Monday, October 31, 2011

The Psychopath

I find, far more frightening than the monsters, whether humanoid or furry, are the PEOPLE with... erm... sometimes no conscience... sometimes it is an alternative consciousness... I will include, for the sake of this, people with psychic power—mind control, telekinesis... the scariest villain I ever ran across was able to look at someone and turn them to a puddle of slime... yeah. Good skill.

Now I prefer my psychopaths of a 'non-natural' form... that is to say, I don't want someone just born with a bad brain, even though this is the more common form. What is better in a BOOK, though, is justified psychopathology... a person who is MADE... who is really rotten because of experiences they had. And I am NOT talking about Jason from Halloween, though Freddie Krueger has some appeal because how he kills is so scary.

Those psychic powers though, are best if they run in the family... it is a nice opportunity to set up dark backstory and 'fate'... to pit the story hero against a villain who is FAMILY—sort of a making right.

Sickos of the best sort?

Hannibal Lecter comes to mind. I think his charm and intelligence are what makes him so compelling that you can sort of love (but definitely fear) a cannibal. I love that he is a bad guy helping the good side... in fact, in Silence of the Lambs, he is not actually the villain... but MAN, is he spooky!?

How about Norman Bates? Man, talk about a psychopath with a good reason!? Man, you'd be a psycho too with a mother like that! But I find he is all the scarier because he has that sort of nerdy charm I love... he is awkward and self-deprecating... and I am torn between wanting to helping him and knowing he is terrifying.

There is all variety of sicko out there. There are serial killers. There are people who just like to hurt... people and even animals (you KNOW the people who hurt animals are even worse, yes? Don't they pull the heart strings bigger?)

But HERE, again, I prefer villains where it's personal. I want to understand their motivation, even as they scare me. If they are horrible for no reason, I frankly can't stomach it.

I also love to hate villains who aren't particularly 'sick' but rather are power drunk or self righteous in thinking they are 'doing the right thing' when in fact they are either following unfair laws or are using unjust means. They can be the worst of all—think about Dolores Umbridge and her 'Order at any cost' regime.

I think the idea that there are really frightening people walking around among us, unidentified... terrifying... though I also like the idea that SOME people can see them... I plan to watch Grimm, even though I didn't see it while it was on... that is the idea... it brings to life the idea of the monsters among us that only a few can identify...

I wish all of you a very happy Halloween!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stacy's Novellas!!!

So one of my good buddies had two big markers this last week—the release of her second novella, Best Man, Worst Man, and the availability of the anthology she is part of for Steam Punk Christmas Romance. So today I am going to tell you about these two great works—both of which I had the honor of beta reading.

Best Man, Worst Man

Here is the description from Samhain:

He’s the one problem she can’t solve.

From hysterical bridezillas to grooms with sub-zero feet, renowned wedding planner Claire Pomeroy has never met a disaster she couldn’t handle. Then she runs afoul of her client’s not-so-best man, a devilishly flirtatious rogue with a killer smile and a chest as solid as a concrete roadblock. Yet their sparks of attraction only highlight his obvious quest—to make sure this wedding knot never gets tied.

Confirmed bachelor Ryder Price knows one unshakable truth: marriage is nothing but a fairy tale. No way is he going to stand idly by while his wingman face-plants into the dreaded marital trap. But there’s a problem. A dark-eyed, dangerously curvaceous problem who’s bound and determined to pull this wedding off.

As her suddenly skittish clients teeter on the edge of cancellation, Claire challenges her nemesis to imagine long-term as something more than a quickie and a vague promise to call. Ryder counters with a challenge of his own. Let him give her a taste of just how fulfilling a little no-strings-attached passion can be.

Product Warnings
This product contains cold feet, heavy petting, heavier breathing, and chocolate-covered fingers. To avoid a sweet-tooth side-effect, the author recommends having a chocolate-covered man nearby.

Stacy wrote a great blog about this--'too spicy to be sweet' story. And I loved it. You know me—sweet isn't really my thing. But what I love most about Stacy's books is 1) respect to the heroine—they are always SMART and independent. And I love her humor. And did you SEE that product warning? *snort * Yeah... my kind of book. You definitely want to check it out!


Crime Wave in a Corset

This novella is part of an anthology, Clockwork Christmas, that has four novellas that are steam punk romance with Christmas settings. Stacy's is the only I've read, but I saw a review that said this quartet was a great intro to the genre because the four stories were really varied, so it gave a nice view of the range of the genre.

The story I read from Stacy, in which Cornelia Peabody, a street kid who manages to make a life for herself as a thief, has stolen a Faberge Egg... She thought she was stealing from a wealthy university, but in fact it is the prized possession of a very sick girl. Unfortunately, she has sold it. To collect vengeance and right the wrong, our hero attaches a device to Cornelia that, by Midnight Christmas Eve will kill her by electrocution if she cannot manage to re-steal the egg and return it.

This is the first Steampunk I read, and I loved the devices, but ALSO that the devices, while clever, weren't contrived—they flowed nicely as part of the story, moving it forward. I LOVED both hero and heroine—both flawed, both stubborn, but often in romance, one or the other annoys me, and here, Stacy did a wonderful job of keeping them both sympathetic. It was adventure as well as romance... high stakes (hello, death), and brilliantly woven. I think this set looks like a great Christmas gift if anyone has loved ones who like Steampunk (or are interested in trying).


