Sunday, April 29, 2012

Liz's Lair: Conferences Can Give You a Headache--Or Was it the Wine?

I told you last week that I would be going to my first Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, this weekend and that I would tell you all about it on today's blog.

Three words --OMG!!!


Now mind you, I'm used to RWA conferences where there are about 2500 or more writers, editors, and agents. I’ve attended quite a few of these over the years and loved every one of them – – and learned a potload of craft information as well. Anyway since I decided I was actually a mystery writer (thanks to an agent who knows her stuff!) I have been to 2 Crime Bakes, and they were a blast. In February I went to Love is Murder in Chicago, and it was my first taste of a conference with mystery readers as well as writers.


That was a blast,also, and quite possibly was the reason I sold my paranormal mystery series to Terry Bischoff of Midnight Ink (see earlier blog.) But back to Malice, it was a much bigger conference than the Chicago one and probably had 300 readers attending with almost that many authors. And get this – – this one is geared to cozy mysteries only. Holy cow!

I arrived at the Baltimore/Washington Airport where I met my CP, Joni Sauer-Folger. We picked up our rental car and headed to Bethesda (about a 45 min. drive.) The Hyatt was already overflowing with all the conference folks, and I quickly began hugging old friends and meeting new ones. That night, Kari and I went to Ruth Chris Steakhouse with all the Berkley people, and I got to meet my editor, Faith Black, for the first time. She's just as wonderful in person as she is on the Internet. And God, is she ever fun to be around. It was a wonderful spread put on by the Berkley folks, and I got to rub noses with a lot of the authors.

After dinner the party ended up in the room I shared with Joni, Kari, and Christine (our agent!) I forgot to mention that both Kari and Christine drove to the conference and came prepared. We had snacks galore, fruit, veggies, sodas, water, Bailey's, vodka, coconut run, wine, and tequila, and to celebrate Joni’s sale we all did shooters. The party went on until 2:30 AM with all of us eating and drinking way too much.

Did I mention that Kari and I had to get up at 5:30 AM since we had to be downstairs for the debut author's breakfast? Crap! This old lady’s butt was dragging big time. Each of us hosted a table of readers and were supposed to have something small to give them. Being the clever gal that I am, I decided to make Crème de cocoa peanut butter fudge from a recipe in book 3 of my Clueless Cook series. I had made it a few weeks ago, and it was to die for. Somehow, this batch didn't want to get hard. (Get your minds out of the gutter!) So, again being the smart girl I am, I put the 10 individually wrapped blocks of fudge with their own adorably packaged units in one of the coolers to try to harden overnight.

You guessed it. The fudge got all wet and yucky, but it still tasted fantastic, so I gave it out anyway – – and promised all the people at my table that I would send them one of my bigger promotional items once I got back home. That stupid fudge ended up costing me a fortune (promotional items and mailings) and quickly got labeled F-Up fudge. Thankfully, people who drink a lot of alcohol will eat anything, and I managed to get rid of it all – – sending the final chunks with Jessie Chandler, a Midnight Ink author who obviously is a pretty big chocoholic

Saturday night was the banquet, and as usual, the food was mediocre. I don't know why conference planners all over the world can’t come up with a nice salad plate, or loaded baked potatoes or something equally yummy. Unfortunately, Kari didn’t win the best first novel, but she's a winner in my book just for getting nominated. I happen to know another debut author who didn't even make the short list – – and frankly, I'm still pretty ticked off about that!!

Anyway, the party again moved to our room where we attempted, without success, to finish off all the liquor. We went to sleep again at 2:30, but this time we slept until 10 the next morning.
The highlight of the conference was getting to party with both my editors. I’ve already mentioned how much I love Faith. Terry is just as fantastic.
Both have my sense of humor, and if I have my way, I'll write for both of them forever. Another highlight was meeting my Berkley sisters as well as my future Midnight Ink sisters and brothers. I love them all. I sat next to New York Times bestseller Jenn McKinlay at the dinner, and OMG! She had me laughing all night.

Once again, I connected with Mary Lee and Anita, the writing team of Sparkle Abby, and we planned for them to come to Dallas to sign with me this summer. They write the Pampered Pet mysteries for Bell Bridge books, and they're both adorable.

Here's the T-shirt that Terry gave me to welcome me to the Midnight Ink family. I can't wait to wear it tomorrow.
And with all those readers, the conference was really fun. I was surprised at how many of them came up to tell me they loved Liver Let Die. I wanted to kiss them all--and usually did.

But the very best thing was rooming with Kari, Joni, and Christine. We giggled like teenagers, told a few secrets, and giggled some more. As I predicted in last week’s blog, I slept with a girl – – girls – – and I liked it. I'm already planning for next year's conference. Anyone want to go with me?

And because I'm still feeling the love from both my editors, from all my peeps, and from the fans, I'm giving some back. All you have to do is comment and say hey, and you may win an arc of BSO. If you’re real sweet, I might even send some of my FU fudge – – just kidding—Jessie took it all!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Lucky Seven Day

I was fretting about what to post today because folks are headed to the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, MD. I'm soooo bummed not to be going, but I'm looking forward to periodic updates from my peeps! As I will be slaving away on a research paper. Ugh...yeah...let's not go there.

