Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cassy's Corner- The Holidays

This is an encore post since Cassy is dealing with family issues.

It is a bit trite to talk about the holidays, family traditions, remembering all that is important and taking stock. Why do we do that only at certain times of the year? It seems almost maudlin to do that in March, for instance. Yet, we do find times throughout the year, using what almost seem like excuses. You know, it's New Year's now for the resolutions. It's Easter, let's make sure we say our blessings and appreciate those who have made a sacrifice for others. It's Memorial Day and we must honor those who have served. It's the Fourth of July.... Okay, you understand.

All of those dates and memories are important. They should not go away or in way be minimalized. But, I do take another position. I don't like being told when the "day" is special. So, I've started two relatively new habits. First, when I am thinking of someone, I contact that person--be it email, a note card, a quick voice mail. I often say nothing more than "I am thinking of you and wanted you to know." How else would anyone know he or she is on my mind? Okay, you'll be getting your email soon.

Second, and this is just a "private for me and no one else" kind of thing, I try and find something I have never seen before. As I drive to town I look, as much as is safe, into the woods around me, to the left, to the right--I play a game. What have I never seen before? I have driven the same route thousands of times- what now is different? It is surprising how many barns I never noticed. How many silly decorations people put on their houses. How many signals of connection my neighbors use to reach out, if only we take the time to "read" what the messages are.

An elderly neighbor, about a quarter of a mile from me, balances tiny tiny pumpkins on her fence posts- must be thirty of them. Who goes out and finds thirty baby pumpkins (think really tiny) and then lines them up on her fence rails? I'm not sure I have the dexterity to pull that off. Another neighbor (he) makes homemade maple syrup candy and leaves it out for anyone who wants a taste or two- they are even in the shape of a maple leaf. I have one lady who lives somewhere nearby (not really sure where) and she stops every day to give a good belly rub to my Golden Retrievers along with a dog treat. They sit patiently on the stoop and wait for her--every day. Then there is the man who reminds us to change the oil in our cars, the man who saves chicken bones for my soup, the fish store man who lets me know when he has what he knows I really want, and, and, and.

What does all this mean? On one hand it means there is a community of folks who look out for each other- a certain kindness that can't be created, rather just is. On another hand it means I have great characters living within inches of my house who might appear on my pages before they know it. Okay, kidding, sort of. But really, it means that we care for each other. Caring is something that doesn't come easily for many. I am now glancing at an incredible pointsetta plant my wood man brought me. It's taken me 10 years to get him used to giving me a hug. This grumpy guy with a heart of gold brought me some of that maple candy and we talked about his grandson who lost his leg in Iraq (and will be now jumping out of an airplane with his artificial leg in place). Yup, I got a hug. It's one of my gifts this year-- that hug.

I wish all of you many hugs and many insights. I know mine happen each day. I have so much to learn and to appreciate. Why though does it take the holidays to start this train of thought? Join me. Let us make this our daily adventure. May your lives be as rich and be as fun as you wish. And, if you want any of that maple candy- gosh, we have too much.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kari's Kave: Santa Baby...

Santa Baby,

Hurry down the chimney tonight! I know it's not Christmas yet, but trust me, I'll make it worth your while ;)

I would like a new camera. Everyone who knows me, knows that I love taking pictures. I take them at writing conferences, and at parties, and basically wherever. The up close ones work just fine with the camera I have. But it's the ones at sporting events where I need to zoom that I really want a new camera.

The Nikon Coolpix L810 is the camera for me!

So, Santa baby, what do you say? It's a 16 megapixle...just think about how great my pics will look. And it has 28x zoom! Yay, I can now zoom up to my writer friends when they are receiving their prestigious awards or giving their amazing panels and see every feature crystal clear (whether they want me to or not :-)

I also have a Kindle, but I would love the new Kindle Fire. Soooooo cool! I want to see my book covers in color. And surf the web and check my email...sigh. Do I really have to have a limit, Santa? I've been very good, but everything's negotiable. I can be as naughty as it takes to get those elves moving.

Speaking of gifts, my laptop is starting to go as well. Hmmmm, maybe a new one with the new windows 8 should go on my list.

I repeat...hurry down my chimney won't be sorry.

PS...what's on your wishlist this season? I just might need to add more to  mine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Marketing, Promotion & Balance

Marketing & Promotion...a writer's friend or foe? Let's face it, if you do it properly then sales will be up, your ranking will improve and you will no doubt earn out for some royalties. But if you don't put much effort behind your work, then readers won't know your there and you basically won't be happy with the results. This goes for traditional publishing and self publishing alike.

I think anyone with a traditional publisher can attest that they only do "so much". That leaves the rest up to the author, to get creative and do what they can in the partnership. With self publishing, obviously it's all on the author. But, as with anything, what works at one time for a certain book might not work for the next book. Just like out publishing world, everything is constantly changing. If you're lucky enough to have a strong following of readers, then all you have to do is announce the release of the next book. From what I've seen, I think the avid fans like the whole "count down". It's like waiting for a prize! And just because one book doesn't do as well as others, doesn't mean it's a bad book. It just means you have to get more creative than you thought.

