Monday, April 30, 2012

Potluck Post Monday

Today is my first official day of vacation, which is why I'm running late. :) I wish I could say I was sleeping in, but I was up at my usual 6:00 am and hard at work on trying to finish up the first book in my new mystery series.

In book news, TROUBLE IN MUDBUG is now free at Amazon and itunes, so if you have friends/family that haven't read it, then tell them to download a copy while it's free.

In big, professional author news: I won the RT Reviewers Choice Award for First Series Romance (The Secret of Cypriere Bayou)!!!!! I cannot even begin to tell you how happy that makes me. I finally get to put "Award Winning Author" with my name. :)

So for vacation, I have all kinds of errands and finishing up the book today and tomorrow, then Tuesday night, my best friend Cindy flies in. I haven't seen her in three years, so this is a big deal. We'll spend a couple of days sitting by the pool, having pedicures and eating decadent food and drinking, then we'll head to our other best friend's lake house for a long girl's weekend. What about you guys? Any big plans?

Deadly DeLeon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Special Guests: Hartley Grace Featherstone and Dani Spevak

Amanda is away at the Washington Romance Writers retreat this weekend, but first she's signing Codename: Dancer at Turn The Page bookstore, along with 15 other amazing authors including Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, Robyn Carr, Elizabeth Boyle, and others! Wow!

Since she's busy this weekend, we decided to invite two special guests for you today. Hartley Grace Featherstone, star of Gemma Halliday's Deadly Cool and the brand-new Social Suicide, will be interviewing Dani Spevak, star of Amanda Brice's Codename: Dancer and the upcoming Pointe of No Return. Here is the unedited transcript of their IM session.


Hartley Grace Featherstone here, reporter for the Herbert Hoover High Homepage paper. I'm totally excited today to have a special guest interview for all of you HHH fans. Her name is Dani Spevak, prima ballerina in training!

Hartley: Thanks for doing this interview with me, Dani. I know how between school and dancing you're totally busy.

Dani: No prob! I'm frothy-dog excited to be here. My sister says I'm an attention ho, and I guess I am! (Wait, can I say "ho"? Is that allowed?) LOL But seriously, very cool to think that kids at another high school would be interested in what I have to say. Craziness!

Hartley: Are you kidding? I'm totally jealous that your school has dance as a subject. All we get is line dancing for a quarter in P.E. So not the same.

Dani: Line dancing? Definitely not. That's how it would've been if I'd stayed back home in NJ for high school, but somehow I managed to get my parents to agree to send me here. What happens in boarding school stays in boarding school!

Hartley: Totes jealous! Anyway, so you were on the show Teen Celebrity Dance-Off. What was that like?

Dani: Best. Experience. Ever! I was super excited to get to dance with Nick Galliano and meet all the other celebs, but for a while there I thought the show would be canceled because the set was being sabotaged. And people were blaming me! Can you believe it? So I did what any other girl would do and figured out who was behind it all. Go me!

Hartley: Wow, craziness! And bigtime Oh. Em. Gee over Nick Galliano. He's so freakin hot. What was it like working with him?

Dani: I won't lie. I was a mega fangirl at first, fawning all over him. Definitely not one of my smoother moves. LOL

Hartley: Well, it is Nick Galliano. Okay, you gotta give me the deets... is there something romantic going on between you and Nick?

Dani: Well, I thought there might be for a little while there. I mean, he did kiss me and all. (Wait a second, if this is on the interwebz, can my mom read this?!)

Hartley: Dude, we have a strict no-parents policy here! Lol! But, um, yeah, seriously maybe I should edit that part out... Okay, as you were saying?

Dani: Okay, yeah, at first there was something going on. But then, well, you know... But it's okay. I'm over it. I have a new crush in mind now. And he's way hotter than Nick, if you can believe that. We'll see where that leads!

Hartley: Reeeeally? Care to dish on the new crush? (Yes, I know I'm nosey. It comes with the reporter territory.)

Dani: As my mom the lawyer would say, "No comment." ;)

Hartley: I hear that you're set to dance in the Nutcracker this year. Tell me more about that?

Dani: Well, I was supposed to just be the understudy for the Sugar Plum Fairy. I'll be honest -- not a lot of fun to always be in Hadley Taylor's shadow. She's a junior, and her dad is a major donor to the school, so she's always getting all the good roles. (That sounded kinda catty. Oops.) But -- and here's the weird part -- nobody knows where she is. It's like she totally disappeared.

Hartley: Wow, she just, like, disappeared? You know, with that experience you have tracking down the saboteur (vocab word alert!), I bet you'd be really good at tracking down missing people, too. Any plans to investigate further?

Dani: No, not really. I mean, I get to dance her role now. You can hardly blame me. Gotta grab my 15 minutes while I can, y'know?