Thank you Tiffinie Helmer for tagging me as part of a Lucky Seven blog! This is going to be really fun, and a great opportunity for me to speak about my current work in process. According to the Lucky Seven rules, I get to post the 7th line from the 77th page of my manuscript. I'm going to use my current WIP, a romantic suspense titled Twist of Fate (At least that's the title right now, LOL).

To give you a little background on the story, Kate (my heroine) was in a car accident and lost her memory. Sam (the hero) found her, and believes her ex-husband's flunkies had something to do with the accident. Her ex has been linked to a local mob family. Until Kate's memory returns, she thinks she's married to Sam and he's continuing the charade as long as it takes to keep her safe. Sam and Kate have a history together and the feelings he thought were long buried start to return as danger surrounds them. They have just spent the day in town when Sam notices a suspicious van he thinks is following them. He suggests something to eat so they can get off the street. 

“That sounds yummy.” She snuggled in close, taking another sniff of her flowers.
Sam steered her into the pizza shop. When he turned to shut the door, the van pulled away, heading out of town. That should have made him feel better, but it didn’t. This was much more than he bargained for. He should forget his foolish notions and stay on plan. Protecting Kate was number one.

 Just enough of a teaser! Twist of Fate was one of my first attempts at writing. The story that started it all! It's a category romance I could never get to sell, so now I am expanding on it, adding a suspenseful subplot and giving it a bigger feel. It's very close to my heart and I'm looking forward to being able to release it soon and share it with the world. There are many new twists and turns as Sam and Kate are tested right up to the very end! Stay tuned as release day gets closer.

If he succeeds in keeping her safe, can he succeed in keeping her heart?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- Anticipation


 My younger Golden Retriever is about to deliver a litter.  I have had dogs all my life, but never one who was pregnant. When I was pre-kindergarten we had a dog- a dachshund named Little Miss Muffet. My mother tried to breed her- nope, she had nothing to do with that kind of thing. Muffet and I spent lots of time together as I dressed her up in my dolls' clothes and wheeled her around in my doll carriage. Muffet took it all with good humor. The pictures my mother took prove it. Muffet on her back complete with bonnet, blanket and frilly dress tucked in the carriage.

My current two Goldens would never tolerate a baby carriage or a bonnet. Yet, they have their own expectations. We have the tennis balls, the flying squirrel toys, the soft beds and of course the neighbors who always bring doggy treats. Totally spoiled girls.

As we wait for the new puppies to arrive (not at my house at the breeder’s), I have been put on alert to be there. You know the drill if you have ever had a child or helped someone who’s been there. The simple clothes are set ready, the phone is by the bed, the family is on alert that if you are missing in the morning not to worry. We’re going to have six, or more, babies according to the ultrasound. Yep, ultrasound. This is totally out of my knowledge base- thank God for the breeder knowing what to do.

The connection here to our ongoing conversation about writing is conception, inception, production and acceptance. We have so many ideas. They spin in our heads. We talk to our characters out loud, not worrying who might overhear. We put the words on the page and hope they make sense. Many of those words are sent to the trash can, but we love everyone of them. Special children they are, even if we have to set them free.

The conversation we have with our imaginary, and not so imaginary friends, is real. I visited my Golden a few nights ago. We have a game where I ask her if she wants to snuggle. She does a belly crawl over to me and puts her head against my neck. Then she has a whole conversation with me that is her form of talking. I wouldn’t know how to type out the sounds. I say silly things back like, “Oh, really? Tell me again.” She continues, pauses, and waits for my responses. Visualize that we both are spread out on the floor on top of each other.

The point is, we all have stories. We all have audiences. And, we must not stop working at our craft. Even if it’s with a gorgeous Golden Retriever.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kari's Kave: A Time for Reflection...


Whoa...what happened to blogger? Must get used to this new format this early in the morning.

Anyway, I was sitting here thinking about how far I've come. So many times we doubt ourselves and worry if we can write another book, or even a first book, or finish whatever goal it is that we set for ourselves. But then when we sit back and really reflect on all we've done, we see we've really accomplished quite a bit.

In my case, I was worrying about being able to write another book, being able to have it do as well, being able to self publish, being able to write in other genres, etc. There's so much I want to do, that I sometimes doubt if I'll be able to do any of it. But then when I reflected on all that I have accomplished, I realized I've done quite a bit.

Tempest (I can't find the full cover) became a  national bestseller and was nominated for an RT and an Agatha.

Book two, Corpse in the Crystal Ball, has already received a great 4 star review from RT, so I have really high hopes it will do as well, if not better, than book one.

Love my covers by the way :-) Berkley rocks at that!

Book three, Trouble in the Tarot is written, but doesn't have a cover yet. Can't wait to hear what my editor thinks of it. I had fun :-)
 So that's three full mysteries I've already written.