So there we have it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Can We Panic NOW?

Strangely... not a Halloween blog... exactly... But sort of it is because you know what has to be done by Halloween? ALL THE NANOWRIMO PREP!!!!

Holy COW, am I behind!?

I'm behind because I'm trying to get ahead of course... lemme e'splain...

Chrysanthemum Campaign (CC)

I'm writing... But I am NOT writing at the pace I hoped... I'm writing maybe 5000 words a week, which is about half what I intended... You see... I think I need to draw some pictures. *shifty *

Oh, don't look at me that way. Mystery plotting has a bunch of pieces that are needed, and it's NICE if all the clues connect to EACH OTHER in a few coherent strands, too... two dozen disconnected clues found one at a time is sort of dull... But if there are three clues... only you don't know they all go together until you find the LAST of them... you see what I mean? Well for ME, drawing the picture helps me envision how it will all come out.

So I got that to do this weekend.

Personal Business

Because HWMNBMOTI is insanely private, I won't tell you what this is, but I have a bunch of paperwork to pull together... Not needed until Friday, but I definitely don't want to be stuck with it in my to-do pile when I'm allowed to be WRITING.


I have a little of this done, but because I've been writing CC, I have lost my train of thought... it all needs to be reread so I can remember where I was going with all of it. I ALSO want to do a layered timeline... Stay with me here... it will work something like this:

Layer one: Broadest plotlines in order
Layer two: break each of those into crucial events (this is the timeline I normally work from)
Layer three: Plug in the couple details I already have noted.

I also need to finish my 'stops' notes. My heroine and her brother have a road trip with several stops, each a part of the main plot... so I wanted a sentence or two about each stop...


Do you remember what a geek I am about graphs and charts? I LUUUUURVE THEM!!!!

Three days. *sigh *

In other news:

Couch to keg going well. On Wednesday we hit 18 minutes of running for our interval stuff. Weight Watchers is progressing... I've lost 15 pound in 6 weeks. I'm pretty happy with that rate. Would love love love to hit 20 pounds by the 2 month mark.

I'm feeling some anxiety about this WriMo for the first time ever... Cooking dinner 4 nights a week sucks rocks. I hate cooking, but I ALSO hate not having that time to write—it was formerly my blogging time, so I had typing time later... now stuff isn't getting typed.

And the BIGGEST 'in other news' which I am terrified to put up high or bolder, because I don't want to jinx it... Amy said she will start subbing Kahlotus by Wednesday. Officially. To publishers. I am actually very glad I will spend November immersed in a WriMo, because I think my nerves couldn't otherwise handle this... but busy, I will be okay.

I wish you all a fabulous weekend!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monster Round-up

When I was a kid, my idea of monsters was probably off the beaten path of what a lot of people think. My first exposure to vampires (other than Seseme Street's Count) was Salem's Lot (the movie) which I saw when I was about 10. I'd seen the cartoon versions of Frankenstein... Oh, and there was Frankenberry, Booberry and Count Chocula... you see, Vampires, Werewolves, Mummies... not so scary when your primary exposure is Scooby Doo.

The monsters in my closet were... you know... MONSTERS! Entirely of my imagination, but consistent with... the Abominable Snowman (I was terrified of the Bumble from the Rudolph movie!) Ir Sasquatch! Or... you know.. MONSTERS! (not former humans or almost humans). They were FURRY. They had the wrong number of EYES or ARMS... or they were SLIMY! So I thought I'd review of couple now-beloved monsters...

The Monsters who lived in my closet were of the sort in Monsters, inc. I mean... I didn't know at the TIME they were just doing their jobs... I was REALLY scared... but that was the variety and sort...

Randall still scares me... he was there... under the bed. Sully was in the closet, but I didn't know he was nice... I would have hugged Mike... even then. Note this movie came out DECADES after my childhood, but they sure captured the Monster types.

I think the earliest identifiable monster I remember is The BLOB!!!

I remember watching this movie with my mom... we still had the black and white TV, so I was under 7. And the OOZING, could get EVERYWHEREness of it... And... YUCK FACTOR!

But then for YEARS I didn't encounter any real monsters that scared me... what scared me was more the stuff I will get into on the next couple days... Only in adulthood did really FRIGHTENING monsters come back...

Hello, Quintaped and Acromantula!!!

I recognize Shelob predates Aragog, but NOT in my experience. I read Harry Potter before Lord of the Rings, and I read both before seeing any movies (movie Shelob is the scariest of the lot... but book Aragog came first)--note the Basilisk is ALSO pretty darned frightening... but not nearly as bad as those multi-legged things who have little brothers living in my basement...

My late-day Favorite Monsters, though?

HP Lovecraft was someone I arrived at through Peter Straub (my favorite scary author). He is a huge fan and sometimes actively uses Lovecraft in his writing. So I decided to actively investigate... READ some from the father of the genre...

And while his writing style is sadly representative of the first decade of the 20th century (which is to say he TELLS instead of SHOWS and read a lot like a journal), his MONSTERS are HOLY FREAKING COW scary... he has aliens who have burrowed under the mountains and transmit crazy to the people who live nearby... he has necromancers (people who raise the dead)... And he has Cthulu...

Oh, look! You can make your own!
Most of Lovecrafts creatures 'came from other worlds' but they aren't the cuddly little aliens most later stuff brings... AT ALL.