Hartley: Oh I hear ya! But, you know, I've had a bit of experience in the investigating arena myself lately.

Dani: Oooh, oooh. Spill.

Hartley: One thing I've learned for sure is that the cops NEVER know what's going on when it comes to high schools. For example - last year one of the Color Guard girls at my school was killed and the cops thought my ex-boyfriend, Josh, did it.

Dani: No way!

Hartley: Way! I mean, the guy did kinda cheat on me (hence the"ex" part), but it was a way big leap from cheating to murder. Thank God I decided to do a little digging on my own, because the real killer might have gotten away with it altogether if we'd left it up to the cops. I'm just sayin'.

Dani: Crazy! Yeah, good point. The cops really don't know. Especially the ones around here. The so-called "America's Favorite Sheriff," Sheriff Jim Walker -- I'm sure you've seen him on TV before -- spends way too much of his time trying to bust Mexicans for their immigration status. Total racial profiling. Way uncool. Anyway, unless he can find a way to blame an illegal immigrant for her kidnapping, I'm sure it'll go unsolved.

Hartley: With your past experience, it sounds like you might be in the perfect position to find out what happened to Hadley.

Dani: Hmmm. I guess so. But you might do a better job. Any chance I could convince you to come take over the case?

Hartley: You are so sweet! But I've totally got my hands full here in California. My editor at the paper - Chase Erikson - thinks for some reason that I'm not a "real" reporter yet. I was all set to change his mind with this great story about a cheating scandal at our school, when the main cheater ended up dead. Right before I was supposed to interview her and break the story wide open! Talk about timing. Oh, and get this... she died tweeting. My friend Sam calls that Twittercide - a homicide by tweet.

Dani: See, I knew Twitter was dangerous! Now I can finally be proud of my lack of tweeting. Crazy. But you can still salvage your reporter rep. Just break this story wide open!

Hartley: Hold up - did you just say you don't tweet?

Dani: It's not my fault! My parents, in their infinite wisdom (insert eyeroll), refuse to get me a smartphone, since they think all I need a phone for is emergencies. And I haven't figured out a way to convince them that surfing on-the-go is an emergency. Lame! So I'm stuck with this old skool cell circa 2006. We're talking ancient history here. Belongs in a museum. Anyway, I can text or IM no prob, but without a smartphone, Twitter is kinda out of the question. I can see it becoming an obsession if I tried, but with rehearsals all the time I just can't stay tied to my laptop. So it's prolly best if I sit this trend out.

Hartley: Gag, gasp, so unfair! And they expect you to grow up normal like that? But, yeah, I'm totally all over this story. Sam and I have a couple of leads, so I'm hoping we can get to the bottom of it and prove my worth to Chase in the process.

Dani: Ooh, good luck! And his name as appropriate as it sounds?

Hartley: Let's just say our relationship is a little complicated. I'll admit, there was The Kiss, that wasn't all together unpleasant, but I'm pretty sure it was a heat of the moment thing. Pretty sure. Kinda sure. Maybe. Okay, so one more very important question before we go... got any summer plans? Personally, I am counting down the days until school gets out!

Dani: I'm hoping to go to the summer intensive program at the Manhattan Ballet Conservatory, but I don't know. It's pretty rare for 15-year-olds to get in. If not, my parents will probably make me teach dance to two-year-olds at the rec center.

Hartley: Oh, good luck! I hope you do, that sounds awesome. Me, I'll be sleeping in, watching Nickelodeon, and hanging out at the mall. (Huh, suddenly I feel like a bit of a slacker.) Anyway, thanks so much for doing this interview and good luck in the Nutcracker. I'll be crossing my fingers it all works out with Hadley!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's In A Name?

The other day I was listening to NPR's book review segment, Word Of Mouth and they started talking about this book by Andrew Nagorski that I just knew the man I'm dating (my Mr. Big) would want to read. The book weaves together the accounts of American corespondents who were based in Berlin during the rise of Hitler. According to the review, the Nagorski details how the observers first saw Hitler as a joke, then as someone who might have some influence and then, slowly, the corespondents begin to comprehend the enormity of the evil that is about to be unleashed onto the world. Mr. Big is a journalism buff and a WWII scholar so this book is perfect for him. And the timing is perfect because Mr. Big's birthday is coming up.

There is one problem though, it's the title of the book. Hitlerland. You can't give someone a book titled Hitlerland for their birthday. It just can't be done. Furthermore, I can't think of a single occasion for which a book of that title would be appropriate. Not for an anniversary, certainly not for Christmas and absolutely not for Hanukkah.

I thought about all the things they could have called this book. The Rise of Evil or The Rise Of Hitler or maybe even Watching Hitler, Sounding The Alarm. They really could have titled it just about anything. Anything other than Hitlerland. Hitlerland sounds evil, demented and flippant all at the same time. It's the punchline of a joke a comedian delivers the day before he has to offer up a public apology to save his career. It's the theme park you put into Dante's 9th circle of hell (I'll apologize for that crack tomorrow). I'm sure the title plays off something that someone said in the book, but still! 