On top of that, I have my teen superhero series. My first Digital Diva: Talk to the Hand, was nominated for a Golden Duck Award and is now available on both the Kindle and the Nook, soon to be in print as well.
Book two of Digital Diva: Rise of the Phenoteens, is also available on the Kindle and the Nook, and soon to be in print.

Not to mention, I'm still waiting to hear if the Family Channel wants to pick this up as a TV series. Now THAT would be amazing.
Next up is Book Three: Let Freedom Ring, which I am currently writing. Having so much fun with this series as well.

So when I finish that, I will have three teen books written and published.
 I kept reflecting and realized, I also love romance. Destiny Wears Spurs is my first romantic comedy, and I've always loved this book. It was a finalist in the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest and is currently available on the Kindle and the Nook, and soon to be in print.
 Sleeping in the Middle is a full length romance as well, and the first book in a 4 book series. This book is finished, but not published yet. In fact it's in play, but if it doesn't work out, you can bet I will be publishing this in Kindle, Nook and print as well.
And finally, I have Project Produce, another full length romance. This book is also finished and is in play, but again, if it doesn't work out, you will see it soon :-)


So that  makes three finished romances as well.


3 mysteries, 3 teen books, and 3 romances. At the end of the day, I guess I have accomplished quite a bit. I am proud of the books I have written, and I love writing in several genres. It keeps life fun and interesting and keeps me from getting bored :-) We live in such new and exciting times, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it all. So quit doubting yourself and look at all you've accomplished already. And all you plan to accomplish. And all the wonderful and exciting new adventures waiting for you right around the corner.

Good Luck! See you all after Malice where you can expect a full report next Wednesday!


PS I LOVE my self pubblished covers as well!!!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anita's Attic: A Professional Writer


If you’re like me, those moments of joy after creating a story you love will be peppered with plenty of self doubt and insecurity.Am I good enough to sell? If I’m lucky enough and do sell, will anyone besides my family and friends actually read the book? Am I a One-Hit-Wonder, or worse, a fraud? Now that I’ve written the first book, can I write a second book that’s worth reading?  Will reviewers rip me apart before I even get out of the gate?

I remember being so excited that I’d sold my first book, but I couldn’t for the life of me believe that more than a few hundred or maybe a thousand people would want to buy the book. Why would they? No one knew me. I broke through those hurdles, reached scads of readers, and hit some really nice lists. That was an amazing thing, watching my career grow, getting fan emails and good reviews, but still those doubts creep in. Will I suddenly forget how to write? Are all my books really the same story with different characters? Can I meet deadlines? Will the plot tank run dry? 

As most of you know, my agent is Christine Witthohn of Book Cents. She's been wonderful, the voice of reason all this time, assuring me that I  will succeed, that I'm not a one hit wonder, that I have more than one series in me, in fact many, many books, because I'm a professional writer. She's been right so far, and I'm turning in the first book in my second series in just a couple of weeks. So when self doubt stares at me in the mirror, I hear my agent's voice in my ear and know that I can do this. I can write as many books as I need to. My plot tank still brims with ideas. I can meet deadlines, because I’m a professional writer.

Whether you're published yet or not, have confidence in your abilities. Because you're a professional too. 


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Conferences

Here it is Monday already, and I'm getting ready to start thinking about what to take to Bethesda, Maryland this weekend for my very first Malice Domestic conference. This is a mystery conference--particularly cozies--that has as many readers attending as authors. I have to be on my best behavior--yeah, right!! Pardon the messed up blog. Blogger is acting weird and won't let me fix it. Anyway, I remembered an old blog I had done when I was getting ready for RWA Nationals a few years back, so I decided to pull it out and dust it off. I'll add some new stuff just to see if you're paying attention. Here goes--The top ten reasons why I love conferences. 10. I love being around authors who get that I am excited because I figured out how to kill off my evil sister-in-law with a character whose name is uncannily similar to hers. It tickles me to death when I even get hints on how to make the death a slow one! 9. OMG! The workshops are incredible. Okay, so the last few conferences I attended I only made a few of them. The ones I did make were really good, though. And at Malice, I'm on a panel, so there's at least one I'll make! 8. Freebies. I adore them. I love the free books we get and I get orgasmic in the Goody Room. (What can I say? I'm a cheap date!!)Not sure if Malice will be so giving!!! 7. Putting faces with names for the editors and agents and big time authors. Some of them look nothing like I pictured. That goes for the not so big ones, too. Case in point - the elderly woman resembling my grandmother who overheard me say I didn't like some of the words used in erotica and proceeded to inform me she was an erotica author. Seriously??? I have the utmost respect for any author, including genres I don't write, but seriously?? And this year, I am meeting Faith, my Berkley editor for the first time. It will be nice to finally meet her. And I'll reconnect with Terri, my new Midnight Ink editor. She's always fun to be around. I'll also get to meet a lot of INKERS who are going to the conference. 6. Which brings me to this next one. I love asking people what they write because I am always surprised. If I imagined you writing inspirational, you tell me you write vampire erotica. 5. I love meeting up with peeps and meeting new ones. I am such a people person (refer to an earlier blog titled "Mother do you have to talk to everyone??) As I mentioned, the Midnight Inkers are coming out in full force, so it will be nice to meet them. Plus, I'll put faces to a lot of cozy authors from the loops I'm on. 4. Crashing the Harlequin party. This is also an RWA National tradition that I doubt will be the same at Malice. Oh boy, was this fun, though.Those category people know how to par-tee!! 3. Being able to tell from the ribbons a lot about an author. This year I get my pink first sale ribbon as well as my PAN one. Woo hoo! The mystery writers don't give a rat's patootie about ribbons!! You're somebody if you're up for an Agatha. Crap! I'm a nobody!! 2. Laughing until my face feels like it will crumble. Writers are hysterical. It's like we use the conference time to act like our characters instead of the librarians, nurses, and lawyers we really are. And the NUMBER ONE reason why I love conferences is the Bar. You can always find old friends as well as new ones hanging out there. This year, I plan on doing tequila shooters to celebrate my sale. Oh yeah, I can't forget Kari's sale to Berkley, too. Sheesh! Anita sold this year too. Oh dear God, I forgot Rochelle's. We did do shooters that year. I brought a Texas sized bottle of margarita salt (which will definitely come to Maryland with me)and nine of us bellied up to the bar and tossed one back. This year we are celebrating both Rochelle's and Kari's nominations for best first book, Joni's (my CP)sale, my sales to both Berkley and Midnight Ink, and anything else we can think of that deserves a shooter. Chime in here and tell me what you like about conferences. And if you see me at Malice, come up and introduce yourself. I might even buy you a drink, especially if you catch me after all those shooters. Hell, I might as well do one with you, too. We'll celebrate that we're writers and most importantly that we left hubbies and kids at home. Someone is going to cook for us. Someone is cleaning our rooms. And kinda like Katie Perry, I'm sleeping with a girl--and I'll probably like it!! Party on.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Flowers in the Attic