So how do you do that? I mean, we've all heard the stories of self published author who do very little in terms of marketing and promotion, and are seeing major profits. On the flip side of that, there are authors who are all over the place shouting out their books, and continue to be low on the totem pole. In this case, I think you have to compare stories in equal genres. If someone is off the charts with their romantic suspense, while another author has marketed the hell out of their regency historical, I don't think that would be a fair comparison. But back to my question.

How do you know what to do and when? Unless you are a multi published author, with a huge backlist - hiring a publicist or marketing manager is probably out of the question. I fell like we are starving artists, striving for that big break and struggling to get there. All there is is me to make things happen. I know there are reasonable fees out there for advertising, but how do you know they work?

Word of mouth continues to be the best source. But again, how much is too much. here's is where the balance comes into play. Personally, I've tipped over so many times, I'm surprised I can even get back up! You can belong to a gazillion email loops, groups, and pages - most of which have some kind of "posting rules" you need to abide by or risk a cyber hand smack. But the one thing people hate, are those who only chime in when they are self promoting. Yikes!! As much as I try not to be....I tend to be one of those people.

I know, hard to believe. Little miss sunshine can't get her butt out there enough. In my own personal research, the ones I see who are more successful at this are those who have been able to quit their day jobs and balance their writing with their home life. For me, trying to balance home, work, writing and everything in between is a constant struggle. I'm not saying it can't be for those who have a "home office", but I think the full time writer has a bit of an advantage.

Most of the time I feel I need to post something book related or at least something of interest not family related (at least on my author page). Forget twitter. I love it, but feel I need to almost be witty with my remarks and I haven't found that vein yet. My email loops & groups? There is so much email traffic, the couple times I've posted things they seem to get lost and no one responds so I'm done there. Most of the people I care about in those groups are on FB with me anyway, so I'm pretty sure I will lose those groups next year. I just dont' have time.

I've tried scheduling my writing time - but that hasn't been working. My so-called 3 pages/day have accumulated to 3 pages/month. (insert forehead smack) And now, with trying to find the writing time, I'm trying to figure out how to increase sales of what I do have out there. Oh, AND hurry up and get the next book written so it can get out and help the cause.

Yup, Writing is re-writing. Writing is a job.  Writing is a major balancing act. And I can fully see why they say writing is a solitary profession. Because really, in the end, the only one accountable for our own success is ourselves.

So get on our there and make some noise!! Toot your own horn, toot your friends' horns! Take advantage of every opportunity to talk about yourself or your work. Find that balance and you will be successful.

Now I'm off for the wii fit so I can work on my "balance". :-)

Happy writing & promoting!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Liz’s Lair: Tricks of the Trade

I have a tradition at my house. I put up my Christmas tree on Thanksgiving weekend. While everyone else is running around with crazy people in the Black Friday cluster—well you know—I was putting up my tree. This year, it was a little more difficult since I tore my hamstring not too long ago and still can’t maneuver very well.  But I did something last year that proved to be so helpful, I think I should write and tell Heloise about it.

Sometimes I am so smart I scare myself.

And just what did I do that has me gushing all over myself?

After I completely decorated the house last Christmas, I took digital pictures of all the decorations. Before you go crazy singing my praises, there’s more. When I took the decorations down, I put the decorations from each shelf or area in its own separate bag and labeled them.

OMG!! I can’t even tell you how easy it was this year. There was no second guessing about what decoration went where. When I was ready to attack a certain area, I’d just pull up the picture, grab the appropriate bag and go to town. I thought about printing the pictures and putting them on the bags, but decided that really wasn’t necessary and would only waste my color cartridges since the computer was so close by. Next year I am putting all the pictures on my iPad so I can carry it around from room to room.

I should get some kind of reward for being so clever!!

I’m a legend in my own mind!!

Wait! There’s more. While I was basking in my glory, I got to thinking about taking pictures of things that inspire my writing—like hunky men for my heroes or even settings like the Italian Festival (scene of Chicken Caccia-Killer.) And why not go even further and post inspirational pictures all over your computer when you’re trying to create. Here’s a picture of a voodoo doll that my friend made for me. I keep the picture where I can see it every day. (Talk Dead to Me is now Heard IT Through The Grapevine.)

So what about you? Any tricks for getting inspired or simply for putting up your Christmas decorations?

And BTW, the countdown for the release of  MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT begins now.

36 days!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wacky Weekender

 Thanksgiving was great!

We spent the day at my in-laws getting stuffed.

Then we went to my sister's for dessert.