And yet it looks like a really good book! All the reviewers are raving. Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, they're all raving about it. Even Kirkus Book Reviews loves it and Kirkus is like that Mikey kid from the old Life cereal ads, they hate everything. I mean this book was even blurbed by Henry Kissinger. Anyone who is a WWII history buff is going to want it.

But as a gift it's a little tricky.

So I just bought the book on my most recent trip to Barnes & Noble, sent Mr. Big an email saying, "I got you a book called Hitlerland, I think you'll like it." and later gave it to him after a casual weekend lunch. It was the only way to go. A book titled Hitlerland can't be given for a special occasion.

Hitlerland is the gift you give a man just because you care.

--Kyra Davis

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Snuff The Magic Dragon, And Other Bombay Bedtime Stories...

First off - a HUGE shout-out to my KF colleagues Gemma and Christie for hitting the New York Times Bestseller List!!! It's so exciting! It'll be interesting to see who will be next...

As some of you know, I'm working on a collection of short stories featuring Bombays past. I'm calling it SNUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON, AND OTHER BOMBAY BEDTIME STORIES. Awesome title, right?

So the first story is called "Bombay - The First Bombay." It features an orphaned sixteen year old girl (not a kid in those days - practically long in the tooth) named Bombay living on the island of Crete in ancient Greece who takes on the very first assassination assignment. Well, not the first assassination assignment ever - just the first contract for the Bombay Family.

 I've got three other stories fleshed out. But I need your help. What historic eras or historic assassinations would you like to see in this collection? I'd like to have 10 in total. Here are a few other ideas:

Bethlehem Bombay (Beth) - biblical times - specializes in those bastard Pharisees

Macedonia Bombay (Mace) - Ancient Rome and secret mastermind behind Caesar's assassination

Castile Bombay (Not sure he needs a nickname) - Middle Ages in Europe - Assigned to snuff the magic dragon terrorizing a village.

I was thinking of doing something with the Inquisition - but that seems a bit dark - even for me. Oh, and vote on the three covers above - or tell me to come up with something completely different. Ignore the fuzziness - I haven't purchased the stock photos yet.

 I can't wait to see what you come up with...

 The Assassin

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Lean Cuisine Kind of Celebration!

It happened. And like most things in life, it happened when I wasn’t expecting it. When I was so busy, I hardly had time to rationalize it or to believe it.

I know I’m jumping ahead of myself. I do that when I’m excited. You see, last Wednesday, I accomplished something that I’d dreamed about doing, a big pie-in-the-sky or win-the-lottery kind of a dream. One of those you fantasize about, but deep in your heart you know the odds aren’t really in your favor of ever achieving it. You see, I, or I guess I should say, C.C. Hunter, hit the New York Times Best Seller List for Children’s Series.

My editor had forewarned me—Not that I would make it, but that I probably wouldn’t. Now, that sounds bad, so let me explain. She had held her breath for me to hit with book one in the series and then again with book two. I was close, but no cigar. However, she explained that with a third book in a series, you move to a different list and the competition is really tough. “I think you’ll make the USA Today list,” she said, encouraging me. And I held tight to that possibility.

But while holding tight, I didn’t even have time to fixate on it. To say I’ve been busy lately is a great understatement. I’ve been completely in the weeds, deadlines up the yen yang, promoting a new book release, and events left and right. On Wednesday morning, I had signed books at (TLA) the Texas Library Association. Then I rushed home to work on a very, very long to-do list.

I was leaving at six the next morning for the Missouri City Writer’s Conference where I was to give four workshops. A conference that I hadn’t had time to prepare for yet. I didn’t know what I was wearing, (I prayed I had clean underwear) I hadn’t printed up my handouts, or my notes for my talk, and I hadn’t packed. I was balls to the walls trying to make up for lost time, when my phone rang. I answered my phone and heard a woman screaming to high heaven and saying words I can’t post on the blog. (I love my editor!)

I had made the New York Times—I hit #7 for my entire series, Shadow Falls, on the Children’s Best-selling series list. Holy Crap!!

At that moment, I thought about running out to buy a bottle of champagne. But nope, when I drink, I am not productive and I had a lot of production yet to do. And just when I thought I was making headway and hit the print button to get my handouts and notes printed out, my printer chose right then to bite the dust. Have you ever had a ten-minute conversation with a dead printer, called it names you wouldn’t normally have said, and yet couldn’t stop smiling because you were still so darn happy with some news?

Anyway, I ran around like a crazy woman on speed, and my wonderful hubby followed me, trying to help and trying to understand my mutterings. It sort of reminded me of when I was in labor; he just kept telling me it was going to be okay, and asking what he could do every time I screamed. I think he even offered to rub my back once.