Yes, the title of the book that started my obsession with reading "up".  Back when I was a tween/teen this was the forbidden fruit, along with anything by Johanna Lindsey. :-) VC Andrews was able to spin quite a story, and subsequent stories as well. It wasn't until, I believe, it was family members who tried to keep the storyline going and the books lost their appeal (at least to me). But the first 3 in that series were extremely good! I remember devouring them.

As I'm looking out at my own beautiful flowers (actual flowers, not my children!) the book just randomly popped into my head. I thought back to my interest in the book, it's wow-factor along with the 'forbidden' aspect at such a young age, and all of the books since then which have swept our nation from Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games, to the recent Shades of Grey phenomenon. Makes you wonder how many young girls are going to sneak the copy of their mom's book to read at night - that's how I read Flowers in the Attic! some of the girls at work have already said they have password protected their iPads so their daughter's won't get curious. EEEK!!!

While I'm thinking of this, I'm pulling in bits of information from Cassy's post yesterday and the great ideas from Art. Again.... wow-factor material. All of it. Just what you need to put some thought into an idea and really make it this unique piece of work. Something which stretches the limits, causes a stir and through word of mouth becomes the next big WOW.

We all have that potential. We are writer's for a reason and the creativity never stops. It might take a much needed vacation now and then when the muse becomes overloaded (cue the margaritas), but that vein is always within us, waiting to be explored. Why not work beyond our potential, not necessarily stepping out of our comfort zone but taking ourselves to that next level.

It's easy to get caught up with our current deadlines. But what about our own flowers in the attic? What about those stories we have sentenced to a file somewhere in the depths of our computers, or in a box in the closet? Having a back list is awesome, especially during this time of self-publication. But why not take a look at those forgotten babies and see if you can incorporate some of the elements Art spoke of? You could have a killer plot that is only in need of a little "something" to make it become that story readers can't wait to get their hands on!

So.....what's in your attic??

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- Mixing Genres with Guest Author Art Holcomb


We have a special guest today. With permission from Larry Brooks (StoryFix.com) and Art Holcomb, I am posting Art’s blog from yesterday. Both men have generously allowed Mysteries and Margaritas to share this with our readership. Please check out StoryFix.Com as I think it's one of the great sites for writers. Art is going to pop in and out as he can during the day. In the publishing world there has been a long ongoing debate about genres. Art has a funny, but probably more realistic view than many would admit, on the topic. Please join us.

Art Holcomb is an award-winning writer, screenwriter, and comic book writer and has written for Marvel Comics, The SHOWTIME Channel, The SYFYChannel, Paramount Studios and elsewhere.  He begins teaching screenwriting and graphic novel writing at the University of California, Riverside in the Fall 2012. His most recent screenplay is FINAL DOWN (a NFL team disaster film) and is completing a workbook for writers.