Still so full I'm ready to burst :-)
 Poor Great Grandma Tootsie, who is going in one of my books someday, will be 98 this Christmas. She looks fabulous as always, except she was doing her fall cleaning and slipped and fell after mopping the floor. Look at her hand. It looks so sore, but she said it's not. She's one tough cookie and still so sharp it's amazing. She broke her arm in two places. Because of her age, they'd rather not do surgery, so they put a cast on it and hope for the best. It will heal, but probably not exactly the way it should. Good thing she is right handed.
 Now it's time to put the lights up and start thinking about Christmas. I love Christmas time. Last year we went to my brother's house for Christmas eve. This year they are all coming to my house. Then we go to my in-laws on Christmas day. Last year's theme was for everyone to wear their ugly sweater (or t-shirt in the case of my kids :-) This year we are all going to wear Christmas PJ's, so stay tuned for more pics. much fun.
 My brother's family looked too funny. I kept laughing all night long.
 And then there's my sister's family. Snort...chuckle...LOL! They went all out, especially my nephews.

And finally all the kids together were a hoot. It's so much fun when everyone is willing to get into the spirit and have a little fun.

Happy holidays, everyone. This year take some time and think outside of the box. Do something different and a little crazy and just go for it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kari's Kave: Giving Thanks

This time of year makes me sit back and think about all I have to be thankful for.

I am so thankful that we escaped all the crazy bad storms others were unfortuneate to get hit with. My heart and prayers go out to them all. I can't imagine a day without power, let alone weeks. And no heat. And flood damage. The list could go on and on.

I am thankful for my 4 kids and my husband. Often times they drive me crazy, but I can't imagine life without any of them. In fact my oldest son leaves for college this August. That's only 9 months away. Every time I think about it, I tear up. The whole dynamic of my house will change. I am so proud of him and excited for him, yet I am going to miss the hell out of him. And my boys are all close in age so they will leave bam, bam, bam. Thank God I have a 4 year gap before my diva leaves. By then maybe I'll be ready for the next stage of life. Travel with the hubby, grandbabies, more writint conferences :-)

I am thankful my husband has a job. This time last year, he lost his job. Devastating because he loved that place and always thought he would retire from there, but then found another one. It was a blessing, but I think he knew from the beginning it was a temporary one to hold him over until he found where he fit in. Amazingly, he is now back with his former job. Hopefully, for good this time. I truly think everything happens for a reason, and now he's back stronger than ever.

I am thankful all of our parents and brothers and sisters are still alive and healthy. And....we all get along :-) The craziest thing is even my hubby's grandmother is still alive at 98! And she still lives alone.

I am thankful for my fabulous agent, who works so hard for us all, and my BC babes who rock and my M&M's who are always there for me.

I am thankful for my friends who are so much fun and keep life exciting.

I am thankful for my health, and that my brain never shuts off and the ideas keep coming and coming.

And last but never least I am thankful for my loyal readers who keep coming back for me and giving me a reason to keep writing :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Handling Research

Research. Words no one wants to think about. I know reseach can be fun and interesting, depending upon the topic. But I have a tendency to get caught up in my research. Maybe you all know what I mean. You see, you Google (omg, where would we be without it?!?) your topic, click on a link, and BAM! you're transported to a site that is either intriguing and what you're after - or not so much so you click back and try the next link.

Then...somewhere along the way, you find an imbedded link withing the text you're reading. So, like any normal, curious human - you click it. Yup, now you're on to some other aspect in your research that you weren't necessarily after...but damn it's quite interesting. And so it begins.

By the time you look at the clock, it's 4 hours, 3 pages of notes and endless bookmarks and printed pages later.... and while you have some great pieces of didn't really get enough of what you were looking for.

So what is one to do? I've heard from many other writers (of historical, suspense, mystery) that you really don't have to get "bogged" down by all the research upfront. What is their secret?

Write the book first.

Oh, now there's a slap your forehead moment! But to some, that very idea makes them freeze. How can you just "write" without knowing the facts?

It's easier than you think, really. In most cases, you don't have to be an expert. All you need is enough information to convey your knowledge (or your H/H's knowledge), or to set the scene. Take a deep breath....because all you have to do is sprinkle these bits of information strategically throughout your story. Just enough in key locations, that's it.

Do you need to understand what was happening politically? Maybe, maybe not. That will depend on what is happening in your story with your plotline. Do you need to know what combinations of drugs can kill a person? Well, yes, if one of your characters is in the medical field or is investigating a murder involving an overdose. In which case there are ways around some of this.

First, find other authors, friends, relatives who might have more knowledge in the field your interested in. Ask them some basic questions. Next, resort to our friend Google. But don't get too carried away! You're not writing a "how to" book, or autobiography. You just need to "sprinkle".

And if you're still unsure? Take a mini-break, and READ some of your favorite authors in the genre you're writing. See how they do it. Because reading is research, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Liz's Lair: Meet Romantic Suspense Author, Suzanne Ferrell

Please welcome my friend and fellow chaptermate, Suzanne Ferrell. She's come back to Mysteries and Margaritas to tell us about her new self published stores and  to share how she starts a new story. She's giving away a signed copy of each of her new books to lucky commenters. Take it away, Suz.

What If…

That is the way most writers’ story ideas begin. What if a teenager on a distant planet accidentally intercepts an SOS from a young woman in a world nearly overtaken by an evil empire? What if a hard-boiled detective is hired to find a rare artifact and everyone he meets is a suspect in its theft? What if boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy saves girl?