Or if you are less skilled, you can just order one..

Do you have any beloved monsters?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


On Sunday I did a brief promo for Helena Soister's book The Compass Master, dibbed by one reviewer 'Like the DiVinci Code, only it doesn't need to resort to gimmicks'--High praise. I am super excited to read this book. If you want more on THAT, here is Sunday's blog

Now Helena is one of my buddies—I've known her nearly two years—I've loved reading her blog, and she is a fabulous generous soul. So TODAY, Helena is going to tell us about some of her Experiences (and I capitalized that on purpose—some of them are BIG), both with learning to be a super spy (seriously—look at the pics!) and with self publishing. (she had an ALMOST series of experiences with agent and publisher, and finally decided to go for it)

So without further ado, WELCOME HELENA!


First I’m giving a big hug to Hart for hosting me today.  It’s a thrill to be here.

Her Tartness asked me to talk about my Becoming Layla plan.  Layla Daltry, you see, is the heroine of my thriller The Compass Master, and she’s many things I’m not, such as under 30 (I’m so past 50), financially well-off (I’m so not), an antiquities hunter and scholar of ancient manuscripts who lives in a Dublin penthouse and has adventures in exotic places and… you get the picture.

Anyway, a couple years ago I had an agent who came this close to finding a publisher for my novel.  When that fell through I was very discouraged and planned to self-publish, then started rewriting my manuscript.  But I was also going crazy.  I found that I really needed to DO exciting things and not just write about Layla’s adventure.  For some of us writers there can be the temptation to live vicariously through our imaginations instead of being real.  So I thought, what about using my main character as a role model? Why not develop skills she has that I’ve always wanted but never pursued because daily life and lack of funds kept holding me back?

The thing is, most of us have done crazy and outrageous or daring action hero stuff. For myself, I’ve traveled around the world and have a bad habit of going to dangerous places like Bosnia, which is the setting for my first chapter.  I’m an epee fencer and used to fly trapeze.  But being an action hero is something else, and silly as it sounds I wanted to see if I could get closer to my character’s level. I also needed to confirm that what Layla does in the plot or during her life is realistic and not mere literary bull.

I tackled her toughest skill first – Parkour/ freerunning. It’s climbing jumping bouncing off walls flying leaping tumbles and OMG I was DEAD after each sadistic class in the course. I was also the only female and by far the oldest. But working out with teenaged and twenty-something guys showed me how to make realistic changes to Layla’s action scenes.  BONUS: one guy was a lock picking whiz who gave me great pointers.  I’m now picking away.

My WORST Layla experience was Aikido.  Years ago I studied taekwando, so I’m used to martial arts discipline.  But in my fifth beginner Aikido class an idiot black belt threw me to the floor and cracked five of my ribs and my left lung half collapsed.  Then the emergency room doctor failed to diagnose these injuries and I walked around for a week before another doctor freaked and sent me to a hospital.  The one bright element to this grim episode was my realizing how Layla should also sustain injuries, but because she’s on a desperate hunt she must keep going.  Talk about writing from experience.  I added this angle and love how it gives the story more tension and reality.

Ready... get set...
I did paragliding and skydiving (but only tandem so far).  Brushed up on French and some Arabic but have to get more serious about studying. (Layla is fluent in French, Latin, ancient Greek, and some Italian). I took billiards classes. Worked at stretching and strengthening my body. I’ve gotten pretty adept at wall climbing and bouldering, but haven’t yet climbed and rappelled off buildings. Still, I learned exactly how Layla could get into and out of places when everything is locked up, what her body is capable of, what techniques and tools she uses. That meant more tweaking to my story, and let me tell you, it felt good truly knowing what I was writing about.

Logically, my plan should end with my novel’s publication, but I want to keep it going. It makes me take on the kind of physical and mental challenges I ultimately want to do in real life and not only in novels. Then again, Layla can be too independent and self-reliant, and maybe that’s what I’ve been by choosing self-publishing. Anyway, The Compass Master is now out and I’m receiving very good feedback from readers, which means so much to me.

Here’s a shortened blurb for my book. The longer blurb is on the Amazon page for The Compass Master and here on Hart’s Sunday (10/23) piece.

As an antiquities hunter and scholar, Layla Daltry balances on the edge of the law and takes too many risks. Yet even she isn’t prepared for the unseen enemy who traps her in a deadly endgame and forces her to search for extraordinary lost biblical epistles. If she fails, the epistles will disappear forever and her life and those of people she loves may come to a swift end.

Thank you, Hart, for your support and naked enthusiasm. And happy writing to all you readers here today.

And Thank YOU, Helena! I really wish you a ton of luck with your book!

Now what are you all waiting for?! (this is a CHRISTMAS gift type of book... seriously—look how pretty it is)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My, What Big Eyes You Have!

Or is that the evil eye? Deathly eyes? Maybe it's just a LOT of eyes...

They say eyes are the window to the soul, so when EVIL is around, those eyes can be SCARY!

Some are so scary they can kill or petrify you!!!

The Basilisk!
What are those things with the laser beam eyes? Am I making this up? I could swear there is such a thing.

We've all heard it... 'Don't look it in the eyes!' There are SOME TIMES this advice can save your life!

Evil Eye: Andreas Stridsberg
So What About This Evil Eye?

