so excited about wanting to write...and did little research in how to go about writing a romance book.

The main thing I would change? I would have started earlier. I always gave excuses as to why I couldn't write. Working. Four kids to take care of. Husband who traveled for his job. But, I think I was a tiny bit unsure of my ability to actually write, so procrastinated. Wrong thing to do. I should have been more confident and tried.

By the time I decided to write, I sat down at the computer and wrote an entire book in a few months. I'd been a voracious romance reader, and thought I had written a pretty good story.

Then, I went to a bookstore and bought a few books about romance writing, including "The Romance Writer's Pink Pages". Looked for agents and mailed off queries. I received rejections, but one agent was kind enough to point out that I needed dialogue...only 25% of the book had actual dialogue, otherwise, I narrated my story.

Thus began my journey to finding romance groups, learning the craft, going through rejections, and keeping that author-status goal in mind.

Writing is my second career. If I had started earlier, who knows where I'd be today!

JUST FOR FUN: What's wrong with this photo?

This is why editing is so important...I actually bought this metal vase at a craft show, and didn't notice the problem!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Photos: Flickr: Alan in Belfast, Girl with butterfly wings photostreams

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Conceiving a series...and building a world

Sometimes a contemporary story world just happens. Other times it's inspired by a picture...a sense of place...a group of beloved characters. Courthouse Connection, my next planned series of erotic contemporary romances, draws from inspirations by all three of these factors.

A mental picture, of a courtroom in Tampa, Florida, of prosecutors and defense teams, defendants, witnesses and judges, sets the backdrop for me to move on, consider the surrounding countryside and its people. This part was easy, because I decided up front to spin this series off Lawyers in Love, one of my first series efforts for Ellora's Cave. (Voila! Not only do I have my visuals and sense of place, but I also have some well-developed secondary characters who starred in books in the previous series.)

I begin building my new series based on the sense of place I've developed and the already-made secondary characters who will bring color to the new series which, by the way, will go in an entirely different direction than its predecessor. My next step is to decide on a particular situation that will not only lend itself to an erotic romance story but also deliver a situation that will bring
unlikely lovers together.

Then, with a very sketchy framework in mind, I begin creating characters, the most important pieces of any erotic romance. One major character in each book must have a tight connection to the court, while the other (others if I'm writing a menage) needs to have a problem that's likely to have them dragged into court.

In FRAMED, the first of the series, the hero is a private investigator--a former cop who works for the law firm the heroine has hired to defend her on a charge of murdering her powerful husband. Not convinced at first that she is innocent, he tries to ignore the chemistry that has sizzled between them from the beginning.

TAMED pits a BDSM club owner and her submissive male partner against a state attorney determined to use the prosecution of them as a springboard to higher office. The hero defends them and is drawn into a BDSM menage that will shock his blue-blooded family.

The next book, SHAMED, brings together a betrayed wife with an ex-Navy Seal detective hired by her attorney to dig into her husband's underhanded dealings. At stake is the bar/cafe near the courthouse that the heroine has poured years of sweat and tears into--her livelihood.

REDEEMED--that's the way this hero feels. An upcoming attorney now, he has experienced the other side and clawed his way back. When he marries his childhood sweetheart, they're both on top of the world until a ghost from his past rears its head and threatens their marriage and his sanity.

By the time these books are written, a lot of the details now in my mind will change--they always do, because I tend to write by the seat of my pants instead of following detailed outlines. The series framework, though, will give me enough guidance that I can hopefully keep the series coherent, while each book will stand on its own.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Favorite Books

I love books. In my personal library I have nearly 5,000 of them, so picking out a favorite is just impossible. Sometimes I browse my shelves, which line most of the rooms in my house, just to remind myself of what I’ve got, what I’ve read and what I’ve not yet read. I like cheap books, and love to buy them when they’re available, to read “someday.” Most of the unread ones are among those my father passed along to me when he decided to downsize his library. So many arrived at once, in box after cardboard box, that I’ve been swamped for about five years. It took me until just this year to organize them all, and catalogue them in my database, and now I can search on the computer and not spend all day in front of the book shelves searching for a volume I just know must be here somewhere...

A great many of my books are mysteries, and some of my favorites are among them. My dad handed over some complete series of Anne Perry, Ellis Peters, and some others. I have all the Janet Evanovich Numbers books, not because they’re great mysteries but because they make me laugh and everyone needs to laugh once in a while.

Most of my very favorite books were written by Stephen King or Clive Barker. One of my treasures is a signed first edition copy of “Weaveworld.” Another is a signed first edition of “Bag of Bones.” I adore King, and think the most frightening book I’ve ever read was “The Shining.” Those topiary animals scared the snot out of me, and since then I’ve read everything by King I could get my hands on. Several years after “The Shining” I once read “The Sun Dog” by flashlight during a lightning storm. I sure know how to have a good time.