What if… started my road into contemporary romantic suspense, but it wasn’t a “what if…” of the story’s plot that took me down this path, but more a “what if I had to write a book where all the action took place in the time span of a week or less?” Could I do it? This was a challenge for me. I’d written three previous manuscripts—two historical, one contemporary—all of which took place over months if not a year.

I love challenge. If you tell me you’re pretty sure I can’t do something, you can bet I’m going to do my best to prove I can. However, this was a challenge I gave myself.

So, I had a time limit. My hero and heroine have to meet and fall in love within a week. Now to make it more complicated, I had another “what if…” moment. What if, my hero kidnaps my heroine?

What! He kidnaps her?

That’s not terribly heroic.

But what if he has a very good reason for kidnapping her? What if, he’s wounded? What if he’s trying to protect a witness? What if the witness is wounded? What if the witness is a child? What if the hero thinks the people who hurt him and his witness might be the local cops? What if he knows the emergency room doctors have to report any gunshot wounds to the police?

He’s desperate…

And this is how the story starts:

Jake Carlisle needed help. He needed it now.”

So what’s a guy supposed to do? Yep, he kidnaps a nurse from a hospital parking lot.

I wasn’t quite done with the “what if’s…” in this book.

What if the heroine is one step away from suicide? What if she lost a daughter to leukemia? What if the wounded witness is a boy the same age her son would be? What if she realizes her kidnapper isn’t going to hurt her, but is in a world of trouble?

Throw in two over-protective brothers for the heroine, an irascible former partner for the hero, a local cell of Russian mobsters and a mysterious man pulling their strings and you have my book, KIDNAPPED.

Now, what if, you enter it in the Harlequin Intrigue contest and win? What if it still doesn’t get published? 
What if you enter it in the RWA Golden Heart contest and it is a finalist? What if it still doesn’t get published?

What if…you hire a great cover artist and publish it yourself?

That’s how KIDNAPPED and it’s follow up book, HUNTED, became available for people to read. And it all started with “What If…”

Have you ever had a “What If…” moment? How did it turn out?

Here's an excerpt from KIDNAPPED.

     Something was in her mouth. Sami’s tongue slid along the edges of something plastic. Flat, low ridges, holes—an adjustable strap. A baseball cap? Another taste. Hair spray. Gross. Someone had stuffed her baseball cap in her mouth, and from the feel of it they had taped it in place. Her arms were tied behind her and she lay face down on the floor—of what? Her car. The carpeting scraped her cheek every time they hit a bump.  

    Panic flooded Sami's senses. She came instantly awake. Inhaling deeply through her nose, she willed herself to calm down. Her working motto flashed through her brain, panic never accomplished anything. Of course she had never been kidnapped and tied up before.
 In the dim light of passing cars, she glimpsed things—paper gum wrappers, an old straw, one whopper wrapper, a CD cover.

That’s where Sting went. Been looking for that for days. Man did she need to vacuum this car out.

A metallic scent hit her nose. She’d recognize that smell until the day she died. Blood. And by the odor, someone had lost a great deal of it.
 Panic welled inside her again. This time too much to dismiss. Her heart raced. Breathe, dammit! She couldn’t. Oh God, who was this guy? Why did he pick her? Why hadn’t she begged to stay and finish the shift, even if it was a slow night?

Calm down, Samantha. Think about something peaceful. You can’t do anything right now. Maybe there’s a simple explanation.

Get real. Nothing simple could explain away that much blood loss. She’d learned that the first time she’d stood by a gurney and watched her trauma victim’s blood drip off the side to pool around her feet.
 Even though she didn’t do more than work, sleep and work some more, it was still her life. As much as she’d hated almost every waking moment since Aimee’s death, she suddenly realized she wasn’t ready to die. Not tonight. Certainly not like this.
 A deep sigh bubbled out of her. Since the air rushed out her nose instead of her mouth, it sounded more like a snort. She scrunched her eyes and ignored the suddenly schizophrenic voices in her head.     

She refused to panic. So far the only damage done was to her dignity. If she kept her wits about her, maybe she could escape. Isn’t that what her brother had preached to her for years? They’d covered all the bases, from car-jackings, to floods, tornadoes and any other natural disaster. In a crisis situation, remain calm and watch for an opportunity to act.
 That same out of body experience she felt during an emergency flowed over her, allowing her to see the entire situation, and act accordingly. When everyone around her flew at break neck speed on an adrenaline rush, Sami remained peacefully calm and organized.
 Her body slumped into the carpeting. Quietly, she listened to the rhythm of the wheels beneath the floor. After a few minutes she almost fell asleep. Her near exhaustion, after working forty-eight of the last ninety-six hours, coupled with the mental and physical energy needed to fight her building hysteria, lulled her mind from the very real danger around her.
The car slowed, turned, then stopped.
Sami's eyes popped open.
  "Damn, where does she keep the garage door opener?” the man in the driver's seat muttered. A chill crept up Sami's spine. That same deep baritone had rumbled over her ear earlier, just before something squeezed her throat and the lights went out.