“I have to pack!” I told him, and when he looked like he was going to offer to do it, I came to my senses. I was not going to let him decide what I was wearing at the conference. Love the man, but he doesn’t have an ounce of fashion sense. (Plus, he would probably decide I didn’t need a bra. And believe me, the people in St. Louis wouldn’t have appreciated that!) Finally, we both calmed down a bit. He hooked up a different printer to spit out my handouts and notes, and then ran to get copies.

Knowing I hadn’t eaten anything most of the day, on the way home, he stops off at the grocery store and picked me up my favorite Lean Cuisine dinner.

At ten that night, I finally found the four minutes to stick the thing in the microwave. I wolfed down the entrĂ©e and drank the last two ounces of red wine I had in the house that had been opened three days before. (I think it was still good. I believe it was the excitement and stress and not the wine that caused the stomach flutters. ) Anyway, while I ate, hubby looked over at me and said, “If you ever tell anyone that the night you hit the New York Times, I brought you a frozen dinner, I’ll kill you!” (Sorry, babe! Just make it quick and easy, okay?)

Sleeping that night was slightly difficult. It’s hard to rest while hyperventilating from “damn-I-really-did-it” nerves. And at five in the morning, before I left for the airport, I went to my computer and saw that I’d also hit #49 on the USA Today list. Guys, I didn’t need a plane to get to St. Louis. I was flying so high I could have floated there.

And here’s the most important part of this blog: Thank you!! Thank you to all my readers who have helped me get here. Thank you for picking up my books, for laughing at my jokes, and for those emails that gave me encouragement and inspiration to keep going, even when the going got tough. Thank you to all my writing buddies who supported me, to my family who shared my dream of publishing. And to my hubby whose continues to give me great ideas for blogs.

And thank you to all the people at the Missouri Writer’s Conference for celebrating my news with me.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Inspiration by Diane Kelly

I spent three fun-filled days at the Texas Library Association conference in Houston last week.  I had the chance to meet some of my favorite authors, including Lisa Scottoline and Harlan Coben.  Squee!  I also attended an interview with the iconic Judy Blume.  Alas, I achieved no benefits from the “I must increase my bust” exercise from her book Are you there, God?  It’s Me, Margaret.  I am, and will forever be, a hopeless A cup.

Kicking off the conference was a general session featuring author Brad Meltzer (  He’s written two books about heroes – Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter.  The theme of these books and of his speech as well was that ordinary people change the world.  
He spoke about a librarian who’d introduced him to the wonderful world of fiction.   He also spoke about a teacher who’d noticed his talent and encouraged him to write.  He’d looked the teacher up recently and told her how she’d inspired him all those years ago.  She’d burned out and been contemplating retirement, and was thrilled to learn she’d been a catalyst for his writing career.

As Brad pointed out, those who inspire others may never know the wonderful things they’ve done.  The results of the inspiration may not come to fruition until years later, and it may be difficult to find those who have inspired us and to give them the thanks they deserve.

After hearing his speech, I decided to dedicate my next full-length book, Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria, to two teachers who inspired me. 

The first, Ms. Fall, was my 8th grade teacher at Noel Grisham Middle School in Austin, Texas (GO GRIZZLIES!).  She required our language arts class to write in a journal for the first five minutes of class each day.  Journal time was my favorite part of the school day, and I wrote like my pen was on fire.  When she later noted to the entire class that I had a good journal, I remember a hot blush of embarrassment on my pimple-pocked face as the other students turned to look at me.  But I also remember feeling very proud.  It meant a lot to me that she thought I had talent.

The second teacher, Ms. Anderson, was my sophomore English teacher at Westwood High School, also in Austin, Texas.  Ms. Anderson assigned us a character sketch.  At the time, I worked at a Kmart store.  Yep, I wore the sea-foam green smock the store was famous for at the time.  Trust me, that color looked good on nobody!  I wrote my character sketch about one of my co-workers, a guy named Jeff, who had the amazing ability to remain good natured and positive regardless of what life threw at him, including a younger sister dying of cancer.  Jeff inspired me to write about him, earning me an A+ that, in turn, inspired my teacher to note that I had written a good character sketch.  Ms. Anderson’s positive feedback gave me encouragement and pride that I still remember now, decades later.

Who has inspired you in your life?  Who have you inspired?  Do you agree that ordinary people can change the world?  We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories of inspiration.  Please share!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Coincidence? Fate? Signs? by Rita Henuber (hosted by Killer Fictionista Diane Kelly)

It's my pleasure to welcome author Rita Henuber to the Killer Fiction blog today.  Rita writes about extraordinary women and the men they love. Her book Under Fire is about a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, Olivia Carver, who is on a very personal mission. Her twin brother, an undercover officer, was murdered by a drug cartel and she won't stop until she finds the man responsible for his death.