I wasn’t always into being frightened and grossed-out. During the third grade I discovered Walter Farley and “The Black Stallion.” There was also the Island Stallion, but the Black was my dream. I must have read that book five or six times, and since I’m not a skimmer that’s saying something.

Later on, my reading slowed because of life getting in the way and my habit of reading slowly, which turned out to be a light sensitivity that made it difficult to see the page properly. I avoided thick books until high school when I picked up Michener’s “Hawaii” and discovered I was capable of finishing a long one. My parents wouldn’t let me go to “R” rated movies, but they would let me read the novels, so I read a lot of thick books which were mostly better than the movies based on them. The most fascinating of those was “The Godfather,” which I read several times and also saw the movie. It was my first glimpse of a culture other than my own, and I boggled at the whole “family” thing. I believe it was that fascination that helped me to understand the Scottish clans I learned about and wrote about much later on.

Aside from Stephen King, I’m more a fan of individual books rather than authors. I do like Hemingway, and enjoyed “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I adore Oscar Wilde’s plays, and especially his creepy novel “A Picture of Dorian Gray.” A more recent selection that impressed me was “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. I love time travel stories. Tim Powers’ “The Anubis Gates” is my bible for time travel, and I kept it well in mind when writing my own two time travel to historical Scotland series. Isaac Asimov’s “I Robot” is my favorite science fiction, and in fact the computer I’m writing this on is named “Speedy” after one of Asimov’s robots. M*A*S*H, speaking of needing to laugh.

So many books, so little time. There is no way for me to name a favorite book, but in my own library those are the highlights.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Year of Publication (well, almost) - Ramblings from a Newbie

I can't believe it's November already. A year ago, I had just signed a contract for my first novel, Claiming the Evil Dead. The pub date was set for end of December. I was so excited, and stressed out. My mother had taken ill and I was running between hospitals, taking her to appointments, and looking for a nursing home. Then there was the matter of her house that needed attending to. Stressful times indeed.

Christmas drew near and so did the pub date. More stress. I was so busy, I didn't even put up the tree. I saw edits for the first time and thought, this isn't so bad, but very time consuming. I didn't have much to edit on my sex scene and I'd thought for sure I'd have to make major revisions. I was glad to see I was wrong. LOL.

New year. New opportunities. New hope.

I sign contracts for books 2 and 3 in the series, and they get published in Feb. and March. Edits were more difficult, more time consuming, and time was limited. My mom had major surgery and I moved her into a nursing home. I definitely added some gray hairs. The good news... mom gets better, much better. By April, I have her house cleaned and she moves back home. Hurray!!

With three books out, I spent a lot of time promoting in various yahoo groups and paying for advertising. By late spring, I realized the error of my ways. The advertising didn't pay off at all. I'm a newbie. An unknown author. What does one such as myself do?
I beef up my activity in Goodreads and blogs. No more advertising. I create a twitter account. (I love twitter now). I focus on writing too.

June comes and my family and I head to NYC for the RWA conference. That was a great vacation, and sadly, probably my last. Still, great time. On another note, my mother is doing well on her own, better than a year ago!

August, the 4th book, Love Conquers All Evil, comes out. Around that time, I got a contract for an urban fantasy novel, The Awakening, which comes out in Jan. 2012. Things are looking good.

As for promotion, I have more giveaways and contests. I started a blog for giveaways of print books. Am I making progress with my published books? The truth is, I'm still new and unknown. But I love writing, so I continue. And I'm making wonderful contacts.

Present day. Thanksgiving and Christmas coming soon. I'm almost done with a PNR book in a new series. I have a novella under a pen name needing revision, and the sequel to the Awakening needing major edits. As for the tree, I am putting it up! Christmas will be extremely different this year, but I am determined to make it a pleasant one.

I look back from my first publication in December and realize writing is the easy part. Revisions are time consuming and dreaded, but I will admit that when they are done, they are well worth it! Advertising is so not worth it. I focus on writing and blog a couple times a month. I've found Goodreads and twitter are good tools. Live chats are fun too. I always enjoy those! I have seen a lot of self-published works that do well and I am encouraged to pursue that route. Maybe with the new year...

Authors: what have you found that has worked for you and not worked? How was your first year of publication?


Mary Abshire is the author of the Soul Catcher series (Claiming the Evil Dead, Catching an Evil Tail, Fighting Evil, Love Conquers All Evil)

The Awakening, an urban fantasy novel, comes out January 2012 from Lyrical Press.

For more information about Mary's books, visit www.maryabshire.com

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yuletide thoughts so soon?

I have heard more than one person say that this year has flown. I cannot believe it's November all ready, and I bet you can't either. Didn't we just send the kids back to school and start to ease into the fall schedule of practices, recitals, and busy, busy moms and kids?