A test swallow confirmed her tender throat. He'd cut off her air supply. This guy wasn’t above controlling her by physical force.
 A snap sounded above her head. Damn! He'd found the door opener's hiding place between the seats. A few minutes later, the Chevy inched forward. Motion sensor lights flooded the garage in a yellowish hue, casting eerie shadows inside the car. Sami thought she heard a moan. Then the garage door closed.

Breathe. Calm, just stay calm. Fight the panic.

The driver's door opened. The car’s weight shifted, then rose. Heavy boots sounded on the cement garage floor. The front passenger door opened. A grunt and whoosh of air escaped the man. He sounded like an Olympic weight lifter going for the clean and jerk record. More boots thumping. Sami strained to lift her head, but couldn't see more than halfway up the seat in front of her. She rested her head on the floor once again, waiting.
Again, the boots thudded across the garage, drawing nearer.

Breathe. Stay calm. Count.

One-one thousand, two-two thousand.

The door swung open.
Sami clenched her eyes shut, pretending she was still out cold.
 It seemed like minutes passed. Every second marked by the rapid beat of her pulse in her ears.

What was he waiting for?

Something soft and warm whispered across her cheek. The smell of cinnamon teased her nose.
 She couldn't stand it.
 Cautiously, she opened her eyes. Two clear blue eyes beneath the thickest black lashes this side of a movie star met her gaze—only upside down.
 The rest of him was...shaggy. He reminded her of Robert Redford in that mountain man movie, Jeremiah something-or-other. Thick dishwater blonde hair hung to one side of his forehead and in layers down to his collar. A dark five-o’clock shadow covered the lower half of his face.
 Her eyes traveled lower. Across the edge of his flannel shirt about an inch below his left collarbone, a circular pattern of dark crimson swirled outward from a hole, so full of old dried blood it bordered on black.
Whoever he was, he’d been shot tonight.
Her gaze flew to his.

He lifted his right eyebrow in a sardonic fashion. “Good, you’re awake.”

With both large hands he grasped her by the shoulders. Carefully, he eased her into a sitting position.
 “Let me make something perfectly clear. You are here only because I need you to patch up my friend. Got it?”

Sami nodded.

With one hand on top of her head, he guided her out of her car. Sami waited for the dizziness to clear her mind before taking a step forward. The garage door button next to the inside house door caught her eye.
 An escape idea popped into her head.
 Grasping her arm firmly, her captor nearly dragged her over to the door. Unsteady on her feet, she played it to her advantage and stumbled against him a step or two.

Timing was everything.

Just as they both stepped onto the bottom step leading into the house, Sami threw all her weight sideways into her captor. He grunted, falling to the side. His wounded shoulder hit the side of the house. Sami stumbled backward to the button, pressing the side of her head against it. Above her the w-h-i-r of the garage door opening sounded.

The panic she'd been fighting throughout her car trip surged through her once more. Fight or flight. She chose flight and suddenly propelled herself past his grasping hands toward the lifting garage door. Footsteps pounded behind her as she gained the driveway.
One step.
"Ooomph.” She hit the grassy bank to the driver’s side with what felt like a ton of bricks on top of her.
He swore as his arms wrapped around her and he rolled with her to the side.
Immediately, Sami began to squirm—legs thrashing, torso bucking into his.
"Damn it. Hold still!"
"Mmmph mmph!” Like hell!

He increased the pressure of his arms on her ribs, slowly purposefully squeezing the air out of her lungs. At the same time he trapped her flailing legs between his own. Very quickly Sami decided to give in, for now, rather than lose consciousness again. With a resigning snort she let her body go limp against him. 

"Look!” He growled in her ear and Sami despised the shiver of fear that coursed down her spine. “I don’t have time to play games with you, lady. I tried to be nice. Now we'll do it the hard way."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wacky Weekender: Holiday Happenings

Doesn't it seem like the holidays get rushed every year? "Back in the day" Christmas music and decorations were always BIG on the day after Thanksgiving. But now, November 2nd starts the onslaught of holiday music on select radio stations. Christmas and holiday decorations were showing up in stores the week before Halloween for crying out loud!! And now, at least in our area, they are advertising Black Friday deals 1 week and a half PRIOR to Black Friday! What is wrong with this picture?

The whole point of Black Friday chaos (which I have only participated in once, and vowed never to do again), is to get the paper on Tuesday and Thanksgiving Day and search for any awesome deals or that one particular item on someone's list (or your own) that you can't live without. It's the thrill of the hunt, and the kill when the advertised item doesn't even appear in the store or was in such a small quantity that it sold out almost instantly. But now, where's the excitement? Why not just shop Black Friday deals from the privacy of your own home as of midnight? Solves everything as far as I can see, since they are promoting merchandise so far in advance.