I love a good mash up story . . .
You know the type, where the author has taken two or more genres or storylines and has crushed them together in a way that they, while still familiar, seem strangely unique. 
They are a blast to write, not only because the writer gets to go deep into different genres, but because this kind of writing always stretches the imagination to produce possibilities and directions that hadn’t thus far been considered.   While television and the movies have had a long love affair with mash-ups, there are a number of novels out in recent years that have sparked renewed interest in the approach.
Typically, mash-ups fall into one of a couple of categories:
CLASSIC MASH: This combines a pre-existing text, such as a classic work of fiction, with a certain popular genre.
Consider a few of the following recent efforts.
-          Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith)
-          Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (Grahame-Smith)
-          Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Austen and Winters)
-          The Eerie Adventure of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe (Defoe, Lovecraft and Peter Clines)
NEW MASH: Sometimes a mash-up uses a classic story, but it needn’t be that way.  It can be just two or more genres sent in counterpoint to each other. 
In my career I have created such stories as:
-          FINAL DOWN – an NFL / disaster film
-          4EVER – a religious afterlife / thriller set in a tech future
-          The AMBASSADOR – a Sci Fi / Mobster story 
-          FRANKI & JONNI – a Frankenstein myth / high school drama
-          Oliver and the Four-Piece Regency-Style Bedroom Set of Death  – a YA mystery/comedy
 . . . Although, I admit, that last one may have gone too far.
RE-IMAGININGS: Another fun approach to stretch your writing horizons is to reimagine an earlier story or set of characters in a completely new or updated way
-           The BBC recently did this with SHERLOCK, a re-telling of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories –but set in modern-day London.
-          In WICKED, it is the wholly recognizable story of THE WIZARD OF OZ, but told as a parallel novel from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Old story – new viewpoint. 
New possibilities.
RETELLINGS: are all about drawing the inspiration and flavor of the source material and making it live again.
-          The movie, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU is a retelling of the Odyssey myth.
-          Certainly, many of the Disney stories are, in fact, retellings of classic fairy tales.

PREQUELS, SEQUELS and the CONTINUUM OF STORY: A subset of re-imaginings really, this is the most available of all mash-up possibilities, and perhaps the most freeing.  Here, a writer will take a piece of work, character or setting and imagine it years previous to or years after the time of the originally piece. What was Captain Ahab like as a boy? What was Phillip Marlowe like as an old man?  What was Tom Sawyer’s world like at the turn of the century?
A good example of this was the television show The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
This type of story allows you to just find a character you like and trace them back to their suspected beginning and their possible ends to see what excites you.
Now, it’s your turn . . .
Why not try to make up some mash-ups of your own?
Here are a list of genres, tropes and categories to choose from.  Mix and match to your heart’s content using some of the exercises below.
LITERARY GENRES:
CLASSIC STORIES:
Don Quixote, Pilgrim’s Progress, Allan Quartermane, Gulliver’s Travels, Frankenstein,  The Count of Monte Cristo, David Copperfield, The Man in the Iron Mask,  The Three Musketeers, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Captain Nemo,  The Scarlet Letter, Moby-Dick, Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Moreau, Fu Manchu, Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes,  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Great Gatsby, The Big Sleep,
TROPES (Genre Mainstays)
Horror
Vampires, Aliens, Werewolves, Ghosts, Monsters, Disaster, Psycho, Nightmare, Serial Killers, Torture, Satanism, Demons, Cannibals, Haunted Houses, Zombies.
Science Fictions
Alternate Universe, Aliens, ESP, Time travels, Spacecraft, Robots, Cyborgs, Space Travel, AI, Steampunk, Space Opera, Superheroes
Fantasy
Dark Lord, Magic, Quest, Medievalism, The Ancient World, Dragons, Witches, Other Races, Creatures, Barbarians, Damsels, Swords, Rings, Prophesy-
Oh .  . give it a try!
Exercises Number 1: “Name & Job”:    Pick a character and a genre / trope at random and see what this new combination stirs in your imagination. Possibilities could go something like:
-          “Ask Frankenstein, Advice columnist” (Frankenstein / Advice)
-          “Donkey Ote” Knight Burro (Don Quixote/ Medieval)
-          Captain Ahab, spokesman for PETA (Moby Dick / Animal)
-          “I was a Vampire for the FBI” (Vampire / Crime)
While such mash-ups often create comedic or farcical characters, I’m often surprised what people come up with.  There is a film columnist that I respect quite a lot who writes under the moniker FILM CRITIC HULK!
Exercise Number 2: “Fill in the Blanks”: This is a tool screenwriters use to create and pitch new ideas for shows.  Just take any two of the genres or tropes and plug them into the sentence below:
“________ meets __________”.
Television especially loves this one, as in:
-          Serial Killer meets Family = Dexter
-          Detective meets Magician = The Mentalist
-          Writing Skills meets Crime = Castle
-          Alternate Universe meets Scientific meets Detective = Fringe
-          Vampire meets Soap Opera = Dark Shadows
-          Vampires, werewolves and ghost meet Suburbia = BBC’s Being Human
-          Vampire Cop = Forever Knight
Just off the top of my head as I was writing this, the following possibilities came to mind:
(1)    Fantasy Detective
(2)    Alien Soap Opera
(3)    Gothic Time Travel
(4)    Haunted Circus
(5)    Zombie Fairy Tales
(6)    DIY Haunted House Repair
(7)    Questing Mobster
(8)    Lawyers for Aliens