I totally thought this was just an expression until my best friend married a Greek man. Her mother-in-law used to do protections on her because she was so convinced her AMAZING SON was the desire of every woman, so surely his promised gal NEEDED protecting from all those evil eyes! Now don't get me wrong, Nick is totally a catch—NICE NICE guy, fairly handsome, super supportive... not Johnny Depp though... I'm not sure every woman everywhere was after him... Still, it DID teach us about that evil eye. This would be why everyone in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is spitting on the bride—to protect her.

Theoretically, this is just the beginning of the spells a person could cast by looking at someone... So BEWARE!

What About EYE COLOR?

Did you know if you google evil eyes, the vast majority are RED? I think that is a Satanic symbolism at work. That, and the fact it isn't a natural color... albino pets aside. And unnatural always causes a physical aversion, though some things more than others...

Even though there are other unnatural shades for eyes, though... red is the farthest from natural. Purple or turquoise could be seen as tweaks of blue, making someone special. I've known people with eyes such a pale brown (hazel?) that they are gold... or nearly yellow or orange... Brown eyes can be so dark as to appear almost black (though true black is pretty scary... WHITE oddly, in addition to blindness, seems to carry a 'vision' ability—lose one sight for another) Red, though,  is the only stand out as 'what the freak is WRONG? That has to be EVIL!'

Cyclops: KaijuSamarai(deviantart)
Finally... Just How Many Eyes Do You Have?

Anything but two and fright is the normal response, friendly Cyclops notwithstanding...

I think what it comes down to is UNNATURAL is what bothers us... it's SCARY...

Are you in the mood to be REALLY scared about eyes? Go here (scarier still? It's a PHOTO):

Did you have the nerve to look? *shivers* Any freaky eyes you can think of, specifically?

Any eyes in books that really creeped you out?  You know... besides Voldemort...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scared of the Dark

I thought maybe I'd do a week of scary or fright related stuff leading up the Halloween. So there.

I have a confession. I slept with a nightlight far later than a normal kid. I was terrified of the dark... the thing under the bed... the thing in the closet. I'm not sure this was strictly an overactive imagination. In fact I've never thought of myself as particularly imaginative... even now... writing books... I think my creativity is more a puzzle-master thing—pulling odd stuff together and mixing it up originally. I could never be a world-builder.

But that DARK. What is it about the DARK? Why is the scariest thing for many people actually an ABSENCE of something.

I mean rationally, there is nothing in the dark that isn't also there in the light...

The answer: BUT YOU DON'T KNOW!!! Anything COULD be there... something could be there that would be ten TIMES as scary if the light was on... it might be just out of reach. Right there in front of you!

As an older kid, I was one of those who liked to sit around with a couple friends working ourselves into frights with 'what ifs'. It was a thrill to be scared. Ghost stories tended to be my favorite, I think because of the paranormal entities, ghosts are the only one I actually mostly believe in. Speculation on werewolves and vampires didn't scare me much because I don't buy it, and stories about escaped murderers were TOO scary. Ghosts were just right... still are.

So how do we carry this into writing... how might we SCARE our readers?

(is my rotten streak showing?)

I think this ABSENCE of information... the working up the possibilities... is far more tense... can carry the reader on adrenaline for a lot longer than REALLY showing it. Maybe there is a story the MC hears... just rumors... Maybe pair the rumor with an ordinary event... a branch tapping or a faucet dripping... pair the ideas a second time, then DROP the story... you don't need it anymore. You just increase the frequency of noticing the ordinary event. (repetition is SCARY—think about The Shining, with both 'Redrum' or 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'.)

Repetition of SIGHTS can do it too. You see the squirrel. You see it again. Is that squirrel watching me? Then suddenly you have an evil squirrel idea planted. Erm. (okay, maybe it works better with a crow)

The idea is, you aren't telling the reader much. You are planting ideas in an absence of what they mean and THEIR mind is filling in the blanks with scary stuff.

Scariest three quarters of a book I ever read was IT... that book has kid's imaginations killing them. It is a boggart of sorts... changes form to whatever is scariest and it looks like natural causes... King happened to ruin the end of this one by giving Pennywise a form (and a form I find less frightening than that scary-ass clown). I think he should have left it UNKNOWN... Unidentified... because then we might imagine it right outside our window at any time... at least if it was dark.

So next time YOU want to scare somebody... maybe think about how you can plant the idea and then leave your reader in the dark.

BOO! (did I scare you?)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Collective Grief

I feel a little like I don't have a right to address this topic... inadequate, a step removed. But it is a hard one to get past or around. I think I need to write through it.

You see, a woman one class ahead of me in high school was shot in the head by her husband on Friday. My personal profile Facebook page is full of it. Grief. Disbelief. The ones that make me cry are the wishes for peace. I really hope she has found it.

I didn't know her well—maybe two or three conversations ever, which is a sort of low number considering she was close to one of my close friends. But she was a larger than life personality. Loud—she laughed loud, she shouted across rooms and parking lots and fields. There was never any doubt she was there. But, as she was a year older, I found that intimidating, even though in the few direct interactions I had, she was always nice.

But she was a tough girl. In my generation, very few girls physically fought, but I remember hearing about a few with her. You see, she developed early, and so I think was subject to a level of peer speculation, rumors, attention, that can be hard for a young girl to cope with. I admire that she got tough instead of letting people talk crap behind her back, especially as I'm sure much of it was untrue.