In the course of her own investigation, Olivia meets informant Rico Cortes. He's mysterious and sexy and despite her reservations, the two share a night of passion. But Rico turns out to be more than a one-night stand. He's a DEA agent, deep undercover in Miami's drug world, and possibly the one man who can help Olivia find the justice she seeks.

Rico realizes his cover is blown, he isn't sure whether it was someone in the cartel or an inside agent. Olivia is the only one he can trust and together they venture on a dangerous, rogue mission to infiltrate a drug lord's inner circle…with Olivia as bait.

Under Fire is available at Carina Press , Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Audible

* * * * * * *

Coincidence? Fate? Signs? 

I believe in the saying, there are no coincidences.  I think random events come together to build the structure of our lives. I LOVE it when an author weaves coincidences in a story. This is a common thread to the books I write. Why? It's happened to me so many times I have to included it in my books. I wouldn't be a published author today if a series of ugly events hadn't brought me to my knees. I withdrew and read. Something I hadn’t been able to do in 10 years. Then I thought, I can do this. I can write a book. I started writing the stories swirling in my head. If these those ugly events hadn't happened to me I wouldn’t be here today. Coincidence? Fate?

It's not just me, I’ve seen it happen to people around me. A woman, 50, a man 53, the sweetest and nicest people you'd ever want to meet, neither ever married, two grades apart in high school in a small town. In the same social groups for close to 30 years begin dating. In less than two years they married. I might add- mind bendingly, happily married. 14 months into the marriage, she collapses and is diagnosed with a fast-growing brain cancer. The doctors said she probably had it for 3 to 4 years with no symptoms. Are you doing the math? She was gone in five months. With all seriousness, she made her husband promise that after a suitable amount of terrible mourning he would get on with his life, marry and have a hell of a good time. He also had to promise not to let his family use him the way they had before they married. You see, he was the unmarried guy who did everything for everybody. He did find someone else and moved 1000 miles away. He is extremely happy. Fate?

Another woman I know, unhappily married, was on her way to meet another man to engage in an affair. She was in a horrific car accident. Pinned inside the car when it caught fire. A man freed her and disappeared into the night. No one knew who he was. Five years later, divorced, at a party she heard a man telling the story of how he'd pulled a woman from a car accident. Yep. They got together and were married.

My husband and I first met when I was 14 and he was 16. Or, so I thought. Several years after we were married he recounted an incident. I was 9ish and he was 12. His family had rented a home in my neighborhood, a block from my house. There was an altercation between neighborhood kids. My cousins, others boys, myself, against another group of boys. I was the only girl. Future hubs was the oldest and tallest. I was already swinging and he grabbed me from behind and dragged me away. I was livid. Kicking and hollering. He wouldn't let go. I'd totally forgotten it, but he hadn't. He recounted everything vividly, even some of the things I said. He told me he pulled me out so I wouldn't get hurt.

Do you remember the Apollo 13 events? If you don't perhaps you saw the movie. The lunar mission was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded crippling the service module. The original pilot Ken Mattingly, was grounded after exposure to German measles and replaced by Jack Swigert. Mattingly did not come down with the measles and was the leading force in jury-rigging the space capsule to get the crew safely back to earth. Many believe if Mattingly had been aboard the outcome of that mission would have been very different.

M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed a movie called Signs.  Some say it’s about crop circles and aliens. NOT!  It’s about SIGNS. Ergo the name. M. Night say he truly believes in signs. Coincidences. The movie is loaded with them. 

I enjoy a book loaded with signs, coincidences, and unorthodox meetings. Do you?

Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm at 3 months and counting from B-day... baby's due date.  And I'm starting to feel it.  Know how distracting it is to be in the middle of writing a tense scene and get kicked in the ribs... from the inside?  Very.  Anyway, little kicker is coming soon, and it feels like I have way more to do than is humanly possible to get done in 3 months. Like, just for starters, writing two books.  Eek!  Yeah, the sad truth is, that may not happen.  And that's just the first thing on my list.  There seem to be a million other things that need to get done.  But, I'm noticing that with Baby #3 my attitude toward a lot of those things has changed drastically from the way I got ready for Baby #1.  For example...

When I went shopping for maternity clothes at about this time with Baby #1, I remember thinking, "I would kill for a cute outfit so that I'm not always sitting around in schlumpy yoga pants all the time."

With Baby #3:  I would kill for a comfortable pair of schlumpy yoga pants that fit."

With Baby #1 I went online, printed out a list from the What to Expect When You're Expecting website of everything a new baby needs, and carefully checked off the items as I bought them at Babies R Us... 4 baby burp clothes, 2 baby washcloths, 1 pair of nail clippers, 1 nasal aspirator, etc.