Not all winners to be sure, but I took a shot at fleshing out a couple of them as illustrations of where you could go:
“Once Upon a Crime Spree” – Grendel Jones was born in the shadow of the great castle, rumored to be the son of a witch and an ensorcelled prince. He was raised on the hard streets of a fairy tale land content to help solve his neighbor’s little problems until the day he is asked to trade his magic and skills as a detective for a chance to learn the secrets of a past he never knew he had. (Fantasy Detective)
“Asta” – Harrison Quell, Esq.  is a bitter and disillusioned attorney who stumbles across the case of a thousand lifetimes: a chance to represent an alien who has been living among us for 100 years.  Can Quell keep the creature alive and safe – from the military, the press and a mysterious secret organization that has been hunting the visitor for generations –just  long enough for it to talk to the President of the United States before it’s too late? (Lawyers for Aliens)
“1-800-Got Creepy?” – Deke and “Big Tommy” Perez have a successful TV show built around their reputation as Haunted House Flippers – taking spooky wrecks and turning them into profitable rentals. The network has given them their biggest challenge yet for Sweeps Week: turn a two hundred year old terror around in a week.  But is this nightmare – with its eerie glow and forbidding past – more than they bargained for? (DIY Haunted House Repair)
Now it’s your turn!
Give it a shot yourself and share in the Comment section anything you find interesting (or feel free to keep it to yourself for future use). I’ll be monitoring the post for a couple of weeks to see what you come up with.
The more story notions you come up with, the more keepers you might find.  
I think you’ll find this to be a great way to keep your creativity and imagination in tune.

Do share your crazy, imaginative, and totally off-the-wall plots. We’re ready.  Best, Cassy

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kari's Kave: The Hunger Games...

So, I went to see The Hunger Games recently, and loved it! I have heard mixed reviews. Those who read the book first, didn't love it. But people like me who didn't have a chance to read the ook first, thought it was fantastic.

Don't get me wrong...I have 4 kids, and watching kids being forced to kill each other to survive was hard. But in an odd way I could relate.

Desperation is a powerful thing.

We, as writers, want so badly to live the dream. We want to sell our books and share them with the world. Only, today's world is so different from the one we knew not that long ago. What will we do to live the dream?

Do we stick to our guns and write what we love no matter the cost? Or do we write multiple things to be everywhere? There are only so many hours in the day. Times are tough and it's so hard to make a living as an author. I repeat, I have 4 kids...3 of which are headed off to college one right after the other starting next year. A scary thought! I haven't prepared enough, and I'm nowhere's near ready financially.

So that takes me back to the word desperation.

In today's economy, we have to be everywhere. Self-pub, traditional pub, multiple publishers...it's insane. Lucky for me, I love writing in multiple genres, but not everyone does. Yet that scary word desperation may push people to write just about anything, even if it means walking away from something they love.

So tell me, how desperate are you? What would you do to sell or stay sold? Would you kill off any of your darlings to make it happen? Inquiring minds want to know...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anita's Attic: Better Than Walk!

Last week I talked about my "strong words" list. It's so easy to use a mediocre word, but a stronger, more vivid word can speak so much louder. I mentioned "Walk" in my last post and some of the stronger word choices available. This brings up another issue for me.

I struggle with showing the characters' movement on the page. It drives me crazy. They're in this room, now they're in that, or they need to go from fighting a demon to crossing the room to confront the heroine for daring to get involved in the fight. I find I'm using "Walk" way too much, so I'm always looking for more ways to express my characters movements. Readers don't need to see every step the character takes, and there are ways to write the scene without that, but when you do need movements, they need to be well thought out.

If you want the movement to disappear on the page, kind of the way "said" does in dialog tags, then walk might be best word. But if you want to draw attention to the movement, show the emotion or motivation behind it; for instance he's storming across the room, or he's hobbling across the room, or strolling, then walk isn't the best word.

A couple of days after my blog, I got my daily writing tips from DAILY WRITING TIPS, a fun site that, as the name says, emails writing tips daily. This time they talked about various words for walk and their meanings, so I thought I would share. Several of these need to go on my "strong word" list.

60 Synonyms for “Walk” (posted from DAILY WRITING TIPS)

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When you walk the walk, talk the talk: Replace the flat-footed verb walk with a more sprightly synonym from this list:

1. Amble: walk easily and/or aimlessly
2. Bounce: walk energetically
3. Clump: walk heavily and/or clumsily
4. Falter: walk unsteadily
5. Foot it: depart or set off by walking
6. Footslog: walk through mud
7. Gimp: see limp
8. Hike: take a long walk, especially in a park or a wilderness area
9. Hobble: walk unsteadily or with difficulty; see also limp
10. Hoof it: see “foot it”
11. Leg it: see “foot it”
12. Limp: walk unsteadily because of injury, especially favoring one leg; see also falter
13. Lumber: walk slowly and heavily
14. Lurch: walk slowly but with sudden movements, or furtively
15. March: walk rhythmically alone or in a group according to a specified procedure
16. Mince: walk delicately
17. Mosey: see amble; also, used colloquially in the phrase “mosey along”
18. Nip: walk briskly or lightly; also used colloquially in the phrase “nip (on) over” to refer to a brief walk to a certain destination, as if on an errand
19. Pace: walk precisely to mark off a distance, or walk intently or nervously, especially back and forth
20. Parade: walk ostentatiously, as if to show off
21. Perambulate: see stroll; also, travel on foot, or walk to inspect or measure a boundary
22. Peregrinate: walk, especially to travel
23. Plod: walk slowly and heavily, as if reluctant or weary
24. Pound: see lumber
25. Power walk: walk briskly for fitness
26. Prance: walk joyfully, as if dancing or skipping
27. Promenade: see parade
28. Pussyfoot: walk stealthily or warily (also, be noncommittal)
29. Ramble: walk or travel aimlessly (also, talk or write aimlessly, or grow wildly)
30. Roam: see ramble
31. Sashay: see parade
32. Saunter: to walk about easily
33. Scuff: to walk without lifting one’s feet
34. Shamble: see scuff
35. Shuffle: see scuff (also, mix, move around, or rearrange)
36. Stagger: walk unsteadily (also, confuse or hesitate, or shake)
37. Stalk: walk stealthily, as in pursuit
38. Step: walk, or place one’s foot or feet in a new position
39. Stomp: walk heavily, as if in anger
40. Stride: walk purposefully, with long steps
41. Stroll: see saunter
42. Strut: see parade
43. Stumble: walk clumsily or unsteadily, or trip
44. Stump: see lumber
45. Swagger: walk with aggressive self-confidence
46. Tiptoe: walk carefully on the toes or on the balls of the foot, as if in stealth
47. Toddle: see saunter and stagger; especially referring to the unsteady walk of a very young child
48. Totter: see stagger (also, sway or become unstable)
49. Traipse: walk lightly and/or aimlessly
50. Tramp: see lumber and hike
51. Trample: walk so as to crush something underfoot
52. Traverse: walk across or over a distance
53. Tread: walk slowly and steadily
54. Trip: walk lightly; see also stumble
55. Tromp: see lumber
56. Troop: walk in unison, or collectively
57. Trot: see nip
58. Trudge: see plod
59. Waddle: walk clumsily or as if burdened, swinging the body
60. Wander: see ramble

Pretty good, huh! So if you're interesting in subscribing, here is the link for DAILY WRITING TIPS.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Liz’s Lair: How the Antitrust Settlement Affects Me

Unless you live in a glass bubble, you had to have heard about the Justice Department’s Antitrust lawsuit against the big 5 New York publishers and Apple. I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how if affects me ever since I first heard the announcement. Here’s my take on it. I may be way off base and would welcome any clarification if I am wrong.

In 2008 in an effort to market their Kindle, Amazon lowered prices on some ebooks, sometimes even taking a loss. Apparently, they thought people would rush out and buy the kindle if they could download books at a lower price. No matter how you feel about that, you have to admit it was a pretty good strategy, and it worked.

Sometimes in early 2008, Steve Jobs contacted the NY publishers , and they had “secret” meetings trying to come up with a way to deal with this. They were losing money on their hardback covers and Apple was getting ready to introduce the iPad to the world. They came up with something called the “agency” model that set the prices for ebooks, preventing Amazon from lowering them.

Now here’s where I have a conflict with myself and my own opinion. My publisher was one of those who will not allow my ebooks to be discounted. While I am grateful that people are willing to pay the full amount to read my story on an ereader, I wonder how many more readers I would have reached if they could have gotten it cheaper. Who doesn’t love a good sale? I have several friends who saw their numbers skyrocket when their books were discounted. Granted, it may not have translated into bigger royalties, but still….

Then I remember my dismal income from writing last year, and I wonder if we are selling ourselves way too short by allowing our books to go so cheaply. I don't know about you, but it takes me a good 9 months to write a book. Couple that with promotions and other expenses, and I am probably in the tax bracket where I could receive food stamps.


Last week, after the DOJ filed the federal antitrust lawsuit, three of the five publishers chose to settle. I won’t even try to explain it. You can read it below and from your own opinions.

Under the Federal settlement, Harper, HBG and S&S promise for two years not to "restrict, limit, or impede an e-book retailer's ability to set, alter, or reduce the retail price of any e-book or to offer price discounts or any other form of promotions to encourage consumers to Purchase one or more e-books." They also "shall not enter into any agreement with an e-book retailer relating to the sale of e-books that contains a price MFN" during that period. Technically, it is at the retailer's option to cancel current agency contracts. All three are required to void any ebook contracts with Apple signed prior to the filing of the complaint within seven days, so presumably either their ebooks will exit the iBookstore or they will need to resign with Apple under some other business arrangement.

Best selling author, Scott Torow released a statement basically saying that by allowing Amazon to sell ebooks at a loss only hurts all of us. Read it here.

And here's PW take on it. It only adds to my confusion.