I guess the thing I keep thinking now is... did that level of abuse continue into her adulthood? Did her peers talk crap even later? I didn't hear anything even by high school... teens have short attention spans and I'm sure had moved onto other fodder.  On Facebook I wasn't friends with her—I just didn't feel I knew her well enough to ask. But we shared a lot of friends so I 'saw' her a lot. She seemed happy—pictures looked happy, comments seemed happy. I had thought 'good for her'. I don't want to think now that that happiness was an illusion. I want to believe she really found it.

According to the newspaper, it happened like this: he shot her in the head, they together tried to make it to a neighbor's, she collapsed in the driveway and he got to the door begging them to call 9-1-1. This was a man clearly devastated by what he'd done. He put his hands up when the police arrived. He didn't try to argue. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Regret doesn't reverse anything.

How does a relationship go this wrong? The liberal in me wants to say this is a hell of an argument against keeping firearms in the home. But there HAD to be other disfunction besides just owning guns. A lot of people own guns without shooting family members. Heck, I grew up in a house with guns and the biggest accident was when some boys (friends of mine) dumped shot pellets down the garbage disposal.--that led to the lock on the gun room (yes, we had a gun room—the GUNS had been locked in a cabinet... apparently the ammo had not).

I know for a fact domestic violence is everywhere. I know people who live in it usually come from a history of it—both abuser and abused. I DON'T know if that was the situation here. The neighbors said they fought a lot, but the image in my head is she probably gave as good as she got most of the time. I don't see her being a scared, cowed woman. I think her husband would have shown a lot less remorse if he felt he was superior or tougher. I might be completely wrong, but I think rather than a stereo-typical domestic violence situation, they were people who had trouble reining it in when they fought... people who maybe could have benefited from some skills in discussion--behavioral therapy.

I don't know what can be done. I mean for a more traditional situation, I feel like offering help—getting the victims to shelters, making sure they know they aren't alone—all those are great steps. But how much do we know about our neighbors?

A house around the corner had a bunch of furniture on the lawn a few weeks back... I suspect a cheating spouse, only because that is what would cause ME to put all HWMNBMOTI's stuff out in the yard. I have no clue if their immediate neighbors knew there was trouble... I have no clue if THEY knew there was trouble. A drastic move like that seems like a sudden discovery.

Anyway, I just want to throw out some love and healing karma to my friends and to Bobbi's family. This is so sad, and I really wish there were a way to speed the healing. And I wish there were a way to help all the families going through this.

If you are, or if you know somebody who is... find someone you can trust. Tell someone. If it is the case of fights that just get out of control, take this as evidence you really need to learn to cool off the situations, because in the heat of the moment, it could really get THIS BAD.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Helena Soister and The Compass Master

You ever have something you are waiting for and waiting for and waiting for... and then you hear it HAPPENED already? Helena's book release is one of those things. I met Helena originally in the ABNA contest in 2009 and I became a follower of her blog, Becoming Layla. Now Layla is her MC in The Compass Master, and her BLOG is all about pursuing all the skills that her super-spy MC has to have in order to do the amazing things she does. So Helena has learned languages, fencing, lock picking, rock climbing (with the intention of actually scaling buildings), breaking and entering (totally serious). And it is AMAZING to watch an ordinary woman doing all these extraordinary things! Heck, she even was injured in her martial arts class (by a moron who was either mean or overzealous).

And so I've been excited about this book, too. The description of Layla puts me in mind of Sidney in Alias (I loved that show) and the plot of the book sounds fantastic.

What an amazing cover, eh?
Book Description via Amazon: A masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling in the spirit of The Da Vinci Code and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Museums and wealthy private collectors of antiquities turn to Layla Daltry when their more respectable sources fail. As a scholar of ancient manuscripts, she knows what to look for. But as a romantic idealist and thrill-seeker, she takes too many risks and balances on the edge of the law. Yet even Daltry isn’t prepared for the deadly endgame that’s set in motion when her mentor dies. She learns too late that the professor had been secretly following an ancient trail of codes and ciphers that lead to hidden letters capable of changing history. Now an unseen enemy determined to destroy the letters has stolen the professor’s final clues and is shadowing Layla. With her life in the balance, she must race across Europe and find the hiding place. The only expert who can help her is former lover Zach Sandoval – a man who betrayed her once before. Together they discover that the professor and the enemy had, years earlier, chosen them to be both players and rivals in a lightning-paced hunt that is now spiraling out of control into a contest of intrigue, treachery, and lethal mystery.

(Doesn't it look fantastic!?)

Helena is going to be my guest later this week, sharing a little more, but I thought this definitely needed the push NOW!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Once Upon a Geeked

I don't watch much television. In fact I don't watch ANY on TV—you know... while it's on. I write in the evenings and so am naked in my bathtub through prime time.

That said, this season is the first one I've been excited about some new TV in AGES.

So far the winners have been:

Ringer (CW): I confess to tuning in because I've been a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan since she originated the role of Kendall on All My Children (for which she won a Daytime Emmy at 16)--but I also loved her as Buffy, so I wanted to see... She plays estranged TWINS, one of whom (an addict who has been prostituting herself) witnesses a murder. She is set to testify (it will clear up her legal trouble) but she gets wind the guy she's testifying against is trying to kill her. She goes to her sister for help, the two go out in a boat, and when 'Bridget' (the addict) wakes up, her sister is GONE (assumed drowned)...
She can emote like nobody else
Bridget decides it's a chance to hide in the open... assume her sister's life... her sister is rich, married... and, it turns out A FREAKING MESS... having an affair with her best friend's husband, pregnant... a whole host of trouble... she is ALSO not really dead... she faked her own death for some, as yet, unrevealed reason.