But I must say, after a unseasonably hot summer and warm'ish fall, I'm liking the cooler temperatures. The crisp, frost-covered mornings that signal winter is on its way. At work yesterday, there's a guy who plays his saxophone on the corner and he was playing Christmas music. I laughed at first, thinking he too was rushing the season. And driving home off the highway, I noticed the small towns are beginning to decorate the street lights with banners and wreaths in celebration of the season. I suppose people like to take advantage of the warmer temperatures (still) and decorate so they don't have to freeze their hands off. And that's fine, when you think about it.

I do feel that Thanksgiving gets cheated every year. But Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, and the cooler weather has started that little "tingle" of excitement. Soon I will be hauling decorations from the basement, stringing lights, baking cookies and wrapping gifts.

It's in the air! Breath in that holiday spirit!! What kinds of things signal the beginning of your holiday season? What do you look forward to?

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kari's Kave: Trouble in the Tarot

LOVE this cover!

Book 3 of my Fortune Teller Mysteries is up for pre-order.

I had to wait until they posted the cover to share with everyone. But now that it's up, I get to squeal and shout and clap out loud!

Berkley Prime Crime always has fabulous covers, but I just think this one is sooooooo pretty.

Totally made my day.

You can pre-order it here if you feel so inclined.

Up next, book four....Peril in the Palm.

Sometimes it's scary wondering if I'll be able to keep coming up with more ideas for future books in this series, but then something great will pop into my mind. I get so excited at the start of writing a book. The possibilities to consider. And I love the idea of trying to outdo  myself each time. I am always looking for the ultimate twist and trying to find ways to surprise the reader. That is so much fun. Not easy to do, but with fabulous CP's to brainstorm with, I never worry.

But first....must finish the page proofs for Trouble in the Tarot. I had a blast with this one, folks. I do believe it's my funniest one yet. Just love Granny Gert, and in this one, she gets into all sorts of trouble with her arch nemesis Fiona Atwater.

Stay tuned until March 5th to find out what happens....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Staying in the story

Writer's use many different tricks to get them "in" the mood to write. We've heard of anything from music, to setting the scene (author's space) with maybe candles, incense, donning favorite clothes and having favorite snack foods and beverages at the ready. I can testify these tricks do work - and depending on my  mood at the time, I have indeed used one or more of these in any given order or together. It's really part of what makes the creative process fun and even more creative.

But what do you do to you stay "IN" the story?? What happens when life throws a curve ball, or monkey wrench into your perfect fantasy world? How do you adapt to this change without throwing your characters in a tailspin? And believe me, they do protest when you try to make them do something they don't want to do, or send them somewhere they don't want to be. They recognize the difference between conflict and their author being out of whack. You can't pull the wool over their eyes.

This happens to me more times than not (I hate to admit). Working a day job and trying to be a full time author plus the attentive mom & wife is a handful. I wouldn't change a thing other than take a leave of absence from time to time - which I can't afford to do. So.... that leaves me smacking the curve ball out of the park, and chucking the monkey wrench out to left field.

And if you happen to be in the same boat as I am, remember: you don't have to do this alone! I find taking minutes throughout the day (while I'm driving to and from work for example) to think of my story in some way - be it the plot, the characters, a particular scene I've written or one yet to come. I try to incorporate any aspect of that story into whatever it is I'm doing. If I'm driving my kids to practice, I'm wondering if my heroine would be caught dead in a mini van, or would she even have kids to drive? What if they were HIS kids?? It may not have anything to do with my story, but it's keeping me aquainted with my characters.

I also find keeping a small notebook handy works great for spur of the moment ideas I have. And also just shooting emails to my CP with things I'm thinking of or to update her on my progress. It has a way of keeping me accountable, which makes me try even harder to stay focused and in-story.

I keep thinking if I can stay in-story, then my readers will never want to leave the story.

Once you start writing, how do you stay IN? And if you're a reader, what KEEPS you in the story til the end?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Liz's Lair: Welcome Paranormal Author, Kelly Lee

 Please help me welcome my friend and fellow author Kelly Lee. Take it away, Kelly.

First, let me say thank you, Liz, for having me today! 

Second, to everyone, Happy Veteran's Day!

My husband has been in the Army Reserves for ten years now, so patriotic holidays get a little more play in our home than some. But no matter your political beliefs or affiliation, it's important to appreciate the sacrifices our military service members make both on the battlefield, and personally. When deployed, both men and women leave their families, and make their uniquely valuable contribution.

After one of my husband's particularly tough deployments, my then three-year-old daughter wore her dad's dog tags around for days at a time as her "necklace". I'd have to sneak them off of her while she slept, because she refused to take them off.

I first began writing seriously when my husband was deployed, simply because I had time on my hands after my daughter went to bed at night. I'm an escapist, so when I wasn't tucked into bed reading, I was dreaming up characters of my own. Hence, the humble beginning of the Four Realms Series was born.

If you like Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance, I hope you'll love Battle Heat. It's the 2nd book in the Four Realms Series, and it's chock full of funny, sarcastic dialogue, action, suspense, and some seriously steamy love scenes!