So what does that mean to me? I am fortunate enough to write for THREE houses. Berkley, Midnight Ink, and Liz Lipperman, LLC. Will it affect that somehow? Actually, I have no idea, but I do know that I won’t give up my choice to write for more than one publisher. Maybe my books won’t reach as many people, but it doesn’t matter. Today’s writer has many more avenues to get their stories out. We are no longer chained to what NY thinks will sell. I, for one, love the new publishing world we live in. I adore all three of my publishers and hope my relationship with them continues until I am so old I can no longer write. That's why I am watching what's going on out there and trying to figure out what my next move will be--or even if I need a next move.

So, what about you? Any thoughts? I would love to hear your take on all this.

An addendum: I just noticed JA Konrath is talking about this today, too. He explains it so much better that I do. Go here to see.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Being the driver or the co-pilot?

Over the years I have always been the co-pilot (Hubby of course, the pilot) and I'm fine with it! I'm a great map reader, navigator, landmark watcher. Of course there are times when things don't go as planned but hey, it's an adventure!

Like yesterday, for example, we left in the morning with our son to visit Hoftra University out on Long Island. I didn't need to be alert until we got closer to the city, but hubby had the GPS so we were fine (I worked on my laptop until the battery died about 4 hrs later). Traffic was CRAZY! Honestly, I was glad I wasn't behind the wheel. Hubby travels alot for business so he made effortlessly smooth transitions in the congested lanes and I was VERY proud of him! (He didn't blow the horn or shout an obsenity!) As we viewed the lines of cars basically grid-locked in the opposite direction (a.k.a. our way home) we decided that we would find an alternate route and bypass all of the mess. I put on my co-pilot cap and we ended up at the admissions office ahead of schedule.

Beautiful campus. 60 degree weather, clear skies and flowers in blume everywhere! I have never scene orange tulips before and they were gorgeous. Our awesome tour guide Alex (which I'm thinking could be another profession for me should writing not pan out! LOL) said the university plants 1 tulip for every incoming freshman each year! How cool is that! We had a great afternoon. It's a wonderful campus. No. 1 son was very excited on the way home. Yes...remember home? How we were going to find an alternate route??? Our lovely admissions rep gave us quick verbal directions on how to avoid the traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Perfect! (not really)

Hubby's GPS is about 4 yrs old. It doesn't notify you of traffic delays and every once in a while it "hiccups" and sends you in the wrong direction. But usually he's in familiar territory and knows enough that it's wrong and he corrects it himself. Apparently that was MY job. Well, we are in rush hour traffic right on the main drag of the university. GPS is sending us the same way we came, Hubby is telling me to look for signs, and I'm trying to pull up the APP on my phone so I can see about finding an alternate route or how the hell I can find the other bridge we're supposed to cross! Oh yeah...No. 1 son is calmly being the mediator from the backseat so HE doesn't have to drive home because Mom and Dad have strangled each other! Seems comical now, but at the time....not so much.

GPS is shut off, so hubby relies only on me, the co-pilot. No problem, I've got this. I keep switching from navigation mode, to direction mode so I can see what's coming. We see signs for the Throg's Neck Bridge (the one the admissions girl said to take) and we now have hope that our current location was just enough to trick the gps into sending us a different way! Hubby visibly relaxes behind the wheel and I give myself a mental pat on the back for being the "A #1 co-pilot" yet again! I am awesome!! No. 1 son, goes back to his music. All is wonderful, traffic is heavy but moving. We should be home by 9pm, not too bad.

Enter Big Black Moment.

Hubby: which way am I going?
Co-Pilot: I don't know, this way I think.
Hubby: What do you mean you don't know? You have the nav. C'mon I need to know.

Panic sets in as we are at least going 60mph in traffic. I scan the nav, then look at the signs. Nav says 80 west. But the sign says New Haven. (hmm...as in CT? didn't the admissions girl say she missed her turn once and ended up in CT? is this what she meant or should we go that way?)

Co-Pilot: Stay in this lane. 80 west.

Before long we see signs for the G.W. Bridge and we are now in horriffic traffic! Yup, you guessed it, we should have taken the other way. the nav is taking us the same way we came! Hubby is NOT happy as you can now factor hunger into the equation. I, of course, try to find the humor in it. And am reminded our mine and hubby's first trip together to NYC before we were married. He decided to give up smoking on that trip, AND while being co-pilot we missed an exit! Ahh...memories!!! No. 1 son and I laughed. Hubby did not.

Well, we missed one more exit on this trip (I think my poor co-piloting skills were due to low blood sugar), we grabbed some dinner on the fly and ended up taking a scenic tour of NJ in order to get back on route through PA and back to NY. The co-pilot became the pilot for the last 2 hours of our trip, arriving back home over an hour behind schedule. Another fun adventure, and I enjoyed the one on one time with No. 1 son. A very long day, but a very successful trip.

A funny story, but it got me thinking. There are times in our writing careers where we start out as the co-pilot. We need others for support (critique groups) and we support them as well. We don't quite have that confidence to get behind the wheel. We make mistakes, and we learn and we build or confidence and before we know it we are taking charge. We are the pilot! We don't have to fly solo, even though many say that writing is a solo career, we can keep our support system but we understand that we are the  pilots of our own writing destiny.

For those who feel you might still be sitting comfortably in the co-pilot chair....hang on, your chance to fly is coming!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!