Revenge (ABC): This is a reworking of the Count of Monte Cristo story—a father framed for a terrorist plan crash, then murdered, the daughter locked up in a mental institution... but there was a young man loyal to the father... a young computer geek the father believed in and invested in... who has been watching the inheritance and the girl, when she gets out of juvy has been SLOWLY plotting her revenge... establishing herself with a new name as a socialite, building a life... for THIS summer. Each episode she quietly takes revenge on a different person.

But the one I'm most excited about? Starts Sunday

Once Upon a Time: has some previews--(I recommend watching the 10 minute one) and MAN this looks good. The premise? In the middle of Snow White's wedding to Prince Charming the evil queen comes in and curses them... so no one will ever be happy again... they wake up in modern day Story Brook Maine with no memory of who they are. But, as with all evil curses, there is an out... Snow White has a daughter, who, on her 28th birthday, will be able to rescue them and send them back. The DAUGHTER doesn't know EITHER... her OWN son, who she seems not to know about, arrives on her birthday with the key—a BOOK of the stories. It looks to me like each week will be a fairy tale, running in parallel, modern and fairy tale time. And... catch this... it is the writers from LOST. Heck, I think I will even watch THIS one while it's ON.

You geeked about any TV this season?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Azalea Assault: Disrobed

There are a couple REALLY BIG moments for an author...  The book contract (especially the first). A dream agent (I gotz two!). Actual publication (still waiting).

But I had one yesterday that is DEFINITELY one of those that makes the heart pitter pat... I mean the others are theoretically bigger news, but THIS ONE is VISUAL!!!

Now I've had some great book covers made for me. My friend Joris is AMAZING (and one of his covers is actually going on my friend Marian's book). But this is my first 'in line to be published, WILL be on book shelves' cover.

They used tons of REAL details from the book, which rocks--the azaleas, the trellis with the wisteria, the guilty gardening shears... and I ADORE that tag line in the corner:  Murder is bad for publicity... talk about an understatement, but that is INDEED one of the problems of my MC, Cam Harris, who is charged with the publicity for a Roanoke Garden Society event gone VERY wrong.

For any of you new around here, the contract required a pen name, so I used a name from each of my grandmothers--I was the worlds luckiest child, as grandmothers went. I love that I can honor them with my first books. And Cozy Mystery is the genre I write that is least like the others, so even if it hadn't been required, in terms of branding, it was a good idea. Cozy mystery is exciting and twisty, but it isn't particularly dark. My other stuff is much more so.

And this series, I draw on the journalism/promotion phase of my life--the characters include a public relations manager and a reporter--this was my early training (advertising, actually, but my first degree was journalism)--so I know this world.  My other stuff draws much more on my psychology--mental health, addiction, abuse...

I think anyone reading both, would tell you the Cozy mystery is much more like my blog voice. The other stuff is me all dark and mysterious, like I keep telling you I am, even if nobody will believe me when I am bare naked and leading a flock of llamas.  WHO'S RESPONSIBLE FOR MY PRESS!?

anyway... If you are on FACEBOOK, I would totally LOVE YOU, if you might LIKE ME.:  Alyse Carlson

So I'm floating... I think that's all I got... except a hot male feeding me grapes...
compliments of my buddy Rissa

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You! From Brazil! Show Yourself!

I'm just going to be a little silly today, because REALLY, I am over at Brewing Passions having a beer (or 3) with the Beer Wench. I'd LOVE it if you would pop over THERE—she is interviewing me, and you KNOW how I love to talk about ME!!!

*cough *

But Back to Brazil

You may have noticed my flag counter? About 4th down on the left... if you click, it shows all the countries people have visited me from and I LUUUUUURVE it! This blog has been visited by people in 177 countries. How many countries are there, do you figure? I am sure I am well past half. My most RECENT new country is Monaco. That's a place I'd like to go—did you know they have the lowest infant death rate and... erm... some other really positive health topper...

So what about Brazil, you ask? It is my highest ranked country that I don't know of any followers who go with it... this isn't to say I don't know YOU, but if you are a regular and you are from Brazil, I am unaware where you live—TELL ME! (895 flags means 895 computers in Brazil have been HERE—and not ONE of those has shouted I'M BRAZILIAN!!!)

Sadly, my Azerbaijan traffic has dropped significantly since Ted left *sigh* but only 7 of the top 100 countries haven't been here in October, so I like THAT, too.


I ALSO an a HAIR'S BREATH from 600 followers... SQUEEEEEEEEE! I love all you guys...

And in other news...

I learned this week that Marmite is not Marmot.

For people who want beer on their toast.

You probably DON'T want a marmot on your toast.

Seriously. That's all I got here. Go read the interview!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Permanent Bank Holiday

Are you ready? Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?

I'm getting all activist today... civil unrest? Political unrest is probably closer.

I am a strong supporter for the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The most articulate and 'closest to me' statement I've seen on the matter is this blog, so if you think you are against or don't know much about it, I encourage you to give it a gander.