I know I about fainted when I saw holiday decorations as early as September. Sheesh! Talk about put away the back to school displays and bring out the jingle bells. And secretly, my favorite holiday is Halloween, or Samhain in the pagan faith. I like the solemn night when the veil is the thinnest to take time to remember those who passed on. This year was particularly poignant for me because I'd had a senior kitty put to sleep just a couple of weeks prior, and I have to admit, I'm not taking his loss well, even though we had two more years than we'd expected with him. But I digress...

So today for the first time this fall/winter season, we had something not-rain falling from the skies. I know, I know, the northeast had their big storm; I saw it on the Weather Channel. And like them, I thought "isn't this early"?

But, you got to admit, when the white stuff (or the "s" word as it's known around here) starts falling from the sky, it puts you in a certain mood. November is the month when the Halloween decorations come down and it's still kind of early to break out the tree. (In my case, the fiber optic fake one, because the kitty mentioned above, dashed all my hopes for a big tree in my own home fourteen years ago when he thought it was a riot to swing from the 6' tall fake fir and bat my perfect little apple ornaments all around the apartment.) I'm kind of getting in the mood for the holidays though. We might not have big presents, but I am all about the joy, and the happiness, and the giving. My guy already knows I'm redoing his website for his gift, and he's mighty thankful. My mom, well, I told her she was still with us, and doing well, getting clean bills of health from her doctors -- what more could I ask for? (Okay, some tickets to the rodeo that's going to be in town on my birthday would be nice.... LOL!)

But yeah, I'll admit my little secret. I'm having yuletide thoughts. And you know, that's okay. Just don't forget to pass the turkey in a few weeks, and I prefer pumpkin pie, thank you.

(If you, too, are in a yuletide mood, then check out my holiday book, This Divine Night.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inspiration

Authors are asked over and over in interviews, what inspired you to write this story? Some times I can even answer that. Other times, it's such a combination that contributed once that first little spark took notice. Here's a peek at what inspired several of mine, living in an area seeped in history.
Below is a shot taken of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, not too many miles from where I grew up. Now a national park, but this rugged mountain range was once home to Apache Indians.

The view below looks out over the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix and the adjoining cities that have all run into one huge metropolitan. Can your imagination visualize an Apache warrior in this picture?
The view could also be one that many years ago, Cochise and members of his band watched for the army that searched for them. And, if legends are true, descendants may still today, hiding away from the white man, living the old ways. Hikers, campers, hunters, even prospectors go into those mountains to never return and are never found providing fodder to keep the legends alive. Growing up in Phoenix and hearing those legends sparked my interest in the history, most particularly in Cochise, a man feared and hated and still respected by many. He wanted to protect his people and their way of life. Reading about him, reading books, watching movies of that time period all added to that interest. In many of them white female captives returned to their families were featured, but in only one did I see anything concerning a white male captive, taken as a child and returned. All of that combined with the cause of Cochise going on the warpath against the white invaders is the kernel that began White Savage.
For those that don’t know the history a white boy went missing. Cochise, along with a party of his braves including relatives and friends agreed to come in for a parley. A young Lieutenant, freshly graduated from West Point, accused Cochise of kidnapping the boy. When Cochise denied it, he called him a liar and ordered his men to attack, despite the white flag the Indian party came in under. Several were killed then, more captured and hung, but Cochise escaped.
This is a quote from Cochise. “We were once a large people covering these mountains. We lived well: we were at peace. One day my best friend was seized by an officer of the white men and treacherously killed. At last your soldiers did me a very great wrong, and I and my people went to war with them.”
The boy hadn’t been kidnapped, he ran away, but the lieutenant’s arrogance and bigotry ignited a ten year war. In 1872 Cochise surrendered for the final time, taking his people to the reservation where he died in 1974. He was buried in secret, the location of his grave never revealed. One last quote from a fascinating man.
"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.
Speak Americans. I will not lie to you; do not lie to me."
Where I live now in Arizona is so filled with history and what actual events don’t fuel my imagination, the geography does. In a matter of miles you can go from sparse desert to dense forest and out to a high, treeless basin, so easy to do in a car, but mind boggling to think of doing it on foot or horseback. I live just a few miles from where one of the major stage lines ran and the ruins of one of the stage stops as well as one of the first railroads though the station house has been moved. The nearest town boomed in the early 1900s from the nearby mines. Prescott, ment is about twenty miles from me. Any time I feel short of inspiration or need a setting for some story bubbling around in my head, all I have to do is take a drive. If the geography doesn't do it for me, I can always so sit in my car in the grocery parking lot and people watch.

Larriane AKA Larion Wills, two names one author, thousands of stories
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