Here's a short little blurb:

Holly Okeanos is alone. Descended of a defeated race whose adult males were either killed or imprisoned, she is the daughter of the last Titan royalty left alive since the Great War. Thousands of years have passed, but Holly refuses to fear the Gods who conquered them, a warrior to her core. Now a prisoner to the God of War, she is torn between loyalty to her race and the overpowering attraction she feels toward the fearsome man who led the bloody battles that destroyed them all.

If you're hankering for a little more, visit my website to read the full first chapter or head straight on over to Amazon at this link Battle Heat - Amazon for an even bigger excerpt posted in the "Click to look inside" option!

Contest:  Anyone who "likes" my Facebook page between now and November 18th will be entered in a random drawing for a free copy of Murdering Eve, the first book in the series. Come get to know me. I LOVE new friends!

Follow me on Facebook  

Twitter: @kellyleefiction

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wacky Weekender

Welcome to Mystery and Margaritas very first edition of Wacky Weekender. We did this for two reasons. Number one--we said goodbye to longtime M & M blogpal, Anita Clenney (boo!) and number two, Friday is not a day that draws a lot of blog readers in for whatever reason. So, we moved Barbie to Tuesdays where her funny posts will be seen by more people, and we decided to call Friday's blog -WW and we're taking turns with it, using anything we want on this day.

So, here goes. I'm posting my wonderful Punpkin Pie Crunch recipe (can be seen in LIVER LET DIE)  just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. I guarantee you'll never eat regular PP again. Here it is:

Ray’s Pumpkin Pie Crunch

1(15 ounce)can solid pack pumpkin                                                    
1(12 ounce)can evaporated milk
3 large eggs                                                                                                 
1½ cups sugar                                                                                  
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt

1 package classic yellow cake mix                                      

1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup(2 sticks)butter, melted
Whipped topping

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Pour the pumpkin mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the pumpkin mixture and top with pecans. Drizzle the melted butter over the top. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped topping. Refrigerate the leftovers and reheat in the microwave before serving. You will never eat regular pumpkin pie again!

Got any good Thanksgiving recipes?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- The Source of Our Stories

I fell about 12 days ago. It’s not something I wanted to mention. But my mother and I have been having interesting discussions about it and how it relates to creating stories. I credit her with the idea for this post as I would probably still not talk too much about it.

So with that intro, what happened was with Hurricane Sandy we lost our power. In the dark a week ago Monday I went upstairs to find something. Stupid me, I went without a flashlight. I know my house and thought I could navigate. In my study I tripped over something. I’m still not sure what. A dog bed, a dog bone, a cord, my desk chair, whatever. I fell flat on my face, full force. My dear husband called from downstairs to ask if I needed help. Of course not, I responded. Then realized I really did need help. My eye glasses were missing and I knew I’d hit hard.

That is not the point of today’s post. The point is that I have lived nearly two weeks with the world’s perception of a woman with a huge black eye. This is where the concept of stories comes in. For a few days my eye was nearly swollen closed. It became black and blue along with the abrasions down my cheek. People stared. And, they made comments. Little side comments as if they were jokes while glancing at my husband. Things like, “Boy, I wonder what the other guy looked liked.” Or, “You two s

The best one was, “Oh, I guess you’ll tell me you fell?”

My husband absolutely did not hit me, but the people out in the world started building stories. Some I think come from stereotypes. Some I think come from certain assumptions based on news stories and the conversations with folks next door. BUT, this is the real point, I think some come from the imagination. That is story creation. I offered an opportunity for strangers to write an imaginary story that buzzed in their brains. A woman with a huge black eye. What does that mean?

I am not at home right now. I’m visiting my parents. Yesterday a wonderful kind and gentle man stopped by. He saw my eye and made a comment, about my husband, attempting to be funny. It solidified my point. We all tell stories, think stories, and are quick to make decisions about our world-view. Why do we write mysteries, romance, horror, sic fi, fantasy? How do our minds want to wander down certain paths?

On the record, I fell. No abuse. But lots of interesting conversations that have led me to think about how we create our books and what we like to read.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kari's Kave: My Wall of Fame

My Wall of Fame!

How do you find inspiration?

There are just some days that it's hard to find the inspiration to do everything we as authors do. Work on our work in progress so we can meet our deadlines. Promote the books we already have out. Do edits, and copy edits, and page proofs on our books that are in the lineup waiting to come out. And yet...still come up with new ideas for future books.

I've said it a million times, but it's still the truth. It's hard as hell to get published, and even harder to stay published.

Every time I get discouraged, I simply turn around and look at all that I've accomplished, and then yell at myself to stop beating myself up. I've written 3 cozy mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, the third one due out in March, with a fourth and fifth on the way. I self pubbed 2 teen superhero stories, the third one plotted and started, and slated to be finished this year. I've self pubbed 3 romances, with a fourth plotted and started and slated to be finished this year. I've also self pubbed one novella and one short story.

Sometimes I have so many goals and so many different things I want to accomplish, it gets overwhelming knowing where to start and what to work on right now.