But there has been a lot of... an then... to it. We (meaning a lot of other people with me sitting elsewhere cheering) are sitting, standing, chanting, speaking... more importantly, GROWING, interacting... Gelling... becoming something... but there has been some doubt as to what can happen from it. Nobody in government or business seems to be hearing us. We are being willfully ignored by some as nuts, fruitcakes, hippies...

So what to do, what to do...

And then... SOME Genius—DON'T ASK ME WHO! Thought... maybe we make the statement that fits... you know... the STATEMENT.

November 5 = Bank Transfer Day

Not coincidentally, this is Guy Fawkes Day... The day he planned to blow up the King... erm... that would be the government. This symbolism is surely only intended to extend this far, as Guy was caught and imprisoned, though he leaped the tower to avoid being drawn and quartered, so even as a failed revolutionary, it was on his terms. And since they don't draw and quarter today... and the repercussions to imprisoning people for this would be political SUICIDE... (maybe THAT is the idea)

Does this look like a handful of hippies?  We are the 99%.
The Idea for US—in other words, the ACTION point? Big Banks are holding most of our money. They are LENDING our money. They are taking us for GRANTED. They are SCREWING us (man, my bum is still sore from a reaming I just got from Chase—sorry to be graphic, and I really need to stay cryptic, but let me tell you, I am DELIGHTED to do this.)

Divorce your Bank.

That simple. If you are in a US National or Global bank, LEAVE IT. Transfer your business to a small local bank or a credit union. Yes, do your due diligence that it is a secure bank, but LEAVE the behemoth for a place they will know you personally.

What would happen if 10,000 people left big banks? Probably not much. 100,000? Might get some attention. A million... now we're talking. Seriously... this might be the kind of event that would have BANKS begging CONGRESS to take us seriously.

Did you know last week: Friday, 23 people were arrested for trying to close their Citibank accounts?  Is there any way that sounds reasonable in a Democracy?

Anyway, I have my money partially in Chase and partially in my local Credit Union. Monday, I removed the direct deposit portion of my Chase account, then On October 31, I plan to close out my account (I am waiting until then because there is a delay on Direct Deposit changes and I don't want to close it, then find out my money went there, or tried to go there—big hassle.

This is PROBABLY more important for large savings, investment and credit cards... at the moment my only investment is retirement, which I plan to evaluate (I plan to switch to a much higher percentage of socially responsible) but have no ability to remove... it is TIAA-CREF—they are big, but it is the educator system, so I don't suspect they are evil... whatever the case, no option until I am 59 ½. We have canceled our credit cards ANYWAY...

I can't do a bloody thing about my mortgage... we aren't in a position to refinance or I would in a heartbeat. But I will do what I can do.

I guess I just think this is the biggest thing we could DO, but it takes time... people have bills paid automatically, direct deposit, all that... so I wanted to let you know a couple weeks BEFORE the mass effort... TRY, by November 5th to have all your money out of big banks. I believe it will help us be heard.

Other things you might do?

This holiday, avoid the worst offenders... Wherever possible, shop at locally owned stores (or smaller online retailers). Support local artists and artisans (or if you have none, shop ETSY). What surer method is there to make sure the money you spend is being re-spent in your community—that it is not corrupting Washington, or polluting the world.

It isn't always possible. Some gifts aren't MADE that way... but at the very least, avoid Wallmart.

So there... That was me being political...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spinning Wheels

So I sent Kahlotus Disposal Site back to Amy last Thursday... my three months that turned to three and a half of solid editing (two revisions on Kahlotus and about 4 on Begonia Bribe) are finally OVER. I feel a huge sensation, like a full body sigh, to be done with that. And I am SO EXCITED to get writing again. Through my editing, I've had two projects that kept pestering me. Thankfully one is even the one I am SUPPOSED to write next (my third Gardening Cozy), plus the one I have been SO EXCITED to write since last February, Medium Wrong.

Perky, friendly Chrysanthemums
I should be in heaven, right? I am in WRITING mode again, ne?

And the first chapter and a half went fine, but there are all these moving parts to this one... there is an old ghost story at play. There is a murder mystery game. There are the old characters everybody knows. There are new characters that are a smarmy bunch of politicians... The plotting I've done so far is really fun, but I just can't seem to get my traction...

I would LOVE suggestions for switching back to the writing hat after so much uninterrupted editing. Last time I did that—December and January of last year—it took WAY too long to get back into writing mode.

What a great crystal ball image... my medium needs one.

I need to write 25K of Chrysanthemum Campaign by Nov 1. I've written about 4000 words... Yeah, that's almost 1800 words a day, but because ALL of that is BEGINNING, I think it is possible. If I could Just. Get. Going. I really want to get that far because I WANT to focus my WriMo time on Medium Wrong... but I really HAVE to have Chrysanthemum Campaign done by the end of December in order to give my editing rounds enough time to do them justice.

So let's just process a minute here... to write at a WriMo pace, there are some tricks I employ... and I think it is time to employ them.

1)   if a part isn't flowing, make some notes on what needs to go there, but SKIP IT. Go to a part that IS flowing.
2)   Don't stress... it can ALL be fixed.
3)   Get those snacks in order and remind your family you have no time for them. Erm.