With Baby #3, this is what was overheard during mine and the Man's what-do-we-need-for-baby discussion.

The Man: We should probably buy the baby some clothes.
Me: didn't someone give us some diapers?
The Man: Maybe?
Me: good enough.  It'll be summer.  He doesn't need clothes.

With Baby #1 I carefully sanitized everything that I thought he might come in contact with, from the bottles nipples and pacifiers to thoroughly spraying down the baby chairs with Lysol.

With Baby #3 my motto is as long as the stain doesn't come out with Tide, it's probably not coming out on Baby.

I'm telling myself that I'm not lowering my standards, I'm lowering my Type A habits to a livable level.  Any other parents experience this?  Please tell me I'm not the only planning on letting my child live in diapers this summer? 

 ~ Trigger Happy Halliday

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Burn Baby Burn

I've blogged about how mild this past winter was. The snowblower stayed put in the garage and I only had to shovel about three times. The prior two winters we had record snowfalls. This winter we had record warmth. I could get used to winters like this.

With the mild winter came an early spring. And that means yard work. Two winters ago an ice storm took down an unpruned (and large) apple tree in my back yard, the weight of the ice literally uprooting the tree, creating a grotesquely ugly stump. Due to the location of the stump inside a fenced yard, the logistics of getting a grinder into the yard to chew up the stump (not to mention the cost of the project) seemed a bit daunting. And really. How hard could it be to get rid of an uprooted stump?

The answer? Longer than I expected.

I'm the head of household, so that makes yours truly responsible for maintenance and yard work. I took the advice of friends and coworkers and decided to burn the stump up. You know. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Yeah. Right. Easier said than done. I bet I built ten separate bonfires over that stupid stump trying to eradicate it. Finally two days ago, I lit my final pyre and let that puppy smolder for twenty-four hours. And...voila! The stump is toast.

Of course, I now have an ugly eyesore of a burn spot in the back of my yard, but some grass seed and fertilizer should take care of that. On the up side, the hostas are thriving and my garden plots are ready for planting.

I'm still battling that creeper Charlie and spraying every ten days, but at least I don't have to look at that ugly old stump anymore.

Have you ventured out into the yard yet? What summer projects are you planning to tackle? Will you put in a garden this year? If so, what do you expect to plant? Will you grow enough to can?

I've got plans in the works to take a corner of my yard that had been used for a sandbox and take pavers and extend my patio. I'll let you know how it turns out.

~Bullet Hole~

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The great RT book giveaway! (With cover models)

Last week, hundreds upon hundreds of readers, writers and publishing industry folk descended on Chicago for the big reader/publishing conference sponsored by RT Reviews magazine. It was utter mayhem and boy, did I have fun.

Other than oogling cover models (I swear I was just giving them directions), we networked, went to publisher/editor dinners and generally tried to get into as much trouble as possible. We also came back with books. Lots and lots of lovely books.

And because you are all so great, I'm giving away part of my stash right here!

One lucky commenter gets my RT bag, along with brand spanking new copies of:
Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar (Advanced Reading Copy - the book comes out next month)
A Touch of Crimson by Sylvia Day
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
The Doomsday Key by James Rollins
Be My Baby by Meg Benjamin

To enter, just post and say that you want the books! I'll draw a winner tonight.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Sh*t, Sherlock

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I wish I had the time to watch my favorite shows, but I don’t. I watched the first episode of Smash and loved it. I even programed the DVR to record it every week, but haven’t found the time to watch the rest. NCIS was always a must see for the family and me, but even that has fallen by the wayside this year.

This year I’m writing for two publishers and am contracted to write five books (two down, three to go) in fifteen months. Between writing like a mad woman; trying to keep up with blogging and twitter; trying to pick up after, ferry around, and feed three teenagers; and dealing with a husband who is on a huge project at work which has entailed working most nights and every weekend for the last twelve weeks, I just don’t have time.

This past weekend however, I was almost all caught up and my husband was home—a rarity these days. I got home from my critique meeting on Sunday, we had a wonderful family dinner, and DH (dear husband or damn husband depending on my mood) suggested watching TV. I thought what the heck. Frankly, I was just happy to see him when he was not sleeping.

He scrolled through NetFlix, which brought about a sigh of relief on my part. DH is the type to want to watch things like Hoover Dam – The American Experience—over and over and over again. I watched it with him and I fell asleep every time. It was the same with Building the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s not that I don’t love the Brooklyn Bridge, but really, watching it being built is just not my cup of tea. Anyway, and we came upon the BBC show Sherlock and I mentioned that I’d wanted to watch that ever since I heard about it. We tuned in and were held spellbound for three hours. (We watched the first two episodes)

It was amazing! The acting, the cinematography, the writing—everything was awesome. Wow! I’m in love with this show! I thought I would miss the steampunk feel of the Sherlock Holmes I knew and loved since this is a modern-day telling of Sherlock Holmes, but I didn’t.