This summer through me for a loop with my oldest of four children getting ready to make the biggest decision of his life...what college to go to and what lacrosse team to commit to. It's been insane...much more work than I had imagined. Now that we are almost over the hump with that chore, I need to refocus on myself. It's time to pull out my calendar and figure out exactly what to work on every day. I need organization in my life. Without it, I feel like I'm floundering a bit. I am going to clean off my desk, pull out my calendar, and get organized. What's on your schedule for the day? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Fall Back to Tuesday

Happy Tuesday and Welcome my new blog day at the bunkhouse! Actually, I'd rather be bunking in. Boy how I hate the week it takes to adjust when we set the clocks back (or ahead too, for that matter!) I'm a morning person for sure but when I spring out of bed at 4am like a jackrabbit on crack....that's just wrong!! No one should be wide awake at 4am!

So I toss and turn, try to relax and fall back to sleep. But I never really do. So over the next hour I peek at the clock to find that every time I do so, only 4 mins have passed. ugh! Are you kidding me?? Of course by the time I finally do fall back into a nice sleep, I hear my daughter get up to get ready for school, the dog thumping through the halls after her, and realize I've overslept!!! I should have just bit the bullet and gotten up early. I could have written a couple pages - although my dear hubby would have said "go down on the treadmill and get your workout in if you're that awake."

No one should be exercising at 4am either.

So I'm declaring right now, to use this time change to my benefit until the body/mind decide to accept it. I love the quiet of the house in the morning anyway, so why not start to channel my creativity over a cup of coffee? Every little bit helps us get closer to "the end", right? I've begun to realize the importance of using the small bits of time I get for writing (like I used to do, waaay back when!) because a good, solid chunk of quality time isn't a reality right now. It all adds it.

Anyone else "feeling the change"? What are you doing in the wee hours of the morning? Or are you lucky enough to go back to sleep? Any late night writers having the opposite problem?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Liz's Lair: When Life Intervenes in a Good Way--Well, Almost.

 You all know I'm not a very disciplined writer. I've analyzed why this is, and the only thing I can come up with is that I'm a card-carrying crisis junkie. I do my best work then.

But I'm getting old, and these crisis situations are kicking my butt!

For instance, when I agreed to a two book deal with Midnight Ink way back in April, I was all excited because I already had one book totally written. I knew I still had a deadline with Berkley for Cozy number four, but I figured that would leave plenty of time to write book Number two for Midnight Ink.

Well, here it is November already, and although I've done the primary work – – character profiles, plot points, etc. – – I haven't written a single new word. Luckily, a long time ago, I wrote the first chapter. Trying to decide where to start a book usually gives me fits, anyway, so at least I have that part done.

But no matter what my good intentions are, somehow, I always manage to find "more important" things to do. You know – – write a blog, read a blog, play on Facebook, etc!

Are you getting the picture yet?.

Well, yesterday, the Powers That Be intervened and took charge. After church, I was walking with my daughter and two grandsons and talking up a storm when my shoe stuck on an uneven surface – – going from concrete to grass – – and I hyperextended my hamstrings, buckling my knees. I went down like the Titanic, but fortunately wasn't hurt, unless you count the torn hamstrings muscle which hurt like a mother – – –

So, all my plans for the week are nixed as I am on bed rest, using the old R I CE remedy – – rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Guess who has nothing else to do this week but write?

I would say, "Thank you, Jesus," but my thigh hurts too much right now. The good news is that  I write longhand and can do it from my Lazy Boy with affected leg elevated and properly iced. So, I've decided this week will be my very own NaNo week.

I'm calling it HAM-O.

So, what about you? Do you ever find ways to trick yourself into writing?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: No More Darkness!

And no....this is not the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Luckily my part of the state was spared from her wrath. Just high winds and some rain, but nothing like the super storm they predicted (Thank God). But my family and I were ready!!!

I've actually decided that while Dark & Evil Barbie might be fun........there's no longevity there. I mean, think about it. I'd finish an 80K book and be a walking zombie for a year trying to recover. And right now, after putting in my teaser for Heart's Desire at the end of Twist of Fate, I'm totally into Scottish Highland mode. So it's not making much sense for me to talk a walk on the wild and dark side right now. I've got stories to write! And three women who have to go back in time to break a curse and fall in love! Wheeeeeeee!!!!! Now THAT is more my style!

BUT, in the spirit of Halloween I just may have to keep a deep dark short story out there on the back burner to toss to my readers just for fun! And heck, maybe it doesn't even have to be as dark and twisted as I was thinking! Holiday romances don't always have to revolve around christmas and valentines day!

I'm retaining my opinion that it IS a good thing to step out of your comfort zone and try things. But I believe there's a right time in which to switch gears completely. And Barbie needs to stay in the land of love and bunnies!!!

And let's not forget the margaritas!

Barbie will officially be moving the bunkhouse to Tuesdays! So come join me then for more stories, updates and antics! Fridays will become out M&M Whacky Weekender - where you'll never know who is posting and WHAT they're posting! So make sure to stop by and start your weekend with a touch of Whacky!

Write On!! (she says in her super hero voice while fanning her cape)