This last is really going to be the hardest. Since my last WriMo, my hubby has taken up full time work, so I have dinner duty four days a week (former writing time) and I have taken up my Couch to Keg program (an hour out of writing time every day.) So I need to find some space to steal time from. I may have to blog shorter (yes, I see you dancing there—that's good news for you). I may even need to throw in a little silliness... *wolf whistles*

I need to focus on the weekends... this weekend I failed on that front—I got almost no writing done. I played (wine tasting with neighbors until all hours play)... I did some number puzzles... I did laundry—GADS, when will they invent self folding laundry!?

And then I had a meeting at school last night to cope with...

But I solemnly swear, from here until December 31, I will put my nose to my writing projects... I WILL do this!

Okay—your turn-What are your tricks to getting back into writing mode?

Monday, October 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

Okay, peeps. Do you have your writing goggles ready and your pens in hand? It is two weeks to one of the biggest writing events there is!!!

I finished my first book in 2008. It took me 2 ½ years and I really believed about two chapters a month was what I could write. I wrote half another book and played with an idea that I couldn't get going on, and then in August 2009 I had an idea for a PREQUEL to my idea that wasn't flying. It spurted out of the pen onto the page in 7 weeks (about 70K). And I changed my opinion. The idea of NaNoWriMo, formerly so INSANE, suddenly didn't seem so impossible, so I thought, what the heck. Why not?

What IS NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a world-wide writing event in which people all over try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The rules dictate it should NOT be started before the month begins and needs to be completed by the time the month ends. There is a rebel badge, though, if, for instance, you just wanted to write 50K on an already started work. (or if you want to write non-fiction) (or if you want to write TWO novellas of 25K each)--so you are not EXCLUDED if you like the idea but have one parameter that poses an obstacle.

It is easy to sign up. And shortly, there should be a way to hook up to friends. They changed servers this year to handle the exponentially higher traffic, so a couple pieces aren't quite up and running yet Friends is one of them.

They have graphs and gadgets to keep track of progress... The Burrow loved this so much in 2009 that we implemented a June counterpart, so I've written four novels this way (one of which appears to be the one that will take off on its own first—Kahlotus)

Why do I Love It?

1)  the group adrenaline is AMAZING
2)  somehow it is easier to allow yourself to let go of other responsibilities if you have a defined start and end. It doesn't feel as selfish as doing it indefinitely.
3)  Forcing myself to write FAST makes me just stick to the main story. I can tangent better than most, but really, that isn't what is best for a plot.
4)  I think it's a nice way to add some dimensions to some of your other online relationships. Blog buddies are easy to be close to, but I've found WriMos and ABNA are great for adding layers to facebook or twitter friendships that formerly didn't have as much substance. I ALSO love it as a time to encourage the young writers in my life—high school and college students who maybe haven't reached the commitment of writing every day all year round, but can take a month for a project. I have one writer friend who wrote her first book at 14 in the 2009 NaNoWriMo.

How Seriously Do I Take This?

You know me and my relationship with rules... if something needs to be fudged, I'm easy. I figure DOING it with some bent rules is a lot better than not doing it. Doing it and knowing you will need to bail at Thanksgiving when your family is all coming STILL leads to 35K you didn't have otherwise...

That said, I've won all four I've done (and this will be my first rebel year—since Medium Wrong has the first few scenes written). But then I write daily anyway.

So Who is in?

I am hartjohnson, once they get that friend thing going. I'd love to see you there!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Darkspell by Elizabeth Mueller

This one is very timely. Elizabeth's book release in October 31, coming up quickly, but Elizabeth is doing something fantastic for the lead in. She is an artist, as well as a writer, so she has illustrated—one per chapter, and has been counting down by sharing the illustrations with us.

Here is the announcement of this plan along with an invitation to join Spookfesta—a blogfest on the same day.

And HERE is the link to her illustrations! (definitely worth following) I am in awe of Elizabeth's skill, particularly the emotion she manages to catch.

Here is the 'about' bit (it is paranormal Romance):

Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary . . . until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold.

As seer of Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter’s protector against the darkness that hunts her.  Violently thrust into a magickal realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own.

Will love prove thicker than magick?

See?  What incredible talent, eh?
And a brief teaser from Elizabeth's website:

Alex reached out and took my hands. A spark of magic passed between us. I didn’t resist and his gaze deepened. Another wave tore through me and I felt his powerful drive to protect me and the desire to share the rest of his life with me. I could see forever, eternity was wide and deep.

I would never be alone again.

Having tasted Alex so strongly, so close, so dear, left me empty; a starving sensation that could only be filled by him. I had no idea he felt so intensely for me. His love washed away all doubt from me.I leaned into Alex as my world spun fast on a crooked axis. I breathed him in. I was intoxicated with his burning hold, I was so alive. Every sound was louder, the wind richer as it flowed through me. I was so free, so alive, so untainted by any wicked thing.

 I closed my eyes, shivering with desire, and imagined the breeze encircling us; bringing us to our feet and drawing us closer like a child’s ribbon.

Just as I opened my eyes, he whispered, “Listen, Winter. Listen to me.”

He brought me to him and gently pressed my face to his heart. It was a wild thing, trapped and yearning to be free. My blood sang and my eyes drifted closed. It felt as if my feet lifted from the ground. One hand was soft in my hair as he caressed my back with the other.

“How have you come by such magic? Such power to control? Can I come into your world? Can you teach me?” I trembled, savoring every sensation.

Good stuff, eh? You want to read, don't you!? If you preorder by October 19, you get free shipping and an autographed version! 

Good Luck, Elizabeth!