When Robert Downey Jr. made the first of his Sherlock Holmes movies with Jude Law I wanted to see it.

I’ve been a big RDJ fan for forever—I love his acting, and I adore his music. I think he’s one of the best actors out there, and well, Jude Law is always fun to look at too.

I wish I had been able to see it in the theater, but we almost never go to the movies—taking a family of five out to dinner and a movie with drinks and popcorn would result in me having to get a second mortgage...or a third. Sigh. Plus, we’re all so busy; going out at all is a scheduling nightmare. I think we saw it on NetFix when it came out and were awestruck. RDJ made the most wonderful Sherlock, but what really impressed me was how well Jude Law played Watson. When the second movie came out, I stole away with my DH and we actually saw it at the theater. I felt a little guilty because we left the kids home, but hey, I figured we deserve a night out for once and I’m so glad we went. The big screen really made the movie spectacular.

I never read the Sherlock Holmes books, something I think I’m going to have to remedy since I’m turning out to be such a big fan.

So what about you? Have you watched the show? The movies? Which do you like better? Discuss...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Snakes in the Pool

You know it's really spring when....yep, you find snakes in your pool. Okay, can I just go ahead and say ICK and get it out of the way? I'm not a girly girl, of the strictest definition. In fact, I'm a tomboy, but I don't like snakes. I especially don't like snakes in the pool, which is my version of a man-cave.

It started on Saturday when the pool guy removed one from the main drain filter. Dead, of course, but stinky. Then as my husband and I were working on the pool cleaner, I saw one riding around the pool on my thermometer. Granted, it was a baby, but even a baby water moccasin is not something you want in your pool. Ever.

So it had to go.

Of course, the snake war reminded me of the first time we found a snake in the pool - right after we'd moved in.

My husband was outside working on the pool cleaner and he came back inside announcing there was a snake in the pool. I went out to see and sure enough, there was a snake. Then I went to go back inside so I could go to the garage and that's when we realized that the faulty back door lock had flipped shut and we were locked outside...with the snake. The back gate was padlocked.

As if things couldn't get any worse, then it started to rain. Not just a sprinkle. No, it was the unholy unleashing of the heavens. So my husband, me and all three dogs are huddled under the tiny overhang next to the back door and the dogs are looking at us like "Why don't we go inside?"

So finally, our neighbor across the alley comes home and we yell at her to call a locksmith. She gets a locksmith to our house, who very frighteningly opens our front door in a matter of seconds and then lets us back in.

I love spring. I love the heating up and the flowers blooming (even though my allergies hate it, but I can do without the snakes. There's a 150-acre park across the street. If they'd just stay over there, I'd be happy to put my shovel away.

Deadly DeLeon

Saturday, April 14, 2012

WHO YOU CALLIN' A PURE? by Claire Gillian, hosted by Killer Fictionista Diane Kelly

It's my pleasure today to host Claire Gillian, a fellow accountant who has also written a humorous financial-centered crime novel. Who knew there was two of us? Claire found me through the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop newsletter and we've had lots of fun discussing our experiences in public accounting and our books. If you enjoy my Death and Taxes books, you're sure to like Claire's, too. With no further adieu, here's Claire! 

Who you callin’ a P.U.R.E.? By Claire Gillian

When I was a senior in college, the “Big Eight” public accounting firms wined and dined the top graduates, trying to woo them into their mechanical pencil-wielding armies. The reality was most of us had no inkling what it meant to be a certified public accountant or CPA. We just knew that was the highest-paying and most prestigious job an accounting graduate could land. My sum total exposure to the profession, beyond the requisite nuts and bolts accounting courses, was one paltry class on auditing and one bamboo-shoots-under-the-fingernails class on taxation. The only decision I was sure of was that I wanted nothing to do with preparing tax returns (sorry, Diane Kelly).

So I became an auditor. On paper, if you squinted really hard and had a vivid imagination, it seemed kind of like a white collar Dirty Harry job…only without the gun, without the fast car, without much danger beyond paper cuts and pinched fingers in binder clips, but with the added intrigue of pantyhose, pumps and penguin suits. We also had our own cutesy jargon. “Go ahead. Make my day,” found its equivalent voice in such clever auditing witticisms as “book it, Dann-o” and “tick, tie and verify”. Woo-hoo, party on, Mortimer!

I know, I know. Who wouldn’t want to work in public accounting as an auditor? Well…there were always a handful of people everyone wished had not made that choice. They were the PURE’s, the previously undetected recruiting errors, the people who looked great on paper and interviewed well but couldn’t deliver the goods once hired. I had a PURE work for me once. My first clue was when he spelled the word “water” wrong--but not always--throughout his work on the Water & Sewer Fund of a Dallas area municipality. And that was merely the tip of the wattery (sic) iceberg.

“Who hired that guy?” we whispered.

“He’s such a PURE!”

“Bet they fire him right after busy season’s over.” (Because even a PURE had enough body warmth to add value during the months between January and April.)

In the wake of the scandals of the early 2000s (Enron? Arthur Andersen?) and the resulting overhaul of the accounting industry, the recruiting error could also be made by the employee. Suddenly, the employer was the PURE. Such was never the case when I worked in public accounting. Back then, The Big Eight could do no wrong…until the public they were paid to protect discovered that, yes, actually, they could and did. And that’s one reason why there are half as many large public accounting firms today, called--drumroll, please--The Big Four. We are nothing if not original and succinct.

Was I a PURE? Nah, but then again, one of the hallmarks of being a PURE is having absolutely no clue that you are one. Like my new t-shirt? My staff gave it to me…to help celebrate my debut novel releasing on tax day. They think I’m totally awesome!
Claire Gillian is a number-crunching executive by profession, an after hours writer by passion, and a darkly romantic curmudgeon by the passage of vast quantities of birthdays. While Claire’s writing spans all ages and subject matters, she’s happiest penning romance drenched in humor with a dash of intrigue and loads of spice. Claire lives in the boggy Pacific NW with her husband and two teen-aged sons. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Deadline

The other lovely ladies of this blog have experienced this particular hell on numerous occasions, but as the "baby" of the group with only one book currently under my belt, this is my first time.

The deadline!

(I sort of hear scary music in my head when I read that last line.)

It's not exactly a secret that after getting tired of waiting for NY to call, I listened to my biggest cheerleaders (writing friends like the fabulously talented Gemma Halliday, Kristen Painter, Rhonda Stapleton, Gwen Hayes, and Melissa Francis) and took matters into my own hands last year and self-published my debut novel, Codename: Dancer. I've never hidden that fact.

So if I'm my own publisher, why am I tearing my hair out about a particular release date for my sophomore effort? Why don't I just suck it up and say "Gee, I've overpromised and underperformed. Mea culpa" and bump that sucker back a month or two? Any reasonable person would do that, especially when they have a newborn in the house. (Although I guess he's not really a newborn anymore at this point...going on 4 1/2 months!)

I guess all those pregnancy and new mama hormones must have messed with my system, because I'm clearly not reasonable. Or sane. Or maybe I never was.

I'd originally intended for Pointe of No Return to be a November 2011 release, just in time for Christmas. Would have been perfect, since it takes place behind the scenes of Nutcracker rehearsals. But one year ago this Sunday I got a little surprise. A wonderful one. About an hour after hitting "publish" on Codename, my husband and I found out we were expecting our second child. So between working full time as an attorney, raising a toddler, and baking the new bun, I was all tapped out. No time left for writing.

Needless to say, I missed that release date. By six months.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have a new release date. May 14, 2012, as given to me by the awesome marketing team at Barnes & Noble. Upon Gemma's encouragement, I applied for -- and was accepted into -- the NOOKFirst program, which means that Pointe will be released exclusively for the NOOK for a period of 30 days before it's available elsewhere. They only select 4 titles per month, so I'm super excited about it.

So here I am at the tail end of my maternity leave, totally stressed out. I'm going through the book one more time before sending it to the editor. I've never written on deadline before, and frankly, I'm not sure I like it. Yeah, it got me to type THE END whereas I might have meandered and wasted even more time if I didn't have a concrete target date. But man, the stress sucks.

So besides writing a decent chunk of the new book, what else have I been doing since I gave birth? I also wrote a short story called "Barre Hopping at Midnight" which appears in the super cool FREE young adult anthology, Eternal Spring.

Yes, I said "free." It will be at all the major retailers next month, but for now you can download it from Smashwords. We hope you like it!

Did I mention it's free?

The anthology includes stories from such awesome YA authors as RITA finalist Stephanie Dray, Diana Peterfreund, Tawny Stokes, Juli Alexander, Rhonda Stapleton, and others. It's got something for everyone, with contemporary, paranormal, urban fantasy, and historical stories.

Here's the blurb:
Flowers, vacation, baseball, prom…what does spring mean to you? From unicorn hunters and teenage exorcists to Egyptian princesses and aspiring ballerinas, this collection of thirteen stories by some of the most exciting authors in Young Adult fiction explores young love and new beginnings during the most beautiful time of the year.

And here's the description of mine:
“Barre Hopping at Midnight” by Amanda Brice
How can aspiring ballerina Dani Spevak concentrate on performing at a spring arts festival when her not-quite-boyfriend is in town filming the lead in a hot new vampire movie and he was seen kissing his costar?

Yes, this short story is part of my Codename world, and fits chronologically between Books 2 and 3, although it stands alone and can be read in any order.

Oh, and it's free.